This Just Might Catch On…

They call it “rest” from what I’m told.  Last week while most mothers were frantically planning, cooking, and cleaning I was recuperating from minor surgery. (Emphasis on “minor” with the acknowledgment that the only “minor” surgery is one that happens to someone else.  So, for me, my minor surgery was somewhat significant. Funny how minor surgery can knock you off your feet for a few days!)

Seriously, I haven’t rested this much since my last pregnancy and that’s been almost twelve years ago!  Besides the obvious benefit of the recuperative qualities of resting, I noticed one or two other benefits that aren’t as obvious.

  1. When Momma can’t do everything Momma usually does, someone else has to.  My dear husband took great care of me (as usual) but I tried to direct the majority of my helplessness toward my lovely children.  I was pleasantly surprised how capable and helpful they’ve become!  So–
    • Blessing #1-My children are growing up to be capable and caring individuals.
    • Lesson #1-Since they’re so capable, I need to let them “practice” being capable more often (i.e. Do less for them!)
  2. When it hurts to move or bend you have to sit still.  Sitting still is NOT my strength.  Just ask my dear husband in the evening as I flit from task to task to tie up loose ends before bed.  The poor guy is just trying to sit with his wife for goodness sake! BUT when you’re forced to sit still you can either fight it or embrace it.  The first few days I embraced it and I found that the time we spent as a family was much sweeter, slower, and more relaxed.  We played more board games, watched more movies, and had more silly conversations than we do when I’m completely mobile.
    • Blessing #2-Being off my feet helped me be more present with my family.
    • Lesson #2-Stop rushing around!  Sit down and just hang out.  The to-do list isn’t going anywhere.
  3. When you catch up on rest, it’s amazing how much better you’re able to handle stress.  Suddenly things don’t rattle you as easily and your sense of humor improves immensely.
    • Blessing #3-I feel rested and ready to embrace Advent and the upcoming Christmas season.
    • Lesson #3-I need to make sure that I get enough sleep day-to-day because it DOES affect me even if I don’t want to admit it.

So, in a nutshell-Rest is good.  Get more of it.  It’s good for you and for the people who interact with you. You’ll thank me. They’ll thank me.  We’ll all be happier.  Agreed? Good!  Now, go take a nap!

May your journey be blessed!

S.S.

(The Suburban Saint)

A Little Late, But Still A Good Link!

Okay, so it’s almost been a week since my July Catholic Mom post went up and I haven’t shared the link with you!  Shame on me!  (In my defense, I’ve been busy celebrating my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary so I think that’s a legit excuse.)

If you have a teenager in your house OR have EVER HAD a teenager in your house, I hope you’ll check out my post and offer words of wisdom.  As with most parents, I’m making this up as I go along and sometimes I get it wrong.  But I don’t always know when I get it wrong until someone brings it to my attention.

Of course, if I get it right, I’d love someone to tell me that too…

Blessings,
Laura

It’s Official!

I knew it would happen sooner or later but I had hoped to
avoid it with luck and a little skill. 
Okaaaay, so I was wrong.  Really
wrong.  (I admit it.  Sometimes I’m a little delusional.)  Despite my efforts to fight it, I am no
longer smart; at least, not according to my teenage son.  I am officially stupid.

I can almost see some of you shaking your head and laughing
a little at my naivete.  How did I hope
to avoid this parental curse?  Do I have
some magic suit that can deflect teenage scorn? 
Or perhaps some psychic ability that allows me to see into the teenage
mind and unravel it’s mysteries for the betterment of the world?  Maybe I have a super-secret brainwashing
technique that I use to “mold” the minds of tomorrow’s leaders?  Um. 
Nope.  Not only do I NOT have any
of those cool but questionable tools to help me avoid the “Parental Teenage Curse”, it totally snuck up on me!

For those of you who either 1) haven’t gone through this
stage yet as a parent or 2) don’t remember going through it as a teen, let me
enlighten you to a common and extremely annoying stage that many teenagers go
through.  You see, there comes a time in
a teen’s life when he or she realizes that their parents are completely
clueless and have little or no redeeming value whatsoever.  They, on the other hand, have reached a level
of enlightenment that is exceeded only by Einstein on a REALLY good day.  You know what I mean, on a day when he got a
great night’s sleep, took his vitamins, and got pumped at the gym. 
 
Unfortunately, this new period in our lives has taught me something about myself.  Something that I really didn’t want to know.  (Don’t you hate it when that happens?)  It seems that I don’t like being wrong.  I mean I REALLY don’t like being wrong.  Sure, I understand that most people don’t like to be wrong or be TOLD they’re wrong.  It’s human nature.  How am I any different?
 
Usually, I’m not easily irritated.  In fact, you could say that I’m fairly hard to offend.  But there are some things that send me over the edge. 
  • Give me attitude about going to Mass (I’m talking to you my sweet offspring.)
  • Dress like a slob for a dressy occasion and resist all my efforts to correct.  (Still talking to you kids.)
  •  Be told what I will like or dislike.  (I’ll decide that for myself, thank you.)

But, the one thing that drives me up the wall faster than no other irritant is……someone telling me I’m wrong when I KNOW I’m right!

I realize that I can’t make my teenager think I’m intelligent or wise.  The only thing I can change is me.  When I realized that I was getting WAY too upset over being told I was wrong, I felt so silly.  Here I am , a grown woman, letting a fourteen year-old push my buttons by going through a typical fourteen year-old phase. 

So as of now, I’m letting go of being right.  After all, It’s about pride and my pride could use a little shrinkage.  My new phrase will be “I may be wrong but…”  I’m hoping by admitting my fallibility right upfront it will make me better able to handle the fact that I’m most assuredly wrong–at least for the next few years or so.

Blessings from the flawed but blessed,
Laura

Spare the Rod…?

…and spoil the child is the way the saying goes.  But this past Sunday, I came across a reference to “the rod” that made me re-think that old adage.

I’ve been dabbling with the Liturgy of the Hours a little
thanks to the incredibly convenient and user–friendly app,
Laudate.  At Laudate you can read the
daily mass readings, pray an interactive Rosary, pray the Liturgy of the Hours,
read about the Saint of the day, look up things in the Catechism, listen to a
myriad of Catholic pod casts, read more than one translation of the Bible, and
follow along with the Order of the Mass. 
All that in a free app!  Talk about one-stop shopping! (If you can’t
tell, I highly recommend it.)

Last Sunday, I was praying the Liturgy of the Hours in the
mid-morning and one of the Psalms was Psalm 23. 
You know the one, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.   He leads me beside the still waters.  He refreshes my soul.”  One line from that very famous psalm is, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  It made me wonder,”Is this the same rod that we’re not supposed to spare when raising our children?”  If so, that rod never really instilled me with comfort.  More like fear. 
So, have we misunderstood that quote all these years?  Are people basing their parenting on a misinterpretation?  After reading Psalm 23, I’m starting to think that may be the case.
Now, I’m no Biblical scholar nor am I  even a theologian but let’s think about this for a second
For the “rod” reference in Psalm 23, what exactly would be comforting about a rod if it’s used to smack you around so that you stay in line?
For the “spare the rod” reference from Proverbs 13:24, if sparing the rod means not using it for its original purpose, what was the rod supposed to be used for? According to my in-depth Internet research consisting of a single question and answer on Ask.com ;), “A shepherd uses his rod to direct his flock and for protection of his herd
in case of danger and also for defending himself. The rod is usually a symbol of
authority against dangerous animals.”
Well, that explains how a rod might be comforting.  It gives guidance and helps keep a group together.  So, in this context, “sparing the rod” would be leaving your child without guidance or direction.  It would imply leaving them alone without the comfort or support of a group that they could rely on. 
This makes so much more sense to me than the pro-corporal punishment interpretation of the Proverbs verse.  It supports the teachings of love, mercy, peace, and the dignity of each and every one of God’s children.  Does this mean your children should walk all over you?  Of course not.  That would be a disservice to them and to you as a parent.  It does mean, however, that you should give them guidance, comfort, and a sense of belonging.  Physical punishment is not necessarily a part of that.
Have I ever spanked my children? Yes, I have.  Did I feel like it helped to teach or guide them?  Not really.  Did it make me feel better?  Actually, quite the opposite.  It made me feel bad.  Not just because I had hurt my child, but because I had run out of patience and better ideas of how to guide them.
I’m not saying that all spanking is bad but if we’re justifying our methods of parenting based on that famous verse from Proverbs, maybe it’s time to rethink our reasons for spanking.
Blessings,
Laura 
 

A Thank You Note to God

Dear God,

After last week, I thought you deserved a proper thank you for all your intervention on my behalf.  You see, it wasn’t much more than a week ago that I felt like I was hitting a brick wall with two of my three children.  (I’ve informed the third child that he’s not allowed to have any issues until we can get the other two taken care of!)

After months of ongoing and nagging injury, my oldest son is finally starting making some progress toward healing.  Unfortunately for him it wasn’t fast enough because he’s now in a cast and on crutches but we know that this is the storm before the calm for him, so to speak.  And, we have faith that he’ll be up and around on his own TWO feet in a short time.  Thank you for sending us to the right doctor and for motivating our son to be a good patient and follow doctor’s orders.

As much as I appreciated your intervention with my son, what you did for me last week with my daughter was huge in my mind.  For weeks, she’s been unhappy at school and complaining about going.  She’s full of anxiety everyday about the demands of school even though she’s doing well academically and has friends and activities that she enjoys.  I was at my wits end trying to help her and, I’m embarrassed to say, didn’t come to you for help until a week ago.  I had reached the point where I was as knotted up as she was and I didn’t know what to do.  It was at that point that I finally prayed for your guidance.  Of course, you know that I have prayed for your guidance before but this was different.  This time, I had no pretense of knowing what to pray for.  All I did was ask for help and a sign so that I would know what to do.  Several days later you prompted me to remember something that a doctor had told me recently; something I had let go in one ear and out the other.  Something that I wouldn’t have remembered on my own.  Or, if I had, I wouldn’t have given it much thought.  It was only some vitamin suggestions but after my prayers, I knew it was something I needed to consider.  Days later, my daughter seemed happier and more relaxed.  As the week wore on, she seemed to improve.  I realize that she’s not over the hump.  She still has far to go to learn how to manage her stress in a healthy way but last week gave me the hope I needed not to give up trying to help her.  After a busy and tiring weekend, we seem to be back at square one but, now I have hope that she’ll be better once she catches up on sleep.  Thank you for nudging me in the right direction.  Thank you for giving me hope that things will get better.  And thank you for giving me an emotional break last week so that I can tackle this week a little easier!

I know there are countless other things to thank you for but, if I were to name them all, this letter would go on forever.  But, I promise this won’t be the last.  You deserve to get more than one thank you note.  So expect to see more from me.  Until then, we’ll talk in my prayers.

Love,
Laura

PS.  I can’t believe it, Lord.  I forgot to thank you for the beautiful hours-long theological/ philosophical discussion with my oldest son!  I could almost feel you patting me on the back and saying, “See, it’s working.  Keep it up!”  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Polishing God’s Treasure

As I was on my knees praying before Mass last weekend, I found myself focused on my children and how I can best guide them in their faith and in their lives.  In particular, I asked God to help me to nurture them and help them to grow into the people He wishes them to be instead of the people I think they should become. 

You see, it all started on the way to Mass as I was talking to my 13 year old son about Boy Scouts.  Since the summer, his enthusiasm for Boy Scouts has waned considerably and I often find myself nagging him to complete his badgework, go on campouts or even go to the weekly meetings.   I decided that I didn’t want our relationship to devolve into one of nagging and whining so, I backed off despite the fact that I really wanted him to continue.

Keep in mind that there was a reason I had been nagging him.  At one point he was totally focused on becoming an Eagle Scout which I thought was great.  It was something he wanted so I was going to support him and help him with that goal.  After all, what mother wouldn’t be proud of her Eagle Scout son?  What I didn’t notice was that over time, his enthusiasm for that goal had waned but mine hadn’t.  I REALLY wanted him to get his Eagle.  I had lots of reasons.  He would learn so much from the experience. It would be good on college applications.  Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt my motherly reputation either, would it?

Well, as I listened (really listened) to him talk to me on the way to Mass, I decided to stop trying to make him into what I thought he should be.  Instead, I needed to help him find ways to discover his talents and nurture them, not cram him into some mold I thought was appealing.

As I knelt there praying to God to help me live out this new found realization, it occurred to me that my job isn’t to mold my children, per se.  Instead, my job is more about recognizing the treasure I’ve been entrusted with and polishing it so that it can shine. 

So, I’ve decided to change from a nagging mom to a treasure hunter. I plan on focusing more on uncovering the treasure I’ve been given in my children and helping them to polish it.  I’m sure I’ll mess up and fall back into my old attitude from time to time but, on the whole, my attitude has changed. And when I do mess up, I’ll envision myself polishing the top of my children’s heads until they’re shiny.    That oughta give me a little kick in the pants (and a laugh!)

Off to get my polishing cloth!
Blessings,
Laura

Mid-life Crisis?

Have you ever had a moment when your view of yourself crashed headlong into reality?  I have.  In fact over the years it’s happened several times.  I like to think of them as reminders from God that 1) I’m not Him and, 2) I’m not “all that.” 

Some people might call this a mid-life crisis but that’s overstating things.  These glimpses of my imperfection usually provide me with insight about myself and the way I look at life.  More like lessons in humility but without the humiliation. 

A few years ago, I was fretting about my children’s grades in school.  I worried they should do better than they were doing.  After all, my husband is very intelligent and I was always an A/B student.  Or was I?  Around that time my Dad had been cleaning out closets and came across a box of my old school papers.  Of course, he passed them on to me (I probably should’ve paid him rent for storage all those years!)  As I went through the papers, I came across a report card from 4th or 5th grade.  I took a look and was surprised at the variety of letters I saw on the page.  There were A’s and B’s, yes, but there were also C’s and I think even a D!

At first, I was a little horrified.   I always thought I was a good student!  What were those other grades doing there with the A’s and B’s?  Slowly memories came back to me. I remembered struggling to learn my multiplication facts. I remembered test anxiety and stressed out evenings studying with Mom & Dad at the dining room table.  Then it dawned on me.  My kids are better students than I was at that age!  At that moment, I realized that I could relax.  My kids made good grades (better than mine, probably) and, after all, they were KIDS!  They had time to work out the kinks and overcome whatever challenges were thrown their way. 

So far the score is Reality-1, Laura-0.

More recently, I was at the lake with some friends where I got the opportunity to drive a Waverunner (Jet-ski, whatever) for the first time. Once I got the quick tutorial, I started off with my friend riding behind me to be my guide.  At one point she said, “You can go faster if you want to.”  Faster?  Wasn’t I going fast as it was?  After all, I was almost going 25 miles per hour!  That’s the fastest I’d ever gone without a car surrounding me.  So, I asked her how fast she’d gone when she was out on the lake.  What?  Did you say 60 miles an hour?! 

So, I conveniently concluded that she was reckless and I was smart.  Then, it was my husband’s turn out on the water.  Before he left, I told him we were going to see which one of us was wilder.  The gauntlet had been thrown down!  Until that point I had no question which one of us was more of a daredevil.  It was me, of course.  Imagine my surprise when he got back from his spin around the lake.  With a cocky smirk on my face, I asked the fateful question, “How fast did you go?”  The answer that I never expected came-45 miles per hour.  I had been beaten at my own silly game!

At that point I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was more cautious ( & probably more competitive!) than I realized.  But, just like my report card incident, this realization sparked memories from childhood.  I never liked sleeping over at friends’ houses.  It took me forever to learn how to ride a bike because I was afraid of going fast.  Yes, I am a cautious person.  There’s no escaping it now. 

Score update-Reality-2, Laura-0

After the “Epiphany of the Lake”, I had to laugh at myself and my delusions of grandeur.  What was I thinking?  Did I seriously think that I was a straight A student and a closet biker chick?  No.  Deep down I knew reality was, in fact, real.  It seemed God was again reminding me of who I really am.  Not in a hateful way.  Not because He’s trying to bring me down a notch.  But because He loves me and wants me to love Him as myself and not as the person I think I am or the person I think I should be. 

So, instead of a mid-life crisis, I guess I’ve had a series of mid-life “moments” that let me laugh a bit at myself and remind me how human I really am.  What a relief!  Now I can relax and just be me.  Of course, I’ll probably still need some reminders from time-to-time about who I really am.  I’m sure God will help me out there.  Until then, crisis averted.

Final Score-Reality-2, Laura-Humble (and Happy.)

Blessings,
Laura

   

  

Good Soil

Once again I have gained wisdom from one of my siblings. 

Not long ago, I was talking to my sister and complimenting her on how faith-filled all of her children are.  I was particularly impressed with one of her teenagers.  I asked her what she and my brother-in-law had done to encourage him.  She smiled and kind of shrugged her shoulders as if she had nothing to do with it.  Well, I know better. 

I know that my sister and her husband place a high priority on their faith and are very active in their home parish.  I also know that they have made sacrifices to provide a Catholic education for their children.  Prayer and a focus on living lives of love and kindness are also a part of their daily family life. 

But, I know what she meant by that shrug.  It’s all really in God’s hands, isn’t it?  As parents, there are times when we think we’re doing all the right things for our children but we’re not sure if the lessons are making the right impact.  Perhaps their faith will grow and yield wonderful fruit OR perhaps they will struggle with their faith and with finding their way in the world.  In truth, as parents, we just don’t know what will happen.   

I joke with my kids and tell them in a not-so-veiled reference to Star Wars, “Don’t turn to the dark side!  Stay toward the light!” In reality, all of our gifts can be used for good or for evil and, like us, our children have free will to choose their path.  We can use our wonderful entrepreneurial minds to build great businesses that provide for our families OR we can use that business mind to land ourselves in white-collar prison.  It’s up to us.

After my sister shrugged her shoulders, she did say one thing that has stayed with me and guided my thinking ever since.  She said, “It’s good soil.”  When I looked confused, she went on to explain that the environment we allow our children to be a part of is the soil.  Finding or helping them find “good soil” helps the seeds of their faith to be nourished and to grow.  Just like in the parable, the seed that falls among weeds gets choked and dies.  The seed that is thrown upon the path gets crushed underfoot.  But, the seed that is sown in good soil sprouts and flourishes. 

Once their sprout grows stronger, it can better withstand the harsher elements.  Until that time, we need to look for ways to provide good soil for our little “sprouts”. 

I told you she was wise!

What are some of the ways you provide “good soil” for your children?

Blessings,
Laura