Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Time for church! In the living room…

Lenten Reflection #21

This morning at 10:00 we all gathered in the living room for “mass”.

Our dear Irish priest live-streamed (or whatever the past tense of live-stream is) mass for the parishioners at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

Since we’ve been dipping our toes into the homeschool pool, I thought we were definitely ready for mass at home. The increased cushion in the seats and pillows as kneelers was a welcome change, but what stayed the same was the kid chatter and nagging.

There was constant shushing coming from our daughter, and at one point our youngest was doing push-ups as we were praying for the sick. In retrospect, the one thing we should have banned was holding hands during the Our Father. Not only for social distancing purposes but why…WHY! do our kids have to try and crush each other’s hands while ironically praying God will deliver them from evil?! Every Sunday. 

I remember when the kids were little and we practiced going to church during the week aiming to be the model family on Sundays. It didn’t work. But they were comfortable in church, perhaps a little too relaxed?

When we first moved to Georgia I thought I’d walk the kids to Lowe’s…it was less than a mile away and we loved walking. So as we were checking out, an older couple initiated a conversation with the classic “you’ve got your hand’s full” line as they stared at me pushing a double stroller with our youngest strapped on my back like I was backpacking through Europe.

We chatted for a moment, and as we turned to leave, they candidly asked: “Does your family have a church-home?”

Wait. A what?

Oh! I broke it down in my head contextually and said, “Yes, we’re Catholic.” That’s all I had. Yup, Catholic. They invited us to their church and I said thanks and began the longer than anticipated journey home.

My take away from our at-home-mass was the fact that our kids are just as comfortable at church as they are at home. I’m going to call that a win. Sure they poke at each other, always have the church giggles, and get antsy once their 45-minute internal alarm goes off, but they are there. We are there. Together.

Yes. We found our “church-home”…at home and church.

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings, Uncategorized

Substitute teaching and recess: learning in the field

I’ve worked as a substitute teacher at my children’s former elementary school for years. It’s a good gig. Flexible, most tough moments are healed with a hug or a shiny sticker and there’s recess every day.

Working at the school was especially nice when my children attended. One of my favorite memories was peeking over at my son at lunch when he stealthily said his prayers before he ate. He bowed his head and mastered the speedy 7-year-old sign of the cross touchdown style without the pointing-up-to-heaven and chest bang parts.

Simply said, substitute teaching is like being the crazy-fun aunt who visits every few months, has secret dance moves and always has gum.

Kids like a new face once in a while and most students already know I love recess so it’s a win-win. I actually thought about contacting Meghan Markle and asking if she’d like me to be her substitute Duchess of Sussex. I have the experience, I can pull off a crown and a good cockney accent (I sang an Eliza Doolittle song for Jr. Miss in high school) and being an old soul, I think the Queen and I would really hit it off.

This week I was lucky enough to substitute in a 2nd-grade class. My primary job was to shadow Maddie, an invincible gal who needed a little bit of support, physically.

My favorite moments of the day were during recess…where invaluable lessons are digested into their little souls.

Once in the recess “field”, Maddie dashed directly to her dear friend Keegan whose toothless smile seemed to say I’m glad you’re here. I pegged him as one of those friends you could sit with when you’re 40 and tell him your messy and sweet stories and he would listen with wide eyes.

My gal continually asked Keegan, “Do you remember when we met… SHORT PAUSE…it was in the hallway in first grade…SHORTER PAUSE…do you remember the face you made?” She told him he smiled when they met. She relished the memory.

Keegan gave her a quick side hug and said, “Let’s play portals!”

He orchestrated a game where each section of the field served as a “portal” (safe place) and we had to RUN from one to the next BEFORE the doors closed. I love to move but gee whiz the portals were really far away from each other. Maddie was quick and determined to keep up with her classmates and I jogged alongside like a cicada bug arms outstretched blocking flying soccer balls and tag games.

After we arrived at the fourth portal, Keegan announced there was a monster coming and we had to run! I was trying not to interject my ideas in the game, but craving a little break, I told everyone I packed invisibility cloaks in my back pocket and we could hide. That worked for about one minute. On the next GO! we followed him to the next portal and as he ran off he said, “Don’t worry, Maddie, we’ll keep the door open for you!” 

Breathless, we jumped in the invisible doorway and a new portal player said,

“Okay, huddle up! Here’s a big cauldron (he pointed to a grassy area), and if we put one of ANYTHING inside, the cauldron will give us ONE MORE…(he stuck his hand in)…see, now I have three hands!”

They went around the circle and announced their superpowers which ranged from strength to crystal transformer. Then they took turns reading secret messages written on leaves and wrote notes of wisdom with sticks in their own language.

We heard the jingle from the handbell across the field which signaled it was time to go inside. One boy hugged his friend and said, “I doubled you in the cauldron so I’ll leave you here and take one of you with me.” They all giggled as he ran off with his hand outstretched hugging his invisible friend. Maddie and I decided we should walk to the line and just like that, we were back inside – invisibility cloaks stuffed in my pocket for next time.

It’s true, most days I learn more from substitute teaching than I can ever give. In just that 30 minutes I was reminded:

  • as we age and our souls callous, deep in our hearts lie our 2nd-grade superpowers.

  • someone is always holding that portal door open for us so why not take a risk and jump over the threshold.

  • 30 minutes of play is priceless.

  • be the crazy-fun aunt.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets

One word to stop using now!

I’ve been thinking about the word SHOULD and all the undone tasks that follow that word. I SHOULD figure out a blogging schedule, I SHOULD learn more about growing my audience, I SHOULD work on my husband’s blog: Keeping Kids in Motion.

I SHOULD write a blog about the word SHOULD.

WAIT! I DID ALREADY. I’m reposting it here:

Ever wake up, glance at the clock, and say, “I SHOULD have gotten up earlier”? Only to follow it with I SHOULD have gone to the gym, prepped dinner, called my parents, run with the dogs, played with the kids, or checked the pockets for that pen before I tossed everything in the wash.

The “S” word is verifiably toxic, yet to avert our gaze away from what our lives would look like if we accomplished all of the SHOULDS is nearly impossible. Haven’t you marveled at the early birds who amble into work chatting about their early morning run, seamless commute, or the dinner menu they prepared for the month? Oh, and if you need the template, it’s on their blog.

When our minds harp on these unaccomplished actions, we sadly allow the only NOW we have to circle the drain.

Here are three ways to shake the SHOULD NARRATIVE:

  1. BE YOURSELF:  Change the lens through which you see yourself, and celebrate who you are and where you are today.

  2. ACCEPT AND ALLOW:  Your reality may be vacant of the plans you slated for your self-years ago, but by clutching onto the people we love, our SHOULD HAVE world dissipates. Some say, “Let go, Let God” it’s worth a shot.

  3. SET YOUR INTENTIONS: Our deepest hopes are shaped by our intentions. Step out of the noise, serve others, and find your passion, and share it!

As I finish this post I think about how I SHOULD have gone to bed earlier, cleaned the toilets, emptied the dishwasher, and bathed the dogs, but this time I’m going to “Let go and let God.”

P.S.:  Dear God, the bowls go in the cupboard on the left.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

What did I GOOGLE today?

Googling is like a virtual mood ring for me. As the blue screen reflects off my dollar store reading glasses, about 14 tabs stare at me vying for their turn to be clicked.

Google and I started our morning paying bills…hi google, bank, please.

Then I realized I needed to update our car insurance…google Geico

and register our car…google DMV.

As I thought about our kids driving to school, my Google mood ring began to darken, so I thought I better ask Google: what is the best age for my daughter to drive to school…then I piggy-backed it with another query: safest cars for teens.

While reading about Subarus and driving contracts for teens, our computer became sluggish and rolled out its dizzying rainbow wheel for me to stare at for a while.

“All the Macs in the world and we get the lemon,” I thought. Of course, it couldn’t be struggling because of the thousands of photos and videos taking up real estate on our hard drive..or…could it?

Hi Google, me again: how do I get rid of duplicates in Iphoto…

I glanced down at my beeping phone to a message telling me our cloud is full and nothing will be backed up unless we upgrade. Upgrade a cloud? Stratus to Cumulus? What the…?

Dear Google, me again: What the heck is The Cloud? Also, what is the phone number for Mac support? Oh, and Google, while I’m on hold with Apple, please find a chili recipe for dinner and a quick workout before the kids get home.

And since I have you engaged Google, my virtual mood ring is nearly black and I’ll need a funny cat video to make all the stress go away for just a minute.

Wait…Google, did I pay the bills?

Googling moments are as exhausting as they are informative. 🙂

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Holy Saturday…then and now…

LENTEN REFLECTIONS #40

As Holy Week wraps up, I’m reminded of how things change over the years. Growing up, Holy Week was a quiet time. Typically we would have Thursday and Friday off from school and prep the menu for Easter Sunday. Somewhat of a nod to Thanksgiving dinner, with a few dishes thrown in to mix it up. One vivid memory is my Aunt Eugenia’s salad.

Always toting items from her Amway inventory, she was the aunt who rode motorcycles, named her bird “Bonita” and played the accordion for Sunday mass. I’ve been told I have the same sharp slanted nose as her. She’d arrive carrying a big bowl and tongs from a Tupperware party. She had a knack for chopping everything in the salad so tiny, it was on the verge of being a really dry Gazpacho soup. It was like a game of I Spy with little bits of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, bacon and other minuscule items that even back then my keen 10-year-old eyesight couldn’t identify. The salad dressing was made in one of those glass containers where you drop the Italian seasoning in and shake it up with vegetable oil. Partially hydrogenated? Who cared.

The salad sat alongside ham, mashed potatoes, red chili (in lieu of gravy) and the other usual Thanksgiving/Easter suspects. Another dish that was a hit was mom’s pineapple salad. Made with cream cheese, Cool Whip, crushed pineapple and topped with shiny maraschino cherries, it was a dad favorite. Maybe because it was a dessert disguised (if only by the name) as a “salad” or maybe because it was a one-hit wonder, or rather a once a year wonder.

I’m always amazed when we stumble upon a gem of a recipe and it’s only made once a year. Perhaps that’s the formula. It always tastes good…but only once a year. Otherwise, it’s “overuse syndrome”.

Once, I was volunteering at NPR and a talk show host said she loved my shirt. Thrilled with my outfit choice, I told her my husband gave it to me. “Great taste!” she replied. And so it happened, I was immediately struck with “overuse syndrome”. I wore the heck out of that blouse. So much that one of my students at the time probed, “Is that your favorite shirt ‘cause you wear it ALL the time.” That could be the pineapple salad’s story. Better to pace the good stuff.

I digress…

On Holy Thursday as we loaded up the station wagon and headed to St. Anne’s, Dad would remind us that mass “would be a long one”. Typically, he would say one of the seven readings as a lector, and Mom would play the organ. I had a choice to either turn pages for Mom or try to sit still with my sisters for the two hours of feet washing and the Last Supper.

Under the cloudy Good Friday skies, we would attend services at 3:00 pm sharp every year. I still remember the cold, empty altar and solemn sentiment inside St. Anne’s Church.

Saturday we buckled in for another “long one” and I really loved that mass.

One Easter weekend, after Holy Saturday Mass, we went to visit my oldest sister at New Mexico State University. That was the year I gave up soda for Lent. I remember going out for pizza right after mass and getting the coldest most delicious Shirley Temple ever. It was served in one of those big red plastic cups it seemed all pizza joints use.

Over the years, my view of Lent became less soda and more sacrifice. In college, a friend of mine and I vowed to say a Rosary together every day. During the long drive to San Diego for spring break we prayed, after going out with friends we prayed and even before watching Shamoo jump through hoops, we prayed the Rosary.

Today, unless kids attend a school starting with the word “Saint” it’s likely they will be in school during Holy Week. Even Good Friday. Because times are different. Holy Week just seemed holier back then. Packed calendars are filled with games, practices, and activities with church fitting into the gaps when there are some. But it’s all priority-based.

Like anything else, age readjusts the lens on what matters. What we sacrifice, what we lack, what we share, what we just don’t need. For some, Lent might be about giving up chocolate or serving at a homeless shelter, maybe even blogging.

Blogging for 40 days isn’t a lark. Nor is parenting, or being a woman, a daughter or sister.

What we choose to do with our 40 days is up to us. Will it make a difference?

We pray it will. If I could pass God on a little Post-It about my blog I would say, “Please let my stories help others realize they are not alone in this flash in the pan life you’ve given us. Help me to offer them a little chuckle, a tiny connection, and a chunk of hope when it’s just too much.

Amen.

My humble thanks for reading.

MENTAL EMOTIONAL PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL WORKOUT: WALK. PRAY. REPEAT.

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Beyond Bunnies: A profile

LENTEN REFLECTIONS #39

Are we Easter people living in a Good Friday world? Here’s a profile of a must-read article:

In an interview with NPR titled Beyond Bunnies: The Real Meaning Of Easter Season, Anne Lamott discusses this idea originally penned by author Barbara Johnson. “Well, it’s the most profound holiday in the Christian tradition,” Lamott says. “And I think two things really come to mind. One is something that the great writer Barbara Johnson said, which is that we are Easter people living in a Good Friday world. And I think that every year the world seems more of a Good Friday world. And it’s excruciating, whether it’s Japan, or Libya, or whether its your own best friends and their children who are sick, which is something that makes no sense when you think about a loving God.”

It makes me think Lent has a way of flagging what we overuse, underdo and ignore. It makes us stare sacrifice in the face and see who blinks first. 

The interview is profound and telling, reminding all of us we are here in this life for a quick minute. Ash Wednesday kicks us in the rear and reminds us we are indeed – ashes to ashes, dust to dust – it is up to us to grow far beyond ourselves, past our worries and merge onto the road of joy and mercy.

Spiritual Workout: Say these Holy Week prayers, inspired by Anne Lamott:

  • Help me to see my own darkness and quit pretending it doesn’t matter.

  • Help me to know how very loved I am, despite my own protests to the contrary.

  • And help me to understand that running the universe is not my job.

Workout: 25 Burpees, 25 push-ups, repeat

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Sacrifice: yours, mine and God’s

40 Lenten Reflections #38: Throwback Thursday

Originally posted on Good Friday, March 2018

The photo above shows very patient fans at their brother’s baseball game…now that’s sacrifice.

Good Friday

With Opening Day for Baseball Season occurring all over the country and Good Friday Services on its heels, I thought about sacrifice. Yours, mine, and Jesus’s.

In that spirit, I asked our kids to think of a sacrifice they have made this past week.

  1. “Grades,” was the first response. “I did well on one test and sacrificed my grade on another.” My daughter also said that even though her swim meet was fun, she sacrificed study time.
  2. In baseball, our son said he sacrificed a fly ball for an RBI giving his team the lead in the game.
  3. Our middle guy said he has sacrificed mountain biking on the trails due to all the rain, which he added, is the right thing to do to keep up the trails.
  4. As parents, we sacrifice time, workouts, haircuts, and whatever it takes for our children. (I lied about workouts)
  5. As children (thank you sisters), we sacrifice our established lives, without qualms, to care for our aging parents. After all, they sacrificed more for us than we could ever imagine.

How many times in your life have you stepped away from an opportunity to allow someone else to enjoy a shot at glory? That’s sacrifice. When our boys sit through insanely long swim meets or dance recitals. That’s sacrifice. When our daughter reads the entire Babysitter Club Series through baseball, lacrosse, and soccer games in the scorching heat. That’s sacrifice. Forgoing sleep to finish this blog. That’s sacrifice. You, taking the time to read this. That’s sacrifice. (thank you)

Jesus dying on the cross, that is the Ultimate Sacrifice.

Dig Deep: Let your body rest today, fast if you can, and drink lots of water.

Lenten Challenge: Make a list of sacrifices you have made in the last week.

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other

Find space this Holy Week

#35 Lenten Reflections

Today for the first day of Holy Week, I tackled a fraction of the proverbial spring cleaning. A quick freshening.

A renewal.

No windows or baseboards. No upholstery or carpet shampooing. So what did I do?

I pushed, pulled and lifted. Found dog toys, ping pong balls, and the missing black glove with the phone friendly fingertips.

I rearranged. Found a new angle to watch The Braves. Nudged a chair closer to a sunny window. Picture tops were dusted and curtains washed. Windows opened to listen to  Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal as they flit amid the over-sized Leland Cypress holding way too many nests to think about trimming, even though they’re 5 years overdue.

Spring does that, it infuses the chutzpah to refresh, the courage to cradle change. To play Wiffle ball in the back yard and catch all fly balls before they disturb a nest. To lean into the season, each other and ourselves.

Let the spring season and this holy week help you find space. In your minds, your homes and most importantly, your hearts.

Holy Week Challenge: As a family, we are collecting 5 items every day of Holy Week to be donated after Lent. So five items per day. Join us.

Workout challenge: Run or walk and say a Rosary each day this week.

Pray for Notre Dame – a holy place lost at the start of a holy week.

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

You’re not the only one. Trust me…On Vulnerability Part 2

#33 – Raw reflections during the Lenten Season

It’s time to live unguarded. To fill life’s toolbox with courage, shame, vulnerability and lots of Band-Aids. Will we fall? Yes! Faceplant for sure. But we have to try, have to rise strong and know we can. 

“On Vulnerability” Part 2…here is March 2018’s updated version.

Here’s Part 1


When our children were younger, I would accompany them to birthday parties, playdates, practices, and other events and watch, wait, and chat with other parents.

I loved connecting, it was like I would imagine Eharmony for parents. A time to find your tribe of trusted moms and dads, then ever-so-carefully pick a few who relate to your cheeky humor, and pray your kids were in the next room bonding over a juice box.

As our kids aged, I noticed parents would leave these events, and return at the “pick up time”.  I always opted to stay, plopping down on the floor, cherishing my chats with the few other parents who would sit in their comfy cup holding canvas chairs (such a great invention). Sure, sometimes, I was the mom who brought a book/prop which other parents respectfully knew signified – whoever holds the book has just put themselves in a quiet, parental time out, essentially a “please do not disturb sign”.

The kids got a little older and there was another shift.  Either I grew more confident (or less patient waiting by myself) and would run while they practiced.  As long as I was within a mom’s stone’s throw between them, I felt I could reach them and perform CPR if needed.

Of course, I’m always happy to get in a run, but I missed the parent-share conversations…the dinner plans no one had or the way it’s impossible to leave Costco for under $100. A simple exchange between moms and dads that only the gap of time when our children are engaged with their friends allows.

Then one night, all three of our children had events simultaneously, and a tough moment ensued. Clearly, we had to pick our least favorite child, leave them at their designated practice and accompany the others.

Kidding. Our eldest was the default, and since some nights I was the lone mom hanging out for the two-hour stretch at swim practice anyway, I figured she’d be okay while I drove our son to baseball. As I drove away, of course thinking the worst, it was one of the few times I was grateful our daughter had a phone. Plus, at baseball, there were other helicopter parents like myself to share best practices, a clear bonus.

Our children’s activities, whether we realize it or not, give us a chance to pause and realize we’re not the only ones bouncing around blindly in this parenting pinball game.

While our kids solidify their friendships at a birthday party or discover team sports and aggression are not in their design, we are given the opportunity through conversation to share ourselves with other parents and be VULNERABLE. To open ourselves. To share.

I often feel the weight of parenting lighten as I walk with our children to the car after their practices. It’s a comfort to know I’m not alone. To know even the mom with the “coolest outfits” according to my daughter has quirky insecurities too. Sometimes we just need to know we are not the only parents out there who:

  • curses at Siri when she doesn’t listen
  • checks her children’s texts
  • never checks pockets before washing the laundry
  • considers cereal dinner
  • takes apart the washing machine, finds the penny bonking around, and ends up with extra screws when reassembling
  • panics about working after 15 years of staying home with the kids
  • hates texting
  • vacuums too much
  • never knows what’s for dinner
  • prays selfishly
  • stays up way too late because knowing everyone is safe and asleep brings calm to a crazy day
  • wipes the tears from our children’s eyes, and our own when their hearts are broken
  • prays our children will find their best friend
  • arrives late to pick up their child at school/practice/Bible Study
  • delivers their child’s forgotten homework to school
  • buys bras at Costco (one size fits most)
  • yells at our children and regrets it profoundly seconds after
  • colors the gray roots at home out of a box bought from the sale table at the supermarket
  • clings to their children –  as someone who is way too young dies in a car accident, from a health complication, or God forbid — inside their school.

Allowing ourselves to be transparent, and invest in relationships will only make us better parents. It takes pluck to be vulnerable, but there is courage in the imperfect, strength in sharing, and certainty in the uncertain.

Dig Deep:  Time your run, then challenge yourself to do the same run faster tomorrow.

Lenten Challenge:  “Give feet to your faith”. Feed the hungry, pray for the sick, and share your grace with everyone who crosses your path.