My Daughter Knows How to Love Big

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My 3 year old, soon to be 4, daughter has the biggest and kindest heart of anyone I have ever met. Those of you who read my blog regularly, or who know me in person, know that she is my only child. She is our blessing and gift and she may end up being the only child we have due to the Cross we have been asked to carry. My daughter Michaela, named for my dad and St. Michael the Archangel, loves deeply and loves big. She talks to everyone and she truly wants to know the names of and about the people she encounters. No matter where we are, she says “hello” to people passing by and asks for their name. When I take her to a playground she knows the names of all of the kids and the moms who are out that day. Everyone is her friend. Everyone should get a hug.

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Sure, she has her moments of fits, tantrums, pouting, and lack of sharing. There are days she is the perfect definition of “threenager”, but for the most part she is a peaceful and happy child. She is sensitive and kind and tries to take care of others, including me. There is a joy and wonder that radiates from her face on most days and it blows me away. She continues to challenge me to abandon my selfishness, live in each moment, and wonder at the universe around me. She helps me to step into her childish world that I too may have peace. There are many days that she reminds me to pray and she tells others, even strangers, that she will pray for them. This child keeps me on the path on so many days when I am falling and would rather take a nap on the path.

In a world marred by pain and brokenness my daughter can be overwhelming to people. We don’t know how to respond to such open and unabashed love and affection. It stuns us and our pain can make us push back against it. It is through her that I see more clearly why many cannot stand the light of God’s love. It is piercing, all-consuming, and foreign. We who are hurt by family members, friends, lovers, illness, wars, loss, and pain. We cannot fathom a God who reaches down to us and binds our wounds without an agenda other than to make us the best person we can possibly be. I see it every day when I watch my daughter reach out to people. They are shocked and do not know how to respond to this beautiful, out-spoken, princess-clad, young girl who wants to know all about them.  She then shares a bit about herself and is so filled with joy as she converses with kids and adults alike. I need to be more like her, which is probably why God entrusted her to me as her mother.

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Knowing this about her means that I must also guard her heart. People reject her now and they will do the same in the future. I have to teach her to persevere in love, even when it is not reciprocated. I also have to teach her how to miss people. She cried all of the way home from the airport today when we dropped of my sister and her family for their return flight to Montana. She is the extrovert only child and I have to help her channel her desire to be with and love others. I have to help her bind her wounds when her heart is hurt or wounded. This is motherhood and this is my vocation as her mom. In the end we help each other to Heaven. She helps my heart grow bigger and my love deeper towards her, her daddy, and others. I help her continue to love no matter what happens.  What an amazing and terrifying gift. I am truly thankful for this amazing little girl.

Small Success Thursday: My Amazing Husband

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I am a firm believer that women should compliment their husbands in public and voice struggles either in private with their husband or with a trusted friend if counsel is needed. If people hear me griping about my husband constantly it will change their view of him and that is wrong. Not to mention that marital disputes are private. With that in mind, I must confess that I am terrible at complimenting my husband in our conversations. I struggle with compliments with most people, except my 3 year old. Perhaps she is teaching me how to be better?

I can’t explain precisely why compliments are hard for me, and that includes taking them. It is not that I don’t have positive thoughts about people, although, I will admit to a few periods of gloom in my lifetime. This is on my mind, firstly, because my Confessor told me to work on it, and secondly, because my husband sacrifices a lot and he deserves my praise.

My husband has had to give up a lot while I go to graduate school full-time. He no longer gets Saturdays to tinker in the garage or work in the garden without our daughter. Instead, he runs errands, grocery shops, and keeps our daughter entertained while I study. He does this throughout the week too, while I study. It’s hard on me too. I have to sacrifice a lot of family time for the next 1.75 years. I get 3 months off a year and I need to make the most of that time. But, my husband works 50-60 hours a week, sometimes has to travel for work, and then comes home to take over for me so that I can hit the books. He is amazing and I need to make him more aware of that fact.

In my studies, I can get tunnel vision. I have a paper due this week! I actually have two due this week and one next week, followed by final exams. So my head is not exactly in the vocational game as it should be. Our daughter has started the difficult period of 3 years of age and has started throwing tantrums and lying. This is a time when really learning how to parent is crucial. While my head has been a bit distracted, my husband has really risen to the occasion.

This morning my daughter threw a couple of different tantrums and screaming fits. I texted my husband in exasperation. He clearly and reasonably explained the situation to me. I wasn’t paying attention like I should be. Our daughter is learning independence, but she is scared too. Her mommy is now studying and taking care of the family. That is a big change. So we need to teach her authentic freedom, but make sure that she knows we are here if she needs us. I listened to my brilliant husband and I was so grateful that I married him. God gave me this guy because he knows how to help me grow. He knows how to take the reins, when I need to sit and take the ride. Our daughter is in good hands.

So my small success for this week, is opening up my eyes to the man God gave me. The one who sacrifices so much for our daughter and me. The man who pushes me to dream, holiness, and selflessness. The one who is keeping (always does) this ship on course while I study away. My husband is awesome!

What are your small successes this week? Come join the conversation at CatholicMom.com by clicking on the picture at the top of this post.

I waited a long time for the right man to marry.
I waited a long time for the right man to marry.

Small Success Thursday: Lent and School

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Today I am going to take a break from my series on sinful anger to participate in CatholicMom.com’s Small Success Thursdays.  I will say that beginning my Lenten series on sinful anger is a small success for this week.  For those of you who have struggled with anger at different periods of your life, I suggest reading my first two posts.  Anger is usually coupled with tremendous pain whether from childhood or other periods in our lifetime.  Sinful anger is toxic for ourselves and all the people around us.  If you struggle, join me on the journey to overcome this sinful inclination.  I have made great strides, by God’s grace, over the years, but it is still a battle for me.  Join me in giving this struggle to Christ.  You can read the first two posts here and here.

Another small success for this week is that my daughter and I unofficially started preschool.  I will be homeschooling her and will not start a formal curriculum until she turns 4 years old, but we started using the Catholic Icing curriculum to get us started.  We have worked on the letters A and B, as well as discussed Lent.  She loves school and asks me to do it all of the time. She is so bright and full of energy.  She is absorbing the material and likes to work on her whiteboard on her own.  She now knows St. Anne and St. Bernadette and the liturgical color for Lent happens to be her favorite color.  She was quite excited to see our priest dressed in purple (violet) at Mass.

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I also consider my daughter’s potty training to be a small success this week.  She has been in pull-ups and using the potty for over a year now, but she was having a lot of accidents.  With the help of a timer and more focus, she has done really well this week in “big girl panties”.  We started with a couple of accidents, but now she is paying more attention to her body and avoiding accidents.  I am so proud of her.

I spent all of last week studying for my Fundamental Theology mid-term (I am in a MA in Theology program full-time).  My studying paid off and I got an A on the test.  This weekend I have to write a succinct paper on the Scholastic understanding of the Sacraments of Initiation: Eucharist, Baptism, and Confirmation.  The material is amazing and fascinating.  Pray that I am able to be clear and direct in my answers.  I can be a bit wordy and the paper is limited to 3 pages.  Three Sacraments in 3 pages while expounding on St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa?!

It’s been a busy week and I am glad to take a moment to celebrate the successes that I have experienced.  How has your week been?  What small successes have you had?  Join the conversation at CatholicMom.com.

Small Success Thursday: Going Outside of My Comfort Zone

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This past week has been a challenge for me in that it required me to go outside of my comfort zone multiple times.  The first was completion of my first graduate level Final test.  Undergraduate was not a challenge for me at all.  I spent a lot of my time bored.  Part of starting my Master’s degree was to fulfill a void in me that needs intellectual challenges.  I love to learn and I love to learn things that are hard and make the brain hurt. That is why Theology and Philosophy are right up my alley.  They stretch me to my very limits of reason and then Faith expands me even further.  I appreciated that my Final exam required me to write 7 pages of definitions and essays.  That is nothing like what I experienced in Undergrad.  In three weeks, I will take a Church History Final that stretches 12 centuries.  I want to move out of my current intellectual understanding, into deeper knowledge of God, truth, and myself.

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Second, I decided to REALLY step outside of my comfort zone and try out an online direct sales business.  I became a Jamberry Nails Independent Consultant.  Sales are not a strong suit for me.  I am bad at asking people to purchase an item even if I really enjoy using the product.  I was introduced to Jamberry nail wraps three months ago at a friend’s online Facebook party.  At first I was skeptical.  I don’t usually take the time to do my nails and the first time I put them on I did a poor job, so they did not last as long as they should have.  Even so, I agreed to host a FB party of my own and really started to like them.  That’s when I decided to give selling them a try.  I like that they allow me to “dress up” a bit as a mom and grad student.  I am going to give it a year and see how I do.  It is a marathon not a sprint.

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Third, I went a ministry meeting on a committee at my parish for the first time in months.  I got burned out after our parish became rather divided after a couple of years of tumult.  I got tired of the fighting and needed to take a step back.  I was asked a couple of months ago to join the Christian Formation Committee.  Since I like to teach and study it is a good fit for me.  The best part, I am not in charge!  Thankfully, our priest has taken charge and it was a very enjoyable meeting.  It only lasted an hour and nobody left upset.

Fourth, I am learning to rely more on my husband even when he has to be brutally honest with me.  It is hard and it has caused a lot tears, but it is growth.  I have been fiercely independent for most of my life, so marriage has been a major adjustment for me.  I am a huge work in progress.  How have you done this week?  Click on the CatholicMom.com graphic above to join the conversation.

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Small Success Thursday: Protecting Our Children Edition

It is Small Success Thursday over at CatholicMom.com.  Come share this week’s small successes with us.

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This week was a travel week for my husband.  Thankfully he is home for a while, but things get a little topsy-turvy when he is on the road.  I managed to actually get some sleep while he was gone.  I slept fine for years in my own apartment alone, but now I am a restless sleeper when he travels, even though I am packing heat if necessary.  I guess a lot of wives get used to the security of their husbands.
Our daughter gets irritable when he is gone too.  She did pretty well until yesterday afternoon.  By the time he got home, she was in full blown defiant toddler mode.  Today she is back to her happy go-lucky self.  She did not even fight me when I put her down for a nap.
So even with this crazy week, here are some successes.
1.  We did our “Biggest Loser” weigh-in and I am down 6lbs.  Only 24 to go to my goal.  I have not been as strict about my diet as I need to be.  My husband has been doing great and I keep praying for the grace to be more disciplined.  I have started adding exercise back in, which should help.  Plus, my daughter always wants me to dance with her to The Wiggles.  How can I say no to that?!
2.I have been avoiding TV for the most part.  I occasionally watch re-reruns of The Middle, which I think is ridiculous and hysterical, while I cook dinner at 5pm.  Other than that I have been reading.  I finished The Walk series and now I am reading a book about protecting our daughters (and really our sons) for a CatholicMom.com book review.  Look for the review and a book giveaway in the coming weeks!
3. Speaking of protecting daughters and sons, I wrote a letter to all daughters this morning on my blog.  The link is below this post.  Reading this book has reminded me of a lot of experiences of my teen years and twenties that I have blocked out as I focused on marriage and my daughter.  However, those experiences came flying back with a vengeance and have convicted me that we must fight the culture with everything we have in order to protect our children.  We as Catholics cannot become comfortable or complacent in our homes, especially if our children are in public schools.  Do you know what your kids are taught in sex ed?  Have you asked?  Have you looked at the materials?  Does your child’s school hand out birth control?  Has your child witnessed or heard about domestic violence?  Is pornography “normalized” in school?  Is masturbation? What is a good age for your kids to date?  Are your children reading books they shouldn’t? Have you read your school’s recommended reading list?  It might surprise you!  Why do I bring this up?  Have you discussed dating violence and abuse with your child? I say this  because a lot of us are either blind or willfully ignorant about what is going on in the culture around us.  Let me tell you a story.
I served in the US Navy for 6 years, but even before that, my first experience of meeting a girl who was being beaten by her boyfriend was when I was 15 years old.  We were in gym class together.  I saw her black eye and bloody lip and knew what was going on.  Her track star boyfriend was beating her.  I asked her about it.  She knew that she needed to get away from him, but her own mother was in an abusive relationship.  I did not have the knowledge or understanding to help her.  I should have gone to a counselor or teacher, but I didn’t.  I did not know what to do.  I pray she is okay.
While in the Navy, I was introduced to a sexually amoral culture.  It is the same in college, don’t kid yourself, especially public schools.  Pornography is rampant and is considered acceptable.  In fact, my Marine friends would compete over who had the largest porn collection.  Promiscuity, rampant, to include orgies.  I was living chastely, which made dating extremely difficult.  I had at least 3 roommates who had either been sexually abused or raped.  They were all acting out their pain in a promiscuous and risky manner.  I tried to help where I could.  I had a roommate who had slept with enough men to fill a platoon.  That is over 40 men.  She was deeply hurting.  I still pray for her.  There were women who had been with so many guys in one weekend they did not know who the father of their child was.  These women are someone’s daughter and need our love and help.
In the last 15 years, at least 5 women have confided in me that they were assaulted or sexually abused.  That is what I know of.  I suspect more, but have not asked.  I wait for them to come to me. These women believed that it was normal for men to use them and that hook ups were okay, healthy even.  They were miserable.  Binge drinking was also common place.  I thank God that the few times I binge drank that someone kept me safe from harm.  I had good friends.
Our culture has put it in men’s and women’s minds that sex is required in dating, or even a given.  I have had countless men tell me that I needed to put out.  I didn’t and made it through the Navy unscathed.  I did not cave until I was 26 and lived with a boyfriend.  The biggest regret of my life.  Thankfully God is merciful, loving, and forgiving.  I am vehemently opposed to cohabitation because of my own experiences, and my understanding of marriage.
What is my point?  My point is that the culture at large wants the hearts and minds of our children.  The pressure to engage in sexual activity, even risky sexual activity is immense.  Sex ed classes are touting sexual freedom as liberating and bringing happiness.  All I have seen is pain and despair.  Have you taught your children the Church’s beautiful teaching on human sexuality: the Truth? Are you talking to your kids about this?  Are you monitoring what your kids read or do on the Internet? 50 Shades of Grey is going through high schools like wildfire. It is pornography and normalizes S&M.  Men are looking at pornography, even violent pornography, at staggering rates.  Have you spoken to your sons and daughters about porn? This is dangerous for both sexes, but especially women.  It can create violent men.  In fact, almost all violent offenders report being addicted to violent pornography.  Do you monitor what shows your children watch?  Shows like How I Met Your Mother glamorize promiscuity and the abuse of women.  Our children see this and start to believe that they should live this way too.  After all, everyone else is doing it.  Most shows these days believe that teenagers having sex is a given.  This should horrify parents.  Shut these shows off and show your kids real love.
I feel am very passionate about this if you cannot tell.  Not just because of my own mistakes, but because of what I have witnessed.  These threats are very real, whether you live in a rural area, suburbs, or a city.  Talk to your children.  Be open!  The antidote to a culture that has gone mad is Theology of the Body.  Check it out.  Arm yourself with the weapons of Truth and Joy that is in Christ Jesus.
To bring a Culture of Life to the world, we must first bring it to our own families, starting with our children.
Please take the time to read my letter to our daughters here and share it.  I will write a letter to sons very soon.
Dear Daughters (the iPad would not let me hyperlink) https://swimmingthedepths.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/dear-daughters-a-letter-to-girls-teens-and-young-women-in-their-dating-years/
Theology of the Body: http://www.tobinstitute.org

Small Success Thursday: Book Giveaway Edition

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Good morning! It is Small Success Thursday once again over at CatholicMom.com. Come on over and share this week’s successes with us so we can cheer each other on.

I count the fact that I got out of bed at 6am this morning to pray Lauds and write as a big success. Our daughter will not stay in her bed all night, so my husband and I have not had a full night of sleep in a couple of months. No matter how many times we move her, she always comes back into our room. I can barely remember picking her up to put her in the bed.

Speaking of my daughter, she is now showing little interest in TV and wants to play more. She prefers music, to the TV. This is a wonderful shift. She loves music and dances around the house. She asks me to dance with her multiple times a day. It is a good workout for me too! She continues to amaze me on a daily basis. So that is a small success for Michaela!

Here are some of my successes for the week, including my first ever Book Giveaway:

1. A couple of weeks ago my husband and I dropped close to $100 (a big deal for us) buying containers to organize our daughter’s room. After Christmas her room looked like it had exploded. I went through her toys and separated them by genre and then stowed them in a chest in her room. This week I have managed to teach her to bring out one tote at a time to play with. We got rid of our living room coffee table, so she can play on the floor. After she is done with a tote, she cleans it up and we put it back in her room. Both my living room and her bedroom have managed to stay neat all week. Yay for organization!

2. I got all of my CatholicMom Gospel Reflections for the next six months written and sent off to the editors. This is a great accomplishment given how busy things have been. Gospel Reflections are not something that I can write while my toddler is climbing all over me. My husband watched her and I went to the library to write for a few hours. It’s my first time writing reflections on the Gospels, so be gentle when you read them. It was a little out of my comfort zone at first, but isn’t that where God calls us to go?!

3. I have decided to do my first book giveaway on my blog. This is your first chance to enter. When a good book is given away, it is a success in my book. See what I did there. I have a brand new, shiny copy of Dr. Scott Hahn’s, Understanding “Our Father”: Biblical Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer, to give away. This is my own personal copy that I want to share with you. Dr. Hahn and his publishers have never heard of me, so this is a private giveaway. All you need to do is Like Holiness in Motherhood on Facebook and @holinessnmthrhd on Twitter. Then write a comment below listing your favorite spiritual autobiography or theology book. If you wrote about your small success include a link to the post with your favorite book. Then, presto! You are entered. I will announce a winner by 12pm EST on Wednesday, January 22, 2014.

BOOK GIVEAWAY!
BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Small Success Thursdays-Biggest Loser Edition

Today is Small Success Thursday over at CatholicMom.com.  Share your week’s successes with us.

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This week is our first week back into a normal routine.  My husband had two weeks off over the holidays and while it is great to have him around, we all tend to fall out of our routines when he is home.  We were sleeping in until 730 or 8am and going to bed a lot later.  I still have not gotten back into a good sleep pattern.  There are a few goals that we have started to work towards, though.
1.  We decided to start a “Biggest Loser Challenge” with some friends of ours.   The goal is which couple can lose the most weight by Easter.  If the women reach their goal weights, they get to buy a nice new Easter dress to wear to Mass.  We are also having each couple put in $15 towards a gift card of the couple’s choice who wins.  It is a great way to help each other and make it a friendly competition amongst friends.   My friend, Angie, and I did our meal plans for the next two weeks together and we went for a 2 mile walk.  It is sunny but brisk today.  I am looking forward to getting on track and working towards the virtue of temperance.  It is really great to have friends cheering you on and providing some incentive.
2.  I am reading a lot more.  I have started reading more modern fiction.  I am looking into themes and writing styles in order to further add to my own style.  Reading other people’s work actually helps me to solidify my own writing style, as well as topics that I enjoy reading and writing about.  I have really started feeling the push to write, but I think of this year as a research and initial writing year.  I have already started a novel.  I am trying to work some things over in my head.  I also am starting to feel like I should write authentic romance novels.  I NEVER thought that would happen.  I always make fun of romance novels.  Probably because a lot of them are shallow, sexually explicit, and not set in reality.  I want to write more about the True Romance, and that can include romantic love between the sexes.
3.  I made it to daily Mass today.  As a Lay Dominican, I am supposed to attend Mass as frequently as my primary vocation allows.  With a 2 year old, that is not as often as I would like.  I really miss going to daily Mass.  I need to strength and wisdom gained from the Liturgy and the Holy Eucharist.  Soon my daughter will be old enough to sit still and we will be able to go daily.  For now I will offer it up as a sacrifice for her.
What successes have you had this week? A very blessed Second Week of Christmas to you and your family!

Small Success Thursdays at CatholicMom.com 12-12-13

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Today I am linked up over at CatholicMom.com’s Small Success Thursday.  Think about a few of your small successes for this week and share them with us.

My first success, and it is a big one in my book, is that I got the upstairs closet somewhat cleaned and organized.  You know that room or closet in your home that you chuck everything into and it looks like a bomb went off? Yeah, that was this closet.  It had been a disaster since we moved in to our new house in May of this year.  A couple of months ago we had a visiting priest come out and bless our house.  He was from Nigeria and he did the most direct and most enthusiastic blessing I have ever seen.  He called out any evil spirits or demons and asked Our Lord to come into our home.  It was great!  We followed him around the house praying the Our Father and Hail Mary.  Then we went upstairs.  I had forgotten about the closet.  He opened it. He blessed it and moved on.  I am sure he has seen worse, but I could not stop laughing from the embarrassment.  Well, you can actually walk inside the closet now.  Win!
Second, I made a commitment to myself to try to eat better and become more disciplined like I was when I was in the  Navy.  I decided to do Phase I of South Beach.  Fad diets don’t really work long-term, but the nice thing about this diet is that it helps you to get rid of sugar and simple carbohydrate cravings.  I kid you not.  After a week of doing it, someone could eat chocolate cake in front of me and I did not want any.  Not that I am going to give up chocolate cake or bread for the rest of my life.  I just eat too much of it and want to focus on temperance.  First, I cut the cravings and then I can focus on enjoying something occasionally.  I did great yesterday, today not as well, but I am going to keep  plugging away.  I have not gone running since September, so I am going to work in exercise again too.
Third, I am getting into a better rhythm with my Dominican prayer responsibilities.  I am finding Lauds and Vespers are much easier for me and a mid-day Rosary works well.  I work study in through out the day as the moment presents itself.  I am still a work in progress.  I missed my Rosary yesterday.  I am going to keep working on it with the intercession of Holy Father Dominic.  I will be received into the lay postulancy next month.  It is definitely a challenge with a toddler, but by Our Lord’s grace, I am making it work. Squee!
Advent blessings to you and yours.