This bites

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Need I say more? Other than maybe, “Ouch.”

Jaws

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Raising a saint

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Today when I was cleaning Clifford and Lillian’s room, I noticed the crucifix above Clifford’s crib was gone. The bare nail was exposed. I looked in the crib, under the crib. I was perplexed.

St. Lillian

I found Lillian and questioned her.

“Do you know where the cross with Jesus on it that hangs above Clifford’s crib is?”

She told me she had it.

When I asked her why she took Jesus down, she answered, “Because I just needed to hug him.”

Mighty Mary

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The Mary I’m talking about here is ours. Mary Claire. She’s a young lady who wears her name well.

Newly a member of the rank-and-file of teenagedom (having turned 13 on New Year’s Eve), it’s hard to believe  she’s crossed that threshold. When Helen turned 13 and entered that world four and a half years ago, it was just another step to her adulthood. Helen was born old. Mary Claire on the other hand was a baby for so long. Big juicy dimpled cheeks, a sweet round baby body, and then at around the age of four … the freckles. Those still-present, picture-perfect kisses all across her cheeks and nose. She was and has been the epitome of childhood.

Mary Claire

Mary Claire has played harder, worked harder, laughed harder and (at times) cried harder than all the rest. She has embraced her childhood for all that it is worth. During this past year, we’ve watched her hanging on to it for dear life. Not because she’s afraid to let it go, but she just wants to enjoy what it is. She wants to squeeze out every last drop. She doesn’t do anything halfway.

An example? She received crochet lessons as a birthday gift. Took a “learn to crochet 1” class on a Tuesday, five days later on Saturday another class, the next Saturday another and by the next day (Sunday) had crochet a sweater for Lillian.This past Saturday, she spent the afternoon at a ladies knitting circle making blanket squares for the needy.

Our dear second daughter is an ordered thinker. She’s systematic. Deliberate. Dedicated and just plain delightful. I often say, without her, we’d all fall apart. What 13-year-old calls her mother from a visit with grandparents in Florida to remind her that she has an appointment and should be careful not to schedule any conflicts? She operates the snow blower, the lawn mower, the leaf blower and has been doing her own laundry for years. She keeps track of our library books, loves to cook, follow recipes and directions. She can identify just about any vehicle by make and model. She craves independence and can really handle much more than I can offer (mostly because of the times in which we live).  She saves and plans with the money she earns babysitting and cutting lawns. She looks for challenging opportunities and is always interested in discovering something new. And, I’m quite sure, Mary Claire could actually sell swamp land in Florida.

There’s a little true confession to this story. This remarkable young lady was our toughest toddler (and then some). She gave us a run for our money for years. When I hear parents describe their children as strong-willed, I have to be honest, I laugh and think, “Oh really? Well, you haven’t met Mary Claire.” Through my tears and frustration, I was so hopeful that the strength that she exhibited in sometimes less-than-desirable ways would someday translate into the amazing strength she embodies now.

So with that, I need to thank Mary Claire. Not just for all the help she provides us every day, or for all the wonderful things she already is and is yet to become. I need to thank her for teaching us how to really parent. She taught us the need to be stronger than even the strongest will, making us better and more relaxed parents with the children who have followed. She has taught us how to look at the big picture with each child and to always keep our eye on the prize.

I am happy to say that in our world, one of those precious prizes is a chestnut- haired, strong and compact, freckle-faced 13-year-old beautifully blessed young lady named appropriately for a Queen.

Ain’t too proud to brag

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Okay, just when I want to throw up my hands in despair, my dear son Henry surprises me. I often think he’s just sort of floating through, not paying attention to anything because, you know, it seems like he’s certainly not paying attention to me. Then pow. Hope hits me between the eyes.

Henry

After this morning’s mass, I causally asked him if he could tell me about today’s readings — knowing that the gospel was the story of Jesus being tempted by the devil in the desert. The same story was his Bible reading for last week. I was just checking.

He said, “Yes, it was the same story I read but it was switched around.” When I inquired, he explained. “In the reading in Matthew, the devil tempts Jesus to put God to the test first. In the reading today, that was the last thing he did.” He was right. Today’s Gospel was Luke and the order is different from the account he read in Matthew.

I know it’s Lent and we’ve buried our Alleluias until Easter … but I have to just squeak out this one little one in celebration of my son not only paying attention to what he read, but actually listening to the readings without being prompted …  alleluia!

You like me, you really like me

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This morning, while cuddling in bed with Richard and me, three-year old Lillian had a lot to say.

She mostly told us about her dreams, which involved snowflakes and evil pumpkins. The pumpkins apparently ate the cake at the princess party. I’m not sure I got the whole thing, but I know the pumpkins ruined everything. And they were only a “little bit” evil. Her imagination while awake is vivid enough — add the bizarre world of dreams, and the stories get a little hard to follow.

We spent some time counting fingers, talking about letters and how big she was getting, even though (of course) she’s still my baby girl.  We tried to wiggle fingers one at a time, and she giggled at her inability to do it without holding the rest of her fingers with her other hand. Her little feet brushed my legs in our cozy flannel bedding, so warm and safe with the morning sunlight just outlining the shaded windows.

Little Miss Lillian

Then, that sweet little girl touched my face and said three magic words. “I like you.” Then she repeated. “I really like you Mommy.”

This is a girl who has always been free in declaring her love. An early talker and a profound little thinker — she’s happy to share the love with so many. “I love you” frequently just rolls off her tongue: I love you Mommy. I love you Daddy. I love graham crackers. I love soy  milk. I love princess dresses. I love Taylor Swift.

We are after all called to love. And Lillian does that and then some.

But that moment was different. She quietly offered me a uniquely thoughtful expression of her feelings. The fact that she loves me is a given. The fact that she likes me is a gift. One I will treasure always.

Oops, We did it again

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The candles were such a popular craft for advent, we decided to make more for Lent. Often on Fridays we have a late meal (after Stations of the Cross) by candlelight. So, with that in mind, I thought the candles would be craft worth repeating. Also, when we come together to pray as a family, candles are always a nice touch. We decided to use Easter colors so that even during the solemn season of Lent we keep our hearts on the promise of the resurrection and all that it brings.

As previously, it was a fun activity for all. Richard even made one, and we made one for the baby. And of course, the candles are so telling of each of the children. Helen’s was a creative flower, Mary Claire’s was orderly and in all in line. Henry made his with more glue, more glitter than everyone else. And Lillian’s had a lot of pink. (She needed a little help but enjoyed painting and painting and painting the glue.) We had one minor accident when the baby reached up on the table and grabbed a paper plate full of excess glitter. I’m sure we’ll all have little extra sparkle for days to come, but with each stray sparkle, I’ll be reminded of the fun we had putting our projects together.

Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Oh, just give it up

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I’m not much of giver-upper in Lent.

I used to sacrifice chocolate or some other specific sweet guilty pleasure. But then I decided I wasn’t sure how doing that brought me closer to Christ. I thought more about the chocolate than the chosen one. I know that in my suffering, I was supposed to turn my trials to him, but the self-inflicted chocolate deprivation just didn’t seem to do the trick.  The sacrifice, at least for me, seemed misplaced. Besides, I found that I turned to him so frequently throughout the day, that I couldn’t figure out why I needed some planned punishment to do it more. Why not instead plan to be more specific in my prayers? Why not offer myself willingly and lovingly? After all, that’s what he did for us.

So, instead of sitting down and mindlessly turning on the TV, I mindfully crack open the Bible or read a Lenten reflection. Instead of vegging out in front of the late night news shows, Richard and I will share time with the next day’s readings or saying the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

I guess in a way, I’m giving up something: wasting time on activities that don’t bring me any closer to the cross and resurrection. By doing so, it gives me an opportunity to focus more on my relationships with Christ and my family than my relationship with chocolate (which, by the way, remains strong).

Midnight Madness

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Sometimes I start these posts in the middle of the night and can never finish them because I’m usually sans glasses and can’t effectively proof read. Plus, I can’t always complete the thought I started because … it’s the middle of the night, and I should be sleeping.

I recently blogged about freaking out, speeding past mile markers. Blah, blah, life is out of control, passing me by.

All of a sudden I found myself slamming over a self-inflicted speed bump. Sacrifice, blah. Rules, blah. Expectations, Blah, blah. (You get the point.) With all that speeding, the worries, struggles and challenges of just managing daily life  (which I do love) seemed to take a toll on me.  More importantly, it took a toll on my relationship with the one I love most and who loved me enough to give his very life. And for more than a moment, I willingly chose to wallow in my complete unworthiness. I chose to separate myself.

After some wise counsel, some thoughtful reflection, some deep prayer and participation in those beautiful sacraments, here I am again. Ready. Still (always) unworthy, but grateful for the gift and promises of faith. Saint Thomas Becket was onto something when he said,

“The whole company of saints bears witness to the unfailing truth that without real effort no one wins the crown.”

Christ has the power to transform us — completely. Inside and out.

“He who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’” (Rev 21:5).

During this Lent I’m going to continue to put on the brakes a bit. I hope to slow down and continue to thoughtfully and prayerfully seek the Lord with complete faith in his presence.

No longer sleep deprived

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I just have to report — with joy: The baby has slept through the night four consecutive nights. My life has officially changed. Yahoo. I feel a little bit more like myself again. Funny what 10 months of no REM can do to a woman.

Now we’re heading out to for Helen’s audition #3. Another fun (and long) day.  After today, there is only one left. Then waiting. Ugh.

Prayers would be good.