Saturday, June 20, 2009

One more thing before we go...

Well, I am doing some last minute cleaning and packing stuff just a couple of hours we are going to the big family reunion, and then we'll go to Mass, and THEN a Father's Day picnic after I made several potluck items last night. Here's the one going to the family reunion (and it used up all our strawberries, YEAH!)

And here is the recipe. You're welcome!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Quick Takes Friday

Eva finished up her swim lessons yesterday. She will be repeating level 1 again next year, as she is still a little scared of the water. After bribing and threatening, however, she did go down the big water slide with her teacher...not just once but 3 or 4 times! Of course, since I tend to be a bad mom, I didn't have my camera with me...oh well!

I think I can officially say that I have zero children in diapers! YEAH!!! Since Charlotte is my stubborn "pick your battles" kid, the only battle I've been really fighting this week has been potty training. She is even making it through the night dry most of the time!

Charlotte has been throwing a lot of fits recently...I'm not really sure if she is having the same number of fits, but it seems worse since I am counting down to our kid-free vacation, or if she really is throwing significantly more fits. Yesterday, I wouldn't let her have hand sanitizer (she had gone potty and we had washed our hands with soap, but she wanted the hand sanitizer, too...) she threw a horrible screaming fit. So, I called my MIL during it, and when she picked up the phone, she thought that Charlotte had been scalded with boiling water at the very least...nope, just couldn't have the hand sanitizer!

Tuesday I had an adjustment and MIL had a doctor's appointment. So, my day went like this: run errands on the way to the library, take Eva to her summer reading program, leave Eva and hubby there, take Charlotte to go run more errands, count collection at church, meet hubby and Eva at swimming pool for Eva's swim lesson, get Eva changed, drive home, clean out car, and get into MILs car when she and our new SIL got there, drive to the city, drop me off at my appointment, drive MIL to hers, SIL dropped off hubby and the girls at the mall (originally to play at the play area for a while, but somehow that turn into hubby taking the girls to see Up! in 3-D without me...), SIL picked me up, we went shopping, then picked up MIL, then shopped some more, then picked up hubby and kids, then one more shopping stop, then dinner then headed home...

For my shopping trip, there were several things I needed for our trip to Vegas and then Colorado Springs. First stop was ARC thrift store, where I hoped at the very least to find a blue blazer for hubby, and a Hawaiian shirt or dress for Eva. Not only did I find those two items, but I also found a pair of Capri pants for me, and a white dress shirt for hubby (his old one is stained, and I couldn't get the stain out...) So, I spent under $25 for 5 items there...of course, it just went up from there, since everything else I bought was new.

I'm mostly packed for our trip, just a few things that need to be laundered then packed. We just have today (and I promised the girls we would do something fun, so hopefully hubby's schedule is one where we can go to the pool or something) and then tomorrow. Tomorrow is the family reunion, which is why Eva needed a Hawaiian style dress...the theme is a luau, and hubby has 4 Hawaiian shirts (all courtesy of my mother...) Charlotte has a fish dress that my parents brought back from Hawaii when Eva was Charlotte's size, and I have a sarong to wear, so Eva needed something festive (at a thrift store price, of course!) We'll be leaving the reunion in the evening so hubby can read at Mass, then the girls and the dog are going home with MIL, and we will finish up the cleaning and the packing.

I've been thinking about this a lot recently. Growing up, I flew somewhere at least once a year (part of that has to do with my family being spread across the country), and in the time I have been married, I have traveled on planes 5 times in 10 years...and 4 of those times were in the first 3 years of being married. I haven't been on a plane since I was 7 months pregnant with Eva. I'm pretty excited to go, but since I haven't really dealt with much of the TSA stuff, it is a little stressful packing...particularly since we are just carrying on our luggage. I've been researching what is allowed and what is not allowed, and it turns out that hubby needs to take his Dr. Scholl's gel inserts out of his shoes before we head to the airport, because they are not allowed to be carried on the plane...

More quick takes over at Conversion Diary!

Monday, June 15, 2009

What Billy Elliot taught me about rebellion...and freedom

On Saturday afternoon, I noticed that one of the broadcast stations out of Denver was airing "Billy Elliot", so I DVR'd it so MM and I could watch it later without the kids (which we did later that evening). We had watched it in a theatre about 9 years earlier, when it first came out, and this was the first time either of us have seen it again since. We both really enjoyed it both times, but I think it amazed both of us how much our perspective has changed on the same "text" over the course of close to a decade of growing up and, during the last 5 years, becoming parents.

First, a quick sketch of what the movie is about: a pre-teen boy (Billy) and everyone else in his English coal-mining town are under great stress due to the long miners' strike of 1984-85 and, in his case, the death of his mother and the deteriorating health of his elderly "Nan." Gradually, he realizes that dance can be his artistic outlet and emotional well-spring, but in order to pursue this he must overcome small-town conventions and his father's preconceptions. Eventually, the town embraces his dream, he is able to pursue formal dance education, and-as the movie ends-we see the triumphant (adult) Billy performing the male lead of a major ballet production.

Now, as a (more or less) college-aged, childless man from a small, conservative town, I strongly identified with Billy the first time I saw this movie. I interpreted the story as an homage to teenage rebellion, and saw the father, Jackie, as an instrument of Billy's oppression. N0w that I'm older and have two kids who could both be described as "strong-willed," though, I notice some things about the father's role in Billy's life that I didn't notice before. First, it is clear that everything Jackie did concerning Billy's dancing was sincerely meant to guide and protect his son and, to be fair to him, the dancing appeared in the beginning to be rebellion for rebellion's sake: Billy lied to Jackie about where he was going and never really showed his father that the dancing was important to him in its own right. When Billy finally did show his father just how much the dancing meant to him (by performing for him), Jackie became his greatest supporter...and, amazingly, the rest of the town helped him, doors began to open, and Billy's future became brighter and bigger than anything his small town could provide. In reality, Billy became free not through his rebellion from his father and his town (that is, opting out), but through his efforts and will being joined to those of his family and community - an opting in.

This realization, and even the language with which I have shaped it, is definitely influenced by long reflection on an address to young adults by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the United States last April. The Pope discussed a common misunderstanding of freedom as the absence of rules and objective truth -i.e., relativism- and said:
Dear friends, truth is not an imposition. Nor is it simply a set of rules. It is a discovery of the One who never fails us; the One whom we can always trust. In seeking truth we come to live by belief because ultimately truth is a person: Jesus Christ. That is why authentic freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in; nothing less than letting go of self and allowing oneself to be drawn into Christ’s very being for others.
To use the example of Billy Elliot again, compare the success he eventually enjoyed to the path he nearly took by lashing out at his first and most influential supporter, his ballet teacher. At one point, he tries to assert his independence by saying she is just like everyone else in his life, trying to tell him what to do. Putting a strain on this relationship nearly puts an end to his life in the world of dance before it ever really gets started.

This, I think, really resonates with something I've been reading recently in Hold On to Your Kids (a book that I've simultaneously been really enjoying but also, to be honest, struggling to plow through). The authors describe a concept called "counterwill" as an "instinctive, automatic resistance to any sense of being forced." As seen in children my kids' age, it manifests itself in a general "contrariness," or a strong aversion to doing anything not believed to be their idea in the first place. The authors say counterwill is important in the psychological development of fully autonomous people, especially as a defense mechanism during the so-called "terrible twos" and the teenage years - times in which a person's sense of self is most fragile. While this "basic human resistance to coercion" stays with us all our lives (understood in Western theological thought, I think, as "free will"), a truly mature and free person can choose "to be independent but committed also to preserving the attachment relationship...he can afford to heed the other when it makes sense to do so, or to go his own way when it does not."

In contrast, a child in a state of rebellion is not truly free. In the authors' words:
The child's oppositionality is not an expression of will. What it denotes is the absence of will, which allows a person only to react, but not to act from a free and conscious process of choosing... What is strong is the defensive reaction, not the child. The weaker the will, the more powerful the counterwill. If the child was indeed strong in her own self, she would not be so threatened by the parent.
As a mental exercise, replace each instance of the word "child" in the above quote with "person" and replace the word "parent" with whatever you would like that represents those in power, whether it be bosses, the Church, or -in the language of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2234-46)- "legitimate authorities." How would the institutions in our country be different if our culture embraced this subtle distinction between rebellion, or "opting out," and what the Pope calls "authentic freedom" in which we are free, yet mature enough to "opt in" to our relationships and communities?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Quick Takes Friday

Well, I am late with this edition because first, I forgot it was Friday (it's hard to keep track of any day but Sunday for me...) and second, because we took the girls to the pool. I didn't take the camera to the pool, but I did get a cute shot of them in their swimsuits once we got home. Now it is nap time YEAH!!!

Eva is in swimming lessons right now. Level 1 - basically how to not be afraid of the water (in Eva's case) or how to fear the water (in the case of one little girl who was removed from the class by the teachers on Wednesday, and was much better behaved on Thursday). She has one more week of class, Monday to Thursday.

Charlotte was supposed to be in a parent tot class next week, but it got cancelled because the pool was double booked...then I found out why...the city run daycare is using the pool. I get SO sick of preferential treatment for the city daycare everywhere in this town...story time at the library, the pool, etc. It's just annoying to me.

The summer reading program is going on right now, and Eva is participating for her third year (she couldn't do the end of the program swim party the first year, because you have to be 3, but they let her participate in the rest of the stuff since her birthday is at the end of August.) and Charlotte still has to wait one more year (and she is NOT happy about that!) The 3-5 year old group has 63 participants, so it is being split into two groups, the 3 year olds, and the 4-5 year olds. I've been getting Eva audio books to listen to during nap time, and she has been mostly enjoying the "Hank the Cow Dog" books suggested to me.

We've just been a little crazy around here recently. My little BIL decided on the way back from his honeymoon that he and his new bride would move two days later...I had a doctor's appointment (down just over 30 lbs!) and somehow MIL and I got suckered into helping them move too (not that I mind, but it was another hour drive up, then packing, driving, etc. while on a clear liquid diet...I didn't make it on that diet all day like I was supposed to!) Hubby had the day off, so it was FIL and hubby driving up in a pickup with large, mostly clean cattle trailer in the rain, BIL with his pickup and horse trailer packed, new SIL with her car packed (including their two cats), MIL, me and the girls with the rest of her SUV packed full of stuff. SIL went back up this week to clean and pack up the last few things.

NINE DAYS TO GO until our Vegas vacation! YEAH!!!

In those nine days, we have a housewarming BBQ, four days of swim lessons, 1 day with summer reading program, a trip up to the city for MILs infusion, a K of C meeting, and a family reunion...oh yeah, and all the normal cooking, cleaning laundry, plus trying to pack two carry on bags with everything we need for Vegas, and another suitcase for the things we'll need for the K of C meeting after Vegas, plus shopping for a few pieces of clothing that we need for above trips, plus potty training Charlotte (it's going well so far, YEAH!!!) PLUS figuring out how to pack all of our bags for our vacation and a large icon that we are supposed to take with us to the meeting and deciding whether we need to find somewhere to store the icon while our car is parked at the airport for several days...I'm getting tired already!

More quick takes at Jen's blog!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Strawberry Jam

Well, I have been missing for a little while again...but to make up for my lack of blogging, here's some great pictures I got the other night while making jam from our strawberry patch. Hubby thought I was crazy for ordering June-bearing strawberries instead of ever-bearing ones...but this was what I was hoping would happen someday!
The strawberries, hulled and ready to go
Canning supplies at the ready
Ready for the canner
The finished jam!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Why did God make you?

Here's a quick video (sadly, just at whatever quality level available from my phone) of the girls answering the questions mentioned in my previous post:

I, Object? I object!

Thanks to MM's hard work with our Seton homeschooling curriculum (plus some other resources), Eva knows her numbers well enough to count up to...well, a lot. And she knows the letters and their sounds well enough that she's darn near being able to read on her own. But she's also learned some other pretty important things, such as what we as Catholics believe to be the answers to about 29 questions, so far. One of the earliest ones asks why God made us, to which Eva replies, "God made me to show His goodness and to make me happy with Him in Heaven."

With this information, Eva could infer something profound about our nature and purpose as humans. Looking at the first part of her answer, is there anything we need to do to show God's goodness? Just to be. Our mere existence is a testament to God's love. How about the second part of the statement? What, if anything, is asked of us in order for us to be happy with God in Heaven? Well, that's the answer to the next question: "To be happy with God in Heaven, I must know Him, love Him, and serve Him in this world."

So, by God's design, our reason for being on Earth is to be and to perform actions, namely knowing Him, loving Him, and serving Him. In parts-of-speech language, we are meant to be subjects; that is, we are defined by our existence (for its own sake) and by our actions. Put another way, we are not meant to solely be objects - we can be described with, but not defined by the things that happen to us (whether it be outside forces physically acting upon us, or simply our being observed by others).

The secular world understands this, to some degree. After all, we are often (correctly) how wrong it is to objectify women. But American society, generally speaking, seems to glory in doing what it knows, on some level, to be wrong in this regard. However, the problem is not just with the objectification of women; rather, it (I believe) is fundamentally a problem of underestimation of the value of the human person.

Two "news" stories from this past week illustrate my point. Strangely, both deal with notorious "super-sized" families and reality television. First, Nadya Suleman (the "Octomom") "signed a deal with the British company Eyeworks to begin filming a reality TV show based on her life as an unemployed single mother of fourteen." Then (or rather, simultaneously), the family chronicled in the show "Jon and Kate Plus Eight" made headlines both because of alleged adultery committed by both parents, as well as accusations by close relatives that the children in the show "are being exploited and viewed as commodities, all in the name of ratings."

While the accusations made by Kate Gosselin's brother and sister-in-law seem to be patently true, the larger point to me is that the children were "being exploited and viewed as commodities" from the moment both Suleman and the Gosselins achieved pregnancies using artificial fertility-enhancement techniques. Children (and, for that matter, fetuses) are each singular masterpieces that have been made in God's image and should not be arbitrarily added...or subtracted. In addition, Suleman and both Gosselin parents have apparently all had cosmetic procedures of one variety or another, which -while not intrinsically wrong, in my view- seems to indicate that they may also view themselves as commodities.

As nuts as all these people seem, we're really to blame for it. Not only do we as a culture seem to be both voyeuristic and unable to differentiate between "noteworthy" and "notorious," but we also need to be more vigilant about defining people as subjects rather than objects. The good news is that we as Christians -and particularly we Christians who are Catholic- have all the tools we need to change the culture. The teachings of the Church on life issues ranging from abortion to IVF, and especially Pope John Paul II's "Theology of the Body," are tremendous gifts. We just need to go out and use them.