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

Being home: from homework to hunger

Lenten Reflections #23

They are home.

Elementary school kids are home with their parents learning to tie their shoes, tell time, count money. Tweens are spared from what can be tumultuous middle school moments, and high school students are navigating Chemistry labs, Rhetorical Analysis, and document-based questions (DBQ’s). All at home.

DIFFERENCES

I called to check in on my students and their families today.

The gamut ran from,

“We’re doing well. He just finished working on sequencing and now I’m teaching him how to tell time from an analog clock.”

TO

“I haven’t heard from my social worker, I don’t know how I’m going to feed my two children, my parents are quarantined and I have to have surgery on Thursday.”

My gosh. Just when I started to grumble about making dinner, I thought of the families who have nothing…NOTHING to bring to the table.

Note: I was able to contact our administrators and they connected the family with MUST Ministry who would help provide meals for the family.

This was true testimony that while some grapple with studying, some are trying to survive. As parents we simply want our kids to be happy, learn and sidestep struggle. We want to do our best…and make them their best selves.

LET THEM LEARN HOW TO LEARN…

Just today, I felt like a rock star when I was able to help my youngest son with his 8th-grade Algebra, yet completely useless when my daughter was working on her Physics lab. One child asks for help, another tackles the work until every eraser in our home is worn.

My son who is a Sophomore incorporates breaks into his studies. Every 30 minutes or so he rides his bike, walks the dogs or works on projects in the garage. His brother shoots baskets outside or plays fetch with the dogs. A stark difference from a 6-minute transition between one-hour and 45-minute classes.

My daughter stays the course, she should wear a t-shirt with Einstein’s words: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

They each know how they learn best. They have to know.

As they made their lunches today I asked them to pray for those who are hungry or sick or lonely…and Seniors everywhere who are longing for the proper graduation they deserve, but may have to sacrifice for the betterment of all.

The majority of kids truly miss school. They long for their friends, the guarantee of meals, the routine. 

After prayers tonight I reminded them to count their blessings.

As we all should.

Be smart. Be kind.

 

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

After 18 years, a mom’s job never ends – even when our children journey from home

Lenten Reflections: #9

“I clock out in 90 days.” her words hung in the air as we watched her son play one of his last high school tennis matches before entering college. With one son graduating from college, a daughter prepping for an exchange program to Europe and now her youngest son graduating in 90 days, her full-time mom job seemed to be winding down, if that is at all fathomable.

I remember when her eldest started college and she told us their family’s 5-top at a restaurant became a 4-top…no chair to place at the end of a booth, no hassle of pushing two tables together, no reservations needed. Their five became four, then three and is gradually circling back to the once newlyweds that started at the altar.

This dear mom has been my sage. She’s a friend who has helped me maneuver from elementary school sock hops to middle school PTSA fundraisers…parlaying my way to high school sports and now she serves as my go-to for all things college.

I often think about the advice I received from SO many experienced mothers years ago when they announced: “enjoy your kids while you can…time flies.” At the time I wanted to hand them my crying son, ask them to change my newborns’ diaper, and have them read Dr. Seuss’ Go Dog Go to my daughter for the 3,468th time. But instead, I logged their words into my mom-brain, apparently, so I could blog about it years later.

Our kids will be graduating from high school soon so it’s natural (to me) to catch myself wallowing every now and then. But this time, dug a little deeper. I thought about the content of our children’s character.

Who were they becoming?

Would they hold the door at church for the family running late or help someone’s grandmother grab her luggage off the carousel at the airport? Would they pick up trash when no one was looking or continue to write thank you notes to their grandparents?

I know they’ll be moving on, finding their passion, and God-willing, loving their lives. And for the first time, ever, I felt a sense of relief, a comfort, a joy that our three children are REALLY good kids.

No need to clock out moms, although the memorable nurturing years are waning, new chapters will reveal joys we never dreamed of…

as George Bernard Shaw said,

“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.”

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Uncategorized

How sour milk established sibling trust

THROWBACK THURSDAY – Here’s a favorite from my first season of Lenten posts…thanks for reading. 🙂 

40 Reflections – #8:  40 days of raw recollections during the Lenten Season

Trust comes in all forms

Not unlike any other morning in our home, today there was a kitchen debate. Some days it’s over who finished the jelly, who hasn’t made their lunch, or why(!) do we only have whole wheat flour to make pancakes? Today, the queries surrounded one particular gallon of milk.

Lately, our kids drink less milk, using it mainly for shakes and cereal, so our supply has been greater than our demand. As the lone, unopened gallon of milk was brought to the table, the sell-by date was announced, followed by “Uh-oh, the milk is old!” Not one to waste food, I pointed out the date was “just yesterday”, AND the milk was “not even open yet”. I instructed the kids to open it, and I’d give it the ‘ole mom whiff. After about 5 minutes of wrestling with the lid and seal, the milk was open. I smelled it, gave it the standard “it’s fiiiine” accompanied by a nonchalant hand wave. Still unconvinced, two of our children waited by the milk with trepidation. Their pause reminded me of when I would hear the incessent “chk chk chk” of our pressure cooker as a kid, anticipating it to explode, scattering beans all over the kitchen – which never happened.

Meanwhile, one of our children who had caught maybe 50% of the “old milk” conversation had his cereal and was ready to eat. Never one to miss a meal, he poured his milk, said prayers, and filled his spoon. Poised over her brother, our daughter asked, “How is it?” “Does it taste okay?” Still chewing, he gave the milk a thumbs up. Sighs of relief were heard, and the milk would remain another day.

In the midst of all the arguing, yelling, and rolling eyes, brothers and sisters have a tacit trust in each other. They trust their diaries won’t be read, the brownie they saved won’t be eaten, and the secret they confided will remain sacred. More importantly, they trust sour milk will be discovered by a loving brother, sparing them the gag and cringe.

This faith in one another, family, and God hold us together, weather be damned.

Full Disclosure: I too trust the milk is “fiiiine”, but why not make a really big batch of pudding and use it up? No waste allowed, and I’ll clear the slate for a new debate tomorrow morning.

Dig Deep: Find out more about milk and Sell-by-Date here.

Lenten Prayer: Prayer for Trust

Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will through all things.
(By St. Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556)

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

Teenagers: 6 funny reasons for bad grades

40 Days of Lenten Reflections

Day #7

I’ve read numerous articles about why we should let our kids fail. So I gave it a try.

For a few months, I was the hands-off mom. The cool, “Study…um…or not…up to you” mom. Turns out, it worked. The failure part, that is. 

Some parents regard any failure by their children as a crisis. James Lehman, MSW with Empoweringparents.com said,

“In a crisis, parents see the danger part very clearly, but often don’t see the opportunity part. They don’t see that their child has the opportunity to learn an important lesson. The lesson might be about the true cost of cutting corners, what happens when he doesn’t do his best at something, or what the real consequences are for not being productive.”

Or in some cases, the lesson may be to craft clever reasons for why they failed. Here are some popular examples I compiled based on experience and research:

1.  “SHE didn’t give me a study guide.”

Typically teachers give students tools and strategies to study for tests, but there are those kids who think their teachers should hand deliver the said study guide to their home, place it on the kitchen table, and maybe even complete it for them.

Trust me, under the crumpled paper, broken pencils, and PE clothes in their backpack lie a study guide.

2.  “EVERYONE did bad on the test.”

To be executed correctly, this excuse should be said with backbone. Stress on the word EVERYONE while holding onto evvvvvvv——eryone should help their case. Teenager’s pre-frontal cortex has convinced them that if the masses failed, it clearly wasn’t their fault.

Maybe the class is full of slackers or maybe, well, nevermind.

3.  “He hasn’t put in the grades for the work I did REALLY WELL on yet and he takes FOREVER to grade!”

(except for tests, apparently)

This excuse is usually coupled with “There’s only one grade in the grade book, so that’s why it seems like such a bad grade.”

Nope. It’s actually a bad grade.

4.  “I had THREE OTHER tests to study for!”

Helping students develop good study habits is insanely hard. Teaching them to prioritize and manage their time is even worse. Ultimately it’s up to them what they study for first if at all, but if this is their excuse, make your follow-up the classic:

“Well, you should have started studying earlier.”

5.  “It’s not my fault the teacher doesn’t know how to teach!”

Once your kids get into the harder subjects, like AP Calculus and Physics, using the ignorance of the teachers bodes well as an excuse and is surprisingly convincing…I mean the reason for not doing well is coming from a child who qualified to be in the class, so…

NOPE! Don’t fall for it! They should have studied.

6.  “I THOUGHT I did well, but I didn’t.”

This is my son’s favorite. It’s the moment when parents have two choices: admit their child did not study enough or at all; or worry they don’t understand any of the content and cancel the family’s summer vacation.

So it turns out failing is an important ingredient in life, but learning from failure is a natural consequence we can all benefit from.

 

 

 

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

Puzzles: why seniors benefit from these brain boosters

Lenten Reflections #6

Nowadays, the thump of a newspaper hitting porch steps is about as rare as hearing the beeping drone of a telephone’s busy signal.

Up until a few months ago, you could hear both sounds at my parent’s home. (They have caller ID now which they completely ignore).

Every morning, nestled under coffee cups and bowls of Cherrioes lies the Albuquerque Journal spread across the large table (which once sat six) as if poised for a large art project. Dad takes the front page, Mom pores over the local news, they both rotely read through the obituaries. Then Mom starts “the puzzle” as they call it. She nearly completes her half of the daily crossword effortlessly (depending on the day) and passes it to Dad. Inevitably they finish it together.

Crossword puzzles, jokes, riddles, and intermittent episodes of Jeopardy are a huge part of my parent’s lives.

According to wordwealth.com,

“When it comes to senior people, the daily crossword puzzle is a game-changer. The benefits of solving puzzles for the elderly are innumerable, including enhanced memory, better cognitive skills, improved concentration, and much more. It can even reduce the chances of dementia and Alzheimer’s in the elderly.”

Mom and Dad are no exception to this rule. So when my sister sent the above picture of our parents with a beautiful puzzle they had recently finished, I had to share it with you all. The text attached, read “FINISHED!” Yet another successful puzzle solved and completed by Mom and Dad.

These jigsaw cardboard conundrums remind us to take time to sit and search for the tangible corner pieces, edges and crazy pieces we try so hard to force-fit into a spot, but also, help us to weed through our own lives and piece together who we are, what we are destined to do, and how we can gracefully arrive where we belong.

Thank you kindly for reading.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Lent’s alarm

Lenten Reflections #3

I was thinking about the backstory of Lent. The “Why”.

Not how it all transpired. Moreso, how it changes us and makes us better. Or not.

So I turned to two of my favorite writers for words of wisdom: Pope Francis and Anne Lamott.

When writing about Ash Wednesday, Lamott said,

So God bless you all today, GOOD. Whether you celebrate Ash Wednesday or not, it is always a day for awakening. Don’t hit the snooze button. Wake up, right now, spritz yourself with a plant mister, look around, gape, give thanks, help the poor…

Pope Francis also connected Lent with an awakening:

“Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.”

Our long winter’s nap ends as we embrace the change in mind, body, and spirit Lent freely provides. 

Make a change. Make it positive and make it now.

FAITH Challenge: say a quick prayer every time you hear a siren today.

FITNESS Challenge: Go for a walk or run.

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Holding each other up

40 Lenten Reflections – #2

I love writing about my parents. However, every time I start, I never finish as there is so much to share. Instead, I sit and stare at 17 blog drafts about mom and dad and keep writing. 

But today when I was working on Venn Diagrams with first graders, thoughts about my parents escalated. As we discussed characteristics that make us unique and similar to each other, the kids wrote things like “Bella likes Barbies and I like the Braves, but we’re BOTH crazy at recess!”

We discussed what makes each of us special and why it’s important to respect each other even if our friends root for the Braves while we cheer on the Yankees. We also talked about what connects all of us…being afraid of the dark, liking pizza and loving PE. Then one slight, wide-eyed girl said, “My mom and dad don’t live together anymore, that makes me different.”

That’s when my heartstrings started tugging. I couldn’t help but think of my own mom and dad. They have been married nearly 60 years and were both born in the 1930s into Hispanic families with simple, humble beginnings. Their similarities indeed outnumbered their differences.

As octogenarians, my folks give more than they take, pray for others before themselves and cherish family. Sure there are differences. Every phone call, dad says he feels “GREAT!” no matter what because he’s “just happy to be here.” Mom will candidly tell you if she’s not feeling well. And I chuckle every time she says “Okay, I’m done,” when she’s exhausted from talking/listening to me on the phone. On the other hand, if she held a plank in Pilates longer than her classmates, she’ll definitely stretch the conversation.

I am constantly awed by my parents.

As in the photo above, they literally and figuratively hold each other up physically, emotionally and spiritually.

You’ll hear more about them throughout these 40 days and more.

Celebrate what makes you special, but remember in the Venn Diagram of life, the big chunk in the middle shows just how similar we really are…

Pray for others…and please be kind.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

40 Day Challenge – what will you do?

40 Days of Raw Refelctions

Day #1

The season of Lent is underway. Forty days dedicated to almsgiving, sacrifice, commitment and since the world is desperate for more of it, kindness.

We arrived at Ash Wednesday mass tonight and parking was sparse. During mass, my daughter returned from the bathroom and told me in her loud church whisper that the sacristy (church lobby) was full of faithful Catholics waiting for the next mass. “It’s like Black Friday out there!” she said.

And why wouldn’t it be? Lent is like a do-over or second chance scenario.

Pope Francis said,

Lent…is a time of grace during which we can change our lives by letting God gaze upon us with love.

The Pope noted that the ashes on our foreheads should influence the thoughts passing through our minds.

He said we should ask ourselves,

“What am I living for?”

If we live for fleeting, worldly realities, then we spend our lives chasing after dust, moving backward from life to ashes. But, he said, if we live to love and make God’s dream a reality, then we allow the fire of love to be kindled in our hearts.

We are all broken and flawed, yet we are also wildly unique and extraordinary. Together, let’s take the next 40 days and find more of who we are and how we can make a difference in our world.