May the sun shine warm upon your face

I wrote this blog post a few months ago, but never posted it. I feel like now I would like to share it.

INTRODUCTION: My grandmother was a truly extraordinary woman. Today my family will be attending her funeral mass. While my heart aches because I am not able to be there, I am truly grateful for the time I was able to spend with her the week before she passed away.

Growing up I have had my fair share of tongue lashings from my grandma. She was never one to mince words, or let you get away with bad behavior. She had the sharpest tongue, the quickest wit, and the most sage advice. I have many memories of my grandma scolding me for being unladylike or gossiping or saying stupid things. But for every one of those I have 5 memories of her beaming at me with pride, holding my hand, defending me, encouraging me.

Our family is grieving a terrible loss, but in the face of this loss we are all able to smile and find peace because Jane Longo lived her life and her vocation as a mother well. She is a beautiful example of Christian motherhood. She instilled in her children and grandchildren a love for the Catholic faith, a deep respect for life, and a strong family bond that will never be broken.

With that being said, here is a post about some advice she gave me.

If you know my husband you know that he is a well dressed man. He never leaves the house in gym shorts, unless he is working out. Not even for a quick trip to the gas station! He takes pride in his appearance. When we were dating I asked him why. I remembered him freshman and sophomore year sporting t shirts and sneakers all the time…why the change? He had found different blogs and articles that talked about the presenting yourself in a way that reflects how you see yourself and how you want others to see you. A lot of these blogs used the term “man-child” to describe the way men dress today, Travis was ready to move away from that, to be seen as the educated and professional man he was working towards becoming.

If you know my grandma,  Jane Longo, you know that she is a woman who is not timid when it comes to speaking her mind! She will tell you like it is. Once my dad told me: “it used to drive me crazy when she was always telling me what she thought and what I should do…but after a while I realized she is always right…so now I just do what she says. You can’t even get mad…because you know she is just right.”

The woman has never steered me wrong. She has always been there with a quick witted (often smart mouth) response for every question you can throw her way. She raised 8 children, she has seen it all.

Last night I called her and asked her if people ever made comments about the number of kids she had and what did she tell them.

Well, talk about opening a can of worms (read: treasure chest of wisdom and wit).

She told me that when people said “how many kids do you want?” She responded, “None.”

When people asked “why do you have so many children?” She responded “Joe told me having another baby would cure my headaches. He said it would make me beautiful. He said it would make me smarter. He said we would be rich….so I believed him. But I never got prettier, and we never got richer, and I still had a headache!”

My grandpa, so tricky!

But let me tell you. She is beautiful. She is so wise. And although her 8 children, and 36 grandchildren still give her many headaches, she wouldn’t have it any other way! She never let the haters dictate how she should live. She lived out her vocation as a mother with style and charisma.

She gave me some very good advice, she told me that a mother should always take pride in her appearance.

I have been searching for some saintly insight on this subject, and I have mostly found saints who encourage wives and mothers to dress nicely for their husbands. But my grandma thinks it goes further than that, and I agree.

Motherhood is hard. If you are a mother, I don’t need to tell you…you know. Whether you have one child or 12, you know that being a mom sometimes feels impossible. Some days seem like they will never end. You don’t always have the luxury of a shower each morning before you have to run out of the house to do a million things. You throw on a shirt that you hope looks clean (is the smell of spit up coming from this shirt or just stuck in my nose?), tie your hair into a messy bun, round up kids and shoes and keys and head to Target or the grocery store or the library or the park.

Sometimes the last thing we think or care about is our own appearance. We dress our kids in cute clothes and matching hair bows, but we take no time to give our own clothes (what makeup?) any thought.

But I think that we need to take the time to dress well. We need to find a simple skin care and hair routine that looks nice and can be done on the fly. We owe it not only to our husbands and ourselves, but we owe it to motherhood!  We need to give motherhood a good name! We need to encourage other young girls and show them that being a mom isn’t all spit up and poop and tantrums…but even if that is the day you are having you don’t have to do it in sweat pants and a nursing tank! We need to let our outward appearance reflect our inner dispositions…we need to reflect the love we have for our vocations.

I know what you are thinking…shut up, Tricia. Take your own advice! Call me when you have 5 kids.

I am not saying it is easy! Believe me, I (and the 10+ postpartum pounds I am carrying around) would much rather do everything in a loose t-shirt and leggings. But, let’s be honest…that is basic.

When I started my freshman year at Ave they gave us a talk on modesty during orientation. Dean Dentino told us that pajamas are not allowed in the classrooms. He explained to us that you have to dress for success. If you wear pajamas to class, do you think your professor will take you seriously? When you are in your cozy jimmy-jams you want to do cozy things…watch Netflix, eat ice cream, sleep. Dentino told us that if you want to be successful you have to dress for success. You get dressed for class to reflect your respect for the professor and your integrity as a student.

I think we can apply this to motherhood as well! If you look frumpy, you feel frumpy. Every girl knows the power of a nice sweater or a good pair of jeans! That simple, pretty scarf that you throw on can make you feel like a million bucks! Wearing a little mascara and lip gloss can give you confidence!

Basically, I think moms owe it to themselves, their families, and the image of motherhood to look nice, dress well, and take care of ourselves. I am not saying you have to get all glammed up to go to the grocery store or to pick your kid up at school. We can’t all run around looking like Kourtney Kardashian or Gisele every day!  I am saying that taking time to dress yourself in a simple, clean outfit, fix your hair, maybe throw on an accessory, will not only make you feel better, it will give motherhood a good image.

Lastly…I know this has gotten long…I think the most important look we can wear to reflect our dispositions is JOY! Smile! Laugh! So many times I see moms walking around and I think, “Do I look like that? Do I look that unhappy?” I try to make a conscious effort to smile and be joyful. Because while motherhood is tough, it is also the most amazing gift!

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Little Orphan Annie said it best, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile!”

A day will not go by that I will not think of you and pray for you, grandma. I hope that I make you proud and live up to your example.

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand

Joy to the world…

“Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed.” -St. Francis de Sales

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Being a mom is a whirlwind. Non stop motion. The days and nights blur together in a mess of diapers, toys, screaming, laughing, crying, playing, cooking, cleaning…you know…The usual.

I was baking cookies for the Feast of St. Nicholas (basking in my own greatness for getting 5 batches of cookies baked and frosted without burning any *wootwoot*) and I was thinking about everything I needed to do the next day, everything I had done that day, and I started thinking:

How do mothers with multiple children find time for things like baking cookies? Mopping kitchen floors? Having quiet time with their husbands? I thought about having to take a break to nurse an infant, or having one in a baby carrier while I frosted cookies. And I realized that mothers just do it…they just carry on. They continue cooking, cleaning, playing, disciplining, wiping boogers.

I started going to a MOPS group here in San Angelo and the speaker a few weeks ago must have known I was working on this post and wanted to help me find direction. She was great. She talked about staying focused on the true meaning of Christmas.

Advent is a time of preparation and anticipation. Preparing our hearts for the birth of our Savior. But as a mom there is usally a lot more being prepped: presents, meals, holiday parties, school projects/recitals/plays, decorations. It is easy to get wrapped up in all of the tinsel and lights. *wrapped…get it?!* And it is hard to not begin celebrating before Christmas because “i feel it in my fingers, i feel it in my toes. Christmas is all around me!” (Love Actually).

So a few weeks ago, I was already starting to panic about Christmas cards, photos with Santa, buying gifts, mailing gifts, making family traditions, putting up the tree. I wanted everything to be perfect. And just as I am about to kick it in high gear–Pinning away, seeking advice from seasoned mothers, reflecting on my own childhood traditions–suddenly this lady at MOPS basically looks me in the eye and tells me to cool my jets.

This time of year we all see a bazillion posts on why and why not to “lie” to our children about Santa. This most wonderful time of the year is yet another opportunity to pass our motherly wisdom onto other mothers and let them know how it’s done. Pictures of families that look way more organized than yours with toddlers way more calm than yours decorating cookies that look way fancier than yours pop up on Instagram and Facebook . Meanwhile my kid is smearing icing in his hair because he thinks it is body lotion…which maybe tells you a little about our post bath time struggles… We see the beautiful Minted Christmas cards arriving in our mailboxes every day with the smiling faces of beautiful family and friends.

It is so easy to feel competitive. It is so easy to feel like you aren’t doing enough, or that you are doing the little bit you can manage all wrong.

There are 3 days until Christmas. So, let me give you a little bit of advice and maybe we can spend these 3 days with less stress and more prayer.

Do what you do, and do it with love. Take time in your crazy day to pray and reflect. If you celebrate Christmas with Santa, do it! Enjoy that time with your innocent babes…but don’t let these chances for teaching slip by. If you don’t celebrate Christmas with Santa,  then don’t…but don’t get all high and mighty on us! If you still have to shop a lot to prep for Christmas meals, by gifts, do crafts…go for it! Be a shining light of patience and joy amidst the hustling and bustling and often irritated shoppers. If you have to drive a lot to visit family, use your time in the car to sing Christmas songs, tell the story of Christ’s birth. Pray every night before bed time that Jesus will fill your hearts this Christmas.  Give. Give of your time and treasure and talents. I don’t think you will be hard pressed to find a family who would appreciate some help this holiday! Don’t feel like you have to start the all time best family tradition this year, give yourself a break! Most traditions start on accident anyway.

Whatever you do in these next 3 days, don’t passively wait for Christ. Don’t go through the motions, checking things off your list and moving on to the next task mindlessly. Make these next 3 days a constant prayer. Pray in everything you do. Actively prepare for Christ’s birth through prayer!

I leave you once again with St. Francis de Sales:

“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.”

I hope you all have a very blessed Christmas! See you in 2015! Spoiler: losing weight is still on my list of resolutions ;)

PS: We moved! Edmund likes our new house!

PS: We moved! Edmund likes our new house!

a montessori christmas

Hello! I want to introduce the author of my guest post: Casey Gay. For those who don’t this super mom, she is the most kind and generous woman I know (except if she is hungry…then watch out!)! I feel very honored to call her my friend. Casey is the mother of 3 beautiful baby boys: 2 year old Clinton and one year old twins Damien and Elijah. Casey and her husband Jeremy both graduated from Ave Maria in 2011. Casey went on to teach Montessori,  so obviously she has some authority on the subject! They now live in NoVA where Casey stays home with the boys and Jeremy is stationed for the Marines. They are a model family and I look to Casey for advice on most topics! I hope you enjoy her holiday gift guide for babes and I can’t wait for her to weigh in again in the future!

The Gay Family!

The Gay Family!

……….

This might be a little too late for Christmas, but maybe it can serve as a reference for parents to return to when they notice their child is getting bored with what’s around the house.  I have had several people contact me about Montessori-inspired toys for their children under three. I wanted to write a list of easy-to-find, not-too-expensive things for specific ages. If you are not familiar with the Montessori philosophy, there are a several components that should be considered when purchasing (or making) toys and activities for your child.

1. Beauty—the materials out of which the object is made should be as real as you can find or afford. There is much to be said about the impact beautiful things and a beautiful environment have on the development of the human person. If the child is surrounded by things that are beautiful, real, and well cared for, he will grow up with a much more innate respect for his surroundings. Before you pick out the offensive, noise-spitting, neon plastic thingamajig, look to see if you can find one made of wood or metal or at least neutral-colored heavy plastic. Children like to feel the weight of something real. When we provide things for the child to work with that are real and good and beautiful, we are subconsciously telling him that he is real and good and beautiful.

2. Simplicity—everyone knows the saying that “less is more.” It is. Really. Look for things that do not have a lot of pieces. Many puzzles geared toward infants and toddlers have too much going on. If it takes you five minutes to do, chances are, it’s not fit for your child under three. Try to find puzzles or toys that isolate ONE skill, be it color, shape, size, sound, or number, until you know for certain the child can attempt something more complex. Find things that do not overload the senses.

3. Realness—There is a common misconception that “imaginary” creatures help foster the child’s imagination. Children under six, however, are learning what is. Maria Montessori was a big advocate of Aquinas’ principle that nothing is in the intellect which is not first in the senses. For this reason, she was emphatic about filling the child’s senses with what is true and good and beautiful. The child needs to get a grip on reality before he can properly process and filter that which is not real. Opt for the pictures or toys that look the most realistic. Try to avoid the Disney-ized everythings and random action figures that do not represent something that exists in reality. This is especially important when choosing books. Choose books with pictures of animals that do animal things, vehicles that do vehicular things, and people that do actual people things. Airplanes don’t talk! There are no such things as monsters! Children under 5 or 6 are very, VERY literal. There will be a time for all the other stuff—later.

There are too many good and beautiful things in the world to experience. Make an effort to share such things with your child in every aspect of his life.

Without further ado, the List:

0-3 months: Mobiles—for those who don’t move much yet, start with black and white, then colored, then things they can grasp. You can make your own, or buy them on sites like Etsy: MobileMobileMobile

black and white mobile

Black and white cards or these

Silver rattle— babies like the feel of the cool metal in their mouths. Find one with   a bar small enough for a 3 month old to hold easily.

Wooden rattle, bell roller, ball roller, grasping beads, interlocking discs, wooden    egg with cup, wooden peg with cup, wooden tambourine, stacking bowls—all of    which can be found at this Etsy site and some on Amazon

Soft balls, small rubber balls

3-6 months: balls or these

Edmund playing with the twins on our recent trip to Virginia!

Edmund playing with the twins on our recent trip to Virginia!

picture cards  – you can make these too!

object permanence boxes or this or this or this

single-shape puzzles

infalare dowels or try this one or this one

6-12 months: balls  or another amazon site

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Elijah and Damien

picture cards  – you can make these too!

object permanence boxes also see here, here, or here, or here.

single-shape puzzles

infalare dowels 

ball tracker

The twins sharing toys!

The twins sharing toys!

push toys

hammering toy

Large plastic animals, another example

12-18 months: pull toys

Push toysalso see this example

The twins!

The twins!

Ride on or this ride on

Stacking tower

Wooden lacing beads (only use 5-10 beads at a time!)

Push broom

Small people

Smaller plastic animals (like the ones you can find at Michael’s and Hobby Lobby)

18 months- 2 years:  ride on or one from Hape

Lacing beads (only use 5-10 beads at a time, when mastered, you can use smaller jewelry beads with leather lace)

Tool set or like this one

More advance hammering

Small people

Small animals (like the ones you can find at Michael’s, Target, and Hobby Lobby)

2-3 years: Tool set with bench

Even more advanced hammering

Balance bike

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Jeremy putting together a strider bike for Clinton

Lacing boards

Geo boards

Small people

Barn with animals

Cutting – you can find divided food storage containers at Walmart that have lids (to keep tiny hands out of big kids’ work). You can put a pair of child-size scissors in one part, and 1” thick strips of paper in the other part. Your big kid can cut paper at the big table.

Pasting—using the same kind of food container, you can have a small candle holder filled with homemade paste (flour and water) and a small, sponge brush that you can find in the crafts section of Walmart. You can precut shapes made of paper or foam, or cut your own and show your toddler how to paste them onto cardstock or cardboard.

My experience does not go much beyond 3 years. You can take any of the 2-3 year suggestions and find more intricate or detailed, similar toys.

Here is a site that has a great collection of books, most of which can be found on Amazon: http://www.forsmallhands.com/books. It is a great site for child-sized things.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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