Tuesday, May 3, 2016

This Is My Beauty For Ashes ~ Molly's First Communion


We had a beautiful weekend. Molly received her First Communion, and we had a lot of memories and reliving to do- of our First Holy Communion, and the like. It was overwhelming. I did not know how tense I was and how much I was holding in until after it was over. Everything went swimmingly. Molly was gorgeous and the sacrament even more so. The service was so perfect and more than we'd hoped for in so many ways.  We ended the big special day by spending a perfectly wonderful evening at my parents' river house ~ eating hot dogs and sliders and strawberry shortcake~ provided by my Mother in law, for dessert.  Feeling poetic, I wrote the following on her big day, and I just wanted to share it with you.

This  is my beauty for ashes:

Although it was all very beautiful when we became Catholic, there were a lot of ashes.

The ashes of my expectations gone...

The ashes of my parents' expectations...

The ashes of what we thought was our life's plan and purpose...

The ashes of the origins of our marriage, our baptism, our theology of family, our Communion...

There was so much to be right about,

when we realized we were wrong.

There was so much to let go of...

and so much to receive ...

A Eucharist with power I can't describe or fully tell

... but grieve, at the same time.

We grieve, because there is so much to grieve.

We receive, but it's a slog going through it... and long-coming.






But this?

This beautiful girl?

This is our beauty for ashes.

This is why everything was so hard,

I hear that in a whisper: My Lord's voice in my ear.

Confidence: that this much beauty could come out of 

All of that sadness, all of those ashes.

I love you, my sweet daughter.

You are a treasure. You are a gift. You are the gift in our sadness.

This sacrament is what makes the crown beautiful.

You are making it worth it. 

Consider that the longsuffering of the Lord is salvation...



adding my link to Tuesday Talk and PHFR

~P.S. I'll be taking a (blogging) break May 4-11. On my break, in addition to mothering, I'll be scrapbooking, sewing, having game nights, gardening, organizing closets, adult coloring, writing long-form letters, and of course, reading. :o) I'll also be tickling my baby and hearing her laugh, and kissing her baby-soft cheeks. You can still find me on social media. I am tacywb on instagram, @tacybeck on twitter, and Picture a Skyline also has a Facebook page~

Friday, April 29, 2016

Monthly Recap vol. 32 ~ April 2016



It's monthly recap time. When I hit you with a slough of links and other happinesses. Hopefully it will keep you busy and reading for a little while at least. Did you come here for the book recs? The funny little things my kids say? Whatever your morning cup of joy may be, I've got you covered, links style, here at Picture a Skyline.

~Reading~

Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery

When I learned Madeleine L'Engle Loved Emily even more than Anne (of Green Gables), I figured I ought to give this one a try. You know how people say that a certain book will find you at a certain time, and because the timing is right, you just can't put it down? Yeah, that didn't happen with this book. It wasn't terrible, but I started it three times, and the time just wasn't right for this one, for me.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Le sigh. This was so good! Although it did not make me want to become part of her religion, it did cause me to think deeply about many things. Namely: racism, the South, family, and writing/writers/being a writer. See for yourself. #5stars

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Another over 450-page style long, but still quick-ish read by Kristin Hannah. Not a legal thriller like her last book that I read, but very, very good nonetheless. I'm convinced this lady has a gift, and I'm gonna stick around her neck of the woods!! The one thing that I did not expect was that this book hit a trigger point for me. I did know ahead of time that it would touch on *spoiler warning* -- breast cancer. #ihadapanicattack #itwasstillreallygood #itwasworthit

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

This is going on my top 5 for the year for sure. For some reason, before reading it, I was misled to believe that Delicious was about the days Reichl had to disguise herself in order to visit and review restaurants around NYC. I was so intrigued! But... nope. Wrong premise. That's this book. Once I got into Delicious, I didn't know it, but I was wanting to read Garlic and Sapphires. A combination of this book and the other one would make a great movie IMO: Gourmet in disguise! ;)

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

I posted this on Facebook:

**Have you ever read Ivanhoe? I’m currently trying to read it, because I recently learned that Sir Walter Scott is a 5th great-grandfather of my husband, Stephen’s.  I remember learning about it from the Betsy-Tacy- and Tib books that I read when growing up (somewhere around 5th grade ~ after The Babysitter’s Club and before Gone With the Wind or so).  I tried to get into it again after rereading the Betsy Tacy books in High School, but my brain wasn’t having it. I finally ordered it after finding and reading the “abridged version” I had found at my parents’ house. Still having trouble, but looking for some (any?) moral support. ;)**
...
and you guys, the support! It was amazing! Thank you! I was motivated to watch the 1982 version. I really enjoyed this plot-driven book and the writing was spectacular.


Isn't it cool when you realize you are related to someone famous (even if it is just by marriage).   I recently learned that my 4th great grandfather was a Colonel in the Revolutionary War, and he fought alongside George Washington. Not quite as famous as the author of Ivanhoe, though. Let's be honest. I married UP.

~Watching/Listening~



I binge-watched the Tina Fey-created show "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt..." Now I understand what all of the fuss was about!!! ;)

There are so many things I could say about this show.  It is, indeed, very funny. I actually laughed so hard, I was crying-  and spurting water from my mouth - near the end of the first season. I won't spoil it for you, but yes, the first season does get funnier and funnier. My favorite episode from the second season was the one where her friend Gretchen tries to join another cult, and Kimmy must rescue her from the Cosmetology Cruise. #cryingfaceemoji I'm trying to decide if I should tell Stephen to watch the rest of the season or not. He watched one very funny episode with me and he was intrigued. ;)

~

IVANHOE the movie! Anthony Andrews. 1982. See Rotten Tomatoes for more.

I've been re-listening to my Birth Labor Playlist from Annabel's birth on Spotify. Take a listen:

And here's a bold and perhaps contestable opinion: I think podcasts are the new TV shows. In terms of go-to media, I seriously love me a good podcast so mucho, and there are some really entertaining ones out there. (<--Add to that list The Right Heart, Ep. 17; on restoring your fertility)

While reading is one of my favorite pastimes, it is certainly a discipline, and only a handful of books that I read fall into the "entertainment" category. But honestly sometimes I would rather listen to a podcast about pop culture, relationships, or anxiety than watch an excellent TV show. I feel like that's saying something! Podcruncher is my favorite app for podcast-listening. I also have one of these penguin speakers, for taking my favorite podcasts on the road!

~Funny Things They Say~

{changing a doll's diaper}

Molly: This is hard, I can't do it.
Me: Just pretend you are changing a doll's diaper.
Molly: But she is wiggling and squirming and real!
Me: Say, 'Yes that's because I'm a real baby!'

{Watching Barbie}

Girls: I'm going to be x Fairy! I'm going to be y Fairy!
Anders: I'm gonna be Ken! I'm gonna be Ken! ... I'm gonna be a pink robot.
(Madeleine talked him down from that ledge)

{after Molly perfected her cartwheel and then started on round-offs... Madeleine builds a tower out of blocks}
Madeleine: (confidently, hands on hips) It's super-high, and gymnastic-cool.

And Conversations with Madeleine had a few real gems. ;)

~Noteworthy~

brilliant.;)
http://simplehomeschool.net/little-house-in-the-big-woods/#more-45392
Can she do Little House on the Prairie Now?!

Here's something fun.  I'm in the Catholic Mommy Blogs Directory. You can see a beautiful list here:

http://www.catholicmommyblogs.com/catholic-mommy-blogs-directory/motherhood-blogs/

Thank you so much for including me; you are too kind, Lia! ;)

13 Ideas to Help With Clingy Toddlers @ Mothering Sunshine

~Funny~

true friendship ;)

mmmmm.... edu-m'cated.
~In The News~



The Pope did not attend a viewing of Spotlight, though he set up a panel :

Vatican panel kicks off meeting on sexual abuse by watching 'Spotlight' @ The LA Times

And apparently, the LA Times was hoping it would help them (the people of Spotlight) win an Oscar, (and it did...:'(  but the Pope knows what he's doing...

Spotlight Gets a Vatican Audience @ The NY Times

YAY! Go Pope Francis!!!  ... what a wise way to handle something like this. I, too, have not watched the film Spotlight. I have come to a decision about it as well... I will not be watching it. I don't think I could handle being that disturbed - and my husband and several of my friends agrees.

Papa Francis has truly led us into wisdom with this step. Parents, not sure what to do about a nasty movie that your children want to watch? Set up a panel, or say you want to attend a showing in a theatre... and then quietly excuse yourself during the opening credits. Your actions will speak LOUDER than words (!!!). So amazing in my mind.

Adolph Och's First Times (The One in Chattanooga)

An interesting article about the founder of the NY Times. @ The NY Times

Downton Creator Brings Drama on the Installment Plan in Belgravia @NPR

I heard about this on the radio! Looks super, super interesting. ;)

~Random~

We've been eating a lot of salmon in these new-found warm weather days. Stephen slow cooks it on the grill after marinating it in a little soy sauce.  It is seriously swoon-worthy good.  I also made a Spicy Teriyaki Salmon that I'll definitely be making again! I've made Teriyaki sauce I don't know how many times. I love a good homemade version, and this recipe is seriously IT for me! ;)

Did Michele stop blogging as much? Waaah! I love her thoughts on children, theology, and the domestic monastery theme in general. It seems she is guest posting, but I need a place to find her posts!

But -- wait for it-- Rhonda is back in the game! Woot woot! Wow. The blogosphere is a happy place to be again. ha!  PARTY  in this house.

It has been *hot* here! Shorts everyday. 

Catch my Summer Survival Series Pt. 1 (ideas to keep you busy), Pt. 2 (Crafts ed!) and Pt. 1 from last year 


Linking up with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum and With Grit and Grace and What I'm Into ;)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

How to Create a Summer Craft Collection On a Dime~ pt.2



This is part two in my Summer Survival series. Read part one here 101 Things to do this summer besides take a cat nap.  I wasn't planning to post this yet, but I felt bit by the summer-worry bug and thought it might encourage some of you. By the way, I'll be taking a blogging break May 4-11. I've made the executive decision that I will need the break after Molly's First Communion and Madeleine's 4th birthday happening within one week of each other!  Onto the post! ;)

Here at the Beck homestead, I like to keep my kids busy. We like reading out loud, playing outside, and indeed, doing a little bit of crafting. While I do enjoy gathering the supplies to carry out a really excellent craft occasionally, I also like to keep crafting with kids SIMPLE. That means, usually, let them loose with coloring, gluing, and play-doh, and see what they come up with. However, I tend to go a bit stir crazy during the Summer months, and I try to keep handy a simple, very inexpensive list of crafts I can do together with my kids. 

These are our staples for a typical craft supply kit:

~crayons
~colored pencils
~stickers
~brightly colored paper
~white paper
~scissors
~tape
~glue
~ruler
~noodles
~string
~cotton balls
~rubber bands
~glitter
~watercolor paints
~paintbrushes
~play-dough/doh
~gluesticks
~foam die cuts
~sponges
~acrylic paint
~straws

This year, I might splurge and buy some extra supplies for the long Dog Days of Summer at somewhere like Michael's or JoAnn's. I would love to hear if you have any recommendations for me for kid-friendly craft kits? Perhaps a book or a company?;) I'm not a knitter, but I do like sewing, and I've done a tiny bit of crocheting in my day. ;)

However, while kits are fun, there are so many crafts that you can complete just using the simple tools listed above. Last year, I posted a list of crafts we wanted to do together, and then I updated it here. This is part two in that series.  :0) ;)

Here is a list of crafts we want to try this Summer:

Sparkly Glitter Butterfly


Summery Watercolor Flowers


Under-the-sea Shell Painting


Stencil Sponge Painting 
(with or without the t-shirt idea)

Fairy Tale Fridge Magnets


Bonus: Make a Fairy Land using Fairy Tale Fridge magnets
Bonus for Boys: Junk Bots  Craft
(Anders *loves* robots right now;)


All of these look so fun, don't they?

For more ideas for keeping toddlers busy, see my posts here: 
&
&

I also like Christy's post on Great Games For Little People...
and I mentioned the games we like to play in 101 Things to Do This Summer Besides Take a Cat Nap

I hope that this post leaves you with more than just a few ideas for keeping busy this Summer!

Do you have any ideas for keeping the boredom and the screens at bay in the Summer months? Have a Pinterest board to share? Hit me with them in the comments.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

101 Things to Do This Summer ... Besides Take a Cat Nap


This Summer, I want to improve my health, take control of my very random diet, and hopefully in the end, lose weight. I also want to stop shopping the junk food aisle, and only eat desserts once or twice a week. Even though it isn't technically a penitential season, I want to try to watch what I eat, be careful about caloric intake, and eat well without spending too much!

Here are some of the Meals I want to try:


Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
Sriracha Lime Chicken Chopped Salad
Gorgonzola Pear Salad + Grilled Chicken
Asian Style Cobb Salad with Hard Boiled Eggs
Spaghetti Squash with Pesto or Creamy Spinach Tomato Sauce
Broccoli Salad with Raisins
Chopped Ham, & Salami Antipasto Salad
Tuna and Salmon Patties
Low Carb Green Smoothie

Mmm looks so good! Right?! To keep them affordable, I'm hoping/planning to shop organic for fresh produce and meat, and stock up on pantry items at Aldi, or some other affordable grocery store with high quality foods (like Trader Joe's!)  To learn more and view even more recipes, See this. A Pinterest board called "Dietary Restrictions" ... to delight your whims and fancies! ;)

Besides the long technical list of creative ideas, here are some things we want to do regularly this Summer.  I like to get out, but I want to do something besides shop at the mall and read Murder Mysteries and The Babysitter's Club. In order to carry out my plan, I'll jot down my ideas on the calendar on specific dates, along with my Meal Plan. In this way I hope to stay on top of the craziness, and meanwhile keep my kids busy and active as the weather gets warmer!!

When the Weather is Nice, in an ideal world, we'll do the following Weekly or Bi-Weekly:

-Visit the downtown Library
-Go for scones and take a walk on the Riverwalk
-Go to a playground (We have about six to choose from in our area of town!)
-Walk the Walnut Street bridge
-Ride bikes/scooters

Monthly:

-Visit the play area at the mall
-Go to an alternative Library
-Eat out as a family
-Visit the local Nature Center
-Visit the local Creative Discovery Children's Museum
-Go for Ice-cream

As I said, I'll pencil these in on the calendar. In the event that we are utterly bored and our mainstays do not come in handy, I have the following wonderful list of creative ideas to get me started. Hopefully it will help you to get your ideas flowing as well!;)

101 Things to Do This Summer... Besides Take a Cat Nap!

1. Go to the Symphony
2. Go to the Opera
3. Go have a picnic at the Park
4. Make Cupcakes
5. Visit a Frozen yogurt shop
6. Go to the Zoo
7. Go to the Beach
8. Have Family Game Night/A Family Game Day
9.  Play on a Slip N Slide (if you have a sloping yard;)
11. Play in a Sandbox
12. Build a Sand Pit
13. Play in the dirt
14. Pick flowers
15. Plant flowers
16. Pick wildflowers
17. Arrange a bouquet

19. Make paper with a paper making kit
22. Make an Underwater Scene on a paper plate
23. Have a Disney Movie Marathon
24. Do a Double Feature (2 movies in one day!)
25. Buy a new game
-Bingo          -Sorry
-Yahtzee       -Connect 4
26. Do watercolor painting
27. Make a playlist and go for a drive
28. Go fishing
29. Go boating
30. Go waterskiing
31. Get Hawaiian Ice
32. Ride bikes
33. Go for a walk with our scooters and strollers
34. Go to the playground
35. Catch an IMAX movie


for little kids
36. Play in a Baby pool
37. Play with water guns
38. Play with bubbles

39. Get a hot tub (or go to the beach on vacation;)
40. Go to a YMCA
41. Go to a Jungle Gym
42. Go to a play area
43. Have a / make a Backyard obstacle course
44. Have a backyard Bonfire (or a cookout at a park)
45. Go get macarons and coffee at a coffee shop
46. Go to a cupcake shop
47. Go through a drive-thru for Wendy's frosties 
48. Make s'mores
49. Go swimming
50. Learn to make a new smoothie recipe
51. Catch fireflies

52. {Buy an iPhone} and listen to podcasts
54. Go to the library
55. Start a blog
56. Read about blogging
59. Read an excellent series aloud to your children
60. Join Amazon Prime
61. Binge watch old movies
62. Write a screenplay
63. Write a comic strip
64. Edit photos
65. Join snapchat

66. Visit an Aunt
67. Visit your Grandma
68. Take a day trip to a new city
69. Listen to a symphony on CD
70. Watch the LOTR trilogy
71. Get a haircut
72. Lift weights
73. Multitask: go for a walk or run while listening to a podcast or audiobook!
74. Plan a diet
75. Celebrate a feast day
76. Read the Newspaper
77. Babysit
78. Visit your nieces or nephews
79. Create and share a funny meme on Facebook
80. Go to the Nature Center
81. Read Wikipedia
83. Watch a biography or documentary
84. Host a Playdate with a child's friend

85. Buy gum
86. Do your nails
87. Do yoga
88. Play on a trampoline
89. Try a Kumon workbook (with your kids!)
90. Paint pottery
91. Eat out somewhere new
92. Buy this  craft book
93. Knit
94. Learn to crochet
95. Plan a Home Reno on Pinterest
96. Plant herbs
97. Sew a quilt
99. Sew burpcloths
100. Start an etsy shop
101. Repeat.



Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sidelined by Gratitude and Grace



I was so tired. I woke up at 5am to finish my book, that morning, which I still didn't finish.

I made pancakes and nursed the baby twice. Annabel had woken me up, and she had kept me busy since 7am.  I tried to put her down to roll on a quilt on the floor, but she scooted under a chair twice. I held her for a bit, then out of necessity, I put her in the swing, while I stirred batter and scooped it into the sizzling, buttery pan.

I felt like I had already lived two lives by 8:30am. I was so tired, and my heart was racing in anxiety.  I still had to make a meal plan, go grocery shopping, get the littles dressed and ready to go with me, make it back in once piece, get the kids to help me put away groceries, play sidewalk chalk, feed them lunch, do school pickup, and live life that Monday.  And who knows - I never know- what all that will entail with 3 3 and under? Sleep-deprivation wasn't helping; it definitely wasn't a good way to start my day.

I was so tired.  Am I sick? I wondered? My nose was incessantly running while I waited for the girls in the afternoon traffic. It wouldn't stop. As I was tending to my various symptoms, I rewarded myself for the exhausted morning by buying another book.  Unfortunately, I realized - only after I waited in after school carline for pick-up, I had the wrong date on my mental calendar blocked out. The girls were in After School Art, and I would need to come back to pick them up in an hour. When I realized I was completely out of gas, I had had enough. I called Stephen, sobbing. "I am so disorganized! The kids were all asleep, and I woke them up and individually carried them all to the car, only to find out I had the wrong pick-up time! Ugh!"

I had coffee, but it made me feel even more anxious. Then after a panic attack, because the coffee had made my anxiety worse, I had a snack. However, I started feeling nauseous for no good reason, and had to make myself eat.  I wasn't sure what to do or how I was going to make it through the day.

So finally, amidst my feelings of despair that all of my control was spinning faster and faster out of my hands, I prayed.

God please help me.  I am so so so so tired. I do not feel well. Please God, help me. Give me divine energy and help me to overcome my anxiety today, Please give me divine strength and divine help and faith. Please assist me as  I watch over these kids.

I confess. I do not have enough energy for all that you require of me today.

But if you will it, then you can give me the energy and I grace I need to get through this day. You can overcome negative energy, anger, and pride. You can help me....



And almost immediately, as I did the dishes, I could feel the anxiety dissipate. I had reassurance that God made this day, and he would give me the strength to tackle it. As my despair left my body, slowly but surely, another thought came in its place, and I was very surprised by it.

It was joy and gratitude.

My first thought was a bit random, but here goes. "Wow.... I'm so thankful for my Mom! She gave me this life. She raised me. Well, she and my Dad, haha. God blessed me with four gorgeous baby girls and one amazing little boy." Yes, I did warn you that it would be random, but that's what I thought, literally word-by-word.

I am so blessed.

I am so thankful for grace! And the divine energy to face the day came seeping into my being and hope into all of my pores. Even as my hot mess life crumbles around me: my control, my feelings of self-control, and my appearance to those around me, inwardly I felt rejuvenated.

Yes, I'm going to make it.

When I'm at the end of my rope, the worst part is that I struggle to find the patience I need to deal with those around me. I cannot project my own problems onto others. When someone rubs me the wrong way, I have to remember that like "iron sharpening iron," what feels cringe-worthy in others is probably simply a refinement going on in my own heart. And when I'm swinging from the bottom of my own rope, I have to simply remember the verse that says :

"The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you--they are full of the Spirit and life." John 6:63

I know I'm going to make it through. But first, I'm going to write a blog post about it. (This blog post).

Have you ever had a day like that?

adding my link to Tuesday Talk and the ACWB

Saturday, April 23, 2016

When I Was in New York


I'm reading Garlic and Sapphires- about the NY Times foodie Ruth Reichl's experience critiquing restaurants in the Big Apple. When I lived in New York for a Summer, I went as a missionary. I volunteered at a Boys and Girls Club and lived in the basement of some friends' apartment for $700/month. It was hard to trust that my experience would be worth it, but now as I look back at it, it was worth it, because I got to KNOW New York. Even though I was in college, the caliber of my experience was top notch and I still remember so much about it. I rode the Subway from 33rd St. so often, the people I lived with started asking me how to get around Manhattan and the other boroughs.

I love New York City, and even though I haven't been able to go back since then, certainly the memories are still with me and I still love it so deeply.  I saw the Blue Man Group with some friends from the youth group at the church I grew up in. I ate breakfast several times at an amazing Greek diner in queens. I searched out good sushi in Manhattan and went for walks in Central Park. I heard the amazing Tim Keller preach at Redeemer. I ate at the sandwich shop- Katz's Deli that Jim Gaffigan has made famous with his comedy.  I ate homemade Italians sausage Pasta with fresh herbs from a backyard garden with friends in Queens. Spending the summer there, I remember sketching the skyline at dusk and smoking from my perch on my side of the Queensboro Bridge.

I visited friends for a fireworks show in Brooklyn on a patio overlooking the city on the Fourth of July. I roamed Crate and Barrel with friends and bought nothing. I took a tour down 5th Ave and went window shopping at Tiffany's and smell searching in Chinatown. I loved knowing people who worked at The Bowery Mission. I got Beers and a caught a free M. Ward concert in lower Manhattan. I ate eggs and brunch at Seamore's. I went to Virgin Records and bought a Wilco CD. I went Purse shopping in lower Manhattan, near Wall Street. I had a fluent-in-French friend come visit and she helped us catch the subway by speaking to French natives visiting Manhattan, and incidentally helped me find amazing food in Little Italy. I attended a Billy Graham crusade in The Bronx. I went ethnic food shopping in Queens on multiple occasions. I met a writer friend for coffee in Greenwich Village. I saw Aida on Broadway.

Did I mingle with  some amazing friends while there? Incessantly. Did I fall in love with the city? Most definitely. Did it change my life? Hell yes. To mine the depths of the riches of NYC is impossible, but my experience of the city will do nicely.


Friday, April 22, 2016

My Kids Were Bad at Mass: Yes, I'm Coming Out With It



A dear friend came over for good conversation and hot tea late one night recently. (Her name will remain undisclosed to protect her privacy).  As we sipped our pomegranate herbal deliciousness sweetened with blue agave nectar, a long and vulnerable conversation circling around difficulties, and hardships unfolded. It was somehow all related to parenting. I felt my heart warming and my trust to confide in her growing. I finally told her: "I don't usually share this information, but...

My kids were bad at Mass

!!!"

Then I shared with her the whole story.  I told her the things we had tried. I told her what had worked and what didn't. I told her what I felt were our personal ins and outs. As we were talking, she said, "I wish I could take you home and you could give me a pep talk like this every day!" When she said that, I was not only shocked, but I realized something. By sharing my weaknesses with her, I was actually encouraging her. And that's where I got the idea for this post. A good conversation is always a good source for blog material!

I hope this will help us all to grow and perhaps it will encourage a person or two. So without further ado.... 7 Reasons My Kids Were Bad at Mass:

~1~

Which service do you go to?

When we first started going to this parish, I was stunned at the difference. We were surrounded by ten different families with many little children in tow, many of them homeschoolers, and it seemed all of their kids lined up and acted perfectly all through Mass.  Honestly, this was more discouraging than encouraging. I felt really inadequate and unprepared. When we switched services, I noticed we had less "competition," and many of the families in the early service had more compassion for us.  When I felt more grace surrounding me, I relaxed, and this in turn helped me take care of my kids, and they acted better.

~2~

Do you go alone or as a family?

A couple of times when I was pregnant, I sent Stephen alone to Mass with all of the kiddos, because I simply wasn't feeling well enough to wrangle children through a Mass service.  Do you know how bad that made me feel? I was missing Mass, which is a big deal. It is considered an obligation, therefore I would need to do penance for missing it. I felt horribly sending him alone and giving him the obligation to take care of our kiddos! I haven't done it since then, but I was truly so sick that I couldn't go. I would have been exhausted and useless. Most of the time while pregnant I faced it, manned up, and went even though it was so hard. But just getting the kids ready was enough to put me in a mood that was scrambling for sanity, temptation to bad words, and the feeling that I was more than "done" and ready for a nap- this heightened when pregnant.

~3~

Do you use the cry room or nursery?

Honestly, yes. With three kids three and under, we do! (And you know what? I feel like I have to add the caveat: Don't judge!). I feel like we try so hard, but every five minutes, someone starts to cry and they interrupt Mass for the other Mass-goers. I feel bad for the noise, and at our very large parish, it is customary to leave the sanctuary when a baby cries. We sit in a pew by the side door, so that we can quickly genuflect and escape when our children cry and interrupt Mass.

~4~

Do you look forward to Mass, or do you dread it (with every fiber of your being?)

I dread Mass. I'm not going to lie. We have a huge church. It takes forever to do Communion. Twenty minutes of kids wrangling is hard. An hour and a half of Mass - much of that spent on our knees as we wait for the Creed and then as we wait for our turn in line- is PURE TORTURE.  I try to put on a good attitude and be friendly and kind, because after all, this is the South. We have good manners. We are patient and sweet. haha But usually? I'm struggling.

~5~

Do you reward your children after Mass?

Again, not gonna lie. We do.  Our nursery has a sweet African American Grand Ma* who works there. She is paid and her Mom worked there before she did.  She offers the kids treats. She has generic Oreos, gummy bears, and gummy worms already prepared in ziplock bags to keep the kiddos distracted during Mass. On weekdays during our Catholic Motherhood Bible Study/Prayer time, she has cheetos and juice.  And frankly, it works! They go willingly and sit at a table and eat their treats or snacks.

Here's the deal: Molly and Frances will sit through Mass and they know that if they're good they get their "sugar bags" at the end. The little ones will often get their candy bags sooner.

Recently, our nursery was completely renovated, redecorated, and just generally given a good "oomph." It is actually a really nice place to be when babies are screaming, it's a great place to nurse, settle them down, and the peace and community there is good for our spirits. That's what it's there for.  haha  And might I add that recently when we were at the Zoo in Birmingham, I was shocked - in a good way -  to discover that the bathroom had a rocking chair. Do you know how many times I've been forced to nurse while sitting on a toilet? #disgusting

~6~

How old are your kids?

Our kids are 8, 5, 3, 2, and 7 months old.  Our 8 and 5 year old can sit through Mass. So parents of toddlers, take heart! It gets easier!  Our 3, 2, and 7 month old cry during Mass. It is what it is.  We try to get them on a routine, and that routine just simply does not include "sitting all the way through Mass, " for us, anyway.  Usually it means that we wrangle them as long as we can, and then we take a break in the back, then go to the nursery for a bit if things are really hard (and then, they can have their treat bags), and then we bring them up with us in the line for Communion. That's our goal, anyway. They know the routine and usually they are pretty good. ;) We have a good balance, I feel, and they don't hate Mass, so that's good! ha! We know that someday SOON! they will be able to sit all the way through. So we don't sweat the little years as much now. And- AND!- Madeleine has sat all the way through Mass at 3 several times already, so she is already showing signs of the self-control and good behavior needed for a long Mass service.

~7~

Are you a cradle Catholic or a convert?

I'm a convert. If I had grown up this way, as I'm sure many of the large, homeschooling or just generally "wonderfully-well-behaved children" at our Church did, I think it would have been a million times - no, infinitely- easier to teach our kids how to behave at Mass.  But I did not grow up this way. I grew up with nursery. Period. No questions asked, no buts about it. Now it is the complete opposite in general, and I really feel that our Basilica is gracious and is just in general the exception to the rule when it comes to Catholic parishes in our country. From what little I know in my five years of being Catholic, it is common to look way down on cry rooms and nurseries. Just figuring out how to get myself through Mass is (or has been) hard enough. When I'm pregnant, nursing, or wrangling a toddler, I just give myself a HEAPING helping of grace, say a few Hail Mary's and an Our Father before Mass starts, and pray that our kids don't die or we don't kill them in the process. ;) ;) ;)

I hope this helps. I don't think you need "sugar bags" or rewards at Mass. But it is the culture at our parish, and it is what it is, as I said. I think- honestly- that it helps our kids actually not want sugar as much. If you are used to coke or coffee at Church, eventually you get tired of it, the excitement and joy of it wears off, and by the time you're older- like High School- you don't need it so much.  I don't think it means we are raising them to love addictive substances. Stephen often brings candy home to the kids at the end of the day. I, for one, think this is a great idea, because it is so much better than unneeded toys, and I think by the time they are older it will wear off. We both remember from our childhood having an elderly gentleman at Church on Sundays who passed out candy to kids (my Great Uncle John did that at our Summer church every Sunday). I think, after talking to my friend that, it means: "This is hard, but we do it every week, and we are developing and nurturing the BEST habit of all- going to Mass."  And for converts, that's what is most important. We need the habit most of all! ;)

*And it's nice to know our Church Family has "help." Or paid workers. Haha
Adding my Link to Kelly @ This Ain't the Lyceum