Growing up, letting go

Joey’s first week at school has been awesome. He only had to go three days in kindergarten because kindergarteners in our district start on a staggered schedule. His first day was Tuesday and then he went again yesterday and today.

This week has been an extreme exercise in patience for all of us, but as far as Joey and kindergarten? They go together like peanut butter and jelly, peas and carrots.

We met his teacher last week and I had heard nothing but good things about her prior. She was ethusiastic in greeting him and we were very excited to meet her and her teacher assistant. But this week brought Joey’s first bus riding experience, his first experience being in a school with kids that are bigger/older than he is, his first time going through a cafeteria line and so much more.

Because he’s not in Shelby’s snug-cocoon-like environment, I feel much more like I’m throwing him to the wolves. Even though we love the school he is at and the administration and his teacher. I’m still not over the anxiety yet.

As he gets on the bus each morning, I say a million things to him, “Be a good friend, make good choices, always be honest, tell the teacher if someone is bullying anyone else, don’t forget that check I gave you for lunch (he forgot to give it tothem yesterday), be kind to everyone, that’s the most important thing…” I would have hoped to have taught him all that BEFORE kindergarten but, I freak out he’ll forget it all (well, not the lunch money thing, he never had to deal with that before). At least I hear his bus driver greet him and talk to him but I have to hope everything goes well from that point on.

And it is hard. Painfully hard. Once those doors close, he’s in someone else’s hands.

And that’s when it’s prudent for me to remember he is ALWAYS in God’s hands. God is in control.  Not me, not the bus driver or the teacher or principal, God. And I have trained Joey up as best I know how and pray he does not depart from it when I send him out into the world whether to school or on a play date or anywhere.

The fact that his first day of school was the feast of St Monica was not lost on me. How does a mother do what she did? Endure what she endured? But we all do it when we have to. A mother’s love knows no limits or bounds. It just is. And part of a mother’s love is learning to let go when she sees her child growing, particularly when he is growing in a healthy and productive way. At the end of the day, I have to trust he’s learned the lessons we’ve taught him and will remember them as he goes out into the world.

This year, I haven’t just sent him off to the big bad world of elementary school, I’m also sending him to Faith Formation classes. We are still his primary educators  but we have a bigger pool to draw from now at school for his academics and at Church for his continued formation as a human and Catholic. I believe it takes a family to raise a child but our community can be an important supplement to the formation of adults that are  moral, compassionate, and not jerks in general. And the community I am in both in terms of education and faith, happen to be two of the best.

So, I know, I shouldn’t worry. He’s in God’s hands, God’s in control and God provided us with this amazing community to supplement what we are already doing. But, like Monica, I am always his mother and he is always my baby. So worry I will sometimes. And one of these days I will worry less. And someday (hopefully soon) I will realize I don’t worry anymore and will laugh at myself today. But until then, the growing pains of being the mom to a kindergartener continue. As I continue to let go.


Five Favorites



1. Awesome kindergarten teachers. Joey’s teacher is amazing and so are the other three at his school. And they are all so awesome that he will have the chance to work with all four every week through a “group” setting project. I love how they adore all the children and the children love them right back.

2. Kind Bars


Yeah, Hallie touted them last week and I will chime in. After Surfers Healing in Ocean City, there was a Kind bar in Shelby’s goody bag. It was Almond and Coconut. I ate it and it was fabulous. It tasted like an Almond Joy sans chocolate. Amazing. We sell them at my work and I tried the Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew bar this week and it is to die for. Like Hallie said. Yummy, healthy and VERY filling.

3. My cat. He totally gets me. He is comforting and gentle and when you are upset, he will lie as close to being your chest as he can, snuggle under your chin if possible and purr contentedly until you feel like there is nothing wrong with the world. He also sits in our front window and waits for us to get home. I love him!

4. This song for a while now (but just getting around to posting it now):

5. And this story, love bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things. Love never fails.

In Which Everything Falls Apart Because Life is Like That Sometimes school.EVER.

Shelby was asleep when I went to wake her up which is NEVER a good thing. She only likes to wake up on her own. So after she realized that wasn’t quite the catastrophe she thought it was, I got her dressed. In her uniform. Which she did not like. At all.

So, after we calmed down from that, I got her to sit and watch Spongebob while she played with her smurf figurines. Which is fine but she also refused to eat breakfast AND on top of all that, she was in violation of the no tv before school policy. Oh, and she can’t bring those figurines to school…

Anyway, I get her to the bus stop 20 minutes early as was requested by the school. Fifty minutes later and fifteen minutes before school started, the bus finally showed up. And she ended up being fifteen minutes late for school. It doesn’t count as a tardy but she’s a special needs student who missed the first 15 minutes of routine plus she messed up the entire routine for her classmates by coming in late and she’s supposed to get breakfast at school and yeah, that didn’t happen.

I’m at her bus stop 20 minutes early hoping for the best. 10 minutes later, a bus with her bus number comes by and drops off high school and middle school students. And is full of more of them. This is not good. I call her school. I leave a message with the assistant principal who is in charge of transportation. Her bus is considered dual-use. Meaning it runs a middle/high school route and then an elementary route. Judging by the number of kids on the bus, he still had at least 30 more minutes of drop offs before he got to Shelby’s school.

I called and spoke with the secretary who informed me that yes, Shelby was still at the school and no, her bus had not made it to the school yet and I could absolutely come and pick her up and she would personally see to it that Shelby was not put on the bus. I loaded up the boys and drove to school. Shelby was waiting with her teacher in the lobby area when we arrived. She let me know that none of the buses were on time. We came home.

Jeff showed up about five minutes later. His first question, why was the car out of the garage. So I had to tell him the whole story. The other elementary bus that goes through our neighborhood (which Joey will be riding) dropped kids off 2 hours after school let out. The bus Shelby was supposed to ride home on was almost 2 1/2. I was not pleased. I’ve let the school board know their ill-conceived and poorly executed plan needed major re-vamping. Yesterday. I also found out the bus driver’s first time driving the route is the first day of school so some of them have no idea where they are going or how to get there. Failure to plan is planning to fail my friends!

Then there was a minor blow-up on facebook in regards to a Catholic blogger that I like very much who became upset because a facebook friend shared her blog and I don’t know all the details of that post but the blogger was not tagged in the post and I think it may have been criticial of one of her recent posts and possibly ugly toward her personally. Again, I don’t know who posted it or why and I didn’t see their post, so I have to go on what I know. In 60+ comments blogging and facebook etiquette were hashed out. Then a Catholic blogger I like even more than the blogger I like very much posted that, the hell with facebook etiquette share and share some more, no need for tags or whatnot.

And I was already emotionally exhausted so I lay my head on my keyboard and sighed and tried not to cry because this-is-not-something-we-cry-about-and-there-are-people-with-real-problems-in-this-world. And I didn’t eat dinner because my adrenaline was out of control but I did have dessert. That wasn’t a good ideas but as far as ideas go, the only ones I could find were bad ones so…

Tomorrow is another day. Maybe the bus situation will resolve itself. Maybe it won’t. I have to work tomorrow evening and it is entirely possible that the kids won’t be home when I leave.

Until then, I have pre-K planning (today’s pre-K is another post) and Duck Dynasty to keep me company.

Light in Darkness

Joining Maria for her weekly meme Light in Darkness.

Well, even if everyone else posts this, it’s worth me posting. Martin Luther King Jr said famously, “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” Antoinette Tuff did exactly that. She was more than grace under fire.  More than cool-headedness. She embodied love for a man whose self-hatred drove him to attempt something awful and tragic. But because Antoinette had compassion, empathy and love, she averted a terrible tragedy. How can we, in small ways, embody Christ’s love every day for people we encounter. Who knows how this world could change for the better if we could all be like Antoinette.


In the Summer of my Discontent

This summer there was rain. Lots of rain. There was work. Lots of work. There was extended school year. Almost every day. There was heat. Too much heat. And there were trips. Not enough of those.

But  I kept good to my promise of reading real books. Our iPad is dying a very slow, very painful death so we no longer use it but I just can’t embrace the electronic reading of books. I’ve tried and nothing can replace the satisfaction of finishing a book and closing the back cover or of turning real paper pages. Maybe I’m old. Maybe I’m not a true hipster…or maybe I am. But either way, I read real books this summer.

I started with Robert  Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. Which is a political novel set in the 30s in Louisiana. It is based on Huey “Kingfisher” Long and told from the perspective of one of the Governor, named Willie Stark but called “The Boss”, ‘s most trusted advisers and politicos who gives Karl Rove a good run for his money. There is deceit, appearance-keeping and good ol Southern politics. It was  long and I enjoyed it but it took a good chunk of my summer to get through the 600+ pages.

I moved onto Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine. It is the story of 3 Native American families in North Dakota told from the perspective of multiple members of the family at various points in time. Nothing is chronological which did not bother me because you soon come to realize that their lives are so intertwined and so overlapping that every story requires you find out bot the outcome and back story. It was tragic with that kind of melancholy of “this is the way things always are in this family” kind of way.

I was sad when I finished Love Medicine but I could not have imagined the treat that awaited me in my next selection. I’ve owned Phillipa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl for probably five years and never picked it up. Those 600 pages flew by. What was so interesting to me is how I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next even though I knew the historical events that had taken place. I suspected Gregory would try to make Anne more sympathetic in her re-telling but was pleasantly surprised to find she did not succumb to sentimentality and that her fictional Anne was every bit as conniving and spiteful as the real-life Anne has been shown to be through historical documents. It also helps that I am a huge fan of both British history and anything to do with royalty, but I think someone not as in love with those things as I am would enjoy it as the characters are so richly portrayed and their stories compelling.

Since finishing The Other Boleyn Girl, I have started my current read Jane Smiley’s One Thousand Acres. One Thousand Acres is a re-telling of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Including a huge storm in which a mad father goes stumbling into. It’s re-told in America and during the late 1970’s in the southern mid-west on a farm. It took me a good while to really get into the book, but as the Lear elements became more and more apparent and the action ramped up, it’s become harder and harder to put down.

I’ve been keeping up my non-fiction “faith reading” after finishing Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts earlier in the year. I have read Amy Welborn’s Here. Now. The Catholic Guide to the Good Life and am currently reading Welborn’s The Words We Pray. I love Welborn’s style reflective and yet also confrontational. And I really enjoy reading the origins, variations on the prayers that we Catholics hold dear. I got about half way through it and then lost it, but praise God and props to St Anthony, it’s been found. After I’m done I am going to read Scott Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home. I have been drawn in recent years to conversion stories and how people came to find the gift I was blessed to be born into with my faith tradition. I cannot wait for Jennifer Fulwiler’s memoir/conversion story to come out as I have never heard of a story that didn’t have a mystical element in the conversion. One of the “aha” moment kinds. Jennifer and Joe converted out of logic and reasoning which is nothing short of amazing (and beautiful) to me. I am hoping Leah Libresco will consider writing hers as well as she came to Catholicism much the way Jen did. And I am also excited for Elizabeth Esther’s Girl on the Edge of the World and how she escaped her fundamentalist-cult youth.

And I consider Rod Dreher’s memoir/remembrance of his sister Ruthie, “The Little Way of Ruthie Leming” at it’s core faith reading and it’s on my birthday and Christmas wish list!

So, despite the rain, the heat, the child with the ruptured ear drum from an undetected ear infection, the bugs, and the discontent of this summer, I end it happily a voracious reader as ever.

And so it begins…

I will have two children in school full time this week. Joey starts Kindergarten on Tuesday and Shelby is back tomorrow. Will and I will  begin the adventure of homeschool pre-K. And I have no idea what I’m doing for that. Planning how to learn is not my forte which would explain why I have never followed through on everyone’s desire for me to become a teacher. The idea of lesson-plans alone is a mountain I cannot begin to think of how to scale.

Anyway, I work three nights this week as well. This year is kind of a new-world-order for our family. Jeff will work days and I will work evenings and Saturdays. Which means, potentially, Jeff will handle homework, dinner, baths and bedtime by himself all week long. Which I handle breakfast, getting everyone up and on the bus and Will during the day all week, so it’s not like the keel is so unbalanced. But evening has long been Jeff’s time for planning. Which means he will be under more stress by me working than less. Sigh.

Probably the most difficult thing is Will not getting into Pre-K as it would have allowed me to work during the day and us to share the burden of Joey and Shelby’s homework plus 20 minutes of reading time for each, making and serving dinner, cleaning up, baths and prayers at bedtime. I will get the kids off the bus and hopefully started on homework so that they’ve made a dent in it by the time I have to leave for work and give Jeff some time to get his stuff done.

This week Joey only goes to school 3 days and they are the 3 days I am working. Which means that we will be getting tested right at the get-go. This week will be the litmus test to see how the year will function. I am hoping that it goes perfectly and we can just muddle through this year til Will can go to kindergarten next fall and in the mean time, Will can learn a whole lot so that when he goes for his kindergarten assessment next summer he wows them like Joey did.

I never envisioned having 2/3 of my kids in school being this stressful. But, it’s what God gave me to work with. And I am grateful to have anything to work with.

Today I signed Joey up for Faith Formation. He is so excited about it. He could barely contain himself when we went to sign up. How did I get so blessed to have a five-year-old on fire for faith? I thank the Holy Spirit and give Him FULL CREDIT. He and his brother now cross their Mario and Luigi plus toys and have them say grace before imagining them tearing into a pizza or lasagna. Someone once predicted one of them (their prediction said most likely Will) would enter into the priesthood. They were very young at the time of this prediction and I kind of laughed it off and neither have ever expressed any inclinations toward a priestly vocation, but I hold hope of raising to holy, Godly men and if one becomes a priest, or both, that would be the icing on the cake.

So, here we are, at the start of the school year and giving it all up to Holy Spirit that His discretion is always perfect in the face of my imperfect decisions and choices. May God Bless all of you as you start (or continue) your school years.

Seven Random Things I Learned This Summer

— 1 —

It is possible to not have drought in the summer in the southeast. Really. Now we are just praying for no hurricanes/tropical storms.

— 2 —

There is a Mennonite community just up the road (well interstate) from us. While we were waiting for the ferry to leave Ocracoke, I took the boys to the bathroom and there were two Mennonite women in there with a baby. They were very friendly and asked where we were from. When I told her, she said, “well, we’re from a little town north of there that you’ve probably never heard of called B—–.” I laughed and said, “I know EXACTLY where that is, we drive by there to see my mother-in-law in G—–.” This town they live in is a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” type of place and yet, I knew the place rather well. Or so I thought. I had no clue there was a very active Mennonite community there.

— 3 —

I can read real books still. Am I sounding stupid saying that? Because I surely feel stupid saying it. But, yeah, fiction, non-fiction, it’s all coming back to me…

— 4 —

It can get down in the 50s at night in August. Well, maybe not everywhere but it did 2 of the nights we were in Delaware!

— 5 —

My kids are ridiculously good at annoying each other. I mean, they’d sweep medals if it were an Olympic competition. Just this past Wednesday, while one played the Wii, the other (who wanted to play) sang Party Rock Anthem at the top of his lungs and very off-key. It was a masterpiece of annoyance. And it worked too.

— 6 —

The threat of not getting to go to kindergarten because of bad behavior…WORKS. Who knew? Now we’ll see if it ever works again. That’s the real trick

— 7 —

My best traveling music is 1) Country 2) 80’s 3) 90’s 4) 70’s and 5) Talk….seriously. And my kids were introduced to this while on the road:

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

For those who believe Pope Francis is not Pro-Life enough

I offer this in rebuttal…

Pope Francis


and this

and finally, this…


There is Pope Francis, stopping the Popemobile and “letting the little children come unto (him).” For those with disabilities. Those who might have been aborted if their parents had not chosen life. By publicly embracing them, Pope Francis is sending the world a message. All life has value. The lives of those with disabilities, have value. 

May of you have probably heard of or read The Letter by now. I couldn’t make it all the way through. But while the suggestion to euthanize the young man at the center of this controversy because of his diagnosis of autism is widely being denounced, there is a larger monkey in this room. Euthanizing this young man before his birth in the form of abortion would be considered okay by most. In fact it would be considered an act of mercy. You read that right, mercy. There is nothing merciful about ripping an unborn child from its mother’s womb in pieces because of an extra chromosome or missing limb or developmental delay. And as scientists are beginning to find various genetic markers linked to autism,  you can be sure pre-natal testing for it will be down the pike shortly. And then, women can test for and, if they get a less than desirable result, choose to legally murder their child if they want. Just as they can now for Down Syndrome. Or cystic fibrosis. Or Trisomy 18. Or any disability they are told their baby may have.

Look at those little boys in the bottom picture. Technology exists today that could tell while they were in the womb that they were rocking the third replication of the 21st chromosome. And they could legally be murdered for those results. And yet, they were not, and they were blessed and loved on by a Pope.

People are making the brave choice to trust God and forego pre-natal testing or proceed with pregnancies where they know the outcome may not be a “typical healthy child” in fewer and fewer cases now. People are murdering unborn babies in the name of eugenics more and more often. Hitler’s perfect race may come to pass sooner than we believe.

But love is working in our world too. And when Pope Francis shows unbridled, unabashed love for individuals with disabilities; when he kisses them; when he stops the Popemobile for them; when he blesses them; then he is showing the world the next step, the next wave of the pro-life movement. He is showing that these people’s lives are truly gifts given by our Heavenly Father. He is showing the scared couple who’ve gotten uncertain news, that their unborn child deserves life and can lead a life that is full and special and meaningful. A life that can change hearts and minds.

And while we very publicly assert that a boy like Max in The Letter should not be euthanized we should also be quick to assert that all individuals with disabilities deserve the chance at a life. Even if those individuals are unborn.

All kinds of internet awesomeness

1. Jennifer Fulwiler went for beer and left with a cat

When he came home from work on Monday, he looked around in anticipation, evidently expecting the cat to come running up to him. “That’s a dog thing,” I informed him. Joe then called Arnold’s name to summon him, and was surprised when he received only silence in response. “Also a dog thing,” I said. Joe asked how we’re supposed to know where the cat is at all times if it doesn’t come when we call, and I explained that that’s simply not part of the cat-owning experience. Sometimes you don’t know where your cat is. That’s how it goes. Joe rejected the idea, and announced cheerfully that he’ll solve the problem by putting one of those beeping locator things on the cat’s collar. We have them attached to our car keys and remote controls, and it’s handy to be able to press a button when we’ve misplaced them and follow the beep-beep-beep sound to wherever they are. I told Joe that you can’t use those things for pets, and when he asked why not, I drew a blank. I don’t know. You just…can’t. I looked at him like he was crazy and he looked at me like I was crazy and we dropped the subject, but I have a feeling this is not over. I think Joe envisions that it will shortly become part of his after-work routine to walk in the front door, press the beeper remote, and locate his cat. If he can’t have a real pet like a dog that comes bounding up to him when he comes home, this is second best.

2. Who cannot wait for Christmas? This girl. Thanks to this awesome news courtesy of Creative Minority Report.

3. Also courtesy of Creative Minority Report, Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson on George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Thomas Jefferson and the RIGHT TO LIFE. 

4. In Pope Emeritus news, Benedict XVI, our wonderful Papa Emeritus has said his resignation was the result of a mystical experience.

5. From Julie Davis at Happy Catholic, this great post on Mark 7:24-30.

This makes me wonder is my faith strong or lukewarm … am I expecting enough from God?

6. Over at Catholic Exchange, what happened when a man went looking for quality paint brushes…and how it offers a new way of Evangelization.

7. From Rod Dreher at the American Conservative, what happened when the WIC program was re-vamped and who is holding up more progress.

In many of the low-income neighborhoods where women and children rely heavily on W.I.C., supermarkets are few and far between. Residents with limited funds for transportation are often forced to shop at the kind of gas-station quick marts and dusty-shelved corner stores where they can find plenty of beef jerky, chips, and soda and, other than a bruised banana or two, not much in the way of produce. But when a team of researchers from Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity studied W.I.C.-authorized stores across Connecticut, they found that the stores had responded to the new rules by “improving the availability and variety of healthy foods.” The businesses “found a way,” as the researchers from Yale put it, to make room for low-fat milk on their shelves, and to stock fruits and vegetables and whole-grain breads and other products they had not sold before. In so doing, they revealed a previously unsatisfied consumer demand. The researchers found that nearby stores that did not accept W.I.C. also started offering healthier foods, either because they now had new supply chains to take advantage of, or because customers were now asking for them, or both.

Five Favorites


1. Mid-Atlantic Produce


There are no tomatoes or corn like that of NJ, DE, and MD. None. And that cantaloupe and cucumber rocked our socks too.

2. Grown men who surf with individuals with autism

The awesome guys who donate their time and talent to surf with children with autism, coast to coast and in Hawaii

The awesome guys who donate their time and talent to surf with children with autism, coast to coast and in Hawaii

No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child. Talent and heart abound.

3. Delaware

Seriously, I had never been there before last week and I am so sorry I hadn’t. In fact, it was the only state between FL and NY on the east coast I had never been to. But I loved the weather and the people and the produce and well, everything.

4. The Other Boleyn Girl


I couldn’t believe it took me this long to get to reading it and it took less than a week to read at over 600 pages. I could not put it down. And I knew what happened. I knew Anne would be beheaded. I knew that since middle school!  Still it was wonderfully written and the characters so amazing. I guess it helps that I love the Royal Family and their history like some people love, well, a lot of stuff!

5. The Duck Dynasty Season Premiere

Miss Kay’s sentiment that now she was getting the wedding she had always dreamed of and was with all the people she loved had me in tears. Seeing the oldest (and unbearded) son, have his parents renew their vows and seeing the hijinks of how three of the Robertson daughters-in-law give the anniversary gift of the wedding Phil and Miss Kay never had was both funny and tear-jerking. And then there were the vows. I thought nothing could top Miss Kay’s vows until I heard Phil’s. And then I really bawled like a baby. This is real-love, dedication, forgiveness and redemption people. Hollywood could never have written something so beautiful.