Why do I take my noisy little kids to Mass?

We are there to praise and worship God, to be spiritually nourished, and to unite our lives with the life of Christ as He offers Himself up to the Father. We are not there because we bought our ticket and are entitled to a certain experience.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Dear Simcha: Some back-to-school advice

Dear Simcha,

I believe in predictability, order, and routine. The alarm goes off at 6:20. Breakfast is always ready on time. We’re well-stocked with clean clothes, toothpaste, and deodorant. I keep the kids’ shoes in labelled bins and their backpacks on labelled hooks. I give them a ten-minute and a five-minute warning when it’s time to leave. We’ve been doing this exact routine for three weeks, but we are still late every single day, and my children are often partly naked. And they all act like it’s my fault! What is wrong with them?

Signed,
Craves order

Dear Craves,

Well, it is your fault, you know. Don’t you know how important it is to have reasonable expectations?

For instance, you are expecting your children to act like rational human beings, even though the testimony of every mother throughout the course of human history, from the cave matron shooing her hairy little cavebabies off to twig-gathering school to the LuLaRoe’d, overcaffeinated yummy mummy weeping quietly into her suddenly deserted cul-de-sac, can tell you children are lower than the animals.

Animals, at least, respond predictably to stimuli and will act in service of their own self-preservation. Children, on the other hand, can zero in on the least helpful, most self-destructive course of action like a hungry pig after a truffle. Children crave order and predictability. Children are order and predictability’s worst enemy. You must know this.

Still, you have to get out that door. Your only recourse is train your kids to sing out adorably, “Daddy gets us ready every morrrrrrning!” According to the latest research, a kid who turns up wearing a stained leotard, Scooby Doo slippers, and grits in her hair is cute as long as Daddy got her ready.

***

Dear Simcha,

I make a point of serving my kids a balanced breakfast including protein and whole grains every morning. They also bring a full lunch and two snacks, and I keep cheese sticks, almonds, and dried fruit in the car for the ride home. Can you tell me why they are always hungry enough to take actual bites of each other’s arms by the time we pull into the driveway at 3:45?

Signed,
It just don’t add up

Dear It,

Well, I’ll tell you. On that very special day when a brand new baby first opens his eyes on this big, overwhelming world, a tiny fairy comes to him and whispers a very special secret into his ear:

“You’re not going to eat your lunch,” she tells him.

“Never mind why. Just know that it doesn’t matter what your mother packs. It doesn’t matter if she cooks it herself, and you requested it specifically, and it is monogrammed with a special lunch monogrammer purchased at some expense from Hammacher Schlemmer. None of this matters, for, o my child, you are not going to eat it! Your lunch is just there for the ride. It wants to go to school, and it wants to sit on your desk, and then it wants to go home again, to be thrown away completely intact, even unto the granola bar that was produced on machinery that does not also process tree nuts. It is the way of the world, little one. So shall it ever be.”

Your best bet, mom, is to buy a chicken, a goat, or some other non-discerning animal with a great hunger, so at least someone eats all that food. Then, when it’s nice and plump, you can sell it on Craigslist and buy some booze.

***

Dear Simcha,

Wow, you sure do complain a lot about school! It just makes me glad that we home school. So many people believe that home school is going to be hard, but in my experience, a full day of school work can be accomplished in mere minutes a day. I have never met a homeschooler who has regretted their choice or who has found their job difficult.*

Signed,
Just Sayin’

Dear Just:

I may have a public school education, but even I can tell one of two things is going on here. Either (a) You don’t actually home school, but you fully intend to, once you have kids of school age, once you have kids, once you get married to your secret boyfriend, Milo or (b) You do home school, and you do finish in minutes a day, but your kids can’t, like, read. Or add. And the youngest one is nineteen.

I have friends who home school for all sorts of reasons, but not a single damn one who will tell you that it’s always easy. Like every other kind of parenting, including parenting that involves a brick and mortar school, home schooling is sometimes easy and rewarding, sometimes hard and unrewarding, and sometimes easy and unrewarding, and something hard and rewarding. Sometimes it’s some combination of these things within a single hour. So say all my home schooling friends who are not liars.

If you have any choice at all (and not everyone does), you keep on doing it as long as the rewarding part outweighs the hard part. But saying it’s always easy for everyone? That’s just plain . . .

you know what, never mind. I gotta get back to that Craigslist guy about this goat. Baaaaa!
_____
*Actual comment I read on actual Facebook.

10 rules while I’m in Wichita

kids on pier

Far from this opera for evermore. Actually just for the weekend, for the Midwest Catholic Family Conference!

My kids have been extra, extra squirrelly the last few days, and I’ve had to make a few new rules, which I can only hope they will abide by while I am gone:

  • No spreading peanut butter on balloons.
  • No snapping while saying the rosary.
  • No sucking on the dog’s tail.
  • No more calling Donald Trump.
  • No propping ladders against the house to spy on your brothers while they do . . . whatever it is they do in their room.
  • No more saying, “Or IS it?!?” every time I say something is something.
  • No putting the gerbil in the Cheerios box while you’re cleaning out his cage. At least not until everyone’s done with breakfast.
  • No taunting, harassing, or otherwise impeding the progress of people learning how to use nasal spray.
  • Seriously, no more calling Donald Trump, you guys.

And the greatest of these is:

  • No singing Mulan songs in the voice of William Shatner.

These are, of course, rules for my kids, but you might want to consider adopting them for yourself. Also, no opening an email to me with “Attached you will find a copy of Heaven and Hell by Swedenborg (original text in Latin, translated to English)” in lieu of the customary: “Howdy! Attached you will find a copy of Heaven and Hell by Swedenborg (original text in Latin, translated to English).”

Manners, manners!

Hope to see some of you in Wichita! And I would be so grateful for prayers for easy travel, and for an easy time for my husband back home, who will have all ten kids, and their snapping, and their peanut butter balloons.

My least favorite part about spring

Changing over the winter clothes.

It’s not just a matter of scooping up the cold-weather clothes out of their drawers and replacing them with hot-weather clothes, or even a matter of making a million little emotional decisions, like, “Do I throw away this ratty but beloved shirt while no one’s looking?” or “Do I pack away this baby sweater in case there is ever another baby?”

It’s a matter of going up into the little girls’ room, which is unaffectionately known as “Tinkle Town,” and facing the horrors that have been allowed to propagate over the last few, dark months. And it’s not just a matter of clean laundry not put away, or dirty laundry on the floor, or people who have guilted me into buying them pants because they don’t own any pants except those awful itchy gray ones, but it turns out that they have pants — LOTS of pants — but which they have been dropping on the floor, mashing elderly Easter eggs into, and then packing into old gift bags — GIFT BAGS! — and stuffing into the closet.  That’s all true, and dreadful enough.

But there’s more. Let’s just say that what sounded like wild, coke-fueled parties after bedtime was actually wild, Coke-fueled parties after bedtime. 36 cans of Coke. Also a bowl of sugar. Bad children! Bad! So bad!!!

Anyway, with a job as big as this, there is no such thing as a system. The only system is to dive in head first and resign myself to sheer misery and a marathon workout for the washing machine and dryer for the next 72 hours.  Pray for me. And the first person to say “First World Problems” is gonna get a gift bag from me.