zoning in

We had an eventful first day of Lent in very unexpected ways.  I am deeply thankful for the kind individuals, practically strangers, who surrounded me in a particularly difficult parenting moment.  They made all the difference.  Even so, by the end of the day I had cried over the phone with two friends and my mom.  One friend and I discussed the way a terribly difficult and humiliating experience can be softened by kindness.  It’s so true.  I was surrounded by kindness and compassion yesterday and for that I am very grateful.

We arrived a little late to the mid day Ash Wednesday service, but thankfully we were still able to get a seat for all eight of us.  Ash Wednesday is one of my favorite days.  I love the Mass.  I love the feeling of hope that priming myself for change brings as we enter into the season of Lent.  I typically don’t give things up for Lent, I prefer to add things, extra prayers or reading material.  But this morning first thing, I knew that I wanted to give something up, and that in giving it up there might be more room for adding those prayers or books.  Jonny and I used to spend our evenings so quietly.  We don’t have a television and that helped.  But over the past year, as it has become so easy to “watch instantly” on the computer we have found ourselves watching a little something (or a lot) each evening.  For Lent, I’m giving up my evening “watch time” and Jonny is too.  So often a stressful day has me just wanting to zone out, but what if instead we zone in?  A little quiet each night may do us a world of good.

I’ll confess right now, I didn’t start any Lenten reading with my kids yesterday.  We did well to pull the books out (I added my usual Lenten reading list to my sidebar if you’re interested) and make it to Mass.  I did stop at the store on the way home to buy toothpicks for our crown of thorns.  I’ve made one from dough in the past, but found it very difficult to remove the “thorns.”  The idea is that each time one of our children makes a little sacrifice , they can remove a thorn from Jesus’ crown.  My friend Margaret, whom I have mentioned here before (she’s the enthusiastic one!) recently started a blog.  I think people have been begging her to for years.  (Thank you, Margaret!)  Her latest post shares her family’s traditions for Lent, and one of them is making a crown of thorns from a grapevine wreath.  How perfect, and much simpler than the dough version.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!



  1. Well, that sounds like a typical day to me. 😉 Truly, those days are so tough, one feels like the ultimate failure, but then the sun rises on a new day and everything seems lovely again (although not without a bit of scar tissue). I hope this is how it has gone or you.

    I wanted to recommend a lovely book that my family has enjoyed reading the past two Lenten seasons – Amon’s Adventures, by ??? Ytreede (I know I’m spelling his last name incorrectly). We also read his Advent books. They are daily little devotions in story form, leading us always to the miracle of both seasons.


  2. Lent is definitely one of my favorite seasons of the year. More so than Advent, even. I feel the depth of it more this year. The preparation seems so necessary. It’s also my first year as a mother so maybe that plays into it.
    I know what you mean about zone out evening time. My husband and I are the exact same. No TV, but we watch online… it’s such a distraction. Good for you giving that up.

  3. I love that idea…zoning in, instead of zoning out. We too don’t have a TV, but have found that we have begun watching so much more on iPads, etc. Oh the tricky convenience of technology….

    Blessed Lent to you.

  4. I love seeing your ash Wednesday rear view mirror pic every year! Parenting and humility go hand in hand, so glad you were surrounded by kindness in the moment. It does have the power to make all the difference. Tears help too as do good friends to cry to.


  5. Lovely, lovely photos…we always do a combination of giving up and adding on for Lent. As a family, we give up desserts on all days but Sundays and solemnities. Each of us tries to find one bad habit to try to give up, one good habit to develop and we have a jar we fill with beans for our little mortifications (they turn into gourmet jelly beans on Easter morning!)

    I have a grapevine wreath and love the crown of thorns idea…but my kids would miss the annual jelly beans!

  6. Why did I never think of the grapevine wreath?!? Brilliant! I was so dreading the salt dough. Now if I can just remember to buy toothpicks, I’ll be so together this Lent. It’s going to be so great 🙂

  7. Lovely and sweet.

    I haven’t given lent as much thought this year as I did last. Last year, I was all prepared for a thoughtful and holy lent, as well as doing the 40 bags and whatever else I was thinking about. This year, I just haven’t been in that space yet (sickness and other blah stuff in the last 2 weeks no doubt contributing), but I do feel MUCH more excited about the Triduum and Easter this year than I usually do. So it seems like a trade off or something. 😉

  8. PS I too have given up streaming TV programs such as Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife (another BBC wonder!) for Lent!

  9. Dear Ginny,
    haven’t we all had those days whereby our children seem to try our very fiber … and in Church it can be the straw that nearly brakes the camel’s back. But oh what a lovely lovely place to live life – in Church – celebrating Lent and preparing the heart for Easter. I was able to go to a local Anglican parish (we are not Catholic but I tend to lean Anglo-Catholic for now, who knows where the future lies) for Ash Wednesday services. I invited three girl friends and there were five little boys under 4 years with us. It was a joy to explain to my son Blaise, in whispered hushes, all about the colors of the vestments, the stations of the cross, the bowing to the cross at it passed. In the end, he fell asleep on the pew before we took the Eucharist and missed the ashes altogether. But I was there and was so utterly blessed to share in this Mystery.

    Thank you for letting us in on the life that you live and the faith that you profess. I find it so refreshing and encouraging as I become more and more curious about the Catholic Church.



  10. Ginny, it sounds like we may have had a similar day!! Kindness from strangers is so powerful – not just for us on the receiving end but also for the strangers themselves and those who may be watching. *love*
    Pstt…I showed my girls – they couldn’t stop smiling 😉

  11. I always tell tired looking frazzeled embarrassed parents “only people who haven’t been there don’t understand) now as a grandmother raising my infant grandson I hope for the same understanding
    Bless you

  12. I don’t usually give up anything for Lent either….I pray more instead…but the ‘less computer’ idea is a very good one. We have a tv but we don’t get any channels and the children seem to be watching far too many movies from the library lately. I think we are going to focus more on reading books. Every year I always strive for ‘the family rosary’ every evening…we try hard but sometimes it just doesn’t happen every night. It is just so very beautiful when we all kneel together and pray…and especially when the little ones lead in the prayers. Wishing you a blessed Lent.

  13. I had 4 at the library alone a couple years ago. I was wearing my baby, carrying a load of books, and had a 2 year old doing the dead body in the floor meltdown. As I was trying to drag him out to the car, a very kind woman asked if she could help and scooped up my 2 year old. She carried him out to the car and even strapped him into his car seat for me. I will never forget that- she made my week!

  14. When I see parents having a tough time with kids in public, I usually give them a smile and say something like “everyone has bad days.” Just something to let them know that I’m not watching and judging, that there’s no pressure coming from me for them to feel like they have to escalate the situation to show that they are trying to deal with the screaming kid/kid who is throwing things/fighting siblings/etc.

    And I am always struck by how much of an impact it has on me when my kids go sideways. They may recover and move on, but I am left shaken and upset for hours afterwards. This parenting thing is tough! I’m glad you were able to reach out to friends and your mom. That can make a huge difference.

  15. So sorry that you had such a stressful experience. The kindness of others is always one of those things that is easy to forget how helpful it can be.

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

  16. OMGitsaClaire says:

    I can’t tell you how many times my mom has been that kind person. She’s a special education teacher who works mainly with kids with mild ASD, dyslexia, ADHD, and other learning and behavioral disorders. She was one of the first teachers in the country to try and figure out how to do inclusion with Asperger’s kids. Whenever see sees a kid freaking out or stimming in the grocery store or somewhere like that she can’t help but help the kid out. And boy does she know every trick in the book; some from various classes, workshops, and methods, and some simply from trial and error. I feel like if more people understood what’s going on with these kids, they would be more sympathetic.

  17. Good people remember that whatever happened to you, happened to them when they had children and they are helpful and sympathetic. Those that claim that it never happened to them…. lie.

    10yrs ago my children were 3 (mild ASD, barely verbal – now at 13 is normal with crappy social skills) and 1 (severe ASD but we hadn’t gone through the regression yet). The younger was in the stroller, the elder was losing it quickly as we checked out of the store and we were going home. There was an older woman ahead of us that got her things and then started talking to my eldest. I mentioned the autism, she just smiled at me and went back to talking to him. I got my purchases and she walked us to the van. She never spoke to me, only to him. She kept him busy and gave him the attention he required. When we got there she said goodbye to him, waved at me when I said “thank you” and walked away. I have no idea who she was. Was she a retired teacher, a parent of a disabled child, grandparent of a disabled child…. no idea but even 10yrs later I have never forgotten.

    Good people help. Ignore the stares they aren’t worth you time worrying about.

  18. I completely understand your zoning out. We, too, don’t have a tv and I’ve always prided myself that we don’t watch tv, but now that we can watch so many movies and tv shows on the computer, it really isn’t much different anymore. Sounds like a good thing to give up. How did you get Jonny on board? I think it might be a bit hard to get my husband to give it up.

  19. Suddenly Beatrix looks older and slimmer (in that way when they lose some of the babyish chubbiness around the face) ! A blessed Lent to you.

  20. I am sorry your day was so difficult, but hooray for kind individuals. There must have been something in the air yesterday as I almost lost my kiddos on the metro in D.C. Terrifying.

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