Friday, March 30, 2012

Oh, Jack, A Guest Post by Daddy

by Mike Stanger

Look who can get in the freezer now.
Oh, Jack.

Just writing his name conjures up images of a boisterous laugh emanating from his Buddha belly.

And what a belly it is! However, that belly didn’t get there by accident. His insatiable appetite gives it form and keeps it rotund.

His rosy red cheeks underneath crystal-blue eyes framed by curly blonde locks tickle my
soul and bring about a smile even during my most forlorn moods.

Turn on music, and Jack will give you a shoulder shake and a hand raise in rhythm to the tune.

But Jack is not all fun and games. No, sir!  Right now, he is going through Jedi training.  As such, you may see him cutting through the air with his “lightsaber”. 

Don’t worry, though. Just listen for his “shew, shew” sound effects which will give you pause and let you know that he means business.

Jack has a bit of a shy side, too. He’ll be active and causing chaos until a stranger walks into the room and then he clings to your pant legs like a static-charged sock.

Jack is also a workaholic. Long after I’m done doing the dishes, he will be at the sink scrubbing away at the same bowl for 10 minutes.

It’s not clean until it’s Jack clean!

Yes, our little Jack is developing quite a personality. I can only image what awaits us over the next few months!

For Mama, it may just be more near-tears moments…  Tears of the happy kind, that is.

Yesterday, during his speech appointment, Jack distinctly said “Mum” several times while looking and pointing toward me.  There is simply nothing like when a child does this for the firs time.  And, since Jack is a relatively quiet young one who communicates  in word approximations when he does speak – missing ending sounds in words – the fact that he not only said “Mum”, but said it with the ending “m” made the sound of my name especially endearing.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Blogging and Taxes

This past weekend, I spent a fair amount of time getting paperwork together for an upcoming tax appointment.  Since I actually made a few bucks this year through blogging (and I do mean only a few!), I began researching how much, if any of it, I have to claim.  In doing so, I discovered the e-book Your Blogging Business: Tax Talk & Tips from a Bookkeeper Turned Blogger With my husbands consent, I purchased Your Blogging Business  and read it tonight while he was getting the kids to bed.  I found it an informative, quick, and even, at times, entertaining, read.  Not only did it answer some of my key tax-and-blog-related questions, but it did so in a conversational tone that did not make my head spin nor my head nod.  Kudos to author Nikki Hughes for using her experience and gifts to help other bloggers by writing a book about a rather dry topic in a concise, understandable format.

Better yet, thanks to Nikki for being accessible.  As I read Your Blogging Business, I realized I had a few additional questions.  I have just sent these off to Nikki in an email and no doubt she will get back to me, as she promises to do for any of the readers who purchase her e-book.  (I truly believe she will, since part of what gave me confidence to purchase her book in the first place was the fact that I posted a question on the book's FB page the other day, which Nikki responded to promptly.)

So, before I get back to updating paperwork for my tax appointment in between doing some more laundry tonight, I wanted to pass on word about the book to other bloggers who made at least $4.95 this year in affiliate links, etc.  Like me, you may want to use your income to purchase Your Blogging Business: Tax Talks and Tips from a Bookkeeper turned Blogger (which you can claim as an expense.)  I'm glad I did!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Gifts of A Rich Faith Tradition

“Why are there flowers on the altar?” Luke asked last Sunday as soon as he spied a small bouquet tucked among the rocks and empty clay pots that have been decorating our local parish since Lent began. 

“I’ll explain after Mass, son,” I whispered back to him.  “Look around and see what else you notice.”

Then, as my son spent a few minutes examining our sacred surroundings, I spent a moment with eyes lifted towards the beautiful stain glass window above our church’s altar, which depicts Jesus on the cross with Mary and others at his feet.  As literal light illuminated that window, a more figurative glow grew within me. 

First, I thought about all the details within our church that my children have helped me to notice and how much I have enjoyed discovering the significance of each alongside them. The different colors of the priests’ garments… The little red cross on the corporal cross… The red sanctuary lamp that lets us know Jesus is with us…

For some reason, despite having been raised Catholic, and even having taught in a Catholic school, I missed learning about much of the Tradition of our faith and the symbolism woven into it.  Now, I find myself enriched by these things each time my children notice something at Mass and ask me about it.  Whether I know the answer and just feel blessed to be able to explain it to them in words that they can understand, or whether I have to say, “Let’s find out about that together,” I recognize the beauty of Catholic traditions.

Likewise, I feel privileged to be chosen to guide my children in their faith

As I picture my parish’s stained glass image of Mary  at the foot of Jesus’ cross, I think about how Jesus was a gift to his mother as well as a gift to all of us.  I wonder what would have happened if Our Blessed Mother had not accepted her gift and embraced all the responsibility that holding onto – and letting go of – her son meant.  I marvel at Mary’s strength.  I am humbled by her faith.  I am inspired by her willingness to follow her call wherever it took her – continuing to trust the Lord even through ominously dark hours.  I am grateful that she stewarded her child in his younger years, readying him to follow his call as an adult, and then did not interfere as he did so.

I pray that I am able to do similarly.  What a privilege – and what a responsibility – it is to be gifted with each of my children.  What a journey it has already been in the short years I have been blessed with them.  What celebration and challenges may lay ahead… By God’s grace, I will navigate all of these and will be able to continually guide my children to share their personal gifts with the world.

Two gifts my son has, I know, are an inquisitive mind and an eye for detail.  Hence, one job I have is to embrace these gifts and to help my son build upon them.  For now, part of that means being patient on Sundays.  Allowing my eldest to crane his neck and to whisper questions.  Accepting that when he fails to pray and participate as those around him do, he is still experiencing something good – something of God.  Remaining confident that through his thoughts and senses, he is learning about our faith in a way I cannot recall doing until adulthood – by looking at the concrete and, then, asking about its meaning.

The flowers – they were because it was Laetare Sunday.  A joyful reminder of the Easter rejoicing that we will all soon partake in.

What details do your children notice during Mass?  How do you share the rich heritage of our faith – including its traditions and symbolism, with your younger children?  Do you have other tips, resource or insights to share about your call to training our youngest parishioners?  Please share in a comment or link up below!

Thank you to Elisa from Tercets for sharing her ultra-cute Angel Puppet for the Annunciation and Palm Sunday Calvary Hill in last week's link up.  I encourage others to follow suit -- and also to click on over to Elisa's site, which is rich in ideas about faith.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mama's Reading List for Spring Reading Thing 2012

Like many of the piles in my home, my “To Read” one towers. So, this morning, when I ran across mention of the Spring Reading Fling at In So Many Words, I decided to pop on over to Callipider Days to see what it was about.  I discovered it’s basically a low-key, yet fun and social way to motivate oneself to read more books this spring while also helping other participants find book titles that could be interesting or relevant for future reading.  (You can read more about the how and why of the challenge

Low key? Encouraging? Sharing? Goal setting and meeting? Whittling down one of my many piles? I am in!

However, I am in with caution.

What do I mean by that?

Well, I want to set myself up for success. Not disappointment. In other words, unlike my usual mode – where I set high goals and, then, discover life as Mom, etc. happens, precluding me from enjoying the high of success – I am going to start with a small, reachable goal and then simply add to it if I find I the goal has been reached.

Four or five seems a doable number of books for me to read in the 13 weeks of spring. So, bearing the compass of of our Family Mission Statement in line, here’s my list:

Super Immunity: The Essential Nutrition Guide for Boosting Your Body's Defenses to Live Longer, Stronger, and Disease Free is a book that I have just begun and am finding interesting.  The ideas in it, I believe, will help to encourage me to guide our family towards better nutrition, which plays both into loving ourselves through feeding our bodies well and into loving God, by honoring the wonderful array of natural foods He has created to keep us strong.  (The book is not faith-based, by the way, that's just my interpretation...)

Nobody Ever Told Me (or my Mother) That!: Everything from Bottles and Breathing to Healthy Speech Development is a book I browsed quite a while back and began reading, only to misplace.  I have recently found it again and want to read it to help me better meet my call as Mom, since one of my children just began speech therapy and another, I think, could use it.  (For the record, with the code HAPPY at checkout, you can purchase this book directly from Future Horizons for 15% off and free US shipping and earn the author of it 15% royalty by doing so.)

Disconnected Kids: The Groundbreaking Brain Balance Program for Children with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Neurological Disorders is a book I took out from the library so many times to read, but never got to finish that I finally bought it and plan to read it through and, then, start using it with my kiddoes -- helping me help them (especially my oldest) to assess and address what makes them tick, overcoming challenges and expanding on their personal gifts.

Starting Your Day Right: Devotions for Each Morning of the Year was in my Mommy's Retreat Basket for a while, but I took it out one day and it just found its way back.  I feel inspired to dive into its brief, but rich devotions again as a way of reading something "just for me" and my conversation with God!

Plus, lots of kiddo read alouds, which I will as I go based on the kids’ interests (to honor “spending time together often” with snuggly reading time.)

Now, it's time to stop writing and to get reading. Momma time will end in a bit when the first kiddo wakes!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Our 2012 Pray Fast Give Jars—and God’s Perfection

This past Tuesday morning, our youngest awoke coughing while our oldest was still recovering from a weekend of fevers.  Thus, I decided to cancel all our “in public” plans for the day so as not to pass on any of our family’s lovelies to other families.  That meant we had an entire unexpected day at home to let Lent (and life!) happen.

Usually, we kick off Lent by making Pray Fast Give jars.  But, this year it just didn’t happen.  Somehow, our Lenten Liturgical table remained bare, save for a purple cloth, until our three-crosses nature craft adorned it a couple weeks ago.  Our Pray Fast Give jars?  They waited for me to collect the “perfect” materials to create new ones with this year and to find the “perfect” time to do so with the kids.

Or, rather, they waited for me to remember that only God is perfect.  Our Lenten crafts and practices need not be.  They must simply be done with love and aimed at honoring our Lord.    

Thus it was that, although I had yet to put together an array of beautiful materials to make more visually appealing Pray Fast Give jars this year than we have in years past, I decided to suggest making our traditional jars to the kids anyway on our unexpected “sick day”.  My suggestion was met with great enthusiasm.  (I had not realized how much the kids had been missing having the jars to drop beans into this year.)  So, I rummaged supplies at hand and we set to work.

This year, we decided that instead of each person having their own jar to drop one bean for praying, one bean for fasting and one bean for giving into each day, we would create three jars which we would work together to fill – dropping a bean in one anytime we felt like it after praying, a bean in another anytime we recognized efforts to keep our Lenten promises and a bean in the third anytime we put others before ourselves.  That is, we made a “pray” jar, a “fast” jar”, and a “give” jar.

So, I rummaged through our supplies and then we set to work:

The children wrote the words “pray”, “fast’ and “give” on blank white address labels with a Sharpie.

Then, they decorated these with purple Do-A-Dots markers.

They placed the labels on some baby food jars, which had lids they had helped me bang holes into and set the jars on our liturgical table with a plastic container of beans, which we covered in a small purple scarf.

After they did this, they could not help but to want to pray...

... and drop beans into one of the jars before they had even taken off their painting shirts.

Then, they eagerly spent the rest of the day practicing prayer, fasting and giving so they could drop more beans into the jars. In fact, I don’t think I have ever gotten so many huge, spontaneous hugs from my older two as I did the day we made the jars.  All day, they kept running to wherever I was and bowling me over with hugs and kisses, saying to one another, “I gave Mommy love.  Let’s put a bean in the jar.”  It made my day!

What did not make my day was when my youngest – with a little help from his siblings – got a hold of the bean container.  Beans went everywhere!

But, you know those sayings about how God draws straight with crooked lines and how only God is perfect?  I can attest they are true.  He took that very imperfect mess of beans on my floor and used it to help me glorify Him

Although the children did an honest job trying to help clean up the mess on our floor, many of the beans scattered in crooked paths to hiding places, it seems.  So, I have spent the remainder of the week discovering these beans stuck to the souls of my feet as they roll their ways back onto household thruways. 

The first few times a stepped on a bean, I grumbled.  Then, the Spirit struck me.  The jars motivate my children to better attend to their Lenten practices.  The escaped beans can do the same for me.  Yes, every time I step on a bean now, I smile as a little message goes straight to my heart – pray

So it is that our 2012 Pray Fast Give Jars (and their runaway beans) are working as a tool for us now.

What tools and traditions are you enjoying with your little ones?  Please share in a comment or by linking up anytime this week with your tips, tales, reflections, resource ideas about training up little ones as you heed the call to faith formation in young children.

Sharing at Catholic Icing and Equipping Catholic Families, where you can find other wonderful faith-related ideas!


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