Saturday, December 26, 2015

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Advent: A time to WAIT or to PREPARE?

Advent sometimes brings a mix of apprehension and joy in my heart. Ordinary time is over, and we're moving into the season of anticipation and hope! But because David and I have decided that our family traditions include 1) Holding off on Christmas music and decorations until Rose Sunday 2) teaching our children to already know the truth about Santa  3) praying as a family around a lit Advent wreath and 4) adding an activity such as a Jesse Tree, a manger to be filled with "hay" that is made up of good deeds, etc...

...I admit that I struggle a lot to find balance between a certain amount of "white knuckling" through Advent and celebrating Christmas way too early. I used to act as if there were some sort of prize for being the one to celebrate Christmas the least before it's proper time. It makes Christmas day less about JOY and CELEBRATION and more about face-planting at a man-made finish line, spiritually exhausted and not at all prepared for the sheer joy that God means for us to experience. It's the truth that I used to picture God looking on me with hands on His hips and waiting to shake His almighty finger at me if I celebrated too early. Wow... someone's image of God was MESSED UP!

My pride tries desperately to creep in and stop me from the liberating experience that God wants to give me through this beautiful, hope-filled, room-making, anticipatory season. I don't bring this up because I have mastered it by any means, but because I have experienced what it feels like to reach Christmas morning and feel like God OWES me his Son because of all the waiting I've been doing. It's only been in the last few years that I have been able to dip my toe into the beauty that comes with PREPARING for Christmas instead of just WAITING for it.

To get a better sense of what I'm tackling, the best analogy that I have heard for this experience is a Hurricane: think about what happens when you prepare for a hurricane and when you simply wait for it. (Ok, if there is anyone who is not from the Gulf South, just think of your area's version of a big storm). I imagine some are wondering why I'm comparing Jesus to a hurricane... ask anyone who's had a complete 180 degree conversion and it's pretty similar to a hurricane. Anyway, you see the difference in waiting and preparing, right?  So how can I better prepare for Christmas?

Here are some ways that I have found make it easier to turn waiting into preparing:

  •  I try to think of Advent as a penitential season (yes, like Lent). I can choose to deny myself certain pleasures to strip away from my heart what is taking up too much space. (This means skipping desert and extra trips to Adoration and Mass or no TV after the kids are in bed, for example) I am really behind on this one so far this year...
  • Confession... to a priest.
  • Allow my children to talk about Christmas and ask all the questions that they want to help them better understand the difference between Advent and Christmas, while at the same time pointing out that we aren't READY to listen to/watch/decorate yet. (It's pretty sad that I use to wince when they would even attempt to talk about Christmas during Advent out of fear of celebrating incorrectly, and I would almost dismiss it completely. Sigh)
  • Study and pray with the Scriptures that are specific to Advent : Isaiah, the beginning of Luke's Gospel, John the Baptist's birth, or Advent reflection series.
  • All bets are off by Gaudete Sunday/Rose Sunday... ok not totally, but this is traditionally when we buy our tree, decorate, and allow the Christmas music to ring through the house. Truth be told, David would prefer to hold off even longer... but I JUST CAN'T STAND IT ANY LONGER!!! (December 17th is also another date that works, too. The antiphons in the Liturgy of the hours change on this day).... we're so close!!
          (A little tip... most Christmas trees are 1/2 off by this point).
  • Pregnancy- nothing helps me dive into the beauty or preparing room for the Christ child like actually growing one (obviously, we can't just dial this one up).
Each advent is a new experience. Our children are at different ages and their understanding is different, which means that we have to respond differently. I want more than anything to have a heart, a soul, (and a house) cleaned up and PREPARED to welcome Jesus, the God- made-man Child when I finally reach Christmas Mass and hear "Oh Come Let us Adore Him" ! We have a God who TRULY wants what is best for us, and for this season, it means He wants to walk with us through a season of softening and opening our hearts in order to gift us with HIS VERY SELF!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ghosts and goblins or saints and angels? Faithfully navigating Halloween by David Dawson

My husband wrote a wonderful article for the Archdiocese and they posted it recently on their website. I feel like David and I constantly have to explain ourselves and the reasons we make counter-cultural decisions about how to celebrate holidays. Instead of being resentful of this task, we see it as an opportunity to share the Truth... (on a good day- wink wink).

Here is David's Article:

Ghosts and goblins or saints and angels? Faithfully navigating Halloween

How to best celebrate Halloween has been a question many Catholic families have wrestled with, especially those with young children, and a wide variety of opinions have been offered.  It can be confusing to sift through all the different versions of the holiday’s origins and purposes, but from a Catholic perspective, there are a few important basics about Halloween to keep in mind when making plans with your family.
Most importantly, the word, “Halloween,” as most of us know, comes from the term “All Hallows Eve,” and although the wording sounds a little spooky, this simply means “The Eve of All Saints Day.”  Because All Saints Day is one of the great Solemnities of the year, its celebration starts the night before, just like on Sundays.  So, for Catholics, the evening of October 31st begins the joyous celebration of the amazing things God has accomplished through the lives of countless people throughout the centuries.  His victory over sin and death allows the saints to be with Him for eternity in Heaven and makes them able to intercede for us.  This is a huge deal!
Unfortunately, much of the modern celebration of Halloween centers on the excitement that comes from fear.  There’s a tendency to want to enjoy the thrill that comes from taking a peek at the seemingly immense power of death and darkness as opposed to the celebration of the immense power of God over death and darkness.  This is why even a light-hearted celebration of the power of fear steers us (and our kids) in the wrong direction.  Our faith tells us that ghosts and goblins aren’t real, but that angels and demons certainly are, and they are not equal in power.  It shouldn’t surprise us, though, that Halloween has become the main “holiday” for those involved in occult or Satanic activity, those who have been confused as to where true power and fulfillment are found.  Even when it’s not that extreme, Halloween is often used as an excuse for indulging in immoral activities, or even just candy, both of which reveal our tendency to believe that every now and then, the thrill of diving into things that are bad for us is awesome.
Now, it’s not sinful to dress up in a fun costume and collect candy from the neighbors or have an enjoyable get-together.  But, if this is our focus, it can easily distract us from the true gift of the night.  Especially when kids are involved, it can make a big difference to include some celebration of God’s victorious gifts seen through the different lives and intercession of the saints.  Take some time to enter into this awesomeness!  You might do saint costumes for parties or trick-or-treating; let your kids choose who they want to go as, and check out what makes that saint unique.  Maybe catch a vigil Mass before you go out, or just spend some time as a family in prayer letting your kids hear you express gratitude for what God has done through the particular saints that mean a lot to you.  Then, choose the gatherings or locations that allow the focus to be more on enjoying each other’s company than on the thrill of getting scared. 
It may be difficult to avoid the yearly exaltation of fear, but this All Hallows’ Eve, instead of just letting Halloween happen as it will, see if God has something greater in store for you and your family, and if tweaking the tradition can allow for something truly thrilling!
For fun and creative costume and craft ideas for your family, check out our "Faithfully Navigating Halloween" Pinterest Board!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A GIANT step toward understanding each other!

I am a blessed gal! I have a husband who is (good looking) sensitive and whose job it is to research, facilitate, and teach about marriage and family life! So when I saw these two books show up at our door, I knew we were about to dive into some good stuff. David and I have a unusually high affinity for learning about and teaching about the differences between men and women (maybe because we are DESPERATELY trying to understand each other).

It's a known fact that 1) men and women are EXTREMELY different and 2) We have to figure out how to get along somehow if the species is to survive, and most importantly 3) that God knew this when he made us male and female...

So no preaching here, I just have to say that if I had a bunch of money I would give these books away by the thousands (well, first I would pay off that blasted student loan) and THEN I would give these books away by the thousands. 

What's so special about them? They are written by a husband/wife team and was all started because the author (the wife) was researching how men think in an effort to enrich a character in a novel that she was writing. It lead to an all-out research project where thousands of men (and subsequently women) were interviewed to get a better idea of how men (then women) think. 

Here's what we've done: David and I read our books. Next we switched and read the other's book about our own gender, and highlighted what spoke to us most deeply about ourselves individually. (This would be the reason why I'm not loaning out our copies to you, so don't ask :).  Then we're rereading the book and discussing the findings in a sort of extended conversation we call a dialogue (part of our commitments for Domestic Church). It's not an efficient way to do this, but it has been so so fruitful and enriching...

I don't want to tell you EVERYTHING that's blown me away, but I'll give a teaser or two:
  • Basically ALL men desire to be RESPECTED more than they desire to FEEL LOVED- This gives me MANY opportunities to show him that I do (or don't) respect him- at home, in public, in front of others, etc. So, like, fussing at a my husband to stop and ask directions gives him the message that I don't trust him to get us where we're trying to go. I can choose to take a deep breath and wait for him to figure it out... because in a man's brain, it's actually an adventure to figure it out... who knew?
  • MOST men loves their wives and find them beautiful despite what extra pounds have been added on. As it turns out, though, they feel like our effort/lack thereof to exercise for more energy/get back in shape/lose weight speaks to them that they are WORTH the effort (or not). AND most men will do WHATEVER it takes to help us to do what needs to be done to help us with this. 
  • When your husband sees you looking really beautiful, his VERY NEXT THOUGHT (regardless of how timely it may or may not be) is to ... uh... do something about it. He's not a creep or a fanatic... it's how his brain is wired (in other words, the same part of the brain that lights up when he sees a buffet lights up when he sees you... what he DOES about it is an act of his will, of course). So I need to be sensitive and understanding in my responses.
Ok, maybe more than two... just in case you never buy these books...
  • Women's brains are wired like a computer (not a big shocker to most readers) , but the analogy was the best part... it's like a bunch of windows are open all at once (if even some are minimized) and pop-us and adds are constantly coming on the screen, making sticking to one task incredibly difficult. The advice to men is to help us close some of those windows out to be able to focus. LOVE IT!
  • When we see our husbands all dressed up fancy-like... that same part of the brain does NOT light up, which is why our response is not the same- Our brains are wired different (all windows open, remember? So we're constantly trying to connect all pieces of the puzzle).
  • My husband (and most husbands) believe that because we're married... we're good. An argument/disagreement does not bring that up for questioning, whereas when the same instance occurs, I'm CONSTANTLY wondering if "we're good" or if things are ok between us. That's why I'm such a nagger... "how are you feeling now?" "What are you thinking?" "Are we good?" UGH... I'm so annoying.
  • MEN HAVE A NOTHING BOX. They can actually pull out this box at will!! So when you ask your man, "Whatcha thinkin' about?" and he says, "Nothing"... he's actually thinking about NOTHING!! Amazing...
So what has this little book-reading exercise done for us? It has taught us SO much about each other and encourages and challenges us to take bold steps toward living better for each other, not out of blind obedience, but out of loving understanding. We are still praying, discussing, and discerning about why God made us this way and what we can do about it. It's opened up a lot of opportunities to TALK about our differences with each other... what a great step!

We are a mystery to the other, which does NOT mean that we won't ever understand the other. It simply means that the answers will NEVER be exhausted. What an awesome realization! 

(A word of caution: The authors do not seem to be coming from a mindset that utilizes natural family planning, so in one chapter in particular, be aware that this element is missing the ebb and flow of NFP.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Few Reasons Why/How We Homeschool...

Question from Stranger: "How do you do it?"
External Answer: (Either) "One day at a time, same as everyone else" or "A serious amount of GRACE!:
Internal answer: (some days) Oh please don't ask me anything that might make me cry in public.
(and other days) God is faithful! (I guess I should move this answer up to "external answer.")

Comment from stranger following the revelation that we homeschool: "I would, but I just don't have the patience."
External response: I hear 'ya, neither do I.
Internal response: I hear 'ya, neither do I.

David and I are so very fortunate that 1) I am able to stay home and 2) that God has called us to this and 3) We have a good number of kiddos. Do I feel like this every day? No, indeed. But today - the second day of our school year- I am reflecting, yet again, on the tremendous gift of homeschooling...

Why we homeschool: (here are just a few thoughts I wanted to share if you're wondering what this crazy lady is thinking taking on such a huge responsibility in educating her children). Keep in mind that these are my thoughts about OUR family, and that I am in NO way trying to make judgments about YOUR family. Also, keep in mind that we have 5 children, the oldest of whom is now 7, and so our life might look A LOT different than yours...

  • Because my children get to have each other (and me) to live with each day, rather than just a few moments here and there.

  • I am given MANY more moments to truly interact with my children rather than just manage them. I do a lot of managing during "school," but because we have SO MUCH MORE TIME to be together (not running around town multiple times a day/week), I have the opportunity to try BE WITH them... (unless I really need a nap... if that's the case, then see the next bullet)
  • I don't have to wake up before 6am to prepare lunches, breakfasts, uniforms, etc. Our household doesn't even begin  moving until after 7, or even later... like this morning when I didn't leave my room until 8 (after I dressed, was brought coffee by my fantastic husband, read the daily mass readings, and the liturgy of the hours).
  • We start school when I am darn well ready. That means that we don't have to follow a nine-month schedule OR finish a certain text book OR grade by the last weeks of May. John Paul is basically in the 2nd grade, but his handwriting is "first grade" and we are taking a step back to ensure that his methods are proper, and his reading level is well into third grade, so we are in a different reading curriculum than is customary. YOU CAN DO THAT WHEN YOU ARE THE TEACHER!
  • "The hard truth is that much of the best learning cannot be documented, proven, or demonstrated. The kind of encounters that form our children's hearts, minds, and souls occur as they come in contact with great books, learn to ask hard questions, and their minds are trained to think logically and well." -Sarah Makenzie
  • They interact with other children ALL THE TIME! Our community on the Northshore has literally hundreds of families who school the way we do, so there are numerous opportunities for our children to spend time with other children and families... and they are usually children and families who I ALSO enjoy spending time with!
  •  Even on my absolute worst day, the education is still better... not because I am a better teacher than a trained professional, but because my children (should) get one-on-one personalized instruction from the person who understands the great treasure that they truly are (or that's the goal).
  • "[God] never asked us to produce prodigies or achieve excellence. He asked me to faithfully commit every day to Him and then to do that day's tasks well. He's in charge of the results." - Sarah Mackenzie (I'm kind of obsessed with her and her blog and her book).
  • "It is our part to offer what we can, His to finish what we cannot." -St Jerome
  • As a pretty picky parent, there are certain things that I DEFINITELY want my children to learn... the right way... in the right context. Enough said on that... you know what I'm talking about.
  • This is a reason why, but it certainly is a bonus... we don't really get sick. The tummy bugs and viruses hit every now and then, but it is certainly not what it could be if they were bringing home everyone else's germs.
  • Even though I am certified to do exactly what I'm doing (early childhood education) and, if we're honest, we're still paying the loan for that masters, I still feel completely overwhelmed a lot times in thinking that I don't have what it takes. I feel like the 5000 are sitting in front of me asking to be fed. I simply need to remember that God isn't asking me to feed 5000, he is simply asking for my few loaves and fishes... or even just my empty basket.
  • We really believe that we are CALLED to this task. It's not just a logical decision. If that were so (ex- I feel like I'm going crazy, and that's bad for my children, therefore I won't homeschool right now). It is a decision that each family must discern for themselves, so if you are feeling a small tapping on your heart, ask God what He wants for your family! I would encourage you to move most the initial feeling of "I would go crazy if I were home with my kids all day" because I often feel that... ask my husband. 
  • David teaches them on MULTIPLE occasions. I usually punt to him with religion. If you've ever seen/heard David speak or teach, you'll understand why.
  • We desire that our children learn, read about, experience what is true, good, and beautiful, and that they learn to look at the world with WONDER and AWE. 
How we homeschool: these are just a few bullets for anyone who is thinking of it even a little bit
  • God "didn't mean for you to teach your calm children in a calm manner on a calm afternoon. He didn't even man teach on a full night's sleep..." (yes, her again) - Sarah Mackenzie
  • We get up, eat breakfast, get dressed, do a chore or two, change all the baby's poop diapers, and then we get started... notice there was no specific time attached to that. I posted a status on FB yesterday that it was 10:30 and we were already done for the day (not to toot my own horn, but to give a high five for homeschooling), and a friend of mine commented, "how 'bout this? It's 10:30 and we haven't even started!" 
  • I have a single subject notebook that has each day's assignments. JP checks off each assignment as he finishes it. These assignments also include watering the garden, reading a story WITH me and reading a story for one of the little bitties.
  • In our house, the babies outnumber the school-aged children. I have a box for the toddlers that include all kinds of things for them to do while I am working with the schoolers. This is should work, but ya know... most of the time the babies want to be doing what the big kids are doing. So I usually end up giving them "school looking" activities so that they feel big. 
  • I'm not doing this because I want my children to get full paid scholarships to the most prestigious universities in the county. To be honest, most of the homeschoolers I know tend to choose schools that keep them within a reasonable distance from their families. 
  • Each year I send a three sentence letter into the state that says that we will be schooling our children at home.
  • There are NUMEROUS resources (MANY of them are free) that help! Curriculum, legal assistance, scholarships, etc. I can't imagine doing this without the internet, youtube, and a printer!
  • I do not expect that we will homeschool EVERY child EVERY year until that graduate from high school. It's a year by year discernment. We seriously prayed about placing ours in a traditional school this coming year, but soon realized that God simply wanted us to be open to whatever gifts He wants to give us. This year, it's schooling at home.

And one final quotation from my girl... 

"Take a moment. Take ten. Look deep into your child's eyes. Listen, even when you're bored. Break out a board game or an old picture book you haven't read in ages. Resting in [God] means relaxing in the knowledge that He has put these children in our care to nurture. And nurturing looks different than charging through the checklist all angst-like. 

Your children are not ordinary or ordinary people, because there are no ordinary kids or ordinary people. They are little reflections of the Almighty, and He expects us to treat them as such."

Please know that we have only been doing this for three years and we have barely even dipped our toe into the homeschool apostolate. This is some insight from a rookie.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Throwin' out the old cloth...

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” Mark 2:21,22

I remember when John Paul was barely a year old, and I met a woman who briefly shared something with me. I don't remember her name or how many children that she had in total, but I do remember that she said, "It took five children before I could fully surrender to motherhood..."

I've never forgotten those words, and while I know that every woman is different in what they can handle (or at least think that they can handle), I wondered if I, too, could surrender to motherhood at five...

So the question is not so much, "Have I surrendered to motherhood yet?" as much as it is, "What does surrendering to motherhood look like?" Well, lately I feel like the answer is being revealed to me... I am at my wit's end. (Warning: the following contains the spilling out of the contents of my heart. You may be scandalized by the raw information)

I am thinking, saying, and doing things that I swore I would never do and scoffed at mothers who thought, said, or did these things. I am tired of hearing my name at the end of the day. I raise my voice way more than I would like, sometimes because everyone's combined voices reach the decibel level of a vacuum cleaner and sometimes because I have down right lost my... uh patience. I get shaky with fear when I think about the truth that God is still calling us to raise a big(ger) family and get nervous when I've incorrectly assessed by daily fertility... what if I mislabel the day and we get pregnant and God's plan comes to pass before I've jumped on board?

We can't really go anywhere in public without someone throwing a tantrum. We were at the library today for all of 5 minutes before one of the children had a meltdown and I drug him by one arm to the corner while he continued to scream (and yes I got looks). So we basically don't go anywhere all day, and I'm that mom seeking out any neighbor who pokes their head out the door just to have an adult to talk to...

The baby has reached the "4 month sleep regression" stage of infancy, and while it's most definitely easier to handle than the first four children, it certainly was nice only waking up once. I said "the d word" when one of the kids tore open the band-aids in the grocery store and was immediately repeated... that's actually the first time, which is a miracle! And the kids have discovered the CD player in the classroom and how to work it, not to mention that most of our library books come with a read-a-loud CD. So from sup up to sun down (or when Daddy comes home) there is some form of music playing, and it ain't Paul Simon... BECAUSE IT KEEPS THEM OCCUPIED!

ANYWAY... let's take a break from this negativity for some cuteness

 Cow Appreciation Day 2015... we got 5 free meals out of this cuteness!
 Mary Clare- can't get enough of this precious girl!

 Therese loves to dress as animals! MEOW!
                                          Her creativity far surpasses mine... it's always interesting to see what she does with it!
 Obviously it's exhausting

 The Spidy is going to be 7 next month!
They're a little different in size.

With all this cuteness, what could possibly be the source of my woes? I share all this not for sympathy, but to provide a context for you. I have come to the realization that I can no longer get through the week without having a total "I'm going crazy, we're not having any more kids, and I'm not home schooling ever again" meltdown. If I'm honest -and I'm pretty sure that I'm being honest- I hit that place by Wednesday afternoon.

The truth is that I can't even make it through the day without realizing that I'm toast unless I FULLY open up to the Lord and put myself in a position to receive his CONSTANT grace. I wake up afraid to open the door and face the onslaught of kids and their needs. I reach the end of the day empty and with nothing left for my precious, handsome, loving husband. I've reach the point of needing to surrender...

In praying with Scripture today, I read this:
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” Mark 2:21,22

HELLO!! Spiritually knocked of my horse! Each new child brings a new season, and with each new season, the old cloth JUST WON'T WORK! I can't have the same expectations of myself (or of anyone else for that matter) when the season changes. I have FIVE children now, not four. I have two who don't nap- not one. I have two children who have a tremendous need for quality time and physical touch- not one. I have a newborn who is actually a PERSON and not just a cute little peanut who should do the same thing EVERY day and respond the same way to the same set of stimuli each time. If I apply my old self and my old ways to this new season in our family,  we will ALL be in big trouble.

It has also been part of my paradigm shift to remind myself as often as possible that THESE CHILDREN ARE GIFTS!! I am NOT entitled to them NOR do I deserve them... when that mindset is properly in place, I treat them a little (hopefully a lot) more like the gifts they are than the burdens that I sometimes treat them to be. And what is it that I feel like they stop me from doing? Folding clothes? Making a meal? Messing around on the computer? Typing a blog post? Talking on the phone? Sitting on the potty in silence? What I do IS ALL FOR THEM, with few exceptions, so why is their actual, physical presence burdensome? 

"The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own' or 'real' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life- the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls ones' 'real life' is a phantom of one's own imagination."  -C.S. Lewis 

Maybe this season means that we only go a few places a week. Maybe this season means that I don't sleep in the middle of the day and that I don't get up to exercise and/or pray BEFORE the house rises (which is a daily goal of mine). I shouldn't go to the grocery store with everyone when the listen has more than 5 items on it. This season means that we have NOBODY over 7, and 2 1/2 potty trained kiddos, and one who actually listens the first time... this is the season. It won't always be this difficult I'm told. But even if it is, then the grace will be there if I open myself up to it. And I don't mean reading a book that encourages me and gives me some nuggets to chew on and a shot in the arm. A family retreat won't cure my sinfulness and weaknesses (we will have gone on two in the last 3 months after next week) Because although those things are super important and helpful, they don't take the place of grace and what God can provide for a FULL BLOWN PARADIGM shift... God's big enough. How many times has He done that for others? 

If you see me out in public, know that we may not be able to talk because one of mine WILL run into oncoming traffic with glee... but maybe just remind me that I have tossed the old cloth because the "garment" is new and needs something/someONE different. Fully surrendering to motherhood might be defined as the DAILY taking advantage of grace or crash and burn. If I know what surrendering to motherhood looks like, then maybe I can take steps in that direction.

This is the season...

I should note that the timing of this particular post represents the beginning of this realization need for paradigm shift. I'll let you know when I feel like can say with confidence, "I surrendered to motherhood once I had five."  It's a tall order, but this isn't the first time God has had to do something drastic with me.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Memo to Me: Daughter first. Wife Second. Mother Third.

It occurred to me recently that I have mixed up a few roles that I play...

All three of these are roles are a gift. They are important. They are my whole life...
But the problem comes when I realize (by God's grace) that I have mixed these up.

I am someones' Mama...

Motherhood. It seems like there can be no greater gift than to conceive, grow, birth, and nurture another immortal soul inside a precious little body, let alone 5 (and our three other precious souls in heaven whose bodies I will be with when I get there). It takes EVERYTHING to do this. Correction. It takes more than everything to do this, and this is not so because I have five children. To have one child is more difficult a lot of times, so mamas with less children than me, do not think that your job is any less difficult. Anyways...

Because this vocation seems to take the most physical, mental, and emotional energy, it's easy for me to justify letting it be the most important thing- which means that my other two roles take a back seat to motherhood. If you've never heard this before, let me be the first to tell you that this shouldn't be the case. I don't say it in this way because I'm awesome (though my kids think I'm pretty awesome), I say it because I want to free you!!  Guess what role comes before motherhood?

I am someone's wife...

 (I'm pretty positive that David is the MOST HANDSOME MAN EVER. Let's look at this picture for a while...)

I'm sorry, I lost my train of thought...

Being David's wife has made me a mom. It's given me purpose, and it's provided me a way to become a better person by continuously learning to pour myself out for someone else good (just to clear the air, it's not what I do best, but I'm really trying, y'all). And as a bonus, David is for sure the BEST husband- he goes ALL out, he dives in, he gives of himself constantly, and he thinks I'm pretty!!

Our marriage is not something that we're good at naturally. The tool boxes that we carry to love each other are quite small, which is why being husband and wife (while much more important than being Mommy and Daddy) cannot be the most important titles that we hold...

I am Someone's daughter...

THIS is the whole shebang, y'all!! Because I am limited in my capacity to love my children and my husband, then my MOST important role HAS to be that I am a dsughter of the KING OF THE UNIVERSE!! Here's an image that helps me:

Ok. now picture a backpack that acts as the carrier of my ability to love someone other than myself. Now picture a hose that goes from the VERY HEART OF CHRIST (whose heart was pierced and out flowed blood and water) to my back pack. Do you see what this gives me?!?! It gives me an INEXHAUSTIBLE resource to love my husband and my children!! What's the catch? I HAVE to stay plugged up (to Christ's heart). If I make sure to have individual prayer time with Him, I have to make sure that I am praying with David (because with couple prayer I am praying to the Lord while David listens in, and there is no more intimate experience than that), and I have to read the Scriptures!! And most of all - I need to participate in the Sacraments!! Receiving the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ helps me to BE CHRIST to those around me...

The greatest gift- beyond being able to have children and to be married to the most fantastic man on the planet- is ACTUALLY that I am a daughter of God!!

So where did this memo to me come from?

I was looking at this face...
Holding my sweet young daughter who is absolutely, 100% dependent on me to KEEP HER ALIVE, much less to love and nurture her, God gave me the gentle reminder that I am like this in HIS arms: helpless, dependent, and vulnerable... Remembering that I am His beloved daughter first will make me a better wife and mama!!

So somebody remind me when I get these mixed up, ok?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What a (fantastic) waste of time...

It's been while since I've last posted, and I have honestly thought that nobody was reading anyway, nut then I had a few people here and there tell me that they follow the blog... so this one's for those three people:

Have you ever noticed that our culture places a lot of emphasis on productivity and efficiency? I'm sure this is brand new information to you. Even as I type these words, I admit that I had to force myself this afternoon to go lie down rather than to sit here and type out this post... to see words and pictures come out on a screen, or to see toys and books on the shelf from the floor, or the see the dishwasher empty then full, then empty then full (then empty then full) feels good- like I've accomplished something in this little Dawson microcosm. I also try to use their video time to get these chores done in a speedier fashion (No, Baby Einstein, I do not use your videos for interactive play time). We housewives might be the worst at succumbing to the pressures of productivity over any fortune five hundred CEO (sorry to pick on you if one is reading this).

So now that I've blown our cover, I wanted to mention a little secret that has been revealed to me recently. Let me clear the air that it is not my intelligence or mothering skills that has revealed the following thoughts, but the loving ways of God- He is such a gentle teacher when I stop to listen...

1) We went on a FAMILY RETREAT in Panama City Beach, Florida. I imagine that those two words seem diametrically opposed to one another, and I'm sure one could argue that a retreat is NOT a waste of time to go on retreat, but on this particular retreat, there is a point in the afternoon called family time, and I love the way that the priest spoke of it. He said something like, "this is meant to be a time to waste with your family! Nothing else is happening, you aren't preparing for the next week's events, you'll be building sand castles that will be washed away within minutes and it will be all for nothing, and the only thing to do is talk and play with your kids, and it is incredibly inefficient!"

What a beautiful time this turned out to be! After a morning of spiritual formation among adults, the afternoon is spent with my family! We've been on three family retreats so far, and I can attest to the incredible amount that DOESN'T get done- but so much happens that cannot be measured (unless, of course, we post our family time experiences on Facebook, because otherwise, did it really happen?) The best example of this is David with the kids at the beach. Their favorite thing to do is DIG A HOLE! It's a group effort, and it's their favorite thing to do on the beach besides wading out into the water in his arms, in which case, whoever is left on shore with me gets to throw endless handfuls of sand into the waves.

And of course, Mary Clare (at 7 weeks) did this the entire time on the beach. 
Talk about a team player!

The other aspect of wasting time together is that just because you're not do work doesn't mean that spending time as a family is easy. It's very hard, not only because we are fighting our own desire to be getting something else done, but because spending time with our families brings about... all the things that happen when you hang with your fam -> this means, fighting, disciplining, spills, arguments, misunderstanding, and frustration. But the beauty of it is that we're learning to be family, and that's all we're doing...

We have a little rule in our family that Sunday's are always family time- nothing else happens on Sundays. We don't do anything but hang out and eat (and have glorious sleep). This is difficult for me (and I'll sometimes empty the dishwasher if we've run out of counter space due to the dirty dishes, but David looks at me like I'm cheating) usually because I am looking around the house and seeing the projects that didn't get done that weekend and fearing the week ahead because of it. This practice has become so joy-filled and fruitful for us!!

2) Micah has needed us to waste time with HIM lately:

As it turns out, having a baby has rocked this little guy's world. As much as I can tell, his love languages are physical touch and quality time - two things that he has NOT had from me since Mary Clare has been born. He will be TWO this Saturday (can you believe it?) and his needs, when not met, have made him extremely high maintenance... poor little guy. A major fruit of the family retreat was that Micah and I had a lot of time together just the two of us. There was a lot for the children to do while the parents were receiving spiritual formation, but Micah would have NONE of the nursery, despite it being a haven of little kid toys and goldfish. He spent most of his time with me while David was giving talks, and the fruits of that really showed itself the following week when we returned home. He was more content, sillier, happier, and had less tantrums. It showed me that when I take the time to focus on Micah rather than constantly appease him (Want some juice? Here's your passy. Just a second) we were both much happier (and so was the rest of the household). Sometimes he just needs me to be doing nothing else but hanging out with him - books, snuggling, holding him while I check the mail, etc). This is one of those situations that, at the end of the day, you pray that Jesus and Mary fill in the gaps where our children may not have felt loved). I'm so grateful for this revelation from God.

3) Prayer- wasting time with the Lord:

In Domestic Church (see "retreat" link to know more... who am I kidding? If you have EVER read my blog, you've heard about Domestic Church) one of the daily commitments is individual prayer. The Israelites called it the "Tent of Meeting" because when they were in the desert, Moses used to leave the community and go away to a tent where he would speak with God face to face. Moses came out of the tent with a dazzling white face... that's exactly what my prayer is like... all the time!

In the last few years of learning how to improve this kind of prayer, a dear friend and priest helped me to further qualify what it means to pray by telling me to ask myself the question "am I wasting time with God?" In other words, the ONLY prayer during the day can't be done WHILE other things are going on. Mowing the grass, driving to work, folding the clothes. Can we converse with the Lord while these things are going on? ABSOLUTELY! Imagine, though, if the only conversations that you have with your spouse were had while doing something else. What about our children? How close would you feel to him/her? It's the same with God. So to truly pray means to be sitting in silence (or at a significantly smaller decibel level) and be with Him WHILE DOING NOTHING ELSE for a few minutes every day. AND THIS IS SO SO HARD!!

I'm sharing this revolutionary idea with you NOT because I've mastered it, but quite the contrary. The first step for me has been during that first morning video- it's a personal goal to NOT to go through the house like a white tornado trying the get things done, but to go to my room and enter the tent of meeting. Most of the time, I can merely acknowledge the reality that God is present before my little Micah man is frantically trying to open the door because I have left his sight. But for a few seconds I have focused on the images on our wall - usually the crucifix and Our Lady of Guadalupe and concentrate on the presence of the Lord (and His mother), and the fruits of those few precious moments is astounding.

Thanks for reading... now go be unproductive!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Ca C'est Bon, " cried the hurricane!

Well we're one month into being a family of 7!

It's been insane!! Today in particular I am learning a very important lesson... it's so cliche'!! DANCE EVERY DAY. Why am I saying this? Because I have cried the last few days each time things get a little hectic: baby is ready to eat. Someone is whining. A 22 month old (which speaks for itself) 2 children who have quality time and physical touch for love languages (and they haven't been getting much of it). Homeschooling has tanked...

No this is not a post to complain or to ask for your sympathy...

I stumbled upon one of my favorite CDs from one of my FAVORITE families on the planet! I have played it each day when I feel the hot tears brimming. I pick of the child/children who I might throw through the window (yes I said that) and dance with them... sweet relief for every one. I wouldn't change this INSANITY for anything! I love being up to my neck in my little olive plants. God is so good (and He isn't afraid of a little insanity).

And now I shall leave you... because the 3 1/2 year old has his easter basket stuck around his neck. The baby is screaming to nurse and the 22 month old is trying climb out of his crib.

So in the words of this next song, "...don't be afraid to try to live the good life!"

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mary Clare Dawson ... the arrival post!

Just one day after her due date, Mary Clare came. Wednesday March 18th at 9:23 pm. The labor was during the day, the epidural was glorious, I could still wiggle my toes, and by 10 pm we were all quieted down and loving on our newest little olive plant!

 Sleeping beauty

My precious friend Amber came and is she captured a few moments...

Then the children and the grandparents came...

The first eye poke was captured...

Now we've been home for three weeks, and it has been a wonderful, fantastic, CRAZY, precious time with our larger family... I think it's safe to say that we have a big family, don't you? If you disagree, keep it to yourself until a year passes, ok? 

We had two wonderful weeks with David home. He's back at work now, and we're most definitely taking life one half-day at a time. 

Which is working out really well...

 (So maybe she's not into matching with her big sister...)

And how are the other big kids doing? 
They are superheroes!! 

Thank you for your prayers and know that you were prayed for during labor and delivery! God is so faithful and gracious! Praise God!!