Pebbles Beach Trip

This past weekend saw the Stones strewn about the Texas coast engaged in various vacation-like activities. One such activity, surprisingly, included babies falling asleep easily in their own separate rooms at the same exact time. Can I get an Amen?

We also did lots of swimming, visited the Texas State Aquarium, and learned how to suck bait shrimp straight out of the wet sand. The adults spent quality time together while enduring the cruel vacillations between toddler whininess and exuberant cuteness. The babies got to enjoy the excellent company of grandparents and a silent Uncle Nate. All in all, it was fun!

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A special note of appreciation goes to the Intex inflatable toddler bed which Lillian adored. Totally dad’s idea, too.

The Mirror

lillyclareThis evening as I knelt on a folded, brown bath mat and reached into the tub to douse Lillian with another cup of tepid water, she looked intently at me and proudly chirped, “blue eyes.” She is getting so good at noticing little details. I am intrigued and a somewhat horrified of this little person becoming a mirror which reflects back interpretations of reality. Who am I in the eyes of this person I relentlessly love and yet get so frustrated with? The person whom I yell at and slap the wall in front of? Who am I reflected in the lenses of the person for whom I want the very best, but who inadvertently unearths my most deeply buried faults and sins?

Sometimes I need an infusion of patience and empathy.

What is it like encountering the world for the very first time and you are only two years old? When your delighted discoveries elicit a frown and disapproving tone?

Lord, give me patience.

Thoughts on an Unequally Yoked Marriage

ringsOliver: Mass would be better if the priest would talk longer, and they got rid of all the singing and praying.

Me: Um…that’s the liturgy?

I live in an “unequally yoked” marriage. In a certain sense, every marriage is unequally yoked by nature pairing together two flawed human beings. I frequently find myself baffled by singular male habits. After years of study I still haven’t discovered the reason why underwear never lands in the hamper and empty beer bottles adorn the counters like trophies after Friday or Saturday night festivities. I couldn’t tell you the number of times I have grumbled in my head, “why am I the only person who can see this mess?!” He thinks I am equally crazy, but also has enough sense not to tell me in what way.

Drawing inspiration from Scripture, I like to see my husband and I as a couple of oxen pulling the cart that is our life and family together. My husband and I contribute in our different ways to the greater good of our family and pick up the slack when each other fail. What that means in my marriage is that I am the only ox pulling the cart in the “faith” department. He procures the money and multimedia. I take care of the children and prayers.

It’s taken years to come to some kind of peace about this arrangement for both of us since I converted after we were married. I believe that my having faith does both of us good as it challenges me to keep chipping away at my natural selfishness in a way that my former Paganism never would. Imagine converting from, “An’ it harm none, do what you will” to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” My creed as a Pagan was about taking what you could get and putting yourself first. As a Christian it’s about giving all that you have and becoming the least. What this means on a practical level is that when I fail and shrilly nag, “why am I the only one who can see this mess?!” I might actually feel sorry about it.

Our disagreement about faith also presents us with certain challenges that couples who are united on that front don’t face. For instance, I diligently keep my symptothermal charts and he has the freedom to procure contraception if he chooses to do so. I invite him to come with me to mass, and he has the absolute right to decline the invitation. He allows me to baptize our children but I have no intention of teaching them that their dad is in any way “less”.

St. Paul says that in his opinion the unbelieving husband is made holy through his believing wife (1 Cor 7:14). I have to carry on and believe that even in the basest way, my prayers and example (Lord, help me) will benefit my husband and everyone else in my family. I have to live my faith for the both of us and not just personal fulfillment. I have to look to God to tear down barriers of pride and build us both up.

At least that’s the goal. The doing is the hard part.

Of Horses and Elephants

“Cook, mama!”

An imperative order I heard this morning coming from the lips of my one-month-shy-of-two-year-old, Lillian. I’m starting to see the blossoming of personality from my little girl as suddenly all of those disconnected instances of screaming or laughter or determined concentration weave themselves together into one solid scrap of temperament. She seems to be a go-getter, preferring to say, “cook, mama!” instead of “I’m hungry.”

Last Sunday we went to my aunt’s house for a late family Christmas party. My aunt’s yard has a lonely swing set and slide once loved by her tall twins. Lillian ran first to the swings and then began the process of climbing a ladder three times her height (somewhat to mama’s dismay!) and flying down the undulating slide to be tossed several feet away onto her rear end. Each time she hopped back up with a smile and climbed that ladder again past her older male cousins who seemed to be working up the courage to try the slide once. My brave girl.

My mind whirls in excitement thinking about watching Cara grow and change into a self-contained little person with (probably) a totally different personality than Lillian. There is not a whole lot happening with a two-month-old except stabilizing sleep patterns (alleluia!) and occasional smiles. It takes awhile for glimmers of personality to emerge. I keep thinking about the differences between Lillian as a baby and Cara.

Lillian had an independent streak right from the very first. She always preferred to sit up, being held in a sitting position first and then transitioning into an early sitter. I wanted to snuggle with her but she did not like leaning back. She screamed at the very first signs of hunger impatiently.

Cara loves to snuggle and recline on anyone who will hold her. She smiled early and we could tell that it wasn’t just a newborn reflex smile. She can be crying for food but will rest, content to wait as long as someone is holding her. Cara seems to be a sweet, easy-going baby.

People instinctively buy my babies different stuff. Lillian always received rabbits and horses and butterflies, things one would find in a dewy meadow. Cara receives elephants and monkeys. The funny thing about this is I picked up two book posters from a Texas Library Association conference years before having babies, thinking they would be cute for little girls if I should ever have any.

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Everything But The Horse (a biography of Holly Hobbie) hangs in Lillian’s room, and Me…Jane (a biography of Jane Goodall) waits in a closet to be framed some day in the future. Cara’s middle name is Jane Elizabeth, so it fits well. Wouldn’t it be cute to decorate each girl’s side of the room with a different theme?

Rebekah’s First (illicit) Communion

olgI returned to my pew after receiving the body of Christ in communion and glanced sideways at my 10 year old, non-Catholic niece. She was holding the host in her hand as she whispered to me, “what do I do with this?” After dragging my jaw up off the floor I said, simply, “eat it.” She put the edge of the host in her mouth and broke a piece off. “Eat it!” I said, “It’s Jesus! Put the whole thing in your mouth and chew it and swallow it quick!” Before communion I had told her, “cross your arms over your chest so you can receive a blessing. Only Catholics can take the bread, but you can receive the blessing.” She got flustered when she made it in front of Father Paul and forgot what to do, and he put the host in her hand. So goes Rebekah’s first communion.

I had my first communion the same way and at the same age, but less innocently. I’d lived my life on the periphery of my family’s Catholic culture, one of those unbaptized babies whose parents say, “when you grow up you can decide.” To me it felt less like choice and more like being left out. Communion was this exotic thing that all my cousins got to do while my brothers and I kept our aching knees on the kneeler. My chance came while attending my aunt’s wedding. My slightly devious cousin whispered to me as people started forming a line, “come with me.” I agreed. Emily has always been the daring leader of our little posse while I have been the creative director. I wasn’t about to question her authority when the request echoed my own desires. I got in line behind Emily and she told me what to do.

I piled one hand on top of the other, slightly cupped. When the priest said, “Body of Christ,” I spat out an Amen and shoved that wafer right in my mouth, imbibing the God I’d always been denied.

The moment of my first, clandestine communion was one of those moments which seemed to come by chance or by force. In hindsight I see the moment dripping in the grace of God who tells the little children, “come.” I hope it can be the same way for my niece, whether she ever knows it or not.

Yet just as from the heavens

the rain and snow come down

And do not return there

till they have watered the earth,

making it fertile and fruitful,

Giving seed to the one who sows

and bread to the one who eats,

So shall my word be

that goes forth from my mouth;

It shall not return to me empty,

but shall do what pleases me,

achieving the end for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11-12

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Rebekah: “Is he the patron saint of squirrels?”