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

Mamma duck and her ducklings

When we walk through parking lots, we tend to get a couple stares from passersby. Typically, I am holding the baby in one arm and holding the hand of one child with the other. This leaves one free toddler, so we all link up. Usually I hold Rosie’s hand and she holds John’s. It’s a rather comical train, trying to find the right pace for everyone’s different size legs. Then John will try to run and poor Rosie will be stretched between. Or Rosie will run and John will get swung out on the end. It’s a sight, I’m sure.

Mamma duckAt some point, I started telling the kids that I was the Mamma duck and they were the ducklings. The ducklings all have to follow their Mamma duck just like they do in a pond near our house. They love it. Rosie enjoys rattling off “You are the Mamma duck, I am the girl duck, John is the boy duck, Daddy is the Daddy duck and Clare is the baby duck!”

We had a new iteration of Mamma duck and her ducklings the other day. I mentioned in another post that I am not a super disciplined person. Working out/exercise has never been high on my priority list and the few occasions it has risen the ranks, I haven’t been disciplined enough to actually stick with it.

My husband recently found a new exercise app. He is starting to train for a 100 mile bike ride in the fall and I think was looking for a new way to structure and regiment his work outs. He was saying this app was good because you told it your goals (weight loss, general fitness, build muscle, etc.) and it tailored work outs to that goal. Every day you say how you are feeling (sore, fine, great) and it will increase or decrease the difficulty level. I had to admit, it sounded good.

So, I downloaded it too. I don’t know why, I get so embarrassed, anxious, and silly about exercising. The first day, it’s funny to say now that I waited until he went to work to even open the app. The app had me do some stretching and then it wanted me to walk for 15 minutes. Well, I knew if I took all the kids for a 15 minute walk we would barely make it around the block, probably not the heart rate target the app had in mind. I decided to just walk around the house. I could keep up a decent pace and even had the added “bonus” of carrying Clare for 10 of the 15 minutes (someone should really create a work out plan/app for moms with children under 18 months to do at home, but take into account the fact that they will be carrying said child. It would be awesome, someone please do it. I might even try it out. But I;m starting to digress).

There I was, attempting to walk at a decent pace through my house and both John and Rosie start to follow me. Mamma duck was back with her ducklings trotting (swimming?) along behind her.

These kids want so much to be like me and my husband. It’s what kids do, it’s how they learn – imitation. They observe my reaction to a situation and try to emulate it in their own lives, for better or worse. Even if you don’t have any children, people are watching you, observing your behavior, wondering about your thoughts and reasons for acting as you do. I don’t mean that people are judging you, but we are naturally a curious species. We are inquisitive, we wonder, we ask questions, we try to understand. We all have people we look up to, those we wish to be more like. God made us this way and it is a beautiful thing because it allows us to learn from each other.

This all gets me thinking about who my role models are. Who has been a role model and ceases to be – why? Who are my present role models – why? Who else could be a role model – why?

I’ll share a couple with you:

I am inspired fashion-wise by Joanna Gaines from DIY Network’s Fixer Upper show. I like her simple style of dressing, nothing flashy, simple color palette and strategic use of jewelry.

I am inspired as a parent by a good friend who always to remain rational with her children, even when they are acting and talking in highly irrational ways. She usually maintains a calm, steady voice, and tries to see things from their perspective. She is respectful of their irrationality until they are able to calm themselves to a more rational state of being.

I am inspired as a mother by Chiara Lubich, the founder of a movement in the Catholic Church called the Focolare. Chiara writes about a universal motherhood, based on imitating Mary, the mother of Jesus. Chiara challenges: “In practice we have to …behave toward every neighbor I meet, or for whom I shall be working, as if I were their mother…A mother is always welcoming, always helpful, always hopeful, and covers up everything. She forgives everything in her children.”

I am inspired as a wife by a woman in a small group I am in. She and her husband retired to our area after 30 years in the Air Force. Military life for them involved deployments and separations as you might guess. I have always thought about how wonderful life after the Air Force will be some day, to be able to leave all the separations behind. For this couple, life and job had other plans. Presently, her husband is working 7 hours away from her and a job he loves and they both agree is the best situation for him. They see each other on the weekends. They will continue like this for at least another year. Her poise, confidence, loyalty and faith are contagious.

Who inspires you most today? Who do you hope is inspired by you?

Extended Family – Extra Grandmas

We are a military family and are stationed far from any family. With the type of work my husband does in the Air Force, it will be difficult for us to ever be stationed by either set of our parents. This is a hard fact of our life. It is something that we chose, each in our own way. Ben was committed to the Air Force before we got married and I knew (as best as I was able at the time) what type of life I was committing myself to.

So far we have been stationed at two bases in the U.S. and are starting to mentally prepare for another move, probably in the next year. Where to, you might ask? Not a clue. But we’ll leave that for another post (think TRUST and PATIENCE – not exactly easy or particularly pleasant most of the time but so necessary for every life, military or not).

As I said, we don’t have any family close by us. Since we don’t have any blood family in reasonable distance, we have had to make a family, an extended family so to speak. A key part of our extended family are our relationships at church. There is one special relationship I’d like to share with you.

There is a woman at our church that loves our family. She is a lector (reader) at Mass and her husband plays guitar for the choir. They are an older couple and have been at the parish as long as we have and probably longer. When Ben is away on a trip or deployed, going to Mass can sometimes feel like I’m climbing a mountain that has no peak. The kids are everywhere, no one is listening, goldfish are being crushed with each step into the carpet and no one in at least a 10 foot circle around us is praying in peace, though they might be praying for some peace and quiet!

We were having one of those Sundays when Miss Judy sat down with us. It was during the homily and I was already exhausted. She joined us in the pew and took John in her lap. John is a super friendly kid and as soon as he saw that he was staying in the pew with us he had no issue hanging out with Judy. John has some great hair – it’s thick and curly and goes everywhere. Judy sat with him and played with his hair, listened to his stories, helped him keep relatively quiet, gave him his snack, everything. For that half hour she could have been his grandma.

Judy has helped me a number of times since this first instance. She knows all the kids and they love to see her. When we get to Mass they ask me, “Mommy, is Miss Judy reading today?” or “Mommy, where is Miss Judy sitting? Can we talk to her?” It is so sweet. She gets right down to their level and gives them all the love and attention that they want.

I feel so blessed that she is a part of our life. And Judy isn’t the only person like this in our lives. I have had a number of parishioners help me chase kids, do bathroom runs, walk to communion, and hold hands in the parking lot. Our family has been enveloped my our community in such a loving embrace. Each time someone holds open the door or helps one of my little ones put on their coat I feel God’s presence with us.

Sundays when Ben is gone are difficult. In some ways I dread the day, knowing what a challenge Mass will potentially be. But at the time time, every Sunday is an opportunity for me to humble myself and accept the help and support my community wants to offer me. This community is family. They have seen us at our worst and our best and still they come to check up on us, help us and love us.