Holy Week's Forgotten Days
Originally posted 4/2/2012, but since it's been a top search on my page the last couple weeks, I thought I'd make it easier for folks to find. Enjoy!
Busted Halo did a wonderful video that's been going viral along the Christian blogosphere. I found it through Michelle at Liturgical Time. You, too, can see it if you follow her link.
Anyway, for as much as I enjoyed the video (and I did - especially the music!), I was bummed they left out Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I mean, I understand they're not considered "as important" as the other days of Holy Week, but they're still part of Holy Week and deserve at least an honorable mention, right?
Trying to view Holy Week as only Palm Sunday and the Triduum is like viewing a puzzle with several missing pieces. Sure, you can probably make out what the picture's supposed to be, but you miss details and information that make the image clearer and more beautiful.
Monday was the cleansing of the Temple - it's what put the Sanhedrin on high alert since the Romans (now present in higher numbers in the city to keep the peace during Passover) saw Christ not only messing with the Jewish folks, but all the Gentiles who gathered in the court of the Temple to exchange goods / services.
Tuesday was full of parables and prophecy. Tuesday was, in my opinion, the day that the Pharisees finally decided that Jesus MUST be dealt with before the week's end (due to the Render Unto Caesar response). This was when they finally realized they'd never get the best of Him, and had to find a way to kill Him.
Wednesday was the day we remember Judas' actual betrayal. It's also when Christ's death / burial was predicted through the actions of the woman with the perfume.
Each day does, after all, bring us one step closer to the Foot of the Cross. Monday reminds us that we must focus on spirituality and a proper last minute cleansing of our own temples (bodies) so we are ready to accept the Sacrifice of Christ. Tuesday, cautions us to always be ready for the return of Jesus lest we be caught unprepared. Wednesday... it's like our last moment during Lent to anoint Jesus with our humble offerings - the charitable acts, fasting, and mortifications completed throughout Lent.
Those three days are of such importance. I wish Broken Halo had mentioned something about them. But ah well... there's only so much you can do in 2 minutes, and they certainly picked the highlights!
At Mass on Sunday, our church looked SPLENDID with all the red and gold finery. When we Exalt the Holy Cross, you'd better believe we know how to do it!
Anyway, I picked up Vincent so he could see the procession and various trimmings adoring the altar and sanctuary. I explained why our pastor was in red and gold, and I whispered how special this Sunday was because of the Feast it celebrated.
He clung to me in rapt attention, clearly enjoying the brilliant splashes of color. However, as I was explaining this, Mr. Knight of Columbus whispered (not so quietly) to his wife: "You'd think he'd know that by now."
I'm not the type of person to let comments like that roll, but it was the very beginning of Mass (the Processional) and I didn't want to make a scene before Father got to the sanctuary. Plus, people ALWAYS assume Vince is older than he is because he's taller than most 7 year olds.
So I bit my tongue and stifled the urge to give the man whiplash.
I continued explaining things - as I do - to Vince throughout Mass. He's at the point, however, that he's really starting to "get" certain things - chief among these is the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. When our pastor raised the Host during Consecration, Vincent always says "I love you, Jesus!" as I've taught him to do.
This time, he said it a little too zealously and the man audibly huffed as if my son's adoration was somehow disturbing or shameful.
Again... bit my tongue.
Finally, Vince had to use the potty right after Consecration. I asked him if he could hold it until after Communion, but he couldn't, so we started leaving the pew. Knight Perfection huffed again.
I gave him a death stare as we left the pew.
When we got back, folks were already lining up for Communion. Vince, as he always does, genuflected with me before I received. When we got back into the pew, he kissed me on the lips (as he always does) so he could "kiss Jesus." I was proud of him, and I wanted that guy to see why. Sure he doesn't know what the liturgical colors are all about, and maybe he doesn't know the responses yet, and yeah, okay... the kid's got a bladder smaller than a dixie cup, but ya know what? His heart is as big and beautiful as the Milky Way Galaxy, and all he wants to do is have Jesus come live in it.
SO BACK OFF MR. KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS DUDE.
As I was venting about this today, my buddy said I should've said something to him. Again, normally I would, but I didn't think it'd do much good. He was a crotchety older guy who obviously didn't have a soft spot in his body for children. Such misery doesn't tend to find sunshine in July let alone a lesson in a mother's scold.
But now that I've vented, I feel somewhat better. I just hope I never have the displeasure of sitting in front of him again. Yick.
Prayers for him and all those who would treat children with such disdain. The Kingdom of God belongs to them, too.
You're Not Listening to Me!
I have been having a very rough time getting Vincent to pay attention to directions. Because he's all over the place, I need to be very firm with him sometimes.
"Vincent, look at me. Look at me in the eyes, Vincent. VINCENT."
Then he'll finally realize I'm talking to him and look at me for a split second before turning his attention elsewhere.
"Vincent. Mommy is talking to you. You need to look at Mommy."
He looks at me again for about two seconds. When I think I've got his attention, I begin to tell him to get on his shoes. No dice. He's not paying attention again.
"Vincent, put on your shoes or we're not going outside."
Begins to move towards shoes, but clearly only discerned the word "shoes" because once he gets to where his shoes are, he makes no move to put them on.
"Vincent, you're not listening to Mommy. Look at me in the eyes."
He looks into my eyes.
"Put. Your. Shoes. On or we're not going outside."
UUUUUGH. Then the process all but repeats itself if he needs to put on his jacket or take a back pack with him. It's enough to drive me bonkers sometimes.
He's also having issues with impulse control.
"Vincent, stop smacking your stick against the slide."
Not two seconds later, he's smacking at the slide again.
"Vincent, look at Mommy in the eyes. Did I just tell you to stop smacking the slide?"
"I don't know."
"Vincent, stop smacking the slide. If you smack the slide again, I'm going to take away your stick. No more smacking the slide, 'cause if the stick breaks, you might get hurt."
He stops smacking the slide, but maybe two minutes later, he's at it again and I need to take the stick away.
All day, every day, this is what I sound like. I'm trying to splice together the negatives with positives ("Good job being gentle with Zoey!" or "I'm so proud of you for playing so nicely with your friends!"), but I've been feeling really overwhelmed by his inability to really listen and process directives (an ability he HAS to have for a productive experience in school).
I'm beginning to worry that I won't be able to prep him in time for school in July and that I'll be faced with him being removed again. I realize that's not likely, especially because this school had worked with him for two years successfully, but I can't help but worry.
And then there's his litany of "I'm Sorry."
Since he hasn't been listening to directives, I've had to punish him (taking away the stick, for example, or not letting him go to the park because he'd thrown a temper tantrum that morning).
When he realizes he's about to be punished, he immediately says "I'm sorry" because he knows that's what is expected of him. However, he's not usually sorry. He'll say "I'm sorry" and in the same breath, "I'm really angry with you" because I'm taking away a toy or something. He's not sorry he didn't listen. He's sorry he's in trouble.
I was about to say to him "I don't want to hear 'I'm sorry' from you ever again" until I stopped myself. Why? Because I saw myself in him. Painfully so.
How many times do I have to apologize in the Confessional for the same stupid sins over and over and over again? I have to wonder - am I really sorry at all? If I were, wouldn't I stop myself from getting into the same trouble?
And if God were to shirk my apologies, what would I do then? He even accepts my miserable contrition and extends mercy. How much more, then, should I work to extend that to Vincent so he has an example of what God's mercy looks like?
So I stopped myself from giving into my own frustration and sat him on my knee. I said, "Vincent, when you say "Sorry" to Mommy, it means you're not going to do the bad thing anymore. Sorry means you're going to work really hard at listening and doing the right thing, okay?"
He instantly shook his head "Yes" because that's what he thought he was supposed to do. I just sighed and let him loose. I imagine that's how God feels sometimes when He sends us forth from the Confessional.
I'm going to try a lot harder to be more steady in my resolve to "sin no more and avoid the near occasion of sin."
A lot harder.
Sorry, Lord. Really. <3
I dropped off a few items at Goodwill this afternoon. While I was there, I figured I'd peruse the aisles for educational toys now that I was home. Divine Providence rained down on me something fierce, and I walked out of the place with a treasure trove of goodies for less than $6.
Prepare to be astounded.
First up is a set of multi-colored monsters. Instead of attempting to explain them, I made a quick video showing how they work. Lucy, one of my tabbies, makes a cameo:
Adorable, right? On the back of each monster is a number. They go in order of increasing difficulty, and as you make your way to the "highest level" you get into digraphs like "ch" or "st." SOOOO creative, and the fact that he'll be able to check himself means he can practice on his own if he likes (a mother can dream, right?).
Next up on my Booty List is a Bingo game focused entirely on sight words. I firmly believe in a strong foundation of Phonics, but sight words have their place as well, and I think as he gets better with his phonics, this will be a welcome change of pace for him.
This was only 99 cents and has EVERYTHING. It seems the game was rarely used as all the parts and "boards" seem in almost new condition. Nary a tear or smudge anywhere!
After I found the sight words game, I noticed a volcano of sorts on the top shelf. It glows in the dark and shoots little beads to look like lava bubbles. I thought it would be a nice addition to his bedroom at night given how much he loves glowing things. It's made by Discovery Kids and is called an Animated Volcano Lamp. Check it out! I took the footage tonight after Vince had fallen asleep.
The last item on my list was actually the first one I found. That being said, it is the motherload of thrift store finds. Seriously. This alone would have made the trip worth it. I found a brand new Hooked on Phonics Kindergarten Edition pack. BRAND NEW.
Originally this was something like $40. But check out the two tags that were stuck to the box. One is from Goodwill and the other is from JCPenney.
I was only charged $1.97 for this. Can you believe that?! I still can't believe it! Look at all the stuff it comes with!
Zoey, my miracle kitty, did not come with the Hooked on Phonics set. That being said, everything else you see DID. And it's all unused!!! Stickers, workbook, progress charts, flash cards, CD-ROMs, coloring books and reading companions - ALL INCLUDED! And none of them have been cracked open!
I was so excited by this because I've been working on the Hooked on Phonics program with Vincent for the last week or so on his iPad. My friend gave me a heads up that the program was free through the App store for 24 hours, and I was lucky enough to snatch it up for nothing. Recently, Vince read his very first book to me - by himself - but it was on the iPad. A friend of mine said "Make sure you keep that book!" not realizing I didn't have a physical copy. Now I do! These lessons are slightly different than the iPad app which means I'll be able to use them both to supplement one another. How exciting!!! I cracked this open and used it with Vince already today and he got a kick out of it. I am SO pleased!
Apparently Piper was, too, because she came over to investigate what had Zoey so intrigued. When she didn't spot any treats, she promptly turned her nose up and left us to ourselves. Lucy, as you can see in the next photo, just casually kept watch over everyone on the sofa. This is her still hanging out after I'd packed everything away into the convenient storage box that came with the set.
All in all, I'd say this is the best haul I've ever scored at a thrift shop. God was certainly very kind to us this afternoon. It's like it was all gift wrapped for us. Truth be told, I'm pretty sure it was.
Thank you, God! You're so wonderful! :)
The Sky Isn't Falling, Folks
Does anyone else feel a bit like characters in a Chicken Little book? Instead of the sky falling, I am constantly hearing "The Church is falling! The Church is falling!" from a swelling underbelly of paranoid Catholics and a growing army of gleeful anarchists.
If you take a look at the media, you'd think the Church was at death's door!
Relax, folks. I assure you, the Church isn't going anywhere. Remember that whole business with Peter getting renamed in front of the giant cave that devoured infants?
Let me refresh your memory, then. Since all four of the Gospels were pretty clear about this, it's obviously important enough for folks to understand.
Once upon a time, Simon (meaning "reed") was following a cool guy named Jesus. Simon wasn't super smart, he certainly wasn't very rich, and he didn't hold major sway in the community. That was okay. He wasn't interested in being the smartest guy in the room. Money didn't hold any power over him, and he didn't aim to have folks do his bidding. He was just a guy who loved Jesus and was willing to follow Him wherever He went - up to and including the Gates of Hell.
That's right, folks! Simon followed Jesus to the Gates of Hell! Believe it or not, this place actually existed in his time. It was located in Caesarea Philippi, and today, it looks like this:
What you're looking at is a giant cave that was carved into a massive chunk of stone. In fact, this giant stone mass housed several caves which, at the time of Jesus, would have been temples dedicated to various deities.
This particular one, however, was dedicated to Pan, god of desolate places (being a lonely little farmer / herder dude isn't the best diety-gig to have). Because his temple had a bit of water running through it, folks would come and sacrifice their infants over the cliff to him where they would either drown or die of blunt force trauma. Thus, because of the grisly sacrificing of such innocence, it was likened to the gates of Hades (even by the Romans).
So Simon followed Jesus all the way to Caesarea Philippi to stand before this giant stone structure that signified death and complete desolation. It was here that Jesus asked a series of silly questions. I'll let the Bible talk from here:
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Good old Simon. His birth name meant reed, something easily bent or even broken by the passing breeze.
Now, however, Jesus blessed him with the name that translates to "large rock." Jesus didn't change Simon's name because He was impressed with Simon's knowledge of Scripture. He didn't change his name because He liked how sinless Simon was. He didn't even change his name because of how faithfully Simon followed Jesus all around the known world.
Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter because name changes signify divine inspiration - a deep, spiritual change that dictates a person's destiny. It's part of the reason we are given new names at Confirmation, too!
Jesus specifically changed Simon's name to Peter because He asked a question with an answer that only could've been arrived at through divine inspiration. Simon was open to the movement of the Spirit, and this is why he was chosen as the cornerstone of the Church.
On Peter's shoulders the Church would be built. When Jesus goes on and explains that He will give him (after the Ascension) the "keys to the kingdom," He was referencing Isaiah 22:22-23.
I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder;
For those unfamiliar, the "key" wasn't just a symbol of power the king bestowed onto his most trusted servant. The key was an actual key that could open or lock all the doors in the kingdom (grain storehouses, vaults for gold, even the very temple doors). Whoever wielded the key was given the king's authority (with his approval, of course) while the king is absent. The servant then went about doing the king's bidding by opening grain storehouses for the hungry, the vaults to pay for kingdom necessities, making pronouncements, etc.
Jesus was telling Peter that his openness to divine inspiration announced him as this highly trusted servant. And thus, on Peter's shoulders, the glory of his ancestors (the Jews) and his descendants / offspring (the Catholic Church / various sects of Christianity) will hang on his leadership. PETER is the cornerstone on which Christ's Church is built.
If you continue reading Isaiah (and I love this), the original servant spoken of is named Eliakim. Verses 24-25 speak of Eliakim's eventual downfall and the institution of another servant. This servant is Peter, and when the Lord speaks, it is Jesus who does the speaking. How awesome is that?
Anywho, Peter is set as the everlasting servant. The gates of the hell (Death) shall not prevail against the Church set forth under his guidance. Jesus entrusts this destiny to Peter because he has proven his openness to divine inspiration. Peter proves himself as the faithful, humble servant who does not put his own "wisdom" above that of God the Father.
THAT is the sign of a great servant.
So why do I bring this up at all?
Because for all the bellyaching folks are making about Pope Francis, they need to keep in mind that he is a servant. He is a servant hand-selected by divine inspiration to "keep the keys" until Christ comes back for the 2nd Coming.
You trust Jesus, right? You trust that what he said 2 millenia ago still rings true today, yes? Then quit your bellyaching and trust that when He said He wouldn't let His Church crumble, He's not gonna let His Church crumble.
The Church is His eternal bride. He's not going to forsake us. We'll be persecuted and crucified, this is true. We must, after all, follow faithfully in His Footsteps. But we must remember that with a death fashioned after Christ's comes a resurrection as well.
We have been told that the time is coming for this great persecution and crucifixion, but we're not there yet. Even if we were, your job isn't to head for the hills or apostatize. Your job is to keep your oil lamps filled and burning brightly. Your job is to be a beacon of Christ to others. Your job is to continue praying for and supporting the Church.
I am deeply saddened for and shamed by those Catholics who are renouncing the faith simply because this pope doesn't do things the way they expect. Our faith goes beyond a man in a white cassock. Our faith is the Resurrected God-Man who consents to give Himself to us as food in the Eucharist... as mercy in the Confessional... as divine royalty in Heaven.
I'm also saddened for and shamed by those who are gleefully dancing over the tears of those Catholics who mourn the loss of faith in their communities and families. Things may look bleak from where you're standing. You might delight in the passing of laws that deride the Church and force Her members to face fierce punishment and humiliation, but we know better.
We've witnessed Our Lord upon the Cross. We've seen His Divine Face, even as blood and spittle made Him almost unrecognizable. We've recognized that through this torturous sacrifice, evil was conquered and hope for our eternal inheritance was restored. Laugh now, but we are no strangers to persecution.
Know this. We are the Church that Christ founded. We are His Body, we are His Bride. He will not allow us to be destroyed.
So to you Catholic Chicken Littles running around freaking out about the state of the Church, relax. Do your part by praying, sacrificing and being the person God meant for you to be. Do not worry about the pope shirking his mantum or the local priest singing One Bread, One Body. Unless you witness an actual sacrilege or liturgical abuse happening, try not to freak out and just turn to Christ in prayer. Don't spread paranoia and upset by lamenting the terrible state the Church is in because Father So-and-So allows women to distribute Communion.
You folks know I hate that. It's one of my biggest pet peeves. But ya know what? I don't deny myself participation in the one, true and Catholic liturgy because of bone-headed mistakes. Also, even if the priest in question did it PURPOSEFULLY KNOWING he was in the wrong, I'm not going to let his sin cut off my avenue to Christ, because even if he was stained with a thousand mortal sins, Father Pro-Women Eucharistic Ministers is still Christ's representative on Earth and is able to consecrate whereas I am not.
To you Christian Chicken Littles hoping beyond hope that the evil Catholic Church is finally crumbling, sorry. You guys are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We still pray for you at every.single.Mass. You are our offspring. Do not neglect your Mother.
To those of you who are foaming at the mouth waiting to ravage the remnants of a Church on fire, don't hold your breath. Seriously.
I'd like to take a moment to reflect on a little known sensory disorder that many times coincides with Autism. This disorder is known as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Autistic persons often have SPD, but not all persons with SPD have Autism.
SPD involves any disorder of your senses. This can range from over-sensitivity to light, smells or sound to an under-sensitivity to taste and touch. SPD can also affect the vestibular and proprioceptive systems which control balance, movement and spatial orientation.
As a mother of a young son with SPD, I've come across so many people who are unsure of and even put off by his unique behavior. Here are 10 things I'd like to say.
Please take a moment to read, share and spread the word. The more we educate others, the better we become at responding to these children who need us.
Some sensations, though inconsequential to you or me, are overwhelming to him. The tag on your shirt isn't noticeable to you, but for Vincent, his nerves are telling his brain that a thorn is digging into his neck.
He fidgets, but he has very good reasons for his fidgets.
You hear the voice of your boss telling you the deadline for your next project. Vincent hears his teacher explaining a math problem, but also hears the humming of florescent lights, the rattling of the heater, the chatter of other students, the footsteps of the aid, the cars driving by outside the window, and even his own breathing. Because his auditory discernment is not as strong as yours or mine, he is unable to focus on priority sounds and, in an effort to push aside all that noise, he makes sounds, himself, that help drown out the confusion.
I did not cause his Sensory Processing Disorder. My parenting style did nothing to bring on his sensitivity to certain situations. I love my child fiercely and do everything in my power to see that he is cared for, protected and loved. I may not be the most savvy parent in regards to the latest therapies available, but don't you dare mistake my novice ignorance for bad parenting. I are fighting to make myself and others aware of this disorder, and I are doing all I can to give Vincent the therapy he needs to cope.
So the next time you see us in the store while Vincent is having a meltdown because the lights hurt his eyes and the cart feels especially frustrating to his backside, refrain from suggesting I stop spoiling him. I might not be so charitable in my response.
We are working on this. Please be patient with him.
In addition to forcing John and I to keep the floors relatively free of items, this also creates a problem with shoes. Vincent is very sensitive to the type of shoes he's willing to wear, and it's many times a fight to get him to keep them on, even when we're outside. He's not throwing a temper-tantrum because he wants to wear his SpongeBob boots vs. his Spiderman sneakers... he's having a meltdown because his SpongeBob boots give him relief from his tactile craving while his Spiderman sneakers compound the frustration and add to his anxiety.
Again, please be patient. He is doing so much better with this, but it is a difficult skill to learn when your nerves rebel against you.
His memory is better than mine, his math skills never cease to amaze me, and his appetite for his new passion, spelling, makes my heart swell with pride. The creativity and problem-solving skills he's developed while playing adventure games with his Daddy have only proven to me that his capacity for intelligence hasn't even begun to be appreciated. Standardized testing cannot verify his penchant for architecture. Circle time cannot concede to his superior grasp of cause and effect. No Child Study Team will ever capture the wisdom he shows in his thoughtful, gentle care of those he instinctively understands need his affection.
Again, my son is fearsomely, awesomely intelligent.
What joyful music.
My son loves laughter. He loves being "tricked" and surprised. He loves being the cause of laughter around him. He'll clown about or say silly things with the sole goal being laughter... glorious laughter.
In a word, my son is love... pure, unblemished love.
Please remember that the next time his sensory challenges leave you frustrated or confused. Above all, simply remember that he is capable of giving and receiving love. Next time a sensory-craver like Vincent has a melt-down, respond with love. Push aside your own frustration and confusion because it pales in comparison to the anxiety he feels on a routine basis because of this disorder.
Respond with love, too, to the parents of these special children. Do not discount us as bad parents or folks to be pitied for having a "problem child." Far from it. We love our children and are proud of them. We are joyed at being given the opportunity to unwrap their potential and can't wait to see how they change the world.
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Spread acceptance by spreading awareness. <3
An interesting aspect of our excursion was something called a Temazcal. When our booking agent mentioned this, I immediately asked, "What is a Temazcal?"
He said, "For Mayans, cenotes are sacred openings to the underworld. Only royalty were able to swim into them. The Temazcal ceremony is an ancient Mayan ritual that asks permission from the gods to enter the sacred realm."
This ritual began with the lighting of incense. Our guide held a small clay pot that she crushed herbs into. Then, she lit a match and allowed the mixture to begin smoking. When the smoke had begun permeating our group, she called us over, one by one, to surround ourselves with the smoke. She would spin us around in front of her while waving the incense over us. Then she'd motion for us to enter the sweat lodge (which, itself, is called a temazcal).
The inside of the lodge was dark. In the center of the hut was an area for stones to be heated atop a fire. There were simple benches arranged in a tight semicircle, just enough for the 7 of us to sit comfortably.
When we'd all entered, our guide, July, explained the significance of a temazcal. The goal is to sweat out bad energies and illness, even addictions and depression. I was surprised to learn that the practice of temazcal is still widely accepted in Mexico. The guide's own aunt participates frequently for various things.
July explained that in addition to the steam that rises up from the stones, the water used is full of medicinal herbs. Having been allowed to steep in the water before it is thrown over the heated stones, the medicinal benefits of these plants can be breathed in through the steam.
At the end of the steaming, participants are instructed to stand up, hold hands, and shout, releasing any pent up frustration, anger, anxiety or upset. Those in my group chose to let out primal yells twice. John and Frank... characters.
That, in short, was our brief experience with the Mayan ritual of Temazcal. Bonus, for us, was the fact that this was something reserved for Mayan royalty. In effect, John mused we were now Mayan royalty. Ha!
Can I Homeschool?
That's a question that's been bouncing around back and forth, over and over the last few months.
Truthfully, it's been something sitting in the back of my mind ever since Vince was a baby.
The answer to that question is "Yes, I can homeschool Vincent."
In theory, my background is education. I've taught children from preschool to high school. I've tweaked curricula to account for struggling students and I've developed entire lesson plans to challenge those gifted with a natural appetite for knowledge. So in theory, I could easily homeschool Vincent.
Theories, however, are often-times victims of reality. In this case, I don't believe homeschooling is the best option for Vincent. While my background with education is proven and strong, I don't have proper experience with Sensory Processing Disorder. Obviously I can learn, but do I want to subject Vincent to months of my own trial and error until I figure out the best course of action for him?
I fear that's doing him a disservice.
Then there's the question of financial feasibility. Are we able to rely solely on John's income? We can for a few months, but long-term? We'd really need to crunch the numbers to come up with a realistic long-term picture.
And then I worry for his social development. Most home-school families have a number of siblings, so they are able to learn social cues even amongst themselves. There are no real homeschool groups in my area... the closest to me is about 30 minutes away and in a different state. Again, that doesn't seem to be the most efficient course of action.
I can always put him into extra-curricular activities, but I truly believe there is something to be said for learning in groups (even small ones). I want that for Vincent because I believe with the proper care, he will flourish in such setting.
Right now, though, it looks as if I'll need to spend the next two months with him. I don't know what that's going to translate to in terms of work. It depends on how my conversation goes tomorrow with my bosses. Will I be able to take a two month leave? I honestly don't know. They can't really afford to lose a worker right now, especially given the contract we just took upon ourselves. But I have no other options for Vincent right now, so I either am granted leave or I give notice. Either way, it is in God's Hands and I'm sure it will work out as it's supposed to.
But I don't put forth that option as a last resort or even a jest. I truly say it knowing it's a valid option... just one I don't necessarily think is right for Vincent. I know I'm a good teacher, but I'm not entirely confident in my ability to learn new techniques that would specifically benefit Vincent in a manner that a seasoned special-ed instructor in a special-ed classroom would have already mastered.
Those are my thoughts, anyway.
I have so much respect for homeschoolers. I don't know that I am organized and effective enough to do it for my own son. That makes me feel like a bit of a let-down, but I'm trying to be as honest with myself as possible because I don't want my arrogance to be the cause of him falling further behind, ya know?
But thanks for all the encouragement and prayers. What a blessing your e-mails and comments were. I love you guys so much. Please know I kept you in my Easter prayers this weekend, too. <3 My family and I are blessed by your generosity of spirit.
On Holy Thursday, John snapped this photo of Vince and I before we left for Mass. Vincent was holding Chase, his stuffed German Shepherd. He's gotten incredibly attached to him the last few weeks, and I admit I sorta love that. He's never had a toy that he MUST have with him at all times. Chase is his best pal now, and he always wants him wherever he is.
For Mass, he was well-behaved. We were very close to the front because I wanted to explain everything to him... especially the washing of the feet. However, I was SO incredibly disheartened to see only three men come forward to have their feet washed. The rest were women.
Two or three e-mails were sent out by our Director of Religious Education practically begging people to volunteer for this role. Only three men could be found? THREE?
How incredibly sad. What does this say about the men of our parish?
As I explained in this entry, the Washing of the Feet is an act that goes well beyond proving Jesus' humility. It was an act of preparation for His apostles - the first priests of the Church. Only after washing their feet and charging them with serving one another so fully did Christ then instruct them in the Eucharistic Prayer. Only then were they to take part in the first Mass.
Mother Church requires the feet of men to be washed because of the incredible symbolic nature of this act. It's why many old-school parishes wash the feet of retired priests. How blessed is the parish that recognizes that the rituals we still take part in can be educational as well as prayerful! Should all parishes be so lucky.
On Good Friday, Vincent was pretty exhausted by the time our services rolled around. I took him in early so he could see Jesus in the place of repose. I answered his questions, but he surprised me again by how much he understood.
He said, "Jesus died, right Mommy?"
I said, "Yes, Vincent, and the Church is very sad."
He asked, "But He's in Heaven, right?"
I said, "That's right. And He's going to bring us to Heaven, too."
Then he said, "But I don't want to go to Heaven. They don't have toys."
I laughed and said, "Heaven is more fun than Ocean City!"
He looked at me, incredulous, because to his four-year-old mind, nothing could possibly be more fun than the Boardwalk, curly fries and roller coasters.
Midway during the service, he nodded off to sleep right in the pew, clutching Chase under his coat.
After the service, two kind elderly folks came up to us separately to express their appreciation for Vincent's presence the last two days (Holy Thursday and Good Friday). One woman commented that she loved how he says, "Jesus, I love you" when the newly consecrated Host is elevated and the gentleman said he liked that Vincent behaved and genuflected before the altar.
I truly puffed up with so much pride and appreciation then. I'm always so worried that I'm not doing enough to teach him about how beautiful our Faith is. Truth is, I'm not. That being said, I know that God is making up for my inadequacies and is patiently leading Vince by the hand. It makes me so incredibly happy to have reminders like that, especially given the difficult week we'd had at school.
On Easter Sunday, Vince was not a big fan of Jesus' when I reminded him that after his egg-hunting, he needed to get ready for Mass. I knew it'd be tough getting him on board, but as always, once he was in the car, he was perfectly fine.
My niece, Alliya, even ended up coming along with my MIL.
We went to a parish that I've only been to once before, and it was completely by accident that we arrived there. I've STILL got a terrible taste in my mouth from their Mass.
The tabernacle is off to the side (I hate that), the priest was omitting things left and right (whether on purpose or not, I honestly don't know, so I'm hoping it was accidental), the parishioners who sat to the right of us were incredibly rude (but they might not have been regulars) and the whole set-up felt very, very... New Age-y? I dunno. I just got a terribly off feeling and it left me unsettled until we were about half-way home.
Alliya was asking me all sorts of questions as I took them around the church to show them the various statues and sacramentals. We had gotten there early, so to burn energy and utilize a built-in theology lesson, I took them on a quick tour. Alliya had so many smart questions (questions which Vincent jumped in to answer at points!). One of her questions was about Jesus being in the tabernacle. When I explained that we genuflected to Jesus who remained hidden in the tabernacle, Alliya became confused. She wanted to know how He fit, if He was a ghost, etc (she has basically no catechesis whatsoever). These are all smart and valid questions! So I explained as simply as I could without confusing her further.
I said because He is God, He can take on whatever form He wants. Because He loves us so much, He decided to look like Bread so He could personally feed us, Himself. Thus, because He appeared so small, He could fit into the tabernacle until the priest opened the door at Communion time.
She seemed to accept this answer, but when we got back to the pew, she asked if she would have to SEE Jesus. The concept of seeing someone she only knew as dead was understandably scary to her. She doesn't get that Jesus is God. She only knows that He's someone we celebrate at Christmas but He died a long time ago and went to Heaven.
Anyway, this thought scared her, so she kept asking me if she'd see the Consecrated Hosts.
I simply said, "Alliya, Jesus is not scary. He loves you so, so much. He has a real body, just like you and I. He's the one who sent you your Mommy and Daddy who love you so much. He made sure you had a Mi-Mom and Pop to take you fun places. He makes sure all your family and friends are nice. All the good things in your life are because of Him. He's not scary... He's the nicest person in the whole universe!"
Vincent emphatically agreed with me, but Alliya didn't seem to believe me. Again, I don't fault her for this. She hasn't had any religious education. Hopefully one day she will, but even if she doesn't, when she asks me for the truth, I will always give it to her.
But to end with something amusing, on Holy Thursday, after Jesus was placed into the side repository, we waited our turn to go up to say a prayer. When we reached the kneelers, Vincent looked at the small tabernacle holding the ciborium and asked, "Mommy, how do we get Jesus' trophy?"
Ha ha. Nice.
Also, the veils pictured in this blog are from Veils by Lily and Liturgical Time respectively.
My title isn't even a little bit kidding. I feel like I've ruined Vince forever regarding school.
As a child, I always looked at school as something fun. I enjoyed learning and I RELISHED taking tests because I liked to challenge myself to see how much I knew. I even liked pop quizzes. I always assumed my kids would one day be the same way.
How wrong I was and how incredibly harmful my expectation has been for Vincent.
I fear I pushed him too early into preschool, and the experience has left him scared of school altogether.
The knowledge of that kills me. It absolutely kills me.
Once again, I got a call from the principal telling me they could not work with his specific set of issues in the classroom. My husband and I had warned them of this MONTHS ago, but they poo-pooed us and assured us they were more than capable of handling his particular brand of behavior.
Now they realize they should've listened to us a little more carefully, because their Child Study Team could not assess what we'd already seen firsthand - Vincent is not equipped to handle a mainstream classroom. He's certainly smart enough, but from a behavioral standpoint, he is simply not ready to handle mainstream education. At least not yet.
And now they realize it after a grueling two months of frustration on their part and on Vincent's part.
I hate this. Vincent gets such anxiety about going to school which only makes his time there that much more difficult. The teachers are getting overly frustrated with him and it makes for a very upsetting experience for everyone... most especially Vincent. That sort of experience is enough to scare him off of school forever. What's to stop him from being terrified of school next September?
Four schools in 9 months. The Learning Experience (which he loved), St. Theresa's (which helped us diagnose him with Sensory Processing), Tippy Toes (which harbored a bully), and now the public school which gave us an overly confident CST that now only wants to touch him if he gets an Autism diagnosis.
Pardon me while I cry my eyes out in frustration, disgust, and guilt.
I feel like I've failed him so terribly in such an important area of his life... I don't even know how to handle myself right now. I don't know how to handle him. I don't know how to handle John who is just as upset and frustrated as I am.
This entire year has been one massive struggle after another with his schooling, diagnosis, therapy and ARGH. I don't know how to navigate this for him. It's my job to know... my expertise is education, and I can't figure out what to do or where to turn without causing even greater damage to him.
There is no school that will take him now... not with only a few weeks left in the year. Next year no one wants to touch him because he doesn't have a "proper diagnosis."
WTH is a proper diagnosis??? He's been seen by a developmental pediatrician and she diagnosed him with Sensory Processing Disorder. It's not in the DSM, but it's recognized as a valid disorder by doctors across the world. There are therapies aimed at teaching a child to handle the symptoms. But yet because it isn't in some stupid blue book schools use as guidelines for IEPs, Vincent can't get the help he needs???
THAT ENRAGES ME!
It's not like he's a bad kid. All of his teachers insist that his intelligence is above average and he is perfectly sweet, obedient and docile in a small group environment. He's super affectionate and compliant. It's only when he's in a large group that his symptoms show and he falls apart and becomes a wailing, inconsolable mess of screams, tears and frustration.
I can understand that. It's like asking a blind kid to read a book. It's going to solicit frustration and tears because a blind kid CANNOT READ until you give him braille.
Vincent CANNOT learn in a large group. He is best suited to a small group environment. We've known this since the beginning of the school year, yet no one wants to try that because he doesn't have an Autism diagnosis.
What they're telling me is that they don't want to try that approach because without a "proper diagnosis" the government won't subsidize him as a special ed student. If they're not getting paid to teach him, why bother?
*Cue more tears*
I hate this so much, and I pushed him into it thinking that along the line, they'd finally understand he needs a small group and allow him access.
Stupid me. Arrogant me.
And now my son has almost 9 months of fear and anxiety under his belt by being bounced around in my attempt at giving him what I thought he needed.
And what has it done for him? What have I done to him long-term?
I shudder to think of it.
And now I don't know what to do. Short of quitting my job and homeschooling him, myself, I have no idea what to do.
I am lost. God help me, I am lost.
Not too often you hear the words "Lent" and "tripod" put together, but it was a concept I introduced a few weeks back to my CCD students.
So often you hear "What are you giving up for Lent?" I wanted them to understand that this wasn't a futile repeat of New Year's resolutions. Lent is a time for sacrifice.
One of my favorite quotes about sacrifice is this:
Love transforms suffering into sacrifice.
According to this, two things must be present for a sacrifice: Love and Suffering.
So for Lent, while they were all trying to figure out what they'd "give up," I asked them to also figure out a specific person or intention they'd be offering that sacrifice for. Giving up candy bars during Lent is great, but if you're just substituting the candy bars with milkshakes, nothing is accomplished.
Instead, if you give up candy bars, use the $.60 you save every day and donate it to the homeless man you pass on the street each day. Put it into a piggy bank and at the end of Lent, use it to buy your little sister that iPad app she's been dying to try. Better yet, secretly use it to buy a slew of your favorite prayer cards / medals and leave them in the back of your parish church for parishioners to share!
Little things add up, and as long as they're adding up to love, they're perfect sacrifices for Lent.
With that in mind, my students started coming up with some great ideas:
These are my favorites. It took a lot of leading, but when they finally arrived at their Lenten gifts (as I've been calling them), I think they really understood the purpose behind the practice.
Once they got this foundation set, I tied it together through Jesus.
We give up things, or sacrifice, for our community out of love. However, we don't do that for ourselves. We do it through Jesus. We unite our sufferings with Jesus' Passion. We don't sacrifice during Lent just because that's what you do during Lent. We do it so Jesus doesn't have to suffer alone. We share the burden with Him.
I likened it to riding a roller coaster for the first time. They all seemed to understand that. None of them wanted to ride a coaster by themselves the first time they went. They were scared! Instead, they asked a friend to come along so they could share the burden of fear.
During Lent, we consent to share the burden of suffering with Jesus. We consent to take part in the Passion, because as the Church, we are members of His Body, and we want to follow where He, the Head, leads us. During Lent, He is leading us to Salvation through the Cross.
It was like a little light bulb clicked over their heads. I started seeing them slowly understanding the concept of sharing in the Lenten journey. Each Mass isn't a recreation of the Passion so much as a time-machine that brings us back to the Foot of the Cross, time and time again. Lent helps us refocus on this by bringing the reality of Christ's Sacrifice into our daily lives (in a much more manageable way).
Just as Christ suffered for love of us, we, too, must suffer for love of others, uniting those sacrifices to the Sacrifice of Christ.
This is the Lenten Tripod analogy I used with my students, and I have to say, I'm really pleased with how well they took that lesson to hear.
Next week we'll check in to see how they're doing with their gifts. :)
I teach an 8th grade Confirmation class. This class is comprised of students who typically don't attend Mass, go to public school, and have about as much interest in Catholicism as they do in Algebra.
However, I do everything I can to impart the Faith in an engaging, relatable manner.
Prayer is one of those areas that never quite "took" for them. It pains me that their communication with God is so infrequent that even a simple Our Father is said with no inflection. Student-led prayers are lackluster and careless. It kills me. They are curious about tradition and history, but that is something they see as separate from a personal relationship with Christ. It's as if they want to learn "facts" but don't understand that those facts exist only because of the living Presence of God still active within their lives. Those facts are the small bits of "family history" we share as children of God.
So imagine my surprise tonight when they all prayed. Really, truly prayed. With their hearts... not just with robotic recitation.
You see, at the beginning of class (as I do every week), I asked for their intentions. They ranged for "help on a spelling test" to "my neighbor's cat is missing." Great! We added them to our intentions list.
However, I then offered this intention:
I told them about a little boy named Ben. For those of you unaware, Ben Sauer is a beautiful 4 year old boy with a twin brother named Jack and a little sister named Megan. Up until about a month ago, Ben was a seemingly healthy little boy who enjoyed playing with his siblings and was looking forward to preschool.
A few weeks ago, he was diagnosed with an incredibly rare and terribly aggressive form of cancer. My heart is breaking even as I write this. His parents were told that there is no form of treatment available, and their beautiful, happy, gentle son only has a few weeks to live.
How do you process such a thing? A vibrant little boy - your heart and soul - will likely be taken away to Heaven after only 4 brief years in your arms.
Oh dear Lord... mercy. Please. Mercy!
As I relayed this intention to my students, they all sat - silent. There was no side-chatter, no doodling, no requests for the bathroom. There was only silence and an aching plea for this intention to reach the Ears of God.
And so, with this intention fresh on their hearts, my class made the Sign of the Cross. They said a Memorare with so much tenderness... so much pleading... that I actually stumbled over the words as I fought to contain my own emotions. They followed their Memorares with the Prayer to Saint Michael. This we offered through the intercession of Blessed Chiara Badano at the suggestion of a friend from Theotokos.
As we closed with another Sign of the Cross, I looked out at my class and I thanked them. I knew hearing Ben's story made them feel terribly sad, but in joining their prayers for a miracle, his comfort, and the comfort of his family, I think they understood, for the first time, prayer can be a powerful weapon. Sometimes, it is our only weapon, but that does not lessen its strength.
We prayed again for this intention at the close of class. Instead of chattering busily out the door after the bell, my class silently walked into the hall. I really think they were still contemplating this very special intention. I asked them to hold it in their hearts throughout Lent.
Actually, I'd like to ask that all of you do so. Please keep his family entrenched in prayers. Also, be sure to reach out to those you love. None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. That is why we must always love in the moment. Always.
Christ's Valentine to Us
On Tuesday night, I explained the roots of St. Valentine's Day to my class. I told them about Father Valentine and the love for (and dedication to!) God that he was ultimately put to death for. I explained how from his jail cell, awaiting death, this holy and courageous priest would write letters to his parishioners telling them to hold fast to their love of Christ through their love of one another.
Many of them were surprised to know the national day for flowers and candy actually springs out of the martyrdom of a holy and courageous priest. When I pointed out the liturgical color for a martyr's feast is red, it took them all a quick moment to connect why everything associated with Valentine's Day follows suit. Tradition is a terribly hard thing to bury indefinitely. *Grin*
Anyway, at the end of class, I read an excerpt from The Hours of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. For those of you unaware, this incredibly beautiful prayer book was dictated to Luisa Piccarreta by Our Lord, Himself. Together, the two of them journeyed back to His Passion and experienced it for the purpose of sharing the depth of His love story to us.
I could speak of this prayer book forever, but I chose a small snippet for my class expressly for St. Valentine's Day. It is taken from the 10am-11am hour of His Passion, just as He takes up His Cross. It reads:
I [Luisa] see that your enemies shove You down the steps, while the mob awaits You with fury and eagerness. They have You find the Cross already prepared, which You seek with great longing. You look at it with Love; and You go straight towards it to embrace it. First, You kiss it; and, as a shiver of joy surges through your most Holy Humanity, You look at it with utmost satisfaction and measure its length and width. You now establish the portion in it for all creatures. You endow them with sufficient cross in order to bind them to the Divinity with a nuptial bond and render them heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven.
I reflected thusly to my children:
Jesus did not run from His Cross. He did not turn away from the torturous and humiliating death He was about to endure. Instead, He JOYFULLY accepted His Cross. He kissed the very instrument of His death because He understood how necessary it was for the salvation of His beloved family. WE are His family. He kissed that Cross for Love of us. He shouldered that Cross for US, and He left to us the inheritance found within its splinters so that one day we might be reunited with God in Heaven.
This is our constant Valentine. Each and every time we see it, we must stop to reflect upon the Divine Love that was infused within its very existence.
"Behold, I make all things new."
Oh Lord, behold, indeed! You took the world's symbol of humiliation, agony and defeat only to turn it into the triumphant throne of mercy, salvation and victory. This is, indeed, our truest love letter from You, signed in Your Most Precious Blood and delivered with Your final, loving sigh.
This is my reflection for Saint Valentine's Day.
May the Lord bless each and every one of you with peace, love and mercy.
This is Vince and our friend, Chrissy. This photo was taken today, right after we got back from the pediatric office. Vincent had such a fun time there that he promptly dressed up in his doctor costume (a Christmas gift from my mother - thanks Mom) and went to work on her. It was adorable!
Anyway, the evaluation was pretty straight forward. The D-Ped did two types. The first was a history log of my pregnancy with Vince and his behaviors since birth.
Good thing I kept a meticulous baby-book for him, because I needed each month to remind myself of which milestones he hit and when he hit them. I highly recommend keeping up with those books for your children if at all possible. I always thought his would be a keepsake memento. It's actually been more of an archived medical history given what I've now learned about milestone achievement and their connection to autism and sensory disorders.
But I digress.
After the history, she did a current snapshot of Vincent's behavior through conversation. She asked me questions, I answered. She took notes the entire time and was sure to ask for clarification on anything she was unsure of.
The entire time we were having this discussion, there was another D-Ped in the room simply observing Vincent. They had a train table set up and the 2nd D-Ped was there strictly to observe Vincent and his behavior as I spoke to the first doctor, as I interacted with him, as the other doctor interacted with Vince, and as he was left to his own devices. I thought that was great. Two doctors for the price of one, and each could focus on a separate task instead of one trying to observe Vince while getting a family history down.
Anyway, once the D-Ped was done asking questions of me, she had me fill out a GARS-3. For those unfamiliar, GARS stands for "Gilliam Autism Rating Scale" with "3" being for the 3rd edition.
As I filled out the scale, the doctor turned her attention to Vincent. She did a brief physical exam, and then she spent some time "playing" with him. She wanted him to draw certain things, point to certain things, or do certain things as she tested various capabilities. At this point, the second D-Ped interjected because she was so excited by Vincent's drawing of me. When asked to draw a picture of a person, Vincent kept drawing various scribbles. It dawned on me that the word "person" was not part of his vocabulary, and when I suggested they use a different word, he was able to follow through with the request to "draw Mommy."
Vincent kept looking at me and then adding features to his stick figure (glasses, earrings, my ponytail, etc). The silent D-Ped couldn't resist commenting on how detailed his drawing ended up being. I was delighted she took such joy from his art. I was even more delighted that she acknowledged how intelligent he was - something I sometimes fear people neglect to realize when they're busy looking for labels.
The original D-Ped finished her assessment of Vince a few minutes after I'd finished the GARS. It only took her a few moments to add up the data and place him into percentile rankings. This standardized scoring method is useful in predicting Autism. It doesn't, however, diagnose it. Rather, it establishes a baseline of probability and possible severity level based on 6 areas: Restricted / Repetitive Behaviors, Social Interaction, Social Communication, Emotional Responses, Cognitive Style and Maladaptive Speech.
For Vincent, his percentile ranged him as "Autism is Likely" with "Level 2" severity (out of 3) which would require "Substantial Support."
However, as the D-Ped pointed out, he "failed" the DSM-V criteria for Autism completely.
How is this?
Well, the DSM-V (read: Psychologists' Bible) notes that for Autism to be diagnosed, three persistent deficits MUST be present: Socio-emotional reciprocity, non-verbal communicative behaviors for social interaction, and developing, maintaining and understanding relationships.
Now, in addition to those top three criteria, there are things like repetitive patterns of behavior, inflexibility and fixated interests that are also added to the list, but in all Autism diagnoses, the three I mentioned in the preceding paragraph MUST be present. Since they were not, she explained Autism could not be a diagnosis. I asked about Asperger's Syndrome. It's not technically an Autism disorder anymore, but given it is still spectrum, I wanted her feelings on that, too.
She explained that Vincent didn't measure up to that diagnosis, either. The closest she could come up with was Sensory Modulation Dysfunction which, again, is another way of saying Sensory Processing Disorder. It was exactly what I had anticipated based on my own research and findings.
She did mention he exhibited signs of being hyperactive, but this is not surprising. She explained that many children with SMD / SPD can either be hyper- or hypo- active depending on where they fall on the scale. Vince, being easily over-stimulated and constantly craving a stream of tactile sensation, was obviously going to be on the hyperactive side of things.
Point is, all of his "Autism symptoms" were strictly related to his sensory issues. Since the two do overlap at times, it's easy to understand his GARS ranking. However, since the D-Ped was able to add her own analysis and evaluation through the DSM-V, I was able to walk out of the office with a diagnosis that would finally take Autism off the table for Vincent's child study team.
I felt like I'd finally be able to tell the surgeon I needed kidney surgery vs. a stomach surgery. The CST will FINALLY have the D-Ped report they've been hounding me to get since Vince was in Early Intervention from 18 months of age. I can finally prove to them that he is not so easily labelled.
He won't be so easily placed into their bucket of special needs children to up their state funding.
Not my child. I will never let him be a statistic or a financial victory for those people. I know how the system works and I absolutely refuse to let it take advantage of him like that.
So two hours after walking through the doors, I walked out victorious. My son was confirmed as having Sensory Modulation Disorder (or SPD) and the current course of therapy that John and I currently have him on is exactly what was prescribed.
Vindication is glorious. I finally, finally feel like we are going to get somewhere with his education now. There is no excuse not to proceed now that they've got everything they demanded of us. I find it delicious that the diagnosis they were so SURE we'd get today not only falls short of their expectation... it falls completely in line with mine.
Parents know best.
And praise God for allowing things to line up so perfectly for this today.
Pediatric Lottery Win
This is Vincent dressed up in his rain gear this morning. I had to get him up at 6:45 AM so we could be out of the house by 7:30. It was a rainy, wet morning, but ya know what? I was feeling pretty amazing, and by the grin on Vincent's face, he was, too.
Well, we had won what I'm henceforth calling the Pediatric Lottery yesterday afternoon.
You see, on December 31st, I was told I'd need a "proper diagnosis" from a Developmental Pediatrician for Vincent's Sensory Processing / Autism symptoms in order to move forward with his district evaluation. So, I set to work getting him in to see one.
For any of you lucky enough to never be told your child needs to see a D-Ped, you might not be aware that wait time for these rare birds is about 12 months. 12 MONTHS.
I spent that afternoon calling 6 hospitals (which had between 2 and 3 locations each) trying to locate one for him. Every.single.one. was booked solid until December 2014.
I was somewhat disheartened by that (not just for Vince, but for all the other families being told they needed to wait so long for the tests needed to move forward with district evaluations). However, I wasn't going to let a little thing like ridiculously long wait lists slow me down.
I asked each hospital to pre-register us over the phone in case something popped up between now and December 2014. Only two hospitals agreed to take my info this early. I kept a running tab of hospitals, wait times and pre-registration requirements on a list on the back of Vincent's evaluation folder. Then, starting January 2nd, I went down the list of hospitals and called every other day, hoping for a cancellation.
Yesterday, January 13th, I struck gold and was given an 8AM appointment with a leading developmental pediatrician who specializes in autism and sensory issues.
Seriously - I was running around the office like this:
Euphoric, I must've thanked God about a thousand times before I'd even called John. Miracle of miracles, I just cannot believe we got in a full 12 months early! That's just INSANE!
So really, thank you, Lord, for being so amazing to Vincent!!! What an unexpected (and immensely awesome) blessing!!!
I gathered all of his materials together and called in a last minute referral to be faxed over by Vincent's regular pediatrician. They obliged, but couldn't believe I'd gotten an appointment that fast. They had to call me back just to make sure they'd gotten the date right.
Pfffft... this is why I don't stress about things. My God is an Awesome God.
I couldn't even sleep last night because I was so excited for today. Seriously - I didn't sleep at all. I just kept watching the clock as it ticked away the moments until I could finally get his diagnosis confirmed by someone with more authority than me.
Truthfully, the last few months have been incredibly taxing. I've had so many people tell me I was missing something. It seemed like everyone was trying to prepare me for the autism diagnosis they were sure I'd hear. His teachers, the school district, family members, friends... it was beginning to really wear on me.
I know folks meant well, but I hated constantly being second guessed about my own son simply because I don't have a PhD behind my name. I would NOT allow him to be labelled autistic if he was not, in fact, autistic. I wasn't going to just "settle" for the label because it is something easily identifiable to insurance companies. I wasn't going to allow the Child Study Team to throw together a one-size-fits-all IEP based on expectations for a child with Autism.
If I had even an inkling that Vince was autistic, I'd be singing a different tune. I'd label him, myself, and make sure everyone was aware of his strengths and difficulties. I'm not afraid of labels, and I'm not afraid of Autism.
I am, however, afraid of a system that routinely misdiagnoses children and haphazardly categorizes them into programs that are more detrimental than they are helpful. I would NOT allow my son to fall victim to that.
So I educated the heck out of myself. I've spent weeks pouring over everything I can about Sensory Processing Disorder. I poured over Autism research, Asperger's research and even dabbled in the ADHD, ADD, ODD suggestions that were thrown my way. I analyzed Vincent at home and had him try activities suggested by the Pinterest Boards I'd looked into. I even joined a parent-group and spoke to others struggling with the same issues.
I was not crazy. I was not blind. I was simply refusing to accept their "professional opinion" when they, themselves, didn't have the PhD they scoffed at me for lacking.
So to say I was anxious to hear the Developmental Pediatrician's evaluation is a total understatement.
I was going in with the expectation of war, and I knew I'd be coming out victorious. I had to. I was fighting for Vincent's future.
This was originally written on 8/1/11. However, it's back for it's yearly rounds!
Late last night, I got a phone call from a dear friend of mine. I was surprised to be getting a call from her so late, especially since she was headed out across the country super early the next morning. Before I could even ask "What's up?" she started talking excitedly about something I'd never heard of before. At first, I couldn't quite understand the words. It sounded like some sort of Spanish phrase. I kept asking her to repeat herself, but each repetition wasn't registering. Finally, I just asked her to spell it for me, and boom - Google saved the day.
She explained to me what the Indulgence was and wanted to be sure I could take advantage of it in case I was ignorant of such a gift. Isn't she the best? *Grin*
Anyway, for those of you who don't know what this particular gift is, here's a little backstory! I paraphrased most of it from the article written by Diana Serra Cary for The Catholic Hearth magazine back in 1994.
St. Francis of Assisi (father of Franciscans), when not preaching to the birds or stopping traffic for a colony of ants, spent some of his free time restoring old, abandoned chapels and churches. One of the chapels he rebuilt became known as "the Porziuncola" (meaning small portion of land). This is where St. Francis would build up his order, live and die.
It is also where he obtained for us the Portiuncula Indulgence. In 1216, St. Francis was praying in this little chapel, almost swallowed up by the sorrow he felt for the pain inflicted by poor sinners. He was praying intently for the conversion of these sinners when he suddenly felt his interior become engulfed in light. He then saw Christ and His Blessed Mother. Jesus asked him, "What do you wish me to do to help poor sinners?" St. Francis answered that he wished Jesus to grant sinners a full pardon if they came to his chapel and make a good confession. Jesus approved this wish through His Blessed Mother who smiled and nodded at St. Francis.
Happy to have been given such a priceless and unheard of indulgence, he immediately set off for the Holy Father to have it approved. Pope Honorius III was presiding over the Church at the time, and he was absolutely dumbfounded by such a seemingly outrageous request. Plenary indulgences (like this) were VERY rarely approved, and even then, only under the strictest of circumstances, typically for those serving in the Crusades.
St. Francis, however, was not to be deterred and kept petitioning the Holy Father for his approval. Swayed, no doubt, by the Holy Spirit, Pope Honorius III granted St. Francis the indulgence. He then asked St. Francis if he wouldn't like a notice that this indulgence had been granted (since he was trying to leave without one). St. Francis replied, "I need nothing more than your word. Our Lady is the parchment, Christ the notary, and the angels our witnesses!"
He decided to set the date for this indulgence to coincide with the Feast of the Chains of St. Peter in order that all sinners may be freed from the bondage of sin. How beautiful is that?
He was so excited when the first August rolled around that he cried out to the overflowing crowds "I want to make all of you go to Heaven!"
I am so glad my wonderful friend called me up to let me know of this before flying across country! For those of you who wish to take advantage of so wonderous a blessing, here are the guidelines for the Portiuncula Indulgence.
CONDITIONS TO OBTAIN THE PLENARY INDULGENCE
(for oneself OR for a departed soul)
1. Sacramental Confession to be in God's grace (8 days before or after the 1st)
2. Participation in Holy Mass and Eucharist
3. Visit to a Catholic Church followed by a Profession of Faith (Apostle's or Nicene Creed) in order to reaffirm your Catholic Identity
4. Say an Our Father to reaffirm the dignity you recieve as a child of God through Baptism
5. A prayer for the Pope's intentions in order to reaffirm your membership in the Church of which the Holy Father is the sign of visible unity.
Vincent still does his "No Jesus!" whining when he realizes we're on our way to Mass. He does it every week, regardless of which church we go to. I no longer give it a second thought, because he's typically excited about going by the time we get there. It's just the idea of having to stop playing that gets him, I think.
Anyway, John still smirks at times when he hears Vincent doing that. He thinks I don't see it, but I do. And in my head, I just say a prayer that God keeps Vincent for Himself and gives him a deep, true love of Jesus and His mom. After all, if you've got that base covered, you're pretty much set.
Well, for every smirk John gets in, I am granted my own. Here's evidence of my latest one:
I snapped this when I went up to check on Vince after putting him to bed. When I'd left him, the dolls were on the table next to him. When I came back up, it was obvious that he'd tucked them in under the blankets (on either side!) with him. I had such a gratifying appreciation bubble up in my heart when I saw this. God's gonna make sure Vincent knows Him and loves Him.
And because I couldn't take only one shot... here's a clearer one! :) I chanced the flash for the second one... totally worth it!
EDIT: I encourage everyone to read through the commentary as well. So many great points have been raised that are worthy of your attention. They are critical of my viewpoint, but deservedly so. I think this is an extremely worthwhile discussion, so please avail yourselves of the various perspectives. And as always - don't forget to ask the Holy Spirit for His Thoughts, either! *Grin*
Some of you may already be aware of this, but for those of you who aren't, Pope Francis made the decision to have the Mass of the Lord's Supper outside St. Peter's Basilica this Holy Thursday.
I'll be honest. I'm not happy about this. I'm not happy about this at all.
Before you start calling me a Pope Francis hater, let me explain.
Holy Thursday Mass is the kickoff of our most sacred season - Triduum. This is the Mass in which we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist and Holy Orders - two Sacraments that exist for one another. Without one, the other cannot exist. Priests are ordained specifically to bring the Eucharist to their people, and the Eucharist exists only on account of those men blessed to be ordained for the duty.
Holy Thursday Mass is no thing to trifle with. Being such a sacred and blessed time in our history, this specific celebration deserves to be treated in the most dignified and respectful manner. Offering this Mass in St. Peter's is what has been done as tradition because, frankly, this Mass is worthy of St. Peter's. If no other Mass is offered in St. Peter's for the rest of the year, THIS ONE SHOULD BE.
I mean, if the Church dictates that Catholic marriage ceremonies not take place outside a church, how is it suddenly OK to have THE MOST IMPORTANT MASS OF THE YEAR in a juvenile prison?!
I get what he's trying to do. He's really big into humility and publicly showing folks that it's necessary and important to care for "the least among us. I'm all for that!
I am not, however, all for neglecting to pay Christ and His Sacraments homage in the manner dictated to us by Tradition (one of our three pillars of Church Authority). I feel this is a misstep on the part of our new Pontiff. It is really disappointing to me. As a Church, God gifted us things like the Basilica of St. Peter specifically so we COULD celebrate with splendor the very special graces afforded to us through the Eucharist and Holy Orders.
I can't help but think he's a little too gung-ho with this whole "Let's toss all tradition aside so I can prove to the public that as the newly elected leader of the Church, I turn away from finer things and ignore past traditions" in an attempt to regain the trust of a very jaded and unhappy world.
Again, I don't think his reasoning is terrible. I really don't. I think we really do need someone to stand up and put an end to the ridiculousness going on in the Church. That being said, we should not be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
We're talking about JESUS and His institution of the Eucharist and Holy Orders. This is Holy Thursday Mass.. the beginning of our Triduum - the opening Mass that sets the stage for Good Friday and Holy Saturday. To offer it in a detention center where you'd only fit a handful of people (successfully closing off the service to the crowds that would have been able to gather in St. Peter's) and replacing the retired priests with children to have their feet washed... I just feel like this is going three steps too far on the "Look how humble and willing to buck tradition I am, so don't worry, the Church will be back to its humble and poor-loving self soon" scale.
Holy Father, I'm praying for you because you've got quite the job to do. I pray you're able to clean up the mess you've been left and I'm still hoping your intentions on this are pure and true. Your decision, however, has truly, truly unsettled me. My heart is not at ease.
And I realize I'm the odd man out for calling out this decision since your reasons seem so justifiable. You want to serve the "least among us" and the societal "rejects." You choose troubled children, and how can anyone take issue with such an endearing and gentle display of charity?
I get that I'm in the minority on this, but I can't help but express my discontent, especially given that the washing of the feet is an act Jesus used specifically to prepare and ordain his chosen 12 for their priestly duties. The tradition of washing the feet of retired priests was a beautiful symbol of and testament to this fact!
And also keep in mind Our Lord's appreciation for the woman's actions at Bethany. She poured the entire contents of extremely expensive perfume over Christ to anoint Him. Judas grumbled at her "wastefulness," but Jesus defended her for her actions. She was blessed with something special by God, and she wanted to give back without thought to cost. She simply wanted to offer the finest of what she had to He who had given her so much.
This is a righteous action in the Eyes of the Lord. This is not wasteful and it is not prideful and it is not arrogant. It is taking the gifts God granted and using them to shower splendor and blessings back upon Him. All that we have - all that we are - are meant to honor and glorify the Lord. She did just that, even though some accused her of extravagance.
Oh, Holy Father, my heart breaks at the thought of relegating this most sacred Mass to a jail cell that is barren of sacred relics, sacred artwork, sacred vessels, and even the legions of faithful who would gather to celebrate the Lord's Supper. If we do not allow for such a thing to occur with marriages, how can we allow such a thing to happen for Holy Thursday Mass?
In a place that is already barren of Catholicism, how will those children come to understand the importance of the procession after Holy Thursday Mass where the sanctuary is stripped of its ornamentation, artwork and finery... sentenced to suffer the same death and tomb of Her Eternal Bridegroom? These traditions are in place because they are important... they are educational... and they are pleasing to God because this is the manner in which He saw fit to remind us of His Sacrifice so that we might grow closer to His Heart of Love.
The thought of this brings actual tears to my eyes. This seems wrong. Everything about this seems wrong, wrong, wrong. My heart cannot quiet its echoing cry of discontent.
Fun at the Franklin Institute
Vince has been very sick the last few days. He's been cuddled against Mommy with a 103 degree fever, total sinus congestion, and all sorts of little aches since Saturday afternoon. My poor baby!
He's starting to feel a bit more like himself, thank God.
Before he came down with this nasty little bug, I had taken him to The Franklin Institute for the first time! Since John was off meeting one of his childhood idols that day, I got to spend a whole day with my little munch - something we haven't really done in a while.
So I packed him up and took him into Philly to explore the Institute.
For those of you who have never been, it's a great place for kids to get hands on experience with science in action. They've got rooms set up to tackle topics like global weather patterns, static electricity, the circulatory system and aviation. My favorite part of the Institute has always been the planetarium. Vince enjoyed looking at the planets and seeing a brief video about black holes, but he was more interested in the train room. In the train room, there are real locomotives that you can climb aboard and look at. Vince must've climbed aboard at least a dozen times! He even got to try his hand at turning one of the giant wheels!
He also got a big kick out of the circulatory room. This room is probably the most famous one the Institute has simply based on the "maze" they have that follows the path blood takes through the human heart. It's a massive exhibit that allows you to walk through a model heart... tracing your way through arteries, the lungs and eventually veins and back through the heart again. Vince was scared of the heart, but he adored the exercise equipment that showed you how you could "get your heart racing" in order to promote good health!
He wasn't too fond of the aviation room. At first he was a little afraid of all the wind tunnels and noises of jet engines, but once I plopped him into the pilot seat of the old plane they've got hanging from the ceiling, he changed his tune a bit. :)
Once we finished in the aviation room, we stopped to get a quick bite to eat in the atrium. This served to fuel the little munch for his romp in the Sports Center! I let him take the marble steps instead of the elevator so I could show him the huge pendulum swinging down through three flights of spiraling stairs. The pendulum swings due to the motion of the earth. Every morning, dominoes are set up in a perfect circle around the pendulum. As the day progresses, the tilt of the earth causes the pendulum to switch direction almost imperceptibly. The tiles get knocked down little by little as the pendulum shifts to account for the spin of the earth. Vince got a kick out of seeing it!
However, he enjoyed running up the stairs a lot more. Maybe he felt like Rocky Balboa!
The sports room is probably where he had the most fun. I got several fun shots of him playing around in there! All over are jerseys of sports celebrities, footprints of basketball players and various statistics of some of Philadelphia's best loved athletes. Vince didn't much care about any of that. He just wanted to play on all the cool stuff!
However, even having all that fun in the sports room, he still wanted to head back to the trains. So, we headed back to the trains to have some more fun on the old locomotives!
So yeah - as you can see God was very good to give us this fun little adventure before his little body got caught up in this whole being sick business. I keep telling him that when he gets better, we'll go back and see the trains again. Without fail he forgets he's sick and smiles so big! He really loves those trains!
If any of you are ever in the area, the Franklin Institute is a great place to stop by (even if you don't have kids!). A few weeks ago, some friends and I attended one of their traveling exhibits - the Titanic. Last year it was the Dead Sea Scrolls. This spring I'm taking John to see one about Spies and all the different spy gadgets governments have created over the years.
It's really such a great place and I can't wait to take Vince again when he's feeling better!
Agonizing Crucifix II
I had planned to mark some of my CCD tests at lunch today, so I brought my CCD bag into work with me. I still had the Agonizing Crucifix with me, and one of my coworkers saw Jesus' head popping over the top.
He sorta recoiled while asking "What kind of cross is that?"
I pulled him out, happy to share one of my prized crucifixes. I said, "This is an Agonizing Crucifix. It portrays Jesus more realistically than the clean, pristine corpus models you see on most crucifixes."
I hadn't really thought anything of it, but he was legitimately disturbed by it. I left him to ponder the crucifix while I made my coffee. When I got back, the crucifix was on my desk and I thought nothing more of it as I got to work answering the thousand e-mails in my folder.
A few moments later, a mini crowd had gathered at my desk. Everyone wanted to see the "controversial crucifix" I had brought in that was apparently "too much," "distasteful" or "unnecessary."
I tried to explain the reason such a crucifix is a great reminder to have handy - ESPECIALLY during Lent. It's important to remember all that went into Christ's Sacrifice, but my coworkers unanimously agreed that such a graphic display of torture was pointless and horrid. One went so far as to cut out a robe for Christ to drape over His Wounds.
I took no offense to their reaction, mind you. In fact, I pointed out that their reaction is exactly what it should have been. We SHOULD be unsettled by such a visual. We SHOULD be uncomfortable to witness the agony His Body endured for us. To witness the effects of our personal sins on the One Who came to save us... it should be an experience from which your eyes wish to turn away from.
Your soul, however, should be what pulls you back. Your heart should be what directs your eyes back to His Sacrifice because your heart and soul, both lovingly created by the Father of all, beckons them with His Love that pours out unceasingly from the Body of His Son.
His Sacrifice was not pretty - it was not easy - and it was not the beatific scenes imagined by our Renaissance masters. His Sacrifice was gritty, dirty, painful and evil... and it was completely borne faithfully with unimaginable Love.
Blessed be the Lord.
And if anyone is curious like my coworkers were about my willingness to show this to my own son, Vincent has already seen it. He knows Jesus had "lots of boo boos" because He fought the bad guy and He won so we can be together in Heaven one day. Jesus is our hero.
I don't have it hanging in Vincent's nursery, but I don't hide from him Christ's sacrifice, either. As he gets older, I'll obviously explain more, but I think he's got a pretty good handle on the reason for Jesus' boo boos.
Agonizing Crucifix I
I have this question I ask my CCD students every year as we begin to study the Stations of the Cross / Sorrowful Mysteries:
How many wounds did Jesus have while hanging on the Cross?
Without fail I always get the same few answers.
"Four" (Two Hands / Feet)
"Five" (Hands, Feet + Side)
"Like ten or twenty" (Hands, Feet, Side + pricks from the crown of thorns)
After they exhaust the answers above, I pull out this crucifix:
Without fail, the class recoils. Faces scrunch up in horror, disbelief and disgust. Almost immediately their hands begin to shoot into the air, all signaling the same exact question:
"Miss G, why is He all covered in Blood?!"
I then remind my students that Jesus' Passion did not begin and end on the Cross. Jesus endured so much more than being nailed to a cross for our Salvation. He was beaten, scourged, kicked, punched, spat upon, bullied and whipped well before He even saw the Cross.
You see, the crucifixes we display in churches and homes are not typically graphic. As a result, we tend to "pretty up" the garish Sacrifice God made for us. We lose sight of the reality of what His Sacrifice really meant.
I didn't show my children this crucifix to get a reaction from them - I showed it to them as a stark visual reminder of the suffering that went into Christ's physical sacrifice. Too frequently we speak about His Death with a twinge of sadness and then move on to say "But hey, that's over now because He rose and now none of that horrible stuff matters! Jesus suffered so you don't have to!"
No. This crucifix reminds us that Christ's Sacrifice was VERY real, VERY graphic, VERY inhuman, and VERY necessary.
Our sin is what disfigured Our Lord in this manner. Our sin is what caused the strips of flesh to be scourged from His bones. Our sin is what pressed the Crown of Thorns onto His Precious Head. Our sin is what kicked, whipped and spat upon Him as He made His Way along the Via Dolorosa.
This crucifix brought all of that front and center for my class, and suddenly the Stations of the Cross became a lot more meaningful for them as a result.
They understood why He fell so many times. They understood why Simon was needed to help Him carry His Cross along. They understood, then, why Our Lady's heart must have broken a thousand times over seeing Her Son disfigured in such a cruel manner... and why St. Veronica was doing such a service to Him by cleaning His Face with her veil.
Seeing this crucifix colored their meditation more than any amount of explanation I could've done.
For those of you who do not know this crucifix's origins, a seer by the name of Barnabas Nowye of Nigeria was commissioned by Christ to create a crucifix that would remind this generation of the reality of His Sacrifice. The Lord lamented to Barnabas that we as a people have forgotten just how much He spent Himself in gaining for us the gift of Salvation. We no longer reflect with true solemnity because we cannot envision all that His Love called forth for us.
So He showed Himself to Barnabas and Barnabas recreated as best he could what he saw. Jesus then asked him to write the words "I am the agonizing Jesus Christ who loves you" on the cross, itself. Indeed, He is the agonizing messiah. Christ came for one reason and for one reason only - to suffer, die and rise for our Salvation. Each step He took was a movement towards that terrifying, torturous Sacrifice. In order for us to fully appreciate His Gift, we need to fully understand what went into securing it.
Liturgical Calendar w/ Beads
I'm currently teaching my kids about the Liturgical Calendar. I wanted to do something more hands on for them to help them better understand how colors and season work together to tell the story of Jesus' Life.
Since I have a plethora of colored beads on-hand (these are given as rewards that kids can exchange for treats), I figured a beaded liturgical calendar was in order!
I pulled some yarn and cut them into strips about 12 inches long. I then had the kids sort the colored beads into their proper seasons and string them, in order, onto the yarn. Once completed, they tied their ends together to create an easy to follow (and portable!) liturgical calendar!
These are what the looked like:
The best part about these (aside from how cheap and easy they are to make), is they can be customized to suit the level of your children!
Older kids can do a calendar that features Holy Days of Obligation (the above is only Sundays plus the Triduum). Or maybe they want to do the ENTIRE calendar and see if they can't coordinate the feasts of martyrs, the Blessed Mother and other saints while still paying attention to season.
I was so pleased with how these turned out that I plan to do one with Vincent! He'll enjoy stringing the beads, and even though he doesn't have much concept of Church colors, we can match them each week when we go to Mass so he can begin to "follow along" in his own way.
So there's my liturgical craft for the night. You folks enjoy!
A Question on Those Three Fingers
One of my new favorite people in the world asked me a great question this morning.
We had been talking about using three fingers for the Sign of the Cross about a week ago. It's something a lot of people either don't know or have simply forgotten over time.
However, after talking about it, he's more aware. I told him to look out for the priest at the end of Mass to bless with his three fingers raised because the priest acknowledges that the blessing is actually coming from the Trinity (God) and he is simply an instrument of His Blessing.
My friend then said, "Well why do they use their whole hand when they bless the bread and wine at Mass?"
I said, "That's a great question! They use their whole hand because they aren't really blessing the bread and wine; Christ is."
Since the priest acts in persona Christi, we understand (as faithful Catholics) that the priest, though present, is simply a vessel through which Jesus, Himself, comes to Consecrate.
The priest calls Christ from Heaven to consecrate. Only God can make God. Thus, the priest, being endowed with the privilege and responsibility to call forth Christ from Heaven, doesn't create God from bread and wine. He calls forth Christ and gives himself over to Him for the benefit of his people. Thus, when the priest blesses using all of his fingers, we understand that it is really Christ doing the consecration. It is Jesus who creates Himself in place of the bread and wine.
And that, my friends, is why the hand gesture is different during consecration. THAT is why the priest uses his whole hand. It's because he's allowing Christ to utilize the physical form of his body to enable Christ to pass along His Sacred Blessing.
Ah - to be a priest is to consent to a daily form of the Annunciation. Each time he says Mass, he briefly contains within himself a bit of the divinity that Mary must have acknowledged when she said "Fiat" and opened herself to the mystery of the Incarnation. Her consent to allow God to use her physical body for His greatest blessing parallels nicely with that of the priest sacrificing his physical body to allow God to manifest the mystery of the Eucharist.
And upon completion of this mystery, he (again, in persona Christi) offers this Sacrifice up to God the Father to bear forth salvation (or more rightly, bear us forth to the gift of Salvation). This is why the priest lifts the chalice and patten (or ciborium, I guess). Christ, in the person of the priest, offers Himself to His Father at the Last Supper. It's why the priest suddenly changes to first-person pronouns, too.
Our theology is so deep - so beautiful - that I could happily meditate on it for hours. EVERYTHING is meaningful. EVERYTHING is a reflection of our faith.
Never forget that.
Giveaway Bust and Insight
This is slightly embarrassing.
But I guess mortification is good for the soul, right?
I was talking to a friend of mine this morning about how my Giveaway for Michaelmas has gotten absolutely zero traction. I couldn't figure out why. My other contests have at least gotten some sort of action. This one, though? Zip.
So I asked her, "Why do you think that is? Did I do something wrong? Are my 'prizes' sucky?"
She gave me some interesting feedback that I hadn't thought of before (being new to all this "contest" stuff).
She said that books and cards are seen as "low value." They're "pointless" for us bloggers to give away because they're seen as cheaper than an entrant's information. Folks could easily purchase the book or the deck of cards from Amazon or something for a paltry fee, and they wouldn't have to fork over effort to get them. It's a sure thing, and all they'd need to do would be to give consent because Amazon (or wherever) already had their information.
My blog, however, does not. It doesn't store anyone's information, and getting the items isn't a sure thing (though in this case, it might end up being). They'd also have to see my face on Twitter / Facebook or whatever just to get an entry, and lots of people don't like the added hassle of connecting to yet another pointless page on Facebook.
Hand-made items, like earrings, on the other hand - those tend to do well for blog give-aways because they're personal. You can't get them anywhere else, and it's always nice to own something from a blogger you've come to know through their online musings.
Point taken - I've enjoyed very much the things I've gotten from bloggers who offer unique and beautiful things online.
I asked her why, then, folks weren't entering even if it was just for the earrings. I mean, I've gotten a few orders this past week, and not one of those who ordered entered the contest (so I was confused... people obviously wanted the earrings... but I guess they didn't want to chance not getting a free set?).
She said it was because the chances were greater that they'd get one of the "sucky" items, which cancelled out their desire to enter.
That was interesting. I'd never thought of it that way before. She gave me a lot to think about, and I'm happy for her honest feedback. It makes a lot more sense, especially seeing my stats every day remain about the same, but no sort of "activity."
So my quandry... should I take down the contest early and create a separate one for earrings, or should I leave the original one up in the interest of fairness (since I did say I'd be pulling names on Michaelmas)?
Anyone else have this sort of issue when they've run contests in the past?
Ah well. Even if you haven't, this is good food for thought in case you folks have any ideas of looking to host one in the future. *Grin*
Prayer Order - Does it Matter?
I feel like at one point in time, we've all been guilty of this.
Or maybe you're all just way better people than I am, and I'm the only one who has ever decided to go the route of lazy and cut corners during prayer.
Ever hear the story of the Fatima children who would say their rosaries every day by simply saying the first two words of every prayer down the line? "Our Father, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary..." and so on.
I remember reading that story when I was very young and thinking to myself, What a great idea! only to realize a few pages later that Our Lady didn't look too kindly on such half-hearted lip service. I remember then simply feeling like a jerk for having applauded their misguided 'brilliance.'
Anyway, I try to pray one rosary and one Divine Mercy chaplet every day. When I know I'm going to be particularly busy, I've said both Apostle's Creeds (one for the rosary, and one for the chaplet) together, then said 2 Our Fathers and 4 Hail Marys plus another 2 Glory Bes in order to "get them out of the way" so I'm able to focus on the "meat" of the rosary and chaplet later on.
And I wondered... should I be cutting up and reorganizing my prayers like that? After all, we were given them in a certain format for a reason, right?
The way we say our prayers and the order we say them in are significant. As I've always taught my class, EVERYTHING we do as Catholics (from how we position ourselves during prayer to the format and wording of those prayers) has significance.
So lumping stuff together isn't ideal... nor is it proper.
Think about it. Would you want the priest to lump together the Intercessions with the Penitential Rite just because he thought the Mass might go a little quicker that way? Or maybe on his way up during the Procession, he just swiped the bread and wine from the credence table instead of waiting around for the Offertory?
Of course not. We'd be losing some very key expressions of faith should he do any of these things. The same is true when we pray our rosaries and chaplets out of order.
I know I've touched on this briefly in Part 3 of my Rosary series, but it fits today's topic. The ordering of our prayers is another expression - another deepening - of our faith and our understanding of that faith. The ordering calls us to contemplate and rejoice in a rhythmic fashion. Each decade serves to draw us deeper into the picture of God's plan for our personal salvation. Saying the prayers as they're meant to be said is like taking a stethoscope to God's Heart as it beats lovingly for each and every one of us.
Sign of the Cross - As always, be begin our prayers by marking ourselves with the sign of His Victory... His Passion of mercy and love.
Apostle's Creed - We remind ourselves of our faith and renew the promises of our baptism.
Our Father - Using the words of Christ, we call upon God the Father to "give us this day our daily bread." Being in the 'eternal now,' though we are praying within the confines of a finite sphere of time, God is able to know and see these prayers throughout eternity. Thus, though we ask Him for our daily bread on a Thursday in September of 2012, God has foreseen this prayer from eternity. As we pray this before each decade, we unwittingly ask for the gifts each mystery reminds us that He has already bestowed.
Hail Mary - This blessed prayer is Christ-centric.
Glory Be - Again, remembering that God is in the eternal now, when we say this prayer of praise and thanksgiving, we are supposed to be thanking Him for the decade's particular mystery and whatever intentions we had going into that decade.
See the cycle?
Placing ourselves before God, the Sign of the Cross is like us putting the stethoscope to our ears in anticipation of listening to His Heart.
The Apostle's Creed is the tell-tale sign of His Love.
As we motion through the decades, the steady rhythm of petitioning for salvation (Our Father), God's answer to our petition through the various mysteries (Hail Mary) and our subsequent praise and thanksgiving for His active mercy through history (Glory Be) are like the gentle vibrations of Divine Love. Our God is a living God, and His movements are eternally present. Thus, our prayers are eternally present as well.
We'll never know just how far-reaching our prayers are until we get to Heaven and see the 10 or 20 forgotten Purgatory souls we've helped reach the Gates... or the 5 lost souls who would have continued along the path of perdition had you not done a daily offering... or maybe even the terrible accident you helped to mitigate for your great, great, great, great grand-daughter because you piously recited the Divine Mercy chaplet for all sinners past, present and future.
Never underestimate the power of prayer... especially prayers given to us by Heaven in a specific format. These formats are given to us for the holy purpose of helping us to better understand God's Love and Mercy.
So I've been making a much more concerted effort to recite my prayers in their proper order, but I figured I'd post this in the event that anyone else was like me and had attempted to "cut corners" every once in a while.
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