Thursday, July 28, 2011

I tried...

...to write an edifying post about the anxiety I felt about my approaching due date.

In You, O Lord, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.

I tried to say something about trusting God and surrendering to his will.

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from my birth;
it was you who took me from my mother's womb.
My praise is continually of you.


I tried to be honest about my fear of childbirth and of being open to life.

...do not forsake me when my strength is spent.

All my attempts fell flat. Pretentious and irrelevant. That's how my words sounded to me. What an awful combination, when my biggest reason for writing was to make some kind of connection, maybe to reassure someone, or find some succor myself.

O God, do not be far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!

So I silenced myself. I do that often.

But God had me in his hands all along, as I knew he did, even if my heart hid doubts. In his own time, he bore me along and gave me strength and banished my fears moment by moment. Grace according to my need.

But I will hope continually, and will praise you yet more and more,
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all day long,
though their number is past my knowledge.

And now I have been occupied by the ebb and flow of life in my changed and beautiful family, and with a gorgeous baby girl. So my words are slow in coming here. But I must speak now, so I borrow them.

O God, from my youth you have taught me
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.

These words, from Psalm 71, became my prayer in the last two weeks before our baby was born. I went looking in my Bible for them early one morning, when the possibilities of things going wrong loomed large in my imagination. Later, in the thick of labor, I wished that I had more Scripture memorized; but these verses, stuck in my head, sufficed for the occasion.

You who have done great things,
O God, who is like you?
You who have made me see many calamities
will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
you will bring me up again.

Maybe after reading this, you still find me pretentious and irrelevant. It's a risk. But I can't help it.

I have to give thanks to God.

My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praises to you;
my soul also, which you have rescued.

Friday, July 22, 2011

{this moment} -- Our Newest Soul




Anwen Grace Stallworth

Born July 21, 2011
8:15 p.m.
at home
8 lbs, 21 1/2 inches


The Lord has done great things for me
and holy is His Name
—Luke 1:49


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. Photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, visit Soulemama to leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers--A prelude of sorts

I am still waiting for my copy of The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers by Dr. Meg Meeker. I've been trying to get it from my library for a few months now but it's still too new for the branches that have it to release it for interlibrary loan. I was finally convinced by the mounting reviews that I needed my own copy, and when I saw that Elizabeth Foss would be sharing a study series on the book, I bit the bullet and ordered one. It should be here soon. Maybe today.

So I have yet to read a word of the book--aside from block quotes here and there. And the quote Elizabeth starts with resonates with me as true:
If every mother in the United States could wrap her mind around her true value as a woman and mother, her life would never be the same. We would wake up every morning excited for the day rather than feeling as though we'd been hit by a truck during the night....
A mother's version of St. Catherine of Siena's "Be who God made you to be and you will set the world on fire," and other such sayings by the saint about the worth of a soul.

Why then does it frustrate me?

Perhaps it will be more fruitful to read in context. Because I see, looking at what I have to say about Dr. Meeker's beginning, that I am reading something that I already know--on an intellectual level. And what I want is to see it take root in my heart and bear fruit there.

No doubt this is what the challenge of her words means. She asks me to wrap my brain around the value present within me as a woman and mother--knowing, perhaps, that she's not telling me anything necessarily new, but that I still struggle with believing it. She writes, "We look at how well we perform at various functions rather than accepting that we are valuable simply because we are our kids' moms and we are loved and needed because of that." I spend much of my days trying not to look at how well I'm doing, because I don't need to go far for evidence that I'm not doing a stellar job. Some days can be counted as a success only because my husband can come home and point out that, despite the messy house/incomplete lessons/[insert imperfection here], I did a good job because the kids are happy and healthy, and know they are loved, and--here's the catch--I believe him. Often I don't.

I was particularly interested in what Elizabeth had to say about letting fear keep us from knowing our authentic selves.
We can throw ourselves into our work--far more work than a mother of two can begin to imagine--and we can tell ourselves for years and years that we are dying to self in service to our families. There is, however, a real possibility that we are not dying to self at all. Instead, we are failing to look self in the eye and get to know her. We are running from her in the running we do all day (and night). One day, maybe far into the future, we will still be moms, but we will not have the intensity of day-to-day child care and nurturing that we do now. We will be called to utilize our gifts in other ways. Will we be such strangers to ourselves and our talents that we cannot even recognize what it is He wants us to use?
Again, I was struck by how familiar this sounded. There are two sides of this, or maybe two ways of saying the same thing, for me. On one, I agree with Elizabeth, because I am conscious of this dynamic operating in my life. I can bury my deeper self in my day-to-day work. I lose myself in my vocation. This can be a good thing, but Elizabeth cautions us against the false sense of dying to self when really we are closing ourselves off from the fullness of who God made us to be.

But I wonder if I have gotten that far yet--I still struggle to prioritize responsibilities to my family, things that should rank much higher in my daily life, over more frivolous or self-centered pursuits. Because here's the other side: I am afraid that, underneath, all those aspirations, all those talents I plan to make use of one day, or wisely cultivate in my "free time" while I raise my children...that they are empty, or doomed, or not what God created me for after all. And in my fear, I cling to them.

Surely there's a balance between the two.

I have a lot more to say about this, but I am afraid I might be getting off the point made in the book. I look forward to reading it and seeing where it leads me. Right now, in the midst of doubts, I take as my guiding light my husband's advice and encouragement, and the recent counsel I received in the sacrament of confession: Rely on our Lady's example in my vocation. Give myself entirely to my family. Offer my children to God. Ask him for the grace to go the rest of the way. Give thanks for what I have.

Nothing I haven't heard before. But so, so wise.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Give Up on Cursive?

No, no, no, no.

According to this TIME NewsFeed article,
That age-old writing method you might never have used since fourth grade will no longer be taught in Indiana schools come fall, thanks to a memo from school officials. Instead, students will be expected to become proficient in keyboard use.
This piece, linked on Melissa Wiley's blog, got me thinking. I agree with her and with the educators who are responsible for this decision that keyboarding should be a core part of kids' education these days, but I think it's so wrong-headed to let go of cursive as obsolete. (Not that Ms. Wiley said that herself, exactly; and at least the schools will have the choice to teach it if they so decide.)

I'm no expert. I've wondered on my own if and when handwriting would become outmoded, and I've always come to the conclusion that handwriting as a skill is still invaluable. There are countless times when jotting something down on a piece of paper is so much more convenient, or effective, or meaningful. And handwriting is so personal.

Some may quibble with me that it's merely cursive that is being deemed irrelevant here, not handwriting itself. I may be wrong here, but I think that learning cursive contributes to greater fluency in handwriting. Cursive eliminates physical interruptions in writing; it is a more flowing exercise in penmanship than manuscript or block letters, allowing greater ease and speed when mastered. I mean, how fast can a person write in print? "I can print pretty fast," you might say. I would argue that nobody really stays with the form of cursive they're taught in school; instead they develop their own unique hand--and learning cursive influences that process even when the resulting hand resembles print more than cursive.

And by replacing cursive with keyboarding, they're saying that handwriting doesn't matter as much.

Talking with our homeschooling adviser and, more recently, reading this article have reinforced my opinion on handwriting. Our adviser thinks handwriting is so important she recommends that all of the kids start our school day with it. The article makes several points about things like fine motor skills, brain development and engagement, and memory aids. The one I relate to from experience is that handwriting improves composition.
Researchers who tested second-, fourth- and sixth-graders found that children compose essays more prolifically -- and faster -- when using a pen rather than a keyboard. In addition, fourth- and sixth-graders wrote more complete sentences when they used a pen, according to the study, led by Virginia Berninger, a University of Washington professor of educational psychology who studies normal writing development and writing disabilities.
Some caveats: Absolutely, I can type faster if I already have the words I need. I use this tool to break through writer's block, short-circuit an overactive self-editor, or cram a brainstorm of thoughts into existence. And keyboarding has huge advantages in editing a piece of writing once it's been drafted.

But I have long felt that I can think better when I'm just putting pen to paper and working out the words as I write--to the point that I'd rather scribble, circle, draw arrows while I'm getting down a first draft than drag and drop, cut and paste to organize my thoughts.

And you know what? Even without all of that, there is something about the individual script that I would mourn if it is forsaken. I give writer Margaret Shepherd the final word:
Your handwriting reveals you in a number of ways. The fact that you choose to write by hand at all shows that you are not afraid to give something of yourself to other people, and that you think some civilized forms of communication are worth extra effort.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Slushies and Snow Cones

A friend passed this recipe for slushies on to us from Hillbilly Housewife (it's down the page a little). We tried it yesterday after an outing to the park and it was great--one of the kids was thumbing through the drink mix flavors wanting to know which kind I was going to make next. Thanks, Christine!

I actually bought the drink mixes to make snow cones. Do you have a snow cone machine? We were all about snow cones last year, and while we have a snow cone maker, we found it was actually quicker to use the shaved ice feature on our freezer's ice dispenser. I got a little tired of buying the snow cone syrup, though. This is what I'm going to try next. I have some root beer extract, too, which I think I can use to make the root beer-flavored syrup.

Stay cool!

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