Wednesday, March 23, 2011

On sitting down.

"I'm coming!" I shout over my shoulder as I race up the stairs.
"I'm coming!" I call as I change the baby's diaper and hear their feet following me from below.
"I'm coming, right now!" I say, as I run to the bedroom to get the toddler a change of clothes, and then notice laundry that needs to be put away, and also quickly scrub the sink.

I've started to wonder why my three-year-old daughter follows me around the house when I tell her I'll be right back. I'm coming, I say. I'll be right there. Of course, I never do really make it "right there," at least not in the near term or without carrying a bushel of something that needs to be folded, washed, cooked, or itemized.

Finally, one day last week, she cornered me. "Mommy, stay right where you are."

Surprised, I lowered my foot that was raised mid-air. "What? Why?" I was poised to race through the house. "Stay right here?" I asked, pointing to the ground.

"Yes," she said. She handed me a crayon. "Color."

I looked nervously around the kitchen.

"Yellow," she clarified.

I saw a crumb on the floor and my hands began to twitch for the broom. I could hear the dryer timer beeping from the basement. I had no idea what we were going to have for dinner. I suddenly felt that I needed to go grab a cookbook and chop something. But she was resolute, her hands on her little hips. "Mommmmy!"

"Okay, okay." I grabbed the crayon and sat down. I started to color the mermaid's hair red. I stayed in the lines. That was fun -- so neat and tidy. I decided to blend the red with the orange to give the mermaid highlights, and I found that to be fun, too. We decided that the mermaid needed a blue fin, and my daughter wanted her to have purple arms. Why not? The toddler came downstairs and gave her a black mowhawk with his gigantic toddler crayons. I laughed. Out loud. It felt good. "See, Mommy!" My daughter looked at me approvingly. (Is she three, or fifteen?)

We talked, we laughed. She told me about her day. That crumb is still there, on the floor, right next to the chair. I've swept the kitchen four dozen times since then, but perhaps I feel I need to leave that crumb as a reminder of the Afternoon that Mommy Colored and Had Fun.

I'm reminded that I serve the God who came down, the God who got dirty. When Jesus tried to climb a mountain for solitude and the crowds came after Him, He didn't tell them to go back down. (AAAAGHH! Climb faster! I want to shout as I read the Gospel account. RUN!)  But He didn't tell them to go back down. And He didn't lock Himself in the bathroom in hopes that they would give up and go away (I might be guilty here). He turned around and taught them. I wonder if Jesus would like to see me color.

And so I put down my broom. Again, and again, and again.

Unless a crumb seed falls to the ground and dies, it will bear no fruit.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Purim

Our family doesn't celebrate most Jewish festivals, which makes sense, since we are not Jewish. But we are Catholic, and as our former Archbishop once said, we stand on their shoulders. That is, we venerate God's chosen nation and the things now revealed that were so long ago prefigured: "The New is hidden in the Old, the Old is made manifest in the New," said Augustine of Hippo in 400 A.D. 

This year we are celebrating (in miniscule) the festival of Purim, which began on Saturday at sundown and will end today at sundown. Purim is special to us because it celebrates Queen Esther, who, as many know, was also named Hadassah, which as many know, is also the name of our daughter.

The event celebrates how Queen Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman living in Persia, and her cousin Mordecai defeated Haman in Persia, allowing the Jews to be saved from extermination.  The Jewish Virtual Library also provides a good account of the story.

One of our favorite verses is Esther 4:14: "Even if you now remain silent, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another source; but you and your father's house will perish. Who knows but that it was for a time like this that you obtained the royal dignity?"

Indeed, who knows? There are so many instances in which I might wonder: perhaps it was for such a time as this that I was put in this house, to care for this family, to minister to this child, to talk to this friend....

So on this day, we will celebrate. We made (and ate) Hamantaschen  - triangular filled pastries that symbolize the defeated enemy of the Jewish people.

We remember Esther and her courage and pray that we too would each be faithful to our "such a time as this" moments.

And we watch Esther as an Asparagus in Veggie Tales' Godfather-esque take on the story.

Yes, we adapt.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Another Go

Despite my dismal gardening record...we are giving it another go.
This time, with gusto.

Updates, hopefully positive, to follow.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I need....

"I need more milk. More milk."
"Scoot me in!"
"Mama, may I have more milk?
"Chair! Scoot me in!"
"Mama, may I please have more milk?

Each request, on its face, is quite reasonable. The three-year-old needs more milk, and after several iterations she has asked for it nicely. The two-year-old is about to fall under the table unless someone scoots his chair closer to his food. And the baby... is a baby and simply needs something, most likely to be picked up out of his chair where he has been placed to wait for his turn at baby food, which he will receive in in between sprinting to the refrigerator for more milk and grabbing the two-year-old as he topples off his chair.

No, these requests are fine. But it is the immediacy of everybody's needs all at the same time that is my undoing. Every. Single. Morning. Predicably each day around 6:30 a.m. I am found in the kitchen, trying to reamin calm. I attend to each child individually, in turn, which inevitably this means that someone has to endure an additional five seconds of excrutiating pain.
"Milk! Milk!"
"Chair! Chair!"

It is only when I step back and consider this moment, usually later during naps when they are all quiet and sleeping, that I am able to appreciate the validity of the needs expressed in this scene. After all, each of my children is an autonomous, beautiful human being. And in their world, each of them are the center of the universe around which the rest of us are to rotate, predicably, attending to their every need. I know that I act the same way. It's just that I'm not three, or two, or 8 months old, and so I've learned to couch my selfishness in other, socially acceptable ways.  And most of this surfaces during Lent, the time when we give up the things that we typically turn to when we are pressed and tightened and should turn to God but instead eat a bite of chocolate. Okay, maybe we eat the whole package of chocolates. The point is that I wonder at the supreme patience of God, our common Father, as I continue to pray, day after day:
"I need..." "I ask for..." I want..."

I considered this today as I warmed my undrunk, lukewarm coffee in the microwave for the third time. On mornings like these I want to shout to the pint-sized trio sitting acoss from me: "What about MY needs! What about my coffee!"  But God, our merciful, loving, and longsuffering Father, does not rebuke us for our requests about ourselves. He lets us pray about our needs until we are done, and then, gently, He will nudge us. There are others out there, you know, the Holy Spirit prods.

And so this morning as I reflected on my earlier prayers of the day I found that they were not all that unlike my children's morning song. My prayerful requests reflect genuine needs, faithful wants, and heartfelt desires. But they are first about me. Is this how the Lord has taught me that I am to pray? Is it not first about His Kingdom, and second about my daily bread? I am not an infant any longer. I am not a toddler; nor am I three. And so it is with quiet conviction that I return to my prayer chamber. Humbled. Start over, I think. This world, in fact, does not revolve around me.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bread on a Rainy Day

From the back of the bag of King Aurthur 100% Whole Wheat flour comes what might be the tastiest bread I've ever made. Seriously. Well, except maybe kowatch. But unlike that epic Polish bread that no one really knows how to spell, this bread is easy and requires no kneading, punching, slapping, or other forms of beating. It also does not consume an entire day.

So last Thursday when the rain poured for a soggy twelve hours and everyone was sick and we were all forced inside staring woefully at the drops on the window panes...I decided to peel myself from the floor...and bake. I needed a diversion that would require only a few ingredients and a relatively simple process, so I tried this recipe that I first saw acclaimed on the faith and family website. It looked awful in the mixing bowl. It was sticky and grey and it seemed very un bread-like. So we added a little more flour and a few extra stirs, and amazingly it came out looking bakery fresh and smelling...and tasting...delicious. Also, I say "we" because the kids, though sick, never pass up an opportunity to "help." They weren't allowed anywhere near the actual food, but they did stir their own bowls of some kind of floury goop on the other side of the kitchen.

Here's the recipe:

1 cup warm water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
3 tablespoons molasses, honey, or maple syrup
2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/8 cup nonfat dry milk
3 cups whole wheat flour, white
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Beat with mixer, on high, for 3 minutes. Place in well greased 8 1/2” x 4 1/2” pan. Let rise 90 minutes.

Bake 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees or to desired brownness. After about the first 15 minutes tent the bread with foil so the crust doesn't brown and harden too soon. Cool 5 minutes and then turn out of pan and cool completely before slicing. We brushed the top of the loaf with butter both before and after baking. Butter, after all, is very good.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Purple is for Preparation...

Earlier last Fall, my 3-year-old began shouting at the top of her lungs singing beautifully a new song she learned at school: "Purple is for prep-ar-at-tion; Green is for the grow-ing time. Red and white...are the co-lors of the LIGHT!" After a little research, I discovered the words to the song, called "The Liturgical Colors Song" by Holly Tosco from the Catechises of the Good Shepherd:

 Purple and and white are the colors of the year.

Purple and and white remind us of the light.
Purple is for preparation;
white is for celebration;
green is for the growing time,
red is for Pentecost.
Purple and and white are the colors of the year.
Purple and and white remind us of the light.

The near constant rendition of this song in our house has led to a keen watching at the beginning of Mass to see what color the priest is wearing. Even my two-year old has been known to shout during particularly quiet moments of reflection: "He's wearing green! GREEN Mommy!" Nonetheless, this has been an excellent lesson for me as well in thinking about the seasons of the year, and the seasons that God has given us with which to prepare, again and again, for His coming. And now we all know that starting with the liturgical move into the season of Lent, he will be wearing purple —  for prep-ar-a-tion. 
It so happens that I love to prepare. Or, more accurately, I hate being caught unprepared: I hate fumbling for an answer to a question at a meeting, or trying to cover up the stack of dishes overflowing the kitchen sink when the neighbor "pops by" for a visit. At work I carved out time to prepare for  briefings, meetings,  presentations, even phone calls; at home before hosting a meal or house guest I clean, cook, and make lots and lots of lists; and for trips I pack days, sometimes even weeks in advance. My preparation for these events is deliberate, planned, and a bit compulsive.

So...  what does it mean that the Church gives us a time to "prepare?" And...for what are we preparing?  I pondered these questions with conviction last fall during Advent. While I prepped for work meetings with vigor, and I clean my carpets with zeal, how am I focusing on readying myself for the single most important meeting I will ever have, the most defining "trip" I will ever take -- that singular moment when I see Him face to Face? "Do not be caught sleeping," the Lord forewarns. 
The voice of my 3-year-old will echo in my mind for all ages whenever I think about the liturgical year. And so, as I crest the night from Fat Tuesday to Ash Wednesday, I prepare to prepare. The kids and I have made our Lent calendars, our alms giving jars, and talked about fasting (I'm giving up treats! my 3-year-old declared. Aha, I thought to myself). Tonight I'll eat my jambalaya and cake. And then I'll go to bed with the (gulp) anticipation of a spiritual deep spring scrubbing. When is the time to prepare? "Now is the acceptable time, now is “the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2)."

Now, and now, and NOW!  So here we go.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Thoughts from the Mirror

I found this creative game from the "Heart of my Home" blog. Since I am trying so hard to put something new on my blog at least once every week, I'm going to play along. Gypsy Woman comes up with the prompt, and we type for five minutes, no more. How fun! Won't you play, too?

When I look in the mirror, I see…

A 30-year-old with 12-year-old green eyes, smiling back at me and pretending that I am still that courageous, feisty, pre-teen again, ready for another adventure. I am amazed that while time whips at my face and hands and has created the faint lines of a woman three decades in to life, my eyes remain seemingly unchanged, green and deep. Only now, almost two decades later, they seem more knowing, more sure of the body they belong in. These eyes have been inducted into the world and they reflect knowingly from experiences and friendships and a soul that is still growing.

I look in the mirror and I see a woman, a mother, and a friend. I see a wife. My goodness. If I time warp back I think that the 12-year-old me would laugh to see those labels in front of her name. Back then, these were the eyes of the Explorer, the Adventurer. These were the eyes of the girl who formed a two-person club called Yucca-teers after the name of the arid plants that we would tromp over in our Tevas after school. Undaunted, unafraid, uninhibited. And yet, when I look in the mirror I still see an adventurer. The life has changed but the eyes are the same. I look in the mirror and it is not long until the mirror sees other little faces behind me: one, two, three little bodies. They are giggling, splashing water in the sink, reaching for toothbrushes on extended knees dangling from the toilet seat. These are the three little beings that sprouted from me.

I look in the mirror and I see a life that has transpired, and a life that is still coming, and green eyes and a long nose and blond hair that is windswept from a day at the park. This is me? This is me. This is me.

STOP. 5 minutes!