The Faithful Scribbler

A Catholic Mother In A Secular World

Mass Tips– Faithful Scribbler Style!

Ok, I’ve been googling around and found that everybody and their brother has created a list of “tried and true tips for taking kids to mass”.  I’m going to tell you that more than half of them wouldn’t work with Little Scribbler.  I know.  I’ve tried.

‘Sit in the front row’, they said.  ‘The kids will be interested and watch’, they said.  Anybody remember Little Scribbler’s front row forward roll of Ash Wednesday 2009?  Yeah.  Don’t sit in the front row.  Sit in the back.  On the end.  Don’t move to the middle when others try to join your pew– get up and make them slide into the middle instead.  Trust me on this one– egress routes are invaluable.

So anyway, if you’ve got a kid that’s tricky (you know who you are!), feel free to try out some of the following tips.  Many of them are adapted for sensory kids– if you’ve GOT a sensory kid, you know what I’m talking about, and if you don’t have a sensory kid, well, you can google it or search through some of my previous posts :)  Some tips may not be appropriate for typically developing children.

My philosophy about kids at mass is this:  They are entitled to be there, even if they can’t get their acts together.  They need to learn, about a million things, about mass.  For young children, I think we should be thinking about them “collecting” good “Mass Behaviors”, one at a time.  Genuflecting respectfully– that’s one mass behavior.  Making the sign of the cross– another mass behavior.  Sitting quietly during the readings– yet ANOTHER mass behavior.  You’re not going to collect them all at once, and you’re not going to collect them in chronological order.  Build on the skills your child has, one tidbit at a time.  Praise him where he does well.


1. Teach your child to participate in the physical parts of the mass– genuflecting, handshakes, etc– no matter if they’re only 2 years old.  If really young, they may just be going through the motion for the first few years, but that’s ok.  (Don’t forget to go back and explain WHY we genuflect, when they’re developmentally ready to understand!). The goal is form a good, simple habit, that is easy to do successfully.  Little Scribbler always appreciated when we acknowledged her genuflect in those early years.  It was a small accomplishment for her.  The motion of genuflecting will become a habit– a ‘church behavior’, to add to their growing repetoire of Church Behaviors.  You’ll be surprised the flourish and sincerity young children sometimes invest in their genuflect!  Going through the motions, phsyically, is a GREAT jumping off point for kids who aren’t able to be successful in other areas….thing, ‘sitting quietly’, for example.

2. Teach your child some of the mass prayers at home.  Little Scribbler frequently tunes out during mass, but I’ll never forget the moment she heard the Our Father.  All of the sudden she was saying the words along with the congregation and then she looked at me.  “HEY!  I KNOW this one!”  Delighted!  It never occurred to her that what we do at home is related to what we do at mass.  She’s just not a lineaer thinker that way.

2a. Don’t expect kids to tune in a pay attention to the whole mass at too early an age.  YES you should have high expectations for their behavior, but for their participation, temper your expectations with their age and ability.  Now, I know that many of you are going to disagree with me– particularly those amongst you with typically developing children– but hear me out on this one.  Expect your children to be respectful in the house of the Lord.  Expect them to engage at an age appropriate or developmentally appropriate level— but start small.  Start with saying the parts of the mass that they know.  Or maybe with standing, sitting, kneeling when the congregation is doing it.  If you’ve got a REALLY tricky kiddo, start with sitting upright for the whole hour!  (more on that later!)  Once you get one GOOD “Mass Behavior” under your belt, build on it with another one.    Accumulate behaviors in the same way you accumulate skills in a classroom– one at a time.  You’ll find yourself less frustrated, but you’ll still be teaching your child in a proactive way.

3. Does your kiddo slide all around the pew like a wet fish?  Start with this one rule– “You are NEVER allowed to lay down on the pew.  It is disrespectful”.  If you can keep your child from really stretching out and getting the flailing started, consider it a victory for YOU.  Little Scribbler is never, and has NEVER been (at any age) allowed to lay down on a pew.  Neither is she allowed to sit on the floor.  She may sit, she may stand, or she may kneel.  I do not yet expect her to do as the congregation is doing– we have a little way to go before that is expected of her.  But she is expected to sit upright and respectfully in God’s house.  We went through a heck of a time with this, between ages 2 and 4, but we made it through!  There were plenty of times I had to take her out.  I STILL occasionally have to take her out!  So how can you help yourself acccomplish this?

3b. Cuddle Time!  This one isnt limited to special needs kiddos.  Mass has always been a special time for Little Scribbler and I to sit together and cuddle.  She needs some sort of physical stimulation to sit still, so I typically have her sit cuddled on my lap and bounce her– sometimes gently, sometimes not so gently, provided she stay quiet, because it’s not romper room after all!– while we either listen, or I explain what is happening.  She has internalized SO MUCH of what is happening at mass with this cuddle time!  The deep pressure of the cuddle and the bouncing of my knees help her to tune in an focus on the words being spoken– either by me or by the priest.  This is not unlike a bumpy cushion or sensory ball being used in place of a chair in a special ed classroom.  The theory is that when the physical and proprioceptive senses are satisfied, it is easier for her auditory sense to “tune in”.  This goes for the standing portions of the mass as well.  Although LS is almost 6 years old, and about 48 pounds, either The Auditor or I pick her up during many “standing” parts of the mass.  As she ages, and learns more, and acquires those good “Church Behaviors”, this is lessening.  She’s forming, albeit slowly, the habits of standing on her own.  If you take nothing away from this blog post– take this tip!

4. Quiet distractables.  Lots of mass tip lists will include something about quiet distractable items for young children.  Many people recommend having a “mass bag”, with special toys and books that are quiet, for mass time only.  This a great idea– but when do you phase it out?  The Auditor and I really struggled over the years with what is appropriate in mass for kids of different ages, and then we changed our mindset from “age” to “ability”.  The fact is, sometimes older kids are not able to sit quietly.  This is not a reflection of their behavior or their parents, but simply a reflection of the way God wired them!  LS has autism.  Her nervous system does not allow her body to rest unless she is sleeping, hence the bouncing and deep pressure cuddling aforementioned.  So we know she can not, on her own, sit still, even at almost six years old.  Well, what CAN she do?  She can sit quietly for extended periods of time.  I know this, because she does it at home, when she is drawing.  Part of her is sitll moving (her hands), but her mouth and most of her body are quiet.  So we go to mass every week with a fresh notebook and a pen.  For probably half the mass, LS sits, cross legged, in her seat and draws.   Want to know what blows us away?  She draws the mass!

Not always, but frequently, Little Scribbler draws the priest at the altar.  She draws Jesus on the cross (or “lower case t”, as she calls it).  She draws the backs of the heads of people sitting in front of her.  She draws stick figures lining up for Communion.

I will tell you that a lot of people have made a lot of snide comments about Little Scribbler being too old to draw during mass.  (POO ON YOU, red haired lady who’s name I don’t know, and all your redheaded children too, for loudly pointing us out as an example of what NOT to do in mass!  Mine might be drawing, but yours are hitting each other– so THERE! HA!)  A big part of the problem is that Little Scribbler’s disabilities are “hidden”, meaning, you can not tell by her physical features that she has autism, nor that she has sensory processing disorder, nor that she is trying as hard as she can to be cooperative!  You gotta be prepared for some snarkiness, which is really sad to experience in a church, but it is what it is.  If you can tough it out without getting angry, well, then you’re a stronger person than I am, because I usually explode all over my poor clueless husband as soon as we get into the car! :)

For a lot of sensory kids, another great quiet distractible might be a “fidgit” item.  Modeling beeswax words GREAT for this!  If you don’t already know, a “fidgit” item is frequently used in special ed classrooms.  It’s an item that children can manipulate with their hands, without having to look at it or engage with it (which is what makes it different than a toy, although sometimes toys are GREAT fidgits).  Little Scribbler has a squishy rubber fish that she frequently takes to mass.  She can squish it while she’s listening.  Her nervous system gets the satisfaction of physical stimuli, but she’s not engaging in imaginative play with it.  If she were, it would be a toy, and I would argue, not appropriate for her at this stage of her ability.

So long story short– use quiet distractables past the toddler years, if you think they might help your child be successful.

5. Using the Bathroom.  If you can get to mass early enough, use the potty first thing when you arrive. That being said, your kid is going to, at some point, ask you to go to the bathroom.  If your kid is anything like LS and her little classroom buddy, they will wail about their need to relieve themselves any time they’re feeling the need for a change of scenery– which is about 100 times a day.   I recommend picking a time during the mass that it is OK for your child to use the bathroom.  Personally, I pick the Offeratory.  Now, I have not TOLD LIttle Scribbler that she may use the bathroom during the offeratory, but I know in my head that Offeratory time is, in my opinion, the best time for me to take LS to the potty.  We go when we get there.  If she’s especially wiggly, or if she asks me to go, ONLY at the Offeratory will I take her.  Sometimes a quick trip to the potty is all she needs to settle back down afterwards (whether or not she actually did anything while we were in there).  If you’re sitting towards the back (on the end, which you may recall I recommend anyway!), it’s no problem to occasionally take your kiddo to the bathroom.


You know, the point of all these “tips” is not just to get your kid through mass without incident.  Yes, it’s better for your sanity if you dont have to drag a screaming five year old out of mass, but it’s not really teaching your kid anything.  That’s probably the main reason I don’t advocate snacks for older special needs kids in mass.  Yeah, you might make it through the whole hour quietly, but all you’ve ended up doing is pacifying– not teaching them anything.  So often, we, The Parent Of Children Who Are Difficult In Public, fall in to that trap!  But it IS a trap– because there’s no progression forward.  No acquisition of new skills.  No magical moment of change.

I DO think that for differently abled kids, you sometimes need to take the slow, circuitous route to learning. You’ll get there eventually– just not at the same speed, nor in the same linear fashion, that others will.  We are definitely on a slow, circuitous route at the Casa de Scribbler.  If you’d asked me three years ago how we were doing I’d have melted down all over you in a puddle of stinking desperation!  I didn’t know then that insisting Little Scribble sit up in the pew would pay off– it just felt disrespectful to allow her to lay down.  I didnt know that her tantrums would EVER end.  I certainly didnt know that there would ever be a time she would say the Our Father along with the congregation, of her own volition!

We’re at the point now we’re Little Scribbler tunes in for genuflecting, the greeting, most of the singing, the Our Father, the sign of peace, the bells ringing to signify that “now it’s Jesus-bread” (her words), etc.  She occasionally kneels when people are kneeling.  Three years ago she was doing forward rolls on the pew on Ash Wednesday.  Two years ago she was still crawling under neath the pew in front of us any time I let my guard down.  (Bonus Tip– the quickest way to force a flailing child to stand up?  Shove your finger in their armpit while you’re pulling them up.  They’ll put their feet down faster than you can ask them to do it!  They’re not gonna be happy about it though, so prepare to be embarassed if they’re verbal enough to call you out on it :)  As you may remember, I don’t advocate spanking, particularly a differently abled child, but a well placed armpit-jab to stop a mass meltdown is something I’m not ashamed to say I’ve done.  Use it sparingly– like ONLY during mass.)

I hope you’ve found at least SOME of this helpful!  Please feel free to post your own tips or perspective in the comments section of this post.  I’m always looking for new things to try!

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We’ve Added Two Scribblers To The Family!!!

George and Patrick! (gotcha– you were thinking kids, no?)

These little buddies are Little Scribblers new furry friends. They are long haired Peruvian guinea pigs. George is the brown one and Patrick the white and gray. For the record, they are both girls, but Little Scribbler had already picked their names and refused to consider any other!

They are cute, no? I think they look like tribbles, myself…

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Adventures of the Little Scribbler

The Scene: Sitting in Little Scribbler’s bed, reading books, with most of the lights off, tucked in next to Lamby and Pink Blanket…

The front door opens and closes.

LS: “Where Daddy going?”

Mama: “Daddy’s going to church, to pray for the babies.” (this isn’t entirely true– Daddy is going to pray outside the abortion clinic with the area churches for 40 Days for Life, but that’s a wordy explaination for a four year old.)

LS: “I wanna pray babies too.”

Mama: “Ok, lets pray for the babies”

Little Scribbler folds her hands and bows her head very seriously.

Mama: “Dear God, Please watch over all the babies and children in the world. Keep them loved and safe. Amen.”

Little Scribbler: “Amen. My turn pray?”

Mama: “Ok, you say a prayer now.”

Little Scribbler: “Dear God, I no go bed now. Amen.”


Little Scribbler’s Birthday Dress!

The ADORABLE Little Scribbler is turning FOUR YEARS OLD on March 18th! In honor of her birthday (and in an effort to be more industrious with my ‘free’ time– little of it tho there may be!) I have created this delightful birthday dress!

Picture it with a long sleeved white shirt underneath because its still a bit chilly here! And without the wet area on the yoke– LS wiped her sticky, apple covered fingers on it, so it had to be spot cleaned before she even wore it!

It has several small flaws in it, but it’s the first time I’ve worked with this kind of pattern, and I’m sort of proud of it :)

(Pride goeth before the fall…yikes!)

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A Long Overdue Update

We here at the Faithful Scribbler would like to apologize for our long absence from the blogosphere! There have been a never ending, overwhelming, exaughsting string of events that have left me completely tapped out on both time and motivation for blogging.

First up– The Auditor is considering a new job he was tentatively offered. Many pros and cons lists have been drafted. Much discussion has ensued. Many sleepless nights of agonizing internal debating, tossing and turning and ‘what if?-ing’…and still no decision. The position would be newly created especially for him, and as yet, nothing formal has been offered. All that emotional energy wasted!

Second– Please pray for our nephew, aged 13, who has just decided that he may in fact be bisexual. He also went through a two day stretch of threatening suicide on the internet last week, necessitating me calling his mother at midnight and waking her up to deal with it. He’s got a laundry list of emotional problems, and from what I can discern (because I am Judgey McJudgerson) not much support or stability at home.

Third– My brother’s wife is having a baby!! But we’re not allowed to tell anybody yet because she’s not yet out of the first trimester, so I’m sitting over here stewing with all this baby excitement, crocheting tiny hats and sweaters in a variety of colors, until such time as this issue can be thoroughly discussed and explored. I WANT TO BUY BABY CLOTHES FOR MY NEICE-PHEW ALREADY!!!! Sigh. A few more weeks! :)

Fourth– The Scribbler Adoption Saga continues. We met with Catholic Charities for a second time, got a second round of paperwork, and are pressing forward. The average wait time with their agency is about one year from the time your homestudy is approved, but we are very aware that it could be much faster, or much much slower, than one year. We’ve had a little hiccup in how we’re going to pay for the homestudy (our tax refund isnt what we thought it would be because we owe the state of Maryland for municpal taxes…sigh) but we’re pressing forward anyway as of this time. Once our homestudy is done, we will continue exploring financing options. Frankly, researching financing options is pretty much how I’ve spent the last several weeks, and there are some promising programs that I’m hoping we’ll be able to work with!

I’ve already got the “nesting” instinct kicking hard, and I’m anxious to set up the crib and dig out Little Scribbler’s old baby clothes and sort through them, etc etc. I’m pretty sure this instinct is driving my husband to the verge of insanity :)

The Little Scribbler is not terribly excited about the prospect of becoming a big sister, so we’re treading lightly in that area.

Fifth– and most importantly– the Little Scribbler is having a pretty hideous time of things right now. Her bahaviors have increased to the point that some of her functionality in the world is compromised. Lots of tantruming, lots of erratic behavior, lots of aggression. About two weeks ago, we had a conference at school because of the issues occuring in the classroom, which include not just the Little Scribbler, but three other preschoolers as well. The school psychologist is going to be spending time in the classroom to try to develop behavior plans for each kiddo.

I went into school to observe her in the classroom– they have a little room with a one way mirror like a police station– and saw what really really surprised me. There was LOTS of aggression happening, and melting down, and refusal to cooperate. Where was my sunny girl, who always found such joy in such little things!? I met with the Occupational Therapist, and attended a seminar in attention disorders, autism spectrum disorders, and behavior modification.

After much self-evaluating, I think we’ve pinpointed the problem. A few months ago, LS started to really push the envelope at home with her behavior. The Auditor and I decided we needed to “lay the hammer down” and really box her in with our expectations, in the hope that if she got away with NOTHING, she would start to ” toe the line” and stop behaving so erraticly.

What we forgot is that Little Scribbler’s brain doesn’t work the way our brains do. LS has Sensory Integration Disorder, amongst other things. Her proprioceptive sense (sense of touch and body position) is ALWAYS going haywire. It is in such a heightened state that it actually suppresses her sense of vision and hearing, meaning, unless the Proprioceptive sense is satisfied, she CAN NOT pay attention to what she is seeing or hearing. By “laying down the hammer”, we were creating expectations she COULD NOT meet, becuase her Proprioceptive sense wasn’t satisfied. The constant failure was making her a nervous wreck, and she started to develop an emotional complex– every little thing, spilling milk, tripping, dropping a book, elicited a tantrum of epic proportions. I was getting so frustrated that I broke Rule Number One of Parent Little Scribbler– No Yelling. Never, Ever EVER Any Yelling. It sends her nervous system into a tailspin.

So, long story short, we needed to hit the reset button on Little Scribbler’s life. She and I BOTH needed to start over. We took four or five days, stayed home, went NOWHERE, and did only things that we thought LS could do well. Regardless of her behavior or clumsiness or tantrums, we showered her with love and comforting and compassion. We needed to build back up that trust in her that we love her unconditionally, and wont yell or become upset when she cant control herself. After a few days of that, we were able to reintroduce some limits and discipline, with MUCH better results!

Also during that time, I met with her Occupational Therapist, Dana. Dana is really awesome. She reminded me that not only do I have to be Little Scribbler’s mom, I also have to be LS’s full time special ed teacher, therapist, and laison between her and the outside world. I have to always be thinking about WHY she is having a hard time, and I always have to be stimulating her proprioceptive sense, because she CAN NOT function until that sense is satisfied. So we’ve introduced a “sensory diet” into LS’s daily activities.

In case you were wondering (and I know you probably weren’t but in case you were) there are many things you can do through out the day to satisfy your proprioceptive sense. You want the activity to give deep pressure to the body– the deeper and more consistent the pressure, the better. It’s best if the pressure is applied to the shoulders/back, the legs and feet joints, and/or the arm/shoulder joints. Some great activities to satisfy this sense are jumping on a trampoline, wearing a lightly weighted backpack, jumping rope, pedaling a bike, pushing heavy things, chewing gum, etc.

Additionally, for attention disorders, a higher protein diet is extremely helpful in leveling out the behavior without using medication. The seminar taught that somehow the way the brain breaks down protein (as opposed to carbohydrate) leads to a more stable level of seratonin in the brain throughout the day. This is actually GENIUS and has helped tremendously in the past few days!

So we’ve implemented a new “Sensory Schedule” that looks something like this:

Wake Up– Deep Pressure (calming activity like massage)
1030 am– Protein snack/ Proprioceptive Activity (stimulating like bike riding)
1145 am– Proprioceptive Activity (stimulating like bike riding) and Gum Chewing
1230-330– LS is at School
345 pm– Protein snack/ Proprioceptive Activity (stimulating like bike riding)
500 pm– Proprioceptive Activity (stimulating like bike riding)
Bed Time– Deep Pressure (calming activity like applying lotion or massage)

That is our schedule on TOP of our school schedule, our chore schedule, and our meal schedule. You know how they say kids with attention disorders thrive on routine? yeah, it’s true.

The collection and implementation of ALL this new information (and really, I’ve summarized about four textbooks worth of information into this blog post!) and new schedules has pretty much ruled my life the past two weeks. But…it’s working! It really really is! Sensory Integration Disorder comes and goes in spurts, so we’ll have to redo the testing and remodify the schedule as the months wear on, but at least we have a jumping off point!

Oh yeah, and as if that werent enough, we decided to start volunteering with the church’s High School Youth Group as a family. So now our Sunday evenings are spent with teenagers, who are actually pretty hilarious and awesome!! Their antics will probably feature heavily in future blog posts :) AND, as an added bonus, they ADORE the Little Scribbler, who has become a mascot of sorts. For some reason they call her the ‘Hot Potato’, which she thinks is so hilarious she can barely stand up!

I love my life, but MAN is it tiring!

(sorry I’ve been out of touch everybody! I’ll be back in the game pretty soon, I promise!)

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Catholic Identity

I’m having the beginnings of some thoughts that will probably develop over the next few weeks, regarding identity and Catholicism and culture.

the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.

that which is excellent in the arts, manners, etc.

a particular form or stage of civilization, as that of a certain nation or period: Greek culture.

development or improvement of the mind by education or training.

the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group: the youth culture; the drug culture.

Anthropology . the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.

I feel as tho the Scribbler Family is Catholic by culture– not simply by religion.  Neither of us were raised in a terribly “practicing” household, so this is a culture we’re attempting to build from scratch.  Our values being what they are, this “cultural” Catholicism is influencing many areas of our life outside of our Sunday mornings– how we dress, what we eat, our holiday customs, our voting/political affiliations, what media we take in, etc.

From my perspective (but I realize not from others’), the hallmark visible sign of a Catholic family is the size of the family.  We, as Catholics, are well known for shunning birth control as immoral and against the will of God.  We believe in welcoming any and all souls God entrusts to our care.    Having a large family and raising children to know and love and serve God is such a fulfilling vocation!  More than that, it is the vocation I DESIRE!

I’m struggling a bit with identifying as I desire to with the Catholic culture we have immersed ourselves in here in Maryland.  The families in our parish are large– in fact, we are the only people I’ve met with a single child.  More than once, I’ve had other mothers ask me quite pointedly if Little Scribbler is our only child, a question immediately followed by the supplementary, “well when are you going to have another?”.  I can read the judgment in their eyes as plain as the type on this screen.   Why have we only one child?  Do we not believe in the teachings of the church?  Are we sinning by avoiding pregnancy?

So what am I supposed to do?  Tell every woman I meet that I have three babies in heaven already, that I would give anything to have them back on earth with me?  That I would give anything to have another child, and soon, through either natural birth or adoption?  Do I tell them how much I struggle with envy over their easy pregnancies: how listening to them complain about the horrors of stretch marks and C-sections stabs me right in the heart?  That every single day is a struggle not to judge the women around me– the pregnant teenager, pregnant drug addict, pregnant Duggar lady with her 19 Children and Counting?  I judge them as unappreciative complainers who don’t know how good they got it!

Our next adoption is going to be upwards of $15,000 if we work with Catholic Charities (which we intend to do).  Which means it isn’t going to be happening any time in the near future, unless we can find a grant or something.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining– we’ll find a way to raise the money and get this thing underway, or perhaps it will take long enough that Little Scribbler will be five years old or so, and we can adopt from foster care.  But all those women complaining about how inconvenient morning sickness is?  I want to choke them.  They dont need to take out a second mortgage just to add to their families.

My head is screaming “ITS NOT FAIR” over and over and over.

And then I remember that nothing about life is fair.  I have many blessings others are without.  God doesn’t want me to measure my blessings up against those of others.  Part of Catholic identity is visible (dress, mass attendance, family size), but part of Catholic identity is internal (prayer, humility, faithfulness).

I want the visible identity sometimes more than I want the internal identity and this is telling me that something in my priorities needs adjusting…

Maybe I’m having an identity crisis…


Death and Family

My grandmother is dying– she is in renal failure and has probably a few weeks to a few months left on this earth.  I’m flying up to Albany this Saturday to see her, and then at the end of the month Little Scribbler and I will be making another trek via car.

I feel many things about her, and my family, and death and faith and salvation that are difficult to articulate.  Obviously I feel very different about Salvation than does most of my family.  I do not believe we have a free- pass simply because we know and believe in Jesus, and I do sincerely worry for the souls of those who reject the Truth.  I am a little worried for her soul, but mostly confident in God’s mercy, and trying to remember that all of our prayers are heard and that prayers for the dying and deceased are not said in vain.

She lived in my home, with my immediate family, most of my childhood.  I have warm, happy memories of these times, as well as a handful of ugly, unpleasant ones.  Grandma Scribbler has been the kind of constant, unchanging presence in the family that you tend to take for granted.  She’s outlived her husband, one of her children, her brother and sister and nearly all of her extended family.  She’s had several bad health problems and come through them all– so frequently in fact that I never really considered the possibility that one of them would be fatal.  Her own father lived until age 95 and it seemed quite certain she would follow suit.  This most current health crisis has taken me completely by surprise.

I am sad to lose someone who has loved me so much in my lifetime.  Someone who so adores my child!  She will not see the birth of my brothers’ children (should they ever hurry up and have any!).  She wont see marriages or birthdays.  How will I explain to three year old Little Scribbler that Grandma wont be there at Christmas this year?  That although Grandma loves her, they wont be seeing each other anymore?  Do children really understand death?  Is it best to not say anything at all for the time being?

I cried today and it really upset Little Scribbler to see me cry.  For this reason among many, I am leaving her home with the Auditor on Saturday when I fly up to Albany.  How can I face this visit, knowing it will likely be the last, and chase around Little Scribbler at the same time?  How can I take her to a funeral in the coming weeks when it aggravates her so to see us cry?  And yet, how can I leave her out?!

Please, if you have a moment, stop and say a prayer for Grandma Scribbler, who is ill both physically and mentally.  Pray for spiritual health and for God’s infinite love and mercy.

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New State, New Parish, New Resolutions

We’re here!  We’re finally settled in the state of Maryland (where the car insurance is cheaper by 47%! WOOHOOO!!!!).  Our apartment is a HUGE step up from the  bug-infested-converted-garage we were renting on Long Island– all the of the appliances work and everything!  No mold!  Fresh paint! Ventilation in the bathrooms!  HUZZAH!

So here we find ourselves, living south of the Mason-Dixon line for the first time in our lives, and it’s…different.  We’ve only moved 250 miles from the Island, and we’d only been living THERE a few years anyway, but the differences in the culture is shocking to my nervous system.

The first thing that strikes me is the differences in the poverty……It is of a different variety than the NYC metro area.  This poverty is rural– it’s trailers on 10’s of acres of farmland where the people hunt so that they can eat meat.  It’s soldiers sending money home via Western Union on Friday afternoons.   It’s children without food during the summer, because their families rely on free breakfasts and lunches at school, and they live too rurally to participate in the summer months.  It’s actually the kind of poverty that The Auditor and I grew up around back home.

The second thing that strikes me is the racial tension.  I lived my whole life in New York, the very southern tip of the New England region of the country.  We tolerate just about anything up there– black, white, purple, gay, straight, rainbow, liberal, conservative, American, foreign, whatever.  Particularly in NYC, just about anything goes, and to each his own and mostly we mind our own business and that’s that.

Since living here, I have overheard a group of white people in the supermarket talking about the problem with “Canadians” (which my aunt, who is a life long Maryland native, tells me is a code word for people of another race).    In the same trip, I overheard an African American family speaking snidely about another ethnic group.    Equally problematic, Little Scribbler and I were snubbed at the swimming pool when we tried to play with a little boy of another race.  The family kept looking at me like I was a lunatic for even talking to them!

I wouldn’t call this racism at all– I would call it TENSION.  People here seem wary of each other– mistrustful on all sides of the equation.  Obviously this isn’t universally true of all Marylanders, and may just be a local issue, but it’s definately a head-scratcher for the Faithful Scribbler.  I really do believe that racial tension of this palpability is pretty much dead in the Northeast– I certainly never experienced it in my 27 years in New York– but it seems not to be quite extinct in the Mid-Atlantic region.  For the moment, I have decided the best thing to do is just plug along with a smile and a “hi, how are you?” for anybody we encounter.

(I’m not really sure I articulated what I really meant about the racial tension…it’s difficult for me to put it into words).

I will say that it is WONDERFUL to be a place where most people seem to be polite.  A modicum of rudeness is perfectly socially acceptable on Long Island (rude New Yorkers and all, lol!).  People there seemed to have felt entitled to say anything to anybody, so long as it was the truth.  We got so used to substandard customer service in NYC, that I was actually shocked when the cashier at Target smiled brightly and asked me how my day was!

The Church is different too–there are some things I absolutely LOVE about our new parish, and some things I miss terribly about the parish we left.  We found a great conservative parish here– the line for confession was about 40 people long on Saturday, and it wasn’t even Lent! :)  The pastor and the parish seem to be “playing by the rules” in a very true sense of the word.  Many people in the congregation did not join the communion line– presumably because they hadn’t confessed recently (I know that’s why I didnt join at least!)  The confession line was so long that not everybody had a chance to even recieve the sacrament prior to the mass starting– and the preist just kept on hearing confessions through the entire mass.

In the parish we came from, as is the case in much of New York, people tend to believe (albeit falsely) that a once yearly confession is all that is required to recieve communion, which is not the case at all.  We are to go at LEAST once a year, but certainly to go prior to recieving the Eucharist if we’ve committed mortal sin.

There is also a formal “School of Religion” here– basically, a Sunday School– in addition to the Catholic parish school.  During the school year, young children have the option of going down into a conference room for part of the Mass, where they have a Bible lesson that is age-appropriate, based upon the Gospel reading of the week.  I grew up attending these, and they are WONDERFUL for wiggly little gigglers like the Faithful Scribbler!  They get to learn about Jesus, and stretch their legs a bit, and still come back in time for the Eucharist part of the mass.

What I miss are the ministries.  The parish we came from had so many ministries I couldn’t even list them all.  There seem to be SOME ministries here, although, in a smaller community, not nearly as many.  We’re hoping that once September rolls around t hings will pick up and we’ll have a chance to jump in and get involved.

I think the Auditor and I (definately me anyway) have sort of lost our way these past two months, as we’ve prepared and executed this major life change.  God stopped being the focus of our daily lives, and we got wrapped up in the tedium of moving.  I havent opened a Bible in about five weeks now.  We’ve been sniping at each other like crazy, and neither of us have the patience with Little Scribbler that we usually do.  We need to refocus, and now that we’re settled, we’ve resolved to do just that!

We’re still searching for a Bible study, and the Auditor is searching for a mens group.  We have plans to start reading the Bible again as a family, and to make more of an effort to teach LS about Jesus.  I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t think she knows who He is (although she knows a lot about God the Father).

Resolutions as follows:

1. Read the Bible every day.

2. Find a formal Bible study.

3.  Teach Little Scribbler about Jesus.

4.  Pray every day, as a family.

5.  Lost 20 pounds

(wait, how did that last one get in there?!)

Anywho, I’m back! You know you missed me :)


The Upheaval Continues…

Because this morning, The Auditor recieved a telephone call…from the people he interviewed with…

…who would like to hire him if he passes the background check.

And, in keeping with my personality, I burst into tears when he told me. 

Happy, sad, scared, worried, delighted…I cant even describe it.  If we pass the background check (not a SURE thing, but a reasonably good chance it’s going to happen), we’re moving to Maryland!  They wouldnt give him an estimated start date until he passes the check, so we have no idea when.  With other gov jobs he’s applied for, the estimated start date has been several months out, so we’re assuming the move would occur late summer/early fall, but are considering that we might need to be ready sooner.

Luckily, we have no lease, as the house we’re renting is currently in forclosure (don’t ask).  We’re looking into the financial ramifications of buying right away, vs. renting for the first year.  Also the Little Scribbler emotional ramifications of moving twice in one year– the same year she starts school. 

Oh yeah, and while we’re on the subject of Little Scribbler, if we leave the state, from what we understand, we have to start from scratch with her special ed services, which will mean the possibility of several months without any services or therapies whatsoever.  Grrrrrrrr………….this is extremely infuriating but probably a small price to pay in the long run.

My thoughts are swirling to fast to be transcribed at the moment, lol!  We spent the day on the internet, researching the commute, and the housing market, and playing with mortgage calculators, and looking up Catholic schools (which, believe it or not, are a LOT more expensive than the parish school on Long Island…oh well!). 

I want to move…we’ve been trying to move FOREVER.  And I still kind of don’t want to move!

And I’m driving my husband C-R-A-Z-Y right now :)


Christian Corporal Punishment?

I was reading an interesting discussion today on the use of corporal punishment and behavior modification in Christian families.

Let me start the discussion by saying that I was spanked as a kid– perhaps a little wildly, but only spanked– and I’m just fine today as an adult.  My husband was also spanked as a kid (actually cut his own switch a few times, no joke), and he ALSO is fine.   Let me also add that this is going to seem slightly preachy…try to ignore that, preachiness isn’t the intended tone, but I’ve edited several times (which as you know I LOATHE doing, I am a Scribbler after all!) and can’t seem to change the tone much…so here goes!

I’m against Christian Corporal Punishment– might as well spell that out right at the beginning :)

There are lots of arguments against spanking that are rather silly. My favorite is that spanking teaches kids it’s only OK to hit if you’re bigger than the person you’re hitting.  Rather ridiculous in my opinion, but whatever.  I think the kid getting spanked (dependent upon their age) very ACUTELY realizes the difference between hitting the kid down the block, and being spanked by a parent.  It’s VERY different, and kids are smart, they know.

That being said, we dont spank.  We HAVE spanked, but we no longer do, and we won’t be reinstituting the practice anytime soon.  There are multiple reasons, which I will detail for you, the no-doubt-delighted reader, below.

1.  They say you’re not supposed to spank when you’re angry– well I challenge you to show me the parent that spanks calmly.  You spank when a behavior has upset you to the point that you feel your hands are tied and nothing else is more appropriate.  If I’ve resorted to spanking, I’ve lost my temper.  End of story.  Interesting point of note– the few times I’ve spanked Little Scribbler, I’ve also been yelling at her (raising my voice).  Coincidence? I think not.  Raised voices indicate a loss of temper.  For me, so does spanking.  Betcha I’m not the only one!  In fact, the yelling/spanking combo is almost like having an adult temper tantrum in a lot of ways…

2. We have had MANY behavioral specialist in our house to help us control various undesirable behaviors (spinning, flapping, head banging, biting, etc).  We’re  now better equipped with other behavioral modification techniques– EFFECTIVE ones!  Spanking, in the moment, punishes the child.  It does NOT (ever) alter behavior on a long term basis.  Multiple studies have shown this.  This is particularly true in young children, who are often left more confused than anything after recieving a spanking, because in the loss of temper, the adult has failed to fully explain the situation to the child.   Having learned behavioral modification techniques, I am now better equipped to handle Little Scribblers behaviors (some of which have nothing to do with her diagnosis, and are really just good old fashioned naughtiness), and frankly, since we’ve thrown the idea of “punishment” to the wayside, we’ve had  a LOT more success modifiying behaviors!   Consequences still exist– but they are not punishment. 

As per one of our behaviroists:

Punishment is something inflicted by an authority figure.  Consequences are the logical conclusion to the undesirable action– for example, Little Scribbler often deliberately pours her drink all over the table.  Logical consequence?  Loss of beverage priviliges for a period of time.   This results in about 3 mintues of intense screaming on the part of the Little Scribbler, before she accepts her lot and moves on with her life.   Wash, rinse, repeat.  Every day.  At least twice a day.  For nine days.  BINGO!  No more milk-pouring at the dinner table!  (I know this sounds ridiculous to those of you who are imagining yourselves cleaning up milk 18 times in a week and half, but with consistent, RELATED consequence, the behavior is permanently gone.  And no one had to lose their temper in the process!).

Now if we’d spanked her every time this happened, I would have laid my hands to a three year old 18 times in a week and half.  The spanking would have had nothing to do with the beverage pouring.  We’d have wasted a lot more milk. 

4.  For many children, Little Scribbler included, spanking is something their nervous system does not know how to process.  When you spank LS, or even when you raise your voice at her, her brain doesn’t know how to process it, and so she acts erratically.  Sometimes she laughs, manically.  Sometimes she cries and hits herself repeatedly in the face with her hands, trying desperately to alter the situation somehow.  Sometimes she cries and says she has “lots of boo boos”.  It’s possible this nervous system confusion is a result of her disorder.  It’s also EQUALLY possible that she is simply an emotionally  sensitive child, for whom this type of parenting would be very disorganizing and ineffective. 

3. As a Christian woman, the Blessed Mother Mary is our perfect example of motherhood.  A sinless woman, charged with raising the Lord Jesus from infancy to adulthood.  Think she spanked or yelled? I’m of the opinion she probably didn’t.  I’ve gotten into the habit of reminding myself, when I feel my temper rising, to mother as Mary mothered.  IT IS SO HELPFUL!!!

Spanking is a short term solution, and often times not a solution at all.  There is a difference between discipline and punishment.  Spanking is a punishment– it is an immediate consequence for an action taken by the child.  Discipline is a boundary set that will alter behavior long term.    Discipline helps a child learn to self-regulate, learn a boundary, form good behavior habits.

Does the Lord punish us, his children, while we live on this earth?  Or does He occasionally discipline us so that we can grow and learn and modify our behavior, so that we AVOID true punishment on the judgement day? 

God is our perfect father, with perfect love for us, his children.  I believe He wants us to succeed in becoming saints– He has given us the sacraments and the grace to better ourselves and act in ways that are pleasing to Him.  When we parent our children, we should look to God as a model, and parent as He does!  Give our children the tools and the love to better themselves, and to act in a way pleaseing to the Lord.  Fathers, look to God’s Fatherhood before you lose your tempers.  Mothers, remember Mary before you yell or spank.  We are parents, but that doesn’t give us liscence to act inappropriately towards our children.  Our children have been ENTRUSTED to us by the Lord!  They are HIS children first and formost!  We, as Christians, have been given the perfect examples of parenthood, and we have no excuse not to make every effort to model them.

And it DOES require effort!  When we took spanking off the table, that meant we had to know, very concretely, with what we would replace it.  We had to sit down, several times, over the last two years, as behaviors have changed, and formulate a written gameplan.  We needed something concrete and we needed to both know, in detail, what the plan was.  And we’re a happier family for it!

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again– I am a natural yeller, by instinct.  (I come by it honestly ;)).  Were it not for Little Scribbler’s issues, and having a behaviorist come into my house and teach me how to help her regulate her behavior, I would very likely still be a yeller.  The Auditor and I intend to have more children– many more, if God wills it.  I’ve often thought that maybe He gave us LS first, so that we could really get our acts together on the parenting front, before we got overwhelmed by the craziness that is multiple children.  I dont mean to imply that we DO have our acts together in every respect, but I do think we have a fairly concrete and consistent discipline plan that is, heaven help me, working (at the moment).

I tend to think there’s no such thing as Christian Corporal Punishment.  I think there’s always another way– perhaps not as quick, perhaps not as immediate, but usually more effective.  I haven’t prayed about it all that much, but my instinct tells me God doesn’t like us to use corporal punishment on the innocent.  I’m guilty of it– I’ve spanked my kid in the past.  In retrospect, I had a LOT more options than spanking, but I wasnt thinking about it at the time, and I certainly wasn’t thinking about God as my own father, nor about Mary as a mother to Jesus.  Just some food for thought if you’re on the “pro” side of the argument!