Grace

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.

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.

Thanks.

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.

Blessing

I like our church.  It’s a smaller church, a newer church, a liberal church.  They are understanding about small children.  “Relax.  God put the wiggle in small children.”  They are intelligent.  Any priest that tells the Descartes joke as part of his sermon is smart and funny.  And the priests are good with children.

Yesterday, because the cavalry wasn’t joining me, we went straight to the crying room.  Since we hadn’t been in a few weeks, the boys were out of practice.  Tornado A is at the stage where he just can’t sit still for more than five minutes, but the older boys knew better.  They lost half their privileges for the day, and I was contemplating a punishment where they just laid in bed all day.  But then it was communion time.

We happened to be in the priest’s line.  The older boys walked up with their arms across their chests, not talking, not laughing, not pushing.  Tornado A squirmed in my arms.  We got up to the priest.  He laid his hand on each of the older boys’ heads.

The Priest: May God bless you and slow you down.

Then he put his hand on Tornado A’s head.

The Priest: May God bless you, but nothing will slow you down.

I know, right?

And this is suppose to be my day?

I woke up at a quarter to six on Sunday at the mere thought of Tornado S standing by the bed.  He wasn’t there.  But I figure I might as well get up because we had seven am mass to attend to as it was Mother’s Day, and my mom was obligated to go to her mother’s mass, and I was obligated, unlike my brothers, to go to church with my parents.  While I had one less child to wake up and get out of bed, it also meant I had once less pair of hands to get boys in and out of the car.

For some reason God smiled at this.  I was up, fed, and dressed by the time Tornado S decided he wanted to stop reading in bed.  I had Tornado S fed and dressed by the time Tornado E woke to all the ruckus.  Tornado E was dressed and not fed, watching TV by the time we had to go.  After watching Wubzy get out of another self-created jam, I jammed the boys into their car seats, leaving a minute late, which turned into five minutes late with the lights changing to allow ghosts cars through the intersection.  Miraculously I kept my cool, since my road rage must have been sleeping in that day.

I parked at the end of the parking lot, not wanting the hassle of dealing with older drivers, who are very careful, but painfully so.  I wiped faces with the wipes, handed Tornado E the corsage for my mom, picked up Tornado S who had his hands up, saying “help me. Up pease.”  We trudged up the parking lot, getting to the front door of the church.  But surely my mom would be sitting in the back where all good Catholics sit like my grandma.  So we hoofed it on the outside of the church.  Tornado S gained a pound with every step.  Why did I feel the need to bring seven religious-oriented books plus two sketch pads plus six fruit snack bags plus two pencils plus a container of goldfish plus a carton of crayons?  Wait.  Where’s the tithe?  On the table, of course.

Tornado S spotted the blue mustang my parents owned, recognizable by the wildcat and the hummingbird on the back window.  “Papi!  Papi!  Papi’s car!”  Tornado S squirmed in my arms.

We finally get to the back door to read the sign to go around to the other side.  With a hysterical laugh, I started around the church with the little twittering of a three-year-old following me.  “Where are we going? Can’t we use that door?  Why is it broken?  How’d it get broken?  I’ve never gone this way before.  What’s that?  This ramp is steep!  I can’t make it!  Throw me a rope!  Can we go down there?  What’s down there?  Why are all these people in robes?”  Because even though the bells rang two minutes ago, they’re waiting for us to sit.

I looked through the glass doors to note that my parents had decided to sit in their usual front of the church pew.  Are you KIDDING ME?  I haul open the door.  Excuse me, priests, deacon, alter servers.  Holy water.  In the name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit.  NameoftheFather,Son,HolySpirit.  NameoftheFather,Son,HolySpirit.  I waved at my grandma, my aunt, and uncle as I dragged Tornado E down the side aisle to the front.  Thank God I decided to start using the spare black diaper bag instead of the usual one that would be clunking key chains all down the church.  We went down one pew to come up the middle just behind my parents.

In a harsh whisper, I asked, “Is there a reason you’re up here and not with your mother?”

“Came in the back way, did ya?” my dad asked too merrily

“Why, Thank you, Tornado E!  We go in the front entrance now.  An orchid.  How beautiful,” my mom said.  The diaper bag crashed down.  “Here, I’ll take Tornado S.”

“NO!  MY MAMA!”  Tornado S buried his face into my shoulder.

“Do you know h-” The organ began playing, cutting off my pure sarcastic complaint/question.

Then Tornado S began to sing.  He just kept singing, “Ba, ba, ba, baaaaa.”  But it was the best singing in the church.  He sang every time the music started; he answered every rhetorical question.  He was awesome.  And all was right in the world.

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A little unholy in the holy place

This last Sunday we went to church as we had been doing throughout the Lenten season.  Unlike the last several times we went to church, my sons acted like unholy terrors.  To be fair, I’ve seen Evan act a whole lot worse at church than either of them acted on Sunday, but it seemed like all the good behavior vanished in smoke within the first fifteen minutes. 

 

We divided and attempted to conquer.  My husband whisked the crying Sean out of the room and dealt with him in the crying room; while, I had Evan, trying to get him interested in any book or any toy or even in a quiet game of eye spy to get him interested in the service.  We barely made it through, and my husband coolly suggested we try daycare.  But that’s a different time, and I don’t think the service time would fit into our schedule very well.  And I was raised to believe children were supposed to be at church because how else would they learn.

 

So here’s my problem.  First Sean is just at that age where he just can’t sit still, wants to move around, and doesn’t want to be quiet.  He enjoyed singing, but this last Sunday he just couldn’t care less.  If Sean’s happy, then he has to move around.  He just can’t sit still.  Now he’s much better than Evan was at his age, but I fear now that he has learned he can escape the whole thing by pitching a fight as Evan learned.  I need to figure out how to handle him.

 

Evan has really become a trooper.  He has become much better at being quiet, content to look at the books and the toys, but Sunday all that failed us.  There’s no way I want to put him in daycare because he should be able to sit somewhat quiet for forty-five minutes.  He has learned he can easily pit his parents against each other when it comes to public behavior.  I am willing to deal with the issue right there no matter how loud because if I’m alone, I don’t have the luxury to take anyone outside.  My husband would rather take the offending child outside at the first sign of trouble because he doesn’t want to be inconsiderate to other people.

 

My arsenal of weapons includes religious books, quiet toys, gold fish, and the emergency fruit snacks.  I’ve read that I should only bring religious books if I must.  But this advice came from someone who put her tots in daycare during the service.  At my best friend’s church, the children are given crayons and papers to color until they are collected to go to their Sunday school.

 

So basically I’m desperate for a little advice from anyone on how to help keep the boys quiet and calm. 

 

 

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An Easter Take-Home Test with the Answers already filled in

Pop Quiz:

Guess who scolded me as I giggled at the sixth joke of my dad’s as the priest asked us to renounce Satan and all his works.  (For non-Catholics, it’s standard Catholic practice to renew our Confirmational vows.  Not that I ever knew anyone who would say he DIDN’T reject Satan, but I do wonder what would happen if there was a loud no amongst the mumbled “I do’s”.)

a.    Grandma-The Catholic Matriarch,

b.    My Mom-The Catholic Matriarch in training, who hasn’t stepped inside the church for three months, so is naturally embarrassed that her daughter is going more frequent.

c.    My Aunt- Who hasn’t been to church since my Grandpa’s funeral and thinks she’s a better Catholic for respecting the Church’s rule not to take communion due to her second marriage.

d.   My Husband- The non-Catholic, who worries what other people think.

The answer is below and may just surprise you.

 

An Easter Test with Answers

How many nights of five hours of broken sleep make me slightly delusional in the morning? 5

Does being slightly delusional make my driving impaired? No.  Because I know the penguins aren’t real and they use cross-walks.

How many times did Evan ask for more candy in the half an hour before leaving for church? 6

How many candies did I let a three-year-old eat before church? 3

How many times did my husband ask why we were going to sunrise mass? 3

How many times did he ask when sunrise mass was before Sunday morning? 0

Who was the most energetic person at 5:15am? Evan

How many tries did it take to get Sean out of bed? 3

How long does a shower need to be to wake someone up at 4:45 am? 15 minutes

How many times do I have to tell myself to wake up in the shower? 5 “Come on, wake up.  You can do this.  Wake up.  Remember the night you had two hours of sleep because you had to go see the Rocky Horror Picture Show the night before Easter and THEN wash and curl your hair.  Wake up.  That a girl.  Wake up.  This is nothing.  Wake up.”

When does a mom look cute when she has bags under her eyes? When she is holding an infant, not when she has children big enough to stand on their own.

Which loud toys should you never bring to church?  All toys as they are instantly made loud when handed to  a child, especially when Sean has a matchbox car.

Who should never ever sit by when you’re slightly delusional? My dad because he loves an audience.

 

The answer to the pop quiz is D, my husband.  As the priest drenched us with holy water, as my dad cracked jokes, as I was about to say, “People three persons deep from the edge will get wet,” my husband whispered sternly in my ear, “If you don’t take this seriously, than neither will your boys.”  He’s just lucky I didn’t dissolve in a fit of mad laughter.

It was a beautiful service though my dad and I don’t remember what was said.

 

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Sunday Morning

Me: Come on, Evan, you have to get dressed.

 

Evan: I don’t want to get dressed!  I want to be naked!

 

Me: Don’t take off your underwear.  Everyone has to wear underwear.  Now put your arms in.

 

Evan: (putting the shirt on) I don’t want to get dressed!

 

Me: You have to.  Now sit down, so we can get your pants on.

 

Evan: (sitting down cross legged) I don’t want to wear pants!  I want to wear shorts!

 

Me: We’re going to church; you can’t wear shorts to church.

 

Evan: I don’t want to go to church!

 

Me: (As I slide the pants up his legs) We’re going to Wally’s (nickname for my best friend) church.

 

Evan: I don’t want-  Wally’s church?  I like Wally’s church!  I can play with toys at Wally’s church!

 

Me: (As I stand Evan up and pull up his pants) Yes.

 

Evan: I like Wally!  Wally doesn’t live in a building!  Wally lives in a movie!

 

Me: Oh?

 

Evan: Yup, Wally lives in a movie with robots!  And there is a girl robot!  And her name is EVE!

 

So we drove the half an hour to my friend’s church passing our Catholic church on the way, and Evan kept babbling on about Wally, Wall*e, and the toys at Wally’s church.  Sean kept singing to the radio.

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