We don’t go to Mass as much as we used to. With the 50% custody and the illnesses and homework and trips. Life. When we show up after a break, people greet us as though they were worried that we wouldn’t show up again. Who would miss three rowdy boys and their beleaguered mother?

Today, thanks to Tornado A’s inability to leave the car in a timely manner, we arrived right before the procession. Like right before. I scanned the church and was defeated.

Nearly two years ago I learned the boys did not know the parts of the mass, did not understand the mass, did not know the prayers, the chants, the responses. Why was I killing myself to take them to religious classes every week? What were they learning? I bought a couple of children’s Mass books. I sat us in the middle of empty rows. Like I was explaining baseball or football, I whispered the parts of the Mass, explaining what they meant. I had the boys follow along with their books. I pulled up the daily readings on my phone and handed them to follow. Six months ago, I learned that the older boys were sorely behind in their prayers. We know spend the time after communion reciting prayers as I whisper the prayer line by line so they could repeat them. About a month ago, I started bringing rosaries, letting the boys hold them and ask questions.

Today there were no safe places. So we sat in a pew in front of an older woman. I stood straight, squared my shoulders, and refused to show any shame as I whispered things to the boys. I did as we normally do, even though giving peace became a full-contact sport of wrestling and crushing under the guise of hugging.

The boys were on rather good behavior. I didn’t have to threaten the loss of doughnuts. Doughnuts are the consequence for behaving well at church. Consequence, not bribe. If the boys can tell me what the homily was about, I buy them a candy bar. Tornado A takes notes. Tornado E is getting better on grasping the main idea, not just a few interesting details. Tornado S always gives me the first few details.

Today Tornado A was too busy drawing to take notes.

At the end of the services, the woman behind me said, “My youngest is 28. I had boys too. I miss those days. But a friend once said to me that God gives mothers of children special grace for taking their children to church. I hope you received your grace.” And she left.

And I wondered. Had she noticed that once the congregation sat after communion’s prayer, after I recited prayers with the boys and asked them to sit, that I remained kneeling, grasping for a few moments to pray honestly, earnestly, passionately? Did she noticed the tears in my eyes when I opened them as she returned to her seat? Did I reach up and wipe away a tear or two?

I smiled at the boys. Yes, we can leave. Yes, we can go do the labyrinth. Yes, we can go get doughnuts. Yes, we can go to the Children’s Museum.

If It Was Juice

The boys were pretty good during sunrise mass on Easter.  It might have something to do with my parents being there.  My mom’s stern looks and my dad passing out mints when a boy wiggled.

They even did well in line for their blessing, instead of communion.  It wasn’t until the walk back to our seats that Tornado S became loud.

Tornado S: Mommy!  That was wine, right?!

Me: (whispering) Yes.

Tornado S: Why didn’t you get any?!

Me: (whispering) I’ll tell you later.  Shh.

Tornado S: If it was juice, then you would let me have some!  Why isn’t it juice?!

Me: (whispering) You’re Catholic.  It’s always wine.

Tornado S: But if it was wine, you would let me have some!

Me: (whispering) No.  Not until you’re first communion.

We entered the pew and moved to our seats.

Tornado S: But what if it was juice?!

Me: (whispering) No.  Now kneel and pray.

My Dad: (whispering) I could tell him about my church ….

Me: (whispering) Not helping,  Nazarene.

My dad chuckled.

So Tornado S’s obsession with communion continues from since he was a baby.  He’ll make a good Catholic some day.

Homer: “Uh-huh. And how do I join? Do I whale on some Unitarians?”
Fr. Sean: “Well, it’s a little harder than that. It starts with looking deep inside yourself…” (Homer groans) “But it ends with bread and wine”
Homer: “Woo-hoo!”

from Season 16, “The Father, The Son, and The Holy Guest Star”

Just not right now

There are days that demand a do-over.  Sunday was turning out to be one of those days.  By the time we left for church.  And we don’t go to a mid-morning service either.  No, we go first thing.  7:45 because that is usually when the boys behave the best.  Usually.

They were up with the dawn, searching for that fabled worm.  We should have had plenty of time to eat, dress, and get to church on time.  We barely made it.  I had a lecture ready about being late, but I didn’t use it.  I wanted to.  Then Tornado S stopped and tapped on the glass door to wave at the priest who was about to make his entrance before I ushered Tornado S into the crying room at the back of the church.  The priest chuckled.  I will be calm.  I will be calm.

I’ve seen worse days.  Two weeks ago, they lost their doughnut and their TV/DVD/video game privileges and added a well-earned time out.  But half way through the service they had lost their doughnut and their TV/DVD/video game privileges.  I will be calm.  I will be calm.  I will be calm.

Then it was finally time for communion, and I was overjoyed.  We were nearly home free.  As we walked down the aisle, I hissed for them to walk nicely, don’t bump into each other (that’s what won them the time out two weeks before), cross your hands, watch where you’re going, stop, stop, stop.  At one point, I grabbed Tornado S by the collar and held him back.  I will be calm.  I will be calm.  I will be calm.

And then we were at the front of the line.  The priest smiled down on the children.  “Bless you.  And may God slow you down.”  He blessed the boys.  He noticed he was out of hosts and turned to get more.  I received my communion, genuflected, and turned to see that, yes, the boys had continued up the aisle as they were supposed to but had stopped.  They were wildly batting each other with both hands, hitting only each other’s hands.  Like something out of a cartoon.  Or a sitcom.  Or my nightmare.  If I could have yelled, I would have.  I wanted to.  The priest chuckled.  If I hadn’t realized I was embarrassed, not just angry, I would have given him a dirty look.  I wanted to.

I marched down the aisle and shooed my boys back in the crying room.  I will be calm.  I will be calm.  I will be calm and not make a scene.

What would my Catholic school teachers do?

After Mass, the boys practiced walking respectable up and down the aisles until they did it without touching, snickering, laughing, talking, kicking, pushing.

The priest chuckled behind me.


Hours later as my parents had a good laugh.

My Mom: Fae, it is funny.  Just not right now.

I’m too old to stick out my tongue.  But I wanted to.

The Importance of Prayer: or Teaching Memorization to a Toddler and a Preschooler

The nice thing about being Catholic is we have a prayer for everything, FOR EVERYTHING.  You need a prayer to ask for forgiveness; we’ got several.  You need a prayer for hope, consolation, joy; we got those too.  How about one for your pets?  Yes.  Need a prayer for finding lost things?  Sure.  How about one to find a parking space?  Yup.  (I swear it works; I don’t know why because I would assume the Mother of God would have more important things to do than get some one a parking space.)  So when you have writer’s block when talking to the Big Guy, it’s nice to start off with a Catholic sanctioned prayer to get things rolling.


I’m a big believer in prayer.  I think it not only helps you talk to God, but it helps you understand yourself and goals.  I remember my mom telling me to “Give it to God,” which I felt was a cope out.  I felt that the challenges I faced were meant for me to handle, not pass off the buck to God; while, now I understand it’s more like letting God hold it for a minute as I do the mom-thing for a moment and when the kids are in bed, I can take back the burden and figure things out.  Since I do feel everyone should have some sort of relationship with God, I am trying to pass it along to my boys, and the best way I can think of is teaching them to pray, to talk to God as I remember my dad and mom doing with me and my brothers.


Every night we pray with the boys, and since I can’t stand saying “If I die before I wake” with my boys (because that’ll freak them out and that’ll freak me out and I prefer not to stay awake all night listening to their breathing.  I’m trying to get over that), we pray “The Guardian Angel” prayer.


Angel of God, My Guardian Dear,

To whom God’s love commits you here.

Ever this day be at my side

To light and guard and rule and guide.


Once in a while Evan will say it with us.  Though he would prefer to argue with me over the correct way to say and do “The Sign of the Cross,” which Evan insist starts on the right side, rather than the correct left, and gets very upset if I don’t do it his way.  Then we have to practice it his way, and that buys him another five to ten minutes of awake-time.


Another prayer I am teaching the boys is a prayer that I learned when I was a first grader in Catholic school.  Our teacher taught us a prayer to St. Theresa of Lisieux, the Little Flower, who believed we could all do little things, if we could not do something big.  So when we heard a siren, we would pray for the emergency and the people who needed help.


Little Flower

At this Hour

Show your Power.


I now say it out loud for the boys’ benefit (because it was so ingrained in me at six that I never stopped saying it and people give you weird looks if you start “talking” to yourself in public).  The other day, Evan, on hearing a siren go pass the house, yelled:


The Power!

The Flower!

The Hour!


Um, close enough. 


As I sometimes am a poor excuse for a Catholic (oh, you mean they have mass every Sunday?), we don’t pray every time we need to, like when we get up or before meals.  (Granted my Mom usually doesn’t pray before meals either, but now that my Grandma has dinner with them every night, you better believe that she prays.)  Now the beauty of Catholicism is EVERYONE says the same before meals prayer (as well as a lot of other prayers and the mass is always the same).


Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts

Which we are about to receive

From Thy bounty. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Two Thanksgivings ago when we sat down with my father-in-law and my Catholic mother-in-law for dinner, my mother-in-law asked us to pray.  She and I opened our mouths to say- Only my husband’s voice rang out, “Angel of God, my –.”  He looked around as my mother-in-law and I burst into laughter.  Of course, we thanked him for trying and went on with the “real” prayer.  (That story was for all the Catholics out there.)


Well, this Christmas, surrounded by Catholics, we prayed our before meal prayer with “The Sign of the Cross.”  Wouldn’t you know it?  Evan never argued on how to do it, just copied the rest, and amazingly, so did Sean.  When we got home and settled back into our routine, I made dinner, and after chasing everyone down for the meal and passing out food and plates, I forgot to pray, which is my usual reason.  But Evan piped up, “Mommy!  We have to pray!  Bless our food!”


I’m sorry Mommy is a bad Catholic; she remembers to fast on the right days but not to pray before the meals.


In closing, I will leave you the prayer my little brother would say when he was Evan’s age.


“Thank you for food, ‘prize, and patience.”


That was a prayer for the meal, a hope for a “surprise” like desert, and patience for my mom as she had three kids under the age of five and often she would yell, “God, give me some patience!”



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