Our Sacred Sanctum – Home

Four years ago, my wife and I made one of the best choices of our lives. This choice was not easy, but it brought about peace. This choice cost us, but it gave us rest and safety. It was an investment that will help shape the future of our family. More importantly, it gives us the opportunity to raise our kids in the environment that we deemed best for them. I am talking about the decision to move to our current home. 

Most men want to have a place that they claim for their own. A piece of dirt they can build a safe, and comfortable life on. No matter how primitive or luxurious, a home is a special place. A sacred sanctum of sorts. A home is a place where lives are shaped and formed. We work hard to have a home. It is for this reason (I think) that men pride themselves in their ability to take care of their home. I definitely love doing projects and gain an incredible amount of satisfaction when I check one off the list. The satisfaction isn’t necessarily because there is one less thing to do, although that sure is nice. I believe that the satisfaction comes in knowing that a completed project is now giving my family more. That “more” could be a quality or quantity type thing, but ultimately it adds to the overall goal of what you aim to accomplish in your home. 

What are you trying to accomplish in your home? 

At a basic level every home needs to provide shelter and safety from the elements. Yet, one could hardly say that this is all that we want to accomplish with a home. My wife and I moved to our current home because there was more outdoor space and a bit more room in the actual house itself. However, what really drove our decision to buy this home was not primarily a physical one (the look of the home), it was driven mostly by an emotional and spiritual reality that came about by the overall aspects of this home. Let me explain. 

As human beings we are emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual beings. These elements are always working in unison. You can’t divorce them from one another, it just doesn’t work that way. When we first saw the house (the physical piece) we really didn’t like it. The house was ugly as sin indoors. The 70’s were living there and in no hurry to move out. We are more country chic, farmhouse style folk, and this place is a contemporary style home. We were able to get passed this because of the surroundings, and land (another physical element).

What really pulled us into buying this home were our neighbors. This family is one we have known for a long time and they have become essential to us. Our youngest is their goddaughter. My oldest daughter has known this family since she was six weeks old. My kids have been loved by this family in ways that I will forever be grateful for. They are truly a part of our family. The feeling (emotional) of being next door to them was literally the only reason we considered looking at this home in the first place. 

Cost was a concern initially. This mortgage would be $500 extra a month that we were not used to spending. We crunched the numbers and discussed whether this was a rational thing to do (intellectual). The house we were living in at the time was fine, and we had a ridiculously low mortgage. Why would we want to get out of that? Even though the mortgage would stretch us, we felt that this was the right thing to do. Our mind wrestled with it, but ultimately there was a deep sense of peace in making the choice to buy this house. This wasn’t the type of peace you experience when you realize you didn’t leave your keys in the car. This is the type of peace that rests in your soul. That peace that tells you no matter how scary, challenging or crazy something may seem, it…is…right. A spiritual piece is what I would call this.

Taking all that I said above, my wife and I knew that this home would be a place that could help us accomplish the hard work of raising our family. All the ingredients we perceive as necessary were there. We have not regretted the decision once. Our girls love playing outside, especially in the woods. We love seeing deer, birds, and the occasional black bear wondering through the back yard. The girls love walking through the path in the woods to our neighbors house that we cut out to make accessing them easier. During the COVID-19 lock down, we really didn’t feel like we were locked down at all. We just went outside and hung out. 

This home of ours is a tool in helping us to accomplish the mission of becoming a holy family. A family that seeks to be, as Matthew Kelly often says, “the best version of ourselves.” This home is not the end itself, but a means to that end. Everyone under this roof is a sinner and has issues. We have idiosyncrasies that make life between these four walls a challenge. There are lots of things outside of our home that also create stress. So having a home that provides a place of calm and peace is essential. I believe that this is why choosing the right home for your family should not be dictated by looks, size and price only.

The location, environment, function and layout of your home will affect the physical, emotional,
spiritual and intellectual aspects of your family. Here are some examples:

  • You have a large home with everyone on their own side of the house. That “bumping into each other” aspect of a smaller home may not be as accessible in a larger home. This will affect how you all connect on a regular basis.
  • Maybe you got a great deal on a house, but it is next to the train tracks and the noise drives you nuts. How will this affect kids during sleep, homework, etc?  
  • How about if you found an inexpensive house, but you live in a high crime area? Are you going to feel safe? Will you be on edge walking the dog at night, or letting your kids walk to the neighbors house at the end of the cul de sac?  
  • Maybe there’s a river running through the back yard and it seems like paradise, but anytime the kids are outside you are restless because of the fear that they may drown?

As you can see, there are lots of things in play when we try to create a home. For all of us there will be different criteria for selecting a home and that’s the way it should be. I think the most important thing is to make sure that what is most important—what you are trying to accomplish—is at the top of the “must have” list. At the end of the day, that is what will help you become the family you want to be. 

Hopefully, my family will have this home for a long time. Ultimately, what we are trying to accomplish here is not having the best contemporary style chic, farmhouse. I am trying to love my wife into heaven, and create little saints out of the adorable savages that are my daughters. I want every person that sets foot into my home to feel welcome, cared for, and known. To experience a little taste of what is true, good, and beautiful on this side of heaven via simple people doing their best in this little piece of dirt I get to call our home. 

We are about accomplishing a great work in this home, and that work is called family. 

PATCHING HOLES

A couple of days ago my wife felt water dripping on her head as we sat on the couch. This is never a good way to begin a relaxing evening. I went upstairs to see if I could figure out where it was coming from. Turns out one of our girls had taken a cup we use to rinse their hair with, and jammed it over the tub spigot as the water came out. There was no waterproof caulking around the spigot. All that water that got blasted backwards from the cup covering it had to go somewhere. 

I opened a hole in the drywall prior to all this to make sure we didn’t have a broken a pipe. Once we confirmed it was due to our girls splash park experience in the tub I proceeded to patch up the hole…several days later. I don’t know about you but drywall is probably on the 3rd or 4th level of Hell that damned souls will have to do for eternity. That is at least how I feel about drywalling. As I finished patching the hole in our living room I was reminded of another hole that needed patching. 

This is a bit embarrassing. 

Four years ago we had a new air conditioning unit installed for the second floor. One of the AC guys hit a plate in the attic which caused his drill to shoot through the drywall exactly where the wall and ceiling met in our upstairs hallway. They were very apologetic, but I had another item to add on my to-do list. I ignored patching the hole. I would walk by and think “meh” I’ll get to it. Here I am four years latter finally patching that hole. All it took was 4 minutes of work. 

I have walked by that hole every single day—multiple times a day for four years. I have ignored the hole. Disregarded the hole. Completely forgotten about the hole. This of course made me get all existential and think about all the holes in my life that I ignore, disregard and eventually complete forget about.  

My time working in ministry to youth and families has given me a unique perspective in the lives of these families. Often times providing a view into the joy, beauty and mess of their lives. Inevitably there are always holes that have popped up that need patching. Family counseling sessions, one-on-ones with kids, and talking to moms and dad reveal often that the holes we leave for another day often surface down the road in ways that cause problems and often times our children are the ones that suffer from it. 

So yes holes in this context are anything that can damage you, your relationship with your spouse and your children. Things such as:

  • A failure to grow up manifested in childish behavior, selfish habits and attitudes. 
  • A bad habit and/or addiction to pornography, alcohol use, drug use, or other not so harmful things that we have allowed to dominate our lives (i.e. excessive spending, too much time spent on extra curricular activities, social media, etc.)
  • An inability to regulate your emotions (typically expressed in fits of anger by men).
  • The list goes on. 

There are millions of reasons why we ignore, disregard and eventually forget about these holes in our lives. Sometimes the overwhelmingness of a situation is just too much. Timing can also be off. You are dealing with the death of your sibling and controlling your emotions is just too difficult, so when your kids spills juice on the floor you explode. Maybe you have never realized that you have a problem, and you don’t know who to talk to or where to go. 

So we ignore, disregard and eventually forget. Or at least we try. 

The funny thing is, whenever I actually noticed the hole on the ceiling I thought, “I am too busy to do this now. Too tired. Too…” But the problem took about 4 minutes of actual work to fix. The issue wasn’t the actual work of patching the hole. The issue lay at pausing and accepting the fact that I needed to stop ignoring it. For many of us here lies the difficulty. We think that if we stop, and focus on the hole it will take too much energy, it will bring up other underlying issues, etc. Maybe that’s true. But holes need to be fixed. 

Maybe you see other peoples holes and think, “mines not as bad.” Do not fool yourself. I don’t know what life has thrown your way. What I can tell you is that a man with holes in his life may learn to navigate around them, but his spouse and children may not be so lucky. 

I hate drywalling—always have. However, I like walking by my hallway and seeing a smooth wall and ceiling. It’s always worth doing no matter how difficult the work may be.

Reassess and Reset

I don’t know about you, but when this whole COVID19 thing happened a lot of my routines went out the window. Waking up at 4:30am ended, working out three times a week stopped, going to morning mass was no longer an option. We all were faced with a new situation (like homeschooling) and we adapted. Now, I am looking around at the situation and realizing our family is no longer in crisis mode. 

I think it is time to reassess and reset. 

Habits are absolutely foundational. Some folks have said that you are the culmination of your habits. I am definitely a creature of habit and when they get thrown off I am not a happy camper. Thankfully, I can be flexible during times of crisis and adapt. Now that crisis mode has ended (at least for our family) I am coming out on the other side wondering how to reassess our current situation and hit reset on the things that got pushed aside. Inevitably, new habits were created during this pandemic season. As in most crisis situations the adaptation of new habits is acceptable during crisis mode. However, when the crisis is over we need to take the time to reassess where we are and see if this is still the right path to follow. If not then we need to reset.  

I had a concrete goals that I set for this year that are currently on hold. I read those goals every morning when I get downstairs to pray. The words on the page glare at me almost in a taunting way. There are a few of those goals that I still can’t accomplish due to the shutdown. However, the majority of them I could have done during the initial onset of the crisis and I most certainly can do them right now. The question that I keep asking myself is, “why did I stop following these goals in the first place? And why haven’t I started again?” There are many reasons/excuses I can give, but what is the point of that? We only have today. This moment. Now. To move forward. So I am. 

What does reassessing and reseting look like? I’ll give you some examples I’ve been pondering:

Reassessing:

    • I don’t think I ever want to work onsite at a job for more than 3 days a week. I will focus my future job choices on places that will allow that to happen. 
    • I need to have better emergency response strategies for the family in all aspects. 
    • I want our family to continue going on walks after dinner (weather permitting). 
    • Being outdoors is a must everyday (weather permitting).
    • Homeschooling the kids full time. 

Resetting:

    • Exercise needs to happen. The time of day can vary but it has to happen.
    • Family time must be an absolute priority throughout the day. Not part of the day, or a “to do” on my checklist.  
    • Screen time is going way down for me. I realize more and more that I hate social media and most unnecessary tech. Live and in person is my favorite. 
    • Reading for fun and self improvement needs to re-enter.

Your list might look something like the above or completely different. My hope and challenge for you guys is to take a look at all that you have experienced during this crazy COVID19 season. Reassess all you are currently doing, and hit reset on those things that need to start up again. 

Pentecost: Wounds of Glory

Gospel John 20: 19-23

Gate Duty

First Gospel Dad video!

Today was a Win

There are many days on this journey of fatherhood that I don’t feel like I am good enough, tough enough, kind enough, compassionate enough, understanding enough—fill in the blank for yourself. Fathering children is tough work. Sometimes we can’t tell whether anything is actually sticking in those little hearts and mind. However, today is one of those days that I can call a win. 

As I write this post we are bringing Good Friday to a close. This is one of the most difficult and beautiful days of the Christian calendar. We remember the death of Jesus and anticipate His resurrection. There is fasting, prayers and possibly the most challenging part—no beer or meat. It is a tough day for dad. 

Teaching our children our faith is a top priority for my wife and I. Like most things, teaching kids about faith can be tough. There’s lots of ways to go about teaching your kids about faith, and like anything else you really want to stick in your child’s head—you have to set the example. My wife and I intentionally pray in front of the kids so that they can see that as a norm. We try our best to lead them in prayer before meals, after meals, before bed and in many other ways. 

Our seven year old, Claire is not super excited to pray. Often enough she complains and argues. Sometimes Claire joins in family prayer because she has no other choice. Thats fine with me since going to school, chores and not eating candy whenever she wants also follow the same principles of, “you do it because it’s good for you and I said so.” For the most part the kids are compliant and we get through family prayer with very few issues. However, after its all said and done I always wonder how much are the kids really understanding, and if whether or not they see the importance. 

Today, Claire surprised us.

The image above is something Claire organized herself. Claire decided that she wanted to lead our family’s Good Friday prayers. Claire got one of her illustrated bibles and an easel to support it and set it up on our coffee table. Then, she set out coloring pages of Holy Week she colored with her sister earlier that day. Claire laid them out with a candle and a home made “bible” she made. Claire asked that we get one of our crucifixes off the wall so that the table could be complete. 

For the next 5 minutes or so Claire lead us in singing a praise and worship song she had written as she played her terribly out of tune toy guitar. Claire read the passion narrative out loud for us, and asked us to write in her “bible” what we were thankful God had done for us. We ended with a spontaneous closing prayer led by Claire. 

I share this not because I want anyone to think that my wife and I are these mighty parents that naturally create holy children. My kids can be little devils. You should see our night time routine—there is nothing holy about it! Today was one of those days where my wife and I were able to see that what we are trying to impart onto our kids is actually taking hold. Claire put all of this together on her own. Claire knew this was an important day and that something unique was happening. 

They do listen. They do understand. 

As a father, todays prayer service was a great moment of hope in my child, but also for myself. I don’t always get it right or know if what I do makes a difference. Moments like today fuel the fire within and keep me going. I am able to see something tangible that confirms that my wife and I are on the right track. We all need that every now and then. 

Tonight I go to bed remembering the death of my Lord. Remembering how His death has brought me to life. I go to bed with a smile on my face for the gift God has given me in seeing my daughter recognize His sacrifice. Tomorrow I may wake to a moody child who yells at me because her sister has more chocolate chips on her pancakes than she does. Tonights smile might turn into a frown tomorrow. However, today is one of those days that I can call a win. 

The Blessing of Chaos

During the chaos of life it can be difficult to see the hidden blessings. What blessings are before us during this chaos of COVID 19 chaos? Will this be a frustrating moment in time, or an opportunity for growth and change?

Moving In

bunk bed

Amongst this mandated COVID 19 social distancing, we are doing quite the opposite at home. Since we are officially homeschooling due to schools being closed for the remainder of the school year, my wife decided to rearrange the furniture in our children’s toy area. Jess did a great job and we now have a classroom area as well as designated play area. Jess was so inspired that she decided we needed to move more furniture upstairs. “Lets move the girls into the same room.” We had talked about this before so it seemed as good a time as any. 

Several hours later we moved a bunk bed, a twin bed and rearranged multiple pieces of furniture in the girls former and new room. The outcome was one room with both girls and a guest room/office/future nursery. The nursery part will not be needed anytime soon. 

The girls were so excited! You would’ve thought we told them we were going to Disney (which is currently closed). Both girls kept coming into the room to sneak peaks at what was going on. They were planning what they would do first when the room was complete. “We can sit and read in the corner” said, Claire. Cecilia wasn’t as excited—it was her room we were rearranging. Once Cecilia saw the big bunk bed her face lit up, “I sleep upstairs?!” Cecilia wants to sleep on the top bunk. Unfortunately, Cecilia can only go up the stairs—like one of those cows kids used to prank school by walking them up the stairs of the school building (I am told cows can’t walk down stairs). 

Our daughters excitement was really fun to experience. It was nostalgic in some sense. I remembered when my brother and I got bunk beds. Similar emotions and thoughts went through our minds as our parents set the bed up. Here we are now. My wife and I watching our babies take this new step towards becoming big girls. 

I don’t know if I like it, but I can’t help and smile as I experience this. 

The paradox of our families joy and children’s excitement in conjunction with the craziness of what is going on in our country and the world does not escape me. Outside people are sick, dying, losing their jobs, businesses are closing and everything in between. At home we are smiling, and enjoying this wonderful moment of two little girls moving in together. 

There is much to be depressed about right now. Yet, there is so much to be grateful for. So much to smile about. 

Working From Home

COVID 19 has struck and many of us are working from home for the first time. I don’t know about you, but this has definitely been quite the experience for me. Heres a short video on my take so far. Please stay safe!

Six Years In

June_FathersDayStarWars_13

The last six years have gone by so fast! It is hard to believe that six years ago my wife and I had a baby girl that would change our lives. That “baby girl” is now six years old (Claire) and we have a two year old (Cecilia). Life is simply awesome. There have been challenges for sure. However, most of these challenges are insignificant compared to the blessings we have received from being parents. 

I try to reflect on life as much as possible. We all know from experience that if you don’t pause and take time to reflect you let too much go by. Whether good or bad we need to process what life throws at us.

Here are six things that I have learned on this journey so far:

Just Let it Happen: Honestly, this is one I am not exactly comfortable, nor good at. If you have read any of my posts you know that I am a bit of a control freak and “letting things happen” is not necessarily part of my mission statement. Six years in I have learned that you just have to go with it sometimes. If the six year old decides to make you dinner you really shouldn’t blow up on her. Sure the kitchen walls are no longer the color you painted them, but it’s just paint…right? The two year old decided to potty train on her own and is super excited that 25% of her “deposit” made its way into the toilet. Maybe the other 75% will come out of the carpet…eventually. 

No Perfect Moment: I’m still waiting for that perfect moment when I do something super fatherly that my children are transformed by and respond, “Daddy, you were right. You are so amazing!” What I have found over and over again is that every moment counts. My daughters will become great, and develop virtue moment by moment. So will I. Little by little we move in the right direction. All those little moments I chose to love, respect and not be overwhelmed by the minutia of parenthood will create a life filled with moments that when stringed together paint a beautiful story. 

Speak Clearly. Pause. Repeat. Any Questions? My six year old tests my patience. Every. Single. Day. Often times my frustration is my own fault. I assume my daughter knows what cleaning up her mess means. I assume that she understands what eating all her food means. I assume she understands that quiet time literally means you don’t make a sound. We all have expectations for our children. This is a good thing. However, I have found I don’t always communicate this well. Six years in I am learning to be a better communicator. Speaking clearly and in simple terms is a must. Pausing to let the child process is a must. Having the child repeat the information back to you is a must. Asking them if they have any questions is a must. Get the point? Well…I don’t always get it and that leads to a frustrated child and father. 

Waste Time with Your Children: This is something Pope Francis once said to fathers in one of his addresses. The whole idea was to understand that being with your kids doesn’t have to have an agenda. It doesn’t even have to be “productive”. Just be with them. The Popes statement has stuck with me and really has helped me to see time with my kids in a different light. The games my kids play are not always fun, they don’t always make sense and that is okay. What matters is that I just spend time with them.

Change in Priorities: It is no secret that having kid’s makes you look at things in different ways. This is necessary. Money for my wife and I has been one of the things that we are looking at in a different light. We made the decision before we had kids that we would not send them to public school. There are many reasons for that which I will not get into here. The point is that sending our kids to a school we have to pay for is hard. Money that we could use for paying off debt and other items goes towards our kid’s school. It is a worthwhile investment for sure! However, this investment changes the way we operate. Whatever your priorities are they require change. That change can sometimes be uncomfortable, but in the context of my kid’s current education it is well worth it. Claire has learned so much from being in a Montessori school. The learning and experiences she is having make this a solid, set in steel priority for us—no matter how much it hurts.

Traditions Matter: One of the things I dislike about our modern secular culture is the lack of adherence to traditions. There are so many amazing traditions both religious and non-religious that we seem to have just pushed aside. Unfortunately, I didn’t grow up in a household with traditions. This makes it difficult to pass or establish any with our kids. However, we have a few that we have implemented: celebrating the kids Saint Feast day, celebrating their baptism dates (and future dates they received their sacraments), praying as a family, Advent Tree, reading books before bed, and playing lots of board games. These are just some. Traditions anchor us. They are moments with meaning that remind us of who we are, where we have been and where we are going. 

This list could be a lot longer. All in all these have been the six best years of my life. Lots of surprises, frustrations, laughs and some tears. All incredible.