Spread the Word! Valentine’s Day is February 13th This Year!

What’s red and white and pink all over?

All retail stores since January 1.

That can only mean one thing. Valentine’s Day is fast approaching!

Now, you may have noticed that the little signs next to the seasonal section of your local WalMart probably read something like:

Valentine’s Day is Wednesday, February 14th.

But this is actually a super embarrassing mistake made by virtually all corporate retail centers nationwide.

See, this year, Ash Wednesday is what actually falls on Wednesday, February 14th.

Ash Wednesday. You know, that day that begins the season of Lent. It’s the day we are supposed to recall that we come from dust, and to dust we shall return. It’s one of the *very few* days that the Church requires that we fast and abstain from meat. On Ash Wednesday, and all throughout Lent, we are to offer sacrifice, prayer, and almsgiving to remind us of Christ’s sacrifice for us.

Don’t be that guy (or gal) who shows up with candy and chocolate on a day your sweetheart is required to fast. That’s just mean.

Thankfully, the date of Valentine’s Day is kind of arbitrary as far as its secular celebrations go, am I right? I mean, aren’t people always criticizing Valentine’s Day for being cheesy and inauthentic precisely because it’s forced on us and limited to a specific date?

The date shouldn’t matter! Show the one you love that you love them regardless of the date on the calendar! 

Now, normally I am pretty agnostic about whether someone makes a huge stink out of Valentine’s Day or not. I mean, I’m not gonna fault someone for wanting to give their beloved flowers, even if it was “corporate America” who gave them the not-so-subtle suggestion to do so. However, this year I’d say that, since the date doesn’t really matter much anyway, and since Ash Wednesday is, like, kind-of-a-big-deal, it’ll be way more romantic and appropriate to move your Valentine’s Day celebrations to a different day. And for simplicity’s sake, let’s just all agree to move our celebrations to the day before, shall we? (That way, if your Valentine gives up chocolate or candy for lent, you won’t be a jerk for showing up with some on day 1 or 2).

So, spread the word! This year,Valentine’s Day is Tuesday, February 13th. 

 

 

 

Taking Littles To Mass – What We’ve Tried, And What’s Working For Us Right Now

There are tons of suggestions for how to bring young children to mass.

Bring a special bag with toys they only get for during church!

Sit in the front so they can see what’s going on!

Don’t freak out over every little noise! They’re kids!

Our kids are currently ages 4, 2, and 16 months, so I will take all the suggestions I can get! But one thing I have learned after 4 years of mass with littles (and just from parenting in general) is that what works for one kid or family is not guaranteed to work for all kids and families. So I thought I’d share some of the different things we’ve tried over the years to make mass manageable—the successes and the flops. If you’re finding mass is a struggle, maybe you’ll find something helpful from our experience.

Sitting Up Front

We’ve tried this on and off with varying degrees of success. When it was just our oldest, sometimes this helped so we could redirect our son’s attention to the altar. But once he decided that the front row was prime seating to run up the steps to the altar, or bolt up/down the center aisle, to the back we went.

The Special, “Mass Only,” Bag Of Toys

I’m not organized enough for this. In order for this to work for my kids, I’d need three identical bags with the exact same sets of toys in them so that we wouldn’t have a screaming fight between the girls in the middle of the second reading. So I haven’t even attempted this.

The “No Toys At All” Rule:

We abide by this to a point. My diaper bag always has some random mix of toys in it, and if I need to distract the 16 month old, being able to pull out a little plastic duck is helpful. It works when you’re kids are at an age when, if the older sister decides she wants the duck, it won’t be the end of the world to reach into the bag and just trade for whatever other toy is there. What I try to never let happen is for my kids to pick a certain toy they want to bring into mass before we leave the house. That’s a guaranteed, “That’s MINE!!!” fight waiting to happen. You get what mom pulls out of the purse or nothing at all. Desperate kids are content to play with foam letters, when there’s nothing else available 🙂

The “Sunday-Shuffle”

…In which my husband and I go to separate masses and switch off staying at home with the kids. Look, it sucks. No one wants to go to mass without their family. But after my third was born, and the oldest was not quite three, we opted—for a time—to switch off masses on Sunday morning, because mass with all three sometimes felt just impossible. This is nobody’s first choice. But I don’t think we should fault families who feel it might be their best or only option during a certain time of life. We never know what an individual family is going through, and chances are, it’s not because they don’t *want* to bring their kids to church with them. It’s just what works during that time. This too shall pass.

What’s Working Now…

Divide And Conquer

This is a happy medium we’ve found between the Sunday Shuffle and just following the kids around outside the entire mass (which, hey, is also an option and something we’ve done). Our parish is rather large, and our oldest is getting to the age and maturity level at which we know that, with some practice, he is capable of sitting through mass. But his little sisters aren’t there yet, and they’re quite a distraction for a little boy trying to learn to be on his best behavior. So lately Dad has been sitting with the oldest and I’ve been sitting on the opposite side of the church with the two littles. Its’ working!! Our son makes it all the way to communion now! Highly recommend this tactic.

Loyola Press’ My Picture Missal Flip Book

I’ve been looking for some version of this forever! All of my children are too young for a legit missal (even a “kid’s” missal), but for a while I’ve felt that the oldest would totally love to have some sort of visual cue as to where we are in the mass. This is it! Simple and straightforward with pictures of the different parts of the mass, numbered so that my little numbers guy knows how close we are to “18,” which is when he gets to go outside. It even has the visual cue next to the mass part of what HE is supposed to be doing during that part (sitting, standing, kneeling, etc.). It is a part of Loyola Press’ special needs learning resources, but can be purchased on its own and I honestly think it’s great for all children. (No official connection here either, I just like it that much).

The Bottom Line

As a parent of littles, mass is just tough sometimes. You feel the dread creep in Saturday night, wonder just how bad it’ll be today on the drive over, and are just so happy the wrestling match is over with the final blessing, at least for another week. You’re not really sure what other options you have, and you just hope one day it will magically get better.

Well, just like your kids won’t go off to college still in diapers, or still climbing into bed with you every night, this phase too shall pass. I’m not there yet, but logically, that makes sense. Lately I’m just clinging to the fact that I still get to receive Jesus in the Eucharist every week, even if I’ve completely missed the homily and have spent 45 minutes wrangling my spunky 16 month old. As I walk up to communion, I remember, “Ok, THIS is why I’m here. I need this. I need you, Jesus, and the grace your presence in the Eucharist will give me for this week.” I try to cling to that, and remember that even when it feels like going to mass is pointless, receiving Jesus is actually EVERYTHING, and there is literally nothing more important I could be doing on a Sunday than bringing my crazy crew to worship Jesus, and to receive Him in the fullness of the Eucharist.

What about you? What have you tried that works/doesn’t work in bringing kids to mass? Let me know in the comments!

Giving Our Thanks

Imagine if the President shut down the government for a day, and declared it a recurring holiday in which we all were to stay home from work and offer praise and thanksgiving to God for His blessings to us.

I can’t even imagine the controversy and the cries of “Separation of church and state!” that would ensue if this declaration happened today, yet somehow—even in the midst of the tense political climate of 2017— the American tradition of Thanksgiving carries on without controversy or fear of offending.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

(Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1863)

Of course, being thankful is not particular to those of us who believe in God, but it is worth nothing that “thank you,” is necessarily an address to someone outside of ourselves. 

We say “thank you,” because we recognize that someone else has been generous or kind towards us when they did not necessarily have to be.

So I can thank my neighbor for his kindness, or my husband for his help in cleaning the house. But, for those really big things in life—those things that are hard to even put into words—like the blessing of family (and not just “family” in the abstract, but my family, who I can’t even take credit for choosing myself), or the unconditional love of a spouse, or the particular talents I was born with, etc. For these things, I am personally thankful that I know that I can turn to God to offer my thanks. I have done nothing deserving of the many blessings of this life I have, and I thank Him not only for the obvious blessings, but even for those things which do not always appear to be blessings, but that I nonetheless know my Heavenly Father is using to draw me into His perfect love.

I hope you all have a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving!  To God alone be the glory! 🙂

 

Remember Your Death, And Have Some Candy

“Mom! I want to drive by the SCARY DRAGON!!” my daughter yells, emphasizing the words, “scary” and “dragon” with a growl from the backseat.

Our neighborhood has been getting prepared for Halloween with skeleton decorations, orange lights, and lawn inflatables (i.e. “scary dragons”). Thankfully, most people around us are keeping it pretty kid-friendly, and I haven’t yet had attempt to explain any front-yard execution scenes. (On a related note: Sometimes I think Halloween might be a pretty good time for law enforcement to take a walk around some neighborhood “decorations” and update their watch-lists…just sayin’.)

Halloween isn’t my *favorite*, but I don’t have anything against it, per se. I used to not like the “scary” element to it…why can’t things just be nice and happy? And maybe it’s just all this memento mori: remember your death,” talk in the Catholic blogosphere lately, but I’m becoming less averse to the graveyard scenes and skeleton décor as of late.

I’ve always known that Halloween is a Christian-friendly holiday (holy-day!). It’s All-Hallows’ Eve, the eve of All Saints’ Day, and the kick-start to the three days in which we are supposed to remember, pray, and offer sacrifice for all those who have gone before us. As Christians, we should always be mindful that we will one day meet the end of this life on earth. We will all experience death. Thanks to Christ, death does not have the final say, but that does not make death any less serious of a matter.

Where Halloween gets weird for me is when we jump from, “Death is scary!” to, “Death is fun!” That sort of perverted obsession or glorification of death, and making Halloween a time of “playing around” with evil gets a big NOPE from me.

To me, Halloween only makes sense as a fun holiday because Christ came to conquer death. Without Christ, Halloween is just a day that says, “Hey everyone! Look at all the evil in the world! And one day- we’re going to DIE!” Sounds terrible.

With Christ, we know that sin (evil) and death do not have the final say. So yeah, that skeleton looks creepy, but Christ conquered it. Yeah, that monster is ugly, but it’s evil is powerless over me, because I belong to Christ. Now give me some candy.

So while I don’t think I’ll ever swap my seasonal pumpkins and autumn foliage decor for ghosts and skeletons, as a Christian I can actually somewhat appreciate the graveyard displays and skeletal reminders of our mortality that this time of year brings with it. And if you want to give my kids and me candy while we’re at it, well hey, no complaints here.

Our First Go At NFP

Our youngest turned 1 last week. She’s a little doll who seems to think she’s closer to 5 as opposed to just barely 1, but she’s cute so we just let her act however she wants. (I’m kidding…mostly.)

First birthdays are obviously a big deal. But you know what else is big deal around here? Me celebrating my child’s first birthday— and NOT already being 4-5 months pregnant with her younger sibling!!! woo!!!

Thanks, NFP!

So because it’s NFP week, and I’m basically a professional NFP-er now, I thought I’d share a little about my family’s ~experience~ using NFP this past year.

A little background:

My husband and I both come from big, Catholic families. We wanted to get started on ours right away, so, like a lot of couples, we got married, started having kids, and figured we’d just learn NFP if and when we needed to.

For some women who breastfeed, children just end up being naturally spaced about 2, or maybe even more, years apart—no real charting or effort required.

These women should not be trusted.

No, just kidding. But—as my husband and I learned through the very welcome exciting news of both our 2nd and 3rd babies—I am definitely not one of those women.

So as we were getting ready for the arrival of number 3 last year, we prayed and thought and decided that maybe a slightly longer gap between number 3 and 4 would be a good thing.

My goal: To not be halfway pregnant with the next baby when this kid turns 1.

A modest goal. Not shootin’ for five years here or anything, just a little bit of breathing room.

I looked at different NFP methods, read myself a textbook, and then later a blog post that saved the day, and found myself an instructor. Just like that, I was doing NFP!

We used the Marquette Method of NFP. Honestly it was the one method that seemed least appealing to me at first. I mean it requires a monitor and testing every day, which just seemed like a lot of waste and cost up front, vs. the other methods that just seemed to take paper, pen, and a thermometer. But then I got practical. Taking my temp every morning at the same time wasn’t gonna happen with my kiddos (even with those fancy reminder/record gadgets, I just don’t wake up at the same time every day). And, sparing the gory details, the postpartum/breastfeeding time makes charting other NFP symptoms kinda fuzzy anyway. Basically it came down to having a monitor and *science* to go off of, vs. just my own guessing. That blog post that saved the day that I mentioned was really what sold me on Marquette- check it out!

Takeaways…

NFP sucks. I mean it’s great and wonderful and empowering and all that, but there’s nothing fun about abstinence in marriage. There I said it. NFP is hard and it’s not fun and sometimes it’s especially really, extra un-fun.

BUT- It is super cool and empowering knowing your fertility down to the day. And learning it will make you annoyed that you weren’t taught this stuff as a teenager. It helps you understand so much! Mood swings, the grumps, bursts in productivity! And that’s just the little stuff–some women actually discover important medical conditions that need attention, just by charting their cycle. Learn it! If nothing else it’ll make you feel like a badass.

Also- They say the key to any relationship is communication. Well Tyler and I have always been able to talk about anything, so I never would’ve thought we needed to improve communication. Yet we both see that NFP strengthened our marriage and our bond with each other. Before, we would talk about whatever we were thinking or feeling, but thanks to NFP, we now have a little more insight into why I might be thinking or feeling a certain way. So that has been helpful.

And yes, denying yourself is tough, but if you let it (and full disclosure: it’s hard to let it sometimes), the sacrifice will grow and strengthen your relationship and your love for one another.

So thanks, NFP! A week after celebrating my daughter’s first birthday, I am happy to say I am not five months pregnant.

…I am just shy of five *weeks* pregnant! Hey-o!

Happy NFP week, everyone! 😉

My Favorite NFP Resources:

Simcha Fisher’s The Sinner’s Guide To NFP – I actually read this as I was learning this whole NFP thing, and it helped keep my sanity about me. It’s not a how-to, by any means. It’s just some hilarious but also thoughtful reflections about what it is actually like to practice NFP.

Taking Charge Of Your Fertility The “textbook” I mentioned. It is a super helpful resource to have on hand, and actually reads very easily even though it weighs about as much as a newborn. It’s not strictly NFP, because she mentions barrier methods which are no-nos in Natural Family Planning, but her science and explaining the ins and outs of how all this stuff works is really top-notch.

Facebook Groups! I’ve never been much into Facebook groups, but there is a Catholic NFP Facebook group as well as one specifically for Marquette Method that I am a part of. They’re great places to ask for help, especially when you’re just getting the hang of it.