Me & My House

Each year our children grow older and we as parents, hopefully, grow wiser. With our oldest being 7, soon to turn 8, and 3 (plus one more on the way – bring on the basketball court, we’re looking at a full 5-player Team Taliaferro soon), there are some parenting dos and don’ts we’ve figured out. We’ve established some basic family rules, we have rituals and traditions. Our kids understand that we are a family. We stick together, we work together, we laugh together, and most importantly, we love each other.

There are some days that I feel like we’ve got this. We’ve figured out where our kids are, we have a good idea of what they are struggling with, what they are passionate about, and what brings them joy. But then, as always happens, the seasons change. The toddler makes a new developmental leap, the 4 (or 6 or 7) year old discovers a new boundary or rule they would like to challenge. And it’s like we are back to our early parenting days where everything was trial and error, challenge and discovery, frustration and attempts at good communication.

One thing that I’m coming to notice is that though our children go through different stages and seasons of life, and will go through many more that we haven’t experienced yet, some things stay the same. Our love for our children, their need for our love and encouragement and their desire to do good. The who, what, when, where and whys may change, but these things have stayed the same.

Part of this stability, I believe, is because from the first days of Ben’s and my marriage we intentionally put God in the center of it all. In our culture today, God is often an afterthought, or someone reserved for Sunday mornings. God is there when we need something or are going through some kind of struggle, but once the thing is received or the struggle is over, so goes our connection to God. This isn’t what we wanted for our family. Both being raised Catholic, choosing to continue in our faith as individuals and then to receive the Sacrament of Marriage, we had some intuitive wisdom to rely on when it came to building a family culture. And, until recently, I haven’t thought very concretely about how these choices have impacted our family.

The past month or so I have been watching a brand new DVD video series called Me & My House. The host is Patrick Sullivan, a husband, father and theologian with 9 kids who live in Canada. Patrick is a speaker and teacher who hopes to inspire families in their mission to, ultimately, all be in heaven someday. But he doesn’t just talk about the religious aspect of family life, though he knows a lot about it. Patrick digs into the nitty gritty of the family:

  • Why is it important to share a meal?
  • What are effective discipline techniques?
  • How do you communicate with your spouse and how is that different from your children?
  • What is a family culture and what does your family culture look like?
  • How do your children best experience the divine?

These videos are very impactful and are full – I mean really, really full! – of great ideas, tips, exercises and things to consider for your own unique family. The vast majority of the videos are no more than 10 minutes, many are under 6. Patrick systematically walks through family life, exploring the nuances and often not-so-subtle details of many people living under one roof. Through the series, viewers take the time to consider each member of their family, be you a newly married couple or seasoned veterans with any number of children at any ages. What are everyone’s strengths, weaknesses, vices, good habits, perspectives and ways of relating to God? What is our family culture, what kind of boundaries do we have for all the members, not just the children? What expectations do we have of one another, how do we treat each other, what is our collective family goal or mission? How are we striving for holiness within our family and within our wider community?

This series isn’t at all theoretical. Patrick offers real examples from his own family experiences as well as general situations from which lessons can be learned. I have greatly appreciated the practical wisdom that have come from watching these videos. However I will say, since the videos are short it’s easy to watch one too many and become overwhelmed with ideas that you can’t implement all at once. Keep a notebook handy, there’s always something to write down to talk about later.

These DVD’s would be great for a couple, or a group of couples, to watch together over a period of time. Again, the videos are short but impactful so there is lots to discuss from watching one or two, depending on the topic and your family situation. For example, a couple who has recently baptized their first baby will definitely get a lot out of the early videos when Patrick talks about communication and building an intentional family culture. They may find the section on discipline interesting and certainly worth paying attention to, but not directly pertinent to their present situation…yet. These would also work very well as part of an extended family catechesis series or moms’ group where the attention spans of little ones precludes some of the longer video series available.

If you or your parish are interested in finding out more about the Me & My House series, head over to Evango.net/house or click on any of the links here. There are some introductory videos that give you a good feel for what the series is about and how it flows. There is also a Leader’s Guide, Participant Guide, print book, and other accompanying resources which will be available soon. As a bonus, use the coupon code SINGSONG and you’ll receive $15 off the DVD set.

These videos have encouraged me to take a closer look at the practices and rituals of our family life. For some of the videos I found myself nodding my head, saying things like “Yes! Nailed that!” For others, I really had to pause and say, “Wow, we are missing out on an opportunity here. I haven’t considered this before.” There are some ideas I know I want to try to implement right away, like hobby time and asking my kids on a frequent basis, “Who are you praying for?” and “How are you praying for them?”I’m happy to have these videos to reference as we continue in our seasons of change and transition. While we all grow and change, our love for each other and for God will, I dearly hope, only continue to grow. The Me & My House series is definitely encouraging us in the right direction.

December 16, 2016 – The Other

We’ve considered our individual relationships with creation, water and food and how they might change when we daily, intentionally invite Jesus into our everyday lives. These are things that humans cannot live without. We cannot live without creation around us, therefore the health of creation will directly impact our own health and wellbeing. We cannot live without water – it makes us 98% of our bodies! We cannot live without food, which fuels our body and gives us the sustenance necessary to function. There is one still more thing without which we will never to fully thrive:

Other People

When God made humans, well wait. Think about that. God made Adam – one human. But then, after naming all the animals, Adam still wasn’t satisfied. The companionship, the longing to share his life with another, could not be fulfilled by the animals. He needed an equal, a co-worker, to build a community with. Enter Eve.

This need to share life with another is found in the the one we are modeled after. We are made in the image and likeness of God. We know God is one God. But God is also three Persons, a unity or community in which no Person dominates over the others. Our desire for community finds its roots here.

Today, think about the communities you are a part of. If you are married, you and your spouse form a community. Add children, a larger community. Your parents and siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. Your work community, church community, craft community, volunteer community. All of these communities have a common point – you. So, while you pray today, pray for your communities. Ask God to show you what ways you can make your communities better and more life giving for all the members. Most importantly, make sure to ask God to show you who might be looking in on your communities, wishing to join or to be invited in. Your new coworker might enjoy a meal with your family. The new family down the street is looking for a church. Your uncle who you haven’t seen in awhile is able to make it to Christmas this year and you know that he is uncomfortable around x, y, or z family member (for whatever read). What can you do to ensure he feels welcome?

***Did you find anything interesting in your pantry? How has your shopping list changed, or has it? Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook pageDaily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Seizing Opportunity

For those of us planners out there, spontaneity may be a challenge. As Ben and I look forward to our 5 year wedding anniversary, I can gladly look back and say that I have relaxed into a more spontaneous person because of our relationship. Nothing puts this better on display than our recent vacation to Disneyland.

Ben had just returned from deployment and we had been blessed with a gift of a 3-day hopper pass from a family member. Military life being what it is, we were not able to plan out months in advance when we would use this pass. Not wanting to let the time slip away or bank on an opportunity down the road, we decided to go for it. Within 10 days or so of deciding to go to Disney, we were there. Crazy – but perfect. Looking back, I’m so glad that we did not overthink the decision. We talked, reasoned both sides and made a decision.

We were so excited to go, we even broke one of our cardinal parenting rules: telling the kids about something before it’s imminent arrival. They had no concept of “Disney” or what was in store for them. We didn’t want them to go in completely unprepared for the massive, overwhelming experience we were going to be throwing them into. So, we started talking about going to visit Mickey Mouse, seeing Sleeping Beauty’s castle, Lightening McQueen’s racetrack, etc. Once they got the idea of vacation in their head, it was all they could do to keep their shoes off.

20150824_102026Finally, when Ben could take no more, he got out a calendar and put it up in John and Rosie’s room. It happened to be 3 days before we were leaving. Ben brought John and Rosie in and sat them down in front of the calendar. He put a sticker on the present day. Then, another one on the day we were leaving. Together, they counted the spaces between. “We have to wait 3 days,” Ben told them. “John, do you remember anyone else who had to wait 3 days for something to happen?” Ben asked. John thought for a bit, and after some prompting, remembered from school that the disciples had to wait 3 days for Jesus to rise.

John was so proud he remembered this connection. I was not in the room so didn’t know the incredible theology lesson Ben was conducting. John came running to the kitchen to tell me how he had to wait for vacation, just like the disciples had to wait for Jesus. I was so proud of him and so impressed with Ben. Ben saw an opportunity to connect faith and life in such a practical way that John could understand.

20150824_114039Disney provided us another such opportunity. John had a less then wonderful Disney experience. John struggles with some anxiety and fear of the unknown. He was doing great with the rides and thrills until he rode on a rather fast race car ride that included a dark tunnel. After this, unless he could see exactly what happened the whole time on a ride beforehand, he was more than reluctant to try it out.

We were so lucky to have my mom be able to come with us on our spontaneous Disney adventure. She was such a help, especially with John’s meltdowns and irrational behavior. At one point, she pulled John aside and they talked quietly for a bit. When they were done, she said that John was going to try hard to make a sacrifice for the family. Though he really wanted to go back to the hotel, he would stay with the family since everyone else wanted to be at the park. We talked about how sacrifices are hard and there were many times that he didn’t want to make the sacrifice. But, we were able to help him through it. His knowledge of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, even though limited, helped him to connect with what he was attempting to do for the family.

These are the moments that I cherish. Moments that God gives us to feel His presence and honor His working in our lives. I’m sure there were other ways for us to help John deal with waiting for vacation and then deal with the vacation itself. I am inspired by the witness and demonstration of faith that both Ben and my mom gave to John and Rosie. They saw an opportunity to share a piece of faith in the everyday ordinary and instead of shying away, they chose to bring God into the kids’ lives. Mine as well.0824151754