Author Archive for Charisse Tierney

Let Me Do It

child hand and cookies

 

It’s a desire that is expressed in many ways.  “I want to help.”  “I do it myself.”  “Let me do it.”  When these words come from my three-year-old, I have to admit that I usually feel a sense of dread.  Because these words, if I indulge them, are usually followed by splattered brownie batter, laundry that requires refolding, or a simple task that takes ten times longer to complete than I had anticipated.

But I read something recently that changed my entire perception of these words:

“You may hear Jesus a hundred times a day, saying to you, ‘Let me do it.’  In your difficulties, in your problems, in all those things in your daily life which are sometimes so difficult, so distressing, when you ask yourself, ‘What shall I do? How shall I do it?’  listen to Him saying to you, ‘Let me do it.’  And then answer Him, ‘O Jesus, I thank you for all things.’  And it will be the most beautiful dialogue of love between a soul and the all-powerful and all-loving God.”  –Fr. Jean C.J. D’Elbee, I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux 

St. Therese’s theology is so applicable to us mothers!  It’s easy to feel that our lives don’t live up to the worldview of “success.”  Maybe they don’t.  But when we forget what type of success we’re supposed to be striving for, all we have to do is see Jesus in our children, hear Him in their voices, and surrender ourselves to Him through their hearts.

Our days can be overwhelming.  The messes, the piles, the crying, the tantrums, the exclamations of “Look at me!” and the drawn out “Mooooooommy!” that seems to come every 30 seconds.  There are many days when we want to just get everything done, get the kids to bed, and sit down!

But Jesus isn’t calling us to only get the laundry done, do the dishes, and resolve arguments and tantrums.  He’s calling us to grow in patience, kindness, and gentleness.  He’s calling us to greater love and unity with our family and with Him.  He’s calling us to heaven.

So when I start to have thoughts of “What shall I do?  How shall I do it?” as I list off my seemingly insurmountable tasks for the day, I try to hear Jesus when my three-year-old says “Let me do it.”

When I surrender my laundry, my cooking, and my cleaning, it is the first step in surrendering my heart.  When I favor relationships over chores, Jesus steps in and takes over.  He multiplies my time.  He makes little miracles happen within the humble walls of my home.  Like my three-year-old spinning an elaborate story about a dream she had.  Or my eleven-year-old sharing his hopes and dreams for the future.  Or my seven-year-old finally opening up about a worry that has been weighing on her mind.  I build my relationships, and somehow the truly necessary work still gets done.  I let Jesus in, and He does it.

It is when we hear Jesus in the simple conversations of our day that the dialogue between us and our children becomes that beautiful dialogue between us and our all-merciful, all-loving, all-powerful God.  And there is no sweeter success than that.

Photo credit: mccartyv via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

St. Joseph’s Feast Day: A Reprieve from Lent

Simon of Cyrene.  Veronica.  Mary.  Even Jesus needed a little help along the way.  Even He found strength from the temporal care of others.  So, too, does His Church offer relief along the sacrificial way of Lent.  The saints’ feast days are always reason to celebrate, and St. Joseph’s is no exception–even though it falls on March 19, during Lent.

Recognized as the great intercessor who saved the city of Sicily, Italy, from famine many centuries ago, St. Joseph is traditionally honored with feasting and festivity in Italy on his feast day.  Great tables, called St. Joseph’s Table, are laid in three tiers representing the Holy Trinity.  The top tier holds a statue of St. Joseph and flowers or greenery.  The other tiers hold an assortment of meatless food:  minestras, or thick bean and vegetable soups, breads and pastries in the shapes of chalices, carpentry tools, lilies, fish, monstrances, etc., wine for the miracle at Cana, 12 fish for the twelve apostles, pineapple for hospitality, lemons for “luck”, and pasta with seasoned bread crumbs, or “carpenter’s dust”, instead of cheese.  The fava bean carries special significance since it was the one crop that thrived during the famine in Italy so long ago.

an example of a St. Joseph's table at Mount Carmel Church in Denver, CO

an example of a St. Joseph’s table at Mount Carmel Church in Denver, CO

Decor on the tables’ tiers includes candles in green, brown, and deep yellow to represent the colors of St. Joseph’s clothing, as well as lilies and white carnations to match the white linen table coverings.  There might also be a basket for prayer petitions and pictures of the dead.  These great tables are laid for celebration either in homes, or in public squares where the wealthy can provide food to share with the poor.

Take a break from your Lenten fast and honor the great man who stood by Jesus’ side as His earthly father and humble servant.

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St. Joseph’s cream puffs

Adapt the huge Italian celebrations to your own family.  Prepare a festive meal of minestrone soup, fish, and/or pasta, hearty breads, and pastries.  Lay your table with white and pick up some fresh lilies or carnations to place beside a statue or picture of St. Joseph.  Try your hand at making fava beans or a traditional dessert for the feast day, Sfinge di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Cream Puffs).  And consider imitating the gesture of Italy’s public square tables by making an extra donation to your local food pantry.

Gather strength by uniting your family with St. Joseph in celebration, and enter into Holy Week renewed to embrace the Cross.

Image credit: Cream Puff by Romi (Pixabay, CCO Public Domain)

The Domestic Confessional

domestic confessional

I dropped to my knees and began mopping up the mess, grumbling as I worked.  “You have to be more careful!  Especially when it’s a full gallon of milk!  Ask Mommy for help next time so you won’t make a mess!”

I looked up at my daughter and stopped.  A look of surprise mingled with remorse was fixed on her face.

“Sorry,” she whispered with downcast eyes.

My heart dropped to my feet and my tone softened.  I tried to salvage the mess I had poured on top of hers. “It’s okay. Just ask me for help next time.”  She walked away, and I finished cleaning, by now more frustrated with myself than with the spill.

The image of Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son flashed through my mind.   The father who didn’t scold.  The father who didn’t ask any questions.  The son who leaned with relief into a loving embrace of perfect mercy.  And this was a son who had intentionally spent his father’s inheritance on gambling and prostitutes!

The Return of the Prodigal Son, Rembrandt

The Return of the Prodigal Son, Rembrandt

Yet his father greeted him with genuine love and joy.

The father must have seen instantly the remorse on his son’s face.  He must have recognized the hardships his son had already endured, and understood that his son was disappointed with himself.

Their exchange wasn’t as much about the words that were spoken, as it was about the tone of their encounter.

One of the most healing moments I’ve experienced after a recent miscarriage was in the confessional.  A flood of emotions had been washing over me since the day I lost my baby: anger, despair, bitterness, envy, resentment, self-doubt, longing, and even a little joy.  I had never experienced a loss like this before, and wasn’t sure what to do with all of those feelings.  As I prayed and asked God to show me the way, I felt pulled to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  And as I knelt in church, trying to decipher my sins through a cloud of grief, I knew God wanted me to receive the sacrament face-to-face–to experience the mercy of confession in a way that I hadn’t in many years.

After confessing my sins through a screen for so long, it was a surprising relief to sit down and visit with our parish priest like I would a friend.  I honestly wasn’t sure what to confess; I just laid bare how I’d been feeling, and the most wonderful thing happened.  I can’t remember exactly what he said, but my priest made me feel as if all of my shortcomings, all of my confusion, and all of my worries were no big deal.  Because, at that point, they weren’t.  I was there, I was sorry, and I was open to guidance.  I was the prodigal son returning, and God not only had mercy on my sins, but mercy on my grief as well.

I realized that this is real mercy: a guiding hand as gentle as our tenderest desires, eyes that recognize our remorse before our mistakes, ears that are open to our perspective rather than closed by judgement, and a heart that is so overcome with joy by our return that it instantly forgets our transgressions.

As my children go about their days, making mistakes and learning to follow God’s will, I hope that our domestic confessional can be as merciful as the church confessional–that the tone of every teaching moment is one of gentle guidance and joy in the return.  And that as I drop to my knees to clean up their messes, I take the time to look at them before the mess and say, “You are loved.”

Image credit: Baby in parent’s arms, Rotaru Florin (Pixabay, CCO Public Domain)

When Your Two-Year-Old Crawls Like a Dog Down the Communion Aisle (and Other Pathways to Holiness)

Christmas Eve Mass was a disaster this year. At least it seemed that way. With my husband and two oldest children involved with the music at Mass, I was left on my own to manage a six-year-old, four-year-old, and two-year-old.

I should have known that things would get messy when, upon pulling into the church parking lot, my two-year-old promptly got out of the van and climbed to the very top of the nearby school play equipment. She may have been able to shimmy up a climbing wall in her Christmas finery, but her mischievous smile and gleeful chortles mocked the limitations of my high heels and slim-skirted dress. Fortunately, by the grace of God, she decided to come down on her own and walk with us to the church.

The pews were crowded and the air was stuffy, but the altar was beautiful and a sacred joy was present. We settled in and, aside from the expected wiggles of excitement, we did pretty well for awhile. But, of course, the wiggles escalated and so did my children’s voices. I finally had to take the four-year-old and two-year-old out, and the rest of Mass was a blur.

I know that at some point I had to convince my four-year-old to stop using a stair railing as a tightrope, but the most horrifying moment was when it came time to receive Communion. Sandwiched into the line, we started creeping down the aisle when suddenly, out of nowhere, my two-year-old decided she was a dog. She dropped to all fours and started scurrying down the middle of the aisle. I managed to grab her, and she went from dog to limp noodle instantly. Trying not to injure anyone around me, and still making our way down the aisle, I tried whispering to her and I tried distracting her, but she was firmly set on being impossible. If I held her, it was either acrobat or limp noodle. If I put her down, it was dog.

Acrobat. Limp noodle. Dog. Acrobat. Limp noodle. Dog.

She was a force to be reckoned with.

I had no other choice. I picked her up and held her (very) firmly, and we finally approached the Eucharistic minister. And then, in the soft glow of candles and Christmas tree lights with the beauty of the creche at my side, I received Jesus on His birthday–while my 40 pound two-year-old yelled “Ow! Ow! Ow!” in my aching arms.

We made it back to the cry room (by now I was practically crying), and I wiped the sweat from my brow. We made it through the rest of Mass, and as we exited the church, our priest looked at me, smiled, and said, “You are earning so many points in heaven! Let me give your whole family a special Christmas blessing.” And right there, on the front steps of the church, we bowed our heads and received the blessing.

I’ve heard it explained that growing in holiness doesn’t mean that you suddenly stop sinning, or that life suddenly goes more smoothly, or that you are the picture of perfection to others. Rather, holiness is a deepening desire, a burning love, a longing for God and God alone–and a willingness to continue to try to overcome sin for the sake of our Beloved. But, as parents, we are still humans trying to raise other humans. There will be trials. There will be mistakes. There will be dogs and limp noodles. These are our exiles to Egypt; these are our “no rooms at the inn”; these are our swords that pierce our hearts. But if those swords pierce a heart that is full of love, then only love can flow out.

Life is messy. Parenting is messy. But a foundation of love is where real holiness lies.

I was cleaning up our Christmas mess the other day, and underneath bits of wrapping paper, toys, and new markers that had already lost their caps, I found a piece of artwork made by my six-year-old that simply said, “God I Love You.”

God I Love You by Hazel

Maybe Christmas Eve Mass wasn’t such a disaster. Maybe the blessings of that sacred day did take effect. Maybe we’re doing something right. Because in the midst of all the messiness, I continue to find love.

Live Like a Saint: Saint Nicholas!

Note from the editor: Charisse put together this lovely spread for our winter issue of Tender Tidings, but we are still putting together the issue and St. Nicholas’ feast day is on Sunday. So we wanted to release her spread here so you would have time to use her ideas. God bless!

st nick

St. Nicholas, the patron and protector of children, is known for his generous spirit, compassionate heart, and natural humility. Born during the third century on what is now the southern coast of Turkey, Nicholas spent the early years of his life enjoying the temporal and spiritual blessings of his wealthy and devoutly Christian parents. After his parents’ death, the young Nicholas took Jesus’ words “sell what you own and give the money to the poor” to heart and used his whole inheritance to help the poor and suffering. Create a St. Nicholas gift box and mail it to a grandchild or godchild — or place some of the suggested items in your own children’s shoes to be found on the morning of December 6, St. Nicholas’ feast day.

Here are some ways your family can honor St. Nicholas in your home:

1. St. Nicholas card with candy “crozier” and hot chocolate

While still a young man, Nicholas was named Bishop of Myra. As bishop, he was known for his concern for children, the poor and needy, and sailors. He also suffered for his faith under the rule of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Stir up a cup of hot chocolate with Bishop Nicholas’ candy cane “crozier” and reflect on the love and sacrifice of this heroic saint. Card image found at www.catholictradition.org.

2. Small toy and virtue card

Many legends surround St. Nicholas that attest to his love for children. Miraculous stories of boys being restored to life after a brutal attack, a kidnapped child being whisked back home, and children saved from an evil butcher highlight Nicholas’ concern for these small souls. Present each of your children with a small toy and corresponding “virtue card” to help care for their souls. (e.g. a small toy airplane with a card that reads “Charity: May you always lift others up with your words. ‘Your words have upheld the stumbler; you have strengthened his faltering knees.’ Job 4:4”)

3. Gold coins and/or orange

One story attributed to St. Nicholas’ generous heart tells of a man with three daughters. Unable to afford dowries for his daughters, the man worried that they would never marry. But, mysteriously, three bags of gold (or three gold balls) appeared, apparently tossed through an open window during the night. They landed inside shoes that were drying by the fire. Place oranges or chocolate coins in your children’s shoes to remind them of St. Nicholas’ secret and humble generosity.

Visit www.stnicholascenter.org for more ideas for celebrating St Nicholas Day.

What Adolescents Want (and How Attachment Parenting Gives It to Them)

teensMy 11-year-old always seems to be hanging around lately. Peering over my shoulder as I pay the bills, following me around as I search for a quiet room to sneak in a few minutes of prayer, and shuffling around the corner with a bored, middle school expression on his face right in the middle of a good conversation with my husband.

This is a kid who loves spending time with his friends. And there are times when I wish he was around a little more. But when he is home, I can’t seem to get rid of him. Most of the time, I love this. I want to spend time with him. I miss him when he’s gone. And I can’t help but feel a little worried that, one of these days, he’ll suddenly turn into the stereotypical teen and retreat into his bedroom or head out with his friends, never to be seen again.

So during those times that I really need to get bills paid, or I’m trying to concentrate on a Skype meeting with some fellow writers, I don’t put up too much of a fuss. I let him look over my shoulder. I let him sit next to me and invade my personal space. Because I’m not raising him to be a stereotypical teen.

I’m raising my son to look to my husband and me first as he figures out who he is in this world. When he was little, I taught him that he could trust me by responding promptly to his needs and always being there for him. He believed that I cared, and he believed that I understood him. I gave him a lap that was always ready to hold him, a bed that was always open to his presence, and a home where faith and love welcomed him with open arms. He knew he had a place where he belonged. By showing empathy towards his needs and responding to his cries, he learned that I am someone with whom he can always share his feelings. I am someone with whom he can be himself without fear of judgement or criticism. And, as a baby and toddler, he usually tagged along on most of my grocery shopping trips, social outings, and church activities. He learned to enjoy and absorb the world, while following my guidance as he learned how to live in it. These were all needs that my young son had, and they were fulfilled through intentional parenting. And as he grows up into a young man, I’m realizing that those needs haven’t changed.

The YDisciple parish youth group program outlines the five driving needs of adolescents in this way:

1. THE NEED TO BE UNDERSTOOD

The need to be understood is a great psychological need for us as human beings. Unfortunately, the majority of teenagers do not believe that adults understand them. When an adult takes a genuine interest in a teenager and seeks first to understand, that adult earns the right to be heard. If adults want to hand on the faith to teenagers, they must seek first to understand what is going on in their minds and hearts. Teenagers don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.

2. THE NEED TO BELONG

Teenagers are driven to meet the “need to belong” before higher growth needs like understanding and living the Christian faith. In fact, it is often the case that teenagers will compromise the morals in which they have been raised in order to belong somewhere. If adults don’t help teenagers build healthy, life-giving relationships with one another, then teens will find a way to meet that need themselves. On the other hand, if adults create an environment where teens are known, loved, and cared for, they create an ideal environment for discipleship.

3. THE NEED TO BE TRANSPARENT

Teenagers rarely have the freedom to be transparent today, especially with one another. It is too dangerous to be vulnerable in a peer-dominated world focused on image and popularity. Teens long for the opportunity to be transparent about their doubts, concerns, fears, insecurities, hopes, and dreams, and to have the confidence of knowing they will not be judged, but loved and supported. In fact, this is necessary in order for them to grow in self-awareness and self-esteem.

4. THE NEED TO ENGAGE IN CRITICAL THINKING ABOUT FAITH AND LIFE

Teens are transitioning from concrete thinking to abstract thinking and are able to conceptualize ideas such as love, justice, fairness, and truth. They are also capable of pondering the big questions in life such as: Is there a God? Do I need religion? Can I know God’s plan for my life? In addition, they are in the process of establishing independence and becoming their own person. Deep down they desire to be treated as adults and no longer want to be told what to do or what to believe. They are critically evaluating what they have been raised to believe and are not that interested in answers to questions they are not asking. Thought-provoking questions, lively discussion, dialogue, and freedom of expression engage teenagers in critical thinking.

5. THE NEED FOR GUIDANCE

Teenagers need dialogue, collaboration, and friendship with adults in order to become adults themselves. Relationships with adults help them answer deep fundamental questions like: Am I lovable? Am I capable? What difference does my life make? They are naturally idealistic and desire to be challenged to greatness through the direction, encouragement, and support of caring adults. It is a well-known educational principle that young people will rise to the level of our expectations of them. Teenagers will give their lives to Jesus through the witness and encouragement of loving, faith-filled adults.

While the YDisciple program is designed for parish youth groups to carry out in small group settings, the five driving needs of our adolescents are still there when they return home from their church activities. In fact, adolescents especially depend on their parents to fulfill these needs in the home and help them create peer groups that do the same. Meg Meeker points out in her book Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets To Raising Healthy Boys that “in one survey, 21 percent of kids said that they needed more time with their parents. But when the parents of these kids were polled, only 8 percent responded that they needed more time with their children. We become so absorbed with keeping up with our daily lives that we miss seeing what our [kids] really need, which is simply more of us: our time and our attention.”

When we spend more time with our kids, whether that be by taking them out for ice cream, playing a game with them, going on a bike ride together, or simply working side by side on a household project, we send the message that we understand them, they belong somewhere, they can be who God created them to be around us, we’re willing to converse with them about whatever is on their mind, and we care enough to guide them through our Christian witness.

And so I allow my son to breathe down my neck while I sort the mail. I answer his questions while I balance the checkbook. And my husband and I continue our in-depth conversation about our faith even after he walks into the room.

Because he’s growing up, but he’s still learning. He knows that my husband is the one who can teach him how to be a man, and that I’m the one who can teach him what to look for in a wife. His parents are still the people who he trusts to answer his questions and help him navigate the world, and this trust is what keeps us honest and shapes us into better people.

Our son depends on us to grow into the person God created him to be, and we depend on him to do the same for us. This is the beauty of family, of relationship, and of a firm foundation of trust and love.

It’s Okay to “Just” Be a Mom

autumn family2

Every so often, it seems I am compelled to test my limits–to see how much I can cram into my schedule before I break. And, before I know it, I’m a harried mess, wondering why my household, and my mind, are falling apart.

As moms, we feel so much pressure. And not just from the local news anchor who’s back on the job after six weeks of maternity leave or from the working mom next door who appears to “do it all”. It’s so easy to start comparing myself to other stay-at-home moms–to feel like I’m the only mom in the whole school who’s never been a room mother or volunteered for recess duty or served on the PTO board. And so I take on a little more. I try to do anything that will make people see that I’m doing something. Pride threatens to take over, I forget who I am, and I place too much value on human esteem.

We all have different talents, different temperaments, and different thresholds for the various stressors in life. I’m not the working mom next door. I’m not the ten o’clock news anchor. I’m not even the PTO board member. I don’t have to save the world, but I am responsible for raising a part of the future of the world. And so it’s up to me to know myself–to realize what is required of me as the heart of my home and keep that as my primary focus.

As an introvert, I need time alone to recharge. I need quality prayer time every day. I need time to breathe in the sanctuary of my own home, or my stress level quickly elevates and radiates out to my family. As the heart of the home, everyone I live with has a finger on my pulse. Whether I like it or not, even my most subtle mood changes have drastic effects on the atmosphere in my home. Staying healthy, both physically and mentally, is never just about me. My state of being directly affects my husband and all five of my children. My state of being is the example around which our family life revolves. My state of being is my family’s guidepost, for better or for worse.

My children are only young once. I have a very small window of time to guide them in the direction that I hope they will go. They need a mother who is present and unharried (at least most of the time), a household that is free of chaos, and a schedule that is centered on family bonds and the love of Christ.

It’s okay to “just” be a mom. It’s okay to spend days doing laundry, baking, and jumping in leaf piles with my children. It’s okay to say no to most outside activities so I’ll have time to waste time with my family.

Making choices that support these values is not always easy. Sometimes we meet people who don’t understand, who think we spoil our children, or who think we simply aren’t “doing” much. But “what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15)

God sees every load of laundry, every diaper changed, every wound caressed. He sees us organizing the snow boots, baking banana bread, and making snowmen out of play dough. He knows that the moments we take to breathe and care for ourselves are moments that will allow us to give more love to our family. And He knows we’re doing something. He knows we’re doing the most important thing. And, in His eyes, we are esteemed.

Image credit: Vlado (freedigitalphotos.com)

Keeping the Hallowed in Halloween

halloween image

I love Halloween candy. I still remember getting all dressed up and heading out early to trick-or-treat with my friends so we would have time to hit two or three neighborhoods. My overflowing bag would sit in a corner of my bedroom, tempting me to have “just one more” every time I looked at it. The candy always seemed to disappear too fast, and Halloween has been my sweet tooth’s best friend ever since.

I grew up in a Catholic family and attended a Catholic elementary school, so I vaguely remember saint costumes and stories being mixed into the fog of my sugar-high haze.   But dressing up in secular costumes, the occasional haunted house, and scary movies also held a place in many of my Halloweens past. The heavenly and the haunting often intermingled. The sacred and the secular walked side by side.

So as my own children grow up, I find that our Halloween traditions don’t veer too far from those of my own childhood. Their Catholic school hosts a “Fun Night” every year around this time–an evening of games, candy, and non-spooky costumes. The kids love it and the parents survive it. There are pumpkins and bats, spiders and ghosts, fun “haunted houses”, jousting pits, and bouncy houses. But in the midst of the chaos, there are always a few saint costumes and games with subtle references to their Catholic faith.

tierney halloween hazel

tierney halloween henry

According to Scott P.Richert, the Catholicism expert at About.com, Halloween does not have pagan origins. The word “Halloween” is simply a contraction of “All Hallows Eve” which points to the solemnity of All Saints Day on November 1. Pope Gregory III instituted the feast and the vigil in the early eighth century.

Opposition to Halloween actually began as anti-Catholic attacks. Some falsely tried to associate the feast with the Celtic harvest festival of Samhain, even though the timing of the celebrations was the only element they originally held in common. There have been times in our history that Christmas and Halloween have even been outlawed by non-Catholic governments. Today, commercialism is our worst enemy as it downplays the Christian roots of the feast and thrives on the gore and fright factor. (See http://catholicism.about.com/od/thecatholicfamily/p/Halloween.htm)

tierney saintsAs Catholics, this spooky time of year is a time to celebrate. A time to remember our family of saints that waits for us in heaven. A time to see death as the beginning of life with our Lord, rather than just the end of life here on earth. So we search for ways to help the secular meet the sacred. We search for ways to welcome our beloved saints to walk among us.

While my children love to trick-or-treat, we stick with non-scary or religious themed costumes. Our home is decorated with extra statues and pictures of saints rather than ghosts and spider webs, my daughter’s Little Flowers Girls’ Club hosts an All Saints’ Day party, and we write down the names of deceased family members and friends in our family prayer journal.

The saints have always been our heavenly friends with very human qualities. They assure us that we, too, can get to heaven, even with a quick temper, an inclination to despair, or a selfish streak. They understand that while we live in this world, the secular and the sacred sometimes have to meet in order for the divine to transpire.

And so on Halloween, our family sends our little saints out for some candy with the hopes that they will bring a celestial light to all they meet, and show the world how to keep the hallowed in Halloween.

Transitioning Your Co-Sleeping Child to Her Own Bed (It IS Possible!)

transition bed

It happened so suddenly. We’d been talking about it for awhile, but yesterday, my husband took action. He emptied our older daughter’s bedroom. We organized, we tossed, we scrubbed, and we mopped. And, then, there it was. A sparkling clean bedroom with two twin beds with coordinating pink and purple comforters. Two beds just close enough for late-night sisterly confidences, yet far enough apart to air out the inevitable future disagreements. At two-and-a-half years old, our youngest daughter, our baby, was ready to move in to her sister’s room and move out of ours.

We’ve co-slept with all of our children. It took some getting used to at first, but after 11-plus years, I’ve grown to love it. Of course, there are rough nights. There are nights when I feel like a punching bag and nights when a king-size bed just isn’t big enough. But those nights are no match for the smell of a freshly shampooed head lying next to mine on the pillow, or the feel of a snuggly little body warming mine while the dead of winter yields its worst outside, or the opportunity to gaze at my precious child’s face in the glow of the night light while time disappears into irrelevance. I’ve loved these co-sleeping years, and my heart feels sad as we transition my baby into her own bed with no promise of another little one coming anytime soon.

But, it’s time. We’ve done this before, and here are some approaches that have helped us make this time of change go as smoothly as possible.

1. Plant the idea.

We started talking to my daughter about sharing a room with her sister and having her own bed several weeks before actually doing anything. When the time came, she was excited and looking forward to it.

2.  Let them choose something special for their bed.

It might be new sheets, a comforter, or just a fun pillow or stuffed animal. Letting our children make their bed their own helped them to want to sleep there.

3.  Give them some company.

My five children have two bedrooms. And they still often all end up piled into the same room by morning. Sleeping bags, pillows on the floor, three bodies in one twin bed. As one of my friends puts it, “As long as everyone sleeps, it doesn’t matter where.” We’ve found that siblings who share rooms are much happier together, day and night.

4.  Take it slow.

 Some of our children started sleeping in their own bed for naps only at first. With all of them, I kept the same bedtime routine of nursing them to sleep, then I just put them down in their bed instead of ours. The first time they fussed, I moved them into our bed for the rest of the night. Go with the flow. Don’t force. Over time, they will gradually sleep for longer periods of time in their own bed.

5.  Remember, it’s a “conversation.”

I love this description that Dr. Greg Popcak gives to dealing with children’s sleep issues. It truly is a conversation, unique to every child. One child might show interest in their own bed at 12 months, while another might not be ready until age three. Follow your child’s cues. The process will ebb and flow. Even my elementary school-aged children experience times when they need more parental comfort at night. But I’m finding that, by middle school-age, it takes a pretty ferocious thunderstorm for them to seek us out in the dark — and my 11-year-old now says nearly every night, “I’m so tired. I’m going right to sleep.” And he crawls into his own bed and goes to sleep all by himself. No problem.

And I can’t help but sigh wistfully and remember a time when a certain downy, sweet-smelling head wouldn’t sleep anywhere but next to mine.

A Book To Help You Get Your Kids To Heaven!

discovering-god-together

 

Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak’s new book, Discovering God Together: The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids will make you feel like it’s possible to guide your kids to heaven.

The Popcaks begin their book with the question, “How do we share our faith in a way that will make sense to our kids and stick with them for a lifetime?” The rest of the book is spent breaking down this overwhelming question into easy to follow spiritual steps. Practical tips for creating faith-based rituals and routines within our homes, ideas for inspiring “discipleship hearts” in our children, and simple strategies for strengthening the prayer lives of our families — both as a whole and as individuals — are just a few examples of the Popcaks’ proactive approach to family spirituality. I especially liked the Popcaks’ clear, step-by-step explanation of how to instruct children of all ages in the development of their personal prayer lives.

Henry and Faith with book2The Popcaks’ experience as Catholic counselors is evident in the convincing teaching techniques they present throughout the book, but especially in the chapter entitled “For Families with Particular Struggles: Faith Development in Divorced and Single-Parent Households.” Yes, it is possible to raise faithful children even in families that are struggling!

The final section of the book highlights several of the sacraments and shows families how to get the most of God’s grace out of each one.

Compelling statistics and research sprinkled throughout the book support the need for a resource like this in every Catholic home. Let the Popcaks show you how to make disciples of your children, and enjoy a depth of faith and family closeness like you’ve never experienced before!

You can pick up Discovering God Together at your local Catholic bookstore or on-line here.

That One’s Mine

She sat with her head bowed, as if in peaceful contemplation of the hand she held. Her fingers ran up and down his arm, across the back of his hand, and over his knuckles. Up, down. Across, over. Up, down. Across, over. A physical Morse code that willed her fuzzy mind to remember. He said he didn’t think she knew who he was. And, indeed, his name seemed lost to disease and age. But, his was the hand she held. His ceaseless chatter was the voice that elicited a knowing look from the depths of her distant gaze. He was the one to whom she babbled and gestured in a nurturing, yet guiding way–in the way that only a mother can.

mother and baby handsHe said he and his brothers worried that they might end up like her–that it might be in their genes to lose touch with reality as they age–that they might stop “knowing”.

Maybe his mother didn’t know certain things anymore. Maybe she didn’t even know her own son’s name, but she still knew him. When she was asked who he was, she babbled something about a little boy and gestured with her hands that she knew him when he was small. And later, as she and I sat in the late afternoon sun, she looked at him from across the room and clearly said, “That one’s mine.”

I saw the other side of motherhood that day. The side that returns to the primal bond between mother and child. The side that transcends insignificant details like names and jobs and other titles that we think define who we are. She had returned to the place of real knowing–the place in the heart that can only be reached through a process of purification. The place that we find when we learn another new life is growing within, or when a loved one passes from this world to the next, or when a disease or an accident helps us to become like a little child again.

She didn’t know his name, but she knew he was hers–and that’s all that any mother’s heart needs to know.

Image credit:  Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Same-Sex Marriage: Getting the Conversation Right with Your Kids

“Perhaps there is no greater tragedy for man

than the sense of disillusionment he suffers

when he has corrupted or falsified his hope,

by placing it in something other than the one Love

which satisfies without ever satiating.”

— St. Josemaria Escriva

Frustration, anger, helplessness. These are all emotions that churn in my heart as I look about at the falsified hope penetrating our world. The SCOTUS ruling legalizing same-sex marriage is sweeping our nation, and I don’t want my kids to get swept up with it.

Here are a few thoughts for protecting our children from disillusionment and keeping them on the path to “the one Love which satisfies.”

1. Create the right first impressions.

flower-girl-663210_1280I remember attending weddings with my parents when I was a kid. The beautiful bride, the handsome groom, the flowers, the music…and always a church. When I recently received an invitation to a cousin’s Catholic church wedding, I realized how rare church weddings are becoming.

Our first impressions are powerful. We can create memories for our children that will form their consciences properly. When you have the chance to attend a Catholic wedding, seize the opportunity! My husband and I are looking forward to attending my cousin’s wedding with our children and allowing them to experience where marriage begins.

2.  Maintain a sense of order.

Clean your domestic church often! Revisit family prayer routines, sacrament schedules, and works of mercy plans. Remind your children that even daily chores are meant to be ordered towards God. Schedule regular “family fun” times that allow you to nurture your marriage and your relationships with your children. Spend time outside in the natural order God created, and practice detachment from material possessions. Live the Truth that it is God alone who fully satisfies.

From doing the dishes, to whom we choose to marry, there is a rightful order to everything–and it isn’t just based on our opinions or how we feel.

3.  Extend love and mercy.

 My parents raised me with a clear sense of right and wrong. They’re not afraid to point to a behavior and say simply, “That’s a sin!” But I’ve always admired their ability to separate the sin from the sinner. I’ve often watched them extend genuine love and kindness toward someone who I know has done something of which they don’t approve. This is something I continue to strive for–to show my children that God’s love and mercy is for everyone, even if we don’t approve of everything they are doing.

Getting the marriage conversation with our kids right involves languages other than our words. Speak to your children through the language of your lifestyle, your priorities, and your actions. When your children’s hearts are rooted in memories and habits ordered towards God, the guiding words that follow as they mature will make sense. We can raise children who will be warriors for God’s law and messengers of His mercy.

Image credit: Pixabay