It’s been a while…

So I apologize for that.  Life is crazy, even though “busy” might not be the most appropriate term.  Here’s the update,  and I promise that I’m going to make an honest attempt to get back on the blogging wagon.

I’m frantically trying to finish two sewing projects, plus the mending of diapers, except that we managed to leave all our cloth diapers, except the ones the girls were wearing when we left, at home.  And this week has taught me, in case I needed reminding, that I hate disposable diapers.  There is a whole post in itself there.  This is why I feel busy, despite spending most of my days at home on the couch.  (Ok, not most, but as much as I can manage.)

We’re visiting my parents this week, and Craig flew out of DFW to a teaching conference in Chicago on Tuesday, so the girls and I have taken over my parents’ house.  This has been a fun week, except that hanging over our heads is the fact that my dad appears to have lymphoma.  They’re getting the final diagnosis and setting up a treatment plan tomorrow, so many, many prayers will be needed in the coming months.  My dad doesn’t like a lot of attention, so the outpouring of good wishes he has gotten just from his friends and family has been a little overwhelming for him, but he’s hanging in there so far.

My mom’s knees, which were replaced one month ago tomorrow, are doing really well, so thank you for all the prayers in that area.  She is walking with a cane out of the house and without a cane at home.   My brother, on the other hand, is going to have surgery to clean up a couple of disks in his spine which are pushing on his nerves and causing pain in his leg.  Then he has to lose a good bit of weight so it doesn’t happen again.  Anybody with tricks to get someone very reluctant to start a serious (manageable) weight loss program, I’d love to hear them.

The girls are being themselves.  Lucy is everywhere at once, and bombarding Grandma and Uncle John with requests to “play play-doh”.  We went to the mall to ride the carousel yesterday, and that was fun.  She still refuses (usually) to use the potty, but she goes of her own accord to the bathroom to poop in her diaper.  I think it’s a step in the right direction.  Samantha’s scoot is getting faster (I tried to post a video, but it was too big and I don’t know how to fix that), so we’re having to watch her more closely than ever.  She scoots on her left shin and right foot, which is funny but very effective for her purposes.  She has had her four top front teeth come in all at once, and the last one is almost through after two weeks or so of suffering.  Her teether of choice is still whatever scrap of paper or book is within reach.

Merton has been left in the back seat of the car this week, and I have yet to go dig him out.  I’m not quite half way through the “Reader”, but I have every intention of finishing it.  I have gotten distracted by A Tale of Two Cities, which I am enjoying much more than I had expected.

What else?  I’m sure I’m forgetting lots of important things…but I guess that’s a good start.  We have a busy rest of the summer (for real) with Craig’s last week of summer camp, a visit from Fr. R.B., a wedding in Georgia, and then a road trip to visit friends.  Then Craig starts school, and I am *officially* a stay-at-home mom and homemaker.  (Not just a teacher on summer vacation.)  At that point I’m hoping to start researching the homeschooling stuff in earnest, so hopefully some of that will spill over onto here.

I leave you with the quote of the week from Lucy:

Lucy: I want [something she shouldn’t have – I don’t remember what]
Grandpa: I want a new car.
Lucy: [in all earnestness] Well, you can share Grandma’s car.

This approach never works for Craig, either.  But he doesn’t usually get such witty comebacks.  And now that they are both awake and I can only distract one of them with breakfast, adieu.

Holy Housework

I had been wondering where the burst of cleaning and ordering energy that I’ve had for the last couple of weeks had come from, and I now have a couple of theories.  (For two pregnancies I looked forward to the “nesting” phase when I would actually want to clean – it never came.  Maybe this is what it feels like!)  Freedom from the requirements of a job has certainly helped, since I have hours back in my days with no commute, no papers to grade or lessons to plan, not to mention the time I actually spent teaching.

But I have also been doing some “mommy” reading, some of which has dealt with home schooling, and some of which has been more in the homemaking-without-losing-your-mind-or-your-soul mold.  The later has been most edifying.

Essentially, I have bought into the idea that if God is calling me to be at home and raise my children (which hopefully I believe, since that is what I plan to do with myself for the foreseeable future), then He must expect my experiences in this realm of life to be my ticket to sanctification.  And as Holly Pierlot argues, and I think rightly, it is up to us to take our vocations by the horns, so to speak, and direct our efforts at doing our very best at our calling.  If this means homemaking, then I am called to be sanctified by doing the dishes, laundry, diapers, and more generally creating an environment in which my family can live as God calls us.  That means (I think) an environment without excess clutter and dirt, with order and calm, and with beauty, for starters.  So boxes are making their way to St. Vincent de Paul, shelves are getting dusted and reordered, and the real trick is going to be making the habits I’m trying to form – for prayer and housekeeping – stick.  And doing it joyfully, because it is what God wants me to do.  (Lots on this in Merton – also worth checking out.)  Pierlot talks about offering up each little task, and about following some sort of prayer rule, to help all this happen.  So far, this change in mindset has really, really helped.

In the midst of all this reflecting and reordering, I read the first reading for today:

“Brothers and sisters: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.  As it is written:

‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.’

The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  You are being enriched in every way for all generosity, which through us produces thanksgiving to God.”

-2 Cor. 9:6-11

Simplicity and Sincerity

Some friends and I were discussing the heated discussions that tend to happen on the Catholic blogosphere (how do you spell that??), and today I came across this reading, which I thought worth noting.

“False sencerity has much to say, because it is afraid.  True candor can afford to be silent.  It does not need to face an anticipated attack.  Anything it may have to defend can be defended with perfect simplicity.

“The arguments of religious men are so often insincere, and their insincerity is proportionate to their anger.  Why do we get angry about what we believe?  Because we do not really believe it.  Or else what we pretend to be defending as the “truth” is really our own self-esteem.  A man of sincerity is less interested in defending the truth than in stating it clearly, for he thinks that if the truth be clearly seen it can very well take care of itself. …

“In the end, the problem of sincerity is a problem of love.  A sincere man is not so much one who sees the truth and manifests it as he sees it, but one who loves the truth with a pure love.  But truth is more than an abstraction.  It lives and is embodied in men and things that are real. And  the secret of sincerity is, therefore, not to be sought in a philosophical love for abstract truth but in a love for real people and real things – a love for God apprehended in the reality around us.

“The saint must see the truth as something to serve, not as something to own and manipulate according to his own good pleasure.  The selfishness of an age that has devoted itself to the mere cult of pleasure has tainted the whole human race with an error that makes all our acts more or less lies against God.  An age like ours cannot be sincere.”

-Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island, excerpted in A Thomas Merton Reader, pp. 123-125

Wow, that is harsh.  And hard.  Merton does not mince words.  I have certainly found much in his writing (thus far) that is inspiring, and even more that is challenging.

Silence

“Those who love God should attempt to preserve or create an atmosphere in which He can be found.  Christians should have quiet homes.  Throw out television, if necessary — not everybody, but those who take this sort of thing seriously.  Radios useless.  Stay away from the movies — I was going to say ‘as a penance’ but it would seem to me to be rather a pleasure than a penance, to stay away from the movies.  Maybe even form small agrarian communities in the country where there would be no radios, etc.

“Let those who can stand a little silence find other people who like silence, and create silence and peace for one another.  Bring up their kids not to yell so much.  Children are naturally quiet — if they are left alone and not given the needle from the cradle upward, in order that they may develop into citizens of a state in which everybody yells and is yelled at.  (pp. 301-302)

“…When you gain this interior silence you can carry it around with you in the world, and pray everywhere.  But just as interior asceticism cannot be acquired without concrete and exterior mortification, so it is absurd to talk about interior silence where there is no exterior silence. (p. 302)”

-Thomas Merton The Sign of Jonas, excerpted in Henri Nouwen’s Pray to Live, pp. 118-119.

Quiet children.  Now there’s an idea…   Not just shut up, but naturally peaceful and quiet.   But how to go about it?

On that note, Samantha is now crawling!  It’s not perfect crawling, she uses on knee and one foot, but it gets her across the room, and she can now crawl up to me and pull herself up a little on my pant leg and express that she wants something.  Along with crawling has come a banshee baby sound, which tends to mean, “Lucy took my toy from me again!”  But for the moment they are actually sleeping, and I can think about silence.

Month of Merton

I have officially declared June the “Month of Merton” for the sake of my spiritual reading.  I was looking for something new to start on when Craig showed up with a pile of free spirituality books, including Pray to Live, which is Henri Nouwen explaining the life and thought of Thomas Merton.  I’ve tried a couple of Merton’s works unsuccessfully, so this struck me as a perfect starting place.  If this goes well, the Month of Merton may become the Summer of Merton.  : )  Quotes and reflections should be forth coming soon, provided I am able to make my way to the computer for any extended period of time.  Anyone more experienced with his work, feel free to suggest which book I should pick up next!

As for other prayer plans, I am working through A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot and trying to add a little more structure to my day.  The FlyLady thing has been a good start, but I’m more drawn to Pierlot’s overhaul method (although I realize I will still have to take it somewhat slowly) and focus on prayer.  She suggests planning your prayer into your day, so I am starting with morning and evening prayer from Liturgy of the Hours with Craig, and reading the daily readings while the girls nap.  This is way more than I had been doing, but the first two days have gone well.  My goal for this week is just to keep up with the schedule, revise it so it works well, and start making these routines of praying, cleaning, and creating a way of life.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

A Spiritual Goal for Women

Elizabeth Foss uses this quote from Edith Stein in her book:

“The soul of a woman must therefore be expansive and open to all human beings; it must be quiet so that no small weak flame will be extinguished by stormy winds; warm so as not to benumb fragile buds; clear, so that no vermin will settle in dark corners and recesses; self contained, so that no invasions from without can impede the inner life; empty of itself, in order that extraeneous life may have room in it; finally, mistress of itself and also of its body, so that the entire person is readily at the disposal of every call.”

Essays on Woman, 132-133 (In Real Learning, 210-211)

That should be an aide to personal growth goal setting…

Strawberries

This post made my day.  Craig’s dad is growing strawberries, and we have been the beneficiaries of his bounty for the last month or so.  We are exploring new and exciting ways to use them all, but Lucy still likes to eat them plain, preferably daily or twice daily.  Craig’s dad has beautiful, neat, raised, mulched rows for his plants, but neglected strawberries for ground cover, now there’s an idea!  The book list at the end of the post is great, too.  I’m going to have to head to the library for a copy of Jamberry.  That was one of my favorites growing up.

Poetry…

…is something I think I need more of in my life.  Fortunately, Karen Edmisten puts a little something up every Friday.  I thought this one was worth passing on.  I’m going to have to look for more of Anne Porter’s work!

Inspiring

Someday I want to live (and think, and write…) like this.  Elizabeth Foss was one of my first introductions to homeschooling, and I’m re-reading her book right now.  I have a hard time even imagining the sort of faith and love she lives everyday.

Another reason we forgo “Baby Einstein”

“Adults have taken it for granted that children are sensible only to gaudy objects, bright colors, and shrill sounds, and they make use of these to attract a child’s attention.  We have all noticed how children are attracted by songs, by the tolling of bells, by flags fluttering in the wind, by brilliant lights, and so forth.  But these violent attractions are external and transitory, and can be more of a distraction than boon.  We might make the comparison with our own way of acting.  If we are busy reading an interesting book and suddenly hear a loud band passing by in the street, we get up and go to the window to see what is happening.  If we were to see someone act in this way, we would hardly conclude that men are particularly attracted by loud sounds.  And yet we make this conclusion about little children.  The fact that a strong, external stimulus catches a child’s attention is merely incidental and has no real relation with the inner life of the child which is responsible for his development.  We can perceive evidence of a child’s inner life in the way he immerses himself in the fixed contemplation of minute things that are of no concern to us.   But one who is attracted by the smallness of an object and focuses his attention upon it does so, not because it has made a striking impression upon him, but simply because his contemplation of it is an expression of an affectionate understanding.”

-Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood