Mr. Blue Sky

henry bird

at our neighborhood potluck tonight, checking out Aunt Marie’s chicks

This afternoon, as we were returning from soccer, Henry sort of flipped out about something, what exactly I cannot be sure.

“It’s Charlie,” he wailed, “he’s mocking me in silence!”

Lawdy he was distraught. Later he explained exactly what he meant, how Charlie was making a face — without any sound! — while he, Henry, had sound coming out of his own mouth (to which all of us in the van could testify). And God bless this kid, because here he was getting toted to this game before heading out to another event shortly after. And we had on our calendar another soccer game tonight, after all of that, to which I finally said to Paul “enough.” The littles have fun at all these events but then we pay the price. Silent mockery, Exhibit A.

When we got home from the game, we had just enough time for Henry and Isabel to bathe (I’m totally bringing them to our potluck in pajamas because Mama gonna be tossing them babies in the bed when we get home) and I told Henry he could play on the ipad for a few minutes before we leave, but after the tub.

He proceeded to take the ipad and hide it under the recliner — brilliant! — before heading off for a quick dunk. What kind of world do you live in, six-year-old child, where you’ve already learned to guard so fiercely? And the recliner is perfection because no one ever looks under there, even when vacuuming it seems, per all the tidbits of stuff that sidled up to the ipad upon its arrival.

But Henry and hiding? I’ll tell you where he learned it. Augie. Augie is one smart kid. I noticed a while back that he always managed to procure for his lunch The Snack (the one everyone might currently be raving about) and somehow he would have one for himself a day or two after the official stash ran out. I finally discovered that he would always tuck one away deep in the recesses of the pantry to enjoy later, when all the rest was gone. I caught him one day hiding his future treat, carefully tucking it against his wrist and burrowing it inside the plastic bin filled with random bags of rice.

We headed out to the potluck, children bathed and ready for bed, and they had a blast. We spent time meeting new chicks and when we got in the van to go home, Henry told me he would like to move in with our friends who live there. “I wonder if they would rent me a room,” he asked, “and then when it’s time to clip the chicken’s wings I would be here to help.” My friend Marie had mentioned they always do this at night, and Henry knew it was important to be as close by as possible in order to lend his aid. Actually living in the home would be his best bet.

What a strange and wonderful world these children inhabit. Hard at times, they often get no respect. But then again, yes they do. Henry wants someone to build legos with him and a seasoned veteran arrives on the scene. He is being coached in backyard baseball by adoring older brothers (when they are not mocking him in silence) and last night we had a family wiffle ball game where the highs were high and the lows were low (teenage emotions = not for wimps). It is never a dull moment and as my mom recently pointed out, Henry’s life is one giant party. All of the time.

Which is all to say, I think he’s gonna be okay. Oh sure while he was enjoying his Bible coloring book during Holy Thursday services Henry mistook Samson for Davy Crocket (and wanted to know what Davy was doing trying to push down those giant pillars?), but these things happen. We’ll get to that. The important thing is, it was a man of virtue. We can go into Biblical characters vs. American history in the very near future.

And anyway, it was all quickly overshadowed by sister Isabel, seated next to him. That evening at Holy Thursday, every time our priest quoted the Holy Father during his homily, she turned to me with delight. “Pope Fancy!” she declared with glee, “He is talking about Pope Fancy!”

henry corpus

Easters

baptism isabel
this one is actually Isa’s baptism, but it was also at Easter-time. But I’m digging my tired eyes, happy smile.

Easter family
last year, perfection

Easter 2014
this year, Paul and I are shrinking

What a wonderful celebration we had this year. I’m sure the boys were mostly thrilled that I allowed them to sort of pick their own outfits. For the first time evah. Hence the cacophony of color. But you know what? I’m learning to let some things goooooo. Like, it’s okay if this one time we don’t all wear the matching white shirt/khaki pants. We’re gonna survive. (and to be totally honest some of them were altar servers so it was a moot point anyway. And also the fact that Ethan is 17 means I should just let him dress himself, major religious holidays included.)

I won’t lie, I spent part of the day in some kind of Purple Haze brought on by a winning combination of donut/too many Reese’s peanut butter eggs. “If I eat just one more, we’ll be one closer to them being gone,” said I in true good-thinking fashion. Of course the price I paid is that large portions of the day are blank for me. We got home from a giant Easter egg hunt with friends and I thought “did that just happen?”

Of course, I knew it had happened, it’s just it was a little…trippy. Sugar is no joke, people. Think twice before you eat an entire bag of it.

Empty and Full

The spiritual journey of life is a funny thing. Sometimes we feel so close to God, sometimes he seems frighteningly far away. The hardest times for me are when I feel like I’m just drifting, but not even in water. Like I’m in the middle of a desert too far from either side to figure out where I am.

So often Lent feels this way for me. I can’t decide if it’s the circumstances of my life this time of year, or if God allows me this little suffering. It really does feel like a journey for me, and not necessarily one that I’m dominating.

And that’s good.

I started to feel discouraged about some of my Lenten commitments recently and I realized it was mostly because none of it was anything I wanted to share publicly. I can’t regale you with my 40-day juice fast or impress you with my hour-long daily prayer. Because it didn’t happen. I had some small successes in a few little areas but nothing worth bragging about.

And that’s good.

But here’s the good news: oane particular Lenten sacrifice was presented to me at the very start of the Lent. I made a commitment to do something that I quickly realized was more than I anticipated. But it was a very good thing to do, something I knew God wanted me to do. And so, I did it.

At first, I am embarrassed to admit, I did it a tad begrudgingly. Like, ok! Here I am! I’ll do this thing for you, Lord! Instead of any chance of being a saint, I was wholeheartedly being a martyr. Look at me! Look at my sacrifice!

It was ridiculous. I was doing the task, but oh my attitude! How it stunk.

And God, in his loving way, gently showed me my fault. I always know it’s God in these situations because the good thought is so far off of where I currently am. I knew, in my spirit, that what God wanted from me was this little sacrifice — but with a heart of joy.

That, I am learning, is where the victory comes. Oh sure God can use our stinginess; he can take any small morsel we offer him (even if it comes with a bad attitude) and use it for good. But what a happy father he is when we serve him with joy.

So I tried, just a little, to do good. I did the same task, but I smiled a little. I thought less about me and the grand sacrifice of my time and I just did what God wanted me to do.

In the end, this small thing (really, it’s amazing what a small thing this was) was the thing God really wanted from me this Lent. This is where I grew the most, I know. Not the fasting, which was good. Or the spiritual reading, which was helpful. But those were the things I chose, the things I thought would be good for me this Lent.

Taking up this little cross Jesus set before me, the thing presented to me that I thought I could not do — that was my chance for growth and change this Lenten season. And in the dryness and struggle, God showed up. Little by little I saw a change in my heart, a trust in God’s love and providence for me.

We can do the thing we think we cannot do.

Sometimes God feels very near. I love that feeling, I can do anything when I feel that way.

But sometimes, we are in the desert. And God is still very near, we just don’t sense it. That’s when we really grow, when we do what he asks because we trust him, because we are confident in his great love for each one of us.

Five Things I Learned Giving Up Red Wine for Lent

First off, let’s go back over that headline. Yes, I gave up red wine for Lent. Let that sink in…

So of course, my first suggestion is that you give me a few things to intercede for you because obviously my cause for sainthood is currently being investigated as we speak. I gave up red wine and lived to tell the tale!

When I first decided to fast from red wine (and notice how I keep saying “red wine” and not “alcohol” or “wine” etc? I went into Lent being very specific with myself and with the lowest of expectations), well I knew it would be tough. So tough in fact that I did not tell a soul. I don’t think I did anyway. I definitely didn’t advertise. And I didn’t necessarily think God was “calling” me to do this — as it turns out, he had a different plan for me this Lent where the real growth occurred. But for myself, this was some little “suffering” I could offer Jesus and so…here’s what I learned from my self-imposed exile.

1. As I said, my plan was to give up red wine. I love red wine. Can I get an amen? I think it is the most perfect of all the food groups. Now this is not to say that I drink a ton of it all of the time (I just need to clarify this for anyone feeling antsy right now) but that when it comes to having a pour, that’s my pour of choice. So the first thing I learned was that I’m not crazy, red wine is good for the soul. Studies have shown this and I can prove it.

2. Having a drink in the evening is not a bad thing. I wondered about this, going into my Lenten sacrifice. Was it bad that this drink was a part of what I did most evenings? Part of me wondered about this and while I wouldn’t say I was “concerned” I was definitely curious. Is drinking wrong, always and forever?

3. I am a very habitual person. Once I get going doing something, I tend to quickly fall into doing that. Oatmeal for breakfast, check. And next think you know I don’t waiver from that for months and months. And so, what I enjoyed about giving up red wine was that it helped me break the habit in a way that showed me I CAN break the habit, if I want. It’s not that I was addicted to having a glass, but it was a very important and cherished part of many an evening ritual.

4. I also learned that having a glass of wine is not a bad thing. I loved this lesson the most. I realized that God invented wine and we should BE NOT AFRAID. Which is to say, wine is there to serve us, but not the other way around. Now if I discover that I’m suddenly singularly fixated on when and how I will be having my next glass of wine, then I know it must be basketball season. Kidding! Then I know I need to take a step back and sort of reset my focus. But that this can be a personality thing, vs a wino thing. As in, we get into our habits and it’s part of what we do. I enjoyed stepping back and allowing myself to reset, even for the sake of the reset itself.

5. There is something to be said for the art of relaxation. And maybe it’s the ritual, maybe it’s the wine itself (I’m inclined to think it’s both) — but at the end of a very busy day, I realized that for me, a mom on the go, a person with a lot of responsibilities, I need to unwind. NOW, I’m not saying that has to be with a drink (we are not slaves to alcohol), but that relaxation is an important part of being a human. Read a book. Do the crossword. But I think there are those among us who struggle with this, with learning to slow down and chill. I’m the type that tends to go-go-go and I need something in the evening that encourages me to sit and exhale and enjoy my life. I have found that when I stop and sit at the end of the day, the boys come out of the woodwork and have conversations. So many times I’ve been relaxing in the front room and one of them will come in and sit and start telling me about his day. When I’m moving about constantly, it’s hard for them to catch up with me!

In the end, my takeaway was 1) wine is a wonderful tool that b) we use at our discretion. And so much of our attitudes about alcohol are affected by our history with it, I think in large part by the attitudes in our homes growing up (my parents almost never drank) based on our parents experience with it (their parents did). And so, there is such a socio-familial-historic view about attitudes and approaches.

A healthy approach to any of our creature comforts is always key.