"God made us for joy. God is joy, and the joy of living reflects the original joy that God felt in creating us." (St. John Paul the Great)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Memories of Papa

Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of my maternal grandfather's death.  I was eight years old when he died.  The thing I remember most about the day of his death is how surreal it was to see my mom and my aunt sitting on the couch crying.  I don't think I had ever seen an adult cry before that, and I remember thinking it was fake, some kind of joke.  

I remember that I was supposed to have gone on a trip out West with Papa and Gramma that summer when he got sick.  I remember sending him a card when he was in the hospital, telling him that it was okay if we couldn't go that year, we could go some other summer.  I don't think I knew he was dying.  I wonder if my parents ever actually gave him that card.  I still have it.

I don't remember much else about his death.  I think my parents largely tried to shelter my siblings and me from the pain.  

But I do have many vivid memories of his life.  When I look at my eight-year-old, it is surprising to me how much I actually remember.  I remember he liked to cook and try new recipes (although I think it was my Gramma that did a lot of the chopping and preparation for him).  I remember he liked to make wine -- I remember huge tubs of fermenting chokecherries in the basement of his house.  I remember helping him pick those berries.  I remember camping with him and my Gramma in their camper.  I remember sitting in the back of the camper and eating blackberries with sugar and cream.  I remember him often standing near the fireplace or a campfire, with his back to the fire -- it is "Papa's pose" still when I see people warming themselves in this way.  I remember he liked Heath bars.  I remember he liked to tell jokes and talk with people -- anybody.  

I am grateful that my children still have all four of their grandparents.  In fact, they still have two great-grandmothers.  It is important for the young to spend time with the old, to learn from their wisdom.  It is a sad occurrence in our society that the old are too often "put away."  People are scared of getting old, and don't want to be reminded of what it may be like.  People are scared of death.  I hope that when the time comes when our parents are unable to live on their own, that my husband and I can find a way to take care of them in our home, or near our home.  I would love to have a grandparent's apartment attached to our home.  I want my children to experience life in its entirety.  I want them to love babies and the elderly.  I want them to enjoy being young, but to appreciate getting old.  I want them to see all life as a gift from God.  And I want them to view growing old as what it is -- getting closer to that end for which we were made -- beatitude in Heaven.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.  And let perpetual light shine upon him.  May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things

Taking her inspiration from the classic Sound of Music song, Sarah at More Than Enough has invited readers to share some of their favorite summer things.  Thanks for the invite, Sarah!  Here are some of mine:

outdoor concerts


my three oldest playing nicely. together.


grilling at the park

Science Fridays with Papa


walks in the woods

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

St. Martha

Today is the feast day of one of my favorite saints -- Saint Martha.  Saint Martha was the sister of Lazarus and Mary.  When our Lord visited them in Bethany, Martha received Him as her guest and served Him with devoted attention.  I am often reminded in my own life of our Lord's words to her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her" (Luke 10:41-42).

Our Lord spoke these words to Martha when she approached him, "burdened with much serving," to complain that her sister was not helping her.  I, too, sometimes feel "burdened with much serving."  I, too, complain about it.  I, too, am often "anxious and worried about many things."  I don't know of many mothers who do not sometimes feel this way.  It is then that we should try to remember to "choose the better part."  

And what is the better part?  The story of Mary and Martha highlights the balance most of us must seek in the spiritual life: the balance between prayer and work, ora et labora.  Mary had been sitting at our Lord's feet listening to Him speak.  But most of us cannot spend our whole day in contemplation; most of us, especially mothers, are required to lead a very action-filled life.  But let us, too, sit at the feet of our Lord.  Let us approach Him in prayer and in the sacraments and let Him renew our energies for serving our families.  Let us make our work our prayer: Each dish we wash, each diaper we change, let it be for love of our Lord.  For it is not Martha's serving that was the problem, but her feeling "burdened" by it, her complaining and anxiety.  May we be ever mindful of our Lord's presence while we work.  May we turn to Him often in thanksgiving and in need.  May the Lord bless the work of our hands.  And may we ever grow closer to Him.

Father, your Son honored Saint Martha by coming to her home as a guest.  By her prayers may we serve Christ in our brothers and sisters and be welcomed by you into heaven, our true home.  We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen. 
Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours for July 29

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Marital JOY

Friday night found my husband and I minus three of our four children -- a rarity, indeed.  The Girls had been invited to a sleepover, and The Boy was at his grandparents.  My husband and I took the opportunity to spend a very nice evening together.  We shared some drinks and appetizers and, most enjoyably, some uninterrupted conversation, at a great restaurant on the St. Croix River.  We sat outside and enjoyed a beautiful summer evening.  After dinner, we went to my in-laws, who live out of the Cities a ways.  We sat around a campfire, roasted hot dogs, and stayed up past 11:00!  (We are early-to-bed, early-to-rise people.)  My in-laws left us alone.  The Baby was in bed (she slept ten hours in a row!).  We slept in the camper.  Saturday morning, my mother-in-law set her china out on the deck and served my husband and I breakfast.  She kept The Boy and The Baby in the house.  We spent a couple of hours out on the deck sipping our coffee and enjoying the fresh air and the sounds of the birds.

I have often been reminded that one of the best things you can give your children is a happy, healthy marriage.  And, Lord knows, the more children a couple is blessed with, the harder it is for that couple to carve out some time for themselves.  But it is soooooo necessary.  My husband and I can tell when it's been too long since we were able to enjoy ourselves and our marriage.  It is only with the generosity of people like my in-laws that we are able to get away as often as we are.  Thank you Grandpa and Grandma for watching the kids!  Thank you for providing a Bed and Breakfast experience for us!  We love you!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Baby JOY

Carl Sandburg once said, "A baby is God's opinion that life should go on."  I would add that a baby is further proof that we were made for joy.  Nothing elicits a smile from a stranger like a baby.  When I am having a bad day, I can't help but smile at my youngest, who is usually grinning up at me -- happy even to hear me yelling at her three older siblings.  And it seems more than coincidental that before she can control her head or her arms, Baby can respond to other people with a smile that animates her whole body.  Babies have to be one of life's undisputed greatest joys.

Since joy is contagious, I want my little bundle of joy to be as near to me as I can have her, as often as I am able.  I know that only too quickly she will be too big.  By the time the fourth child arrives, parents usually have all the baby accoutrements they need.  Upon Baby's arrival, however, I had yet to find something that would enable me to be close to her and allow me to meet the needs of The Girls and The Boy at the same time.  

When I was pregnant with my first child, someone gave me a Snugli.  And it may be okay for older children.  However, none of my three infants found the Snugli very snugly.  And it took at least two people to get the wee one in and out of the thing safely.  And it always seemed the baby was getting lost in it.  Or I was constantly checking to see if they were breathing, since their little faces were pressed into my chest.  And my hands were really not free to be doing other things -- I felt like I had to have one hand, at least, on the baby.

Baby four arrived and I was determined to get rid of the Snugli.  I was ready to try a sling.  I don't know why, but I used to look at sling-wearing mothers as sort of hippie-wannabes.  Things change.  I decided, after perusing the options, to try the Slingling.  I liked the no adjustments, no straps, no hoops, no rings -- it's really just a piece of fabric (really cool fabric) sized for the wearer, not the babe.  

I loved my Slingling right away.  And so did Baby.  And so did everyone else.  I can't tell you how many times friends and strangers alike have approached me and Baby to tell me how natural and comfortable and snugly we both look.  

And my hands are free to check The Boy's teeth or braid The Girls' hair.  And I can look down at my bundle of joy when I'm washing the dishes or loading the laundry.  And I can remember what's important.  (And we can dance together at weddings!)

Supposedly I can carry Baby in the Slingling in several different ways until she reaches approximately thirty-five pounds.  We are just now moving from the "cradle carry" to bigger and better things (aka as the "hip carry"), as Baby wants to see what's going on around her.  

As for the Snugli?  My niece has found a great use for it!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

July JOYs

Okay.  So maybe the end of June was not the best time to start a blog.  July has been crazy!!!  Three weekends in a row, we packed up the mini-van and trekked far and wide (okay, maybe not, but at least five hours each time, which is far and wide for a family of six). 

The first weekend of the month we traveled to Michigan for a wedding. On this trip I was reminded that one of the great joys in life is friendship.  My husband and I are blessed to have many good friends -- people who are supportive of our decision to live our lives in an intentional way, people with whom we can stay up too late, drink a good bottle of wine, and laugh until our faces hurt, people who also want to be saints and raise saints.  I am often convinced that there is nothing so important in the Christian life as the support of good friends.  (There is another bonus of attending weddings: the family photo op!)

The other great joy of this trip was an excursion to Lake Michigan.  We climbed an enormous sand dune.  The joy of this occasion was not, for me, in the climb itself, but in watching the children experience something new, the sense of accomplishment, the wonder of so large a pile of sand.

The second weekend of the month we traveled to Iowa for a family wedding.  We stayed at a beautiful retreat center on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River.  The view was spectacular.  Again, there was great joy in watching our children have an absolute blast at the wedding reception.  I have never seen them dance so long and so hard.  

Finally, last weekend we traveled to Milwaukee for my two older girls to participate in two feisanna (Irish dance competitions).  Saturday started out rough.  The younger of the two forgot the steps to one of her newer dances.  She tried to find her place several times before running off the stage in tears.  As a mother, there are few things so difficult to watch.  A short time later, she was to return to the stage for her second dance -- one which she had much better command of.  But, alas, I don't think she had quite recovered.  She again blanked on her steps.  But this time, after failing to regain her momentum, she pointed her toe, bowed, and returned to the line-up, all the while smiling at the judge.  She didn't place, of course, but her parents have never been so proud of her.  And we told her so.  To us, the composure she showed in the face of disappointment with herself, meant more than if she had won first place.  Of course, we were also very proud of our oldest daughter, who has been working very hard as well.  She ended the weekend moving to the next competition level in two of her dances!

As for this weekend, I am finding great joy in staring at the empty spaces on my calendar!

Peace to all!