Sunday Mass . . . Getting ready, driving there, corralling toddlers, driving home. It is not for the faint of heart, and this morning was no exception.
First, I wake up John.
"Am I going to school today," he asks.
"No, today is Sunday, and we're going to church school and then Mass," I tell him, fully anticipating his response.
"I don't wanna go to church." With John, this sounds more like "I don't wanna go to turch!" If nothing else, John has cute going for him. Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth begin. I move on to wake up the older boys.
"You'd think we could have one morning to sleep in." Yadda, yadda, yadda.
Now Ainsley, she's cheerful if only because she's wearing her brown velvet dress with leopard trim and coordinating leopard shoes. Nothing like a good outfit to start the day off right.
"I a princess," she sings. "Mama, do the princess dance with me."
We do the princess dance, and that at least gets the rest of curmudgeons laughing.
Mass goes well. How can food for the soul fail to go well? Never mind; I know in colorful detail just how it can fail to go well. Toward the end of Mass, Dave leans over to me and says, "How about no donuts today? It's Lent." I concur with one caveat: Dave gets to break the news to John.
You've probably heard of The Donut Man. Rob Evans is his name, and he produces first-rate children's music. He even visited our parish in person a few years back, and Kolbe got to sing with him on stage.
Well, our parish has its own Donut Man. He's a friend of ours who hands out donuts to all the kids after 10:30 Mass. John is fixated on donuts. I leaned over to John one Sunday and encouraged him to think about Jesus. "Well, I'm thinking about donuts," he told me.
It's all about the donuts.
Here let me insert a brief aside exploring the nature of habits and traditions. Good habits are formed at about the same speed that tectonic plates shift in the Pacific Rim. You persevere, persevere, press on, and persevere some more. You see incremental progress.
Bad habits cement overnight.
As for tradition, this refers to any positive event -- preferably one involving sugar -- that your family does approximately 1.5 times in a row, a row being any span of time ranging from five minutes to five years.
I've heard, "We always go to Disney world in October!" Um, no. We've gone to Disney World in October precisely once unless you count that we entered the parks three times in one week -- and trust me the kids are taking all that into account. It's tradition!
Break one of these long-standing "traditions," and you might as well drive to Orlando, pull up to the gates of The Magic Kingdom, and announce, "Gee, kids, someone poisoned Pluto."
Donuts after Mass have become a tradition with a capital T.
Dave breaks the news to John. John turns all sullen and briefly hides in a bush. Ainsley gets wind of the news, and you can forget all about the thrill of the princess dress. "I wannna a donut! I wannna a donut! IIIIIIIIIII wannnnnnnna a dooooooooonut!"
Her plaintive wails are so pathetic, the older boys have no choice but to begin relentlessly mocking her. Oh, Tim briefly tries to cheer her up."It's Lent, Ainsey," he tells her. "We have to make a little sacrifice."
Her response? I don't wanna go there.
Classic, simply classic. Sacrifice? I don't wanna go there. Lent? I don't wanna go there. Out of the mouth of a two-year-old.
Tim and Kolbe begin repeating lines from Veggie Tales: I wanna Buzz Saw Louie! I want ten buzz saw Louies 'cuz that's the true meaning of Christmas. Wahhhhhh!
Ainsley joins right in demanding ten Buzz Saw Wouies 'cuz that's the true meaning of Cwistmas! Wahhhhh!
And eventually I recall a line from that Jimmy Buffet classic: If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane.