Monday, May 13, 2013

Saints with the heart of a child

I have a theory and it is probably way wrong, but here it goes:

St. Anthony (the patron of lost things) is just an overgrown 3 year old child.  Has anyone ever seen a toddler who likes to play tricks on it's parents?  You know, take something, hide it, then when they are asked where it is the child smiles, giggles, then runs away?  Then the parent has to go chasing after the kid and coax him/her into telling them where said item is.  I think this is what St. Anthony does.

I am FOREVER losing things!!  I search for them - no luck.  I ask St. Anthony for his help finding said item.  It is found in the MOST OBVIOUS location possible.  My theory is that this is his way of making sure we still rely on the help of better people than ourselves.  So the next time you have lost something, just imagine St. Anthony sitting in heaven looking down at you with the ornery look of a silly 3 year old!

A Mother's Day Birthday

My birthday fell on Mother's Day this year (like it does every 5-6 years).  When I was little it made me upset.  I mean, my mom is a mother every day, my birthday only came around once a year.  Obviously I didn't get it.  When I hit my late teenage and college years it made me sad for my mom.  People remembered me, but my wonderful mom was getting forgotten.  Well now that I am a mom - I kinda liked it.  I used it as an excuse to do things I really wanted to do - since my toddler had no say in the matter.  We woke up and cuddled.  She gave me loads of toddler kisses - from both her and her stuffed animals.  I think I got about a dozen kisses from the lion's butt - we will work on what end gives kisses in the future.  Then we went to church.  After church we got some lunch and headed up to my grandparent's house to watch baseball with my grandfather.  My daughter had other ideas.  She DEMANDED that Papa play catch with her.  She was very insistent.  He was more than happy to oblige.  After the ball game we went to my mom's house and visited with her until she had to go to work.  By this time my husband was off work, so we picked up him and went to the park to walk around and let our daughter play on the slides.  We ended the day with a movie and more kisses from stuffed animals before she passed out.

PERFECT birthday and Mother's Day!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Toddler Games

So as this is Holy Week I found myself (mindlessly) singing Christmas carols to my daughter.  I mean, why not sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer to an upset toddler in the backseat of the car on Holy Thursday?  She didn't want to be strapped in, but how was she to know that if she could be patient for 5 minutes, we would be at the big park with the big slides and fun swings?  All she knew was it was about 70 degrees outside and she had to be out there enjoying it.

So I got to thinking, what in the world are "reindeer games?"  I mean Monopoly is listed in the song, but how would a reindeer play a board game?  How would it move the pieces or roll the dice?

I may be unfamiliar with what reindeers play, but last night I got a good dose of "Toddler Games."  You see, I had recently been sent a link to this blog about a lady who gave up screaming at her kids out of frustration and has successfully been able to be calmer and nicer to her kids and they have responded in kind.  I am trying to be a better mommy and got to thinking that I could probably be kinder to my daughter when I am super tired and all she wants is more mommy time.  Well yesterday was a pretty lazy day in our house (most Wednesdays are since Tuesday is the last of my three in a row night shifts), so it didn't surprise me when the little lady wasn't exactly sleepy at bed time.  She hadn't gotten in her daily dose of maniac time.  So instead of being highly frustrated at her for still being awake 90 minutes past her bed time I spent those 90 minutes playing Toddler Games:

-- Itsy Bitsy Spider - she has recently learned this song and the motions that go with it and LOVES it.  Plus when the sun comes out and she starts swaying back and forth, sometimes she falls over and it is super funny!!

-- Rock-a-bye Baby - Lets just say this has always been a personal favorite of hers.  She likes the actions and the fact she gets "dropped" - oh the giggles!

-- Ruffled Feathers - Since my little lady has always had a head full of hair, I occasionally (more so lately) will tussle her hair and say, "I'm ruffling your feathers." Which this of course makes her giggle.  Well last night as I was laying next to her, she started ruffling my feathers.  I started laughing so hard because I didn't think she would do it.  I don't know why I didn't think she would do it - I guess it was just funny in the moment.

-- Making Baby's Nose Numb - I haven't been getting a lot of baby kisses lately.  When I ask for a kiss or a hug I have been getting a lot of "no" head shakes.  It saddens me, but I know she is just testing her bounds and I know eventually I will get my kisses and hugs again.  Well last night I decided she may not be giving me kisses, but I am going to continue giving her some.  I kept blowing raspberries on her little button nose.  Well the vibrations had to tickle, because she would just start laughing, then pull away, rub her nose, then after a couple minutes she would put her nose against my lips again.

So basically I spent 90 minutes making my daughter (who really just wanted to sit on my lap and cuddle) laugh and squirm.  Did she finally go to sleep - absolutely.  When she was ready for sleep, she curled up on her pillows, tried a couple different configurations for comfort and finally settled on the original one, then went to sleep.  She may never remember these times, but I will never forget them.  Had I gotten frustrated with her and kept trying to tell her to lay down and go to sleep, I probably would have still spent 60-90 minutes wrestling with her and it would have ended with both of us in tears.  This way, we both went to sleep with smiles on our faces and good memories.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Fostering Beauty

My husband and I are told with a certain consistency how cute/adorable/beautiful our daughter is.  And we agree with them - but we are horribly bias in the matter.  I mean, she is 1/2 our DNA each, so we have a self-interest in the matter.  But the thing is, we know that physical beauty fades.  We all age.  Accidents and scars happen.  Being cute/adorable/beautiful isn't what matters.

The beauty that we are attempting to foster - spiritual beauty.  We wouldn't care if our kid was the most unfortunate looking  individual on the planet as long as she is nice, honest, caring and God-loving.  Besides being one of the most trusting and sassy little girls I know, she is very loving.  She will give hugs and/or kisses to just about anyone who asks for one - but only if she wants to.  She is sassy!  High fives are almost a given.  Waves, smiles, and giggles flow freely.  She is the kind of kid that everyone wants and we are so blessed to call her ours.  We started praying with her from the time she was born.  At 16 months old she can already make the sign of the cross (well it is more of a face-palm followed by 3 chest pounds, but it is better than many her age can do), she knows when to bow in mass, and she has figured out the rhythm of when to stand and when to kneel during the stations of the cross (although this just seems to be a great excuse to play pew peek-a-boo with whatever unsuspecting individual decides to sit behind us - which is one of her favorite things about mass)  Our hope and prayer is that she continues to grow to be such a great little person on the inside - because that beauty can grow and blossom into the type of person that everyone wants to be around.  Physical beauty fades - a loving nature is forever. 

Keeping Mommy Humble

My daughter does a GREAT job of keeping me humble when I need it.  This past week I was paid a pretty awesome complement by an uncle.  He reaffirmed me (completely out of the blue mind you) by telling me that I am a great mom and he is proud of me.  I was feeling pretty puffed up.  I won't lie.  Well about 3 hours later I decided to take my little pumpkin to the local library for a reading/play group.  My little angel decided to turn devilish in public.  She started throwing toys, hitting, and screaming for no known reason.  Of course we left immediately - no need to subject anyone to that!  On the walk to the car she started showing that she was sorry (hiding her eyes, hugging me, kissing me - the usual when she knows she did something wrong - her way of saying "sorry" even though she can't verbalize it), so I told her we would go to the grocery store real quick.  That was a bad idea!  After about 3 isles, she started screaming again.  I leaned over to quiet her (and give her a kiss, which can quiet her) and she reared back and headbutted my nose with all her might.  Of course I instantly started crying in pain and my nose started lightly bleeding.  So I got the pleasure of going through the checkout line crying, with a screaming baby, and a possibly fractured nose.

So I'm such a great mom that my kid felt the need to have multiple melt-downs in public.  I guess I should be happy that it took her 16 months to have her first true meltdown in public and hopefully it is her last.  I am not holding my breath about that though!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Open PSA to all regarding the loss of a child and your behavior

I have had the unfortunate misfortune to lose a few babies to miscarriage and stillbirth. It sucks, but it makes me expressly qualified to write this. You see I am not the only one who has suffered this inconceivable loss. It seems like things go in waves, and right now the wave of multiple people I know losing their kid before knowing them seems to be high - a fact that makes my heart ache. My prayer would be that no mom - or dad for that fact - would ever experience the heart wrenching pain that drains the parent of all energy and lead to a crisis of faith. That being said, it is a reality of our broken humanity. My hope is that through this post, I can give some insights on HOW one should behave toward these parents - what is acceptable to do and what is not. I have broken up this post into GREEN light, YELLOW light, and RED light actions. Please consider what I have to say - I speak from experience.

GREEN LIGHT (You can say or do these things without risking offending the grieving parents)

-- GIVE THEM SPACE!!!! This seems counter-intuitive. When an adult dies we rally around the grieving family, hug, and tell stories about the person who has passed. But when a parent loses a child so young there are no stories to be told. This unexpected loss leaves everyone asking "WHY?" "WHAT?" "WHERE?" Why did this happen? What exactly happened? Where do we go from here? All these questions have limited to no answered. The parents need time to process this in their own way. This processing can't be done when everyone is calling, texting, trying to get a hold and by extension smother them. The mom and dad of the lost infant need time to spend with each other and grieve before they can face the world and grieve with extended family members. That is not to say they don't love their extended family, but the moment the vow of two becoming one flesh in marriage, the parents of the these new (grieving) parents and siblings become EXTENDED family, not immediate family. A new family is created in marriage, and while this is generally celebrated, when a child is lost, this is the first thing that is forgotten. Even if you are the mom, sister, grandmother, you are not entitled to the inner circle. Get over yourself - they are in more pain than you are. They will reach out when they are ready. Especially if they request time to process what is going on, GIVE THEM SPACE!

-- LISTEN!!! When the mom or dad does reach out to you don't talk. JUST LISTEN. Let him or her guide the conversation. Don't ask an excessive amount of questions. Scratch that, don't ask any questions. Ok, maybe one or two, but none about what happened - at least not in the first year. The wounds are still very fresh and you can't imagine how much pain it causes. Trust me, he or she will open up when he or she is ready. One day it will be like word vomit. The first time details are told it will be a raw explosion of emotions and tears. If the parent wants to talk about the latest baseball game, let him or her. Be grateful that they are talking to you.

-- BE AVAILABLE! But don't be offended if you are not the one that is "chosen" to be the first, second, or even third confidant. After my husband and I dealt with the unexpected loss of our son the people I reached out to weren't the people you would expect. I reached out to a few members of the clergy (ok, so that one should be expected.) Next I reached out to a friend who was also pregnant at the time and who's baby just happened to be due 1 month before my son was supposed to be. This friend just happened to be a social worker. I just needed some sense of "normalcy" while knowing I wasn't going to be interrogated. I also wanted to know about some counseling resources. After a while I reached out to a friend who just happened to be pregnant also, and who's daughter was supposed to be born within a day of my son (they practically shared the same due date). She was (and still is) a dear friend who was pregnant with her third child, never has/had lost a child, but is one of the best prayer warriors I have ever met. I still required some sense of normalcy and hope that things could be better. If you notice - I reached out to men who have no clue what is like to be a parent, but are good listeners - I reached out to two women who know what is like to be a parent, but no clue what it is like to lose a child, but they are good listeners. It wasn't the overbearing people who kept badgering me who I talked to first. I wasn't ready for all their questions so I kept them at arm's length. It was the gentle ones who listened who helped me through the tough times. I did talk with family members about it, but much later. It wasn't until months later that I reached out to fellow mothers who had lost children. All in due time.

-- "Is there anything I can do for you?" The answer is generally "NO". Their world has been rocked to the core and nothing will change this. Offering to help, even if it is just to cook a meal is about all we really can do. Offer once and let them be. Your offer has been noted and will be taken up on IF the mom or dad needs your assistance.

-- PRAY FOR THEM! They don't have to know you are doing it. Prayers are always welcome and probably do the most help.

YELLOW LIGHT (Depending on who you are and who the parent is and the relationship you have toward each other)

-- Calling the parents. I said earlier that you should leave them be - and you should. But you can call once - not once a day, not once an hour - ONCE. Don't be offended if they don't answer. You can call to tell them you are available to listen or do something for them. Let the ball be in their court. This action should be reserved for people VERY close to the the couple. If you think you MIGHT be in this inner circle then you probably are not. You need to KNOW that they would want to hear from you before they are ready to reach out to you. Writing an email or letter might even be better. That way they can read it when they are ready without feeling flooded and bombarded.

RED LIGHT (These should go without saying, but people are dumb. They should never be done or said. If I find you ever say or do them I WILL hunt you down like a starving lion and verbally rip you limb from limb)

-- "It's ok. You can have another kid." WHAT?!?! This mom or dad has just had a child die. This isn't a puppy or kitten. IT IS A HUMAN. It is genetically HALF of him or her. There were hopes and dreams that were wrapped up in the excitement of a new life - THIS NEW LIFE! Not some future life. THIS LIFE. It took my husband and I awhile to become pregnant and there were so many hopes and dreams wrapped in this little new life. We didn't know if we would ever be able to have another.

-- Asking when the mom or dad might try again for another child. This is similar to the previous one, but slightly different. You are acknowledging the loss and looking towards the future yes. What you are forgetting is that this parent may (and probably still is) grieving the loss of the child. I talked to a mother who has dealt with the loss of her son, but still openly grieves the loss over 20 years later. There really are things you NEVER get over.

-- "You failed at becoming a parent." I can't make this up. Someone actually told me I failed at becoming a mother because I lost my baby. I didn't fail. God placed a baby in my belly. He also called the baby back to Himself before my dear son took a breath. It wasn't my fault. I did nothing to cause it. I am a mother to my son and always will be. I am not a failure and any mom who loses a baby through no fault of her own isn't either. God has a plan for all His children - we just often don't know what it is.

So in conclusion all I am asking is that you:

1. Think before speaking
2. Take your cues from the grieving parents. If they want space, give them space. If they want to talk, talk to them. You never know what will help someone grieve and what helps may change minute to minute.
3. Pray for healing, understanding and comfort.

Teaching the little lady the essentials!

My daughter is starting to talk - well learn how to.  Her latest two words - "attack" and "Jesus."  You might be thinking, what in the world are you teaching your kid?  Well.... the essentials!

"Attack" - During bath time (her favorite part of any day) I have decided that I can make this amusement time - FOR ME!  She has bath squirties!  I fill them all up and squirt her in the chest or back, usually while saying "Baby's under attack!" in a fun voice.  She giggles because the water tickles.  She has learned to turn the tables on me though.  Now she hits the top of the water with all her might, splashing me (and everything else in the bathroom) and says "ATTACK!"  So now my dear, sweet daughter thinks being splashed with water is what "attack" means!  HE HE HE!  I am ok with that.

"Jesus" - This one makes my heart smile.  Although she learned this from a book that plays an off key version of "Silent Night."  It also has LED lights around the baby Jesus that makes Him a techno-colored nightmare.  It really is very odd to have a glowing baby Jesus in a book.  But she and I have had many conversations about the baby Jesus.  I love the fact she is learning her faith, but I need to find other methods than the glowing techno-colored nightmare!

Next words don't need to be such opposites!  But they probably will!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

It all comes around again...

Today I was watching the March for Life with my daughter and after she went to sleep I was "flipping" ("clicking", "checking"... whatever word fits here) through pictures on facebook and the news about it and I saw someone that looks VERY familiar.  This is a face I will never forget - and not in a bad way.

The story goes back to November 21, 2009.  I was an adult leader in charge of a very small group of students at the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC).  This was the last day of the conference and I wanted to partake in the sacrament of reconciliation before the big (AWESOME) closing mass, so after the last session of the day I headed over to where (I thought) all the priests were suppose to be.  I found out that I was on the OPPOSITE side of the building than I was supposed to be, so I hustled over to where I was supposed to be only to discover that my lack of navigational skills placed me at the back of the line.  And when I say I was at the back of the line, I WAS THE LAST PERSON in line.  I called one of the other leaders to come get my group and take them to dinner and I would catch up with them later.  Since my students were smart and had partaken in confession earlier in the day waiting for one of their sessions to start I didn't want to punish them by making them wait for me.  I thought the line would go faster than it did and I waited for 90 minutes to have my confession heard.  By this point I had 15 minutes to run down the Power and Light District (NCYC was in KC this year), find somewhere I could grab a very quick bite to eat, and somehow find my group at the spot we agreed we would meet.  Well once I got to the spot we were going to meet I was VERY hungry and wanted to at least meet up with my group before going across the street to find some food.  Well my group was NO WHERE to be found.  (Side note:  I am 5'0, so I am not a tall person which makes this more of a challenge).  I must have looked like a little lost kid in Walmart because this (equally lost) priest asked me if he could help me.  Well at this point I was exhausted, very hungry and my feet were hurting from walking for 3 days solid.  I broke down crying.  I explained I lost my group.  I ached.  And most of all I missed dinner because I was last in line for confession.  I promise I must have sounded like the whiniest person on the planet because I just verbally exploded.  Worst of all this wonderful God-fearing man was eating the most delightful smelling club sandwich and fries out of a to-go container.  (One of my favorites!!)  Knowing a little something about the food service business, I knew that this meal doesn't take long and I could possibly get one and still make it in the door in time for the closing ceremonies and mass I asked where he got it.  He pointed to the bar across the street with a line half way down the block (Like almost every other joint at 645pm!!)  I started walking across the street thinking I could get in quickly for a to-go order.  I was told it would be at least 45 minutes before my food would be ready, so I left without food.  Figuring I would just offer it up to Christ as a sacrifice I headed back to the huge crowd to once again look for my group.  The priest saw me walking back over without a to-go container and summoned me.  I explained that if I waited for food I wouldn't be able to have my hour of fasting prior to communion and I would get something after all the festivities (a minimum of 3 hours later).  I think he knew desperation when he saw it.  He had only ate half his sandwich and 3/4 of his fries.  He offered them to me saying that no one should have to go hungry because of confession - I had chosen the greater good and should not be punished.  I told him I wasn't going to take his food.  He told me if I did not eat it he was going to throw it away and he hated wasting food when there were so many hungry people in the world.  I told him he should eat it because he paid for it and there was no way what little he had eaten was enough to fill him up (he wasn't a short person by any stretch of the imagination).  Well he told me he was done and it was all mine.  After a few more rounds of "I can't take food away from a priest" he finally said, "don't you realize if I ever find which door I am supposed to be entering I am going to vest and feed you food from Heaven.  You take food from a priest every time you attend mass."  Well crap.... I was caught.  I accepted his charitable offering and OH MAN DID IT TASTE AMAZING!!  Hunger is the best seasoning!  I tried to pay him for what I was consuming and he wouldn't take it.  Stubborn priest!  Since I had accidentally went in the wrong door the night before and ended up walking by the room the priests held their vestments in, I told him I knew where he was supposed to be and that he should follow me.  As we walked to the other side of the building we got to talking.  He was from the diocese of Helena, MT.  He had been ordained a few years prior (something that was obvious from his youthful look - I actually was shocked at how long he had actually been a priest - 4 years.  I thought he was NEWLY, and I mean only a few months ago ordained.)  He was from the town outside where my husband and I had spent our honeymoon.  His home parish was the same church we had attended while we were there.  I kept gushing over how much I loved that town and my husband and I had talked about how awesome it would be to move there because we had fallen head over heels in love with the people, the town, the mountains, everything!  When we finally got to the door he needed to be at, he looked at me and told me, "if you really want to repay me, pray for vocations in my diocese.  We are really in a bind with limited numbers of priests."  You know I never did ask his name (I copped out and just kept calling him Father and he kept answering to it!).   I never did find my group until after the festivities.  We met up at the hotel!

I think I saw him again today in a picture at the March for Life.  He was surrounded by youth, nuns, and looked happy.  I hope it was him.

So thank you Father - wherever you are these days.  Thanks for answering your vocational call.  Thank you for feeding me physically and spiritually that day.  And most of all, know that I still pray for vocations in your diocese and all diocese and I am teaching my daughter to do the same.  I think knowing that would make you smile.

Learning not to compare

I suffer from a condition where I always feel like I am failing as a mom.  This has been made worse by my daughter's former pediatrician making me feel like a horrible mom because my daughter is off the charts tall and way below where she should be in the weight category.  She is tall and thin.  She doesn't look sickly and is very active - always walking and bouncing around.  So am I starving my kid, NO!!!  I mean what was God thinking when he gave me such a wonderful little kid?  I am forever comparing myself to friends I know with kids a little older than my daughter and in my head I don't measure up.  But I have been trying to figure out that not everyone is perfect and I need to stop being so hard on myself but when things like this happen...

So I was feeling especially exhausted a few days ago.  I had got home from work at my usual time (3am) and my daughter was WIDE awake.  Well since her dad had to work the next morning and I knew she wasn't going to go back to sleep anytime soon, so we went out to the living room (farthest we could get away from daddy so he could sleep) and couch for cuddle time.  She was awake until 530!  Talk about EXHAUSTED mommy.  She woke up a little later than her normal 10am - she waited until 1030.  Somehow those times don't add up.  2.5 hours of play time does not equal 30 minutes of sleep in time.  So in the morning she had created one very nasty diaper.  It was like road construction tar caked on her little tushy and wipes were NOT doing the trick.  So at my wits end I decided to sit her on the toilet and use the cloth diaper sprayer to get off the majority before giving her a bath.  Well the water coming out of the diaper sprayer is super cold and she DID NOT LIKE IT!!  Poor baby!!  But she did get a nice warm bath after with loads of play time.  The entire time she was screaming because her bottom was super cold I was crying and trying to calm her down.  As she was bathing I told her, "I know, I know, C's mom would never do this to her."  Later on when she was happy because she got loads of play time in warm water I was reflecting on what happened and said to my little lady, "well yeah, C's mama might do it.  I wouldn't put it past her to let her boys play in the mud then hose them down on the back porch before letting them come in the house too."  Sometimes you have to do what you have to do to keep your life sane. 

At the end of the day I have the happiest kid I know.  She is fed, changed and safe.  So I am doing ok, right?

Friday, January 11, 2013

They don't make them like they used to

For the feast of the Epiphany my little lady got 3 books and their corresponding stuffed friends. One of these was "The Velveteen Rabbit". I had seen this book in the kids section of Barnes and Nobel more times than I could count but had never read it. Not even in my childhood - at least not that I could remember. So why did I buy it without reading it you might ask. Well let me tell you ... I was in a hurry when I went shopping and didn't take the time to browse through it. Also I have made it my mission to instill a love of reading into my child so the more books the better, right?

Well the first time I read the book was the first time my little Missy-Moo got to hear it too. IT IS SO GOOD! It is well written. It has a good plot. There is substance to the story. It is like Aesop's fables (another book she got) - real stories with meat on the bones! I will admit she doesn't have the attention span yet for these long of stories, but I am looking forward to when she does!

I am always looking for good stories/books for the little one so if you have suggestions let me know!