Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Walk Humbly with Your God

Our parish is losing its pastor yet again. He's our fourth priest in about seven or eight years.

Wow. Let's just admit from the get go that we are a stiff necked and cantankerous people in a parish that is quite nearly drowning in debt and mired in a host of other intractable issues. Our pastor has been with us a scant fifteen months. His decision to leave came the afternoon he failed to yield to on-coming traffic and creamed another car. The main memory he has of the accident is being far more focused on the in-fighting within the parish than on his driving. Thankfully, the only damage was to the cars.

In his parting remarks, Father K addressed a few of the issues facing our church. Toward the end of his comments, he gently took us to task for perhaps having a tendency to view ourselves as "better Catholics" than the parishes up the road that sport less traditional architecture and more contemporary music. Lord have mercy, one actually has a youth Mass.

Father K was spot on.

I am a conservative Catholic. I appreciate orthodox liturgy. The atmosphere in our parish helps lift my mind and soul toward God. All of this does not make me a better Catholic.

Arrogance has no place in Christianity. Liturgical one-upsmanship brings with it a disdain for others and a singular inability to love God and neighbor as we should.

Elizabeth Foss shares several points about gentleness here. She writes:

Don't dismiss someone just because they aren't as outwardly pious as you are. Don't dismiss people at all. There's a big world of people out there. And some of those people are people from whom God intends you to learn. Even if, at first glance, it looks as if they aren't nearly as holy or smart or good as you are. Even if they aren't as holy or smart or pious as you are. They, too, were created in His image and each person--each and every one--is valuable. And worth your time. Don't discount someone because they aren't as up on theology as you are or because they don't "have religion."
After Pope Bendict's visit some years back, I surfed the net getting the take on the papal visit. I was flabbergasted at the sheer volume of virtual rotten tomatoes hurled at the papal Mass in particular. Blog after blog expressed disdain for every aspect of his visit. After reading far more than enough of this rot, I asked myself (and posed the question in a combox): Where is the light? 

Something too often goes astray somewhere on the road to liturgical correctness. You can see it in the furrowed brow, the edgy tone, and words bereft of kindness and, honestly, of joy. It all reminds me of a quote attributed to Ghandi: I like your Christ, but I don't like your Christians.

If I sound too preachy, no one should take this all to heart more than me, myself, and I. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa.

The trials within our parish have brought home yet another critical  and rather obvious point: Our priests need our prayers. One of my closest friends is the daughter of an Episcopal priest. She grew up seeing the scrutiny and pressure and division men of the cloth routinely face. It is a tough, often isolated job. You're expected to be a Jack of all trades and a master of all.

The parish priest who was, in my opinion, the finest spiritual director and homilist, wasn't the most gifted administrator. A friend of mine sent hm an email, and called him when she hadn't received a response. "I got back from trip," he confessed, "and had so many emails, I just deleted them all."

However. One day I left a phone message for him asking if I could come by to talk over issues of prayer and spiritual growth. He called me back about twenty minutes later. He was first and foremost a pastor and a teacher. Administrator? Maybe not so much.

But they have to do it all, these priests. They keep near-bankrupt schools afloat. They placate the warring factions of liturgical purists and liturgical experimenters. They seek to assemble a quality staff with meager funds to pay them. They are expected to do the impossiblele, and at every Mass they do the miraculous.

They need our prayer so much more than our criticism.

Loose lips do indeed sink ships. For every divisive comment we made, what if we had offered a Hail Mary instead? What mountains could we have  moved (and could we still move) with a batch of cookies and a Novena instead of petitions and gossip?

I have often said that motherhood isn't for the faint of heart.

Neither is fatherhood.

So Godspeed, Father K.  Hopefully, we will take your words to heart and move forward as a parish to spread the Good News and not the bad.

The Hits Just Keep on Coming

Kolbe: Mom, let me give you some parenting advice ...

He goes on to explain how body language clearly illustrates whether a certain child is lying or not. Useful tidbits, these.


John: I'm sleeping in Grandma's basement, and I'm not going to pee. Not one bit!

So glad to hear it.

Monday, June 27, 2011


John, in the middle of Mass: Mama, do you like my belly button? I like your belly button.


Tim, on afternoon plans: Mom, you take a long nap. We'll be gaming. It's all good.


John, to a snoring Dave: Dad, can you quit making that noise so I can sweep?


Kolbe: My health book is full of lies. It says fruit makes a great dessert, and that's just nuts.


Me: There's a wet bathing suit on the floor.

Nameless: I thought that's where I'm supposed to put it.


John, handing me an elaborate drawing he has finished: It's a map to Grandma's house. You're leaving tomorrow.


Ainsley, anxious to watch Winnie the Pooh: Pwess Pway, Mama!

The English teacher groans. The mother dashes off for an uninterrrupted cup of coffee.


Tim, quoting Mr. Spock: I have never understood the female capacity for failing to give a clear answer.

Only when you're harrassing me for more computer time.

Kolbe, watching a furniture commercial: Who wants new furniture? We want furniture we can eat on and jump on.


Tim, who had been fighting with his brother non-stop over some code that came on the back of a cereal box: I gave him the code. I figured one of us had to be mature, and it wasn't going to be him.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Endless Vacation?

First, a disclaimer: This is not a post intended to dis mothers with jobs.

Sarah at Fumbling Toward Grace has an interesting post examining service -- service in general, but also the particular call on a mother's life. Sarah describes thoughts she had as a college student regarding motherhood:
The idea that a woman would purposefully give up the years she is supposed to be “getting established in her career” to get married, have babies, and take care of them, seemed repulsive and nauseating.

That’s because I was living Non Serviam.

The kind of intimate, challenging, service associated with embracing any vocation, was not to be borne. If I ever did get married and have children, I remember thinking, I would of course have a nanny, or at the very least, a housekeeper. That type of work would be too far beneath me to do myself.

As a teenager and a young college student, I was convinced I would never be a stay-at-home mother. I mean, why would I? Of course I mulled  these ideas over in my head in a vacuum, long before I had ever known the drudgery of a work week, before I had ever held a newborn to my breast, before I had ever thought through the logistics of day care and commutes and long hours.

I had my first child at 33. By that time, I was well-acquainted with the pluses and minuses of the working world. I had some experiences with precious newborn nieces and nephews. And I knew I wanted to stay home with my baby.

Since then, I have never struggled with the idea -- the ideal --  of being a stay-at-home mother. I have many close friends who would love to stay home full time but circumstances don't allow it. I have friends who work outside their home and wouldn't have it any other way.

So, for me, as an ideal, being a stay-at-home is great. But the reality of it? This I frequently struggle with. I recall the day Dave came home from work and innocently asked what I had done that day.

My response? Thanks for asking, honey. I hauled plastic crap from one room to another.

I was only half kidding. It can be tedious, the life of a stay-at-home mother. I am grateful for numerous opportunities to engage in Grown Up Activities -- writing projects, service teams, this blog -- that break up the monotony and help me return refreshed to embrace this life of mine.

I am on a pastoral team that meets twice a month for a few hours. I served on the team while pregnant with Ainsley and then toted her along with me for fourteen or fifteen months. By that time, she was super mobile and into everything, so I began leaving her home. The other team members missed her and wondered why I no longer brought her along for the ride. Bottom line: I enjoyed spending two hours with big people talking about big people issues. I appreciated the break.

To be sure, we live in time when Me Time has become something of an idol. I worked with the Missionaries of Charity for  many, many years. Their Me Time? Thirty minutes of recreation each afternoon and a visit home every ten years. I confess that when I hear the word pampering bandied about as something We deserve, by golly!, I am somewhat repulsed.

Forty-zillion weeks pregnant? You deserved to be pampered! Fresh out of surgery? Pamper away! The bride-to-be? It's your time, honey.

But on a day-to-day basis, I think our culture grossly over emphasizes Me Time and Pampering. Dave and I own a timeshare. I could write a lengthy series of posts on that subject alone. Every month we receive a timeshare magazine called Endless Vacation. The title irks me to no end. Why? If we actually buy into the lie that life is supposed to be an Endless Vacation, no wonder so many of us suffer from discontentment and depression.

Life is not an Endless Vacation. It is supposed to be peaceful, joyful, and fulfilling, yes, but if it's all about Me! Me! Me!, we're in big trouble.

What did Jesus say? Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me. He didn't say schedule a weekly mani and pedi.

Now I am all about taking care of the people who take care of everyone else. The old saying is true: If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Friendship, prayer support, the counsel of other mothers, hobbies, enjoying lunch out -- all of these go a long way in doing what true recreation is supposed to do -- re-create us so that we can move forward in the great work that God has called us to do.

I just placed an order for Do Hard Things.  "Combating the idea of adolescence as a vacation from responsibility," says the Do Hard Things website, "the authors weave together biblical insights, history, and modern examples to redefine the teen years as the launching pad of life and map a clear trajectory for long-term fulfillment and eternal impact."

This is not an endorsement since I haven't yet read the book, but I think we can all stand to combat the notion that any time of life is a vacation from responsibility (except, of course, for vacation).

I mentioned that several months back I conferred with a friend about why it's all sometimes so hard -- harder than it should be, it seemed to me. I know that part of my struggle is that I've bought into the myth of Endless Vacation. At a certain basic level, I don't want to die to myself, to grow in fortitude, to do the hard thing.

Ainsey in about two years?
The rub is that when I overcome my weak will, when I fully embrace this life, when I stop cutting corners, when I put off  petty feelings of resentment, in short, when I truly love -- the result is joy.

The other day I picked up a sweet little book for Ainsley. It's called Little Mommy. Hard-core feminists would have a field day with this retro-tome. Little Mommy devotes a good portion of her day to housework. I actually started to laugh when I read about the ironing that awaited her. Now, I had just bought and assembled the cutest miniature kitchen for Ainsey, but I draw the line at toy vacuum cleaners and especially at the toy ironing board. Sheer drudgery, Ainsey-girl! Make no mistake about it!

So the book briefly made me laugh. But it is sweet, depicting as it does a day spent in loving service to others. Besides that, Little Mommy has blond hair and bears a striking resemblance to my precious daughter.

Looking at the pictures of Little Mommy taking her babies for a walk, cleaning house, and, yes, even ironing, begs the question: Are these jobs beneath us?

Sarah writes, "But if they are, if that is true, then who is fit to do them? If I say that someone else is fit to do the work that is “beneath me” then what I am saying about me?

Food for thought.

And now I should close and run. Thirteen-year-old Tim reports that three-year-old John has up-chucked in the hall. Sometimes "repulsive" and "nauseating" really do fit the bill.

Mirror, Mirror

Ainsley, staring into a mirror: Hi, Ainsey! Hi, Ainsey! Hi, Ainsey!

Friday, June 17, 2011

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Happy Weekend to you!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ainsley's Favorite Toy

And the victim of the events described here.
Tea anyone?

Everyone's Baby

On our recent visit to Michigan, my sister Kate dubbed Ainsley "Everyone's Baby." Kate would snatch Ainsley up and whisk her away to eat pancakes. Ainsley never uttered a word of protest.

We spent a day with my younger sister, Karen. Within minutes Ainsley was running around saying "Karwon! Karwon!" Maybe it was all the cool togs Auntie Karwon bought her. They formed a bond in an instant.

At home Ainsley has a few favorites she'll dash off to see. Daddy is number one, of course, but Tim rates right on up there. "Aunt Patti" was one of her first two word combinations.

Once in a while I'll have a twinge of worry bordering on hurt feelings that "Everyone's Baby" seems such an apt moniker. What about me, I wonder. Fifteen weeks of nausea, six hours of labor, sixteen months of nursing -- doesn't that buy me a little loyalty? I don't necessarily want her to be "Everyone's Baby." She's my baby.

I've known kids who couldn't be left with anyone. My now sixteen-year-old niece would shriek non-stop from the time her mother left the room until she returned. We joked that Hannah had a mental Rolodex with a photo of every babysitter in southeastern Michigan. The babysitter would walk in and the wailing would commence. My other sister -- Hannah's aunt, not her mom -- babysat one night and was determined to get Hannah calm. Karen finally loaded a sobbing Hannah into her car seat and said, "I have more gas than you have energy," and proceeded to drive around the neighborhood for an hour.

Hannah never stopped.

By about four, Hannah had grown out of this. I remember watching her in swimming lessons. She was a tiny mite of a thing who could keep one nostril above water if she stood on her tip toes. She was determined to stay in the class. When Hannah was five she flew on a plane by herself from Detroit to Atlanta to spend a week with me. This child most people would have called clingy -- Nobody but Mom's Baby -- was suddenly confident and ready to face the world. Maybe she needed that extra closeness.

Yesterday our AC on the bedroom side of the house blew out thanks to an army of ants that took up residence in the wiring. The temperature had topped 95 degrees that afternoon. The house was sticky. About two in the morning, I was awakened by a tiny voice that quietly called, "Mama." Just once. Very quietly.

Is there a sweeter sound than that?

A friend of mine was consoling me over the issue of Ainsley being "Everyone's Baby." When the going gets rough, my friend shared, Ainsley will call for Mama.

And so she did.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

From the Archives ...

Tim is at Boy Scout camp this week. It's amazing how quiet the house is with just one gone from the nest. It's been a nice time to focus on Kolbe who, being the Steady Eddie sort, gets lost in the shuffle.

Kolbe was born with a yen to create. One day he will be a writer or a movie producer or a carpenter. Watching him hard at work reminds me of this piece I penned about him last summer.

Of Dreams and High Finance

We placed an important phone call this morning. It seems that Kolbe and his good buddy back in Georgia had Urgent Spy Matters to attend to.

Listening in on half the conversation proved both entertaining and enlightening.

I've said before that eight is a sweet, sweet age. Kolbe has a dozen passions - and spying is one of them. Several years ago I stumbled upon a rough spy manual he had penned. Among the instructions:

1. Dress in black.

2. Find a clue.

3. Find a ihding (sic) place.

4. Check if the coast is clear.

5. Run!

6. Use your binoculars.

Kolbe is a visionary, a dreamer, a schemer, a planner. Two summers ago he was bent on making a movie. He is perpetually in the middle of writing a new book. In May he began construction on a castle.

Like visionaries through the ages - from Christopher Columbus to Henry Ford - Kolbe keeps hitting one perpetual roadblock: financing.

So it is with the spy gear. Kolbe and his buddy discuss the merits of laser guided trip wires and sunglasses with hidden cameras. And then the conversation turns to dollars and cents.

They discuss pooling their paltry allowances, having a lemonade stand, or waiting until the fall to offer leaf raking services. The lemonade stand seems the most promising option. They begin debating whether to have one or two stands. Kolbe is obviously in favor of a single supplier.

"People wouldn't know which stand to go to," I hear him share. "Then there would be a price war."

They discuss prices with all the moxie of oil sheiks fixing the price of a barrel of crude. This lemonade cartel is destined for greatness.

"I've got a brilliant idea," Kolbe modestly shares.

I continue to listen as they dream and scheme with the unbridled joy and excitement that is age eight. I love this age, and I love my one-of-a-kind Kolbe.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hmmmm ...

John: Mama, I'm doing someping in the kitchen. Don't see me.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Now and Again

Way back in January when the humidity was low and wearing socks wasn't equivalent to waterboarding, I chose a word for the new year. The word was Now.

As I shared then, I have always, always, always struggled with Now. Summer brings with it more flexibility and more time, both of which make embracing Now a little easier.

The other night Dave took the boys to a nearby town for a night of star gazing with the local astronomy club. I readied Ainsey-boo for bed. We read and rocked and sang. I put her into her crib still wide awake.

Ainsey is great like that. She is a textbook baby. I put her in her crib sleepy but awake and out she goes for about twelve hours. Having birthed children who never got the textbook let alone read it, this is a dream! But on this particular night, I realized that I didn't have to put her in bed awake. She wasn't step one in the four step process of bedding the Dolin children down for the night.

So I picked her up. We snuggled and rocked, snuggled and rocked. I drank all the comfy sweetness that is my precious girl. I love, love, love having one still small enough to call baby.

I embraced Now.

Today has been one high octane day, and it's only just begun.  Earlier, I needed to zip to Walmart for a few items, and John begged to come along. When it comes to shopping, my motto is Just Do It. I know women who enjoy shopping; if I delve into the dusty recesses of my mind, I think I once was one of those women. These days shopping is like ripping off a band aid. Speed is of the essence.

But as I moved through the aisles this morning, I talked to John, my sweet, brown-eyed bundle of passion. I rubbed his blond head, and we shared a few laughs. As we were checking out, he asked for a piece of plastic he had dropped. I handed it to him, and he puckered up to give me a big fat kiss on the lips.

A young woman checking out ahead of me took it all in and said, "Awwww!"

It was a sweet moment, a moment of embracing Now.

Believe me, I have been that cranky mother in the grocery store.You know, the one who makes you cringe and thank God you're not like her.  Emblazoned in my memory is a day I took Tim and Kolbe to one of my last pre-natal appointments with John. I was HUGE, it was a sizzling July day, every body part seemed to be stuck to another body part, and the boys had bickered non-stop on the way to the office. To make matters worse, I had parked on the downhill side of the building. I trudged up the hill to my appointment, glaring at my cantankerous kids, feeling like I couldn't manage another step. I am sure that everything from my posture to my affect screamed irritation.

Suddenly I saw my doctor walking up the sidewalk. I wondered what she was thinking.

Why in the world is she having another baby?

This was not my finest hour.

But you know Jesus fell three times on the way to Calvary. Saint Peter denied the Lord three times. Saint Paul lived with a thorn in his side. Victory comes from persevering in the race before us, picking up our cross once more, or enlisting a friend to help us carry it. I should dwell on the dark moments long enough to repent, regroup, and most importantly move on.

Now is too important to fritter it away bemoaning the Then. 

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Two on the Horizon

Oe her finger, which she continually pretends to stick in the fan: My finger! Kiss it. Sanks.

On the floor, covered with magic marker: I drew it!

On Daddy: I 'ove oooh!

On everything else: It's mine!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Don't, ahem, Go in Your Sister's Teapot

If you want intelligent, pithy, and honest writing, head over to Betty Duffy's corner of the blogosphere. If I had the time, I'd link to a post or two or ten. Her take on the sheer craziness that is sometimes (oftentimes) motherhood leaves me saying again and again, "Yeah! What she said!"

Here she writes about discerning a motto, a motto that would capture life as a busy mom and inspire her in her vocation.

We are a week and a half into summer. The transition has been the smoothest one yet, this despite the fact that I'm up to eyeballs in various pursuits and that a fever/sore throat virus is slowly winding its way through the ranks.

But the weather has been blistering hot. And we've had a few memorable moments -- among them, Ainsley staring with delight as she squeezed every last drop of baby shampoo onto the good couch and an unidentified toddler peeing in Ainsley's teapot. Yes, that's right -- peeing in Ainsley's teapot.

If you haven't read Rachel Balducci's book How to Tuck in a Superhero, get yourself a copy. Among the many messages that are both funny and spot on is her list of Rules I can't believe I had to make. Rules 1, 2, and 7 are classics:

1. Boys, you must never crawl into the trunk of someone's car.

2. Never shut your brother in a refrigerator.

7. Do not hogtie your brother and drag him across the yard even if he claims he is having a blast.
Of all the rules I never imagined I would be forced to enact, Don't pee in your sister's teapot has to take the cake. Before I had kids, I never even said the word pee. I remember having fits with my high school students, especially the girls, when they'd use the P word. "'Mrs. Dolin, can I go to the restroom?' is perfectly acceptable," I'd tell them. "Nobody needs know what you're planning to do in there." Eventually this became something of a joke. A few of my favorite students adopted the English slang and would ask, "Mrs. Dolin, can I go to the loo?" We laugh about it to this day.

But then along came my four cherubic children. It's an earthy, earthy life with diapers and potty training and boys who just plain love potty talk. All the synonyms and euphemisms for, ahem, going to the bathroom suddenly seemed a bit cumbersome and just plain fussy. Go to the bathroom didn't quite cut it when a third of the family was in diapers and some nameless male members of the household found an inexplicable thrill in using the great outdoors. Half the things one customarily does in the bathroom didn't, in fact, get done anywhere in the vicinity of the bathroom.

So now I occasionally say pee. But I still never thought I'd be talking about it with regard to my sweet daughter's tin teapot with the painted pink flowers.

Don't pee in your sister's teapot. Oy vey. OY VEY! Reminds me of the day not so very long ago when I barked at one of the kids for using bad words and the word in question was mustard.

Oh, the depths to which we descend.

A month or two ago -- during those unendurable weeks when Catechesis was in high gear and soccer and baseball were overlapping -- I had a long conversation with my friend Amy. Our talk boiled down to one pivotal question: Why is it all so hard?

I'm not lazy, I shared. But I just wonder why it's all so hard.

In Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, we close each year by celebrating Pentecost. We review the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We light a candle and discuss each gift. The children choose which gift they want to receive. For the past several years I have asked for fortitude.

Our family in on day four of the Novena to the Holy Spirit. Today we read about fortitude:

By the gift of fortitude the soul is strengthened against natural fear and supported to the end in the performance of duty. Fortitude imparts to the will an impulse and energy which moves it to undertake without hesitancy the most arduous tasks, to face dangers, and to endure without complaint the slow martyrdom of even lifelong tribulation.
In Betty Duffy's search for a motto, she writes:

"We serve others especially if they didn't do it for us, because that is what Christ does."

And at first it troubles me, because Christ and his ways are not always on the tip of my tongue. Jazzy slogans are easily recalled and easily dismissed, but Christ, and his ways, are a challenge to recall, but impossible for me to dismiss.

At the same time, with a little reflection, I can see that, yes, years have passed, and I have been doing the service, because it's my duty, for people who don't really return the favor. And I have done it, at times well, at times poorly, for one reason alone: because I love Jesus. I really do ...
Betty describes a type of martyrdom, sometimes called white martyrdom. We don't die, but we die to ourselves again and again. That's motherhood. That's sanctification. That's fortitude.

Monday, June 06, 2011


I am an ultra-couponing drop out.

I attended the class. I bought the binder. I clipped. I strategized. I came down with migraine headaches walking through the grocery aisles. This happened over and over again. No exaggeration.

My friends and mentors from the world of ultra-couponing recommended I choose one store and master couponing at that store alone. I chose CVS and really did score some amazing deals.

Too often, however, my couponing efforts backfired. Looking back, I remember a variety of failures:

1. I realize I'm nearly out of coffee, but wisely refuse to spend $9.99 at Kroger when I recall it's a mere $4.99 at Target. I zip over to Target, grab a can of cheap coffee, toss just a few other items into the old cart, and leave the store having spent $105.00. Most expensive coffee ever. Black gold! Texas tea!

2. I stack my coupons carefully and load up on deodorant for a song. My current deodorant runs out while we're vacationing. I pay top dollar for a replacement.

3. I carefully plan to make the most of Kroger's Ten Item Event. The boys inhale the Pop Tarts and throw away the box before I snag the UPC. So long rebate!

4. I stockpile toothbrushes from the dentist and from free-after-rebate offers. We arrive at Dave's parents' to find the boys have all left their toothbrushes at home. Forced to buy them for full price at Walgreen's. We then head over to my sister's house, leaving the pricey toothbrushes at Grandma's. I briefly contemplate having everyone share my toothbrush. I quickly get over the ick factor, but get hung up on the potential out-of-pocket co-pays should all of us share a nasty virus. Back to the store I go!

I conclude that, while I should save money as I can, perhaps this ultra-couponing thing is just not for me.

But then I read this and this and this.


Let me tell you a bit about the woman behind the blog. Sarah has a life, a really nice life. She does not while away her days dreaming of buy one get one free deals on dog food. Sarah has three beautiful sons. She is smart, fun, and adventurous. She went skydiving two weeks ago!

And when it comes to couponing, Sarah seriously rocks.

Visit her blog. Get inspired.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Confronting the Mess

It's Saturday morning Mass. Tim and Kolbe sit up front. I seek refuge in the back with John and Ainsley, who at one and three are certainly cherubic but definitely Not Ready for Prime Time Players.

Sunday Mass can be a bit dicey with these two (and that's why we love! our! nursery!), but the rest of the week is trickier still. Take one large basilica with a vaulted ceiling, subtract all but about twenty people, and add two chatty toddlers. The echo alone could deafen you.

But this particular morning I enjoy nine, maybe ten minutes of sweet meditation before Ainsley erupts with a series of shrieks that sends me seeking the anonymity of the cry room. In those blessed moments, I thanked God for this church, this parish that holds so many dear memories for me.

It was here that I first came to know Dave through the singles' group.  Here I first noticed his wit and his intelligence and his brown eyes.

It was here that we were married with a throng of friends and family to celebrate the start of our life together.

It was here that three of our children were baptized and two have received First Communion.

I love this church. It's not really close to home. We have had a rapid succession of priests over the past six or seven years. The parish is facing monumental budgetary and other divisive issues. I love it still.

I love the Catholic Church.
As I sat reflecting on my own little history, my mind briefly wandered to the larger history of the church which in recent years has included sad, sad stories of betrayal and abuse. It's been a terrible season for many -- including those who love the Catholic faith.

In many ways I consider myself an idealist. I like to think the best, assume the best. I like to believe that people are who they say they are. Idealists set themselves up to be disappointed.

I spent many years as an officer in the Army Reserves. I remember studying ethics as a young cadet. When officers taught us about Duty, Honor, and Country, I believed what they said, I embraced this code of honor. I felt better for being part of an honorable profession. I was commissioned and began my military career. Then, Naval officers made headlines with their behavior at a convention called Tailhook. And I saw first hand corruption and fraud run rampant in one of my reserve units. And the service academies were rocked with cheating scandals. And news came of drill sergeants having their way with young recruits. And then Abu Ghraib. And...

And I grieved.

Of course none of these scandals erased the heroic work of the many, many fine soldiers I knew and respected. But all of them left a painful mark on the profession I grew to love. All of this is nothing compared to the pain of the scandals that have rocked my precious church.

Morley Safer of 60 Minutes recently interviewed Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York.  In this excerpt they discuss the sex abuse scandal:

It's a crisis Dolan witnessed firsthand as archbishop of Milwaukee. He was sent there to replace a bishop who resigned amid his own sex scandal, and Dolan had to deal with a rash of child abuse cases. He revealed the names of 43 predatory priests and had to sell church property to pay tens of millions of dollars to victims.

"Those where some of the more difficult, wrenching, touching moments in my life. Some of them were terribly painful and did not go well. Others I remember with gratitude, crying together, praying together. Those were very powerful moments that you don't forget," Dolan recalled.

"Do you fear that after effects of these scandals are just gonna live on and on and on?" Safer asked.

"In some ways I don't want it to be over because this was such a crisis in the Catholic church, that in a way we don't wanna get over it too easily. This needs to haunt us," Dolan said.

I have a dear friend who fervently rejoices that all this has come to light. We will be a holier church, he says, A more humble church for confronting our greatest failings, our dirt and our muck.

Both he and the dear Archbishop are Catholics of much greater faith than I. They have the courage to face the mess head on. I just want it to be over and fast, not slowly. I don't want our dirt and muck paraded across banner headlines and salacious Internet sites.

For many years it involved someone in Boston or Milwaukee or L.A.. An unknown face, an unfamiliar name, an awful list of crimes. And then one day it was a known face, a familiar name, an awful list of crimes, and a victim I know. Both perpetrator and victim -- people I know. I have spent time with them; I have shared meals with them.

And I grieve.

I grieve for the grave breach of trust that has scarred so many children, so many parents, so many good priests.

I grieve for violations that will never be fully healed on this side of eternity.

I grieve for faithful parishioners who sacrificed money thinking they were giving to the building fund or to the missions or to the poor and, in fact, were funding massive lawsuits.

I grieve for a priest I know -- a rather straight-laced and proper man -- who, at the height of this miserable affair, felt compelled to share from the pulpit, "In my loneliest, horniest moments, I have never desired a child."

I grieve for the many, many people who look upon this mess and confuse capricious, carnal man with an all-loving God who thirsts for them.

It is a mess -- a sad, sorry, sordid mess.

In this valley of tears we call planet Earth, there is mess and there is Mess. Macro Mess and micro mess.

We occasionally have a Sunday morning that seems to simply implode. The whiny toddler, the missing shoes, the slumbering teenager, the testy remark -- trifles, really, a hundred bits of irritant, the whole somehow exceeding the sum of the parts. And there we sit, stand, and kneel in Mass, and all I can pray is, "Lord, redeem this mess."

At the end of day, Christ came because we have grouchy teenagers and defiant three-year-olds and spouses sometimes at odds with each other. Micro mess.

He also came because we have pedophile priests and dishonorable soldiers and hypocritical politicians. Macro Mess.

Christ came to redeem all of it.

A Parrot at the Pool

Me: John, you can get back in the pool if you can be nice.

John: Uh ... Uh ...

Me: The correct response is Yes, Mama, I'll be nice.

John: Yes, Mama, I'll be nice.