Go Mom, Go! Finding sweetness in the small stuff

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Today is Small Successes Thursday over at catholicmom.com – a gentle reminder not only to not sweat the small stuff – but to celebrate even the smallest successes over the past week – because they add up. So, here’s what I’m celebrating. (One of my successes should be that I’m actually participating in this, after a slow recovery from the first time I did – which was a catastrophe.)

1) Although I contemplated removing my high heels during mass and chasing full-speed ahead and barefoot after my three-year-old track-star of son as he ran laps up, down and across the aisles in church, as the prayerfully giggling congregation was preparing to receive communion …

I did not.

I kept my shoes on.

I stood patiently and (may I add) rather calmly and only watched in horror as he dodged every outstretched hand and turned on his heels to run the other direction. Again and again. This almost counts for a two-fer, since I didn’t holler, “Get that little *&@%$!” That, my friends, is success. (With a dash of decorum, I might add.) And a special public-thank you goes to the brave usher who finally nabbed Cliff, legs still treading air.

Go Dog, Go! This is what Cliff looks like running in church. Not our church, but an exceptionally lovely one, just the same.

2) Three times in this one week, I thought about what to make for dinner BEFORE my kids were crying that they were so hungry they were going to die. (AND, I didn’t remind them that they don’t even know what hunger is.)

Grill food, Grill! This is was food looks like. On my grill. Food I cut. With a sharp knife. I know. Impressive.

3) And, I actually caught at least glimpses of three of the six races my kids were swimming at their meet last night. I missed the others because I was busy yacking on the pool deck. (Sue me, I’m desperate for adult conversation.) But if parenting was baseball, I’d be batting .500 and earning some serious cash. Cabrera’s average for 2011 was .344 and he raked in $20 million last year. I figure my average earns me a pedicure. Or a Snickers. Or a lick of a lollipop. Or something.

Swim Henry, Swim! This is what water looks like. When Henry is swimming in it. I know, it’s a stupid picture. But that is actually Henry swimming the fly. Not that you could even tell that.

So what’s your success? (I, obviously, cannot include good swimming photos in mine.)

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“…on my birthday.”

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That was Lillian’s tag line for many comments … on her birthday.

“Henry is being obnoxious, which is completely unnecessary … on my birthday!”

“Tell him to stop annoying me. I cannot tolerate it … on my birthday!”

And, when I heard her arguing with her brother, who quickly accused, “Lillian started it!” Her calm and oh-so-logical response was, “Oh no, I didn’t. Why would I start anything mean … on my birthday?”

Presents! She is so easy to shop for and enjoys every little thing.

On Friday night, I kissed her forehead as she snuggled tucked in for bed. “This is the last goodnight kiss I get to give to you as a five-year-old,” I whispered.

She sighed in sweet anticipation of the next day, when she would (at long last!) turn six. She’d been counting the days since May. And then, once she discovered she was going to celebrate her birthday along with her baby cousin’s baptism at the house of one of her most favorite people, she was beyond excited.

In the morning, I announced her first six-year-old kiss, and she beamed eager to accept it. I could see the wheels turning as she contemplated what the day would hold. I wondered if she analyzed herself the way I did at some of my early birthdays. I can distinctly remember thinking: I don’t feel any different. Or look any different. I worried I was missing something or that the whole birthday thing was a sham.

Hula-hoop success!

It really was a spectacular day. There were minor melt downs associated with hula-hoops and Shrinky Dinks, and little and big boys’ hands on newly acquired birthday gifts. I’m sure if you had just unwrapped a Princess Celestia My Little Pony and your brother was trying to cart it off, you might get a little weak-kneed yourself.

The number of declarations that this was her “best birthday ever!” far outnumbered the “worst birthday ever” claims. I think she only once slammed her door in disgust, which makes it a banner day.

Can she do it?

… yes …

… she can!

We enjoyed the fabulously tasty and beautiful Pink Elephant cupcakes, and she and the other children swam, swam, swam.

Now, just humor my moment of reminiscence. That change that happens between five and six seems to me almost unfair. In that year’s time, I’ve watched my little girl – as I have the three children before her – change so dramatically. She’s become more connected to reality, and her sense of humor has morphed into that of a 10-year-old boy (thanks Henry!) more than I’d like to admit. Her face has changed. Her features aren’t as soft, and reveal many more angles and much less baby fat, even when compared with photographs taken just a few short months ago.

I don’t know if it’s a sign of wisdom or desperation, but I feel a vigorous need to cherish the nuances of each stage the children are sprinting through. Perhaps since our oldest is now 20, I have a living, breathing reminder of how very, very fast it all goes.

Oddly though, even as I write this, I’m not a documenter. I don’t scrapbook or take much video. Unlike the example set by my parents, I sadly don’t have a library of beautifully arranged leather photo albums filled with only the best snap shots.

But when I look into the eyes of my children, I try with my might to save fleeting glimpses of their hearts – hoping that I if I collect enough morsels of those sweet love memories, I will have an abundance to feed me when they are all grown.

Fleeting morsels

Every single time we exit the van, Lillian runs to the swing that Richard hung in our front tree. She jumps on and quickly returns to her cherished dream world: chattering to herself, head back, hair blowing. Richard and I have many times watched and wondered what memories she will keep of doing that.

As I watch her – toes pointing to the sky and eyes gazing into the leafy green – it is my hope that she too gathers morsels that will sustain her when time and the stuff of life eventually forces her feet (at least occasionally) to be firmly planted on the ground.

Shout!

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If you’re wondering how Cliff is doing with his speech, the answer is GREAT! He’s really talking and communicating. He still has his moments of gibberish, but hey, don’t we all?

The newest development in his language is the fact he says nothing quietly. Or remotely quietly. He has so much to say that he just pretty much yells it. And everything he says starts with an attention-grabbing: “Mom!” just to make sure I’m paying attention.

“Mom!”

Mom!”

“MOM!”

Add that shouting “Mom!” to all the other times I hear “Mom!” in a day, and well, I just  may lose it. (Even as I type the word in this quiet corner, my ears are ringing at the thought of it.)

In honor of the screaming, I give you this version of Shout, sung by none other than Lulu. Yes, the same Lulu who sang (and starred in) rather sweetly “To Sir With Love.” (Or if you went to Tuna Tech, that would be “To STAR With Love.”

I know my son has the shouting down, now he just needs to learn the wiggle.

The black-eyed pirate who loves Jesus

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The resident pirate wearing a little faith scapulin from romanticcatholic.com.

After the first of the year, I decided to diminish my participation in music ministry at our parish. The main reason was Cliff. In an effort to spend as much time as I could working on his speech challenges, it meant that I really couldn’t spare the hours of weekly practices and commitments. The byproduct has been that without all the weekly commitments, we’ve branched out and enjoyed a few occasional trips to some of the beautiful historic churches in Detroit.

Today, we visited St. Josaphat’s. It was hot, and attendance was rather sparse. The homily was solid, and the music was good. The organist has a fantastic singing voice. The acoustics in church (oddly) aren’t that great, though. And he sings without a mic. Which I don’t quite get. He even announces the songs by sort of hollering them from the choir loft. And it’s hard to pick up what he’s saying. In part because he also tends to give somewhat extensive instructions (“We’ll sing all four stanzas of the song and only sing the refrain at the beginning and end”). That said, they’re always pretty familiar traditional choices and a joy to sing. One Sunday during Lent, he sang after communion John Stainer’s “God So Love the World,” and well, I thought someone was going to have to peel me off the floor. It was gorgeous, holy, meditational and spectacularly resonant, even with his back to the congregation as he played (beautifully, I might add) the organ.

We’ve gone to noon mass there a few times since March. The pastor is young and energetic and is responsible for that church as well as two neighboring churches. And when I say neighboring … I mean neighboring. One (Sweetest Heart of Mary) is barely more than a stone’s throw away.

When visiting St. Josaphat on Palm Sunday, I had to remove Cliff from the sanctuary and hang out in the vestibule. It had something to do with his pointing out all the many paintings and depictions of Jesus in the church and wanting to discuss them. In full voice. And since he is a boy with whom we do not want to discourage talking, it was just better to take his need for conversation elsewhere.

That’s when we saw it: A tomb with a life-size statue of Christ. Complete with crucifixion wounds. Cliff – at the time – would often say, “Jesus died on the boss.” (To which I would inaudibly come back with “and the E Street Band” before modeling the correct pronunciation of the word “cross.”) When he saw Jesus in the tomb, he declared, “Jesus died in a box!”

I did my best to try – in three-year-old terms – to explain what it was that he was seeing. That it was a statue, wasn’t scary and was for a display to help people understand the story of Jesus dying and rising.

His first instinct was to gently touch the wounds on the statue of Christ.

He couldn’t stay away from it. I quickly snapped the above photo with my iPhone. I was moved by my son’s compassion for a statue that I believe many three-year-olds would find a rather unsettling. When mass was over, he made sure Richard and the other children saw it.

On Good Friday, we visited Sweetest Heart of Mary. It  had a similar statue and a tomb as part of a rather elaborate display. We examined it with Clifford hoping it was a least a step in helping him put the whole Jesus-in-a-box experience in context. We ended up going back there during Easter so Cliff could see the empty tomb.

Richard shows Cliff that Jesus isn’t in the box any more.

I was surprised today at St. Josaphat when I saw that the tomb was again tucked under the stairs to the choir loft (or bell tower – I’m not sure where they lead exactly). I assumed it would be put away somewhere. However, instead of being exposed, the statue was covered with a white sheath of some sort, which to Cliff was very unappealing. He wanted to see Jesus again. I was grateful the statue was covered; it was easier to pry him away and take him into the church.

True to form, during mass (sometime after the Offertory and before he got a shiner from knocking his head on a pew) Cliff’s loud monologue about Jesus dying on the cross (which he pronounces perfectly, now) began.  He started to point out all the paintings and statues of Christ in the church. Finally, he motioned to the back of the church and announced in full voice that, “Jesus died in a bag. In the box. But he’s alive.”

We’re getting there. I think.

Black eye a la pew.

Time out

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What? Me worry?

It’s hard to believe it’s been four months since I posted. I had to put myself in time out. Actually, I led a Lenten prayer group for moms, then planned Vacation Bible School, and all the year-end school stuff – and working. As I type that, it reads a little bit like a litany of excuses. And is, sort of.

There’s a bit more as I’ve been sorting through all kinds of things. Pondering, thinking, praying, reading and pondering more on some of the nuances and occasional heartache of what it means to live in this world as we know it. I know, that sounds pretty heavy duty.

And I guess it is – because it made my little stories of daily life seem insignificant. Rest assured, our family life is strong and everyone is well. It’s all much more big-picture than my little nest. But in the insightful words of my dearest friend – “it must be exhausting living in your head.” And, I will admit, sometimes it is.

But I’m back. Perspective has been granted (thank the Lord!). Life goes on. And all is good. Because God is good. All the time.