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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Pancake Day

I'm noodling through what to give up for Lent. I use the word noodle figuratively because I could give up those edible worms easily. I would miss coffee and wine much, much more.

And in talking about Lenten sacrifices, I hope I'm not doing just what we're told not to do - look forlorn and seek attention for what we're giving up or giving. I do not mean it that way. I swear. Swear in a promise (not cursing) way. You know what I'm saying.

One year I gave up salt, another year I gave up sweets. That really didn't do much because I just loaded up on savories. Most of those sacrifices weren't prayerful efforts to take Lent into my heart. Here we are still learning to live a little differently, so I wonder what I could give up that would be genuinely missed. I have already unintentionally given up margaritas. (And that is big. The only thing that would make a margarita more perfect is a jolt of caffeine. A peppy, boozy slurpee trimmed in salt? Yum!) Also guacamole has already gone by the wayside for us of late. Even more, my mother always taught us that just as important as sacrificing during Lent is doing good. We'll have do lots of that this year.

When Biggest Brother was enrolled in a wonderful preschool at our church in Virginia, I would run in with the 2 little boys (Big Brother just a baby then) like I was on fire. At about 9:15 in the morning. As I fiddled with two whole car seats and exactly one school bag, I was in awe of a mother who would cheerfully unload her van of many, many well groomed smalls and walk into church to attend daily Mass together. How? I wondered most mornings. Honestly, sometimes I also wondered why?

But during Lent that year, I thought that (baby) Big Brother and I should stay for Mass. We were already there. A tradition began. So since I've had preschoolers, I've gone to daily Mass during Lent.

Stop right there. I know what you're thinking. This is taking what people already hate about Mommy Bloggers to a whole new level, right?  Here comes a new one saying that she keeps house, has perfectly charming children, loves arts and crafts and hooray, me, also attends Mass every day!? Are you kidding? I hear you choking across the Atlantic! I do. But stick with me. It is me. Not that you need to be disabused of my children's charms, but I'm certain you've seen most members of my family (namely me) acting poorly. And if you need a recent reminder of our shared lack of grace, see also Big Sister's marathon meltdown and my 20 minutes of ineffective mothering post.

Besides, you already know that I do not do a whole lot more around the house than I enjoy, that my children try to avoid my cooking most days, and that I basically try to recruit them to enjoy pursuits and places that I do, too. So I promise you this is the last spot you'll read holier than thou sentiments. Nothing like that.

The original idea was that it would be a sacrifice for me to give up some free time afforded with a child out of the house at preschool. Time I could be at the gym (remind me again what a gym is?) or grabbing a latte with a baby who wouldn't also want a treat.

But the joke was on me. Turns out, going to daily Mass isn't the least bit of sacrifice as it has become a gift to myself. That peace you feel at church - especially after communion - the lightness and joy with which you leave church, the apologizing and beginning again, the quiet shared reflection, the exuberant offering of peace to others, is mine every day during Lent. Wow. What a blessing. Every morning. I've also made such nice friends among those who attend daily Mass and always feel most connected to my parish then (also during Vacation Bible School but that now feels as foreign to me as a gym. Someday again though, I'm sure I'll visit a gym and spend happy summer weeks in VBS.)

It might surprise you who goes to church every morning. It did me. There are assuredly lots of retirees who are greatly bonded from being churchgoers over a lifetime together, young parents with fidgety babies and toddlers, and plenty of working folks headed to the widget factory with God's grace.  Everyone is spirited (no pun intended) and welcoming. Mass is efficient. Light on singing, heavy on fellowship.

Last year, I deemed myself too busy to keep up my Lenten tradition. In retrospect, I should have prioritized it as I know what goodness it brings me. Knowing that encourages me to make it work this year. That won't be easy. Our church, which is across the street from our school and a 15 minute walk (if I'm solo) from home, celebrates Mass at 7:15 a.m. - exactly an hour before the kids and I leave for school - and 12:30 p.m. - just about when I should be trying to get Baby Sister to nap. Neither of those times will be convenient, but I will strive to make something work, because I need it.

We've talked about how to help the children prepare this year for Lent. Tomorrow we'll all get ashes with our school friends. Today is Pancake Day at school. Children all over the UK will be gobbling up pancakes sprinkled with a little lemon juice and caster sugar and playing games. At home we'll be feasting Mardi Gras style (and not just because I served them breakfast for dinner last night. Poor planning on my part!) complete with lots of green, gold, and purple streamers, beads, and a faux King Cake. Instead of a cake I'm baking brownies and will hide the baby in one. I am already planning my speech for why it is ok and all part of it that EVERYONE WILL NOT FIND A TINY BABY JESUS IN THEIR BROWNIE. THERE IS ONLY ONE. THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN. Also that should Baby Sister be the lucky recipient, she is not to try to eat said plastic Baby Jesus. Because I don't have a party store nearby to get a bag 'o replacement plastic babies for future years and I was the sole person standing watch for weeks after she swallowed a marble once.

So whether it is living without or doing more good, here comes a chance for renewal. That seems like a gift already. Meanwhile, watch that your beads don't get in the syrup!

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