I'm recounting the afternoon because although there were some big bumps in the road, we survived the "drive" and had a beautiful experience. I am sad that we weren't able to participate in the Holy Week Missions this year, like in 2006 and 2007. But I am praying for their success in other cities around the world, and offering these days with my family for the souls of those who will be touched by missionaries this Holy Week. My own experience of the "passion" of Good Friday according to Blair...
2:00 pm--Start preparing kids for church. Let MC choose her dress, choose a similar dress for Ellie. Miraculously dress them and fix their hair without too much fuss (well, they were watching a DVD). Get in the car by 2:35! Yay!
2:52 pm--Arrive on the street of our church. There is a LONG line of cars at the stop sign near the church. Oh, no. It's going to be a crowded one. We park in the farthest area of the lot, on the other side of the school. Mary Clare is asleep. I wake her up and try to get her out of the car. She gets out of her seat and falls to the floor, asleep. Thankfully a family rode up on their bikes, which gave her enough interest to step out of the car. We walk the long sidewalk around the school to the church, trying to go as fast as possible with a sleepy 5 year-old, a 2 year-old holding 2 of her blankies, a 3 month-old in a sling, and his burp rag, blanket, and diaper bag over my shoulder. I'm already exhausted.
2:57 pm--Make a smart decision to go to the right side of the church where there are still a handful of spots available in our huge T-shaped church. I go up to the 4th row and ask politely if the spots are available next to a young mom with her little boy laying in her lap and 2 girls on the other side of her. She grins. Deep breath. We found our spot just as the side isles fill up with standing parishioners, and the Good Friday service begins.
3:00 pm--A drum beats loudly every 5 seconds as the 75 or so altar servers followed by the priests and deacons follow slowly into the sanctuary. Mary Clare starts crying because she is scared of the drum sound. Ellie says loudly, "I have to go poo poo! I have to go poo poo!" I feel the baby go poo poo in his diaper. Those around me start to smile. The lady next to me offers for her older daughter to take Ellie to the restroom. "I have to change his diaper too, but thanks we'll be right back," I whisper. I wonder if we should just leave; am I crazy for trying this alone? We walk past the standing families, out the side door, back around to the front of the church, and into the bathroom.
3:05 pm--Ellie goes in the restroom stall. "It doesn't work," she responds about her bowels. Mary Clare thankfully decides to use the restroom now, so maybe we'll avoid another trip back here. I change the baby's diaper and clothes (the 3-6mos outfit I had put on him earlier was way too small). We venture back into our spot in the church as quietly as possible. There are children at this service, but it's a somber, reflective one. Another deep breath. We listen to the readings, the psalm "Father, I put my life in your hands," and the long Gospel of the Passion according to John. Antiphons are sung throughout, "O Sacred head surrounded by crown of piercing thorn. O bleeding head so wounded, reviled and put to scorn." Ellie starts again, "I have to go potty."
3:20 pm--Take the long walk back to the restroom. Ellie goes into the stall alone and locks the door. "It works!" she joyfully responds. Then she scooches over to get the toilet paper and the bottom of her dress falls into the toilet. She's wet but doesn't complain too much. I have another dress for her but it's in the bag in the pew. Oh well. I try to dry Ellie off a little with some paper towels. We start walking out the restroom door when she says, "I have to wash my hands!!!" A lady offers to lift her; I tell her she's wet. "Oh, that's okay," she says. We make it out of the restroom.
3:40 pm--Before entering back into the church I decide that maybe we should stay outside during the homily. The girls are yelling and fighting over who gets to open the door. I know the baby is hungry, so I find a shady spot on the concrete to sit and nurse him. The girls run around and play in the grass and sandy spots digging with sticks, looking for bugs. People standing in the back of the church can see them and are glaring, but I don't mind. A lady with a baby walks out and says, "Sometimes as mothers our vocation keeps us outside of the church!" "Yep, you do what you gotta do," I respond.
4:00 pm--I notice that they've moved into the intercessions, during which there is kneeling after each petition. I decide we'll go in after that's over. We arrive at the door and Ellie yells, "Sand in my shoes!" We take off her sandals and I attempt to put them back on (buckles!) while leaning over and finally plop back on the sidewalk, scooching over for our insurance agent and his baby boy to pass by.
4:20 pm--They carry the big wooden cross up to the empty altar. The girls stand in the isle to see it. The Veneration of the Cross begins. We sing, "Behold, behold the wood of the Cross, on which is hung our salvation." I ask Ellie if she wants to go kiss the cross. We follow the procession up to the altar. Ellie leans down as I do to kiss the cross. Hail O Cross, our only hope! As I start to walk away, she kneels down again to kiss the cross a second time. So sweet. I somehow make it down the steps of the altar without tripping...baby asleep in sling, and Ellie veering in other directions. We sing the verse they learned at First Friday class this month, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Ellie loves it and sings loudly. Mary Clare reflects, "Ellie loves Jesus twice as much because she kissed the cross twice!" I respond, "Well, you can still love Jesus very much even if you don't want to kiss the cross (she didn't). You can even kiss him in your heart! Or kiss the crucifix on my necklace (she does)."
4:45 pm--Communion begins. Ellie now has her sandals off. I try to put them back on. "I would really like it if you put your shoes on to walk back up for communion," I state. She refuses. (Note that the girls were quiet but very antsy during all of the service) We follow up to communion. Deacon blesses all the children and I receive Our Lord in the Eucharist. Hail Our Savior's glorious Body! We start walking back to our pew but Ellie wants to stand in the front and watch others receive. I grab her hand, I try to pull her off. She falls to the floor and yells. I let go and start to walk off, hoping she'll follow. She does. Deep breath. Everyone is smiling at me and thankfully our friend is right behind us; I'm sure we were backing up the communion line.
5:00 pm--The service ends. We made it through! The sweet mom next to me raves about how well behaved they were and how brave I was to go with all three of them. I ask if she has 2 girls and a boy. "Yes," she responds. She knows what it's like. I smile and we gather our things. Ellie keeps mentioning wanting to find those boys with wack (black) hair. I realize later she was talking about the big family behind us...the boys were making faces at her when she was lying down on the pew. We make it out to the plaza where I find a bench to nurse SJ again while the girls run around and I watch all the families talking.
5:15 pm--A familiar face walks up. This older lady had talked to the girls and I before, though I've never met her. She asks about the baby's name and how he's doing, raves about the girls, and is just so excited to see us again. We see some friends and visit for awhile. Then Ellie has a head-on facial collision with a friend's little girl while playing in the fountain (there was no water in it!).
5:20 pm--Another lady walks up with a Latin accent. "Oh, where you get this (my sling)? And I saw you with another one and I watched you putting it on (she mimics me wrapping my Moby around, I remember her staring at me at Palm Sunday Mass). Oh, this is a great thing. Babies love being with their mom, they were in you 9 months. I have 5 kids. Now they all grown. Ah, I know it's so hard right now when they little. But I tried to make things fun. You remember, they don't care if the clothes have name brands. They don't need the fancy toys. They play with all the silly things most. They don't need a beautiful house. You know my daughter turns 24 tomorrow. She called me last night and reminded me how I used to make special pancakes for Easter, and heart ones for Valentine's. They weren't perfect, didn't look like hearts. But that's what they remember. They don't remember the dirty floor. You remember, don't worry about a clean house!" Just what I needed to hear.
5:40 pm--I finally convince the girls to go back to the car. We make our way slowly around the school and back into the hot minivan. We made it through. God is good.
If it hadn't been for reading that beautiful post, I'm not sure I could've done this without losing my cool. Melissa linked another page that discusses these parenting philosophies and has an audio talk at the bottom which I'm trying to listen to as I type. I'm feeling better about my natural way of parenting and more hopeful that I can continue to see each interaction and each challenge as a way to connect with my children and a way to show them how to handle things and how to show them the love of God. I am so thankful for this special time I am privileged to share with my children...as I'm getting to know myself and them, and figuring out how to best parent them and school them according to God's design for our own family. May I hear that still small voice leading me, and trust in his love for me and his will for the good of my family.