My Beamish Brood

My Beamish Brood

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Blest Assurance

What joy the blest assurance gives,
I know that my redeemer lives!

We had a beautiful Holy Week as a family this year, starting with our participation in the Palm Sunday procession for the first time at St. Joseph's! This year the kids showed a very strong desire to join in, and while processing down the center aisle is neither Paul's nor my preferred way of entering the church, we took one for the team and let the kids wave their palms to their heart's content, along with about half of the congregation. And it really was beautiful! Besides having to constantly remind the kids to keep their palms out of the hair of the people in front of us, Mass went surprisingly smoothly. After Mass, we had the cousins over for brunch, and the kids had a grand old time together! 

Monday was a day filled with joy! On Sunday evening, Max and I had sat together in our room and gone through an examination of conscience in preparation for his first Reconciliation Monday evening. It is so beautiful seeing our Catholic faith through the eyes of a child. He felt nothing but joy at the prospect of going to confession. He felt sorrow for his sins, yes, but he was simply bubbling with excitement when the time came near to head to church! The Good Shepherd program, through which we're doing our sacrament prep, sets up a mini-retreat for parents and their kids to walk through individually before getting in line. We lit candles, read about baptism and our white garment, prayed with scripture, and discussed the important moment to come. Then we joined the line and waited, Max with a big grin... and me quietly shivering with nerves for him. I don't know why I was nervous, he sure wasn't! He entered the confessional and I waited for a few minutes. Then the door burst open and he practically skipped out of the room! He ran up to me and said, "Mom! I feel like I could FLY!" I am lucky I was able to hold it together and not turn instantly into a blubbering mess. He went to the adoration chapel to pray while I confessed, and then we walked together back to the great room. He was invited to light a candle with his name on it in gold wax, while I prayed over him. Then we floated home to tell Dad and his siblings all about the experience. "Dad, do you feel like you could fly? Mom, do you feel like you could fly? How long am I going to feel like I could fly??" It was a good day.

On Wednesday, Edith and I visited the doctor for her well-child and my 16-week appointment. I got to hear a healthy heartbeat while Edith sat quietly in a chair glaring at my doctor. In the late afternoon I taught Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, presenting the work of the Last Supper. It was such a beautiful experience to proclaim the story to the children the day before Holy Thursday. Every week I feel the Holy Spirit working in that space, and that day was no exception!

If preparing for Holy Thursday was spirit-filled and prayerful, the actual celebration of Holy Thursday was anything but. A 7pm Mass with our children is an invitation to terrible behavior. Paul and I took turns with Edith in the back of the church, while the three kids were antsy and squirmy in the pews for the whole nearly two hours. I have come to expect that this it the most difficult Mass of the year, and yet we continue to go.... I keep praying that some year it will get easier! It is one of my favorite liturgies; someday I will actually get to pray.

On Good Friday we attended Living Stations of the Cross at another parish. A close friend of mine sang, and the presentation was beautifully moving. I found myself staring at the ceiling for most of the hour to keep the tears from pouring down. The kids were engaged and extremely well behaved. Thank you, God for that blessing!

Holy Saturday was a quiet day at home, preparing and waiting, baking bread, transforming our crown and changing our prayer table. The kids had some trouble settling down for the evening, but once they were quiet we set up their Easter baskets for them to find in the morning. Then we crashed after a long, but wonderful, week of preparation.

At 7:00 in the morning, Paul and I got ourselves up and began to prepare for Mass. Edith woke up a few minutes later, and we sent her in to wake up the other kids. She attacked their beds as we yelled "Alleluia!" It didn't take long for all of them to be up and bouncing on their beds. They ran downstairs and discovered their Easter baskets. After perusing the goodies, they had some breakfast and got ready for Mass. My parents met us at 9:00 Mass, and I am so thankful to them! I got to pray more at Easter Mass than I have in about as long as I can remember... because they graciously allowed all four kids to pile on and around them for the whole time. 

After Mass, we went back to our house for an Easter Egg hunt and a small brunch, my mom gave the kids a photo book of pictures from our Florida trip, and we took a few family pictures. Then we packed it up and drove to my grandparents' condo for the Easter Feast! It was such a laid-back, fun day with family. We ate and played some games, the kids got to hunt for some surprises and eat WAY too much candy. Edith took a power nap, thanks to my dad's persistence in walking her until she fell asleep. I actually had to wake her up after 5pm, to make sure she would actually go to bed that night!

We didn't head home until nearly bedtime, and once home we lit a whole row of candles (why have just one? It's Easter!) and sang our Easter hymn! After 40 days of O Sacred Head Surrounded, it was a joy and relief to finally sing "He lives, He lives, who once was dead. He lives, my everlasting Head!"  


Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

On Holy Saturday

These holiest days of the liturgical year have taken on somewhat of a stressful undertone for me for the past few years. I am constantly worried about whether I am doing enough to instill in my children a love for their Catholic faith, a respect for traditions, a desire to grow in holiness. We have many traditions that we return to year after year, ones that our children have come to expect and joyfully anticipate. We attend soup supper and Stations of the Cross every Friday throughout Lent, culminating in a visit to a neighboring church on Good Friday for the Living Stations. We make a crown of thorns out of salt dough and toothpicks each year, and when all of the toothpicks have been removed (through acts of love and sacrifice by the kids), we spray paint the crown gold and glue on jewels for Easter. For two years now, we have done a simple version of a Seder meal to give the kids an idea of what the Last Supper might have actually looked like. And yet, I always worry that it's falling flat. There is so much richness and we are barely scratching the surface.

But tonight, everything came into focus, even if just for a moment. We had spent the evening decorating our crown and our prayer corner for Easter, and we had sent the kids to bed before praying the second day of the Divine Mercy Novena. Of course, with Easter tomorrow, the boys were absolutely nowhere near ready to fall asleep. Partway into the second decade, I glanced up and saw one little boy creeping down the stairs. When he saw my smile, he dove for the couch and joined right in. His brother was close behind, and also waited for my go-ahead before snuggling in between his mom and dad. We didn't skip a beat as the boys joined in for the remainder of the Chaplet. When we were finished, we said goodnight again and they went back upstairs.

I am so thankful to have been given a small reprieve from my worries as a mother. In that moment, I saw so clearly that what we do is sinking in. They are taking to heart what we are teaching them. But maybe the most important realization I had was the importance of leading by example. I'm convinced that finding their parents praying together after bedtime is worth more to my children than all of the activities I could possibly plan for them. If I never make another liturgical year themed craft with my children again but they catch me praying regularly, I will have nothing to worry about. If I can show my children love and compassion rather than constantly reminding them how they should be treating one another, I'm on the right path as a mother.

On this Holy Saturday, I will rest in the hope of the resurrection, and in the joy of knowing my children are doing the same.

Our prayer corner decorated for Easter

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Jet Setters

For Christmas this year, my amazingly generous parents gifted us a trip to Anna Maria Island, Florida for the second time! But this time, we even had the benefit of a few days overlapping with The Cousins, which made a wonderful trip even more incredible... Lucian couldn't stop asking when his cousins would arrive. 

The flight to Florida was exciting and fun for the kids, and they sure got their fill of screen time. Anything to pass the hours quietly among a planeful of strangers. Edith didn't sleep a wink the whole day of traveling, until we were within five minutes of the beach; this includes time spent at the airport, three hours in the air, and an hour in a car. She must have known something exciting was happening.


We were greeted by Grandma and Grandpa as we arrived at the hotel, and everyone was literally bouncing with excitement! We went straight out to the beach after unloading our luggage, and that's pretty much where we parked ourselves for the first half of the week. The weather was gorgeous, and several days it even got warm enough to swim comfortably in the ocean! Max tried boogie boarding and loved it. Lucian was content to stand near the edge and let the waves crash on him while he safely held the hand of an adult. Audrey dipped her toes a few times. Edith ran screaming every time the water came near her. But there was plenty of sand and shade for the less adventurous ones, and we even had a kite to fly when the weather was breezy.



 We picked up our Sunset Dance routine right where we left it off last year, and Audrey now refers to sunsets as "Sunset Dances"... they are one and the same to her. One night we decided to be adventurous and order pizza to eat out at the beach at sunset! It was a really fun idea, and I actually didn't end up ingesting too much sand. The kids couldn't care less about a little extra grit on their pizza, they were eating at the beach!

We took a few excursions throughout the week, especially as it cooled off later on. As a family, we took a walk through a beautiful park area on the bay side of the island, and the vegetation was just different enough that we could almost imagine ourselves as the Swiss Family Robinson stranded on a desert island.

Boardwalk through the swamp
We also took walks down the beach for ice cream, walks across the street for ice cream, and even drives across town for ice cream. However, the main reason for a drive across town was for a visit to the most amazing donut shop in the world! Another highlight was the museum in Bradenton, a nearby town. There were live manatees and dinosaur bones, a planetarium and a children's discovery room. A great way to spend a rainy day.


Donuts made fresh in front of us! 
As with last year, mini golf was a mainstay of the week. My dad brokered a deal with the mini golf owner, buying a pile of passes so that we could basically show up and golf whenever we felt like it! I'm pretty sure we were recognizable by the end of the week. Max worked hard on his concentration and putting skills, Lucian was all about the speed, and Audrey enjoyed getting help from whichever adult was nearest to lend a hand. She even snagged a hole-in-one! Edith was content to carry around a ball and drop it into whichever hole was nearest her.


In response to my request to strike an 'I love mini golf' pose

On our last night before the cousins arrived, we took a nice walk on the beach, chasing waves and finding seashells. All the kids started out dry, but those waves are tricky... and eventually everyone was wet at least up to their ankles!

Then the Radeckis rolled in, and all bets were off! Seven kids and their parents crammed into one apartment, it was beautifully chaotic. Mini golf was a hit with everyone, as was our visit to the Jungle Gardens in Sarasota. We got to wander around in a flock of flamingoes and feed them! There was also a playground to burn of a lot of energy, and Max attended a bird show and a reptile show, which he loved.

Pretty much every moment of down time at the apartment was filled by a raucous game of Uno or read-aloud time with Grandma. And of course, there was ice cream, ice cream, ice cream!



At the end of the week, we said goodbye to everyone and headed to the airport to await our flight home. I'm still not quite mentally healed from our four hour delay!!  Seriously, I may never fly again. But the kids did an amazing job, and were very patient. We arrived home much, much later than we had anticipated, but thankfully my dear friends Sara and John got us home safe and sound from the airport.

It was another amazing week on Anna Maria Island! Mom and Dad, thanks again for the wonderful memories!
Audrey obviously wasn't ready to leave