Friday, March 22, 2013

Crazy Laws I would Gladly Enact

I've mentioned a few proposed laws that have made headlines over the past months -- among them, restrictions on extra-large sodas and, in one tony neighborhood, a ban on side-walk chalk.

A subdivision here in Augusta garnered a few headlines when the neighborhood association sued a grandma for putting a pink playhouse in her backyard. Seems a subdued khaki or a tasteful olive drab were the colors of choice and pink was verboten. Never mind that you couldn't spot the playhouse from the street or even from the owner's driveway. These types of neighborhoods sport tall privacy fences, and they're called that for a reason. But, sadly, a neighbor could catch a glimpse of this subversive structure from the upstairs back window or something.  Legal briefs went a flyin'.

If you're in need of a laugh and a dose of clear thinking, please head over to Rage Against the Minivan and read about Taking Holidays Down a Notch. This post led me to draft Seven Crazy Laws I'd Gladly Enact. So here they are:

1. Gifts bags would be abolished. No new holiday would be added without a widespread referendum of Moms who don't own stock in Pinterest  and who aren't dentists . No school would celebrate Pi Day, Daylight Savings Time, or the invention of the integrated circuit. Valentine's Day would heretofore be celebrated on a Saturday. Half birthdays would be verboten, thereby rewarding those long-suffering women who survived the summer months great with child and managed to labor before Labor Day.

Penalty: I'm thinking of an all day birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese attended solely by children with confirmed ADHD diagnoses and perhaps a few sensory integration issues. The party would  be supervised by a single parent who's a little short on cash and is accompanied by a toddler or two terrified of overly friendly, life-sized rodents.

2. All coats and sweaters -- anything that could remotely be designated Outerwear -- would be required to have a simple, sturdy loop attached at the tag area.

Penalty: Each and every violator would be buried in a mound of jackets, hoodies, back packs, and super hero capes while being severely beaten with a lady bug umbrella and a pink vinyl purse.

3. On a related note, hooks would be required to -- get this -- actually hold something up. Tasteful, artsy, but otherwise useless hooks would be summarily banned.

Penalty: See above.

4. Children's toothpaste would be clear or, better yet, come in colors matching a) a porcelain sink or b) the wall adjacent to the sink or c) the shower curtain five feet away from the sink.

Penalty: Violators would scrub neon-green toothpaste from every surface of the bathroom with their own toothbrush and then be forced to brush with bubble-gum flavored Crest for kids.

5. Children's socks would come in two colors and two colors only: navy and white.  Manufacturers would be required to add yellow stripes on the toe indicating size. The stripes would not be visible outside the shoe just in case Mom really gets a wild hair and chooses to mix sizes six and seven. Girls' socks would have a simple, tasteful scallop. The end. No other adornment would be permissible -- I mean, none -- no sports logos or army tanks, no hearts or flowers.

Penalties: Violators would be forced to don eye-glasses designed to mimic the far-sightedness of a forty-eight year-old woman. They would be seated on a lumpy couch in a dimly lit room and required to match a truckload of socks in varying shades of grey, navy, and black while watching reruns of The Biggest Loser.

6. Checkout lines would be void of merchandise. No beef jerky, no candy. No Polly Pockets, no Matchbox cars. Wine would be permissible, as long as it's dry and reasonably priced. Absolutely no magazines of any kind. No pictures of the Kardashians to give my three-year-old daughter insight into what real women look like. No Cosmo offering helpful tips to spice up your intimate life and giving my new reader a chance to say "SSS ehhh ex. Sex! What's that, Mama?"

Penalty: I'm thinking the violator would be forced to have a serious conversation with the parish priest or a little old lady while his three and five-year-old children practice their new vocab words within ear shot.

7. While we're on the subject of grocery stores, by law the diaper aisle would be free of any item even hinting at fitness or diets. Hence, Slim Fast would not be shelved across from the strained carrots as it is in one store I frequent. Really, why don't we just hang a rack of bathing suits, add more fluorescent lights, and install a three way mirror?

Penalty: The grocery store manager would be forced to go home and lovingly inform his postpartum wife that her new jeans might be just a smidge tight and then let us all know how that worked out for him.

Head over to Jen's to add your Quick Takes.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

On the Joys (?) of Co-Sleeping

"Mama," Ainsley whispers as she burrows in between Dave and me in the wee hours this morning.

"Mama," she says just a touch more insistently.

"Yes, Ainsley," I manage to answer.

"I don't actually want another princess doll," she tells me. "I have enough already."

She rolls over and nods off.

And so ended my attempt to employ shameless bribery positive reinforcement to get a decent night's sleep.

"If you stay in your bed for seven nights," I had told her recently, "I'll buy you a new princess doll."

Snow White? Jasmine? Oh, she was itching to add to her collection. Cinderella and Belle needed company. At least that's how it all seemed by the light of day. By 3:48 a.m., she clearly was having second thoughts.

Nearly every evening I spend time reading and praying and chatting with John and Ainsley. We start in my room, and then we move into their room. I spend a few minutes snuggling with Ainsley in the bottom bunk and talking to John in the bunk overhead.

It's a sweet time, a quiet time, the welcome lull that follows what Stormie O'Martian calls 'the arsenic hours," that hellish  hectic block of time wedged between soccer practice and dinner, between homework and Scouts.

The rush is over.

We slow down.

John reads his Bob Books. We enjoy Frog and Toad. Ainsley holds my face in her soft hands and whispers You're the best Mama in the whole world. I rub her blonde head. You're a gift from God, I tell her, the answer to many, many prayers. John peers over the top bunk to say I love you, Mama.  I squeeze his hand. I love you more, I tell him. I love you one hundred, he invariably replies. I don't know what I love you one hundred means exactly, but I know that's as high as my five-year-old boy can count, so it must be the best.

John has had a difficult time falling asleep since the time change. (Thank you very much, Ben Franklin!). But Ainsley drifts off to sleep in no time flat. Trouble is, Ainsley associates sleep with me being right next to her. When she wakes up, she comes looking for company. On the rare occasions she makes it though the night without finding more snugly accommodations, Ainsley wakes up clearly put out.

"No one sleeps in my bed with me," she pouts.

She tries to brainstorm solutions.

"Mama, I'm going to build another bed and put it in my room, and you can sleep there."

When I gently point out that Mama and Dad prefer to sleep, um, together, she has a solution for that as well.

"We'll build a bed for Daddy, too," she tells me in great seriousness. She's a problem solver, my girl.

People write all sorts of stuff about The Family Bed. You love, or you hate it. It's a natural way to share sleep, a practice that's gone on since the dawn of time, or it's a dangerous practice embraced by selfish, lazy parents who might as well be putting an infant to bed with a sharpened ax  If you want to inflame The Mommy Wars, focus on a handful of hot button topics: breast feeding in public, attachment parenting, spanking, and, above all, co-sleeping.

Years ago Danielle Bean wrote a piece on co-sleeping and highlighted the Bean family motto: Do What Works for You. I couldn't agree more.

We had a child  who wouldn't sleep a wink unless he was snuggled up with Mom and Dad. Another child was, like, Put me in the crib already and let me be. We had one who, for a short season, would appear at my bedside around 3:00 a.m.. I would open my eyes, somehow sensing that I was being watched. Sure enough, two green eyes would be peering straight into mine. Go potty and climb in bed, I'd tell him. I warned Dave that that would be the line I'd subconsciously feed any armed intruder who made it into our bedroom. Kolbe was wholly uninterested in taking up residence with us until three weeks before John was born. Suddenly he became a nightly visitor. Another someone would quietly come in our room, find a place at the foot of the bed, and never disturb anyone until he woke up saying, "Mama, I wet the bed."

And then there's Ainsley. She reminds me of this image that's been darting around the Internet:

She's a kicker. Oh, she's  kicker. The heel on the forehead? Been there, felt that. There's no relegating Ainsey to the foot of the bed, and no way to keep her from kicking.

Hence the bribe.

On the issue of co-sleeping, I'm far more a pragmatist than a purist. Here's the bottom line for me: Everyone does better with sleep. Sleep and protein -- I'm big on both of these and really, truly see a link between marginal behavior and a lack of either of these two essential ingredients. And I'm not just talking about the kids. I went through an extended bout of insomnia a year or two ago, and let me tell you, this was stressful. Nothing like waking up at 2:00 in the morning and knowing that a) you'll never get back to sleep and b) the demands of the day will remain unchanged despite your catatonic state.

Tough, really tough.

So I'm all about everyone getting rest. And that's hard to do when you get thumped sixteen times an hour. And I'm not above dangling Jasmine or Sleeping Beauty in front of my daughter's eyes to do it. And maybe that's the ticket -- I should hop over to the big box and actually buy a princess or two.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Answering the Phone

Some people offer a simple Hello.

We typically say Hello, God bless you.

But today our caller heard Mama said I could answer the phone! I got it first! Fine, you whiny baby!

Happiness and harmony. That's our motto. Happiness and harmony.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

- 1 -

So yesterday we arrived at church without incident or crisis. Everyone presentable. All relationships intact. No one wailed, "I'm not getting a donut!" No one yelled, "How much longer?" The most notable comment was Ainsley whispering, "I wanna peace Amanda! I wanna peace Amanda!" after the handshake of peace was over, and she had missed our friend in the row behind us.

Please make note of this momentous achievement.

- 2 - 

We have an ongoing fight in the van. Okay, we have any number of ongoing fights in the van, but one of these makes me smile. John typically sits in the way back, Ainsley in the middle. They quarrel over who gets to sit next to Tim.

Tim is top flight as big brothers go -- kind, funny, willing to play cars far longer than Mom, always remembering who get dibs on Tim and being extra kind to the disconsolate one.

- 3 - 

One of the van wars is the perpetual fight over who rides shotgun. Now when I'm making cookies, Ainsley and John fight over who gets shotgun -- shotgun apparently being the five inches of counter-top closest to the wall. Do not ask me why those particular five inches are superior to the ones ten inches to the left. They just are.

Ainsley riding shot gun.

- 4 -

"Is there still  pirate treasure?" John asks me one morning, "Cause I'm going to find some."

- 5 -

When we learned last summer that John's eyesight wasn't up to snuff, I immediately panicked at the thought of trying to keep glasses on a four-year-old. Been there, done that with Tim. John is a bird of a different feather. He sleeps in them; he bathes in them.

- 6 -

 John occasionally makes it out of the van at the morning drop-off without kissing me goodbye. Ainsley finds this nothing short of scandalous.

"Mama, when I'm in kindergarten," she tells me with sweet earnestness, "I'll always kiss you goodbye."

I plan to hold her to this.

- 7 -

Ainsley likes to play with John's spelling flash cards.

"Pah pah eye eye, pie,"she says, piecing the P, I, and E cards together.

"She read that," her doting father tells me with pride and amazement in his voice. "Did you hear that. She read that!"

"Um, yeah, well, the letters form a picture of a pie, honey," I tell him gently.

He's unconvinced. Ainsley then puts J-E-T together and says, "Air air air puh puh lane. Airplane!"

Don't burst Daddy's bubble. I'm a prodigy!
Head over to Jen's and add your Quick Takes.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Parade Pictures for the Grandmas and the Aunts


Cari is collecting photos featuring the color green. I mostly struck out on this one. Not much is green at the moment, but in a week or two all of Augusta will be colorful. 

Here's a green pirate:

And from the archives, here's a bald and somber Ainsley clearly enjoying her first Saint Patrick's Day:

Head over to Clan Donaldson and add your photos.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

All I Need to Hear

The kids are sitting around discussing their favorite people.

Kolbe: My favorite person is Jesus.

Ainsley: Mary.

John: Timmy!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papem!

Taking the name of one of my favorite saints, we have:

Pope Francis I!

Come, Holy spirit!

Fill the hearts of your faithful.

Enkindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created. 

And you shall renew the face of the earth.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I Ride the Short Bus

Can I state for the record that sometimes we arrive at Mass peacefully or at least with all relationships intact?


To read this blog, you might find that a stretch, but I swear, it's true.

Then there are days like yesterday.  I will not go into the particulars. Just the typical frustrations that chisel away at family peace. Grating, grating, grating. It started with one individual but then spread faster than the norovirus that hit last Christmas.

Strife, you see, likes company.

It's not enough that one person sows unrest in our midst.Where's the fun in that?  Oh, no, no, no. We are all required to react -- badly, I might add -- both with respect to the culprit and toward each other just for good measure.

Let strife abound!

And suddenly we're in church, third row, center right. We genuflect and stand and kneel and sit, make the customary responses with, at least in my case, sorrow oozing out of every pore.

A friend's father joined the Episcopal Church after years of no church and then a non-denominational church. He had no deep theological wrestlings with the Episcopal Church, but got all hung up on what he viewed as the repetitiveness of the liturgy. Specifically, he scratched his head that Episcopalians ask forgiveness over and over and over again.

The Catholic liturgy is first cousin once removed from the Episcopal liturgy. We do the repetition thing. And on days like Sunday, I get it. Oh, I so get it.

We enter into the penitential rite:

I confess to almighty God
And to you, my brothers and sisters,
That I have greatly sinned.

We symbolically beat our chests and say, "Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault."

We move to the Kyrie Eleison:

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

And just before communion, we repeat the words of the centurion:

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,
But only say the words and my soul shall be healed.

Repetition, repetition, repetition. These are the  piano scales of the interior life, sentence diagramming for the spiritually dense, the multiplication tables of the heart and of the soul.

Why do we need to do this drill over and over and over again?

Because I'm thick, damn it.

And hard.

And entrenched in the muck and mire of self.

And grace seeps in.

John puts his head on my lap. Dave squeezes my hand. I keep trying to catch Tim's eye up on the altar where he's serving. He finally grants me a half smile, figuring I won't quit pestering him until he does. And Ainsey . . . sweet Ainsey puts her arms arms around me and says, "I love you, Mama!" and then tries to kiss my stomach. I'm forever blowing loud kisses on her squishy tummy, but she doesn't get that Mama's really squishy tummy is not fit for public viewing.

We reconcile.

During my Army days, my team seemed always to get the short end of the stick -- the smallest work area, the fewest computers, short staffing, etc..

"We ride the short bus," another captain told me one day.

This Army buddy of mine had battled a speech impediment as an elementary student. In her district, children who required special services were carted off for part of the school day to a different facility. Because these kids were few in number, they were picked up in a smaller bus. My friend Rode the Short Bus.

In that harsh pecking order that is school life, Riding the Short Bus became an insult, a pejorative that meant that you, in some form or fashion, were not up to snuff. You ride the short bus! You ride the short bus!

Why do I get the need for our liturgy to be about repentance, repentance, repentance?

Because, spiritually speaking, I Ride the Short Bus.

This religion I profess to follow, this faith I embrace, demands against all reason that I love God and neighbor, insists that I live at peace with others.

Somedays I'd rather don a hair shirt and subsist on bread and water.

Now God, I have no issues with.

But those pesky neighbors? That another story entirely. Oh, I'm not hating on those neighbors on the other side of the world, you know, the ones that don't look like me or talk like me or park their car behind mine. No, it's those neighbors under my own roof, most of whom I've birthed and nursed and nurtured. This faith calls me to love and endure and forgive and do it all again tomorrow.

In the hours after Mass, we heard the tragic news about our neighbors' nephew. Nick had ridden his dirt bike into a wire and severed his trachea. His parents -- the woman who had birthed him, the father who had raised him --  they weren't confronting bad attitudes and wayward behavior. No, they were facing brain death and life support and organ donation.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

My heart is aching for the parents, the aunts and uncles, the cousins who will never, ever be the same again. I cry and cry over this, especially when I wonder if his mom had kissed him that morning, if he had exchanged kind words with his father, when he had last spoken to his older brothers.

We are called to love God and neighbor. And that love demands reconciliation.

Over and over and over again.

Sometimes I read the words of scripture, and they seem to expect what I know I can't possibly deliver. Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect. Come on. Give me something I can work with! And then I read Don't forgive seven times seven. Forgive seventy times seven. And I remember Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

It takes practice. It takes repetition. It takes grace.

And if I attend the church that offers the longest, slowest Mass in the diocese, the church that calls us to reconciliation over and over and over again, it's because it takes that long to touch the parched corner of my soul thirstiest for the grace of God.

What can I say? I ride the short bus.

File This Under Ironic

"Mama," Ainsley comes wailing to me. "John called me a tattletale!"

Monday, March 11, 2013

Please Pray

Our dear friends lost their fifteen-year-old nephew and cousin yesterday. Nick was in an accident Saturday afternoon and died Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

1. We just returned from the funeral and burial of a dear friend and neighbor. Sue endured three bouts of cancer with humor and grace. She was loved by many and will be missed by all.
Times like these leave me thinking Dave's touch is a little more tender, Ainsley's cheek is just a smidge squishier, John's eyes are just a tad browner.

I appreciate the ordinary just a little more.

2. Here's the latest Dolin family portrait courtesy of Ainsley:

3. Girl Wonder also wrote her name for the first time:

4. I'm de-cluttering "the den of iniquity" and found a treasure trove of Tim's papers. Or perhaps I should just say "trove" and skip the word "treasure." Good gravy, I saved every last work sheet the boy ever scrawled.

My apologies to John and Ainsey: If it doesn't involve a hand print and an overly sentimental and badly rhyming poem about how you won't stay small forever, out it goes.

My efforts unearthed a poster that dates back to Tim's fifth or sixth birthday when he was in his rather long obsession with all things space. Instead of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, we played Pin Neil Armstrong on the Moon. We all had a laugh over that one.

5. "I'm the mama," Ainsley told her doll the other day, "so I have put you in your car seat."

"Ainsley," I asked her, "do you want to be a mama when you grow up?"

"No," she told me, quite emphatically."I'm going to be a princess in a not itchy dress."

6. John and Ainsley have taken to building forts in their  bunk beds. John informs me that his is awesomer.

What is not awesomer? A nameless someone found a can of yellow spray paint that yet another nameless someone left within easy access of the first nameless someone.

Someone's grey bike is now yellow. Someone's mother is not happy.

7. When I type in "FA" to hop over to Facebook, just guess what comes up? Yes, you heard it first here -- What, you're probably wondering, does one find over at I couldn't tell you because I haven't tried surfing in that direction. While I am appreciating the ordinary, I'm not taking it that far.

Head over to Jen's to add your Quick Takes.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Add a Little Red

Cari over at Clan Donaldson offers an interesting photographic tip:
Today, I'd like to try out a photography technique I was taught by my sweet Great Uncle Jim.  Every memory I have of Uncle Jim includes a camera.  He was always taking pictures. 

(He also had a Purple Heart medal.  An actual Purple Heart.  Sometimes he'd take it out of its case and show it to me.  So cool. 

The one piece of photographic advice he gave was this, "Always include some red in a picture".

She gave several examples and darn if a touch of red doesn't make a picture pop! I confused
the Lesson of the Week (add a little red) with the Theme of the Week (piles), so here's my contribution to the photo round up:

If I were sticking to the theme of piles, my archives are full of photos that foot the bill:

The other day I told John to put "put everything in the toy box." He did as he was told. I wish I had snapped a picture of that pile.

Head over to Cari's and add your pictures.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

As I'm Cooking Dinner for a Friend

I deal with this:

No, this is not the work of young kids, but the consequence of purchasing no-brand aluminum foil.

But then I  see Ainsley's first portrait:

 It's me, in case you're wondering. Before my first cup of coffee, but clearly me.

"Are you impressed with me, " Ainsley asks. 

"I certainly am!"

And just so there is no confusion, John writes a title:

 And then I spot this drying on the counter:

A dandelion - my favorite flower from my favorite girl.

Life's little blessings.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

A Day in the Kindergarten

Here's a first for me -- substitute teaching in a kindergarten classroom.

Getting there required a bit of mad dash and the first thirty minutes were a tad dicey, but besides that, all was mostly well. No, I haven't discovered what I want to be when I grow up, but all was mostly well.

Those first thirty minutes reminded of the last time I was in charge in a kindergarten classroom -- ten years ago when I taught art once a week for Tim and his then tiny pals. The key take away: Don't turn your back for a minute. If you can avoid pausing to take a breath, all the better. Don't think back to your days in the high school classroom  and consider such folly as strolling down to the copy room to snag a cup of Joe. Oh, no, no, no. There's a reason that elementary kids think teachers never go to the bathroom -- they don't. That is, until the P.E. teacher, the music teacher, the Spanish teacher, or some other blessed and merciful soul assumes temporary command of their charges.

Yeah, the first few minutes were like playing that Whack a Mole game in which the moles just keep popping up. (Thankfully, no one provided me with a stick, and I didn't whack anyone.)

But they were lively. And talkative. And in non-stop motion.

The biggest challenge? Little children are creatures of habit. This is a good thing, something the teacher, no doubt, has worked long and hard to instill in them. Classroom management is all about routines. Trouble is, you throw a sub in there, and she does things a little differently, and the kids all go bug-eyed.

"No!!!" I kid told me in near horror, "we don't read over there!"

"Jonah's supposed to pass out the paper! He's the classroom servant today!"

"We never put things on top of our cubbies!"

Lord love them, they embrace the letter of the law, and there I was just fomenting rebellion and sedition in the ranks with no mind whatsoever for the Way! Things! Ought! To! Be! They're probably at home telling tales to their parents.

I at least had the good sense to respect the office of Line Leader. If Ainsley has taught me anything, it's that one does not mess with the Line Leader.

Lunchtime rolled around, and I realized I had forgotten to pack anything for myself. John grudgingly shared his Doritos. On the table full of math manipulatives,  I spied a container of pretzel rods. After a brief taste test, I am reasonably confident they've been there being counted and measured since Kolbe was in kindergarten.

Product DetailsIn the afternoon we hit phonics -- reading and spelling and rhyming. We read Press Here, one of the coolest books ever. I came home and bought it off Amazon.

Tilt the book a little to the left, the book reads. And all the dots slide to the left. Shake it all up! The dots get bigger. So cool. The kids loved it.

As we moved from one activity to the next, I thought about the variety of jobs I've had. I have mostly good memories of my years in big business. I worked with neat people and did some interesting, challenging work. Too often, however  I left my office, having put in long hours, and wondering if my contribution had made any difference at all.

Teaching is nothing like that.  I knew I could have been a better teacher -- more interesting, more patient  more organized --  but I never struggled to see the point of it all. At the end of the day, I could see a ninth grader who could produce a reasonable essay, a student who actually enjoyed The Odyssey, a senior who could articulate what the Renaissance was and why it mattered.

With these little, little ones, it's even more obvious and in some ways more gratifying. At the end of the phonics lessons, five children understood that I plus CK says ICK and that rhymes with pick and sick and nick and stick.

My hat has always gone off to elementary teachers because their side of the trenches routinely includes shoe tying and trips to bathroom and occasionally descends into fever and, worst of all, vomit.  Even today, I had to pop into the little boys' room to check on a student who was having, ahem, issues. Thankfully, for me and for him, it happened to be my kid. As I helped him and as I opened lunch containers and put straws in drinks and assisted with jackets, I thought that there's a good reason my kids have occasionally called me Mrs.Hebert or Mrs. Phillips. The job calls for a fair amount of Mommying.

Please pray for Mrs. Hebert, the hard working teacher who does this everyday, and for her son who had an emergency appendectomy yesterday.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

From the Mouths of My Babes

Seven Quick Takes:

1. Tim: Baconators are beautiful.

2. John, on the correct use of adverbs: You said I almost stepped in dog poop. You don't even know the meaning of the word almost.

3. Ainsley, on Lenten sacrifices: I don't want to watch a Jesus show! I don't want to watch a Jesus show!

4. John, on omnipotence: Can Jesus hear a silent E?

5. Me: I am tired of having my face in front of a screen.

Kolbe, always one to make a little sacrifice: I'll have my face in front of a screen.

6. Ainsley: John needs to move his feet. He's nervousing me.

7. John: Mama, I had a dream last night that you had a cyber-baby.

Not expecting a cyber-baby as far as I know. Head over to  Jen's and add your Quick Takes.

Friday, March 01, 2013

The Catholic Faith: This Is the Air I Breathe.

We gathered Wednesday night with our Bishop Emeritus in a Mass of thanksgiving for Pope Benedict who yesterday at 2:00 became Pope Emeritus.

It was glorious.

Getting there was another matter entirely.

The whole process reminded me of a mommy quote I read over at Rachel's the other day: I gave up murder for Lent. Kidding, kidding, kidding. But it easy it tweren't. I'll spare you the specifics save to mention that dinner cost us an entire shaker of salt and nearly cost us my sanity.

And here's the rub: I internalize all of this, over-analyze it, assign it far more weight than I should. I want things to be Just So. And they aren't Just So.

We're going to Mass to honor the Pope. Let's be at happy. No? How about peaceful? I would have settled for civil. I figured I could at least insist on quiet. And quiet they were until John and Kolbe began fake fighting and, rather predictably, John took a for real punch to the temple.

Cue wailing, loud, loud wailing

"It's all fun and games," Tim sternly intoned, "until someone loses an eye."

And I burst out laughing.

We arrived. Ainsley jumped out and noticed the radio tower adjacent to the church.

"It's the Eiffel Tower," she gleefully exclaimed, enamored as she is with all things related to Madeline.

This, too, made me laugh.

In we went. I had no sooner found my seat when a nearly palpable peace began to envelop me. We began the opening hymn -- Come, Holy Ghost.  As we moved into the second verse the words O Comforter, to thee we cry made me cry.

Rarely have I felt the presence of God -- the comfort of the Holy Spirit -- more tangibly than at that moment.

I  took in the first quiet of my day and I looked first at my husband and then at my children (who at that moment really did appear nothing short of angelic) and I realized once again that this faith of mine, it is the air I breathe.

I love the Catholic faith.

I love the smell and bells, the smoke and the candles, the saints and the sacramentals.

I love the vestments and the liturgical colors.

I love times like these when we pull out the big words, words like Conclave and Consistory and Petrine.

I love the phrases pregnant with both meaning and history -- Keys to the Kingdom, Bind and Loose, Apostolic Succession, Sede Vacante -- phrases that remind me that I am but one in a long succession of souls great and souls humble seeking hope, finding solace, being fed by the body and body of Christ, encountering God come to earth.

I love that we can set aside all of the above and embrace what Bishop Boland called the single, essential "kernel" of the faith: Jesus Christ is Lord.

I love it.

Just before communion, we said a prayer that has changed slightly with the new translation that came our way a year or so ago: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

God does enter under my roof, and I'll continue to enter under His. If the trip easy is easy or is fraught with tension. If the music moves my soul or grates on my ears.

It is the air I breathe.