Over Saturday, Wife and I carried out whispered conversations with each other. Our subject was the terrorist attacks in Paris. The aim of our conversation was how to tell the children. They had already heard something about the attacks, so we needed to talk to them soon. These events of absolute evil are always best coming from their parents, even though we feel like we are leading them across quicksand.
One of the desires Wife and I have for our children is for them to know peace. The greatest peace they could know is peace with our Lord. And that means a good relationship with Him. So, with lots and lots of prayer, Wife and I have pushed our children in that direction. Therefore, to confession we all go!
Wife and I sat on either side of the pew; living bookends with our children between us. By natural necessity, the baby hungrily clung to Wife. #8, on the other hand, was more like a ping-pong ball. Bouncing between Wife and I until he became too energetic for Wife to handle him while #9 filled her arms. He was banished to my side. I attempted to keep a hold of #8, who wanted nothing more than to make his presence known to the entire church. Squirming, squiggling, and squawking, I tried to keep him still and quiet, which felt like balancing an egg on my head while I tried to catch the hen.
For the love of all that is holy, what saint came up with the horrible idea of giving out toys to children in Mass!Continue reading
I have been called irresponsible, stupid and crazy for having so many children. And now that I am facing minor health problems in this ninth pregnancy, I began to wonder if maybe the accusations are accurate. But then I think about my vocation and its meaning in the universe. I am mother to nine beautiful souls. Nine people who would not exist if I or my husband had to taken measures to deny or terminate their existence… and I realized just how selfish those accusations are. My husband and I are building the kingdom of God to the best of our God-given abilities. We fail. We are not perfect, as our ancestors weren’t before us. But is that a reason to not procreate? I think not.
“We are crowding an already crowded world.” False. My husband and I live on a ranch of many acres with other families. We have wide open spaces for our children to run around and play. If we didn’t leave the ranch to go into town, we would not see another person because of how far off the beaten path we live. Being without a vehicle for a week made this observation clear to me!
I am on my ninth pregnancy, I may not be as fast on my feet as I was in my dancing days, or as quick to jump to my feet when I realize what I have left to do before nighttime, (and these things frustrate me) but I have been successfully running my own household for ten years. Now my firstborn daughters are quickly picking up the pieces that are necessary. Maybe that was part of God’s plan for us, to slow me down so that my children would learn to dress themselves and bathe themselves and brush their own teeth, because otherwise I would still be doing so if I weren’t being distracted by their younger siblings needs.
I know in my heart that even though society tells me how I am bogged down by these nine responsibilities, I have made the choice to further God’s Creation by allowing Him to use me as the vessel for these little souls to incubate in. And because of the trust that I have put in Him, the rewards have overwhelmed the sacrifices I have made to bring these little ones into the world.
The art of paying attention in Mass with all the children is like balancing a bolder on a toothpick. It’s not impossible, however it does seem to take a minor miracle.
I sat in the pew with one or two children to my right, while Wife sat with the same on her left, and the rest were firmly placed between us. All in arms reach of either Wife or myself. So we went through Mass as child-bookends, and a nearly constant string of correcting and scolding fills our Sunday celebration. I believe it has been about five years since Wife and I have sat next to each other, with the children for an entire service.
#8 has gotten to the age when he gets passed from Wife, to myself, to #1, and back again with #2 pitch hitting, all in an attempt to quiet him down. While at the same time as the baby is passed over, #7 is sent in the opposite direction to which ever parent does not have the baby. #7 is still a handful, and needs mom or dad’s direction during the entire Mass, he just won’t let up.
The rest of the crew should be old enough to stand still… they should be. #5 and #6 were starting to grapple with each other again and had to be stopped. Snap my fingers at #3 to stop daydreaming and pay attention. There was Wife shooshing #4 who was making squeaking noises at #8, and then gesturing for #2 to keep her eye forward. Then I had to separate the boys because their wrestling match started up again. And there were #1 and #2 holding quiet negotiations over who would be able to take the fussy baby outside.
I really wish I could say that sort of thing only happened in one Sunday out of ten… I really do. The fact is, as much as I wish my children were perfect little angels at church, they seem more to be weapons of Mass distraction.
So, for our anniversary, Wife and I went to daily Mass all by ourselves. I was going to able to listen to the Gospel Readings and pay perfect attention to Father’s homily. But as Mass progressed, I instead found myself looking at the stained glass windows and glancing around to see who might be in church on a Friday night.
Well, maybe the children aren’t why I’m distracted in Mass, they’re just my excuse.
I know other parents go through the same thing. I tell a child what to do, and she does it; but the next time, she forgets. She is instructed to help her younger siblings first, and she forgets. We tell her to flush the toilet, yet she forgets. I was growing weary, and worried that none of the life lessons we wanted to instill upon the children would actually stick. Then, I found I was wrong.
Some time ago I got home late and found Wife was just as tired as I. Somehow the children were fed, followed by a quick cleaning of their faces. Don’t think to put too much credit on me; Wife did all the heavy lifting so to speak. And once she was finished we sent them all off to bed.
#1 asked me on her way, “What about bedtime prayers?”
Our custom is to say several prayers with the children when they are put to bed. However that night I felt just like any old heathen. I looked at my daughter and inquired, “Can you pray with your siblings?”
She nodded joyfully and bounded away. I drug my heels into the bathtub and attempted to soak away a small portion of my fatigue. It didn’t work very well. When I got out, Wife was putting the baby to sleep in our bed. I asked if all the children were in their beds, and she confirmed they were. She then said that she was feeling guilty that she could not get up and pray with them, as she was exhausted as well as tied down by the new baby. I, in a true stock of laziness, assured her that they would be fine.
I walked to the kitchen to get a cup of water, but instead of the nightly silence I expected, I heard a soft rhythm. Coming from the children’s bedrooms, which are down the hall and next to ours, I heard #1 praying from her bed. To my joyful amazement, she was leading a Rosary and her sister in her room and the two in the next followed with the responses. They were praying a full Rosary, meditating on the Mysteries of Jesus and all. A twenty minute prayer.
I quietly entered my room and told Wife about it. We were both overcome with pride. We were blessed with children that knew their prayers by heart; and took them to heart as well. We fell asleep to the melodious hum of the children’s soft voices just on the other side of the wall.
It is Holy Saturday night and there is so much preparation for a joyful celebration of Easter. In an attempt to sleep in as long as possible I lay out my six children’s church outfits for the 7:30 Mass in the morning… Yes, the 7:30. Because we live about a half hour from the rest of civilization, we cannot leave later than 6:45 for that Mass. If I plan it right, I can try to sleep in until 6am and make it to Mass on time. But tonight, in addition to the usual plan of action for the morning, I have six Easter baskets to fill with treats and hide for our morning scavenger hunt. I wonder if the kids will be able to contain themselves until after Mass… or rather if my Beloved will be able to contain himself until after Mass. There is a high probability that the hunt for their treat filled baskets will happen before any of us are ready to go in the morning.
Even though we have a later start to our sleep tonight, I will most likely be awakened by either an excited child or an excited husband for a bleary eyed search for the Easter baskets. But the joys of such a high Feast Day never seem to outweigh the need for sleep. So I bid you good night and a Happy Holy Saturday.
With the onset of Holy Week we of course start with Palm Sunday. And we all know what that means, palm leafs are handed out. In other words, the children are given toys.
Hardly any time needs to pass before the children uncover the many uses of palm branches, none of which were intended by the fathers of the Church.
They usually start with the multiplier, in which the children find they can tear their palm down the seam three or four times before it becomes too small to manage, or until they are noticed by a parent. Which ever comes first.
If they choose not to multiply their palm leaf, they can always turn it into a weapon. It makes a great sword, whip, or ear tickler. They also find that a multiplied palm leaf also makes a fantastic cat-o’-nine-tails.
There are more respectful ways to play with a palm branch, like folding it into the shape of a cross. A well indulged pastime for myself. However, #6 figured out a way to shake most of the cross out, leaving a knot at the end of his palm leaf transforming it into a mace.
The mace was so effective that he was removed from his sisters and placed snugly next to his mother. He then attempted a different diversion. He dropped his palm leaf behind the pew and set about making such a fuss about it that Wife lifted him over to get it. A new game was born. There went the palm branch again, but he was unaware that Wife has been through five other children before him. The palm leaf stayed where it was.
In the end, all the palm branches had to be taken away on account of the war that was constantly erupting within the confounds of our pew. I have absolutely no idea what the homily was about.