Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Dealing with Boredom as a Stay at Home Parent


Being a stay-at-home parent is everything I've ever hoped for. I absolutely adore spending all my time with my kids, day in and day out. They keep me young, hopeful and playful. They teach me new things and help me grow every single day. And I get to guide and nurture them and help them grow into people who love themselves, love each other, love their world and love God.

For the most part, being a stay at home parent (and work at home, as in my case and the case of many other parents who take in either part time or casual work to help supplement their spouse's income) is too busy to be boring. But there are times when boredom does creep up. It happens to everyone. Maybe it's a lull during summer vacation, maybe it's after a stretch of rainy or cold days -- it doesn't really matter. Parenting can be boring, and that's the simple truth. For all its marvel, it can be monotonous.

Little ones need routine, and for the most part, I like routine, as well. I like getting up anywhere between 7 and 8 in the morning, taking the kids downstairs and setting up the house for the day. I like our trips to the park and the library, and our visits to their grandparents who live just under an hour away. I love our crafts and our colouring, our baking and our cooking. But sometimes, it does get a bit repetitive. Thankfully, if you know how to deal with it, boredom as a stay at home parent doesn't need to lead to feelings of unhappiness or a lack of fulfillment. In this post, I'll share my tips on how to beat -- or endure -- the boredom that can come as a stay at home parent.

1.) Don't just stay at home -- explore your community! We live in a fairly small town, but we have a super fun public outdoor pool, and we're there nearly ever nice day in the summer. We also have an amazing library that is very child-friendly, with story-time and craft activities for the children. We're at the library at least once a week. And if you live somewhere even bigger, take your kids to the museum, play groups, all different kinds of things! Which leads me to...

2.) Join a play group! In almost every community, no matter how small, there will be some kind of playgroup where parents can take their little ones to play and where they themselves can get a bit of adult interaction. If there isn't one in your community, why not look at trying to start one up?

3.) Spend time outside! Children thrive outside, and we do, too. But many of us have lost that wonder at the great outdoors. Try to spend some time with your kids outside each and every day, except when it's too hot or too cold. It's raining? That's okay, whip out the umbrellas, and splash in those puddles! Go for a walk, go to the park, play in the yard. And leave the cell phone at home.

4.) Spend less time on your phone, and social media especially! This may seem counter-intuitive, because when we're bored we usually automatically reach for our phone or tablet, scrolling social media. But I find that the times that I'm most invested in my day, and therefore less prone to boredom, are the times when I leave my phone somewhere in the kitchen -- with the ringer up, in case I get a call -- and treat it more like a landline.

5.) Make some parent friends! Having a "mama tribe" is one of the best things you can do for your own mental and emotional health as a stay at home parent. Even if it's only just one other mom that you really connect with, try to meet with them on a regular basis and take time to enjoy that relationship.

6.) Relive your own childhood! My kids greet every day with enthusiasm. Whether we're simply watching a movie, doing a craft like painting rigatoni noodles and stringing them on ribbon, or we're going on an outing, every moment can seem magical through the eyes of a child. So ask yourself -- what did you absolutely love doing as a child? Did you enjoy imaginative play? How about dressing up? Puzzles, board games, Barbie dolls? Whatever it is, initiate that with your children, and forget for awhile that you're an adult with responsibilities -- revel in play!

7.) Take time to learn something new! I love reading and learning. Lately, I've been really enjoying doing different Bible studies and reading books that help me learn more about the Catholic faith. But I also love reading different cookbooks, and books about history, and different places. Learning should be a life-long thing, and if we're excited about something, that's a surefire way to bust boredom. Perhaps you want to even learn a new language -- go for it, and involve your kids -- their aptitude for learning a new language will impress you.

8.) Get a hobby! And if your kids can get involved, all the better.  Maybe you want to try cake decorating, or knitting, or simply colouring those great adult colouring books. It's nice to do something for yourself. And so...

9.) Spend time by yourself! Once the kids are in bed, yes, it's important to spend time with your spouse. But it's also important to spend time with yourself, alone. I like to take a nice warm bath, read a book, and do a meditation. I also like to phone my parents and my sister and my cousin, and enjoy talking with them. Sometimes I like to go to the library by myself, and I love to go and get my hair done a couple times a year.

10.) Don't feel guilty! We all feel bored sometimes in whatever job we have. And we stay at home parents work incredibly long hours. It's also arguably one of the most emotionally invested jobs you can have. So don't beat yourself up if you're feeling a little bored and tired. Stay at home parents are not the norm, and I know for me, I just feel so blessed and fortunate that I get to be one that when I complain about it, part of me feels guilty. But guilt. in situations like this, is not productive, and will only make you feel worse. So toss out that guilt and share with your spouse and a close friend when you're feeling a bit run down -- you'll feel so much better, especially if you follow it up by counting your blessings.

May God bless us in all our endeavours, and open our eyes to the treasures that surround us.

photo credit: marco sees things <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/84025752@N00/2181533910">Gaia on her new mattress</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Power & Practicality of Prayer


Have you ever found yourself stuck in a rut? Not moving forward in your career, your relationships, or your spiritual life? Or have you ever struggled with seeing someone you care about head down a path that is not good for them, or making bad decisions?

Sometimes we're not comfortable telling ourselves the truth. Sometimes we're not ready to face up to what we need to change. Sometimes, when we try to help others, they don't listen. Sometimes, we just can't work up the courage to approach them with words we are longing to say. At times like those, the best and most effective thing we can do is to pray.

The book of Job is one of the hardest I've read in the Bible. It's painful to hear about the utter desolation that Job's life became, despite being faithful to the Lord. But it also has much wisdom we can glean. See what happens when Job prayed for his friends:

The Lord also was turned at the penance of Job, when he prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10.

Here, we see God's faithfulness. He listens to people of upright heart when they pray to Him.

In the letter to the Hebrews, we see that Christ is our perfect example of how to treat others -- and this includes praying for them:

Whereby he is able also to save for ever them that come to God by him: always living to make intercession for us. Hebrews 7:25.

I was very close with my grandparents on both sides. My father's father, my Poppa, passed away when I was a young child. His wife, my father's mother -- My Nanny -- passed away when I was 18. My Nanny and I had personalities that sometimes clashed -- she was quiet, dignified and traditional lady with a French-Scottish background, and I was a rambunctious, goofy, high-spirited young girl. However, there was so much love there. She always, always prayed for me, and I have fond memories of her teaching my family and me to say the rosary when she'd be over for her visits. We'd sit at the kitchen table after supper, dim the lights, and pray. It was a very, very special time.

My mother's parents, my Grandma and Grandpa, also played a big part in my life. I looked up to them so much -- they seemed, to me, to be perfect people. I know now that I put them up on a pedestal, but who could blame me? My grandmother was impeccably classy, never leaving the house without a flattering hue of lipstick on and her hair done, but also extremely practical and optimistic. Though she had more than her share of physical pain (and emotional, losing her father in a mining accident when she was 8 years old and her mother shortly after she was married to my Grandpa), she did not often complain about any of it. She never complained that she was lonely, either, in the nearly 10 years that she lived on after Grandpa died. She was extremely wise with her money, but generous, and family was the most important thing to her.

Grandpa was a legend. Is a legend -- for he won't soon be forgotten. He was the hardest-working man I've ever met, the son of German immigrants who is rumoured to have kept the first dollar he ever earned. He did very, very well for himself in the mining world, and, though careful with his money, was extremely generous, gifting large sums of money to his children and their children. It's thanks in part to him and Grandma (and my parent's scrimping and saving, of course) that neither my siblings nor I ever had to get a student loan or pay out of pocket for our secondary education.

Grandpa was quiet, thoughtful, careful. He also had a sentimental streak, and a sprinkling of mischief, which he liked to make use of in his teasing and joking with (at?) my grandmother.

One of the most comfortable things, growing up, was knowing that both my sets of grandparents loved me, and that both sets were praying for me. My Grandma, especially, always told me she was praying for me -- that she prayed for me every day. And I'm just one among her seven grandchildren! Then there were also her children, their spouses, her siblings and their families... the list went on. I believe my grandmother had a very rich prayer life, and I wish I had asked her more about that. I also got the impression that, barring any big incidents, once she prayed about something, she didn't let herself worry about it. She was far too practical for that, and far too smart to think that she could handle something better than God Himself could!

Another great thing about Grandma is that she pretty much never scolded anyone or tried to interfere in their lives, no matter what they were up to or what they were doing (once her children were grown, that is -- she certainly did properly discipline her children). She wouldn't say a negative word about anyone, and if anyone brought a quarrel to her, expecting her to take sides, she'd wisely refrain while still displaying her love for both parties involved.

How much I still am learning from my grandparents, though they have passed on to a brighter realm. How much they still guide me and protect me, from up above. How much, I know, they still pray for me, and all they love.

Sometimes, the most powerful thing we can do for someone is to pray for them. And we also must not neglect to pray for ourselves! So I encourage you, in whatever situation you're facing, or whatever situation someone you love is facing: lift it up in prayer. If you don't know what to do, pray. If you don't know what or how to pray, don't worry. For...

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27.

If you need any more motivation to pray, in closing I'll share with you some quotes on prayer from the Saints.

"The prayer most pleasing to God is that made for others and particularly for the poor souls. Pray for them, if you want your prayers to bring high interest." Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich

"Have confidence in prayer. It is the unfailing power which God has given us. By means of it you will obtain the salvation of the dear souls whom God has given you and all your loved ones. 'Ask and you shall receive,' Our Lord said. Be yourself with the good Lord." Saint Peter Julian Eymard.

Happy praying, my friends!

photo credit: byronv2 <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/7512717@N06/34804519215">Killearn 09</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">(license)</a>

Friday, 14 July 2017

Book Review: A Priest Answers 27 Questions You Never Thought to Ask by Fr. Michael Kerper

Hello everyone! I hope you're all having a wonderful summer! We've been pretty busy on our little Green Gables on the Prairies (our house is old -- it was built around 1902 or something, and it's white with green trim, so I lovingly call it Green Gables after the famous house in L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, which is my favourite book in the world!). Swimming lessons are in full swing, and my eldest is also involved in a fun library reading challenge, and once a week she spends an hour at the library doing fun summer activities. I've been really enjoying gardening, and I'm also participating in a Bible study with a dear friend of mine. I'm also planning a fun-filled My Little Pony birthday party for my daughter, who is turning six next month.

When you add all that up to the desire to just kick back and relax in the summer, I haven't had much inclination to add anything else to my list. I currently freelance for the local paper, but I haven't submitted as much as I usually do, because I've been really enjoying my summer with my children. My daughter is going into Grade 1 in September, and then she'll be in school for the majority of the day from Monday to Friday, whereas in Kindergarten she only went every second day. Needless to say, I am happily enjoying spending time with her -- six year olds are a lot of fun -- and watching her spend time with her brother.

What does all this have to do with my latest book review? Well, I've had a lot of time to read this summer. When I'm not cooking, or cleaning, or doing laundry, or playing with my kids, I'm usually reading. I'm currently reading a delightful historical romance by Christian author Jen Turano, and I'm listening to a cozy, inter-war period mystery set in England in the form of audio book. I've also just finished a very delightful and insightful faith book.


This book is called A Priest Answers 27 Questions You Never Thought to Ask and is written by American priest Father Michael Kerper. I saw this book advertised from the Catholic Company, and it immediately piqued my interest. I held off from purchasing in on my Kindle for awhile, though, as I had enough books on the go. But about a week ago I finally got it, and I breezed through it in a few days. That's not to say there's not some very informative, educational content in it -- it's just that Father Kerper has such an easy-going, conversational writing style that it felt like I was there, having a cup of tea with him while he explained some interesting points of the faith to me.

I loved reading this book. A faith as rich in history and tradition as the Roman Catholic faith means that it's full of treasure troves of knowledge that can enrich our walk with Christ and better enable us to live out His love in our troubled world. Because ours is the true Church started by Christ Himself, and kept safe and authentic for us through apostolic tradition, it is a living faith, which unites its adherents -- those living and those who have gone before us, including angels, saints and our dearly departed. I think it would take me far more than a lifetime to discover all the joys that our faith has in store for us.

I've always had an inquisitive mind -- perhaps this is why I studied journalism in school. But I think, as humans, we all to some extent want to know the hows and whys of things -- just spending some time with my daughter proves this to me: she's constantly asking me questions that I do my best to answer, and when I don't know, we discover together. Recently, she wanted to know what a quail looked like, and how the pipes get water.

Father Kerper, in this wonderful book, answers many questions I'd always wondered about. For example, do we truly have guardian angels (yes!), what does the Church teach about ghosts, is cremation allowed for Roman Catholics, and much more. Father Kerper also explains to us how to show true charity and how to handle delicate faith situations with others. His book is divided into three parts: Part I: Fear, Trembling and Sweaty Hands: Our Life in the Church; Part 2: The New Evangelization and Old Neighbours: Our Life in the World; and Part 3: Baptize, Marry and Bury: Our Life in the World to Come.

I love reading books on my Kindle, because I can highlight sections of text and make my own notes about it. I want to share with you some quotes from this wonderful book that are really thought-provoking.

On fasting: "Obedience, of course, is not the problem. The real danger is a minimalist attitude that keeps a person from moving beyond mere external practices to a real change of heart. That's what God offers us: transformation. After all, Jesus came to give us abundant life, not an eternal parole from Hell."

"The free act of reducing, or totally eliminating, the consumption of food also fosters true humility by making us vividly aware of our total dependence on God."

On charity: ""Alms-giving that comes entirely from one's excess is nice, but true alms-giving should involve the diminishment and simplification of one's own lifestyle."

On plenary indulgences: "...God's punishments always emerge from his merciful love. As such, God's penalties act as 'medicine' to heal the self-inflicted wounds caused by personal sins, specifically the destruction of our friendship with God."

These are just tiny snippets from a truly wonderful book that can enliven our faith and make us feel blessed to be a part of God's plan.

What did I think of the book in general: I think I've already answered that: I loved it!

Is this a good book for Catholics: That goes without saying ;)

How much work is required for this book: None, for it's a complete pleasure and joy to read.

Overall score: 5/5. Pick up a copy today!


Friday, 7 July 2017

The Power of a Praying Parent: Book Review


It's my fist post in a long time! Things have been pretty busy. We had our family summer vacation in June, and shortly after that I came down with shingles -- I know, shingles at 30 years old!?

Thankfully, that's behind me. And today I finished one of the books I've been reading for the past few months -- The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian. Back in early April, I reviewed one of her other books: The Power of a Praying Wife. I was impressed with it, and gave it a 4.5/5. How does this one stack up? Read on and see my rating at the end of the post.

What did I think of this book, in general? I liked this book. I didn't love it, like I did the wife book. But it was still good. Omartian is heavy on the whole "the Devil is out to get your children and it's a constant onslaught of dark forces" and that's a little much for me. I don't contend with the fact that Satan is real and he does have power in this world, and uses worldly situations to gain control of people's lives. I just don't really like fear-mongering. We should be praying for our children out of an overflowing love for them -- a love that wants to see the best for them. Is part of this fear? Sure. I mean, which one of us doesn't worry about our children, or feel anxious when we look at the world we are raising children in? But fear, for me, should't be the focus. Perhaps it's because I spent many years of my life battling anxiety, but I prefer to come at things from a different approach. I believe God has a plan for everyone, my children included, but praying for them is something important I can do for them to help them spiritually -- like bringing them to Mass, having them baptized, and when the time comes, enrolling them in catechism. I love my kids, and I want the best for them. I also know that prayer is powerful and real, so of course I pray for them.

What I did really like about this book was that it got very specific about how we can pray for the different aspects of our children's lives. So many times I pray, and I feel overwhelmed by all that I have to pray about. We know that the Spirit prays for us when we can't find the words, but it's always good to pray as much as we can and bring everything to God. There are many things that parents of young children don't think about -- but this book encourages the reader to lay a firm foundation of prayer, including praying for/against/about things that are many years into the future.

Is this a good book for Catholic parents? I feel like this book, like her other books, is quite distinctly Fundamentalist Christian. There are things that go against Church teachings -- things like assurance of salvation. But this is not a theological book. If a Catholic is firm in their faith and knowledge of the Scriptures and Church teaching, I see no problem with them reading this book for insight on how to become a better prayer warrior for their children.

How much work is required for this book? Not a lot. It's not a Bible study. You read a chapter, you pray. And repeat. You can take it further, if you want. I took notes on every chapter, and then when I finished the book I crafted a large "master" prayer for my children that covers everything in the book. Or, you could write out each prayer (or buy the prayer-only version of the book) and say one a day.

Overall score: 3.5/5. It's a worthwhile read, but heavy on some fear tactics.

Until next time, happy reading! May God bless you with a safe, happy and restful summer.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

In defense of stay-at-home mothers


If you look back in history to your mother's, or certainly your grandmother's generation, you will see something that, today, is becoming a very rare creature indeed: the stay-at-home mother. Back a few generations ago, it was completely normal, even expected, for a woman to stay at home with her children during their younger years. Now, such women are met with at worst contempt and judgement and usually at least a "What do you do all day?"

So, I'm here to answer that. I've been a stay-at-home mother (well, work-at-home mother is more appropriate, because caring for our children IS work! It's rewarding work, for sure, but don't doubt that it's work. If it's not work, why do people pay day care workers and babysitters?) since my daughter was born in 2011.

Thankfully, being Canadian, I was afforded a 12 month maternity leave. But once that maternity leave was up, I had a decision to make. Do I go back to work, and use the majority of my paycheque to put my daughter in day care? Or do I forfeit my career for the foreseeable future? Do I trade business for baby, money for memories, hustle and bustle for hugs and kisses?

It was a problem I wrestled with for a long time. It was a complex decision -- we don't live in a world where mothers normally stay at home any more. This is dependent on many factors, not least of which is the rising cost of living. It's hard to raise a family on one income, and even harder if you aren't willing to make sacrifices.

My husband was, at first, reluctant for me to stay at home with our daughter. He was raised by a strong, hard-working single mother who had no choice but to work. I, on the other hand, was blessed to have my mother stay at home while we were young and even into our younger years at school. We were coming from two totally different backgrounds and had two totally opposite perspectives.

In the end, we compromised -- I'd stay at home, but I had to earn money somehow. And since I had a background in working with children, I decided to open a home daycare. From the time my daughter was about a year old to when she was about three-and-a-half, I welcomed other children into my home, usually full-time from Monday to Friday. I usually had two extra children in addition to my own daughter to care for. Sometimes it was fun, but it was always, always hard work for very little pay. I can't say I loved it, but I did love the children I took in, and it did allow me to stay at home with my precious girl.

Once my son was born, I took time off and shut down my day care, and shortly after that we relocated. In our new town I thought about opening up a daycare again, but my heart really was not in it. My daughter was set to start school and I wanted her days home to be just our family. Thankfully, things fell into place and I found another way to earn money -- freelance writing. So things are going pretty well. I don't make a lot of money, but it's enough, along with my government child benefits that every Canadian mother gets, to help contribute to the household expenses, my children's education fund and my own purchases.

Despite the fact that motherhood, and being a caregiver, is hard work, many people still look askance at stay-at-home mothers. Especially in the feminist climate we're living in today, it can seem downright old-fashioned. People wonder what we do all day. Is it just making mac and cheese and watching cartoons? Is it playing and having fun and wearing pyjamas to the grocery store?

Maybe some days, but those days are few and far between. Here's a sample of what my day is like when it's just the kids and me. I'm using, for example, a day when I have both children, but when my daughter is in school, our day starts earlier and we have the school run to do in the morning and afternoon.

Between 7;30 and 8 a.m.: We wake up. Sure, this may seem like sleeping in, but when you consider that I'm usually up 3-4 times a night with a nursing toddler, it doesn't really feel like it. We cuddle in bed, I make sure they both take a morning pee, and then we head downstairs. They play and I make breakfast, after I've let the dogs out.

8;30 a.m.: breakfast time. My daughter is a good eater, but on any given day my son will either eat his meal with gusto (and plenty of mess) or turn his nose up at it and ask for "booboos". I clean up the breakfast, with help from my daughter, who also feeds the dogs and cat.

9:00 a.m.: this is usually when we read our faith books. We'll start with an opening prayer, and then we'll read a section from their children's Bible. Then, we read a section from "Tell Me About the Catholic Faith", the kid's edition. Then, we read my daughter's daily devotional, and finally we close with more prayers.

9:30 a.m.: the children play while I get some housework done: I try to start a load of laundry and fold what's in the dryer, sweep, and unload and reload the dishwasher.

10 a.m.: I try to do something fun with the kids, and usually that involves going outside. We'll either go for a bike ride, head to the park, walk to the library or meet up with a friend for a play date.

12;00 p.m.: by no we're usually back at home. I let the kids play or help me with making lunch. We eat lunch.

1:00 p.m.: quiet time. I usually try to get my son to nap, unless he's slept in extra-long. My daughter will read a book quietly while I put her brother down, and then I'll have her do a meditation. After that, we spend quality time together, either reading or playing with her toys or even baking. I might let her watch a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (her favourite show on Netflix!) while I try to put on another load of laundry, unload and reload the dishwasher, and make the beds (if I haven't done it yet). If it's the day to clean either of the bathrooms, I'll do this now. And then I'll sit down and relax a bit. I'll also read the daily Mass readings, if I didn't wake up before the kids to do it, and I'll read a chapter in the devotional I'm reading. I'll try to get some work done on a blog post or work on some freelancing.

2:30 p.m.: I wake up my son, who is usually grumpy and clingy for upwards of half an hour after waking up from a nap, bless him! So we'll snuggle and read books for a good twenty minutes to half an hour.

3:00 p.m.: we usually head back outside for some fun in the sun. The kids will run around the yard and discover worms and other creatures, or we'll go for another walk or bike ride, or we'll do some gardening. Sometimes I sit on the porch and read a novel for fun.

4:30 p.m.: we all head inside and I start cooking supper. They either help me cook, play, or if they're being kind of difficult and they haven't had a lot of TV earlier in the day, I'll put a half-hour show on for them. I like cooking -- I listen to a podcast and enjoy creating something healthy for my family.

5:00 p.m.: we eat dinner. I like to do this early, right at 5, so that we have time for an after-dinner walk. During dinner, my husband will not be home if he is working a day shift (8 a.m. to 8 p.m.). We talk about our day, and ask silly questions, "What's an animal that would be the hardest to carry in your backpack?".

5:30 p.m.: I clean up the kids, clean up the table and clean up the kitchen. Then, we head out the door for our after-dinner walk.

6:30 p.m.: bath time! My kids get plenty dirty throughout the day, and while in the winter I can get away with bathing them every second day (this really helps with my son's eczema as well), they need a bath every day in the warm months. I let them bathe together and play in the bath.

7:00 p.m.: I get them out of the bath, dry them and put them in their pyjamas. I get them an evening snack and they eat it while I read them a bedtime story and "Little Visits at Bedtime", a Catholic devotional I got for my daughter. Then we brush and floss teeth and say our evening prayers. Every night after prayers, I ask my daughter three questions: What are you thankful for? Why are you proud of yourself today? How were you brave today? Then, I bless her and wish her goodnight, and take my son downstairs so she can fall asleep.

From 7 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. (when hubby walks through the door), I hang out with my son downstairs. I'll play with him or read to him, or sometimes watch Coronation Street (if I'm lucky and he is happily playing independently).

8:15 p.m.: my hubby gets home. We greet each other and he holds our son, who is always excited to see him, as we fill each other in on our day. Then he heads upstairs to see if our daughter is sleeping, and if she's not, he cuddles her in her bed and they talk about her day for awhile.

Around 8;30 I go have either a bath or a shower, and after that get a meditation in. I'll try to spend some quiet time in prayer with God now, if I haven't done it earlier in the day. Then, my husband and I will relax and watch one of our favourite TV shows, a movie, or, if we're lucky and our son falls asleep around 9, we can even play cards (we like to play cribbage!). I head to bed around 10 p.m., and it all starts over again the next day!

It's a pretty full day of "work". I clean, cook, teach, supervise, care for and love my children. I get very few "breaks", but I don't mind. The children don't often thank me for what I do, though my daughter is learning to express gratitude now that she's getting older. Thankfully, my husband, who was once so recalcitrant for me to stay at home, now praises me, uplifts me and whole-heartedly supports what I do. He appreciates all the work I do with the children and the freelancing work I do to earn extra money. He also helps me out tremendously on his days off, and loves spending time with the kids. He doesn't shy away from housework, and ensures I have time to work or relax when he's home.

I may not be paid in money, but I am paid in memories. I'm paid in the satisfaction of knowing that I'm the one helping, teaching and guiding my children. I'm the one who is there for them if they scrape their knee, or if they're sad or scared. I'm the one who helps them unleash their creativity and their curiosity. I'm paid in their smiles, hugs and kisses, in the respect, love and support of my husband, and in the support I get from my own mother, who always helps me feel that what I do is of value.

Being a stay-at-home mother isn't easy. It can be lonely, it can be boring, and it can be extremely tiring. But those moments are far, far overshadowed by the joy, laughter and togetherness I get to share with my children. So the next time anyone asks a stay-at-home mother what she does all day, she can just smile, and think to herself, "Oh, if only you knew!"

Disclaimer: I'm not in any way judging any mothers who return to work after their maternity leave. Being a stay-at-home mother isn't the path for everyone. God calls us all to different things. One of the best mothers I know works away from home and puts her son in day care, but every moment she spends with him is so rich, and their bond is as close as mine to my own children. I wrote this because no one should feel guilty for the choices they make regarding how they spend their time -- whether they go back to work or elect to stay at home (which we should really call work from home). We need to support each other, and respect each other's decisions, even if they're not what we ourselves would do. Our differences are what allow us to learn from one anther, and it's my hope that all mothers -- stay-at-home, work-at-home, part-time or full-time workers -- can accept each other with no judgement or criticism. Instead, we should spend time together and see what we can learn from one another to help us on our individual journeys of motherhood.

photo credit: tais.pires <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/131890383@N02/16966004339">cor-2</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>

Thursday, 25 May 2017

On Suffering


The world seems like a dark place right now, despite the joy of the Easter season rounding out and Pentecost coming up. The recent terror attack in the Northern England city of Manchester on Mon., May 22 at an Ariana Grande concert has me feeling sad and teary when I read the news coverage. Twenty-two people lost their lives, may under the age of 18 and even one beautiful little eight-year-old girl. 59 are now facing the long road to recovery from injuries that are physical, emotional and, no doubt, mental. 

I also found out a few days ago about a tragic canoeing accident in the city that my husband and I lived in for eight years that claimed the lives of two fathers and two of their sons -- the youngest of whom was a six-year-old boy. 

It can be so hard at times like this not to feel anxious, depressed and even to have doubts about our faith. All of this is totally normal. Unfortunately, terror attacks have become more commonplace in our troubled world, and accidents are always a sad possibility in some situations. Still, it's not hard to end up feeling sad, drained and jaded sometimes.

I was talking to someone close to me not too long ago about how it can be so hard to see the suffering that goes on in the world. We oftentimes want to put ourselves in the shoes of those who are suffering, to share some of their pain. I know that any time I hear of tragedy striking young children, I can't help but ask God why He lets things like this happen. And why are some people so blessed and lucky -- like those of us living in a developed, peaceful nation who have plenty to eat and a roof over our heads, and so much more -- while others seem to live a life of non-stop suffering, like a refugee family facing danger every day, or the poorest of the poor in the back alley slums of third-world countries? What about people -- even children -- who suffer with illnesses of all kinds? 

Not too long ago I felt angry with God, wondering, if He is all-powerful, how He can allow sweet children to suffer and die. I told him, "Lord, I feel angry with You. I'm sorry I'm feeling like this, but I'm human and I can't help it. Why does this happen, Lord? Why can't you step in and perform some huge miracle, like I read about in the Bible? Why can't Jesus just return now and set things right?" 

I still don't know the answers to those questions. I likely never will -- not while I'm living on this earth, anyway. But my anger with God was fleeting and foolish. God is so far above me, and my understanding is a drop in the ocean compared to His. I've learned that when I don't understand, I just need to let go and rest in God's love.

Because even when we're angry with Him, He loves us. Even when we hurt Him, He cares. We may not understand the suffering in this world, but we do know this: God came into the world, in the form of His Son Jesus Christ, and he suffered terribly because of and for us. So He certainly cares, and certainly understands.

What does the Bible say about suffering? St. Paul reveals, in the Bible, the salvific meaning of suffering. We can unite ourselves to Christ through our suffering and also offer up that same suffering to Him, even though we may not ever understand it. 

"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his suffering, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead" -- Philippians 3:8-11

A wonderful article on the Catholic News Agency says that, according to St. Paul, suffering enters us into the mystery of Christ, and lets us participate in His Passion, which is necessary for our salvation.

In Krakow, Poland this past July, Pope Francis said,"By dying on the cross, He surrendered Himself into the hands of the Father, taking upon Himself and in Himself, with self-sacrificing love, the physical, moral and spiritual wounds of all humanity." 

So we can see that even though we may not understand our suffering, we know that Christ is with us throughout it all. Continuing to speak to the crowd of young people in Blonia Park, he talked about how some questions, like where God is when people suffer and die, or other tragedy strikes, cannot be answered. "We can only look to Jesus and ask him. And Jesus' answer is this: 'God is in them.' Jesus is in them; he suffers in them and deeply identifies with each of them. He is so closely united to them as to form with them, as it were, 'one body.'"

But going even farther than that, the Holy Father says that the only answer to evil is mercy -- and for us believers, that means "spiritual and corporal works of mercy". 

So how can we show mercy? How can each and every once of us bring more peace into this world and fight back the evil that threatens to win the day? It can seem daunting. I'd love to be able to do more charitably -- to give money on a regular basis to some good cause, but I'm not there right now. I am a stay-at-home mum, and while I do bring in some money from freelancing, my husband takes care of almost all of our expenses. We're also saving for our children's education. We give to our local parish each Sunday and make charitable donations every once in awhile, when we can. 

But mercy and charity aren't always about money. How often do you pray about the needs of the world, and not just your own needs and those of your family and inner circle? Prayer is so important, and it's something we can all do -- a spiritual work of mercy that can become a reality for all of us.

How else can we promote peace and mercy? Well, when you're waiting for the grocery clerk to bag your groceries, do you smile at them? Do you engage them in chit-chat and ask them how they're doing? Do you thank them? Do you go out of your way to try to brighten the day of everyone you come into contact with? Do you pour love into your spouse and your children, setting aside your stress and obligations?

It's something we should all be striving for. And above all, those of us who are lucky enough to be fathers and mothers, grandparents, teachers and anyone who plays a part in the life of a child? Well, we have a very high calling. We can do everything that's in our power to raise up a generation for Christ -- a generation of boys and girls, who will become men and women, who will shine like stars lighting up the night sky with their acts of love, devotion and peace. Our children can indeed change the world, but it's up to us to lay the foundation. 

photo credit: Aida diLeto Lundquist <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/21776013@N06/34005452764">WHY?</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">(license)</a>

Friday, 12 May 2017

Keeping Kids Catholic


Hey everyone! I hope you're all enjoying spring, whether you live up North like me, and are only now starting to have frost-free mornings, or whether you live in warmer climes and have been enjoying flowers and sunshine for a while already.

I've really fallen in love with gardening this year -- flower gardening, in particular. In the past, I've grown only vegetables. But this year, I'm not doing too much of that. Our new house (I still think of it as new even though this Canada Day -- July 1 for you non-Canadians! -- will mark the one year anniversary of our moving in) doesn't have a raised vegetable garden; that's something I'd like to do next year. My husband built me a raised garden bed in our old house, but this summer he's focused on building our fence and possibly a play structure for the children.

Considering we have two older but energetic dogs, and two young and extremely energetic children (including a toddler), I can see myself struggling to keep both the two-legged and four-legged creatures out of my front garden. So this year, I decided to do container gardening for my vegetables. Next year, hopefully we will have a specific part of our yard the dogs can go in when we're not outside with them, and hopefully by then my son will (at three) understand when I tell him not to go in the garden. But until then, I'm growing potatoes, sweet peas, carrots and lettuce in containers. I'm thinking of also buying a tomato plant, as we love Mediterranean cooking and I enjoy making my own pizza sauce!

As for flower gardening, I was lucky enough that the previous owner of our house left a plethora of flower pots and even hanging baskets for me to use! Our front wrap-around porch (one of the joys of buying a house built over 100 years ago) now has four hanging baskets adorning it, but I've yet to transplant my flowers into them (in my part of Canada it's not advised to leave plants out overnight until after Victoria Day). I can't wait!

So what does my ramble about gardening have to do with keeping kids Catholic? Well, part of the joy of gardening is watching your flowers and vegetables grow. You dream about what they'll look like, smell like, and what they'll produce. You nurture them by watering them, placing them in the sun, weeding them and encouraging them to grow. Some of us may even talk to our plants, like my favourite author, L. M. Montgomery (who wrote the Anne of Green Gables books) was known to do.

And isn't that what we also do with our children? We dream about what the future holds for them, we pray for them, we do our very best to give them an enriching environment that will be a good basis for their adult lives, and we also try to prune out any negative influences in their lives.

I was lucky enough to grow up Catholic, and I felt very close to Jesus and Mary as a child. My father was raised Catholic (he was an altar boy, and likes to joke about those days) and my mom had a Catholic mother and a father who later converted to Catholicism, and she herself converted when she married my dad.

We didn't always attend church faithfully, and we didn't celebrate saints days or anything like that, but you could still tell we were Catholic, and it's definitely something I felt rooted in growing up, despite my exploration of born-again Christianity during my teenage years.

I think, though, that it's going to be harder for parents of my generation to keep their kids Catholic in today's world. With what passes as feminism running things politically and socially (which is, unfortunately, not about putting women on equal footing with men but exalting them above them -- how does swapping one power group for another help society?), with loud, forceful support for abortion, it can seem daunting that we're trying to raise kids that will put Christ, and follow the Church's footsteps of putting others first, above the modern pursuit of pleasure, wealth and success at all costs.

And then there's also the fact that some of our children may be swayed by well-meaning friends to leave the Roman Catholic church for a more "modern" church -- one with worship bands, cool youth festivals and a chilled out atmosphere.

So what can we do, as parents, to root our children into our wonderful, ancient faith -- the one that was passed down for generations from Christ Himself? Well, for me, the answer lies in prayer and living out as best I can the beauty and tradition of our faith.

I always pray that my children will grow in faith and love of Christ, and that they'll be faithful Catholics. I pray that they will have good influences like friends, teachers and coaches who are Christian, but also ones that are Catholic Christians. I'm not by any means putting down our Protestant brothers and sisters -- some of my closest friends are from various Protestant denominations. But I'm also happy when my children can make friends with other Catholic families -- because it's more than a faith, it's a rich, beautiful culture.

And speaking of that rich, beautiful culture, how can we live it out? As Catholics, we know the beliefs and traditions that separates us from other Christians, but how do we show it? Well, I picked up the book The Catholic Catalogue by Melissa Musick and Anna Keating last year, and I love it! Thanks to this book, this past Advent and Christmas season was so special, and so Catholic! We had a manger scene, we gathered round the Advent wreath for vespers on a nightly basis, and we made Epiphany window stars.

This book also goes into the significance of different saints feast days, some of which we celebrate. We also celebrate anniversaries of our baptisms, first communions, confirmations, etc.

I'm always happy and eager to learn more about this beautiful Catholic faith, so I also read books about it for my own enrichment. And I'm going through the book Tell Me About the Catholic Faith: from the Bible to the Sacraments with my kids. We read it after we say our daily prayers and have read our daily Bible story.

We have several rosaries around the house, and one is a colourful one that is for my daughter. I have a pamphlet on how to pray the rosary with kids, and now that she's five (almost six!) this is something we're going to start doing together.

And the easiest way to keep our kids Catholic? Go to Mass! Make it a priority, and not just on Sunday -- if you can take your family to Mass sometime during the week, too, then that's even better! Read the Mass readings before you go to church, and discuss them as a family. Encourage your children to ask questions about the Mass, and about the faith in general. It's okay if you don't know all the answers -- I sure don't! You can make a journey of faith together, as a family. What an adventure!

And finally, release your children in prayer to God. Ask Him to guide them and grow them with deep roots in the faith. Ask our Blessed Mother to pray for them and keep special watch over them. Pick a patron saint for your family (ours is Pope Saint John Paul II). And pray that you can find a love and eagerness to learn about this amazing faith, because when your children see you excited about something, chances are they'll get excited about it too!

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

photo credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales) <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/27340278@N03/13177433523">Altar Servers-1-19</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>