Vallette Family

Vallette Family

Monday, November 17, 2014

I Don't Give A Crap

I have no idea what caused it. None. It's not something I felt like I needed to change. It's not something that I was working on. It just came out of nowhere. What happened, you ask? I 100% do not care about other women's parenting decisions. No, really, I don't.

Let me back up.

Some of you know me well and some of you barely know me and maybe some of you were linked to this blog through a friend of a friend and you don't know me at all. For the ones who don't know me, let me back up. I have two children and we're expecting our third. With my first I was a basket case. I wasn't a basket case because I thought I was better than anyone. I wasn't a fake basket case because I thought it's what I SHOULD do. I was a legitimate basket case because that's the type of mother my first child created (through no fault of her own).

I had severe anxiety. Severe. I worried about everything. Everything. I cried alot. I locked myself in my house and rarely left and shut out important people. I hurt feelings. I did not care about anything in the entire world other than keeping this little, helpless being alive and happy. It felt like a big, overwhelming, impossible job. It felt like I was one less-than-perfect decision from ruining her life. I felt less than. I doubted myself. I had so much going on with ME that I couldn't see past it. It was exhausting. I didn't understand how other women were handling motherhood with such ease. They weren't faking it. They just legitimately didn't freak out like I did. I saw them and their "carelessness" as inferior. I judged. I judged SO HARD. I yelled from this blog and Facebook and from any platform I could find about how my way was right. I made comments to my husband "the baby is only THREE WEEKS OLD and they let her spend the night for a date night, can you IMAGINE???". 

When I had Dane, I chilled a little more. A little. Not much. I wasn't AS vocal about my judgments. I voiced them in safe places. I only dogged the formula feeding moms from the safety of the Facebook breastfeeding group. Ha. I was passive aggressive. My anxiety was still higher than what 'most' mothers probably experience, but I cried less. I freaked out less. I couldn't lock myself in my house and "just keep the baby alive" with Dane because I had Elaina and she needed me too. I couldn't keep everyone out. I had to go on with life. Maybe not as normally as other (better adjusted) moms did, but it was definitely an improvement from my postpartum experience with Elaina.

I guess my anxiety and TREMENDOUS self doubt and the inadequacy that I felt manifested as straight up judgy bitchiness. My way was the right way because I was psycho and I cared too much and no one cared as much as me so I was the best mom. I had to play that game because I was SO unsure of myself and filled with so much panic that I couldn't take a look inward. I was sure, deep inside, that I was messing it all up or, at the very least, on the verge of messing it all up. I projected. I projected all of my messedupness (new word) onto others.

I don't know how it came to be, like I said above, but I legitimately don't care anymore. Truly. I know that a lot of people CLAIM they don't care about the choices other mothers make, but they really do. I was there. "Oh, I really don't care if you work or stay home." But deep inside, the BETTER choice was staying home. "I don't care if people breastfeed or not." But, then I would get batty when I heard someone didn't even TRY. Women who formula feed say they don't judge breastfeeding moms, but they make comments in passing about the toddler who is (gasp) STILL nursing. Women who stay home say they don't care if working moms work, but then they make comments about how someone else is raising their kid. Women who work say they don't care if women stay home, but then they make comments about how much TIME they would have if they were able to stay home and how "easy" it is. No. We're all judging. All of us. All of us because we have to prove that what we're doing is hard. That what we're doing is legitimate. Do you know why? Because we doubt ourselves. Because we feel guilt. 

We feel guilt and doubt and so we have to spend our time loudly (or passive aggressively) or without even noticing remarking about how what WE are doing is right or hardest or best. Who cares. Really. Who cares. The answer used to be: Diana! Not anymore. If you decided to work or stay home: cool. They are both HARD. Life is hard. Life is hard when you're a mom because you a responsible for another being. It's not a competition. If you decide to breastfeed or formula feed: cool. They both come with challenges and self doubt. They are both hard because you're a mom and you are responsible for another human. 

I knew there was a significant shift when someone (and I've heard this several times) told me (upon learning that I plan to nurse #3) that breastfeeding is disgusting. It did not bother me. I didn't feel personally attacked. I didn't feel "sorry for them that they missed that bonding experience". I just laughed and we moved on to a different topic and that was it. Some people think it's gross, and that's ok. Some people do it. Some people try it and it works or try it and it doesn't and some people don't even try at all. That's all ok. A working mom recently told me that if she was a stay at home mom she would be able to take her time grocery shopping and shop in peace (rather than rushing through it to go retrieve their child from the sitter). I just laughed inside. I didn't get my panties in a knot. I didn't shut her down and explain to her what grocery shopping looks like for me because I didn't feel the need to prove myself. I know (now) that my job has value, and I don't need to paint a big ole ugly picture of what it looks like in order to get props.

We all have different experiences. We all make different choices. If you think it's nice (or in ANYWAY helpful) to post a meme about how "it's called a chestclip why is it on the belly blah blah blah" then you're mistaken. It's not nice. It's not helpful. It's not a good look. Do I judge you? No. I was there. If you think it's you job in this world to prove to a mother (who already knows the risks) that she shouldn't put the carseat on top of the shopping cart, it's not. You know why? Because you don't care about her child more than she does. You don't. You have your own children to make decisions for.  If you think when someone posts an article about how awesome breastfeeding is that they're calling you out as a sucky mom because you formula feed, they're not. You feel self induced guilt about it and are projecting. Do I blaim you? No! Or you know what? Maybe they are! Maybe they are posting an article about how magical breastfeeding is because they are so unsure of themselves in almost every other facet of mothering that they cram breastfeeding down the throats of others. It's just their insecurity talking. Don't we all have insecurities? No one is thinking about you as much as you are. No one. 
 
I've reached the point where I do not care. Zero care. I legitimately do not judge the mom who makes different decisions than me. And, I'm not just saying it. I mean it. If you didn't even try to breastfeed or if you are breastfeeding a 3 year old or if you don't have to work, but choose to, or if you think breastfeeding is disgusting and should only be done in private. Cool. It's all cool. I can only be the mom that I am. You can't fake parenting because your kids will break you down. I am the person that I am.

 The only thing that hurts my feelings (and I'm working on it) is when I see women categorizing other mothers. The crazy moms vs the normal moms. The crazy moms care just the right amount, but they annoy all of Facebook and the world with their oversharing and the normal moms are chill and don't annoy anyone and they post juuuuust the right amount of kid things, but they don't care enough. Excuse my French, but it's all bullshit. Trust me when I tell you that we are already beating ourselves up enough (even if we put on the front that we think we are the perfect parent) and we don't need others adding to our junk. We just don't. 

Anytime you see someone post an annoyingly judgy article or meme or status just read it like this: "I doubt almost everything I do, so, I'm going to beat this one thing (that I feel like I actually do well) to death." It might help you not to get mad, annoyed or feel judged. 

So, if you, as a mother, ever felt judged by me you were probably right. I was sitting on my high horse making comments about how much better I was than you. It's terrible and embarrassing, but it's true. Please know that it came from a place of immense self doubt. Immense. And, I'm sorry. 

I guess now I've recognized and accepted that I'm not a perfect mother. I will never be the perfect mother. I am and can only be the mother that I am, and that's enough for me. And, others can only be the mothers that they are, and that's enough for them. 
 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Maybe

When I began to really understand what was happening at mass, I didn't understand why people all around me weren't crying with joy. Why people aren't silent and reverent the entire time. Why the air in the church isn't thick and important. Why did it seem, on the outside, like nothing important was happening? I don't know this answer. If I had to guess I'd say maybe some people don't know what's happening. Maybe others are having an off day. Maybe some have gotten complacent. And, maybe, most importantly, I am not the judge of what other people have going on in their heart and soul in mass. Maybe on the inside they are busting with love and joy and worship and on the outside they are trying to keep their 2 year old from disturbing the entire congregation.

There came a time on my journey that I could not deny Christ's real, true presence in the Eucharist. I literally felt something deep in my gut any time I was around the Blessed Sacrament in adoration. I initially thought that the tug I felt in my stomach was because of my realization that Christ was in the room with me. I knew that I was in front of Jesus and so maybe my brain made my stomach feel butterflies. I didn't know the reason. But I did know that when you come to know that Christ is really, truly present in the Eucharist, you no longer find mass boring. It's impossible. I also found myself longing to spend time with Him in prayer, adoration and mass.

One day, I was driving to Lake Charles to meet my mom, and I decided to stop at OLQH to pop in and say a quick prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I have been to OLQH before for mass, but I had no idea where the chapel was. I was lugging Dane walking around the church trying to find the chapel, and all of a sudden --out of nowhere-- I got that feeling deep in my gut, and I knew He must be close. I turned the corner and there was the door! That was such an awesome realization. I don't always feel that feeling and maybe one day I won't feel it at all, and that'll be ok because Christ is really present in the Eucharist no matter how I do or don't feel about it. With or without my gut feeling.

I went to a Woman's Group meeting recently that takes place in a room at a church in Sulphur. I try to go to this meeting monthly. The meeting is at 7PM, and that's pretty late in my house with my kids. I didn't want to go, so I knew that meant that I needed to. (Funny how that works, eh?) I fed my family, took a shower, put on a t-shirt and headed to the church for the meeting with wet hair, not a lick of makeup and sweatpants. Oh well. I figured it was better that I go looking a mess than not go at all. 

Generally when I go to these meetings I know about 2 or 3 of the 20 people there. This time, none of my friends were at the meeting. I walked in and sat down. I smiled at the two ladies whom I've seen every morning for several weeks when the kids and I would attend daily mass. They didn't smile back. I sat down in the circle alone. My mind started judging. "Wow, that's really nice. This meeting is supposed to be about sisterhood, and the women I go to mass with can't even return a smile." And then I caught myself. I don't know their hearts. Maybe they were daydreaming when I smiled and said hi. Maybe they don't recognize me with wet hair and no makeup. Who knows. 

Remember when I told y'all about that awesome experience I had in confession when the priest went on and on about how terrible my sins were? Well, it was awesome. No, really, it was. Anyway, one of the things he talked to me about was how terrible gossip and judging is. He said (in my own, incomparable words) that when you gossip about someone you are taking away their right to a good reputation. Whether the thing you are discussing is true or not does not matter. You are claiming to know their heart and their intentions and since you cannot possibly know either (because you aren't God) you shouldn't speak about others in that way. I remember hearing something about how when you judge others you don't have the opportunity to love them. 

Anyway, so there I am sitting all alone in the circle and judging the other women who aren't saying hi or trying to make me feel welcomed all the while (and here's the kicker) sitting there not saying hi to anyone or trying to make anyone else who might be alone feel welcomed. The beam in my eye was SO BIG that I was having a hard time seeing.

A woman gave a small talk about how, in her day, there was a reverence for the Blessed Sacrament that we are missing today. She talked about how important modesty was and she shared a little of her personal story. It was such a great talk. I really benefited from alot of it, and, yet, some of it made me uncomfortable, which always makes me look within myself and wonder why. She mentioned that she thought it was incredibly disrespectful seeing someone in yoga pants in adoration and how terrible it is to see people in mass in shorts or who had just come from ball games or in halter tops and short skirts. She mentioned how loud the noise is in mass. My heart sank and my pride was starting to rear it's ugly, ugly head. 

I've been the person driving by the church and feeling an undeniable pull to stop in for a few minutes and spend some time with Him in the Blessed Sacrament. The problem was, it's summer and I have two kids who I have to lug around and chase after and, so, sometimes I wear shorts so I don't sweat to death. Would I wear shorts to mass on Sunday? No. But, I figure if the Holy Spirit is leading me somewhere I didn't plan to be, who am I to say "but, umm, I have shorts on and people might think that's irreverent". Because, THAT would be the reason I don't stop. Not because Christ would be offended. I mean, I don't know if He would be offended or not. I know that God is omnipotent and so he sees me when I'm walking around Wal-Mart in shorts. I know that, out of respect, I wouldn't get dressed to spend time with Him and put on a swimsuit. But, when I have no plans of heading to church and something pulls me to Him and I'm wearing shorts-- the ONLY reason I wouldn't go is because of others. Because of what others might think. Because of what my sister or brother in Christ might think. That's terrible. Really. That's my pride. That's my wanting to be well thought of. 

I don't know the answer. I don't know what's right and what's wrong. I don't know if I should pass up the Church because of the shorts or if I should go in despite them. I truly don't know.

I just know that you and I DON'T know. We don't. We can't. We don't know if the woman in yoga pants in adoration has been taking care of her sick kids all day and her mom offered to watch the kids for 5 minutes while she runs to the church. Maybe she's spent all week wiping up snot and she doesn't have any church appropriate clothes clean. Maybe the woman in a halter top in mass recently came back to the Church and she doesn't know that what she is wearing is disrespectful. Maybe the woman wearing too tight clothing just had a baby and has no time or money to run to the store to find something that will fit her. Maybe the family that looks like they're wearing ball game clothes IS wearing ball game clothes because they had a game and today is the ONLY day they can attend mass. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe the guy wearing shorts doesn't care that it's disrespectful. Maybe. Maybe the woman wearing a short skirt likes getting attention from guys and she's using church as her own personal dating show. Maybe. Maybe. That's the point: maybe. We don't know. You and I don't know. We can only do our best. We can only love and set a good example. We can only lovingly correct those with whom we have a relationship. Because, trust me, nothing will get the woman in the halter top going like a perfect stranger commenting on how inappropriately she is dressed. 

It's not our job. It's just not. I am wrong about alot. And maybe I'm wrong about this, and if I am, I hope someone corrects me. Maybe my secular "to each his own" attitude is creeping into my spirituality. I don't know. I know that I want to learn. I want to serve Christ in the best way I can. And, if that means that you need to tell me I'm doing things wrong, then do it! I welcome it! But, not everyone is there, y'all. We don't know where people are on their journey. We don't know. We can't. 

I've been in morning mass with Elaina sitting quietly next to me and Dane yelling randomly and squirming. We're all in a small, cramped chapel. I sweat. I try to get him to sit still and to be quiet, but he's 15 months old and he doesn't understand. I've sat there, in prayer, while Father is blessing the bread with tears streaming down my face because I'm torn: I want, so badly that I cannot verbalize it, to be there and yet I worry that I'm selfishly disturbing my neighbor. I've had sweet older ladies make a point to come to me after mass and express how wonderful it is that I bring my kids to mass. I've had someone tell me how great of a job I'm doing and how they know it isn't easy. I've had Fr. Guilbeau tell me (after my apologizing for the noise) not to worry that it just means new life in the Church and that it's awesome. I've had older gentlemen comment on how Dane will be a choir member with that loud, beautiful "singing" voice. And, yet, I wonder. I wonder how many people sitting in the front are rolling their eyes wishing that woman who is sitting there clueless letting her kids "do whatever they want" would shut up her kids. I wonder. 

You don't know someone's heart. You can't. Pray for them. Pray for yourself. Love. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

My Confession

You'll remember from this blog post that I struggled with confession. I used to see it as a good tool, but just couldn't wrap my head around the fact that it was necessary. That was back when I was making my own rules and had made myself my own god. Anyway, there came a time when I fell in love with confession (what a weird thing to say, right?) and I was hoping I could share that particular story here. 

I know that confession, or the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is something that Protestants don't get. I know that a lot of Catholics don't get it because I was a Catholic for 26 years before I really got it. I will address (quickly and incompletely) a few of the main objections.

1. Confession isn't in the bible: "21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." (John 20:21-23 --that's also the King James Version which I know that alot of Protestants use)

2. Confession is something the Catholic Church made up along the way: Some of the earliest Christian writings (dating back to the first century) make it clear that the sacrament goes back to the beginning of the Church. In 1215, Confession was reaffirmed and emphazised in the Fourth Lateran Council and maybe that's why people think it was "created" later. 

3. I can go straight to God with my sins.: "When it is 'just me and God' it is all too easy to project my own qualities and biases upon God. Then, rather than being created in the image of God, we begin to create God in our fallen image." "Catholics who use this argument tend to not be in the habit of confessing directly to God either. Too often it is used not to justify a different form of confession, but as an excuse to avoid confession altogether." (Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly)

These points are incomplete, but I wanted to give a little rather than nothing at all in case someone reading this just doesn't understand confession at all. You can use the above as a jump start to learn more if you're interested! It's not my intention to change your mind about confession or to say that I'm right and you're wrong. I only to hope to address some serious questions and misunderstandings that maybe you've only ever had the question to, but were never presented an answer.

So, we all know I struggled with the concept of confession. I didn't understand why I couldn't just go straight to God (which -like said above- I never actually DID). Remember how I read and read and read and read? Well, I read about confession, and I learned something frightening. I had never made a good confession in my life. Not ever. Not once. I'd been to confession. I'd confessed my sins, sometimes completely, but without an ounce of sorrow, sometimes withholding the ones that I was too embarrassed to say to an old dude, sometimes I didn't confess things that I didn't deem sinful (but that clearly were). Anyway, never. Not once. That's scary. So, after I freaked out for a hot minute, I decided to do one, big, all encompassing confession for the 26 years I'd never taken it seriously.

I decided the next day would be devoted to prayer and fasting and my first real confession. I set apart some serious time to examine my conscience, and, when the next day came, I was ready. It was a weekday, and there were no scheduled confession times at my church this day. 

I couldn't get to confession fast enough. Really. Imagine finding out that you have been exposed to a deadly strain of the flu. How quickly would you run to the sink to scrub your hands clean? You might even hop in a hot shower. Anyway, that's how I felt. So, I called my church office asked if Father would be able to hear my confession. The secretary told me she would ask him and get back with me. Pure agony. I had to wait and wait and wait. She called back. Father was very sorry, but he was leaving to go on vacation and wouldn't have enough time before he left town. My pride yelled from inside "Wow, some priest he is! This is his JOB. Here I am chilling with mortal sins on my soul and he's going on VACATION? How badly would he feel if I died today!! This is serious!" 

I caught myself. "Wait. Maybe God has a purpose for this! I don't know what's going on in Father's life or day. Calm down." 

I took a chill pill and told Marvin. He suggested I go to confession before 5:30 mass at a different church that afternoon, and I could even go to mass after. Perfect. I would be able to receive Him. It would be the first time I did so with an understanding of what that really meant. It would be the first time I did so while in a state of grace. I couldn't wait. I wanted to make sure this counted. I continued fasting and praying and really preparing. 

The time came for me to make it to confession and my heart was pounding. I walked into the chapel, and sitting on the altar was the Blessed Sacrament. My heart dropped into my toes and my stomach did a flip. I got in line. I prayed that I would feel sorrow for my sins and that I would make a good confession. I prayed and prayed and prayed and waited for my turn. It was my turn. I walked towards the confessional and an old dude walked out. "Hey, can I catch you after mass? I don't want to be late starting mass!" My eyes looked panicked.  I looked at him as if to say "WAIT! NO! I reaaaaaaally need this!" I said nothing.  "Would that be ok," he asked. I said sure. I turned around and walked back to the pew and sat down and tears streamed down my cheeks. 

And then, out of nowhere it hit me like a 50 pound weight. How I felt in that moment was a small, small piece of how I made Jesus feel the majority of my life. This is how it felt to Him knowing that I was walking around with all of these sins and therefore separating myself from Him. This sorrow that I felt. This terrible feeling of being separated from Him and this longing to be near Him and open to His graces. I've been aware of this for only 48 hours and it was killing me. He's felt this way most of my life. This deep desire to be connected with Him is something He's felt and I've ignored. I've never even given it thought. Wow. How awesome is God? Had all the things worked out perfectly (according to my plan), had I been to confession when I wanted to go, I would have never had this epiphany. That was totally the Holy Spirit. I sat through mass with an ache in my body. I didn't want to be separated from Him for one more minute. This sucks.

Mass ended and the priest came to me and asked if I was ready. As an extra stab at my pride I had decided (before arriving to the chapel) that I would make this big, fat, ugly confession face-to-face.

I walk in to the confessional and sit down across from the priest. He starts chatting about how he's sorry that he had to make me wait, but blah blah blah one time when he was hearing confession before mass he kept letting people come and he missed the entire mass and blah blah blah funny story that's taking a long time. I tried to pretend like I was listening. JUST LET ME SAY MY CONFESSION. Ok, his story is done. It's time. 

"Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been two weeks since my last confession, but I have really been learning about our faith and praying and I learned that I have never in my entire life made a good confession, so, I would like to make a big, all encompassing confession now." 

"Ok, but you're not going to remember..." I cut him off.

I pulled out my five pages of paper full of all of my sins (front and back on composition paper). "Ummmm. I wrote them down."

His eyes get big. "Uh. Ok. Go ahead."

I go through my sins. I cry. I finish. I look up at him. He's smiling.

"Wow. Ok. It sounds like God sent you a wake up call, and you got it."

We talked for a bit.  I said my penance in front of the Blessed Sacrament and I prayed in thanksgiving for a while.

That's how I fell in love with confession. I go pretty often now. I wish I didn't have to go, but for some darn reason I make the same mistakes OVER and OVER. It's exhausting. Thank goodness we have a loving and merciful God!

Similarily, recently I walked into confession with my chest puffed out. I was all proud of my itty bitty venial sins. I mean, I'm a mom and a wife. My sins aren't all that crazy. I thought I would be in and out. Nope. This priest was awesome. He really knocked my off my high horse. He spent a good deal of time talking to me about how damaging and sinful gossip was. He chastised me. It was great. My penance was spending FIVE DAYS off of Facebook. I wish I could confess to this priest every time. My pride could use some stabbing at, and this priest is the man for the job. Make sure you confess to a priest who challenges you! You could stand to be pushed every now and then.  

God's plan is so much better than mine or yours. When I needed to go to confession so bad that it hurt, I was forced to wait so that I could learn something. When I walked into confession feeling like I wasn't that bad, I was scolded. We get what we need at the time. Had the two situations been flipped (the tough priest for the big confession and the other one for the "little" confession), who knows what would have happened. It's good to be uncomfortable! Get uncomfortable!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"Mom, I'm hungwee."

This won't make sense to many of you. If you have zero children or only one small, non talking child, or if, by some miracle, your child doesn't do this (or you are a more patient person than I am) then you'll wonder why I'm getting my panties in a bunch over something so insignificant, but it's real. It's a thing. I know it is because I've seen my friends gripe about it.

Kids ask to eat. ALOT. Now, duh, we are human and we need food to survive. But, it's something so much bigger than this. It's something so infuriating and annoying. It's something that unless you have experienced it, it will make no sense to you.

You have a baby and the baby has instincts. Your baby cries when she's tired or when she has a dirty diaper or when she's HUNGRY. You nurse or bottle feed the baby. The baby drinks until she is no longer hungry. The end. It's really a beautiful process that you don't have the forethought to enjoy properly. Then a monkey wrench gets thrown in. Your world gets rocked. The kid grows up and TALKS (trust, this is not a good thing) and asks for food TWENTY FOUR SEVEN. Constant. No matter what you're doing. No matter where you are. Your child is starving at all times. They are going to die if you don't stop what you're doing NOW and get them food. Then you go through the process that is feeding a kid. And, trust me, it's a process. It's not like when your baby is hungry: get bottle, mix formula, sit down and put bottle in baby's mouth. Nope. It's not like that. You have to go to the kitchen (which you JUST FREAKING CLEANED) and play "what do you want to eat" with the kid. You offer 3 healthy options which you KNOW your kid likes. Your kid asks for the thing you didn't offer. You redirect and reoffer the 3 things again. The kid reasks for something not on the list. You go 'round one or two more times before you have the "these are your options, you can have one of these or nothing" talk. Your kid rolls their eyes at you because they're your kid and payback is funny. Your kid resigns and asks for one of the three approved options.

You search for a kid friendly plate. You prepare the food. You put the food in front of the child who is now seated at the dinner table. The child asks for a drink. You prepare a drink for the child. (I could take some time to go into the mess that is "the special cup", but I won't because of time purposes and because I don't know that I can handle my blood pressure shooting through the roof.) So, your child is seated with their food and their drink and they take one bite of whatever it is you gave them and then they get up and go about their business. One bite. That's it. The kid that was starving is now full. One bite. This happens roughly 15 times a day. Your child literally enjoys seeing you fall apart when they ask for food. They think it's hilarious that you have conversations with them about "not wasting" and "finishing everything on your plate first until you ask if you can have something else" as if ANYTHING is ever going to change! This is what you do all day long. All. day. long. Now, if you had nothing to do all day besides prepare, serve and clean up food all day this would be no big deal (if we take the waste factor out), but you have things to do and so this rocks you to your core. 

WHY MUST THEY. WHY. I told Elaina the other day that I die a little inside every time she says the words "I'm hungry". Yep. I told that to my not-quite 4 year old. Am I proud of it? No, but it's exactly what happens. A piece of me dies every time I hear that sentence come out of her mouth. If I were to offer up the physical pain that it causes me to hear "Mom, can I have a snack?" for the souls in purgatory, heaven would be flooded. Ha. That's how big it feels to me. Truly. 

It's not just about having to DO STUFF for your child. It's not just about having to stop what I'm doing to cater to the kid I birthed. It's about the LIE. YOU ARE NOT HUNGRY, you small dictator. You aren't! Because if you were you wouldn't waste so much darn food. All day. Every day. It's the same. Always. "I will not waste my valuable time preparing food for you that you are not going to eat. It is a slap in the face to me. It says that you do not value my time. It infuriates me," said Diana to her kid. And, with a blank stare and a sneaky freaking grin the kid responded, "so, I can't have a stawberry is what you're saying?".



(Disclaimer: I like to find humor in kid things. I hope to write things that you relate to or that you find funny or that prepare you for the crap you're about to go through. Please know that I KNOW I am lucky! I truly do! But, if I sat here writing every day about how beautiful and fulfilling and magical my life is (and it is!!) then it wouldn't be my blog! Please keep this in mind when you read my posts. If you don't know me in real life, then it's hard to read things in Dianaese, but just know, it's all in jest, my friend.)


Friday, August 22, 2014

A Conversion Story

The following is my personal conversion story. I'm writing it mostly because I've been asked to share it at a retreat for college students (and what better way is there to gather my thoughts?). It would be awesome if someone could relate to my story and felt inspired to dig deeper. I know that, generally, any time people speak publicly about their religious beliefs to a random audience one of two things happen: 1- people with differing views feel insulted and judged or 2- people make fun of the person who "just talks about God all the time." I'm 100% ok with being made fun of in this arena (for reasons I'll discuss later), but I would absolutely hate it if someone read this and got insulted.  Please know that this is my story. I'm not writing my conversion story AT you. I'm just sharing it with you.

I grew up "Catholic". Catholic is in quotes because I'm not sure the Church would agree that what I was doing -or wasn't doing- was Catholic at all. I received the sacraments, and went to weekly mass only because we went during school. (I went to a small Catholic school in Ville Platte.) I lived my life trying to be a good person. I decided what constituted a good person. I ran decisions by my conscience (which I spent exactly zero amount of time forming in any meaningful way). My conscience said that confession was a good tool, but it wasn't NECESSARY for the forgiveness of sins. Therefore, I went to communion when I went to mass-no matter what state my soul was in. My head told me that Jesus wasn't REALLY present. My conscience also told me that mass wasn't necessary. I didn't "feel" close to God at mass and, you know, Christianity is ALL about how we "feel", right? I thought pre marital sex was only wrong if I felt it was wrong. In a committed dating relationship it didn't feel wrong to me. I didn't see how birth control could be wrong? What did the Church want us to do? Have a million babies? We all know those Catholic families who have soooo many children. That's great for them, but, ummm, no thank you. Obviously NFP doesn't work. I took a strong stance on a social issue that is close to my heart (and remains close to my heart) and shouted from the rooftop how unloving and angry Christians were to not allow everyone to do what they pleased. I don't think I ever said the word "atheist" in reference to myself, but if I really took a long, hard look in the mirror, that's EXACTLY what I was. I was fairly certain there was no God. Or, if there was, I got to decide what he was like and what he did or didn't approve of. I made up my own rules. I would loudly and passive aggressively mock how "everyone thinks THEIR religion is the right one" and "God is like Santa for adults". I was lost. I didn't know I was lost. I had a great life. I was (and am) in an extremely healthy and happy marriage. I had two children who were healthy and happy. My husband had a great job and was able to provide for our needs and all of our wants. We are surrounded by an extended family that loves us (and our kids) emphatically. There was nothing missing. Or so I thought. 

Since I've been with Marvin, he's always suggested we go to mass. I've always told him I'd go if he wanted to, but that I didn't think mass was really NECESSARY, and plus, I don't feel close to God there. During Lent of this year, Marvin suggested we make it a Sunday family tradition to go to mass and then to have lunch at a restaurant. Wait, there's lunch involved? Ok! Sign me up! We began going to mass every Sunday (and to lunch after--don't forget lunch!!). Apart from showing up to mass once a week for one hour, I did exactly zero things to grow closer to Christ. I didn't spend any time thinking about Christ, actually. I lived my life normally and went to mass once a week. Then, one day after we had gone to mass for several Sundays, I realized two things were changing: 1- I had an inner peace I'd never had in my life. Things that would have previously bothered me, were no big deal. I never felt like my life was turbulent, and I'm not sure it was, but all of a sudden there was peace. Peace that I didn't even know I was lacking. And, 2-I realized just how flawed I was. And I wondered why I was so quick to judge EVER-Y-ONE if I was so flawed. I was SOOOO full of myself and had such a sanctimonious and entitled attitude. My eyes opened up and I saw my sinfulness.  I literally did nothing to warrant these two changes. I didn't pray. I didn't desire to grow closer to Christ (at least not a desire that I was aware of). I did nothing. I showed up to church, sat in a pew, tried to get Elaina to whisper, tried to keep Dane from crying and then we left. The end. And yet, I realized two pretty big things had changed within me. (I now recognize this was the Holy Spirit, but at the time if someone had suggested that to me, I would've been extremely uncomfortable.) I started to think, if I could change (with zero participation and minimum effort) what would happen if I actually CARED?

I began learning about the Church from the craziest source...... the Church. I read the Catechism. Cover to cover. There was pretty much nothing in it that didn't make sense. Wait, so Catholicism isn't silly? I read alot. Wait, religion wasn't just something that dumb people do? One thing that I read during my discovery really stuck out to me (and has remained with me since): There are things that you and I cannot wrap our heads around. For example, can you LOGICALLY think of a way that your little feeble brain can wrap its head around the fact that Jesus was both God and man? I know I can't. Maybe my faith is lacking, but that's something that's pretty difficult for me to understand. But, guess what? We're not going to understand everything. I realized that expecting to understand everything is silly. I realized it was vain of me to categorize things as lies simply because I didn't understand them. It's like telling a 7 year old that the Earth is round. He can look WITH HIS OWN EYES and see that the Earth is, in fact, flat. There are probably very few 7 year olds who can conceptually grasp the fact that the Earth is round even though everything they see looks flat. We can tell them that the Earth is round, and they can take our word for it, but understand- probably not. That's how faith is. We aren't the pinnacle of intelligence. We aren't the end all be all. We are human and that means flawed. We can't expect to understand everything and we can't say something is a lie simply because we cannot understand it. It's unrealistic. I mean, Quantum Physics is a thing, and I don't get THAT. 

I knew there were two pretty fundamental teachings that would be challenging for me: birth control and homosexuality. We weren't ready to have another baby just yet (and adopting the Church's teaching meant changing and trusting and that's HARD) and my strong views on homosexuality made me nervous to dig too deeply into either arena. I "knew" that what the Church taught was pretty polar opposite to what my heart said, and so I avoided these two topics. I prayed that God would be patient with me. I read books about Church teaching. I started praying. I went to confession. I participated. I thought the Catholic church was just one (of many ways) to grow closer to Christ. It wasn't necessarily the "right" religion. Such a thing didn't exist, I thought. People picked the faith that worked for them--the religion that "felt" (there's that word again) right. The Catholic church was all I knew so that's where I began. And then, I read Scott Hahn's books. The way he explained the mass brought tears to my eyes. I read and read and read and read. Someone suggested I read Christoper West's "Good News About Sex & Marriage". So, I did, and I learned (for the first time, really) what sex was. Sex is a physical expression of love between a married man and woman in which the couple is open to the gift of children from God. So, sex should be unitive and open to children. I learned how man desires to separate sex from marriage and children. How man desires to have all the feel good parts of sex without the responsibility part of sex. I learned how, since the popularization of birth control, adultery -and by proxy divorce- has been on the rise. Sex, in our culture, means something that is supposed to feel good. We've made sex into something that is about US, not, as it should be, about giving fully of yourself to your spouse. I came to the realization that the Catholic Church is right. Not every church. Not whatever you want to do. Not however I choose to do it. Not wherever I "feel" I should be. There is an authority, and I'm not that authority. The Catholic Church is the authority. We have somewhere to turn when we don't understand something. There is a uniformity that is beautiful and unique to the Church. Our faith isn't case by case. You can visit a Catholic Church in Ville Platte, Louisiana and a Catholic Church in San Francisco, California and in Brazil and in France and the same thing is happening at each of these churches. Again, please remember that this is my conversion story. It's what happened to me. I do not judge you. Truly. I'm too busy being grossed out with my own sinfulness to even pay attention to yours. 

Reading the Church's teachings about sex made. so. much. sense. I mean, it isn't easy to change. It was difficult, actually. But that's one thing I've learned through this process (and something I'm constantly trying to remember) that just because something is RIGHT doesn't mean it's EASY. Being a Catholic is HARD, but it's worth it. I learned through my journey (which I'm still on, and will always be on--the journey never ends) that NFP does work! God created a woman's body in a way that she is only fertile in phases. It's amazing how little I, and I'm going to assume alot of women are this way, knew about my body. Some Catholic families have a lot of kids, yes. But, I know now that, generally, that's because their view of children is different from the mainstream. A big family is not a sign that NFP doesn't work. A big family is a sign of being open to God's love and gifts.

I began saying the rosary daily. I took some meaningful time at the end of each day to examine my conscience and pray. Confession became something I scheduled in my calendar. My faith grew. When you put your time, love and energy into something that area blossoms, and my love of Christ blossomed. I hope that no one is reading this thinking I'm the pinnacle of holiness because.... just, no. I'm so, so, so flawed. I'm going to just go ahead and put myself on blast: One area that I really struggle with is gossip. I think alot of women can relate. Sometimes I am so eager to bash my neighbor it's embarrasing. Sometimes I am with a group of friends and I feel that I have to join in so I'm not silent in the conversation. Sometimes I feel like I have absolutely nothing to talk about if I don't gossip. That's sad. And, it sucks, but I'm real and I struggle. The closer you get to God the more visible your sinfulness is to you. All I have to say is: the poor Saints! I annoy myself and let myself down daily- hourly.

I learned alot about suffering-- little, small sufferings and big sufferings and how wonderful they can be. I know that sounds crazy, but it's true. 

I'm going to share something personal with you. When I began on this road, I had a hard time believing that God existed. I mean, isn't that the very center of all things faith? The most central teaching upon which all other teachings are built and I wasn't even certain it was legit. So, I prayed. I generally pray with the help of a prayer journal. The prayer journal helps to keep my mind from wandering. When I would take some time to pray, I would ask that God increased my faith. Then after a while I decided that I would make a promise. I would be obedient even if my faith was lacking. I would respect and follow the Church's teaching even if it's not what I would do if left to my own devices. I prayed that prayer for a while. And then time passed and one day it was apparent to me that God had answered my prayers. I know God exists now. I doubted God was real. I prayed to God to help me believe. I believe in God now. There wasn't an explosion. The world didn't end. An angel didn't come to me while I slept. I asked God to increase my faith. I told him I would obey his Church even when I didn't understand and then one day my faith increased. I've had SO MANY experiences like this (answered prayers) throughout the past several months that it would take all day for me to list them here. I think it's so beautiful how I sometimes pray for something and then one day, randomly, I realize that God answered my prayer and I didn't even notice. If you've never had this experience, I know it's hard to understand, but it's real. I pray now that God's will be done in all situations. There was a time I was scared to resign myself to God's will. I was scared to pray "your will be done". What if his will meant my life would get hard? So instead I prayed for the strength and trust to pray that God's will be done, and then one day, I trusted! I'm rambling now.

Anyway, I've changed. Yes. It's not an insult. It doesn't hurt me if you tell me that you see "I've been getting into the holy stuff". It's a compliment. It's 100% ok if what I post on Facebook (about motherhood or God or my walk with Christ or whatever) annoys you. It's ok if you think it's silly. It's ok if you think that faith is all good and fine, but I need to keep it to myself. It's ok. Because my pride-o-meter could stand to be lowered a few million degrees. It's all ok. We're only on this world for a short time and there is forever waiting on the other end of death, and I've decided I'm not wasting my time any longer!
 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Life With Two

I haven't updated this in a while. My last entry was about Dane's birth and now he's a toddler who waddles around yelling. I haven't updated partly because two kids rocked my world and partly because I have nothing witty to say. Y'all know I think pregnancy sucks. It's hard. I feel ugly and fat. I could go on, but I have several blog posts dedicated to complaining about pregnancy which you can reference (if you feel the need to hear someone complain about the greatest gift women are given). Pregnancy was easy to write about and make funny. Life with kids. No. I distinctly remember a time when if ONE person in our family got a bath it was a good day.  My kids went days without taking a bath. Literally. Because I could not wrap my head around the mechanics of getting both kids (happily and safely) clean. Two kids was..... a transition. Elaina was a normal human being when we decided to introduce a non-normal human being into our family. She used the bathroom on her own. She used words. She slept when normal humans sleep. She ate normal human food. She drank out of normal human cups. It was a breeze. We were living the life. And then we threw a baby in the mix. 

I don't know if most people have their world rocked when they introduce a new baby into their already-kid-infested home, but I did. Dane drank out of nothing that was not a breast. Nothing. For 11 months. Let that sink in. NOTHING. So, I had two options: stay inside my 1100 square foot house with two kids like a hermit or go out into the world and nurse in public. I know that someone out there is thinking that I must not have tried. I know you're thinking YOU could have had him taking a bottle. Let's pause here for a moment and discuss. Do you have one or less children? If so, I was you. I was SO you. I thought I knew everything. I was Judgy McJudgerpants. You probably know this from reading my blog. I truly thought I could solve all problems, and then I had a second child and McDonald's became an acceptable meal. I offered Dane a bottle at 9 weeks to see how he would do. He took it. Then, around 4 months, my best friend decided to have a bachelorette party in New Orleans. I tried to give Dane a bottle before I left, and he took it fine. And then I left him with his dad for 24 hours and he went on a hunger strike. Literally. He did not drink a thing for the entire time I was gone. Now, think about this, the kid is 4 months old, and for an entire day refused to drink anything. So, the theory about "if he gets hungry enough, he'll take a bottle" is completely thrown out the window. He didn't drink out of anything. It was hard. 

Elaina had a rough time transitioning as well. She was never unkind or angry towards Dane. She loved him from the very beginning, but she hated me. Truly. For 2.5 years it was just she and I and she was accustomed to life where she was the center of my world, and then Dane was born. There was a while at the beginning that I cried to my mom or Marvin about how she hated me, and, at the same time, I didn't want her to like me. It's weird, and I'm not sure everyone experiences it, but the best way to explain having two kids (to me) is: You spend your entire pregnancy worried that you won't love the new baby as much, worried that your older child will feel left out, trying --at every moment-- to include the older child in things so they don't feel excluded, and then your second child is born and you want to lock yourself and the baby in your room away from the older child and just rock and love and be away from irrational children who purposely yell and ruin naptimes. You want to scream when you're nursing a baby to sleep and a toddler needs something to eat NOW! Anyway, it was a transition. It was hard. A baby and a toddler both needing my attention and love and needing, needing, needing. 

How is life with two now? E-A-S-Y. I know I've played the "Being a SAHM is such a hard job" song a time or two, but not anymore. Life with two kids is easy! Truly. I don't write this to be all "my life is so easy, you must be doing it wrong if yours isn't", but more for those of who you who may be in the trenches of the two kid transition and you're wondering if you can trade in your older child for a different model. I've been there, but it gets better. I'm going to go as far as saying two kids (in our house) is easier than one kid. The kids play. They laugh. They eat together. They watch movies together. They sleep at the same time. Elaina loves her little brother. She is always kind to him (me? that's another story for another day). She helps me. If he's sad she cheers him up. She teaches him things. He looks up to her. He follows her around like a little puppy. He lets her ride him like a horse. He thinks everything she does is amazing and funny. It's a breeze. Truly. They spend the majority of their day playing with one another, and allow me to clean and cook and all that jazz.  

Apparently, I'm a glutton for punishment. I decided that my life was moving so smoothly that I should teach 5th grade CCD classes, teach Spanish to preschoolers and get a career coaching job at a local high school. So, I'm going from 100% SAHM to a SAHMish who works and needs the help of her wonderful in laws for childcare. So, here's to a new chapter. Here's to a challenge. To an adjustment. I'll keep you posted on how life is with two kids and three jobs. Should be interesting.