Slowing Down

Today was a simply beautiful day.  The epitome of a perfect pre-fall day.  Cool air in the morning, warmer by the afternoon, deep blue sky...all beckoned me to get out of the house with George and Evie.

So we did.  At about eleven o'clock I decided that today would be the perfect day to ride/walk to a beautiful picnic spot in our neighborhood and eat our lunch there.  No rushing them along, no planning for the next thing, just enjoying however long it would take us to make it to our destination.

I love when I am able to make the conscious decision to take it slow.  To watch but really see them, to hear their voices but really listen to them. 

For the past two weeks, I have been preoccupied with plans of celebrate the feast of St. Therese at Thomas and Annie's school.  I am the spiritual life director this year, so I get to plan a treat for all the children, as well as something special for the teachers and staff.  My plan at first was to order a chocolate eclair for everyone since it is known that chocolate eclairs were a favorite treat of St. Therese.  Perfect.  However, after calling around town, the only bakery I found that makes them was a small locally owned shop.  To order 360 eclairs would cost five hundred and some dollars.

Five hundred dollars.

On to plan B.

I was ready to give up and come up with something different, when Janel, my crafty, creative, and amazing cook friend said to me that she looked up a recipe on line and that eclairs didn't seem too terribly difficult to make.  After reading about it and figuring just about how many batches I would need to make, I thought I can do this.  Why not?  It will just take me six days if I make four batches a day.  It was in the span of one day that I went from wanting them made for me and delivered to me, to making them all myself.

I had many offers from dear friends who said they would make a few batches or so, but the controlling, non-delegating person that I am thought it would be much easier if I just cranked them out.
I will tell you that the dough is extremely easy and fast to make.  They bake quickly and then they are done.  It takes approximately five seconds to fill them with pudding and whip some frosting on top.  However when you are making 375....well it takes a bit longer!

I also made sleeves with the image of St. Therese on them for the teachers coffee cups, a tag to stick into each eclair, and Hershey kiss roses.....my point to all of this is that while I completely enjoyed all this crafting, I was very preoccupied and my children got the brunt of it.  Most days they were left to find something to play on their own, or to watching PBS much longer than usual.  I guess I will never figure out how to balance time spent with children, projects that I want to do, making meals, daily household tasks, time for myself, and time for TJ.  While we can be very good and efficient in one area, the other ones fall by the wayside.  Ironically, during this time I read a great post about this very thing.  Fitting it all in.  Dividing my time between all the different hats that I am called to wear.

I don't play with my children very well.  When one comes up to me and asks me to play trains or babies or house with them, I wince and sometimes I sit there and fight through my urge to get up and get something done, while other times I tell them I'll be right there....and of course there never comes.  But there are things that I do believe I do well with them.  For starters, I am simply home with them.  They see me when they wake up, leave for school, walk out the doors of school, have snack ready, do homework with them, make dinner for them, and tuck them in bed at the end of the day.  Even on the days that I blow it and yell and lose my temper and say things I shouldn't have, I'm still there.  I can't be too hard on myself on those bad days, because regardless, I am present with them all day, every day.  They know that and there is great comfort in that for them.  

I do like to play games with them.  UNO, puzzles, Guess Who, Card games are all fun for me to play with them.  I love to have them in the kitchen with me.  I don't mind the mess that gets made and find pleasure in teaching them how to cook and bake.  I like to watch them and think about how they are growing and learning and I love to have conversations with them.  When I do the ahuh..ahuh...just a minute, when I'm done...it drives me crazy.  I know they can tell that I'm not really listening to them.

And when I am focused on something else, be it hot gluing 375 toothpicks onto tags, or baking batch after batch of eclairs, I know that I give very little attention to my children.  I like to get projects done which just intensifies my attention on the project rather than on them.  I'm praying for the grace to balance it all.  To learn when to say no to other things that will compete for my attention with my family. 

Taking time today to walk with George and Evie, eat our lunch on the grass, watch for airplanes that flew overhead, listen to them talk to each other, all just reminded me how much I love getting to be a mom and have children.  On the days that I am preoccupied with something else and fall into bed that evening feeling bad that they pretty much entertained themselves all day, I pray for the grace to recognize all that I do give them.  Love, time, attention.  Even if its only for a brief moment during a busy day.  I pray that they will always know how much I love them.


Starting to Color

Where I find Evelyn a lot lately....creating two year old masterpieces!

Taking a break to pick....

I love two year old hands all chubby and cute.


A Change of Attitude Makes for a Much Better Day

We had a pie picnic for our Sunday dinner tonight. 

Why have I not thought of this sooner?  We've lived in our house for almost five years now, and have never once eaten a picnic on our boulevard.  But tonight we did. 

After a week of extremely unwelcome, freezing cold and rainy weather, the sun decided to show its lovely face around four o'clock today.  Naturally, we all flocked outside to ride bikes, play with the neighbor girl, and meander around the blvd.  As TJ and I were walking, we decided that neither of us were hungry enough to make the big dinner I had planned.  So I suggested why don't we just have the pie we made this morning for our dinner.  Skip the meal.  Dive right into dessert.  He was in.

We went inside and began gathering all that we needed.  As I grabbed the paper plates and paper towels I stopped myself.  No.  Let's do this picnic right, I thought.   I went and found the picnic basket we had gotten as a wedding present, good plates, our fun homemade napkins, and real forks instead of plastic.  The kids' excitement was growing as I was gathering.  We're going to eat on the boulevard?  We're only having pie for dinner?   Yep.

It was the best idea we'd had all day....other than making the sour cream and caramal apple pie, earlier that morning.

I'm an extremely routine person.  I crave it, I like to know what is coming up next, I'm always planning ahead and getting ready for something.   But tonight, as we were sitting there watching the kids play, I told TJ that what I don't like about routine is the continual moving on to the next thing.   Dinner done.  Up to baths.  Clean kitchen. Put kids in bed. Get ready for tomorrow.  Again, and again, and again. 

Tonight was different.  I didn't start picking up the dishes and packing up right away.  Instead I just sat there on the blanket and watched and listened to our children having a ball playing in the street.  They were singing and laying down in the street and picking flowers.  I just listened to them, holding onto the sound of their little voices.

Oh, and I took about a million pictures of it all, because that makes me happy.

Let me back up and tell you that this morning was a completely different story.  I woke up tired.  Evelyn had been up during the night with an ear infection.  But I had it in my head that I was going to get up super early and bake an apple pie in the dark, quiet of the kitchen, sipping my coffee and soaking in the peace that was sure to accompany it all.  Well, I woke up later than I wanted, found myself picking up the mess left from the night before and folding laundry that I was wanting to have done days ago.  By the time I got around to being ready to bake, everyone was up and I was grumpy and mad.  Add the fact that it was cold, dark and rainy out, and I was a mess.  After about an hour of this ridiculous behavior, TJ asked if I wanted to go to noon mass so we could just lounge around a bit longer.  Then it hit me that I have to be the one to change my attitude.  I have to make that decision to get over it when things don't go the way I envision them.  I was watching TJ being so patient and kind to them as I was acting like a baby.  All of a sudden I said to Thomas and Annie...you guys want to make a pie with me?  They were excited.  My mood changed a bit.   TJ asked what kind we were making.  I said apple.  He eagerly asked if this pie could have sour cream in it....and do we possibly have any caramel to go with it?  Mood growing better every second.  Soon, I found us all in the kitchen, baking and having a wonderful Sunday morning.  As TJ went out to run, I took extra effort in showing the kids how to measure and peel and slice.  I could feel my mood change from grumpy and irritated to one that was enjoying the moment.

 I thanked TJ later that morning for helping me to change my mood by watching him be patient with the kids.  He rarely tells me what I need to be doing, or points out that I am acting like a pouting child.  He more often just shows by his actions rather than telling me, and I love him for that.

One of my favorite quotes from St. Therese is:

The moment I began to forget myself, I led the happiest life possible.

I try and remind myself of that every day.  I should chant it with every breath I take since it will take saying it that often for me to actually do it. But instead, I like doing what I want to do, when I want to do it. I have my list of what needs to be accomplished and most of the time I'd rather get my list done than just be.  I will struggle the rest of my life with that, I'm sure.  

But IF I can remember to put myself last, and give my first efforts to God, TJ, and to our children, I'm sure that I will reap the rewards of happiness.  Genuine happiness.


LIttle Things With Great Love

This is what happens when teaching a four year old to make pancakes and then the phone rings.  I came back to this...I put more on top mom  was what he told me.

 I read a great post the other day and it's had me thinking ever since.  Thinking of how I spend my hours at home with our children, not about what we are doing, but about how I am acting.  What do my children see of me?  How do I greet them first thing in the morning, and send them off to bed in the evening?

Am I joyful?  Do they see me smile? Or do they more frequently see me fix them, teach them, complain about something, and control them?

Since we send our children to school, that means I only see Thomas and Annie for about one hour in the morning, and then about five hours from when I pick them up from school, until they are in bed.  And in those five hours most of it is spent driving, helping them with homework, making sure they practice piano, making dinner, cleaning up dinner, giving baths.  It leaves very little time for just talking with them, looking and listening to them, reading to them and playing with them. 

At the start of this school year I decided to really focus on the time I DO get to spend with them.  I try and greet them as joyfully and cheerfully as I can.  Even though in my head I begin the countdown of what needs to be done before heading out the door at 7:30, I desperately try and hug them, sit with them as they wake up, make them something for breakfast, and SMILE at them.  It's amazing when you smile at your children, they will smile back.  I completely noticed this with George.  After a few days of being over joyful to him when he wandered downstairs and giving him a big hug with a good morning George, how he has picked up on that.  Now when he comes downstairs and sees me he gives me an extra big grin and says good morning mom! 

I'm trying to be joyful now as I do our bedtime routine.  The baths, brushing teeth, reading stories and scratching their backs and even prayers can be exhausting after a long day, but I MUST change my attitude about it all and try and enjoy those moments with them. 

Saint Therese showed us her little way by doing small things with great love. 

"Therese longed at times to be a martyr like Joan of Arc, or to be a missionary, even a priest.  Eventually she realized that her path to heaven would be much simpler.  God was calling her to be holy by doing ordinary things with extraordinary love.  She was to be humble and forgotten, and she was to accept the sufferings that came to her with love." - Mary Glavich.

Doing ordinary things with extraordinary love....I can do that.  I want to do that.
-change diapers
-wash dishes
-make meals
-give baths
-tie shoes
-buckle a seat belt
-get a cup of water
-read books
-scratch backs
-wipe off the counter
-fold clothes

very ordinary tasks that I do a billion times a day.  I know God is asking me to do them better, for HIM, and with a smile.

"Therese practiced love.  One sister in the convent constantly irritated her.  Therese told herself, I will do for this sister the things I would do for the person I love most.  After awhile, the troublesome nun asked, "Sister Therese, tell me what is it about me that attracts you?  Every time we meet, you greet me with a most gracious smile."