Thursday, February 23, 2012

Did you get your Ash to Mass?

And Lent begins.

And there is so much to give penance for, so many sacrifices to be made.

My attempts at conscientious interior change has a lot to do with the way I parent my children, which of late has meant a louder voice, a slower step, and an angry spirit.  I don't like that, and I want to change it.

You've seen, I'm sure, the ads for anti-depression or anti-anxiety medications that ask the questions about who depression hurts, where depression hurts, etc, and the answers begin with "every."  "Everyone," "everywhere," etc.

It's true.  I wonder, where I am concerned, if I think myself into the pain I experience from time to time, inferring discomfort where none actually is.  I need to change my attitude about it, I think.  And I know that my disposition affects everyone around me.  Although I can reason about it, that doesn't mean my little ones can do the same.  All they know is, "Gee, Mama's in a rotten mood today.  Again."  I need to change that, too.

So, this Lent, I do not intend to "give up" things that really make no true difference to anyone but me, because that doesn't do any good for anyone else, and it doesn't really even make a big difference for me--because at the end of Lent, I would just go back to my old ways, and what kind of sacrifice is that?  I want a sacrifice that will have lasting meaning.  Giving up chocolate or soda or whatever doesn't have lasting meaning.

Instead, I propose a true change in spirit.  I need to make an intentional effort to change from within, and that means beginning by altering my interior prayer habits.

I am re-reading Holiness for Housewives and Other Working Women, and I am adding The Way.


As always, things move along with the addition.  Though we moved out of our former bedroom in October, it remained as a sort of hallway between the old hallway and the new laundry room.  The lack of privacy made it impractical for use as a bedroom in the interim, and so it was a place for cousin sleep-overs, storage, and collection of stuff.

But it's one of the last rooms needing work, and so My Darling has (finally!) turned his attention to it.  I think he goes in seasons, like I do, with being in a funk.  I saw it coming, and I wanted to help him swing around it, rather than slog through I said, "Hey, could we start work on That Room?"  And so he did.

There was a huge, beautiful, built-in dresser in that room.  It was one of the things we were most excited about when we looked at this house twelve years ago.  Fifteen drawers is a lot of storage!!  Well, fifteen drawers is also a lot of space to fill up with things we don't need.  So the first thing done in That Room was to remove the top of the dresser, cut down the supporting structure, and replace the top.  This will serve as storage (but only six drawers, thankyouverymuch) and also a seating area.  And since this is to become a bedroom for some girlies, we'll make a comfortable cushion to sit atop the lovely bench, and toss some squishy pillows on it, and let the girlies sprawl out and read or gab or sing or *whatever*.  He added boxes above the bench, where we'll put two sconces for light.  Dimmer switches will make them useful for nightlights if necessary, too.  Here, you can see My Darling measuring for the sconce placement.  See the finished bench?  The wooden side was part of the original dresser.  The man who built the thing was brilliant!


The next order of business was building the end of the bench.  Previously, there had been a wooden divider between dresser and closet--that whole wall had been devoted to clothing storage.  When we created the upstairs opening between the existing house and the addition, we did it through that closet, eliminating half of it.  For months, it was just a hole in the wall, and we could close it off by sliding the closet door shut.  Eventually, My Darling framed in the actual door, put up drywall to shape the passageway, and added a door.  Good thing, too, since the laundry room also houses the third flush toilet, thanks be to God! 

To go from a home with one bathroom to all of a sudden having options, well that's just about the biggest luxury I can think of.

Anyway, the end of the bench is now a little half-wall, and will be a nice place to lean against when sitting on the bench.  See where the sconces will be?


The new wall, the actual wall, which now divides the room from the old hallway, has been framed and drywalled now, too.  It's so exciting to see this transformation--once again, to have thought something up and see it take shape, to know that that bedroom served us well for eleven years and will now be the place where our daughters will sleep and play and study and dream and gab and *whatever*, is a great thing to be able to reflect on.

Looking into the laundry room, through what once was the closet in our bedroom, now looks like this:

And speaking of studying, the gap between the wall and the half-wall will be a desk area.  Ok, this was complete and total genius, if I do say so myself--and I do.  I do!!  When I found the smaller dresser (for SEVEN DOLLARS, for Pete's sake!) which was stripped, refinished, and transformed into the sink for the laundry room, part of that process was cutting off the top of the dresser.  I wasn't sure what was to become of that piece of walnut: should we put it on a piano hinge, attatch a swinging leg, and make a wall-mounted, fold-away table with it?  Should I add legs to it and make a little stand-alone table with it?  What would become of this beautiful piece of wood??  Well, of course it was meant to be a desk top.  Didn't you know?  I didn't know.  But now I know!  My Darling will fix this lovely piece of wood into the space between the two walls, build a bookshelf beneath it, install a floating shelf above it (which will house a couple of lights, of course!) and make a great place for studying.  See?  Genius!  So in the photo above, you can see where the desk will go (imagine away the 5-gallon bucket of debris, if you would please), and to the right is the laundry room.  If you were to turn further to the right, still, you would be looking down the old hallway.  The bedroom door is on an angle.

My hope is that we can somehow use the remaining nine drawers and their framework either in the sun room or the basement.  We do have things to store.  And these drawers, having been crafted bya cabinet-maker, are really well-made.  I do not intend to waste them!!  And if it works out the way I am hoping it will, I can make another set of cushions and pillows, and have another it won't be wasted storage space.  Woot!

I'm not sure about the timeline, but I'm guessing we'll be able to start painting That Room this weekend, and will hopefully be moving the bunkbeds into the room next week.  I don't want to think too far ahead about it, because I know all too well the disappointment that comes with projecting a timeline on something like this, only to be held up by something or another.  So I'm making up my mind ahead of time to remain flexible and as relaxed as possible.  Saint Joseph, pray for me!!


Prayer Requests:

*Keep praying for C and V.  Baby is not yet born, which is good.  What the outcome will be, only our Father in Heaven knows.  I know what I'm praying for though.

*Still praying for Joshua P. and his family, and for Rebekah and her family, too.

*Pray for all those affected by emotional or mental disorders, for all those in chronic pain, for all those lonely and forgotten, and for their families.

*Pray for expectant mothers, their babies, and their families.

*Pray for those terminally ill and their families and caregivers, especially when their primary caregivers are their family.

*I always keep anyone who might be reading in my prayers, too.  If you want to leave a prayer intention, feel free to do so.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

And today, we shall wash the diapers.

I make no promises of regularity, because I don't like to break promises, and I've already done so too many times in this place.

And I really do need to wash diapers.  But it's more like "tonight" than today.  The diapers don't know the difference though.


It's been such an odd winter.  So little snow, so little cold, so few days where it looks or feels like winter then, and no help for it.  People keep muttering, "Yeah, but we'll get socked in the spring," but I don't think we will.  If we could get one good snowstorm this year, I'd be happy with that.  I think it's just a mild winter.  Ho-hum.  No snow-days.  No blizzards.  No hibernating.

Not like last year.

My Gingersnap has turned ONE.  She is a year old, plus a few weeks.  It's hard to believe, though I think back on what things were like around here a year ago, and I believe it all too well.  It's been a year of many refinements, through the grace of God.  It's awesome and wondrous and terrible and mystifying all wrapped up into a year's time.  Some of the lessons God intended for me, I believe I've come to terms with.  Others have remained as elusive as a cloud.

I still experience brief, unpredictable bursts of intense pain in my side where my blood clot was/is, though the scan I had over the summer showed no reason to be alarmed about it.  My vascular surgeon doctor was pleased with the progress.  She told me that with clots the size mine was, they expect about 80% reduction, but that there will always be something there.  I'm no longer on the blood thinner (which is such a funny doesn't make the blood thinner, it makes it slippery--but they don't call it "blood slipperier".  Too bad, too.  I think it's funny.), thanks be to God.  That mess ended in July.  I was happy to see it go--no more fresh crop of bruises on a daily basis, just from existing.  No more avoiding a glass of wine, should the notion strike (which isn't frequent, but it does happen from time to time...).  Best of all, though, no more lab visits for blood draws for the INR test.  I was over that dog and pony show.  Pin cushion?  Yeah, that's a tool in my sewing box.  It no longer defines my arm.


So the Gingersnap is ONE.  ONE!!!  ONE!!  I cannot even believe it!  She is an entire year old.  She crawls with amazing speed and agility.  She has a gorgeous sense of humor, and loves to see everyone around her laugh at her little antics.  She has a few words, and is learning new ones every day.  She gets very upset with me if I do not Give Her The Milkies Right NOW and tell her to sign "milk" to me.  She beats her little fist at my chest, tugs at my shirt, and whimpers like a sad puppy.  Is it wrong that I find this not only adorable, but amusing?

Cuppie is THREE.  But we don't say "three" around here.  We say "flee."  So Cuppie is FLEE.  She has become Little Miss Independent, deciding, thankyouverymuch, that she is over wearing diapers or pull-ups or anything other than Princess Panties on her little rumpy.  And that's all there is to that.  Yes, really.  She decided one day that she was going to wear panties, and so she did.  She is dry overnight, she is dry all day, and in the course of the past 5 weeks of wearing them, she has had exactly three--oops: flee--accidents with wetting.

With poo, it's not quite the same story.  That bit always takes a little longer.

I admit I am into bribery that way.  When she began, she would get five "white chips"--so-called because she refused to call them "white chocolate chips."  Everyone knows, after all, that there is not one iota of chocolate in white chocolate anyway.  It's vanilla.  So, white chips they are.  So she would trot herself to the loo, do her business, and after the loooooooooong hand-washing ritual, she would count out her white chips: "One, two, flee, four, five!" and eat them up.

Once I remembered (DUH!) and bought the Tootsie Rolls, well that was all the motivation she needed for the Number Two to become her new goal.  So she learned very quickly to run (RUN!) to the loo for poo, too, and the Tootsie Roll came out.  But------we don't call them Tootsie Rolls.  No.  They are "Twitsie Lolls"!!  (Of course they are!)

My Squash......he just turned SIX.  Saturday was his birthday, and he was beyond excited to be turning six.  I likened it to Winnie The Pooh--"And Now We Are Six"--and he was unimpressed.

He is reading.  He loves Dick and Jane, just like my big kids did at his age, and he loves that he can now sit down with his books, open them, and make sense of what he sees on the page.  It's one of my favorite things in the entire world--watching a little child decoding the written English language and realizing that the whole world has just shifted greatly in their favor....poetry, stories, ideas, Psalms--it's all of a sudden open to them, like the sunrise!  What a blessing!!

My Squash has such a beautiful spirit and such a loving heart.  He has a fondness for a girl named Annie.  Not long back, I said to him, "Are you going to marry that Annie girl?"  He said to me, "Probably."  And then he grew quiet and thoughtful.  After a minute or so, he said, "Well, unless I hear God tell me I need to be a priest.  Then I can't marry Annie.  But I could still see her."

I melted.  I completely melted.  This sweet boy knows that we need to be still and quiet and wait to hear what God has to tell us, what God wants from us, and what we need to do and be to fulfill His design for our lives.  Thanks be to God!!

Reepicheep.  Ahh.........Reepicheep.

She is twelve.  We're in the thick of it, she and I, in the part where it feels like she's running at a pace through the thick jungles of the Amazon, and I'm trying to keep sight of her, let alone keep up with her.  This age has so far been the most difficult for me to parent my children through--especially the girls.  I've found that when their bodies start to really take off and grow like crazy (at about 9) and through puberty, to the other side, it's fish or cut bait.  It's so difficult to keep up with the emotional challenges, the outbursts of frustration and anger and emotion, the desire for more freedom coupled with the resistance to responsibility are just a huge obstacle for me as a Mom.  I'm working my way through it--we're working our way through it--but it's a big jungle, and it's awfully darned hot in here.....I feel like the heroine of a movie, before she earns her heroine status.  I'm slogging through the jungle, all hot and sweaty, with hair falling out of my ponytail and sticking to my forehead and cheeks...legs all scratched up, machete feeling reeeeeaaaaaallllllllyyyyyy heavy about now, barely able to swing it to clear my path, and all kinds of venomous creatures lurking about, just waiting for me to have to stop to take a breath.

Yeah.  It's like that.

Now, having parented a girl through this already, I also know that I'm doing the right things, and that even though it's tremendously difficult, the rewards are even greater than the challenges.  I know that if I can help Reepicheep navigate through the puzzle of hormonal swings and moods and interior struggle, that she and I will both come out of this not unscathed, but definitely stronger, both emotionally and spiritually.  That is why I take a deep breath every morning before I wake her up, and continue to breathe as deeply as I can throughout the day.  I pray every time I know I need to correct her.  I search for reasons to praise her, no matter how small.  I remind her how blessed we both are, especially that we can come and go as we need to, that we can put food on our table at every meal, that we have plentiful choices in the way we dress our bodies that keep us modestly covered and comfortably warm, that we can attend Mass daily if we want to without much effort at all, save for driving, and that we have a snug, warm, FULL home to live in.  And I remind her that there are lots and lots of little extras that can be made to disappear if necessary (and sometimes, they do!).  :)

My Pickle is still thirteen; his birthday isn't until early spring.  He is absolutely thriving at the Fabulous Catholic School where we are blessed to send our children.  He struggled in the beginning, going from having been home schooled for four years to being in the classroom setting again, but he's been spending some time after school a couple of days each week with a tutor, and he is improving so greatly that it's actually astonishing!  He's found a really good groove of time-management, for the most part, and has learned through natural consequences that his school work is his responsibility.  I must say, it's an advantage sometimes to live 35 minutes from school.  If he forgets something, there is no way I'm packing up my three little ones and the Reepicheep to bring it to him!!  (I doubt I would if we lived in the same town as the school, anyway, but at least this way, there isn't even the temptation.)  He's looking so forward to next year's cross country season, and is already running a couple of times a week.  Because in this completely ODD winter, running is actually an option.

There was a family who used to belong to our Parish whose eldest son was the head server, and I think they've switched to a parish closer to their home now.  They've not been to Sunday Mass in a long time.  I'm not sure what to think about it, but I do know that it means that Pickle is one of the older senior servers now, and he's really doing a great job shepherding some of the younger boys.  I'm so proud of him!  He's showing a maturity that is very gratifying to witness in my own son.

Also, his voice is changing.  I am a little fragile, emotionally, about that fact.  I make him laugh at every possible opportunity, because I just cannot get enough of his ridiculous giggle, and I know that someday it will be gone.  *le sigh*

And the Frog.

The Frog will be sixteen in just a few days.  SIXTEEN!  SIXTEEN???!!!  WHAT?!

There are all kinds of things that barrage my head about this.  Sixteen is old enough to drive, when properly licensed.  (She won't be just yet.)  Sixteen is the age at which My Darling and I decided that, should a young man desire to court our daughter, and should he seek our permission--in person--and should we decide to grant him permission, we would allow her to be courted.  Chaperoned, of course.  In groups, of course.  One on one, not so much.

Sixteen is the age, it seems, when childhood is carefully folded, set into the Hope Chest, and looked back upon with wistful memories clouding the vision.

I remember holding her when she was tiny, combing her impossibly curly hair and pulling it into pig tails for the first time.  I remember her taking her first steps, in those old-fashioned white baby shoes--on her first birthday.  I remember singing with her, dancing with her, playing tea party with her, hearing her read her first book ("Go Dog, GO!"), and watching her the first time she walked to school with the Pickle (I never let her walk alone).

How, in Heaven's Name, can she be turning sixteen?  Now I'm watching her dance with young men (MAN, can they swing dance!!), hearing her sing in the choir with me and at her private voice lessons, watching her put her hair in any manner of elegant or fun or frilly arrangements, running cross country, baking or cooking anything she fancies, and reading to her younger siblings.

The lump in my throat is enormous.  It hardly bears mentioning that she is better than half way through her sophomore year......just a little over two years and she'll be-----------------

*sigh*    ~~and *sigh* again.

For now, she is my little Froggy, and she is here with me.


I'm working on me.  Every day, every hour, I'm working on me.

I still don't know where my heart is on the things that happened after my little Gingersnap was born.  I have my moments when I am overwhelmed by the thought of being rushed to the hospital in agonizing pain, sure that I was going to die, and then learning how real a possibility that was.  Looking into the sweet face of my tiny, tiny baby girl, I was thinking, "Will I ever see your face again?  Will you grow up knowing me, or being told stories about what others remember about me?"  Even now, it's hard to reconcile it in my heart.

I had a lot of guilt to carry in the aftermath.  I felt guilty that it happened at all.  I felt guilty that I needed the help of others to do simple things for so long.  I felt guilty that My Darling had to ferry me about, because there was no one else to do it.  I felt guilty that my medication stifled my milk and forced me into choosing formula supplementation, even though it was only for a few months.  I felt guilty that I didn't get thank you notes written and sent out, or that I got some of them written and not others, or that I lost track of the ones I had written, so I just stopped, even though I never stopped being grateful for the people who helped me and my family, and I told them so every single time I saw them over the year since.  I felt guilty that I felt guilty about things that were completely out of my control, were not my choice, were not predicable or preventable, and will probably never happen again.  I felt guilty that I didn't think my faith was up to snuff when the chips were down.

Sometimes I still do feel guilty.

Part of my Lent will be to finish here.  To complete my story, to get it out, to hammer it until it's shiny and smooth instead of a lump in the pit of my gut.  I'm asking God to refine me and help me to stop hanging on to this albatross of guilt and shame.


PRAYER REQUESTS, and the first one is urgent:

Dear friends of mine--a couple, V and C.  V is pregnant with their sixth baby, and has just made it to 23 weeks.  Twenty-three.  Barely over half-way.  Last week, she started bleeding and cramping, so they went to hospital.  They were sent home after a while, but returned soon after.  The scan showed fluid in Baby's abdomen.  She's been in hospital ever since, and today they induced her.  I've not heard an update yet.  She had lost a lot of blood, and very early this morning she was given a blood transfusion, finishing up about 9:00.  By this afternoon, she had lost another 2 units of blood, and between that and almost no amniotic fluid, they needed to deliver her.  They are in an amazing hospital, where other friends of ours delivered a baby at not quite 24 weeks--that baby's birthday is tomorrow, and he's turning three.  That is a tremendous factor in their favor.  The fluid, though, in V's baby's abdomen, is a factor not in their favor.  It decreases the odds of survival for the baby to under 10%.  So please pray--pray for God's will, for peace in their hearts, for the teams of doctors and nurses who are caring for this family, and for the children who are waiting at home for their Mama to return to them.

God's ways are the best ways, even when it hurts like heck.

*Pray for other friends of ours who were very uncertain about their pregnancy until the scan this morning showed things to be fine.  They suffered a miscarriage about 6 months ago, and so are understandably anxious about this little one.  Saint Padre Pio says, "Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry."  Well, he's the saint, so I reckon he knows.

So many prayers to lift up, and God knows what they are even when I don't.

*Pray for Rebekah, who is 6 and will be receiving a bone marrow transplant from her little sister, Theresa, who is 2.  Rebekah is BRAVE--her Mama says, "Broken, brave, and blessed."  Rebekah is the fourth of the five children in their family.  She's quite an inspiration!

Know of my prayers for your intentions, too.