May 31, 2013

An Ever So Slightly Greenish Thumb

I am most emphatically NOT covered in bruises. I know 'cause I checked. Twice. No bruises. Not even one. This surprises me because I am aching from the top of my head to the tips of my toes.

Alright, I'm exaggerating. The top of my head is not aching. Although I think it's slightly sunburned.


Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seat belts. 
We have entered Gardening Season. 

Now, I know many of you have been gardening for several weeks already, but Spring forgot to invite us to the party. A belated invite is better than none at all and to show I have no hard feelings I began gardening with gusto. Once again I ordered seeds from St. Clare Heirloom Seeds. Ridiculously kind neighbors with tractors tilled our garden plot and I began the work of creating beds and rows, planting seeds and laying mulch. I learned a trick or two and am optimistic for a better result than last year. At the very least I hope to provide a little less fuel for town gossip.

Last year Joey was not quite as mobile and it was easier to keep him from tromping on my plants. This year he is my shadow, following me into the garden, digging up the seeds I planted, wetting us both with the hose, stealing my garden tools, and in general being as helpful as only a toddler can be.





Using wooden stakes and twine the older kids and I sectioned off a part of the garden (a rather large part) to be a spot just for little Joe. In it we placed his Tonka truck, and a shovel and pail, along with a large metal rocket ship yard-art-thingie my hubby once received as a door prize. (Don't ask.)







Annie planted some mint - edible and he probably can't kill it - just for him smack dab in the middle. Now we shall see if he will stay busy enough in his garden to allow me to work in mine.

While all of the kids have given me a hand, it's David who seems the most eager and even now as I sit at the computer he's nagging at me to go plant something else. I gave him and Alex a section of the garden to plant leftovers - the last couple of seeds remaining in an envelope when I've finished planting a row. They planted an assortment of seeds all crammed into a small plot, with no regard for plant type or spacing.



Most likely it will resemble a small jungle when it all comes up and I've no doubt their plants will thrive, putting my careful plantings to shame. That will be perfectly okay with me. When it comes to veggies, they're always willing to share.




May 29, 2013

Hanging Clothes In Church

I love to use my clothesline. Standing in the fresh air and sunshine, watching the laundry flap in the breeze brings a sense of quiet and peace that takes the drudgery out of this routine task. The noise from the house is muffled and hardly touches me at all as I listen to the birds singing and bees humming while lifting each item from the basket and giving it a shake before pinning it to the line several inches above my head. I usually head back to the house with a touch of reluctance and pause at the porch steps to glance back at the colorful display on the line. It's is strangely satisfying.


Of course, not everything I hang is exactly display-worthy. Some of our things are well worn. There are a few towels with holes in them. There are play clothes stained with dirt. There are underthings that I try to hide from view by hanging them behind other things. I suppose I could instead put these things in the dryer, but I do like everything, even our ragged t-shirts, to smell fresh and clean rather than of floral dryer sheets, (plus it saves electricity) so up on the line they go for all the world to see.

This came to mind this morning while on Facebook when I noticed a post from a young mom struggling with taking little ones to Mass, or perhaps I should say struggling with the difficulty of keeping little ones good at Mass. My heart goes out to her! How well I know that struggle! I remember attending Mass with a four year old, a two year old, and twin baby boys, wishing desperately our church had  a crying room. I remember taking turns with my husband, standing in the back, rocking back and forth, bouncing a baby in my arms, straining to hear the homily. I remember how my face would redden when a toddler used a quiet moment of prayer to loudly announce a need to use the bathroom. I remember one small boy making a dash for the altar and how people laughed when my husband gave chase. I remember almost dying of embarrassment when in an attempt to covertly get the attention of a squirmy child I gave him or her a squeeze on the shoulder only to have that child screech at the top of their voice, "Ow! You're hurting me!" Oh yeah. No one heard that.

Years later, I'm still not much of an expert. I'm a fellow mom doing the best I can. There are (rare) days I think that Mother-of-the-Year award is almost in my grasp, and there are days (most of them) I know I've been banned from the competition altogether.

So, after  almost 17 years of parenting, what works for us? How do we handle going to Mass with little ones? We adopted an insane strategy - (No, we don't bring toys or baggies of Cheerios.) we sit in the VERY FRONT PEW. Seriously. First row. Where everyone can see us. *gasp* Like my clothesline at home, everything is out in the open for others to see: the lovely and the ragged, in full view, flapping in the breeze... When our children fold their hands in prayer or sit quietly listening to the scriptures, fellow parishioners can see that. When children get annoyed and elbow each other, or baby Joey crawls under the pew, they can see that too.

Are we crazy? Most definitely. There is a method to our madness, however. Our children can SEE what's going on during the Mass! They can watch the priest and altar servers. During his homily, our priest, Fr. Pat, looks them in the eye and smiles. Not forced to sit, staring at the backs of other's heads, they have a front row seat for the action. Theirs is an unobstructed view of the crucifix, the pictures of saints, and the stained glass windows. When they squirm or fuss we call their attention back by whispering in their ears "Where is Jesus? Can you see the cross? Look at the candles. Can you see Fr. Pat saying a prayer? Can you say a prayer?" They are included. They copy our gestures. They learn to participate. They learn that they belong.

That's not to say we don't go to the back when there is need. There are times nothing works and a red-faced, squalling, little person must be carried out until they quiet down. We want our children to feel welcome in church, but we want them to learn to be respectful, too. Church is a holy place.

We still attend Mass at a church with no crying room and that's fine with me. (There is a temptation to use a crying room as a playroom.) A trip to the back is not a reward for acting up. They remain in our arms until they settle down and usually look forward to rejoining the family in the front pew.

We've been blessed with a wonderfully tolerant parish family. There are smiles and encouraging nods directed at us and other parents if we're having a particularly trying time. They are vocal in their approval of bringing young ones to church. We have only rarely had to deal with negative attitudes like those mentioned in this article. I am grateful. You see, the Mass is NOT for adults only. We are  all - from the tiniest newborn babe in arms, to the most elderly among us; quiet or noisy, healthy or disabled, the lovely and the ragged- all of us are members of the Body of Christ. We all belong. Even that wild child throwing a fit in my arms.



Well, that's my two cents for today. Time to go hang some laundry.

May 22, 2013

Backyard Camping




"We'll roast marshmallows." they tried bribing me.
"I don't like marshmallows."
"That's weird, Mom. How 'bout we give you the comfortable bed?" they tried again.
"The bed in my bedroom is comfortable."
"Come on, Mom. It'll be fun!"

When I agreed to let the kids open the pop-up camper, I didn't know they planned on having me sleep out there with them. 

I used to love camping. Matt and I used to camp so often we could set up a camp sight - tent up, sleeping bags unrolled, fire going - in 10 min. flat. I loved the hiking, cooking over a fire, late-night star gazing. I had always assumed when we had children we would camp just as often. Then we had children. Camping became work and I became a worrywart.  Instead of hiking merrily through the woods, I began to see bears behind every tree, bears that might want to snack on one of my little ones. I worried someone would get lost. Instead of relaxing around the campfire, I spent time keeping little people from getting burned. We camped less and I grew out of practice. Now when the children wanted to camp they would take Daddy with them and I would stay home with whoever was the youngest at the time. Trouble was Daddy wasn't here. 

We had a camper now. We would be in the backyard instead of the woods. I was being a wimp. I sighed deeply, grabbing my pillow and blanket from my bed. "Okay. I'll sleep out there with you."

It was surprisingly cozy in the camper. Still early in the year for camping, the weather was cool. We snuggled under piles of blankets.We read stories. We listened to chirping frogs. Hopped up on marshmallows, noisy children joked and giggled. Pillows were tossed. Eventually everyone settled down and fell asleep. 

I awoke to the sounds of snoring children and the sun just peeking over the horizon. Sadly, there was no Matt building the fire for breakfast. Instead I crept from the camper, walked across wet grass and into the house to start the coffeemaker and get a shower. We had all survived the night. No one was eaten by a bear. No one had gotten lost. They might still be slightly sticky, but no one had gotten burned roasting marshmallows. It had been a different experience camping without my husband - not bad, just different. I could see us doing this again. 

Maybe. 


May 20, 2013