Sunday, March 17, 2013

Musings of a Mom: Toy Story 3/17/13

News Feed:  Habemus Papam!
For me, as I am sure for many of you who witnessed the white smoke and revealing of the Catholic Church's 265th successor to St. Peter, words cannot fully describe emotions.  From the moment he appeared on the balcony, I could see his newly chosen name shine forth-such simplicity in poise, gesture; such humility in praying first for Pope Benedict and then asking our prayers for him before blessing us.   This is exactly how I would envision St. Francis of Assisi standing there.

 And each day as I learn more about our Holy Father, I see hope for our future.  Jesus is speaking to him like he told St. Francis: "rebuild my Church."  Of course, being guided by the Holy Spirit, he will carry on the teachings of the Church, but in a way the Church hasn't seen for awhile.  I see change, but a change that is needed for the good of the "ordinary" person, both in the Church or those fallen away from it.  How I love the gifts of faith, theology and philosophy of his predecessors, but I believe Pope Francis will teach us how to live in such a way to avoid the great scandals, corruptions, and heinous crimes of our world today.  We do not have to have taken the vows of poverty to be poor in spirit as Jesus says in Matthew 13:44
(Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.)  To be poor in spirit, means nothing is more valuable than God; nothing will get in our way of knowing, loving, and serving Him.  By learning to love the poor and learning to live in poverty, we can be rich in God's gifts.  Being stripped of luxury helps us to see ourselves as we truly are and our neighbor as a child of God.   (please read Around the House section below for a more in depth reflection of being poor in spirit.)  

New Popes are like new children-before they are here you wonder how you could love them as much as the others, but when they finally come your heart overflows with love.  I've spent the past days falling in love again.  Thank you God for your Church and the leader you have chosen for us!

Cheering on Pope Francis with a "terrible towel" blessed by Pope John Paul II during his  1999 Papal visit to St. Louis

I'm Pondering: The 13th of March also marked the 34th birth/death anniversary of my big brother.  There have been many times that I've wished he was here for a shoulder to lean on and guidance in time of trial. I've asked myself why I had the weight of being the role model for 6 younger siblings; however there have been so many times that I have felt his intercessory prayers on my behalf.
Joanna and Tessa are lucky to have a big brother!

I'm Praying:  praying for my 2 Lenten souls-the 2 men discussed in my last Musings post and for Pope Francis

We're Praying:  Stations of the Cross (read my last post for 20% off Holy Heroes website)

I'm Reading: Victory Over Vice  by Archbishop Fulton Sheen (I could read this every Lent!)

Around the House:                                TOY STORY
Toys at our household have been "cleaned up" and organized.  Between being a busy mom, I've been working on this section.  Please note that all in red are my reflections after the election of Pope Francis.       
The house has seemed more cluttered due to the craziness a new baby brings to a household.  It gets crowded, unorganized, chaotic, and overwhelming.  Sometimes you wonder where all this stuff came from-and where your sanity (and patience, orderliness, etc) went to. Matthew Kelly states in Building Better Families, that "our lives are suffering from modern complexity.  We never get enough of what we don't really need."

It's true.  Today it seems that the more we have, the more we want.  We have to have the most, the best, the latest, or what our neighbor has.  Archbishop Sheen in his chapter on Gluttony in the aforementioned book, says this is a basic problem of life.  "Should the soul do what the body wants, or should the body do what the soul wants?  Each has its appetites, and each is imperious in the satisfaction of its wants.  If we please one, we displease the other, and vice versa.  Both of them cannot sit down together at the banquet of life.  The development of character depends on which hunger and thirst we cultivate"

 There's no better time than Lent to focus on "letting go and letting God."  Letting go of our desires -denying ourselves-purging- in order to grow spiritually and remember we depend on God.  Letting go of material goods (excess) so excuses "to have" aren't so inviting, but the invitation to let God into our soul is.  We must discipline ourselves to transform our whole person: body and soul to become more like Him.  "Becoming by grace what God is by nature" as St. Athanasius said.  

In a small house it's easy to get congested and in each other's way, but for me it makes purging easier. (Oh, yes, there are still times it's hard to let go.) There's a great sense of relief to see that pile to get rid of, to donate, or to trash. A burden is lifted for materialism weighs you down-your focus is not on God, but rather on stuff.   We need to get rid of excess, learn to say no, and simplify our lives.  The devil likes chaos and disharmony.  With all the toys, gadgets, media, and "stuff" we get caught up in-watching, listening, playing, attending to, etc, the devil can easily disguise himself and get into our lives.  Simplifying helps us to truly, honestly enjoy what and who God has created with order and true beauty so we can praise Him.

There's also no better time than Lent to teach these virtues to our children.   Dr. Raymond Guarendi, a Catholic clinical psychologist and author of Discipline That Lasts a Lifetime: The Best Gift You Can Give Your Kids, says that "materialism can be a forerunner to self-centeredness, endless demands, ingratitude, and boredom."  "I have seen," he says, "few children lacking for character because they lacked for material perks.  I have seen quite a few who lacked for it because they were indulged."

Toys are meant to be fun for children.  Playing is their work-this is how they learn.  Mary Reed Newland says "there are two kinds of things a child learns from play: the character things and the joy things.. . joy is a reflection of our Father who is in Heaven.  Early childhood is the time to connect play with God and the joy of eternity." 

 Learning who they are as God made them should begin at a very early age.  It is so important for you to nurture their inherent qualities.  Girls act like ladies, are modest, nurturing, open to all that is good and holy, and recognize goodness.  Toys that encourage all things girl are important like kitchen sets or dolls or dressing like a princess.  Boys respect others, are honorable, disciplined, and trustworthy.  They are protectors of all that is right and good.  Boys like toys with wheels, fixing things, and slaying the dragon! (Don't get me wrong- tractors and trucks can be good for girls and boys ARE allowed in the kitchen!)
Each family and individual is unique and has its own gifts and personalities that must also be fostered.  Some may be musically or artistically inclined while others prefer the competition of playing ball or games.  Others prefer hands on approach and might favor science kits or want to be just like daddy and play with the farming set.  

Toys are fun for adults too-don't we normally give a gift not because we have to, but because we love to see their faces light up and the joy they have in playing with them?  To a point, there is nothing wrong with this.  However, many toys quickly lose their luster.  Kids become bored, want what other kids have and like us, become overwhelmed with "stuff".  The trend at our household is that the kids always play with or do not tire easily of the traditional toys.  It is funny how they will turn to those things they relate to best.  These are the things that have been around for generations and in fact, items I'm sure our grandchild will play with.

lessons purging toys can teach

1.appreciation/gratefulness for what they do have
2.generosity-sharing with others (giving is better than receiving)
3.God can never be outdone in generosity-We had a good example of this last week.  As I was working on this post, Tessa won a raffle basket at our parish/school's dinner.  The kids were excited to receive a storage box with dress up costumes, accessories, and other pretend play items. 
4.responsibility-a say in what to keep or not to keep, but also help in organizing and clean up
5. moderation
6.  simplicity-"Unless you become like little children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven."  Matthew 18:3   Children too, must learn to have a relationship with others, ultimately Christ, and not be attached to earthly things.
My St. Francis statue, once on my bookshelf, now stands on my china hutch.  It's a good visual reminder of simplicity and not complicating things that I can see each time I enter my kitchen.  I bought this while in Assisi in 2003.   

 "rules" I've used while purging

1. Trash/Recycle
*broken*dangerous*not working properly*missing pieces

2. Donate/Get rid of if  prayerfully reflect on who is most in need or who would most benefit from those things you are no longer keeping 
*toys haven't been played with for quite some time or child doesn't 
remember the toy exists 
*you have 5 gazillion and you really only need 1 or 2
*toys that make more clutter than it's worth-Do I want to pick this up everyday?  Do they really play with this?  

3. Reconsider
*toys that cost more in the long run  e.g. battery operated toys or toys that parts are not included or have to buy more when they run out
*toys that may be dangerous; especially those a small child may put in his/her mouth
            -plastic toys may contain dangerous chemicals such as the estrogen mimicking/hormone disruptor BPA or it's equally dangerous sister BPS
         -polyvinyl chloride (PVC): chemical plasticizer that leach, flake, or off-gas over time which can cause risks from asthma to cancer.  It is known that those toys containing PVC which are sucked on cause damage to the brain, liver, and kidneys.   
         -pthalates is another chemical used to make toys flexible that are endoctrine disruptors 
*toys may also contain such chemicals lead-toys that limit a child's imagination or cognitive skills-my motto is "the more    a toy does, the less the child thinks"
Mary Reed Newland in her book, How to Raise Good Catholic Children says of play:" Play relates to the whole child, his whole body, all his members, his senses, his imagination, his will, and in his joy after happy play or his discontent after the unhappy, it touches his soul."


Staying organized aka: sane

1. Everything has its place (and no, it isn't always where it's supposed to be, but it helps!)
*label if necessary
*store in an appropriate accessible, logical place
*don't expect kids to know-give them a "tour" and simple reminders where toys belong when picking up

2. Schedule a "pick up" time each day
*ours is before Daddy comes home  (most days-3 times a week counts right??  At least it helps!!)
*any teacher knows that routines are essential to maintain classroom discipline-there is no true learning when the environment is chaotic

3. Help (younger children) pick up
*usually gets the job done faster
*can turn it into a fun game
*they aren't as likely to give excuses like " I didn't get this toy out"  OR "I didn't make this mess"
*easier to give reminders of where toys belong 
*model helping our neighbor 

4.  Put Away in Storage
*consider age and level of maturity; some toys are not age appropriate (e.g. baby toys are away in container until needed so they don't become unnecessary clutter)  
*rotate toys if needed (switch toys out every so often so they are like "new" toys)

5. Stick to your guns
*go through toys every so often, remembering your own rules
*remember your rules and motto when purchasing toys
*just because other kids have it doesn't mean yours needs it
                -opportunity cost: (a great way to teach economics and sacrificing all in one) sometimes figuring out how many hours dad has to work to get this toy or if your family does allowances, how many hours this toy equals
*softness can be a form of sloth (laziness) 

Wow!  I could/should have done a whole post just on toys!

In the Kitchen:
-Homemade Chicken Broth: 4 quarts to freeze plus more used for Italian Lentil Soup. I think I'll be set for a month or so before needing to make more!
-Homemade Vanilla: First attempt at this; takes around 6 weeks before ready to use.  Can't wait! Nothing beats the smell of REAL vanilla!
-Interesting!  I've never cooked with beer before and I've used my husband's home brew in two different recipes this week!

Most Important Tasks: 
-write letter to Grandma

I'm Working On: cleaning my closet

The Kids:

Dominic:  Kindergarten screening was canceled because of the snow and he was quite disappointed.  He finally was able to "go" to school and again is a little disappointed that he can't keep going back. Only a few more months-he thinks he's ready and I couldn't agree more!
 He's been listening to his Gingerbread Boy and Other First Tales he got for Christmas.  He likes the story of The Little Red Hen the best and will repeat it for you.  I need to have him make his own storybook for it-he loves to draw!   

Joanna: loves dressing up both in the 'costumes' box and out of her own drawers.  It seems she changes multiple times a day.  Her "shopping" outfits, as she calls them, sometimes get pretty interesting!
She is so proud of the castles she's been building.   The colors of the rooftops have to match the columns!

Tessa:  2 months!!  It's so funny what little ones will do to get attention.  She is in the fake coughing stage.  It seems to work-  someone will always go talk to her or pick her up!  It makes her so happy to be talked to-she smiles and coos back at you.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  We are having shepherd's pie and blarney stones to celebrate this saint of Ireland and our possible Irish heritage. . . that's another story!


  1. It seems we are constantly cleaning out and reorganizing our toys also. Some days I feel like throwing all the toys away but as 'trivial' as they might seem, toys are important for kids, like you are saying. It's about finding balance. And I have to remember that one day, our house will not be full of little toys or little people playing and making messes anymore and that makes me more sad than seeing the mess everywhere.