Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Mother's Blessing on Ash Wednesday

Today is March 1st and Ash Wednesday. The pastors at our church, FCCOG, tried something new this morning. They stood out in front of the church and performed blessings and the distribution of ashes. They called it "Ashes to Go" and it was quite successful for a first year venture. (Good job guys!) In a community where many people commute by car and train into New York City, time is of the essence and efficiency is valued. In addition, the simple act of a touch and a prayer can change a day, but I digress.

We walk to school each morning and we stopped by for a "to-go" blessing from dad on the way to school. My 6 year old was anxious about having ashes on his forehead for school. I could see that he was worried about hurting his dad's feelings. He didn't want them on his head (he doesn't like to be dirty) but he didn't want his dad to be disappointed in him. I received mine and in the end, he balked and decided he was not interested. About halfway down the driveway of the church, he wavered. I told him this was his last chance to run up and have dad do it for him. He said a teary, "no thank you." About 20 yards later, he was still visibly upset and I asked him if he wanted me to do it. He looked confused but said, "sure". With traffic whizzing by next to us, I rubbed my thumb against the mark on my forehead and I said a quiet blessing and made the cross just below his hairline. I took a picture and showed him what it looked like. It was a light smudge of a cross on his little forehead. He nodded and walked on.

As we walked, I pushed his brothers in the double stroller and he and I talked. He was worried his dad would say, "what? You let your mom do ashes but not me?" That began a conversation about blessings. We talked about how a mother is always allowed to perform blessings for her children. How people can bless others every day. It can mean doing something nice or just smiling at someone, using nice words, or being kind. I told him that every day when he goes off to school, I chant a Sanskrit blessing for him and each of his brothers. I do three for each boy. I began doing this with encouragement from a yoga teacher/mentor/friend, Jessie. I sang it for him this morning "Aad Guray Nameh, Jugaad Guray Nameh, Sat Guray Nameh, Siri Guroo Dayvay Nameh." I visulaize protection, love, happiness, and health surrounding my child. I see it as a colored gentle breeze or wrap enveloping them. I told him that I send it to him in my mind. I explained to him that moms hope good things for their children and that is just like a blessing. I reminded him that ashes that touched my forehead and then his were very special.

And then we returned to discussion of the construction of the train station, the names of the pizza places in town, how many fire trucks fit in the local fire station, and why people put flowers in boxes in front of their stores. Daily, comfortable, ordinary questions from a kindergartner. 

"From dust you came and from dust you shall return."

There is something there that I can't quite articulate. Emmett is an actual part of me. He is half me and he carries my heart with him. Our family jokes that he and I share a brain. He is also a child of God, an overused cliche that felt so true in that moment. I felt like the combination of my thumbprint (both metaphoric as well as literal), my love, the ashes that were transferred from my forehead to his, and the love of God wrapped this little boy in a safe blanket.

There are some who may frown upon  a lay person performing this type of sacrament. I don't apologize, not for a second. An opportunity for a beautiful moment with any of my children is always welcomed, whether through prayer, blessings, play, exploration, or quiet moments just before bed. I soak them up and hope my boys do too.



Sunday, February 5, 2017

To those around us in church

This is an open "thank you" to those that sit around us in church.

Thank you for your patience with us. We are a lot. We are three young kids and one mom in a pew because dad is up front in a robe or in the pulpit.

A few things upfront...

- We believe in keeping our children in church. They only learn how to behave if given the opportunity to practice.
- We believe in letting them go to Sunday School if they want to go.
- We believe in letting them decide when they are ready to go to church school or if it is a day they need to be near their mom. Kids are smart and only they know how they feel that day.
- We believe in teaching our boys how to sit respectfully in church. That being said, we also understand that they are 6, 3, and 1 years old and sometime it is hard to sit quietly.
- We believe in leaving the sanctuary if necessary, in order to maintain a certain atmosphere for others in worship.
- We don't allow screaming and crying, tantrums, or disrespect.
- We believe that some Sunday mornings just aren't going to be successful church mornings. The best way for kids to to learn to behave is to put them in situations where they can be successful. (Thanks for that lesson mom!) If someone is sick or I can feel that the energy is really stirred up, I believe that asking them to sit in church is just not an option.  Luckily, my husband respects my decision to keep everyone home if I feel it is warranted. We love to be in church, we love to listen to dad preach, we love to sing and take communion but there are mornings where we just can't make it. 

Thank you for your understanding. I do the very best I can to keep everyone happy and meet everyone's needs but sometimes I miss the mark. Sometimes, someone is fussy or out of sorts. Sometimes, someone can't keep their hands to themselves or for that matter, their feet, knees, or tongues off of their brother. This can cause a momentary ruckus.

Thank you for your ability to focus, despite our wiggling. Last week my 12 month old cruised back and forth on the pew smiling and cooing at everyone behind us. My three year old stood facing the pew looking at the hymnals and drawing on the bulletin but he was quiet. The six year old was oddly still, sitting and listening and taking in everything. We try not to be too distracting but I do know that sometimes people have to pay attention around our busy family.

Thank you for your flexibility. Sometimes, we have to do things a bit differently. My boys love to run up to the front of the church and look at the communion table or stand in the pulpit like daddy. We are continually seeking out the line between reverence and comfort in the church. I often stand in the aisle (off to the side) with the littlest. That sweet boy has never liked to sit and we are often able to squeak out a few extra quiet minutes if we are standing and doing the mom-sway. I almost always bring a whole apple for each of the older boys. They get it when the sermon starts and it gives them something to work on, keeps them from talking and keeps them from tussling. *Note that wipes are important if this is your tactic. I realize that this is unusual and sometimes food in the sanctuary is frowned upon, but thank you for understanding why I choose to do this.

Thank you for your help. Thank you for playing a game of peek-a-boo with the little ones and for picking up dropped, well, everything. People have handed us crayons, Hot Wheels, baa baa, slimy spoons, bulletins, blankies, you name it. At Patrick's candidating weekend, the senior pastor's wife handed us back, a previously mentioned, sucked on apple. This was the first time I had met her. Talk about brave. Thank you for helping me watch one of the big boys when someone has to run to the bathroom, for letting one or both of them sit with you in the pew, for making sure the oldest gets to Sunday School and picking him up afterwards, for zipping up jackets and tying shoes. Often I just need an extra set of hands for a quick task.

Most of all, thank you for loving our boys despite their noise, energy, mess, and enthusiasm. They ask to go to church and love to see everyone.

Parents of the preacher's kids

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Getting out the door - sort of

Before I had children I was rarely late. I would take my coat out of the closet, put on my shoes that were neatly by the back door, grab my bag from the hook and step out, carefully locking the door behind me. I would get in my car, put on my seat belt, turn the key in the ignition and I was on my way. I had all of my belongings, 5-10 minutes to spare, and was ensconced in a quiet, peaceful drive to wherever I was going.

Leap ahead to today.

Leaving home with three young boys is similar to an act of Congress (and takes about as long). I start the process about 30 minutes before we need to be out the door. I still don't like to be late but it seems to be inevitable at times. Who can relate?

The first task is to make sure that everyone is suitably dressed for the temperature. We live in Connecticut and although it has been pretty mild, it is still winter. Baby J is almost never in pants at home in order to allow him to scoot around on the wood floors without face planting. I carry him up to his room to put pants on him. Next, my middle guy (M) detests all articles of clothing with any sort of coverage. Jeans result in the inability for him to bend his knees which of course means he amazingly loses the ability to walk temporarily, zippers must be just at the right level of up/down, long sleeves are absolutely not acceptable, socks "hurt", and just recently has he agreed to a sweatshirt. Putting these items on with him is about a 10 minute process, down from the WWF-like 40 minute take downs 6 months ago. (Has anyone ever steer-wrestled? Same difference.) He is three and because he doesn't want to wear them, doesn't put them on himself. I set down the 12 month old to wrestle M into his pants and the next thing I know, J has dumped out the dog's water dish. I grab J, sop up the water that is spreading across the kitchen floor and run up to change his wet clothes. Meanwhile, M is crying loudly because his jeans are too "over his feet" and they are covering his knees so he can't walk. I get J changed, run back downstairs, put the empty water dish on the counter, put the baby on the floor, and finish dressing with the three year old. The entire time, coaxing him to try and help, crazily thinking that if he learns how to do it, this whole process might be easier? He, of course, objects loudly, and wails that "I can not do it!" I end up dressing him because now we have 8 minutes before we have to be out the door.

Next monumental task - shoes and socks. As if donning three little pairs of shoes and socks weren't enough, first we have to find them. Of course, they are all in 12 different places, because why would you put socks and shoes together. Wait, even crazier, why would both socks be in the same room? Now, one would think that finding said shoes and socks shouldn't take much time at all. A true statement, unless you are 12 months, 3 years, and/or 6 years old. All things suddenly become interesting, including the dust bunnies under the couch, the spoon that fell on the floor at breakfast, and the hot wheel that was thought to be lost but discovered under the fridge. I have decided to change the text alert tone on my phone to the word, "FOCUS" in hopes that every time it goes off it will be a reminder to my boys. 12 minutes later we have collected all items. The big boys are sitting on the floor putting on their socks and shoes. E (6 year old) needs his socks "fixed" because the heel is "wrong" and as soon as I set J down to make the necessary adjustments, he makes a beeline for the back stairs. I jump up to body block the door. Catastrophe averted. M gets his socks and shoes on but is screaming and crying because "they don't feel good". I adjust the socks, tongues, and velcro and then I do it 2.75 more times before he deems them wearable, maybe. All this while the baby is trying to Kamikaze over me in order to play on the top landing of the stairs to the back door.

And then one day... Hallelujah, the six year old learns to tie his shoes. The only trouble is that it takes him 15 minutes to tie them and now that he can, the wise parenting move is to encourage him to do it himself. I'm telling you, that the patience it takes to watch that is monumental, especially since it took 12 1/2 minutes to find the damn things in the first place. "I got it mom" has been uttered 132 times. Finally, he gets them tied, but could I double knot them? Sure, why not. Meanwhile, J has tired of trying to break through my human wall and has crawled away and is pulling all items off the coffee table in the living room. I chase him down, tug his socks on, give up, and shove his shoes in my bag.

We are in the homestretch. I ask the big boys to grab their jackets.


E can't reach his, M doesn't like the one I handed him because "it bothers me" and he is now laying on the ground (his legs are trapped in his jeans). The one I grabbed for J is too small although I swear it fit yesterday. I run down and hand E his, I tell M that he can wear the one I handed him or grab a sweatshirt and I run back upstairs with J in my arms to find something that will fit him. Who needs the stair stepper at the gym? We are now 10 minutes behind schedule.

I set J down in order to tie my own shoes but as soon as I set him down, he falls over and bumps his face on the floor. I scoop him up, assess the damage, calm him down and run back upstairs to grab his blankie. I finally shuffle everyone out the door grabbing my bag and sliding into a pair of shoes that do not need to be tied because putting J down to do so is risking another crisis/injury.

We get out to the van and I still have to get everyone loaded. By this time, I am tired and we are late, is it even worth leaving home? I open the van doors and E crawls in the back, takes off his coat (he can't wear the thick coat in his seat for safety reasons), and buckles his own seat belt. One child in...

I put J in his seat and before I get him buckled, he has taken off one of his socks and thrown it out the door. I pull off the other one and toss them in my bag so that at least they are together. I tuck his blanket around him and close the door. Two children in...

I run around to the passenger side and lift M into the van and into his seat. I remind him to start putting his arms in the straps like a backpack and he somehow manages to end up all twisted up, resulting in crying. Again. Remind me when the crying about everything ends?! I untangle him, remind him for the one millionth time to scoot his bum back and to the middle and show him, again, how to buckle the chest clip, hoping that eventually he will be able to help, like maybe when he is 18. Seat belt cinched up. Three children in... Victory is so close I can taste it. Or maybe that is the cold cup of coffee I left in the microwave... Oops.

I run back around to the drivers side and fall into the drivers seat. Three, two, one... "Mom! I need my pillow! M has his Baa Baa and J has his blanket but I don't have my pillow!" Too late, meanest mom ever is ready to go and the pillow is just going to have to spend a quiet morning at home... alone... sometimes I am jealous of that pillow.

As we pull away, I hear J fill up his diaper. We are only 16 minutes late, a new record.

Good thing we only have to do this two more times today.