Monday, November 27, 2017

"What I have cleansed, you are not to call common..."

Out of a dead sleep this morning, I heard my husband's voice (trying every so sweetly and lovingly to wake me up after a rough night with a vomiting 10-month old with RSV), "Do you want to do Scripture with me before we get up?"

Answer in my head: um, no?
Answer out loud: (literally half asleep) sure

He begins where we left off in the book of ACTS where Peter receives a vision that basically tells Him it's time to preach to the Gentiles... cool and powerful story... but not what I mean to tell you about.

We pause to let God tell us what He wants us to receive from the passage, which I tend to have a hard time with even when I am wide awake after a full night's sleep, much less not even fully conscious yet (don't get me wrong, I am grateful that my husband cares more about my relationship with God than if I can get 3 more minutes of sleep before the circus gets going, I'm simply trying to convey how NOT awake I was).

It came to me clear as day, and a quickness that I don't have normally (isn't God so merciful?). As I was attempting to wake up and get my game face on for ANOTHER Monday or being Holly Housewife and, to be honest, fighting an almost (pause: my 2 year old woke up and wants "thereal") constant battle with monotony, this is the verse that stood out to me...

ACTS 10: 15 "Then the voice said, 'What God has cleansed you are not to call common.' "

Soul. Punched.

God was telling me that MY LIFE IS NOT COMMON!


Yes, another Monday. Yes, I am about to start the same routine that Monday brings. Yes, someone is sick... actually 5/6 kids are sick, and one has a named sickness which ads to the mental game. But my husband and my children are ANYTHING but common. My life is ANYTHING but common. We are told by the world that women should get out there and do something with our lives, our degrees, our student loans, our "adulting" and I can tell you that the temptation to do that is real (I mean, to go shopping all day long with my student loan money and eat out 2/3 of my meals was mighty nice). But the truth is that THIS IS better than any (pause, my six year old needs help with math) trip I might take, these are the decisions that have eternal consequences. Traveling "the hills of the human soul" will take me more outside of my comfort zone that ANYTHING or ANY place ever will.


So this grace that He gave me through Scripture this morning showed itself when one of my little olive plants was crying for the ZILLIONTH time this morning (which ALWAYS includes screaming with the tears), and I was walking inside outside inside outside inside outside to get him a pair of shoes that weren't too tight or too big (or too red or too old or too dirty or too wet) and just like Peter, I heard a voice say something very similar to what I read:

"This is not a common day, this is not a common child, and this your life is not ordinary. Here is your first chance to treat this moment like it is the first time you have every done this... Motherhood is holy, so don't call this moment common"







Isn't God so faithful and merciful?!? "More will be given to the one who has been given much" He will not let me drift through the life as if every day were just another version of the same thing. Pope Benedict said that we are not created for comfort, but for greatness! My days, no matter how much I wish for convenience and comfort, are given to me to make greatness come from them.

I'm not saying that I merrily levitated back and forth, to and from the house trying to find one freakin pair of shoes that fit this poor child just because I had the experience with praying with this Scripture passage this morning, but it gave me the grace to be just a bit kinder to my sweet, emotionally charged baby. It made this Monday a whole lot sweeter, and I tell you what, it made me SUPER happy for this upcoming season in the church... this WILL NOT BE JUST ANOTHER ADVENT!! I found myself ho-humming about what to do with my family this Advent and  the monotony was all but wiped away at this realization... if I will prepare Him room in my heart, then I CANNOT think of this as "Just another Advent."

May God give us the grace to make this an EXTRAORDINARY ADVENT. May I never call this life a common one...

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Andrew's Story...

Here's the story of our first miscarriage. A friend asked me to tell it for an article he's writing. This experience happened seven year ago this month. It has been a gift to go through it again and see just how much God loves, blesses, and forgives us. 

When our second daughter was eight weeks old, David returned home from his holy hour and shared with me that he really believed that God was calling us to be open to another child. (Did I mention that our daughter was eight weeks old?). I don't remember my exact reaction, but I laughed at him and told him that he was crazy. It was exactly physiologically possible to have another child at the point. Nonetheless, I told him that I would go to Adoration, and so I did the next morning.

When I arrived I first prayed for an open heart and for the Lord to reveal to me His will for our family. I opened a book that I had been reading by Kimberly Hahn (Scott Hahn's wife) called Life Giving Love and proceeded to actively look for an explanation of good reasons NOT to be open to life and GOOD reasons to "space" children. I could find ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, and in fact, what did stand out to me was something her husband had told her: Mother's bodies, with their stretch marks and scars from carrying and caring for their children will, like Christ, remain that way in Heaven and be like the glorified body of Christ who's wounds remain. It struck me directly in my heart, and seemed to be giving me the opposite message that I sought. I then turned to Scripture where I landed first in the Gospel of Luke and a painting of the visitation of Mary and Elizabeth.
The verse underneath it said, "Blessed is the fruit of your womb." I had my clear answer. My fertility was and is a gift, and I returned home and told David what the Lord had revealed to me as well. We were grateful that He had told us BOTH, but David knew that I was afraid of what would come of this. That was in May. About four months later, I discovered that I was pregnant. Therese was six months old. It was happening, just as the Lord had said. We shared the news with friends and family, and we were grateful for another soul, but my heart did not feel ready. When I was about four weeks pregnant, I found myself in Adoration with these thoughts: Maybe this pregnancy won't make it. Maybe I'll miscarry, and that would be ok, because then people may feel sorry for us, and then we would have their sympathy and at least look like we're open to life without having to have babies so close together. I was horrified with myself! I was grateful to Jesus that He had allowed those thoughts to come from the back of my brain to the front so that I could address them with a priest and ask forgiveness from the Lord and from my precious husband who was and is ALWAYS ready to meet another soul that God would give to us. 

I raced home and confessed to David my secret sin and I realized that I was no different than any woman who contemplates abortion. I was so sick with guilt and grief, but our Lord is so merciful. Our sweet friend who is also a priest came to visit the next morning, and I went to confession in our home and was forgiven my sin. Thanks be to God!

Just three days later I began to bleed, and then the cramping that comes with miscarriage followed not long after that. I was sunk deep into grief and guilt. I began to doubt myself and the mercy of God- I remember thinking that God saw my lack of a welcoming heart for this baby and decided that this innocent child would be better off in his Father's arms than a mother who doesn't want him. I have been able to pray through and process my thoughts and see that they were untrue and that God's mercy is boundless and bottomless, but at that time, I couldn't see past my sin. David knew that my sin did not cause to miscarriage and did his best to console me, but we were both so shocked and so sad. We had two beautiful and healthy children (John Paul 2) and Therese (7 months) and didn't think that a loss would happen in between children. We cried and grieved over the loss, but we also offered this baby to the Lord.

I passed the baby a few days later, (which at just 6 weeks gestation looks like little more than a very large blood clot), wrapped the baby in a handkerchief, and we buried it under our statue of the blessed mother. The grave was blessed, and we began our healing process. 

 I asked God for a name and an image of the baby to keep in my mind and heart forever. God, once again in his mercy, gifted us with this image. His name is Andrew Thomas Dawson, and he has dark hair and blue eyes.
He was the first intercessor and saint for our little family. We have since had two more souls reach Heaven before us (Agnes Karolina and Elizabeth Anne). The losses are painful but bring our family together in ways that joyful experiences just can't. We talk to our other children (We now have six born children) about their brother and sisters in Heaven. It is bittersweet to think of them, because without their being lost to us here on earth, our family would look completely different, would there be a Jacob (now 6), a Micah (now 4) a Mary Clare (2) or a William (9 mo)? 

I am reminded of the Scripture verse "For who has known that mind of the Lord, or who has acted as His counselor" and "The souls of the just are in the hands of God. They seem in the eyes of the foolish to be dead, but they are at peace." And again "The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Yeah, it's been quite a's why

I know its been basically a year since I've written. The reason? Life. Strait up.

Blog post topics and Scriptures used to fall into my mind like dew when the Holy Spirit wanted me to share a thought. But in the last year He has, instead, been training me on some serious interior work. The best image I can use to help you  understand is from the Chronicles of Narnia when Eustis is a dragon and his scales are being pulled off to free him from his selfishness and self preservation by the only one who can help- Aslan.

It's the same with me. In the last year and continuing through to the present moment, God has and is helping me to have joy in difficulty, patience with fatigue, clarity in the noise (and my house is pretty darn loud), and trust in the unknown. I just have such a long way to go that I feel like posting on this precious blog is not part of that growth. So for whoever is reading this, that's where I've been.  Its where I will be for a while I imagine. We had a baby, we tried the spring baseball (madness), ballet revue, family retreat over the summer, vbs, Domestic Church retreats, a child had a tonsillectomy, and a few other things. We haven't been busy, but our life has been intense anyway. Like I said, busy interiorly.

I can't change the world but I can try (and fail sometimes) to get better at being a mama and wife. My little house is my world, so that's where I'll be working for a while.

Monday, October 3, 2016

So what's the deal with homeschooling?

I was asked by a friend two very general, but in depth questions, which he asked me to reply via email. After I finished, I realized that it may answer some of the questions that others ask when they see me. So in case you, lovely reader, are one of these people or have asked one of these questions, then this post is for you:

What is the most positive (fruitful, growing etc.) in home schooling?

I love that homeschooling gives my children the ability to spend their days together. They practice living and loving with one another MORE than they take time for school work. 

I have seen my older children take initiative on helping/teaching the younger children. For example- my readers will read directions or entire books to the non-readers.

My children are great independent workers, but we also do a lot of reading aloud: history, English literature (in small bites), and religion.

I have been able to tailor the children's work to a level that best fits where they are. Therese's art skills are far beyond where John Paul's were at her same age, so she does more intricate art work than he. John Paul is a third grader, but has been on a 4th grade level for a while, and so we are able to move more quickly than he would be able to in a traditional school. 

I get to hold my children in my lap (which is being taken up by a large belly, so temporarily, they sit NEXT to me) to teach them to read. I have two children who I am teaching to read, and that is the posture they prefer for their lessons. 

My babies are exposed to whatever my school children are doing, so they like to "do school" in whatever for they feel: play-dough at the table, drawing, cheerios to count and sort, etc.

David plays an active role in their education as well- he reads to them, and if he is home, he will do a lot of teaching. He also helps to finish up what I have not finished once he comes home (which sounds like what parents have to do ANYWAY when their children come home from traditional school).

Our "after school" sports and activities are a nice chance to get out of the house rather than the insanity of running all over Tarnation from one place to another, and we don't have to race home to do the homework/supper/bath/bedtime routine.

There is so much support out there, whether through the sheer number of homeschooling families where you live (like here on the Northshore of LA), or online... like so many free printables!

And most importantly- we all stay in our rooms until 7:30 in the morning, and we don't have to get up early to deal with lunches, uniforms, speedy morning routines, etc.

And of equal importance- we are able to make Mass more often during the week.

What is the biggest problem, difficulties, limits in home schooling?

Having more babies than school-aged children is the most difficult hurdle. They know when I get into teacher mode, and they don't really like it. It isn't always enough to simply hold Mary Clare, but her intelligence tells her that I should be interacting with her too! So she expects her time with mommy/teacher as well and asks for school work!

I am usually too tired to pick up leftover school work at the morning, and I have set up our day so that the entire house 1) goes to sleep 2) reads quietly on the couch, and I use usually use this time to do my personal prayer and scripture reading. But the more pregnant I become the more tired I am at this time of day. So I feel like a failure most days that I don't get to prayer or finish up school like I wish and simply end up falling asleep. Sigh...

Another difficulty is that it can be a bit draining to have all 5 (and soon 6) children at home with me all day long... every day. It may be more difficult if it hadn't always been this way, but we've never had the kids in mother's day out or childcare, so I've never known life with little breaks here and there. It makes me really have to trust in the Lord to provide such opportunities. We are blessed that David's flexible schedule allows for him to be home if there are doctor's appointments that I need to take of, though, so the Lord always provides.

The biggest difficulty is the recognition that this is a life-long task- the rearing and education of our children (even if we put some in traditional school at some point, the task remains the same). The temptation to despair and get discouraged can creep in often, especially if it is a particularly difficult school year, and I look to be successful at homeschooling rather than faithful, as God calls me to be. 

Most people's first response to hearing that we homeschool is "Oh, I could never do what you do." And to those women I say, "If I can do it, ANYONE CAN DO IT!" and I also think inwardly, "I could never do what YOU do. Getting up before 6 just to get everyone else out the house on time is a thought that makes me throw up in my moth a little bit, so POWER TO 'YA"

We have only been doing this for five years now, and I can PROMISE you that when we get to middle school math, I will punt to David... or to anyone who doesn't get sweaty thinking about teaching division with carrying. 

My children are also VERY aware that their mother is a short-tempered, crazy human being (which was hard for me at first, growing up with a mom who was able to juggle a full time job, home-life, spiritual life, marriage, and a career change thrown in their somewhere with what looked like harmonious ease (and she may be reading this and laughing at it's inaccuracy, but now you know, Mom), and so I was so disappointed in myself when my kids began to see me... um... not doing the juggling so well. Some days it's more like tripping on the juggling balls and face planting into someone's diaper that they took off when I wasn't looking. 

Homeschooling requires a grace that can be given to us to be able to do it, and all I have to do is ask!!  HE HAS PROVIDED! He will continue to do so! 

And now for some good 'ole fashioned poking fun...

Friday, September 23, 2016

It's been a while... and I think I know why.

It may be that nobody noticed, but it's been almost 4 months since I've last posted and there are two main reasons for that- one is important and one is not so important...

1) I don't have an easy way to get pictures of my kids to the computer and I'm not tech savvy enough to blog from my phone.

2) The Lord has had me in a season of learning about myself and my deep need for his mercy. Another way of putting this is to say that God has had so much for me to learn about myself and how to be a wife and mom and daughter of His that I basically have nothing deep or helpful to share with anyone that they probably didn't already know or read on someone else's blog.... 

So here are some things that have happened:

We still attempt to fit everyone in a little kid pool that is smaller than safely manageable. 

God has gifted us with another son... that brings the tally to 4 boys and 2 girls. Anyone sweating a little bit? Because I am. We're due around January 20th. 

We began our homeschool year on August 8th (why so early you homeschool moms ask? Because of the above photograph, and I don't want to fall behind later once I birth an excuse to be lazy about it).
And, yes, that would be our 8 year old helping to educate our almost 5 year old... If I can homeschool ANYONE CAN HOMESCHOOL!

Therese and Mary Clare are nearly inseparable

This happened one time... in life. 
The "baby boys" as we call the almost 5 &3 year old were reading together & walked away uninjured).

We participated in a Domestic Church family retreat, and our friends made a promotional video to encourage others to try one...

So what's happened is the I've learned some things in the last few months that have been game changers for me, but have come with a hearty dose of humility (ever had that before?). So I'll share some nuggets..

God loves with an AGE-OLD love! This means that He's done this sort of thing before- you know forgiving and being merciful and continuing to poor out abundant blessings on his child who tries so hard yet continues tripping up.

If we really want the world to change, it's not going to be through sharing knowledge... it's going to be through loving the ones right in front of us.

God to MAKE ALL THINGS NEW! It has been super helpful to ask the Lord to help me to see my children (and my vocation to love, nurture, and educate them) in a new way from time to time. It has been a huge help in dialing down the discouragement.

Screaming is lazy. Cursing is lazy. Tantrums are thrown by adults as well. Spanking a three year old is not helpful. Are you scandalized? I'm sorry

Exercise is a must and is something for which we can ask God to provide. 

God wants to help us get better at loving our spouses... it's pretty much the most important thing to Him!

If you feel like you are being "spiritually attacked" in your family. Have hope! It means that such amazing things are happening there, that Satan is doing his darnedest to mess with that!

"Do not grow weary doing good" - the Bible

My commitment to prayer and praying with Scripture has carried me through these months... and I imagine they will continue to do so! I'm so glad that God wants to talk to me!

I hope and pray that you are able to recognize the wonderful things that God is doing in your life as well...

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


Is this you in church? Yeah... us either.

It's more like this...

Fee this same way?

I see you moms and dads and awesome grandparents who take your children to mass...

Wrestling while standing in the back of mass with your baby who insists on "blessing" himself over and over again...

Swaying continuously while hoping your baby forgets what they were so upset about...

Letting go of all your parenting convictions as you let your child "get down" and practice walking in the vestibule of church...

Entire family who has to sit in the cry room because one of your children just cannot sit in church...


I felt so much solidarity with all of you this last Sunday.... THE FEAST OF CORPUS CHRISTI for goodness sake. I had to ask our priest if I could snag his notes from the pulpit because I didn't hear ONE BLASTED WORD from his homily (thanks, Fr Ian).


Let's not give up! Let's continue to go to Mass as a family. Let's continue to let the grace of God and the goodness and faithfulness of God and the desire to pass this reality onto our children continue to get our tired, worn-out selves to Mass!!

You are not a hindrance or a burden- YOU KEEP THE CHURCH ALIVE!!

You are not alone!!

See you on Sunday!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Since when did I start equating Lent with fruitlessness?

The other night when a friend (who is also a great priest) was over for dinner, we were discussing the different kinds of Lenten decor (or the appropriate lack thereof), a question arose that nearly knocked me off the couch...

"When did we start associating Lent with being fruitless?"


Before this particular Lent, if you were to ask me to recall some images that come to mind when I hear the word Lent, I would have said the following: a dry desert, sticks in a clay pot, a mouth-watering chocolate cake behind an electric fence, low blood sugar attacks, hair shirts (I'm kidding), and bodily suffering (I've had two babies during Lent). And to top it all off, if I'm honest with myself, usually I bring all these images and good merits with me to East Sunday like quarters to a vending machine. If Easter Sunday doesn't deliver total peace, joy, and a baby who sleeps all night, I am quite disappointed with the Lord.

Someone tell me that I'm not alone on this!

This conversation with our friend (and consequently lots of prayer) allowed me to realize something- this Lent has been completely different than all other Lents ever! No, I'm not that much more awesome than last Easter (though I do have a baby who can sleep all night from time to time), but MERCY has entered the picture in a bigger way than before!

God does not mean for this [picture] to be our HEARTS during Lent, but merely to represent SOME of our practices- but this was what my heart was lookin' like!

THANKS BE TO GOD AND THANK YOU POPE FRANCIS!! This year of Mercy has open wide the doors for God to work and to till my heart into a more fertile kind soil, and if I can identify something that has been the game-changer to this fertile soil (besides having a fifth children between this Lent and last), it would be MERCY!!

I haven't beat myself up when a bite of chocolate enters my mouth (by accident... or... not by accident), no longer have I focused ONLY on going without that which I do not need, and don't get me wrong, bodily penances are MOST DEFINITELY  a necessary part of a fruitful Lent, but white-knuckling through Lent isn't going to open our hearts to the Lord. It may lead to resenting Him.

My Lent has looked something like this (emphasis on "something like"): Less alcohol, less sweets (like none during the week... except for the three family birthdays and Sacrament celebrations), less yelling, less movies, smaller portions. It also has included more... praying more on my knees rather than in my comfy bed, sitting more often in silent  prayer rather than filling it with books and journaling, which is my normal tendency (this one I was pretty terrible at, but hey, Lent's not over), preparing for consecration to Divine Mercy, working on actually preparing meals for my family rather than winging it all the time, St Alphonsus Ligouri's Stations of the Cross, waking up early to try to both pray and exercise, and consciously attempting to trust more in the Lord.

This last bit I was not exactly specific with the Lord as to how I would go about trusting Him more, and it came in the form of basically giving up my children's health for Lent (up until about 2 days ago, can I get an Thank you, Lord?). So for the first half of Lent, our house had one or all of it's members with tonsillitis, fifth disease, fever, unending coughing, adenoid removal, swollen glands, and several symptoms that accompany low progesterone (ok, maybe that last one was me, but it's a nicer way to say PMS). It was the perfect opportunity to make a conscious effort to trust in God's mercy to bring me through EACH LITTLE MOMENT (day and night). Quite the opportunity, which I can promise you, I did not come up with myself.

Am I making this up? No, I don't think I am... Lent is meant to bring about a blooming of our spiritual life THROUGH stripping away what is less than necessary (though red wine's being superfluous is debatable) and adding extra practices to make our hearts more fertile ground for God to work in us!! But it MUST be laced with an increase of God's LOVE and MERCY... which He will not force on us! This experience has actually INCREASED my desire 1) to actually give prayer the weight it deserves 2) the grace to make prayer go deeper and 3) the penitence and recognition of my smallness to ask God for MORE help in getting me to where He wants me. And if I'm not mistaken (and I'm pretty sure I'm not because many priests have mentioned this), what we change/alter/give up is meant to spill over into the everyday long after we are finally able to shout ooh wait... not time to say it yet. These practices are meant to become everyday practices to some degree, so if I observe Lenten practices that are next to absurd, I can promise you that I am much more likely to resent them. If, however, the different things that I mentioned earlier can more easily become a part of my everyday life, then Lent was most definitely fruitful- in a sustainable kind of way. I'm shooting for sustainable changes here.

Hosea 2:14 - "I will allure her, I will lead her into the desert, and there I will speak to her heart." (emphasis mine)

Joel 2:13 "...and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lordyour God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love..."

Somewhere over the years, I must have started leaving some of those precious underlined words out... God has already told us that in the desert HE WILL SPEAK TO US and that going without for the sake of going without will NOT help us to learn of the Lord's  gracious and merciful Love!  I have a lot to learn, but this Lent is the start of something so wonderful and new! I used to approach Lent with a WOMP WOMP kind of attitude, but it seems like God in His mercy has allowed this Lent to be different- AND I'M LOVIN' IT- May lent be a season of FRUITFULNESS for all of us!

 Do I mean that for you to drop completely what you may have been doing this Lent? NOPE. I simply think that if you, like me, found/find yourself in a place where Lent is fruitless, there is still time! There is time to reevaluate and ask God to come into this Lent in a different way- a way FILLED with grace and mercy!