Sunday Coffee

A few weeks ago I resolved to mark my third year of blogging (the anniversary of which is this coming week, I think?) by taking 30 minutes each day to write and by posting on the blog at least three times per week. I’ve mostly succeeded. I think I’ve written almost every day, though a couple were such blurs of activity that I’m pretty sure they were left off. I did the thrice-weekly posting for the first two weeks, but this week I’m likely only fitting in two.

Oh well! On we march. The whole point of that little promise I made to myself was to exercise my writing muscle, so to speak, and I’m doing that.

These Walls - Sunday Coffee - 1

Being the weekend and all, I have my mind on lazy mornings and delicious coffee, and I’m thinking about what I would say to you if we were sitting down together for coffee.

First

I think I would mention this post and how some people seem to have gotten the impression that I had lost my cool with my son and was therefore writing from a place of regret.

(Now imagine me laughing while looking a little embarrassed.)

Um… if you think that was me losing my cool, you are far too generous. I promise that I am capable of some truly outrageous meltdowns. Like, spittle and popping veins outrageous. Once I was so mad I even had to go outside to run laps across the backyard.

So that post? That was just me recognizing the opposing tugs a parent feels while administering a punishment. And being decently comfortable that (in that one particular situation) I’d dealt with it the right way.

Next

I’d remember that I never updated anyone on how my children behaved at Mass last Sunday. The verdict? I mostly got off easy. My second son turned out to still be too ill to be taken to church, so he stayed home with Daddy. As did the toddler, because… toddler. So I was left with the five-year-old and the baby. And it all went fine except for the two minutes in which the baby spat up all down her front and the boy exclaimed, “She exploded!”

Then

I’d probably complain about being really, really tired of having somebody in the house sick for, like, two months straight. Currently we’ve got two boys (hopefully!) wrapping up their colds. I’m praying that we enjoy at least a small period of good health before somebody else goes down.

I’m sure I’d complain about all this cool, rainy weather we’ve been having. (Seriously – where did May go? Haven’t we been having March for like three months now?)

I’d tell you that I’d failed, once again, to find lamps to replace the ones my boys destroyed ages ago. It turns out it’s not so easy to find lighting that is (1) sturdy enough to withstand being knocked off tables by little boys and (2) not so sturdy that it will seriously injure little boys while falling off tables.

These Walls - Sunday Coffee - 2

Finally

If you and I had time to discuss all the ideas we have for our homes and gardens, a la this post, I would report that I exercised some restraint by only planting tomatoes and herbs when I really wanted to go whole-hog and establish The Most Amazing Kitchen Garden Ever.

These Walls - Sunday Coffee - 3

I’d tell you that we really need some fresh paint around here. And that I’m itching to hang more things on the walls. (Any idea as to how to get your husband to take up a task without nagging him to do it?)

I might admit to making myself yet another schedule to try to get a handle on my life.

I’d say how we really just need to decide whether to get a playset and patio furniture, already.

And that Brennan and I are leaning toward putting on that kitchen addition one of these days, but that we also daydream about having This Old House do an entire home renovation for us. (Oh, the dreams that boring 30-somethings can come up with…)

By this point I’d have bored you to tears – and we’re caught up by now anyway, so I’ll sign off. Time to see what kind of Mass behavior my boys give us this time.

Enjoy your Sunday!

These Walls - Sunday Coffee

In Pursuit of Good Behavior: Our 8-part strategy for getting kids to behave in church

I am about to do something stupid.

I’m about to hit “publish” on a blog post on how to get children to behave well in church, mere hours before taking my own children to Mass. They’re going to be terrible – I just know it.

These Walls - In Pursuit of Good Behavior - Our 8-part strategy for getting kids to behave in church - 1

Anyway!

Generally speaking (and I cringe to say this – see above), my children are pretty well behaved at church. We – cringe – even receive compliments on their behavior. (Of course, these might better reflect our fellow parishioners’ expectations upon seeing three small boys and a baby ushered into a pew, but I’ll take them.)

Since it seems to be a perennial question on social media (and because I’m a glutton for punishment), I thought I’d share our strategy for getting our children to refrain from causing a ruckus during Mass. But I’m not going to lie to you – it is not made up of quick fixes. There is no magic bullet – at all, for anything – when it comes to children. There’s a lot of hard work, a few clever ideas, and a decent measure of luck.

In this post, I’m going to first offer you the two “hard work” elements of our strategy and then the six that might fall into the “clever ideas” category. The luck is up to you.

1. We have an expectation that our children will obey us.

Our kids operate under the assumption that when Mommy or Daddy say to do x,y,z, it is to be done. They certainly don’t obey us all the time, but we have reasonable confidence that when we give them a direction, they’ll follow it.

To some, this will seem so obvious as to not be worth mentioning. To others, it will seem like a pie-in-the-sky idea. Either way, unless you’ve been blessed with a child who is naturally mild-mannered (not us!) and pleasing to the general public, it’s the most basic of foundations for functioning well outside the home. (And inside the home too, I’d wager.) We have to trust that when we tell our child to stop and we raise an eyebrow and give him that look, he’ll stop.

How do we do this? How have we gotten to the point where we can reasonably expect our children to obey us, at least in public? Lots of hard work. Lots of consistency, follow-through, consequences… and some yelling. I’ll admit it.

2. Our children are able to sit for the duration of a meal.

I figure that if our children are unable to sit for any length of time in our home, they’ll be unable to do so anywhere else either. Partly for that reason, but mostly because I just think that meals should be eaten at tables, we insist that our children stay seated for the duration of every meal. This is not always easy. It is not uncommon for our meals to be punctuated with, “Sit on your bottom. Sit on your bottom. Sit on your bottom. I said, sit on your bottom.”

In our home, you stay strapped in a booster until you can demonstrate that you’re able to stay seated without it. We’re currently in the transition stage with our two-year-old. If the mood is right, we’ll let him sit there unstrapped, but once he starts trying to get up (and ignores our calls for him to sit back down), we strap him in. He’s learning.

At any rate, I really think the meal thing helps. Our boys are used to sitting in one place three times a day, for between 20 and 60 minutes a pop. So while sitting in church can be a challenge, it’s not a shock to the system.

3. We have age-appropriate expectations for how our children should behave in Mass.

First of all, let’s just make an exception for the 12-24 month range, shall we? My husband and I have found, with each of our children, that little babies in church are no big deal. Bigger babies may need some creative hushing when they become vocal, but they’re still not that difficult. But then you bang up against mobility. From the time our children can crawl through the time (somewhere around the age of two) we can begin to reason with them, there’s just really not much to be done. We can try all the strategies above and below, but it’s always going to be a crapshoot.

In that age range, we keep them in Mass as long as possible, but if they become disruptive, we take them to the back of the church. I prefer to stand in the vestibule with the child, letting him walk around but not run, hushing him when necessary, and demonstrating to him that I’m still paying attention to the Mass. My husband sometimes prefers to take the child downstairs or outside.

Beyond that age, we start with two simple requirements: Our child is to be quiet (not silent!) and he is to stay in the pew. He may whisper, he may move around, he may climb up onto the seat, off the seat, onto the seat, off the seat – he just has to stay in the pew.

Once our child has mastered those two expectations, we add more. He has to stop climbing… he has to stop talking… he has to sit. Ultimately, he’ll have to sit still. (Our oldest is five; we’re not to that last one yet.) We add requirements as our boys are able to handle them and we try to keep them as simple as possible.

4. We talk with our children beforehand about our expectations.

The first Mass behavior expectations we ever voiced to our oldest son were “Remember that you have to be quiet, you have to stay with Mommy and Daddy, and you should set a good example for your brother.” His brother was a baby – he was not yet paying attention to anyone’s example. But the idea that he was the big kid, that he had a big-kid responsibility – it stuck with our oldest. So we still use it.

On our way to Mass, or as we walk from the car into the church, we say something like, “Remember, you’ll be in church. We are not here to play; we are here to pray and to think about Jesus and to thank God for all the good things in our lives. You need to be quiet and you need to set a good example for your brothers.”

We also have particular instructions for those who need them. One of our sons has a tendency to end up sprawled across the pew, his head on our laps. So he is told to sit up straight. Talkers who think they are whisperers get told not to talk at all.

5. We model good Mass behavior. (In other words, we mostly ignore the kids.)

The last part of that line might get me in trouble. To be clear, I don’t mean that we actually ignore our children. I just mean that we utilize those eyes we have in the backs of our heads to monitor them and we reserve the ones in the fronts of our heads for the altar.

I try to keep track of what my boys are doing without making eye contact with them. That may sound cold, but I’m just trying to discourage my chatty guys from starting a conversation. Or from doing something silly to make me laugh. So I sit or stand or kneel (as the case may be), my body and mind oriented as much as possible toward the Mass, and I encourage my children to do the same.

6. We snuggle our children.

While I try not to engage directly with our children during Mass, I do try to take advantage of those quiet, holy moments to be lovingly, physically present to them. I sit with my arms around my boys, I stroke their backs, I give them a pat. When it’s time to sing, I open the hymnal with them, singing in their ears and tracing my finger across the notes on the page. I hope that our one hour in Mass every week begins to take hold in their little minds as a time for tenderness and love.

7. We explain things at appropriate moments. (And sometimes the most appropriate moment is after Mass.)

I want my kids to understand as much as possible about the Mass, and anyway I want to get/keep their interest, so when the time seems right, I’ll lean over and whisper a “Did you hear what Father said there?” or “Can you see what he’s doing?” I offer a quick explanation and then go back to my ignoring/snuggling strategy.

If my boys ask a genuine question that can be easily and simply answered, I go for it. But only if the timing seems appropriate and I don’t think we’ll be disruptive to our fellow parishioners. If they’re asking a question that requires a more complicated response, we tell them we’ll answer it when Mass is over.

8. We bring small distractions (just small ones) to church with us.

We are a thirsty family, never traveling anywhere without a beverage (and my boys are all pretty much addicted to milk), so I’m sure to always stow their sippy cups/bottle in my purse. They make for a great distraction when the first wave of wiggles hits. But beyond that, we keep it very spare. We never bring snacks, because crumbs and wrapper noises and my thing about thinking tables are important. Sometimes I will bring a couple of quiet toys for a baby, but mostly I keep it to one or two books per child. Just religious ones. The images contained in them not only help to keep the boys occupied, but provide a jumping-off point for their questions and imaginations. And I think that’s important.

These Walls - In Pursuit of Good Behavior - Our 8-part strategy for getting kids to behave in church - 2

So that’s how we do it. I’ve probably seen dozens of strategies in my people-observing and blog-reading days, but this is the one that works for us. I offer it here for the curious or the desperate or the only vaguely annoyed. Good luck!

(And wish me luck too – we’re off to Mass shortly.)

These Walls - In Pursuit of Good Behavior - Our 8-part strategy for getting kids to behave in church

Twenty-Three

In the interest of not completely neglecting my blog during this busy season of preparing our home for two new additions (not twins – just one baby and one mother-in-law), plus the actual welcoming of the mother-in-law and the ongoing prep for the new baby, I thought I should at least do a little catch-up post. But all I can muster is a list, so that’s what you get – a random collection of 23 goings-on, thoughts, and questions from the past week or so:

1)  We’ve been working very hard here – harder than we’ve worked since we moved into this house a year-and-a-half ago. May this (please) be our last push of purging and organizing and moving furniture for some time. (For years. Plural.)

2)  Everyone is very, very tired.

P1180270

3)  Pregnancy insomnia is one of the stupidest, most nonsensical things ever.

4)  On Saturday, a few of my lovely girlfriends took me to a lovely lunch to celebrate the impending arrival of baby boy #3. I felt just about giddy to be getting out of the house on a beautiful, spring-like day to hang out with my friends and eat delicious, wood-fire pizza. Mmmm… Thank you, ladies!

5)  There was absolutely nothing spring-like about yesterday, however. It snowed for something like ten hours straight. On March 25th. Will this winter never end?

6)  Change is hard. Or, at least it is for me. Every first day of school, every move, every new job, every new phase of life, every new child – every big change, no matter how wonderful – has been difficult for me to process. I know this about myself and yet I’m always somewhat taken aback when a round of change triggers its inevitable, big, emotional, revelatory moment (which necessarily involves tears). This round’s moment came to me on Sunday afternoon in that most glamorous of places: the driver’s seat of my minivan in the middle of the Safeway parking lot. Boo-hoo.

7)  In the scramble to get preparations wrapped up before Brennan’s mother’s arrival on Sunday evening – and the stress, and the exhaustion, and the pregnancy-related discomfort, I didn’t get to mass this weekend. I hate that. There’s no feeling of Catholic guilt quite like that of missing mass. Beyond the guilt-driven regret, though, I feel like I suffer a loss each time I miss Sunday mass. (Fortunately, it’s a rare occurrence.) Missing mass makes me realize how much I depend on it. Whether or not the little ones (or my own distracted brain) have let me pay attention to the readings, whether or not I’ve been wrestling a jumble of little arms and legs, whether or not I’ve been stressed out or agitated, the mass feeds me. Without it, I feel like I go into my week empty-handed. Missing this Sunday’s mass certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to go into this week of welcoming-the-mother-in-law and maybe-giving-birth.

8)  All that said, Hilde’s move into our home went just about as smoothly as it could have. She’s got quite a way to go to get things unpacked, but she’s safely here and we’re all getting acquainted with one another.

9)  Just about overnight, I have gone from feeling good-but-tired to feeling very uncomfortable and full-of-baby. I feel like this baby is coming soon – like, really soon. But what do I know?

10)  I had my weekly ob appointment (and sono) this morning and all went well. My doctor offered to go ahead and schedule my induction for 39 weeks on the dot, which is… next Friday! As long as the hospital’s got room for me, it looks like I should be having this baby by the 4th!

11)  I still think I’ll go before then, though. My discomfort level has been prompting many a game of “Is Julie in labor?” The answer so far has, of course, been “no” – but I’m making good progress on the dilation front, so… it could happen!

12)  Last week I bought the boys a copy of Frozen to occupy them after the baby is born. Yesterday afternoon I totally cracked and popped that sucker into the DVD player. I may regret it later, but at the moment I was glad to have bought myself precisely 108 minutes of quiet time in which to (finally) pack my hospital bag and (too soon) fret about whether I’m going into labor.

13)  Instead, I started writing this post. Priorities.

14)  Note: when you’re 8.5 months pregnant and threatening to go into labor at any minute, you should probably give your husband a little warning before venturing out at 6pm to give your mother-in-law a tour of her new town. Because when he arrives home from work to find no minivan, wife, boys, or mother on the premises, he’s likely to panic. Just a little.

15)  Another note: eating dinner at 5pm is waaayyy nicer than eating dinner at 9pm. I mean, it gives you actual free time in the evenings that doesn’t involve falling asleep on the sofa.

16)  I’ve got a little poll for the mamas out there: While in the hospital after having a baby, do you (a) change into your own clothes or (b) wear the hospital gown provided to you? My best friend and I were having a conversation about this yesterday. On the one hand, we’ve seen pictures of ladies in real clothes in hospital beds and all the cool mommy bloggers seem to dish out great advice on the comfiest clothes to pack in your overnight bag. But we, ahem, don’t understand the logistics of such a move. Real clothes seem awfully inconvenient for all the checking and prodding and poking everybody seems to want to do to you, like, every 20 minutes. And then there’s the not-wanting-to-ruin-our-clothes thing. Are we alone in going the practical, dowdy route or are there more mamas in our camp?

17)  One more important question: Is gorging oneself on delicious, home-made (but not by me) bar cookies a sign of imminent labor?

18)  We really enjoyed the brief visit from Brennan’s sister and uncle, who drove Hilde here from Minnesota. The boys especially enjoyed their aunt and uncle and were beautifully, pathetically disappointed to learn yesterday morning that they’d left before dawn. It was so heart-breaking/cute.

19)  I had to carry my two-year-old (under my arm – just about the only way the belly will allow) out of his big brother’s preschool classroom yesterday, literally kicking and screaming, because he didn’t want to leave. It was also heart-breaking/cute.

20)  Last week my three-year-old said two particularly cute things before heading to school. One morning, as soon as he woke up, he said, “Today is my wucky day!” Me: “Why is today your lucky day?” Him: “Because I get to go to school today!” His teacher loved that one.

21)  Another morning, on the drive into school, he said, “I’m going to have so much fun at school today! I’m going to be happy and be nice and behave…” Then, to his little brother, he said, “I pwomise not to do bad sings to you anymore. I won’t kick you or hit you ever, ever, ever, ever again. Okay? Okay? Okay?” Finally, his brother gave the obligatory reply: “Otay.”

22)  Big brother’s “pwomise” didn’t last long.

23)  Fortunately, the little one’s tough. Fierce, we call him. He can take it.

20140314_194422

 

Monday Morning Miscellany (Vol. 8): St. Nicholas Day, Toilet Hate, and SNOW

—1—

I started writing this post as a 7 Quick Takes Friday, so I was all set to open with a “Happy St. Nicholas Day!” but, um… see numbers two and three. The day was fun, but it pretty much sucked the life out of me.

Anyway, it took my boys a few minutes to remember/discover their goodie-filled shoes Friday morning, but when they did, their delight was, well, delightful. The little one ran up to me with a look of glee and a shout of “Wa-pop!” and the big one with a “Wook what Nickwas bwingt!” Totally worth the effort it took to remember the whole deal.

P1170227

—2—

We celebrated the good saint’s feast by hosting a little St. Nicholas Day party for friends. Except it didn’t end up being so “little” after all: we had 18 kiddos (two four-year-olds and SIXTEEN three-and-under’s), plus nine adults. I meant for the party to actually be St. Nicholas-focused: I bought materials to make these cute little St. Nicholas ornaments, I thought I’d do some sort of reading or lesson on who St. Nicholas was, and I planned to print off some St. Nicholas coloring pages for the kiddies to work on.

Also, my friends and I had decided to make the party a cookie swap.

But… did I fulfill those expectations? No way. Neither the ornaments nor the cookies were made, the lesson was not planned, and the coloring pages were not printed. One friend did bring this cute St. Nicholas book, which I read aloud to the swarming mass of children. But, you know: 18 children. Surrounded by toys. And each other. Very little attention was paid to me and my feeble narration, I assure you.

Whatever. For once I was dressed and made-up before my guests arrived. The house was clean-ish and arranged for the party before it even started. And I actually had the food ready (pretty much) on time. Also, we had no injuries, no broken toys, no spills, and no major fights. So the party totally goes down as a win in my book.

—3—

The only real hitch was this little guy:

P1170255

He’s been like a big, flashing neon sign of hyped-up emotions lately. When our guests arrived, he was so EXCITED he ran around the house screaming and roaring, throwing himself on the floor once per lap to flail his limbs and scream some more.

When things didn’t go his way, he was so DISTRAUGHT he sobbed and carried on like he was experiencing an actual trauma. Not like his mother had just told him that no, he couldn’t go outside to play while he had dozens of guests in the house. Especially since it was raining.

Then of course when people started to leave, he became HYSTERICAL. He screamed and sobbed and sniveled, wet-faced and shaking, begging for hugs and kisses from the departing children. Those poor kids. No one wants to hug and kiss someone who looks like that. Still, a few of the kind souls obliged him.

After everyone left, my little guy calmed down considerably. He was really quite lovely. For about five hours. Then it was back to the grind.

—4—

Speaking of the grind, I have a potty training question for you experienced parents out there. Or, maybe it’s not so much a potty training question, because (other than nighttime) my three-year-old son is already potty trained. It’s just that he hates going to the bathroom if it’s not his idea. With a passion.

The child actually potty trained pretty easily. (I attribute this to waiting so long – more than 2.5 years – to work on it. By that time he was just really, really ready and it wasn’t that big of a deal.) He gets through most nights dry and he hasn’t had a true potty accident in weeks. And it’s common for him to just announce that he has to go and go ahead and go like it’s no big deal.

But. Almost every single time that we ask him to try to use the restroom, he fights us on it. (We ask him to go at pretty reasonable times, I promise you: when he first wakes up, when we’re about to leave the house, when it’s time for him to go to bed, or when we’ve noticed that it’s been hours since he’s gone.) We tell him that it’s okay if he doesn’t actually go, but that he has to at least try.)

Once he hears our request, he loses it: He claims he doesn’t have to go, he cries, he runs away, sometimes he throws himself on the floor. It’s lovely. But once we get him in the bathroom (sometimes we pick him up and bring him in there, sometimes he comes under threat of a time-out), he goes! He used to stop crying immediately, brighten up, and say (unprompted), “Oh, I did have to go potty! I’m sowwy, Mommy and Daddy!” But increasingly he continues to cry and claim he doesn’t have to go potty while he is actually going.

Any ideas as to what this is about or how to address it? We’re several months into this issue and it has gotten very, very old.

—5—

On to happier things. Yesterday we had our first snow of the season. (The first snow, a real snow, in a part of the country that’s not accustomed to getting much of the white stuff. So yes, this snow qualifies as happy!)

The morning was something of an adventure for us. We had planned to make the 9am mass and then head straight to a Christmas tree farm afterward to select our big, honkin’ tree. I’d packed sandwiches and snacks and everything. But as usual, we were running late. We were in the car and ready, but would have been embarrassingly late to mass, so we decided to switch the two agenda items. We went straight to the tree farm instead.

20131208_093252

We selected one of the few remaining big ‘uns (12 feet!) as the snow began to fall at 9:30. By the time we were on our slow way 45 minutes later, the tree tied precariously to the roof of our minivan, everything was white. My Minnesota-born hubby, who is normally more than a little impatient with the local slow-snow drivers, was thankful for them this time, because of our Christmasy cargo. We munched sandwiches as we trudged through the snow, listening to Christmas music on the radio. It was really all very happy and festive.

Before mass

Before mass

We made it safely to our (rural) church and waited in the parking lot until it was almost time for the 11:30 mass. The church, which is usually filled to the gills with hundreds of people, had no more than 30 that morning. So intimate! And so revealing of wiggly, whispering, wanting-to-play-in-the-snow toddlers!

Really, it was fine. I was happy to have my whole family together at mass. (We spent most of September/October keeping one or both of the boys home because they had a series of awful colds and are too little to know how not to cough all over strangers. November was challenging because I had to cantor/sing in the choir a few weekends and Brennan doesn’t feel comfortable monitoring the boys by himself during mass.) And anyway, it was so lovely to watch that snow fall outside those tall church windows.

After mass

After mass

Still happily under the romantic spell of the swiftly-falling snow, my daring, brave Minnesotan chose to take the (unplowed?) curvy, hilly back roads home. The trip was a little stressful at times (like when we couldn’t see anything but white out the windshield), but we made it home safely. If only it hadn’t ended up taking Brennan five hours of shoveling, scraping, and snow-blowing to get the van all the way up our long, steep driveway.

20131208_133412

—6—

While poor Brennan worked on the driveway, I took the boys out to play in the snow. Last winter was mild, so this was our two-year-old’s first opportunity. It was only the second or third for our three-year-old. Naturally, they were captivated.

P1170293

P1170295

P1170297

P1170299

P1170302

Crash!

So was I.

P1170283

P1170269

P1170280

P1170273

Have a great week everyone! Stay warm!

Monday Morning Miscellany (Vol. 7)

— 1 —

Today is the little guy’s big 2nd birthday! When I went to get the boys out of bed this morning, they were standing up, waving around stuffed animals, and cheerfully yelling. I said, “Good morning, boys!” and then: “Happy birthday, Jude!” True to form, the child dropped his eyes, scowled, and flung himself face-down onto his mattress. He is the cuddliest little thing, but he does not like being the center of attention. I think his motto should be: “Love me, but don’t look at me.”

More motherly mush to follow in a later post, but for now, here’s a glimpse of yesterday’s birthday party:

P1160459

Oh, and by the way: he successfully made it through his “Happy Birthday” serenade without screaming. He did, however, squeeze his eyes shut the whole time, likely thinking that if he couldn’t see us, we couldn’t see him.

— 2 —

In last week’s Quick Takes, I announced my new Facebook page for the blog… but I forgot to include a link. That’s brilliance for you.

So here you go! If you haven’t “liked” These Walls on Facebook, I hope you’ll stop on by!

— 3 —

Living in the greater DC metropolitan area, just about everybody I know has some relative who works for the government. Most of my closest friends have at least one income earner who is employed by the federal government or a government contractor. So what’s everybody worried about right now? That’s right: a potential government shutdown! I don’t know, it might not be big news in the rest of the country, but it sure is here. I’m saying a couple of prayers today that someway, somehow, people find a way to work together to avoid this thing.

— 4 —

Okay, I’m going to fit in just one more thing to round out this very quick little Monday Morning Miscellany and then we’re off to continue our birthday celebrations.

Mass tips. That is, tips on how to get your children to make it through mass without anyone going crazy. A couple of weeks ago, Rosie (who has four small children, including infant twins) at A Blog For My Mom posted a list of helpful tips and encouraged readers to weigh in with more. If you’re trying to figure out how to get your little ones through church, stop on over to Rosie’s to check out what everyone had to say. I really loved that there was such a variety of strategies: a perfect illustration of the differences amongst children (and parents too).

Two sort of foundational tips from me first, though. (Part of which Rosie alluded to. And Auntie Leila writes about frequently.) Unless you were given the most naturally docile children in the world (Ha!), I think you have to have at least two things in order for any of those tips and strategies to make a difference. (1) Your children have to have some regular practice in sitting in one place (note that I don’t say sitting still). If they can’t sit in one place for the course of a 30-minute meal, they’re not going to be able to make it through a 60-minute mass. (2) There has to be a given expectation that your children will obey you. If they’re not expected to obey your (sometimes loud? Mine are often loud!) directions at home, they’re not going to obey your whispered directions in a crowd of hundreds of strangers.

So, work on (1) and (2), and then be creative about what little things will help your particular children to make it through your particular church service quietly enough to (a) not embarrass you, (b) not distract your fellow parishioners, and (c) eventually learn to get something out of it. Because that last one is really the point, isn’t it?

Just my two cents!

Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday Best

Grace of the always-worth-visiting Camp Patton is trying a new link-up today called “Sunday Best.” The idea is to blog on your “Sunday Best” clothes and/or your children’s “Sunday Best” (or far from best) behavior at church. I’m in!

(By the way, to any mom friends who haven’t yet checked out Camp Patton – do! Go! Right now! Grace’s tales of life with her three under three are like a visit from a good friend who knows JUST what you’re going through. And who arrives at your house bearing your favorite cocktail.)

Anyway, I’m not going to post a photo of the outfit I wore to mass today. Because (1) I have a head of frizz in this humid summer weather, (2) I’m sunburned and exhausted-looking after the wedding we attended yesterday, and (3) I’m one of those self-conscious moms who (almost) never takes pictures of herself. Yep, that’s me. I admit it.

I will, however, get up the courage to (cringe) post a photo of the boys and me from yesterday’s wedding, because it’s such a good representation of the mass behavior I can typically expect from them:

Me and the boys at wedding
The almost-three-year-old is usually very well-behaved in mass. (At home? That can be a very different story. But in mass, thankfully, I can normally count on an ‘A’ performance.) The 20-month-old usually does pretty well through the homily, but around the consecration (perfectly timed, I know) he turns into something like the above and the hubby rushes him out.

Today everybody was tired from the wedding, so you can imagine how we did. Big brother kept up a constant stream of low-level noise – lots of whispering and climbing and sound effects and jiggling like a plastic bag filled with Jello – and he responded Not One Little Bit to my corrections. He gets a ‘C’ – saved only by virtue of keeping it all to “low-level.” Little brother pulled off a pretty typical performance, so I guess he gets a ‘C’ too. Even though he successfully brought out the giggles in the people sitting behind us by repeatedly dripping his milk onto the pew and then wiping it up with a napkin, saying “messsh, messsh.”

On a much nicer note, I have to mention that our parish held a Eucharistic procession through town directly after mass, in honor of Corpus Christi. It was the first such thing I’ve participated in. Years ago when I was studying in Germany, the little Bavarian town I was living in hosted a HUGE Corpus Christi procession, complete with hundreds of people wearing lederhosen and dirndls. And I MISSED it! I had signed up for a day trip to Neuschwanstein, not realizing that (1) it was scheduled for Corpus Christi and (2) that meant that the town would be overtaken by processing Catholics. A dear friend photographed it for me because she knew I’d love it, but missing the procession remains my greatest regret of what was otherwise a fantastic summer. Our participation in this morning’s (1000x much) smaller procession lifted my spirits and went a tiny way toward removing my regret at missing the Prien am Chiemsee version.

To end, let me just share a picture of my dapper little guy as ring bearer yesterday. (Congratulations, Tom and Aunt Grace!) The little sign he’s wearing (which you can see better in the first picture) reads “ring security.”

Ring Bearer

And here’s one of the littlest guy. We borrowed a friend’s toddler tuxedo so he could be just like his big brother, but, um… something got lost in the shuffle. Good thing he’s cute enough to pull off any look!

Funny Tuxedo

So head on over to Grace and check out the rest!