About Kristen

A 30-something wife and mama of 3 (so far) living out my faith (Catholic) in the southeastern US.

All the Best Finds

Links guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, smile and feel the gratitude and love.

From CBS News, parents taught their son with Downs Syndrome nothing was impossible. They thought they might have to all learn the painful way, but as it turns out, they were right–nothing is impossible.

 

Also from CBS, this time from CBS Sunday Morning, an update to a story of a talented man who left everything he knew and loved to save his family. And how they are living what he won’t call the American dream, instead the American reality.

 

Have you seen the Vine of this lamb? Now don’t you want one?

 

An ALS ice bucket challenge done right and done local. Bonus: it happened in the city my parents live in.

At Father Z’s blog, St Monica’s instruction to her son as to where her body should be buried. Just like a mother. And a saint.

Cardinal Dolan’s brief reflections on St Augustine and St Monica are not to be missed.

And finally…the video done from Wrightsville Beach’s Surfer’s Healing:

Seven Quick Takes Friday

— 1 —

I was all set to type these up last night and for them to publish and WHAMMO! Fell asleep watching a rerun of Community. I guess I really needed that sleep. Especially because I was up at 3:30 AM to let the cat up, up at 5 when Jeff’s alarm went off, then 5:20 when Joseph climbed into bed with me, 5:30 when I heard Shelby up and making quite a ruckus in her room.

(NSFW, small children…) Well, that’s about what the ruckus sounded like AND I found I was in the beginning stages of an allergy induced migraine. After Shelby got up and was settled, Joseph started wheezing. Because my morning wasn’t awesome enough. I got him set up with the nebulizer and went back to bed. For 30 minutes.

— 2 —

I started the Whole 30 today. I was thinking about and pulled it up online and then the same day I finally looked it up, Haley decided she was going to start it today and started a facebook support group. So, I thought, hey why not. This is obviously something that God felt I should do/try or He wouldn’t have had one of my favorite gals of the interwebs post about it the same day I was looking into it. So far, I’ve have a hard boiled egg for breakfast and a big old mug of hot Irish Breakfast tea sans sweetener. I’m not dying although I did throw my hands up in the air and ask, “Why God! Why!” when I saw that there is no bacon without sugar. And I stupidly bought sweetened flaked coconut for my Monkey salad. I will have to exchange that but other than that, it’s been okay. Oh yeah, wakes up with migraine on day 1…yay me!

— 3 —

Still no movement on the house front. St Joseph, I know you got this!

— 4 —

So, need a first day of school post and all, but all three kids are in school. All have had a great week. All of them love their teachers. That will have to suffice for the time being.

— 5 —

I love working at a store where I get an employee discount. Wow, does it make things more affordable. And they link the same items I get a discount on to my kids’ school. So, double benefits. It also means I get to eat and have a clean house–triple, no quadruple benefits. Sorry,I just had to share.

— 6 —

So, my boys love all the “dog shaming pics” you find on social media. There most recent favorite was a pug who had a sign saying he ate crayons and pooped rainbows. But this one right here, this one is on the money for a dog we know.

My parents have a husky named Padme. Padme likes to chew things she thinks are toys up. Sometimes they are toys. Just not her toys. This summer at the beach she ate Shelby’s plastic Cinderella and attempted to eat Mario’s hat off the boys’ plush Mario. The baby Jesus from the nativity scene…a mere appetizer.

— 7 —

Speaking of Baby Jesus, it’s almost September. Not December. I could really do without the Christmas countdowns I’m seeing EVERYWHERE!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Deo Gratias

From Colleen’s blog Thoughts on Grace is her weekly meme Deo Gratias.

Deo Gratias is Latin for “Thanks be to God.” Remembering to give thanks for all of our blessings, big and small, helps us to find God in our everyday moments and gives us an attitude of gratitude!

1. Everyone (except Daddy, his is tomorrow) has had their first day of school and was successful. Deo Gratias!

2. William got the teacher he wanted and loves kindergarten. Deo Gratias!

3. On Monday an unfamiliar but local number popped up on caller-ID. I answered and was delighted to hear the voice of the Children’s Program coordinator for Bible Study Fellowship. How I’ve missed that voice and those ladies. It brightened my day. Deo Gratias!

4. After pondering The Whole 30, the same day I googled it, Haley said she was going to do and started a facebook support group. Since my family cannot participate with me, this is the kick in the pants I need. Deo Gratias!

5. My poor son has had some, not painful but ugly looking, fungus on his toe. I had tried any number of remedies before trying what we’ve found works for athlete’s foot. VaporRub (the Vicks kind). His toe was 90% clearer after just one treatment and he’s less self-conscious about it. Deo Gratias! 

Everywhere’s a Classroom

It may surprise some people to know that despite my children going to public school, I still seek out additional learning opportunities whenever I can. I also jump on the chance when an unlikely source produces itself as a chance to learn important lessons.

One of those sources that recently appeared was the tv show The Simpsons.

I know, I know, what you’re thinking, The Simpsons??? Well, let me back up. I remember watching the first episode, Simpson’s Roasting On an Open Fire on tv in the fourth grade. My parents, like most of the parents of the day, were mildly entertained while horrified mostly because it appeared on Fox and showed at least one disrespectful child. By the time I rolled around to high school, South Park had come out and Beavis and Butthead in between the two and then a couple of years later while I was in college Family Guy made its premier. By that time The Simpsons seemed very tame. My parents did the right thing and continued to instruct us that disrespectful behavior, bullying, language toward adults and vandalism were not tolerated and we all turned out okay.

Not everyone’s idea of great tv for kids, but we do own the first two seasons of the series and we also tune in Sunday nights, occasionally. William really enjoys the show. For five years old he has a great grasp of some of the larger ideas presented on it and asks to watch those early seasons from time to time. Last week was one of those times. In the second season there are two episodes in particular that showed themselves to be learning experiences.

The very first Treehouse of Horror episode shows Bart and Lisa in the treehouse with their Halloween loot. They are attempting to scare one another with competing tales of “terror.” Bart starts with a story of the family moving into a home on an Indian Burial ground that attempts to make them turn on each other until Marge (Julie Kavner) tells the house it cannot push them around. The house turns moody at that point and ends up destroying itself rather than have the Simpson family live there. As Lisa says, “You can’t help but feel a little rejected.” The next is a story told by Lisa where the family is abducted by aliens voiced by Harry Shearer (in a voice reminiscent of his Principal Skinner voice) and James Earl Jones. The aliens ask the family to continue to eat in preparation for their arrival at the alien’s home planet. Lisa uncovers what she thinks is a plot to fatten the family up to kill them and insults the aliens who dump the family back on earth. Finally, Lisa reads Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. It is actually narrated by James Earl Jones with the protaganonist narrated by Dan Castelleneta as Homer and Nancy Cartwright’s Bart as a very annoying raven. I was careful not to mention so much Poe initially but the kids laughed and thought that this was the best of the stories. And they quote it. We’ve talked about the poem a little, my kids are still pretty young to be learning about poetic structures just yet and meter but, guys, my kids quote Edgar Allan Poe. And I swoon. Thank you Matt Groening for putting actual literature, real art, on my television.

But that DVD yielded another surprising education experience. It contains the episode Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish. Those of you that know your American history and politics have probably guessed correctly that there is an election in this episode by the title. The episode begins with Bart and Lisa fishing in the lake by the nuclear power plant their father works at. An investigative journalist wanders by and strikes up a conversation. The kids snag a fish and the reporter gets his scoop when the fish is shown to have three eyes. Shortly after, the power plant undergoes a safety inspection by the government that it miserably fails. Mr Burns (Charles Montgomery Burns voiced by Harry Shearer), the plant owner becomes enraged at government regulation and decides to run for governor. This puts Homer in a tight spot as Mr Burns begins to put the heat on him. Marge voices her displeasure with supporting Mr Burns as she’s done her political homework and knows which candidate she backs up. Meanwhile, the thee-eyed fish is an albatross around Mr Burns’ neck with the voters it seems. It all comes to a head when Mr Burns’ political consultants tell him he needs to be filmed having dinner with a family of one of his workers and the Simpson family is chosen. Lisa is crestfallen at being a political pawn for someone whose politics she despises. Homer inadvertantly gives Marge a trump card when she says she has no voice and he points out her housekeeping and cooking are a kind of voice. When Lisa admits she feels helpless and a tool of evil, Marge tells her she will learn many things at dinner, one of which will be not to underestimate her mother. Marge serves Mr Burns dinner but she also serves him up a hard proposition to swallow without ever saying a word. (I won’t spoil it for you, it is worth seeing on film.) The voice cast of the show has said on Inside the Actor’s Studio that this is one of their favorite episodes they have ever done. And it’s not hard to see why. The boys and I have talked a lot about this episode and what it means to stand up for what you believe in. We’ve also used as a primer on civil disobedience and how speech is not always the spoken word. Marge Simpson is a sort of Atticus Finch in this particular episode, not afraid to do what is unpopular and not backing down.

I really enjoyed watching these episodes and discussing them with the boys. They are learning things and don’t even know it which makes it all the better for me. And we’ve discussed some of the behavior and how it’s not acceptable or how we do not speak to adults that way. Trust me, I want well-rounded adults coming out of this house but well-mannered, well-rounded adults. I hope we’ll find more gems like this in television, movies, games or whatever fun activities we end up doing.

Back To School: A Lesson in Grace?

This time tomorrow morning my two big kids will have completed their first day of school (William has a staggered start for kindergarten and starts Tuesday). I’m not doing the happy dance yet, but Joseph’s backpack is packed and both his and Shelby’s uniforms have been set out (yes, the go to public school and wear uniforms). Everyone is relaxing for the moment. William is the last to take a bath and is finishing up.

I am pleased with my children’s classroom assignments this year. I was last year too. I hadn’t known Joseph’s teacher before but meeting her just one time, I know they’ll be a great match. William desperately wanted the teacher his big brother had last year and got her. Shelby is still with the same teacher and two assistants and it looks as though our wish may come true for the teacher she goes to resource classes with. 

But as I scrolled through my personal facebook feed, many parents had different stories to tell. A few were upset that a teacher they’d had a not great experience with before was assigned to their child. But far more were suffering major anxiety because their child had a “new teacher.” That’s in quotes because the teacher was not necessarily in his or her first year of teaching but new to the school in general. For the most part, these are parents who love their school and have had mostly great experiences. But getting a new teacher wasn’t part of the agenda. 

For some people, change is feared. As the parent of a child with autism, I can tell you I know that all too well. There are no guarantees with my child. Or her brothers for that matter. But change is often a chance for God to break our hearts and rebuild them. It is always an opportunity to turn to Him and surrender in our weakness.

As I was sharing with a parent of our experience with a new teacher that turned out very positively, I began to realize where I’d seen this before.

Each spring the Bishop in the Diocese announces parish re-assignments. And thus begins the wailing and gnashing of teeth.”But I just got used to this guy!” “Wait, the new guy is from Africa?! Will I be able to understand him?” “I heard that so-and-so and Father X’s last parish said he’s going to introduce guitars at mass and allow female altar servers!” And while occasionally someone’s worst fears are realized, more often than not, life goes on. Sometimes we even find out we kind of like this new guy. Or we find that another parish we’d never thought to try is actually the place we should have been.

And we saw this on a literally global scale in 2013 when Pope Francis was elected. I remember how the blogosphere exploded with “Oh no! A Jesuit!” And how many converts who came into the church under Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had extreme anxiety about what this all meant and how would we go on? And most of us said at least, “Who is this Cardinal from Argentina who takes the bus?” And while some people are still up in arms, most people have realized that gay marriage is not happening nor are womyn priests. TLM has not been suppressed.

It happens when changes are made in the Church, so of course we freak out when our child’s teacher is someone we don’t know. The Gospel today talks about how Jesus established Peter as head of the Church when Peter acknowledged that He was the Christ, the one true God. After Peter’s martyrdom, the leaders in the Church elected Linus and so on until we had a conclave that elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio Pope in 2013.And like Simon, son of Jonah, was given the name Peter, so Jorge took the name Francis, just as Joseph took the name Benedict and Karol took the name John Paul before him. Our Godfather-priest pointed this out in his homily last night. Every institution has it’s hierarchy. Even a classroom with its teacher. And over 2000 years of us Catholics doing this doesn’t make us freak out less, we freak out more. So, when a teacher leaves and a principal and hiring committee choose someone to take his or her place, we question it. Of course we do. Do we get anxious over it? Oh you betcha we do!

But what we need to see in these circumstances that are very much beyond our control is that they are opportunities to grow in grace. They are chances for us to trust that God’s plan is bigger than what we see and so we should cling to Him in trust. Just as the Pope is elected by the College of Cardinals under the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit, so a group of qualified individuals interview each candidate not only to see how many credentials they have but how well they will work with faculty and the student make-up of the school. And if a teacher has a different personality or style in the classroom, it doesn’t make it worse. They still may have many valuable lessons to teach both from the books and aside from them. We’ve seen recently how a difference in charism between a current Pope and his predecessor can energize people in different ways. It can ignite faith in some and even for those who at first were confused or upset find themselves rejuvenated.

After the election of Pope Francis, I listened to Vatican radio as Cardinals Turkson, Tagle and Gracias all advised the faithful to exercise caution not to compare charisms between Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict. I found myself giving similar advice about a new teacher. Style, technique and even focus may be different but we should avoid comparing Mrs Smith to Mrs Jones. Mrs Smith may still have wonderful things to contribute although her delivery is different. 

Being open to God’s will and receiving His grace means we need realize His hand is in the changes we go through in life. That they are not to be feared but give us a chance to trust and obey Him and His will. And as we begin this new school year, it is important for parents to remember this no matter whether we put our children in public school, private school, parochial, or homeschool. If the teacher is a well-loved veteran or a newbie, we have that chance. May God allow all of us to seek His will and surrender to it. 

And may God bless you, your children and their teachers this school year.

Because the Holy Spirit has been all up in my grill about this…

Something has been repeatedly in my face over the last two weeks. It is: Trusting in the Lord and asking only His will and acceptance of it.

So, it started when I read this. While it deals with marriage, it raises the larger question: when we ask God to do His will are we truly willing to accept that will? And moreover is our prayer designed to try and make God bend His will to our desire? It’s a real thinker. 

Then this quote appeared for the feast day of St Pius X:

My hope is in Christ, who strengthens the weakest by His Divine help. I can do all in Him who strengthens me. His Power is infinite, and if I lean on him, it will be mine. His Wisdom is infinite, and if I look to Him for counsel, I shall not be deceived. His Goodness is infinite, and if my trust is stayed in Him, I shall not be abandoned.

- Pope Saint Pius X (1835-1914), Feast day August 21

“…and if my trust is stayed in Him, I shall not be abandoned.” Those words pierced my heart. Trusting God. Knowing His will is perfect and mine is not.

That same day, this scrolled in my feed from the K-Love Morning Show:

K Love Psalm 62So, through an article on marriage, a saint, and sacred Scripture, God was sending me a very clear message. Ask, but trust.

The very next day, the K-Love Morning Show delivered this beautiful but simple prayer:

K Love 2So, here was a key…admitting I had failed often but asking Jesus to help me to obey this will that was not my own.

And the knock-out punch, the cast-iron skillet to the back of my thick head was this quote from St Jane Frances de Chantal I came across randomly:

“If we patiently accept through love all that God allows to happen, then we will begin to taste even here on earth something of the delights the saints experience in heaven. But for this we must serve God willingly and lovingly, seeking to obey the Divine Will rather than to follow our own inclinations and desires. For the perfection of love demands that we desire for ourselves only whatever God wills. Let us implore the good God unceasingly to grant us this grace!”

~~ St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Yeah Kristen, pray for it and don’t stop. Ask God to unceasingly give me the grace to accept His will and reject my own. And stop having doubts. Heck, pray for the doubts to subside so that you can have help in that. Ask for the intercession of Pope Saint Pius X and St Jane Frances de Chantal. Pray for strength to endure.

God is a god of love and mercy and compassion. It is impossible for His will to cause us any harm or pain, but turning from it almost certainly does both. No matter what, it always isolates us from Him. As if that deepest pain were not enough, it can always cause us more immediate pain emotionally, psychologically and physically. Willful deviation from God’s will is a sin of pride. A sin of thinking we know better than God what is right. It is a sin that I know very well. It is a sin I struggle with and against daily. 

Right now we are very uncertain with the house being on the market and possibly moving. I’ve been praying for a quick sale, but it’s looking less and less likely. I made the huge change to switch parishes during this time which seemed so silly according to the world’s eyes, but I knew it was God’s will. And I kept second guessing what would happen.But eventually God revealed that the house selling process wouldn’t go entirely how we had planned and we would remain in our home for a little while longer. And once we do move, this new parish will be the same distance we are now, just coming from a different way. My doubt was downright foolish. In addition I was apprehensive as to how the new school-year would unfold. I had in my mind that moving over summer was the only possible thing to do, but I realize now God is asking me to trust Him and His ways and timing. That by clinging to Him, I will receive grace and I will not be abandoned. 

Thanks again, Holy Spirit.

 

Answer Me This

Answer Me This3

 

Joining Kendra at Catholic All Year for Answer Me This: the internet’s favorite virtual cocktail party.

1. What is your favorite picture book?
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. Hands down. It’s my favorite color and I love the way Harold’s purple crayon helps his imagination soar. 
2. Are you a boycotter?

With reservations. I do avoid buying anything with a pink ribbon on it to support  Planned Parenthood/Susan G. Komen but usually that’s only when I see the pink ribbon which advertises that the sale of that product, at that time will have portions donated. Because those corporations will only donate up to a certain number sold during the month of October, I don’t boycott year-round. Because I can’t remember my last name most days so I’m not going to remember every single company. I do try to avoid Autism Speaks-supported items because of their denigration of people like my daughter diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder…so I don’t “light it up blue” in solidarity with them and don’t eat at restaurants in April advertising a portion of their proceeds will go to AS (and for the record, I rarely eat out at all). 

3. How do you feel about cheese?
Yes please. I love cheese. Like it should be illegal to love cheese this much. Unless, of course, it’s Stilton, Limburger or any of the “stinky cheeses” blech!

4. How many pairs of sunglasses do you own?
Zero. 

5. How long has it been since you went to the dentist?

About 8 years. If you know me you know what event happened 8 years ago that has put dental work on the back burner. The WAY back burner. My kids go every six months. Religiously.

6. If you could visit any religious site in the world, where would you go?

Ooh, tough call but right now my heart is set on going to the island of Patmos in Greece to see where John wrote Revelation while exiled. I don’t know why but the Holy Spirit has demanded of me this amazing interest and hope that one day I will go there. 

 

Well, that’s it. I know I’m horribly boring, but what else is new!? Join Kendra and clan for more interesting and fun answers.