Be Not Afraid: A Lesson From The Deep End

“Your fear is not the boss of you, Christopher,” I said to my seven-year old son, attempting to channel Coach Eric Taylor from Friday Night Lights.

“You’ve got to tell that fear to get in the backseat because you are driving the car.”

Christopher slouched in front of me. 

“I can’t tell my fear to get in the backseat.  I’m afraid,” he said.  (Clearly, my Coach Taylor wasn’t working.)

Though he’s had four years of swim lessons and ample one on one coaching, Christopher still believed he couldn’t swim the length of the pool during swim team trials.  No amount of encouragement or time in the water assuaged his nerves.

All the coaches noticed. 

“Mrs. Duggan,” the patient head coach said to me after he watched Chris in the pool, “Christopher isn’t ready to be on the team.  Every time a coach tells him to do something, Chris says he’s can’t.”

This was not news. 

Read the rest at Aleteia.

Forty Ways Not To Lose Summer

Elizabeth Foss posted Forty Ways To Keep Summer From Slipping Away last week and I loved reading her summer goals.  For the last week or so, I've thought about how I want our summer to look, so I decided to follow her lead and write out my own Summer goals for our family and me. 

1.  Even though I can sleep in because school is out, I'll continue to rise at 5:00 am for my coffee and prayer time.  This really is the best time of my day.  A friend asked me recently how I get up so early and I told her not to be too impressed.  I'm wired for early mornings.  In college, when everyone arrived to the library for late night study sessions, I was usually packing my things to go home.  I'd much rather get up at 3 am than stay up until 3 am.  It's weird, I know.

2.  Continue to write every morning from 6 to 7 am.  Work on being detached when I'm interrupted by needy children.

3.  Continue to exercise three to four times a week.  Vary the routine with both exercise DVDs, walking, and running.  Involve the kids as much as possible.  (Side note:  I just started the Jillian Michael's videos.  Wow.)

4.  Read good books.  Our great books club is slated to read The Aeneid this Summer and I have to confess, I'm not at all excited about it.  I realize how uneducated that is to admit, but it's true.  I'm going to have to supplement my reading list with some other books I really want to tackle to keep myself motivated.

5.  Have the kids keep a list of all their Summer reading.  Maybe create a friendly competition and offer a date night with mom and dad to the winner?

6.  Take pictures with either my real camera or my iPhone everyday. 

7.  Take the kids to the swimming pool or the lake at least once a week or more.

8.  Prepare dinner on the grill as much as I can.

9.  Host several outdoor family movie nights.  (We hosted one last summer and invited our friends and it was so much fun.)

10.   Read a few picture books to my little kids everyday.

11.  Institute thirty minutes of required reading everyday.

12.  Blow bubbles and color with sidewalk chalk.

13.  Take a long weekend trip to Florida with my girlfriends.

14.  Teach an iPhone photography class to elementary and middle school students.

15.  Persevere on that writing project.  Don't listen to negative Nellies (also known as my thoughts).  Keep going.  Have confidence.

16.  Blog more.

17.  Hire a babysitter every week and leave the house for five hours by myself.  (This one I've already planned and organized and I'm so happy about it.)

18.  Help my kids make their summer bucket lists.  Try to help them fulfill their goals.

19.  Plan one on one dates with one of my six children once a week.

20.  Ensure everyone hits Confession at least once every two weeks.

21.  Invite kids over to my house and let them play in the hose.

22.  Try not to complain about my messy house.  Try not to get angry about it, either.

23.  Keep most of our time unstructured.

24.  Help John plan a weekend away for himself with one of his college friends.  Don't complain about his impending absence in the few days before he goes.

25.  Plan at least one date night a month and surprise John.

26.  Take the kids to baseball games.

27.  Build a fire and make s'mores outside.

28.  Take the kids berry and peach picking.

29.  Make fruit pies.

30.  Eat watermelon outside.

31.  Plan play dates with my girlfriends.  Let the kids run around like wild minions and come home dirty and worn out.

32.  Make art with my girls.

33.  Let the kids sleep in their tents outside.

34.  Make a day trip to the beach.

35.  Sit in the sun.

36. Go over the finer points of the birds and the bees with Patrick and Meaghan.  I'm not looking forward to this one, but it's necessary.  The older kids--all of a sudden--are in a new season.  WHAT THE HECK???

37.  Take the kids swimming and Deedo's and Papa's pool.

38.  Visit with my sister the Sister.

39.  Hire a swim instructor that will actually teach Christopher and Camille how to swim.  The swim instructor doesn't have to be "nice" but he or she must be effective. The last two years of swim lessons have been a waste.

40.  Go easy on myself.  Relax my standards.  Chill out.  Remind myself everyday the kids are going to be fine.

Anything I'm forgetting?  Share your ideas with me!  I'm all over it!

7 Quick Takes: The Why I Practice NFP, Friends, July 4th, and More Edition

1.  I stumbled across Kendra's blog post Why I Don't Do NFP (via one of her quick takes, I think) and in it she writes:

And I don't just mean because I'm pregnant, I mean I don't do it (NFP) ever (anymore).  Not to worry, I don't do anything ELSE either.  I just find, that in my particular circumstances, NFP is WAAAAAAY more trouble than it's worth.  And way more trouble than just having babies.

She goes on to explain how she and her husband discovered NFP, how they learned the NFP method, the struggles they encountered, and why using Natural Family Planning is more of a pain than simply being open the number of babies God gives them.

Kendra's decision to not use NFP wasn't one she came to overnight; her decision evolved over time, with babies and life experience. (It's not some foolish honeymooners declaration from a young person with no clue about marriage and family.)  She came to this with prayer and discernment.

An important thing to note, I have met other women who agree with Kendra's sentiments that NFP is messy and complicated and more work than it's worth but, I must admit, this is not my sentiment.

Honestly, I think Kendra's hesitancy to use NFP and choose to almost always be open to life is a total grace from God.  I also think it's a rare (albeit beautiful) approach.

After 10 years of marriage and five babies with one on the way, I'm of the opposite opinion when it comes to NFP.  At a certain point in our marriage, John and I realized that for us practicing NFP was more important than being open to more babies.  God wanted us to grow in self-denial and self-control and prudence (and while we certainly don't have those areas mastered) this was more important than being open to as many babies as possible.

In addition to growth in virtue, practicing NFP was (and is) important for us because when I'm pregnant, it's a huge strain on my family.  I'm a miserable pregnant person and almost an equally miserable postpartum person.  If I'm out of commission for 9 months and in a constant state of sleep deprivation for 9 more, the effect this has on my family is a worthwhile factor when discerning more kids.  I see it this way:  God has given me 5 children to love and nurture and I can't overlook the importance of this job in lieu of being open to as many babies as possible.

While I think Kendra's experience and opinion is beautiful (and grace-filled), I worry about what those young mothers overwhelmed with young children think when they read this type of approach to NFP.  I worry they will think they're not holy enough or generous enough or woman enough or whatever.  I think NFP advocates who err on the side of using NFP only when absolutely necessary sometimes overlook the important social/emotional/economic factors that affect a couple and their ability to handle a large family.  (I'm not saying Kendra is guilty of this; I thought of this after I read her post.)

Many Catholics probably won't agree with me here, but I believe that many people are not cut out emotionally/financially/socially for 10 kids.  Few, I think,  are actually called to that many. (Of course, this is why prayer and discernment are such an important aspect of Natural Family Planning.)

Like Kendra, there are things I dislike about NFP but there are things I dislike MORE about being pregnant.  (Note:  I said I dislike being pregnant and all that comes with it, not the end result:  the baby I love, my gift from God.)  And while I see these pregnancy difficulties as areas to grow in selflessness (something I really need), I also think I need to be realistic about how pregnancy affects those people in my charge and the truth is, it gravely affects them and it's extremely prudent to consider them when discerning more children.

I guess what I'm trying to say is we need both perspectives.  We need the Kendra's of the world who can encourage complete trust in God's providence in sex and childbearing and we also need my perspective which encourages careful discernment of those life situations (social/emotional/economic factors) that gravely affect the decision to bring more babies into the world as well as the benefits of using NFP to grow in virtues like prudence, self-control, and self-denial. 

2.  My writing friend, Rhonda, her lovely husband, Jared, and her sweet little boy came to visit us.

Memorable experiences from their visit:

----My kids taught Rhonda's son how to catch fireflies, rolly pollies, and worms in a jar.  Rhonda was "thrilled." (Though I must admit, watching the kids run around like fire ants warmed both our bug-hating hearts).

----Patrick, Meaghan, and M.B, spent a fair amount of time pulling Camille and Ben in the wagon, another site which was completely adorbs.

----A ginormous bug crawled up Rhonda's dress when she went to retrieve something from her vehicle.  She had the heebie-jeebies for the rest of the evening.  Rhonda, I apologize again for the creepy critters lurking around my country house.

-----In the course of one of our conversations, John admitted his personal goal to read some Classic novels he's never tackled.  He also admitted declining my proffered help to create the said list (have I ever mentioned my LOVE for great book lists?) because he didn't want me "managing" his goal.  I feigned hurt at his rejection and rattled off some of my literary suggestions to our friends anyways.

But victory was mine when Jared, Rhonda's college professor husband, looked at John and said, "I think your wife's list is pretty good." 

I didn't rub it in, I promise.

----Rhonda's comment, "Your kids are way more calm and peaceful than I anticipated from the way you describe them on the blog."

 (Hmmm, perhaps my story telling is sometimes exaggerated? Ne-ver.)

All in all it was a fantastic visit and I can't wait for their return.

3. I love the 4th of July and not just because John is off of work (though that certainly doesn't hurt).  This year we met some friends at a state park and the kids swam in the creek there.  Actually, a more factual way of describing it is they rolled in the mud and caught poison ivy, but they had a ball nonetheless.

4.  After the creek, we drove home, took quick showers and drove back to meet our friends to watch the fireworks.  And by midnight last night, after all the fun and the festivities, 2 of the 5 children had vomited and a 3rd one was complaining of a belly ache.    

(I'm pretending it's from a lot of fun, junk food, and late nights, but with our track record lately, I'm not holding my breath.)

5.  We skipped swim practice this morning (see vomiting episode above) and my (now totally healthy and perky) children followed me around all morning long moaning about how booooooooored they were.  I finally kicked them out of the house, where they continued their complaints from the porch about how they were hoooooot and! boooooooooored.  When I couldn't take anymore badgering, I relented and let them use the empty boxes in the garage to make "apartments".

Guess what?

Those stupid boxes kept them so occupied, they didn't want to come in for lunch, despite the 90* heat.  They're all begging me to spend the rest of the day out there playing in boxes.

Here is simple proof why being bored is important--without it, kids are never able to get their creative juices flowing.

Oh, who am I kidding?  I'm just glad they won't be pestering me with complaints for the remainder of the afternoon.


From the funny things they say file:

Camille when she saw my new strand of pearls exclaimed, "Ohhhhhhhhh, I love your beans.  I just love beans."


On her swimming skills, Meaghan commented, "People look at me and think I'm harmless.  But I'm so not harmless."


Me:  Do I look bigger than usual for being 4 months pregnant?

John:  Yes.

Me:  That would have been a really good time to lie to me. 


The best blog post I've read all week: In Which We Do It Anyway.  

Hope you have a terrific weekend.  Go see Jen for more quick takes.

Ordinary Moments

 In gratitude for the days, I'm not spinning my wheels in the mud.

“Consider the lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby's ear. Read in the backyard with the sun on your face. Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness because if you do you will live it with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived."

                                                                                                       --Anna Quindlen