Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday: A Gentle Lent Begins


Has it really been three weeks since I last wrote anything here?

Oh, ok then.

To recap this winter...the whole family got hit with the flu over Christmas.  January we focused on recovering.  This was right around the time we started hearing the term "polar vortex" and suddenly there were two feet of snow outside and the temperatures were 30 degrees below zero.  Which ended up really not being that bad because we settled into a cozy, peaceful rhythm around here, while the snow kept piling up.  I may be the only person to say this, but I have really loved this winter.

The kids have not been able to climb this tree until this winter because that spot where Juan Pablo is sitting is about five feet off the ground.  In case you were wondering what giant snowbanks might be good for.

Here's the thing though.  It's March now.  And this whole "cozy, peaceful rhythm" thing we've had going on?  It's becoming more and more difficult to sustain.

I realized it last week when Jeff was gone for three days on a last-minute business trip that came up (to Florida, in case anyone else caught here in the polar vortex was wondering).  I love our days.  But they are INTENSE.

I have a four year old who never stops talking.  Never.  She makes me laugh all the time.  But she never stops talking.

An actual exchange we had recently:

Me: Ok, I love listening to you talk, but can you stop just for two minutes so I can make a list please?
Her: You can make your list mama, but I'm going to keep talking because I just need to talk, I love to talk, but you don't have to listen, I won't get mad if you're not listening.

I also have a very needy and very affectionate little three year old who loves to be held and cuddled and squeezed.  She gives me hugs and slobbery baby kisses all day long.  It's sweet.  I love it.  But it's all. day. long. and by the end of it my shoulder is covered in drool.

And of course there's my oldest.  Between his two sisters, it can be hard for him to get a word in edgewise or a snuggle when he needs it.  He tends to fade into the background sometimes and let it build up.  I have to be conscious about how he's feeling and intentional about giving him time and focused attention throughout the day otherwise he explodes.

And when we're all stuck inside all together all day every day? Like I said, it's intense.

Last week when Jeff was gone, the kids all slept in our bed with me.  It's our special thing we do on those nights when papa's not home so we don't get so lonely.  They all sleep better that way.  But it means that all night long I'm hearing them sleep talk and feeling them kick me and the littlest is sleeping on my head.  I didn't get a break.

Jeff came home in time for the weekend and on Saturday morning all we had left in the refrigerator were a few eggs, some parmesan cheese, and the usual assortment of condiments. So I spent the whole morning in crowded grocery stores, getting restocked for the month.  Not exactly relaxing. Oh yeah, and then I decided it was the perfect afternoon to do a ten mile run.  In the snow and wind and eighteen degrees.  (I'm not actually crazy.  I'm running a half marathon in a few weeks.  So yes, ok, I'm crazy.  At least I didn't run the ten miles on a treadmill which I originally thought I was going to have to do until I remembered  a local park with a 3.1 mile paved trail that gets maintained well enough that it wouldn't be covered in ice like every other path, trail and sidewalk in the area.) It felt good, but left me physically exhausted.

By Sunday night I was feeling burned out. My body was tired, my mind was tired.  I didn't want to have to think about anything or plan anything or do anything or talk to anyone.  Not ready to face another week where the majority of the days it's just me and the kids in our little house.  Just me and all the cuteness and silliness and tantrums and non-stop chattering and slobbers and kisses and ridiculous arguments and snuggles and someone talking to me or touching me All Of The Time.  Can you tell how torn I am about all this?  I love it all.  But I need a break too.

I checked the weather forecast, knowing that being able to get outdoors would bring a welcome change to our routine.  While we're going to be seeing some warmer temperatures in a couple days, they are still temperatures that require snowpants and coats and mittens and hats and boots and "Why didn't you go use the potty BEFORE putting everything on!?".  We have a ways to go before we can just throw on a jacket and shoes on everyone and walk down to the park or go for a walk in the woods.

The fact that Lent was going to be starting in just a couple days was almost too much.  Prayer, fasting, almsgiving?  I'm just trying to hold it together enough to make it through the day. So when I came across Elizabeth Esther's post on a Gentle Lent, I was all in.  Not trying to do All Of The Things All At Once.  Nothing big, nothing that will either lead to more burnout or else frustration when I fail to follow through.  Just little things.  Simple things.

Every morning while I drink my coffee, I sit down with the current issue of Magnificat and say the morning prayers and read the Mass readings for the day.  No it's never quiet.  Yes, I have to stop at least two or three times to answer a question or remind someone that we don't jump off the coffee table.  But for the most part, the kids give me that little bit of time.  I'm going to take advantage of that these next six weeks and go back to the teachings of St. Therese.  A little bit at a time.  St. Therese has always been one of my favorites- I took her name as my confirmation name, and our little Teresita is named after her.  Especially since becoming a mother, I'm more and more drawn to her "little way".  These days our home can feel a bit like a cloister...we don't leave much.  Most of our life happens in these 980 square feet and what I do on a day to day basis is not particularly exciting.  St. Therese did even the smallest most mundane tasks with great love for God and for others, and chose to love even the most difficult  members of her community no matter what.  I can do that right? bedtime story, one load of laundry, one math worksheet, one homemade meal at a time.

What's more, Jeff is joining me.  Every Saturday night is date night.  The kids get an easy "special kids dinner", and after they go to bed we sit down with our dinner and a bottle of wine and have one meal a week where nobody needs their food cut up into little pieces or spills their water everywhere.  I look forward to it all week.  During Lent, we'll focus some of our dinner conversation on what we've read that week and ways that we can encourage each other to grow in holiness.

And that, my friends, is the beginning of my Gentle Lent.

Linking up today with Elizabeth Esther.     

1 comment:

  1. You truly exemplify God's love in all the "little ways" that really count. You are all in our prayers, especially prayers for Teresita at this time. Love, Aunt Cindy