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I’ve Moved!

Update your links … Lear, Kent, Fool is now at www.learkentfool.com

I am attaching an interview with Fr. Calvin Goodwin of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. It was Fr. Goodwin who led me and members of my family to the extraordinary form of the Mass back when I was still living in Maine. Priests as good as Fr. Goodwin are rare and precious! I wish everyone could have the privilege of attending a Mass offered by him and hearing his homilies filled with holy and wise counsel.

[Edit: Because one article isn’t enough Fr. Goodwin, here’s another.]

There and Back Again

Blogging has been slow this last week-and-a-half or so because Lily and I have been visiting with my family in Maine. Who? Lily — that’s my nickname for my daughter who will heretofore be known on the blog as such. Her name is much too Google-able (that is, if someone unknown to us could actually spell it to do a search on it), so at my husband’s request, I’m attempting to make us a little more anonymous online.

We had a fabulous, if always too short, time with the folks. It was my sister and brother-in-law’s 25th wedding anniversary. It was a little surreal, since I still remember my own mother and father’s 25th wedding anniversary party, and they seemed so old. Life is going so fast. Too fast — more and more lately, I feel that it is all moving much too fast. But that’s a melancholy post for another day.

I want to share a few pictures my niece captured from our trip to Portland Head Light. Lily loved the ocean — particularly the boats, all to which she would shout out a hearty: “Hello!” I had forgotten how fresh the air is in Maine, particularly on the coast, and how marvelous the smell of salt air mixed with sea roses is! I miss it all so much. The Midwest has it’s charms, but… it’s no Maine.

Salt Air and Sea Roses

Lily thinks running around in the park is lots of fun!

First glimpse ever at the Atlantic Ocean!

She thinks it’s grand!

Being perfectly goofy for the camera!

A boat! A boat! “HiiiiIIIIiiiIII!”

No, I’m not throwing her in! I’m saving her from a wave that reached unexpectedly far!

Lily got a big knot on her noggin when she ran down a gravel path and lost her footing.

“Does this hat cover up my bump?”

Lily is an excellent traveler when it comes to flying on planes — and I’m thankful for that since I usually make these trips North by myself! The flight back had a slight hitch. My first flight arrived late and I had to run, no joke, 60 gates to get to my next flight that was, according to my ticket and the airport monitor, supposed to start boarding 10 minutes before I got off the plane. So, there I was with baby, backpack, and stroller, running like a woman possessed through the Detroit airport. (Why do the people in front of you always move so slowly and get in your way when you’re in a headlong mad dash?)

I arrived at the gate sweating, panting, and ready to collapse beside the stroller next to Lily whose eyes were as big as saucers– only to find out the flight had been INDEFINITELY delayed because the crew scheduled to fly the plane were still  in Madison, Wisconsin. Fortunately, they were able to find another crew to fly the plane rather quickly, so we only ended up being delayed about 40 minutes. But you would think they would have had the decency to note on the airport monitor that the flight was going to be delayed!

I decided to wait until nearly the end of the boarding call before getting on the plane, so as not to have to spend more time than strictly necessary in cramped quarters with a tired baby increasingly losing her patience. With the backpack on my back and the heavy toddler on my hip, I was cut off by a flight attendant who made me stand and wait for her in front of the first class passengers so she could serve them their beer and mixed drinks. Then! she made me back up, so she could take the order of the passengers sitting in the front row. She gave me a cursory “sorry,” as she went around me to the galley. Grr. I understand the folks in first class pay for their special treatment, but I’m thinking that shouldn’t be at the expense of rudeness to the rest of the paying passengers.

Lily was very, very happy to see her long, lost Papa. And, it was very good to be home again, though it seems to get harder and harder to leave the folks back in Maine each time we visit. As Lily gets older, she begins to recognize and appreciate her extended family more, particularly her sweet Memere in whom she has found a faithful and ready ally against Mom’s scolding…and a trusty supplier of cookies all day long! We hope to return there again for another visit very soon!

Never did I think it would be so very awkward to have to answer such a simple question: “Do you work?” I’ve had to answer it a whole lot lately. I’m sure many people ask simply in the interest of making small talk or an earnest desire to get to know more about me. But there are those whose prying curiosity, or “well-intended meddling,” cause those three little words to start me flailing all over trying to make excuses for myself because I stay home all day, every day with my daughter.

And, the flailing only gets worse when they follow up with: “Do you plan to go back to work at some point?” I should confidently answer them with a “not so long as my children live at home,” and let them judge me without a second thought or care.  I am confident in my purpose, but fearful to give back-handed, unintended offense to those mothers who do work professionally outside the home.

There are reasons for women with children to work outside the home. I’m not trying to make anyone else’s choices for them or judge them for those decisions. But I have to say, I personally would have to have very, very grave reasons to compel me to work. (My husband would have to be incapable due to physical, severe emotional or mental health reasons.) And, if my husband were also unable to take care of our daughter while I worked, whoever took care of her in my absence would have to be a very devout, traditional Catholic. And, if I couldn’t find one, I’d have to send her to a traditional convent boarding school. You can see that the task of making arrangements would be, at the very least, daunting.

Why am I so fanatical on this point? For simply this reason: My husband and I are, each in our own particular way  according to our roles within our family – he as protector and provider and I as nurturer –  ultimately answerable before God for the formation and protection of our child’s soul – her faith, her character, her virtue.  It’s easy enough to pay someone to feed our daughter and change her diapers and play with her and make sure she is safe. But whom can I trust, and how could I ever properly recompense someone, to properly care for my daughter’s soul in my absence? Not even an excellent Catholic institution has equal capacity with a mother for forming a child’s spiritual character. Each mother has been given particular graces for her particular child.

I also choose to stay home to raise the daughter with whom God has blessed me for this reason: I cannot possibly pay anyone to love her, each day — all day, with my mother’s heart. What could be better for a child than spending her most tender years in the care of a person who loves her so much she would die for her a thousand deaths? Each spoonful, at every meal, is lifted to my child’s mouth with mother’s love. Each of her diapers, no matter how foul, is changed with mother’s love. Each of her buttons is fastened, and re-fastened, with mother’s love. Each of her faults is corrected, and re-corrected, with mother’s love. Each bump, bruise, sadness and sickness is kissed and soothed with mother’s love. Each of her smiles, laughs, antics, and accomplishments is rejoiced over with a mother’s love. No other caretaker can deliver that. I feel my child deserves no less than that.

Is a more comfortable material living worth denying her long days of maternal comfort? Is building greater financial security worth forcing her to forgo complete emotional security? Is a feeling of being accomplished and fulfilled in the professional world worth depriving my daughter her heart’s fulfillment?  There are worse things in the world than being poor, tight for money, or having to do without. Not giving my daughter what I can give her by staying home with her is among those worse things. Having bad things happen to her spirit or her soul in my absence, because of my absence, would be the worst of them.

So, if anyone is concerned about my family’s financial well-being, they can speak to my husband about it – if they dare. He is the provider for our family. And, I, for one, intend to honor his tireless efforts and show trust in his ability to provide and protect us by devoting myself to those persons within my family and the duties within my home with 100 percent of my heart and time.

Growing Pains

When I sat down to finish today’s post, I ended up hitting “select all,” and then “delete” instead. I was going to link a blog post by a secular mom and my indignant reaction to one of her posts.

Well, as I chewed on it some this morning while writing the rest of the post in my head, I realized the thousand ways I’m guilty of the same kind of thing I was going to call her out for.  Humbling. Embarrassing. Reality.

What did she do? Well…let me first say that this blogger is a delightful read on most occasions and I admire her touching honesty, beautiful photography and the way she expresses her love for her children. It’s not my wish to denigrate her motherhood or her as a person, at all. In many ways, I would like to be more like her.

The post was about her latest girls’ night out — how she got dressed to the nines in skinny jeans and heels and body glitter and went out dancing with her girlfriends at a club and then had a big sleepover with all of them at her house. She got a lot of “you go girl” for her courage to do this in the 200-plus comments that followed her post.

To most of my readers, the dangers of that kind of night out are clear, and I don’t actually need to explain them all like I was going to — the modesty issue, cultural environment issue, the making-your-marriage-commitment-vulnerable issue, and the “what kind of example is this to your children?” issues. It was my pondering the “what kind of example is this to your children?” issue that hit me hard.

Those of you who know me know that I’m a complete and total dork, nerd, dweeb, etc. It’s easy for me to tsk at another mom’s going out to a dance club and drinking, because … well, it’s not something I’ve ever been cool enough or brave enough to do — not even in my own single days.

The thing is it just isn’t a mother-like thing to do going out to a dance club with gal pals. (Take note: I have no problem with a mom going out with her girlfriends from time to time. I, for one, could sure use some time like that now!) Where moms go and what they choose to do can be a problem. When we go on certain kinds of outings we fail in our duty to be examples of respectable maternal maturity for our children’s sakes. (Doesn’t that sound so very stodgy — like text from the pages of a crinkly, old, dusty, yellowed book? ) It’s easy for me to look at blogger mom’s outing and criticize, but how many un-motherlike things am I guilty of doing in my day-to-day life?!

There is a serious lack of adult and parental maturity in our culture. I just started reading this book, and it nails with deadly accuracy the infantalizing tendencies of our generation and the enormous consequences of adults clinging to youth culture. In how many of my actions and attitudes am I holding on to the cult of youth? Will I hold to them to the detriment of helping my daughter develop into a virtuous, upstanding and mature young lady who won’t keep her parents up nights wondering about her whereabouts and well being?

My parents were always parents first and above all else. They didn’t cling to the fads or fashions that were popular when they were growing up, or the ones that were popular when we were growing up. They were not ever “cool,” but they were always mature and virtuous models of adulthood. And, in retrospect, I see how I respected them precisely because they were not “cool.” I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but I always felt a little embarrassed for the parents and teachers who were very obviously trying to be cool.

Much of what is popular with the our modern youth culture and the culture we thirty/forty-somethings grew up in, and still cling to, goes against the grain of virtuous living. And, as the saying goes, our children tend to “go us one worse.”  I don’t want that for Lily.

So, here I am presenting you with my personal  list of things in my life I’m challenging myself to examine in an effort towards maternal maturity:

Music — I am trying to excise from my playlist songs from my young adult years that I still have a very strong taste for that have inappropriate messages for youth and, honestly, any Christian.  It’s hard to purge my entire playlist of all the songs on it which are subtly sexual, or more usually, overly self-indulgent, love-lorn, and emotional.

I confess, I still listen to my guilty pleasures when I’m alone. Lily doesn’t know how to check my MP3 player — yet. Some day she will, and she will rifle through my cd collection, too.

I will be very embarrassed if she listens to the lyrics of some of the stuff I own. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the experience of “hearing” for the first time the lyrics of some of the songs that were my favorites and saying: “My parents let me listen to that!?” (I don’t think they were really paying attention to the words; they were just trying not to be overly annoyed by the beat.)

I’m replacing (trying to!) my 80s Pop and my 90s Grunge with more and more Celtic, Classical, Crooners and Liturgical music. Fortunately, I like all of  those genres very much.

DVDs and Movies — We don’t own a television, but we have an enormous dvd collection. Again, I find a lot of guilty pleasures among them. Guilty pleasures like — Seinfeld — which is sometimes just hilariously funny. But if my daughter saw some of those episodes, knowing that her mother saw them too, I’d, once again, be hugely embarrassed. I intend to do a whole lot of tossing soon. That doesn’t mean I’m going to get rid of everything that is inappropriate for children, like Winds of War or some other movie with very adult themes or scenes, but the ones that have no morally redeeming virtues. But I will keep them out of easy reach until Lily is of an appropriate age.

Internet — I don’t visit any sites I’d be embarrassed of. My guilt here is simply in the amount of time I spend online. That is truly a horrible example of wasting time.

Clothing — Modesty or trendiness isn’t so much of an issue for me. It’s cutesy-ness and dressing too young for my age. Embracing more mature fashions is probably one of the more painful things I have to do. I know there are more mature styles that aren’t hideous and are actually quite lovely and fashionable, but I’m not naturally drawn to them. I don’t like them the way I do younger styles. Ugh.

Daily habits – Sleeping, Waking, Tidiness — Ugh! This list is getting harder as I go. I go to bed too late and I wake up too late. It would be far more responsible of me (and I’d probably end up wondering how I lived any other way!) if I went to bed at a more respectable hour and woke up before Lily. So, I could, say, fully wake up and take a shower and be ready to start the day instead of having my toddler shout “Get up!” at her sleepy mother every single morning.

I get annoyed with the little messes a toddler leaves everywhere. But do I always put away everything I take out when I should? No, shamefully, no. I’m a clutterer. I leave a trail of where I’ve been — with books, clothes, coffee mugs, etc.

Healthy Eating — Lily asks for French fries every time we get in the car. Enough said. There is a certain level of irony in feeding one’s toddler mashed carrots, while one is simultaneously stuffing one’s face with chips or Cheez-Its. This doesn’t mean I intend to swear off all treats, just eat them on appropriate occasions, in appropriate amounts, after my own carrots.

Language — This is one of the first things many of us quickly correct ourselves on. There is nothing worse than hearing a cute, little pint-sized voice say something like “cr*p!” after us. I’m not exactly a pirate, but I have said things in front of  Lily that I wouldn’t ever dream of saying in front of a priest. (Hey, when did this blog turn into my confessional!?)

Other things I intend to work on eliminating from my speech are trendy and cool expressions — mostly, the interjection of “like” where it doesn’t belong! My nieces and nephews used to get a huge kick out of my mother saying: “Cool, man, cool!” It was just so perfectly ridiculous in a grown woman’s speech. My mother knew that, and that was part of the humorous effect.

Emotional Restraint — Oh, boy! Since this isn’t my confessional, I won’t elucidate further. Okay, a little. Lily and I both have issues with restraining and channeling frustration. (See how bad I am? I have to make this a “we” issue not a “me” issue!) I am sadly no great model to her. I don’t fall on the floor and kick and scream, but I make my frustration and irritation very obvious. Very childish, and very bad for the formation of children.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it is all going to be much, much harder and take a bit longer, I fear, than getting Lily to give up her addiction to her pacifier. *sigh* Please pray for me. Some day in the nearer than further future, I hope to look and act like a respectable adult and be virtuous mother-like role model to my daughter and any future children.

Chartres Pilgrimage

Some day I hope to able to take part in this — or at least that my children will be able to take part in this:

The Paris-Chartres Pilgrimage is a three-day, 75-mile walk from Notre-Dame de Paris to Notre-Dame de Chartres. The “walk”  goes through the streets of Paris, and then into the countryside — where it turns truly penitential. Each brigade of pilgrims is accompanied by at least one chaplain, who is available to hear confession and offer spiritual direction. This pilgrimage began in the 12th century and has only been on hiatus during war years. A plenary indulgence is obtained under the usual conditions by each pilgrim.

For pictures from this year’s pilgrimage, go here.

All Dressed Up

Some time ago, long before Lily was even born, my husband and I decided that we would dress our little girls in pretty dresses — not just for Sundays or special events, but every day. We found, however, that everyday dresses were just not practical for a small infant or a baby learning how to crawl or walk.  But Lily has just entered the age now that she can easily and comfortably wear lovely cotton everyday dresses.

So, what’s the big deal with dresses? Aren’t there a million cute outfits with pants for little girls that are equally adorable? Why eliminate them all together? I know there are dozens and dozens of cute outfits for little girls that are not dresses. And, I think little girls do look very adorable in them.  The reason we are opting for dresses over cute little overalls and other sweet outfits is because we feel always wearing dresses give a very clear, consistent message to our daughter and to other children (and adults): “I am a little girl; treat me that way.” Pretty basic, huh?

Why does that message even matter? Well, it seems more and more, our culture is eliminating the boundaries and distinctions between boys and girls/women and men in every arena. While men and women are equal in dignity and many abilities, attempting to eliminate distinctions between the sexes minimizes and obscures the beautiful and unique qualities particular to each sex.

I want Lily to embrace her femininity in all its gloriousness. I want my daughter to learn to recognize that she is radically and wonderfully different from boys and men. And, because we are human, it helps us to have tangible, outward physical signs of hidden realities. Nothing says “radically and fundamentally different from the boys” like a pretty skirt or dress. And, right now it also helps keep the folks we meet in stores from saying (even when Lily is dressed all in pink): “What a “nice-looking little young fella!”  (It’s the short hair!)

Through my comportment and behavior as a mother, I can teach Lily a lot about femininity (I hope!). But, I think most women would back me up when I say that there is something interiorly transforming about wearing a dress or a skirt. Skirts and dresses make you feel beautiful, elegant, charming, nurturing, confident, dainty, playful — deliciously feminine!

There is a reason why little girls love to play “dress up.” It seems like the more beautiful little girls (and even grown-up women) perceive the dress they are wearing to be, greater is the degree to which they feel beautiful, elegant, charming, confident, happy, nurturing, dainty, and playful. I want my daughter to have the opportunity to feel that way to some degree every single day.

The pretty, modest little day dresses I find for Lily will also, I hope, help her retain her childlike innocence for much longer than most do today.   When Lily started needing clothing made in sizes 18mos – 2T, I noticed that many vendors abruptly put the kabosh to the sweet and innocent look.

Some of the clothing I’ve seen is just too “grown up” in style — c’mon, they’re not 30 yet – why rush it?! (And, meanwhile, some 30-year-olds try to appear as though they were 15…but that’s another post…) Some of the shirts had sassy messages some folks, I guess, find cute, but I find them obnoxious: “Little girl, BIG attitude.” What message does that send to your daughter? And, some stuff is just plain, old ugly. And, other styles were shockingly immodest — that just makes me ill.

Lily will be comfortable in her cotton day dresses, don’t anybody worry. She wears shorts or leggings underneath her dresses so she can ride her bike, play on the floor, climb the steps, etc. with ease and comfort. She will do everything other children do — and she will do it all in her unique little girl way and be aware of her uniqueness.

And, what about Mama – does mama wear dresses every day, too? Yes. For all the same reasons I desire my little girl to wear dresses. I, too, want to feel beautiful, elegant, charming, confident, happy, nurturing, dainty, and playful — every day. And, I, too, want to embrace my femininity in all its glorious difference from masculinity.