Thursday, August 28, 2014

Feeling Like a Sham

Do you ever have days (or weeks, months...) when you feel like a big sham?  Everyone else seems to think that you've got it all together, but you feel like you can't do anything right.  I've been in "sham mode" for the past two weeks.  "Sham mode" is when I feel like a huge fat failure at life.  

Harry developed an ear infection a few weeks ago, and he took awhile to recover around his birthday.  Just about the time Harry was feeling better, Jane and Walt started preschool.  Then, they both came down with bad cases of preschool hangover.  The exhaustion from adjusting to school made them extra whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiny, impatient, irritable, and irrational.  Early this week, Harry developed a high fever that lasted 24 hours, and I saw that he was starting to cut his top front teeth.  

I like to think of myself as a loving mama, but there's comes a time when this mama reaches a breaking point.  The combination of whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiny, irrational preschoolers and a sick and/or teething baby over the span of two weeks was too much.  

Every evening after we got the kids to bed, I would tell Philip (often through tears) that I was struggling.  I felt like a big failure for:
  • Jane and Walt's behavior (epic tantrums, ignoring me, fighting, etc.)
  • Feeling more like a referee than a mom
  • Not being able to console sick Harry
  • Yelling at the kids more than I care to admit
  • Getting way, way, way behind on housework because I was only putting out fires with the kids
  • Being lousy company for Philip because I was so exhausted and grumpy 
That's what was going on when Julie Nelson sent me a message inviting me to come on the "Catholic Women Now!" radio show.  When I read her message, I thought, "Oh, man, if she only knew what a train wreck things are like around here lately!"  Nonetheless, Philip convinced me that I'm a great mom and that I had a lot to contribute on the show.                      

Unless you count the time I called call Rush Limbaugh at age 13 to chat it up about President Clinton, I had my big radio debut this morning.  Oh my goodness, it was so much fun!  I am so grateful to Julie for inviting me on the show, and I am so glad Philip convinced me to do it.  

The kids were pulling out all the stops this morning to make me feel like a sham before I went on the air.  Before leaving for Walt's preschool dropoff, I noticed some new artwork on Jane's bedroom wall.  

Of course it's in ballpoint pen and not pencil
Apparently she was busy drawing behind her closed door when I thought she was getting dressed. 

It was sprinkling outside this morning, so I put the kids in their new raincoats.  I bought them a size too large in the hopes that they would last for two years.  Walt wasn't thrilled that he had to keep pushing the sleeves up and started sobbing.  It was a serious production to get that kid to school!  

Jane, Harry, and I got back to the house, cleaned up from breakfast, and got a few things done before my sister and precious goddaughter arrived to play with the kids.  As my sister walked in, she pointed out that Monty had pooped in the living room.  

"Uh...(looking over to the evidence on the floor)...yup!  He sure did!  Come on in!"

We played with the kids for awhile before I went on the air.  As it turns out, today is the Memorial of St. Augustine (infamous wild child of St. Monica turned saint).  While I was on hold, I listened to Julie and Chris talking about the power of a mother's prayers and that our entire mission as mamas is to get our babies to heaven.

YES!  YES!  YES!  That is why I am doing this stay-at-home mom thing.  That is why I created the whole Happy Saints Reward System in the first place.  That is why the crazy weeks of preschool hangovers and a sick/teething baby matter--they (can) make saints.  

Mothering is tough stuff, and I'm the first to admit that I let it get the best of me these past two weeks.  I allowed myself to feel invisible, unimportant, and like a doormat with the kids.  I had stopped keeping the bar high for the kids, expected the worst behavior from them, they delivered, I got sick of fighting battles, they acted out more to get attention, and I'd usually yell in return.  They needed a St. Monica instead of a Poor Me Mama these past two weeks.  They needed a mama who would put her own pride and need for gold stars aside long enough to realize that she's in the business of making saints.  

The radio show seemed to go well, and I had a great conversation with Julie and Chris.  Do you ever have moments when you're talking but feel like the Holy Spirit is moving your lips?  Everything clicked for me today while I was on the air, talking about how gaining a saint in heaven through miscarrying Thérèse propelled our family to take this becoming saints business seriously.  

Something fantastic happened after I got off the radio show.  I remembered that I was uniquely called and qualified to help them become the saints they're supposed to be.  I remembered to ask for help, and I said a little prayer before rejoining them.  The rest of the day has gone well.  I stuck a bunch of saint coins in my pocket, and I gave them to the kids as I caught them being good or helping with their responsibilities around the house.  I used a calm voice to empathize and talk them through their frustrations.  I was consistent in my discipline.  I gave them specific praise.  Heck, we even got the playdoh out after lunch!  Today was gloriously peaceful and different than the past two weeks.  

I know I'm a sham on my own, but He can change all of that.  I write this blog and share advice when people ask for it, but I keep screwing up with the yelling, the impatience, the pity parties.  My kids write on the walls and they have epic temper tantrums.  As our pediatrician in Omaha loved to say, our kids "are developmentally appropriate," and I need to remember that.  

Raising our children to become saints won't happen overnight, it's not always pretty, and it certainly won't happen so long as I demand perfection or forget that preschoolers are naturally irrational.  So long as I keep sending myself to the confessional to admit that I'm clearly not able to do it alone, it's not a sham.  

"There but for the grace of God, go I."  

I'm only a sham when I forget Him and think, "I've got this."  I'm a sham when I abandon my personal prayer time out of being "too busy," when I forget to punctuate the day with little prayers, when I don't pray for the kids, when we don't pray with the kids, when Philip and I don't pray together, when I stop asking for the communion of saints to intercede for us, or when I say I've had enough of this "take up your cross and follow Me" stuff.  He's teaching me daily to see how Philip and the kids are precisely the souls I need to get me to heaven, and that I can somehow do the same for them.   When I remember that, remember Him, and remember to carry the crosses as they come, I'm not a sham.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Two things: 1. Simcha liked my review 2. I'll be on the radio tomorrow

1.  Simcha liked my review

Yesterday, I wrote a review of Simcha Fisher's fabulous book, The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning.  Simcha saw it, and she shared it on her Facebook page today!

It was a total Catholic geek starstruck moment.  One of my favorite Catholic writers read something I wrote and called it "great."  Alright, I know, it was just a review of her own book, but, whatever!  It's my screen shot of my favorite author liking something I wrote, and I'll share it if I want to!

2.  I'll be on the radio tomorrow

What?!  What are you going to talk about, Catherine?

One of my favorite parts about blogging is connecting with fabulous, inspiring people around the world.  Julie Nelson is one of those fabulous, inspiring people.  Julie co-hosts a radio show with Chris Magruder called "Catholic Women Now!"  "Catholic Women Now!" broadcasts from Des Moines, Iowa through Iowa Catholic Radio (1150 AM, 88.5 FM, and 94.5 FM).  As their website says, the show is a "weekly feature by Catholic women talking about the things that matter most to Catholic women."  

Julie invited me to come on the show to talk about reward systems and apps for children.  I told her I'd be happy to talk about our Happy Saints Reward System and Family Store.

I'm always discovering more apps for the kids to play during their reward screen time, and I'll be talking a little about the ones we love.

Anyway, I wanted to be sure and let friends and family know about the show in case you'd like to tune in.  The show airs tomorrow morning at 9 am CST.  I'll be on around 9:15, and my segment should last around 7 minutes, so it'll be quick.

I had the opportunity to chat with Julie and Chris last night on the phone, and they are quite the dynamic duo!  I felt like I was sipping coffee with them in my family room.  I'm looking forward to our conversation tomorrow on the air.

If you miss the live broadcast, you can listen when the show re-airs at 9 pm CST.

Iowa Catholic Radio is on 1150 AM, 88.5 FM, and 94.5 FM.  You can also tune in using iheartradio or listen live via the Iowa Catholic Radio site.  

Big sis Jenny is coming over for a playdate and will be wrangling kiddos while I'm on the air.  That way, we can keep pretending that I've got it all together over here!  (Thanks, Jenny!)  

I told Julie and Chris that I would come on the show so long as they understood two things:

  • I'm not very smart or original.  I borrow/steal 99.9% of my ideas.
  • I can wax poetic about all of this parenting stuff in theory, but in practice, we're always just moments away from an epic temper tantrum.
So long as everyone is clear on those 2 things and knows that I'm not putting myself out there as a model mama, we're good.  Hope you can tune in tomorrow and tease me about it next time I see you!  Any and all prayers are appreciated!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book Review: Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher

I first discovered Simcha Fisher over at the National Catholic Register, and I've been following her blog, "I Have to Sit Down," for a few years.  I'm always sharing her stuff on social media and insisting that everyone I know read her stuff, so I knew I'd love her book, The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning.

Cover photo from Amazon
I love this cover!
The book was published in October 2013, but I didn't get around to buying the book and reading it until last week.  I absolutely loved it!  Now, I'm doing what I always do with Simcha's writing, and I am insisting that you read The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning.

She had me at the intro:
NFP boosters tend to paint a rosy picture because it's a hard sell, persuading people to turn their sex lives over to God.  And so, not wanting to scare anyone off, they emphasize the benefits while glossing over the sacrifices that often come along as a matched set.
I understand why they do this.  You're not going to convert the masses by saying, 'Hey, everybody!  Who's ready for some redemptive suffering?'  But so many couples launch into NFP expecting sunshine and buttercups and are horrified to discover, instead, the Cross.  
Unprepared to make any changes, they end up resenting their spouses and the Church in general--or else they feel guilty and ashamed to be struggling, like there's something wrong with them for not lovin' every minute of it.
That's who this book is for.   
FINALLY!!!  Thank you, Simcha!  Thank you for your honesty, your wisdom, and especially for your humor.  Thank you for admitting that NFP is hard and that it isn't always glamorous.  After reading your book, with all of its honesty about finding the Cross through NFP, you'd think I'd be looking for the quickest escape from NFP.  

Yet, I walk away from The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning more determined than ever to keep sticking with it.  The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning affirmed that: it's normal for NFP to be hard, it takes most couples a lifetime to figure out this stuff (hooray for lifetime monogamy!), we are soooooooo not alone, prudence and generosity aren't at odds after all, Love is always better than fairness, and that we've "chosen the better part" by dealing with the effects of sex head on in our marriage.  

Six years in, we still don't have this NFP or Theology of the Body stuff down.  God willing, we will move forward day to day, month to month, and year to year, propelled with the sacramental graces of marriage to keep learning more about how our marital union reflects Love to the world.  

In the meantime, we are grateful for the gift of our fertility and married life.  Despite that, we'll keep stumbling clumsily, we will undoubtedly hurt each other, and we will end up in the confessional like the couple on the cover.  (Hopefully, for Father's sake, we will be clothed!)  Fortunately, as Fulton J. Sheen wrote, it takes Three to Get Married.  Any problems in marriage will always be on us, and we get to turn to Him for strength, forgiveness, trust, perseverance, and the grace to do better tomorrow.  He'll make us into the spouses we are supposed to be if we let Him.  

Thank you for this book, Simcha.  I wish we had it to read during our engagement, and we plan on gifting it to married couples in the future!   

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Paint Chip Clothespin Color Matching Game

I'm trying to build up an arsenal of fun, educational activities for what I affectionately call "pseudo-homeschooling."  Since Jane and Walt alternate the mornings that they're at preschool, we're spending some of our one-on-one time while Harry is napping doing school-esque stuff.  The activities come in handy when I'm looking for things that will keep their hands and minds busy while I'm prepping or cleaning up from mealtime, too.  

Yesterday morning, I put together this paint chip clothespin color matching game.  

Yup, that's my own picture and text overlaying the picture, folks.  In addition to posing as a real crafter, I'm pretending I'm a fancy blogger, too!
I got the idea for this game from Pinterest last year, and I finally put it together.  It's an easy craft and educational game for poser crafters like me.  

To make the paint chip clothespin color match game, you'll need:
  • 2 sets of identical paint chip samples in varying shades.  (I like the wide, 4-color samples in bold, rainbow colors.)
  • Clothespins (I found mine at the Dollar Store)
  • Scissors
  • Gluestick  

Easy-peasy instructions:
  • Cut out a rectangular piece from each color sample
  • Attach the color sample to the end of a clothespin with the gluestick
  • Wait for glue to set
  • Voila!  Kids are ready to attach the clothespins to the corresponding samples

Thursday, August 21, 2014

First Days of Preschool

Jane and Walt started preschool this week at St. Joseph's Catholic School.  I am pleased to report that they both love, love, love preschool!  The only bummer is that the preschoolers don't wear uniforms.  Good news: Jane gets to wear some adorable plaid next year!

Jane started preschool yesterday.  She picked out her Princess Anna t-shirt from Mimi for her first day.  

This is Jane's second year of preschool, so she's an old pro.  Last year, I felt like a bad mama because I didn't cry dropping our firstborn off at school for the first time.  I'm told I'll cry at kindergarten, though.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, Jane can't get enough of this thing called preschool.  If she had it her way, she'd be there all day everyday. 

Philip blocked out his early morning so that he could join us on the walk to preschool.  Can I just tell ya how amazing it is to be able to take a leisurely walk to school?  It's oh-so-glorious!  Walt insisted on riding in Harry's new toddler push car, Jane walked with Daddy, and I pushed Harry in the stroller.  Sigh.  They're so cute!

We couldn't keep up with Jane as she made her way through the hallway and into her classroom! 

She made herself right at home as she found a hook for her backpack.  I had to ask the girl for a hug before we left!  It was like last year all over again.  

"Jane!  Mommy and Daddy are leaving.  Can we please have a hug?"
"Okay!  (Millisecond hug)  Bye!"

While the drop-off experience was the same as last year, the pick-up experience could not have been more different.  Last year, when I picked Jane up from her first day of preschool, I was chomping at the bit to ask her every last detail about the day.  

Who did she play with?  
What did she do?  
Did she do any arts and crafts?  
Learn any new songs?  
What was the snack?  
Tell me, tell me, tell me!

"Mama, I'm too tired to talk about it.  Maybe we can talk later."

This year, Jane had story after story after story to tell us on the ride home.  "I met Grace, but she's in Mrs. ______'s room.  We got to play on the playground!  I drew a picture of a bear, and I brought it home in my new red folder to finish it.  There is a DRINKING FOUNTAIN in my room!  Mrs. _____ is so nice.  I went to the potty all by myself, but then I got lost, and my teacher had to come and find me!  Oops!"  What a difference a year makes! 

On to Walt's first day...

This morning, we woke up to a thunderstorm, but Walt wouldn't let the storm clouds dampen his spirits!  Just look at that cheesy grin!

He was raring to go with his Lightning McQueen backpack and Thomas t-shirt.  He picked out every element of his wardrobe all by himself.  What a big guy!  

Unfortunately, the rain ruled out walking to school.  Philip was able to join us for drop-off again.  Walt loved his little photo shoot in the rain.  "Do I get to take a picture with the sign like Janie did?!"

It really started to pour, so Walt had to pose with the umbrella.

Just like Jane, once Walt got inside the door, he bolted as quickly as he could for his classroom.  He chatted it up with these older ladies as he made his way down the hallway.

"It's the Cat in the Hat!  It's the Cat in the Hat!  This way!"  He remembered to follow the Cat in the Hat striped hats down the hall to the preschool classroom.  

Without hesitation, Walt made his way over to the hooks to hang up Lightning McQueen.  He was so excited to get going with this preschool stuff that we had to remind him to tell us goodbye and give us hugs.  These kids, I tell ya!  

When I picked Walt up from school with Jane and Harry, he IMMEDIATELY spotted our minivan in the pick-up line.  (We would have walked, but the combination of storm clouds and the high probability that Walt would be too pooped to walk made me opt for driving.)  

Walt was all smiles the whole ride home!  He told us all about his new friends, sang some songs ("Where Is Thumbkin?" is his current favorite), and filled us in on all of the other important details.  "Snack was sticky.  I played in the rocket.  They had white milk AND CHOCOLATE MILK!  A boy cried THE WHOLE TIME!  Where is Thumbkin?  Where is Thumbkin?  Here I am!  Here I am!"

To celebrate his first ever day of school, Walt got to choose what they had for lunch.  "Circle carrots and peanut butter and jelly!"  (In case you're wondering, "circle carrots" are canned sliced carrots.  Nothing but the best, folks.)  Jane and Walt were giggle monsters at the lunch table.  They have missed each other these past two mornings, and they love swapping stories.

After I asked Walt for several more details about his day at the lunch table, he looked across the table and said, "Janie, tell us about your day!  What was your favorite part?"    

It's been a great start to the school year so far.  I love that Jane and Walt have the same teacher and that we'll be up there everyday (Jane will be there Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and Walt will be there Tuesday/Thursday).  Hopefully their teacher really, really likes us!  

Since one kiddo will be gone everyday until lunch, we will have some relatively quiet mornings at home--especially since Harry still takes a snooze for a good chunk of the morning.  Jane and Walt are enjoying the one-on-one time with me while the other one is at school.  I'm making every effort I can to soak in the quiet morning while we still have them.  Walt practiced his scissor skills yesterday while Jane was at preschool and Harry was napping.  He relished the one-on-one time.  

"Wow, Walt!  I'm so proud of you for using scissors!"
"Thanks, Mama.  I'm so proud of you for teaching me how!"


It all goes too quickly, I tell ya!  Cheers to a blessed school year!    

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Harry's 1st Birthday - A Photo Recap

Wee little "Harry Barry Boo" turned 1 last Thursday!  I know us moms always say it, but where did that first year go?!  It really flew by this year.  In case you missed it, I wrote him a little birthday letter.  

On to the birthday celebration...

Harry's smash cake
Gotta love a Sesame Street cake for a 1-year-old
Waiting to sing "Happy Birthday" 
Protective big sis holding Harry's hands back from the flames
Blowing out the candle with a little help
Philip cut out small pieces of the cake for Jane and Walt.
Harry was happy to share!
"My hair was needing some frosting, too!"
Flirty, mischievous smirk
Monty volunteered his cleaning services
After a little intermission for Harry's bath, we opened his birthday present--a toddler tool bench!
Jane and Walt gladly showed Harry how it worked.
Meanwhile, Harry demonstrated his new trick--standing up by himself.  Big boy!
Unfortunately for Walt, Harry's still working on his balance and likes to catch himself on whatever (or whomever!) is nearby.
Love you, Harry Barry Boo!
Happy 1st Birthday, sweetie pie!

Friday, August 15, 2014

GREAT News Update On Team Baby Teixeira

Remember when my brave friend, Amanda Teixeira, talked about her and her husband's struggle with infertility?  Then, remember how I told you that they were starting the adoption process?


A couple chose Amanda and Jonathan to be the adoptive parents of their precious baby!  YAAAAAAAAAY!!!  The baby is due in November 2014.  Talk about a time of Thanksgiving!  Thank you so much for your prayers for our dear friends!

From TRUEGOODANDBEAUTIFUL, photo credit to Alzbeta Volk of Voboril Photography
I am so proud of Amanda and Jonathan for trusting in God's perfect timing when many of us may have turned in on ourselves, become bitter, or lost faith.  They are a beautiful example to all of us of what trust, strength, and faith look like while shouldering a cross and making sense of God's will.  

Please continue to lift up your prayers for Amanda and Jonathan as they complete their home study and move on toward Baby Teixeira's due date.  Pray for Baby Teixeira's biological parents as the journey continues.  Pray that God's will be done and that the rest of us can help in whatever way we can along the way.  

If you are in a position to help Amanda and Jonathan with your treasure, please consider doing so!  As many of you know, adoption often comes with a hefty price tag.  I told Amanda the other day on the phone that I'm so glad they're asking for financial help from others.  It's a powerful, tangible way for the Body of Christ to lift them up and help bring Baby Teixeira home.  I thanked her for letting the rest of us have a real way to help during this blessed time.  If you're interested in helping them financially, please consider donating to their puzzle fundraiser.  As of their August 15th blog post, here's what the puzzle looks like:

You can purchase a piece of the puzzle for a donation of $25 (or more!), and Amanda and Jonathan will write your name on the back.  The completed puzzle will go between two pieces of glass and hang in Baby Teixeira's room.  Here's what the completed puzzle looks like:

From TRUEGOODANDBEAUTIFUL, photo credit to Alzbeta Volk of Voboril Photography

In 8 days, they hope to be at their goal of having raised $13,000 toward their home study and out-of-state agency fee.  I know many of you have already joined Team Baby Teixeira.  Thank you for your support!  Keep those prayers coming, and I will send along updates as they come.  

In the meantime, follow along on the journey via Amanda and Jonathan's blog, truegoodandbeautiful.  Leave a comment, and let them know that you're lifting them up in prayer!