Thursday, February 20, 2014

White Hair Don't Care

I am only 26.

When I was younger I always felt like I would feel "old" or grown when I would get to a certain age. In high school I thought 18 was grown. Then I turned 18 and still felt the same. 21 hit and still nothing. Now at 26, I am still waiting to get that "all grown up" feeling. I'm beginning to suspect that my early ideas of what being an adult is are never going to come true. Of course I have changed and grown over the years, a lot. A loooot. But I'm still me. I still laugh at potty humor and hate doing the dishes. I still love playing outside in my bare feet.

So far, I've lived on the fringes of adult society. It never helped that people usually think I'm still 19 or 20. But I've got real living proof that I'm getting old.

White. Hair.

The first white hair found its way tangled in between Carolina's sweet chubby fingers. I finally wrenched it from her grasp after 30 minutes of wandering through the baby finger labyrinth. This coarse, pale hair. Exactly the length of my hair, and yet definitely not mine.

Then sometime this week I found another one on the bathroom sink. And I brushed my hair up to reveal a little patch of three white hairs, clinging together like shipwreck survivors floating on a sea of brown.

It's like my mini battle scar. A foreshadowing of many more to come. It made me think of Rogue in the X-Men movie. I got a white streak when my children sucked my power from me. (Just kidding! They know I have no power.) Anyway I guess white is better than gray so I'm good. I'm not fighting God on this one. Plus it's getting me one step closer to my life-long dream of looking like Willie Nelson when I grow up.

I am absolutely 100% serious about this.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Lion shall Lay Down with the Lamb

G. K. Chesterton, you sexy, sexy beast.

No caption needed.

I refer, obviously, to his mind and not his looks. This quote from "Orthodoxy" has been in and out of my thoughts all day...

"And sometimes this pure gentleness and this pure fierceness met and justified their juncture; the paradox of all the prophets was fulfilled, and, in the soul of St. Louis, the lion lay down with the lamb. But remember that this text is too lightly interpreted. It is constantly assured, especially in our Tolstoyan tendencies, that when the lion lies down with the lamb the lion becomes lamb-like. But that is brutal annexation and imperialism on the part of the lamb. That is simply the lamb absorbing the lion instead of the lion eating the lamb. The real problem is -- Can the lion lie down with the lamb and still retain his royal ferocity? That is the problem the Church attempted; that is the miracle she achieved."

Jesus is both meek and mighty. He is our Judge and our Deliverer. He is both the sacrificial Lamb and the Priest who offers the sacrifice. Chesterton says:

"It is true that the historic Church has at once emphasized celibacy and emphasized the family; has at once (if one may put it so) been fiercely for having children and fiercely for not having children. It has kept them side by side like two strong colors, red and white, like the red and white upon the shield of St. George. It has always had a healthy hatred of pink. It hates that combination of two colors which is the feeble expedient of the philosophers. It hates that evolution of black into white which is tantamount to a dirty gray. In fact, the whole theory of the Church on virginity might be symbolized in the statement that white is a color: not merely the absence of a color. All that I am urging here can be expressed by saying that Christianity sought in most of these cases to keep two colors coexistent but pure."

When you compromise on your convictions, they become lost, gray and lifeless, in a middle ground that is neither one thing or the other. The lion lays down with the lamb but he does not become like the lamb. He is a king, he is fierce, and strong, and mighty. The lamb is gentle, meek, and humble. They are complete opposites and yet they exist together. Like so many of the paradoxes of our great faith, we don't stand on a weak middle ground. We don't want a god who is half-human and half-divine. Our God is fully man and fully divine.

And how much do I love that quote about virginity. Most people today see celibacy as simply the absence of sex. Celibacy is not just the lack of sex. That would be the middle ground. Celibacy is a beautiful act of self-giving motivated by virtue. The church celebrates virginity as fully pure and holy, and celebrates marriage in the same way. Although they are on opposite ends of the spectrum, we are fiercely in favor of both. To lose our respect for celibacy would be to let go of the rope in a game of tug-of-war where each side is perfectly matched. The profound beauty of marriage would be left to fall to the ground. In order to keep the balance, if one side stops pulling as hard as it can, the other side must do the same, until we are left with all the people just standing in the middle holding on to a limp and lifeless rope.

And now to apply this to children. Sorry to make everything about kids, but its the season of my life right now, that's just how it is. So often we want to subdue children, but if we chip away at their passions we no longer allow them to partake in the balancing act. We tamp down all their colors until we are left with a muddy gray. I want my children to feel something extremely, to explore something completely, to question so intensely, and to go all the way out to the end of the rope, knowing that there is a full and equal force on the other side that they can search just as deeply, knowing that as long as they keep their balance, they will never fall down.

I want my children to be fiercely loud, strong, wild, unencumbered, and free. I also want them to be intensely quiet, introspective, restrained, and peaceful. Lenny is free one moment to soothe the baby and caress her cheek ever so gently, while whispering sweet odes of love into her ear. He is also free to kick the floor and scream in frustration or limitless joy. Children were not made to be tamed beasts. You can put a rope around the neck of a tiger but you will not make him meek. You have made a slave. You can throw a fawn into a den of wolves but you will not make him savage. You have sent him to his death.


The lion shall lay down with the lamb. To embrace one extreme is to be free to embrace the other. That is the beauty of our Church.

Disclaimer: Yes, I know the Bible states "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb" but I'm just using the well-known phrase here.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Mass with Small Children

There are days when the only kind of mass I want to go to is a mass grave, so I can throw myself in. Or more honestly, a Panera with a good book. On a rainy (but not too cold) day with no children and a whole couch all to myself.

Panera's Caramel Latte. 
You wicked, wicked drink.

Yet I feel compelled to attend daily mass during the week. Why do I bring my children to church???

As my previous attempt to allow the children to babysit each other failed miserably (just kidding!!!!), I've got to drag the little ones along with me. I was recently complimented by another mom who also has the poor taste to bring her small children to mass, who said that I seem so calm at church and that Lenny seems so well behaved.


These are interesting words, because they leave the sentence unfinished. I seem calm, Lenny seems behaved, but...

Let's just run through a weekday mass. First of all we are already running late because Father Troy usually starts mass 5 minutes past the hour, so I thought it would be OK for Lenny to stop and check out some bird poop on the sidewalk that he was insanely desperate to commit to memory but, as luck would have it, Father Chuck is doing mass today and he is never late. Awesome.

We rush into the bathroom and I try to wash the poop off Lenny's hands because he accidentally on purpose dug some up with his fingernail and then was honestly shocked that it got on him. And the more I rush him, the louder and more obstinate he gets about doing it all by himself.

I realize that I desperately have to pee but I've forgotten the baby carrier for Carolina so I decide against trying to get my pants down with one hand with the chance that Lenny would bust the stall door open while I am in a bit of a delicate situation. Resign myself to offer up palpitating bladder for the reparation of my sins.

We walk briskly into the main church. Briskly here is a euphemism for me running after Lenny who has bolted away from me and I am trying to look super casual, like I got this, don't worry folks. By the time we get to our seats, the first reading is about the begin, and Lenny slams the kneeler down in the dead silence as we wait for the lector to begin. (Enter rubbernecking parishioners, stage left.) This happens after a 2 minute battle where I put my foot up and try to stop it from slamming down, Lenny sees what I am doing and lets go of the kneeler, I move my foot away, and he goes back to trying to put it down without my intervention. A few cycles of this and the second I look away he wins. Then to rub it in my face he uses his foot to knock down the kneeler behind us, too. Thankfully no one got their feet crushed. This time.

As I sit and try to get into the zone, Lenny begins motioning like a wild animal for his books and his chewy tube. I can't possibly get them out fast enough so he starts whimpering and howling like a hungry cat. These things distract him quietly for maybe three minutes and then he begins blowing into the chewy tube like a flute and banging on his books like a little Jesus-themed drum set. The wind whistling through his chewy tube isn't satisfactorily flute-like, so he starts quietly saying "hooo, hooo, hoo" and progressively gets louder until I put all entertainment items back into my bag. This results in some flailing gymnastics moves and I go ahead and lay Carolina down on the floor so that I can hold Lenny still for a few minutes. Commence whisper-yelling about how to behave in church and Lenny behaves again for literally a quarter of a second.

Next on the agenda is messing with Carolina. This takes up several minutes, during which he "gently" pinches and squishes her. She can't decide whether she enjoys it... then decides that no, no she does not. A bit of fussing ensues and I pick him up again. I might just mention that trying to hold him still gives everyone the impression that he is having some sort of seizure. Let me assure you, he is not.

Chewing the rubber stoppers on the kneelers comes next. He has melted down onto the floor and has removed the little rubber rings that cover the edges of the kneelers to keep them from slamming into the wood when you put them up. I waffle back and forth between being a strong disciplinarian and not allowing this, and trying to pretend that he is not my child. When I notice that he has gotten it into his head to chuck one toward the priest, I thank the Lord that it's time for communion, because he loves to go up and get blessed and it will be my chance to hide the rubber stoppers in my diaper bag. Hopefully I'll remember to put them back before we leave.

Who am I kidding, I have like 30 of those things in my bag right now.

And then I realize that I wasn't paying attention during the consecration. Time to mentally debate whether I should get communion or not. I vote yes. I seriously need a boost of Jesus to get through the rest of my day. So we walk up and Lenny is desperately trying to wrench his arm out of my grasp. I am trying to give off the super-calm-mom vibe but I'm not sure if it's working since the 100 year old man behind me has asked if I want his help holding Lenny still. As I'm receiving communion Lenny pulls away from me and tries to crawl up the steps toward the altar. I quickly grab him and avoid eye contact with all the other people on my way back to our seats. Apparently my grip is too strong because he is saying, "ow, Mama, owww, you're hurting me, owww." And Carolina's all, "Smile and wave. Just smile and wave." For the record I am definitely not hurting him.

The grand finale is him telling me "It's all done!" and running toward the door while I am still grabbing my things. And then he genuflects and does a backwards sign of the cross and says, "Amen."

So, yeah, sometimes I wonder if he is getting anything out of this. But then I remember that he receives the abundant grace of God from being in His presence. And I remember that the Lord said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Hopefully I am teaching him to love the mass. At least when he is older he will remember how I always took him and how much I loved the mass and loved God.

And honestly, it's not that bad. Heck, when other people compliment me on the behavior of my children during mass, they've got to know that they're going to Hell if they lie. (And I can only assume, by the fact that they are in church at all, that they want to avoid Hell.) If they can tell me that they love to see my little ones at mass, and that I'm doing a great job, and how Lenny is a such good boy, and all of this with a straight face, there must be some truth to it.

Why do I bring my children to church? Because we are the body of Christ. I am. You are. My children are. And He calls us all to worship.

I am aware that the sleeping pic has nothing to do with anything.