Goose Island State Park-"Big Tree"

Goose Island State Park-"Big Tree"

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tot Theology

I remember a moment I had with my own mother, shortly after my first child was born: we were sitting in the hospital and I was completely enraptured by every facet of my daughter—her tiny hands and feet, her perfect nose, her lips, her smell, that downy soft hair—and I turned to my mom and said to her, “Mom, I never knew you loved me this much.”  She looked at me with the most blissful "I told you SO!" expression and said, "Well YEAH!!"  Having my own children has made me love my parents more now than I ever had in the past, for the simple reason that I can finally grasp their love for me.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of a “Domestic Church,” wherein the home is a model for the Universal Christian Church.  (There is more information about this concept at Since some of my many vague New Year’s resolutions included doing more catechesis, reading, and generally better mothering for my children, I’ve been musing about this concept sporadically—between laundry folding, de-cluttering, carpet scrubbing, and booger wiping, that is.

(Before I share these musings, I want to clarify that my thoughts are in no way sanctioned Catholic theological points, just mere ponderings of a humble baby Catholic convert.)

I once read (or heard?) that a mother’s and father’s love is the first comprehension of God’s love that a child experiences. Consequently, it should be the parents’ duty to love their children in the same manner (or at least a teensy fraction of the manner) that God loves His children.  In raising my own babies, a preschooler and a little rug rat, I have been, like most parents, confronted with some of the more profoundly trivial annoyances and pleasures of daily parenting and have found myself wondering if God sees us in the same light:

For example:

I am constantly in awe of my preschooler’s affinity for television; no matter how much she already knows that viewing time is limited in this household, she always asks to watch her cartoons first thing in the morning, after breakfast, after lunch, before nap, after nap, after dinner, before bed. Constantly. Must watch SuperWhy! This leads me to ponder:

            Does God wonder why we constantly want the things that aren’t fulfilling? Does he wonder if we’ll ever learn “the rules?” Does he wonder why we want to fill our days with mindless, only somewhat entertaining endeavors that are ultimately harmful and empty? 

I can’t say for certain, but I’d be willing to bed that our Heavenly Father invented the eye-roll for a reason.

The baby is teething, as she should be!  As I watch her suffer, cry, bite anything and everything within reach, and struggle to get to- and stay- asleep, I wish I could somehow communicate to her that everybody needs teeth!  Everybody uses them to be able to chew and digest real food!  I want to tell her that although it is painful right now, she will be very glad for those big Irish chompers in a few months, and for her whole life!

I can’t help but wonder if God wants us to understand the same thing,
            …when His children feel the temporal effects of sin, or when we have those painful, uncomfortable pangs of conscience that remind us of what is right, reminding us that His plan is so much better, if we’ll only be patient and wait so that we can digest “real food.” And when we suffer, whether financial, physical, or emotional—are those circumstances not grown-up versions of painful razor sharp teeth making their way through soft tissue?

Perhaps our souls are just “teething,” and we need to be patient, in order to be able to relish in the “meat” of our faith? The ability to enjoy real food comes with a sometimes-painful price.

           More powerful still is the notion that I would do anything to protect my children.  I love them with a love that is more fierce and passionate than a hurricane.  When they stumble, we don’t look at our children with disgust or judgment, but with compassion—we rush over to pick them up, brush off the dirt, to kiss the owies and to comfort with a hug.  When our children make mistakes, we gently reproach them and explain how they can do something better the next time around.  When they misbehave, we discipline-and sometimes punish-out of love, because we want them to succeed at this thing called life. 
            If our own flawed human love for our children is that powerful, imagine how much our Creator-Who is perfect in every way-loves His children!

Lets allow our Heavenly Father to mold and shape us into the eternal beings we were created to be!  Let’s stop the whining, endure through the teething, and rejoice in the immense love He has for us!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Part II-Goose Island maiden voyage

The second morning of our maiden camping voyage got off to a bit of a slow start; we chalked it up to inadequate knowledge of all of the necessities for trailering.  After another lazy breakfast of eggs, bacon, and leftover beans (yes. We are Texans. We eat beans at breakfast, especially when camping!) we needed to head to our local “chinamart” (I’m sure you know which store I’m referring to!) for a few extra toiletries and back to our house for some extra socks and underwear.  Our second lesson from this trip was that camping has a tendency to cause clothes—especially underclothes—to become stinkier, faster.  Camping also necessitates the use of the shower facilities more often, so a single tiny bottle of shampoo will simply not suffice for a family of four.  This trip to civilization took up the better part of the morning, so we tried to make up for it with some quality outdoor time.  We will know to pack double the socks and undies, AND full-sized shampoo and toiletries on our next trip!

One of the attractions of Goose Island State Park is the infamous “Big Tree,” which is a 1000-year-old Live Oak that is thought to be the largest of its kind in the nation.  Although the actual “Big Tree” was fenced off to keep it protected, there were lots of other quite large and majestic trees to climb upon and run around.  We spent about an hour meandering through the beautiful groves of “small big trees” before we ventured onto the 50 foot path that led to the  “Big Tree” of Goose Island State Park.  Antsy had a blast, and made a very keen observation that very large trees make very big (and fun!) sticks.  Here is my "Antsy" climbing a tree in her tutu:

Me and Baby M:

Another feature of GISP was the plethora of endangered Whooping Cranes in the area.  Although we weren’t fortunate enough to snap a photo of any of these beautiful creatures, we could hear them from our campsite and from almost every area of the park.  Also among Antsy’s favorite creatures were Leaf-cutter ants.  My own “Antsy” marveled at their ability to carry large portions of leaves all the way down a tree, along a path, and into their secret underground homes.  We spent a good amount of time just watching, following, and searching-for these little buggers. 

The final, and most important lesson we (especially mom and dad!) learned was that even in a small dwelling (in our case, a 28 foot camper), with limited TV and internet and less-than-pillowtop mattresses, a change in routine, and atypical meals, we CAN stand each other.  We can make it without hours of sitcoms and cartoons.  I can’t even describe the immense joy I felt watching my children play OUTSIDE.  Yes, I take my kids to the park, to the beach, and to the library; but there is something so magical that happens when all that is available is a pile of dirt, some sticks and rocks, and a blooming imagination.  Baby M couldn’t get enough dirt and leaves (we actually observed these delicacies in a few of her diapers) and Antsy’s beautiful imaginative three-year-old mind was capable of throwing together entire villages and even a “playground” together with a few well-placed logs and some piles of dirt. 

I can’t WAIT till our next camping adventure!! I CAN’T WAIT!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I began writing this journal two days into our three-day maiden RV voyage.  My head is spinning with lists and ideas for our next RV trip so please forgive the impending disorganization of this blog.  Here’s what we did wrong, what we did right, and what we learned.
Since it had been several years since my last actual camping trip—and by several years, I mean at least 15—and the last time was in a borrowed tent, on rocky ground, with nothing more than a nearby water spigot and a half mile hike to the bathrooms, I had some fears about camping, (even with our brand new Mountain View travel trailer) especially with two kids aged three years and six months.  What would we do?  What would the girls do? The answer was surprisingly wonderful: nothing.

 I hate to admit it, but as outdoorsy and “green” as I’d like to think I am, the idea of camping in a park “surrounded by hundreds of acres of woods!” sounded a little bit horrifying—okay—it sounded a LOT horrifying.  As we pulled into “Hidden Oaks RV Resort” just outside of Goose Island State Park, my fears were magnified; the place was basically a circular dirt road with equally spaced RV plots.  (This ‘resort’ apparently boasted a pool and hot-tub, but neither my husband nor I ever saw this mythical oasis.) There appeared to be a diverse mix of campers: a few tiny, ancient looking trailers, some super-mega-sized modern ones, and a few of each that had “permanent” looking structures surrounding them—flower gardens, cheap white picket fences, wooden patios, and flag poles with big Texas flags proudly displayed. It was dusk when we arrived—which meant our trailer wouldn’t be set up until after dark. 

This brings me to our first camping mistake: arriving at night.  Not only was Andrew forced to park (!) and hook-up the grey- and black-water and electricity in the dark, but since I had been busy packing all day, my three-year-old had been stewing in front of the TV all day and was bursting with pent-up preschooler energy.  She was a ball of fire when we arrived.  No doubt our temporary dwelling seemed formidable to her as well; she seemed excited about camping but unsure of the strange, dark surroundings.

Lesson #1- Pack, plan and prepare meals, and make beds the night before an RV foray, so that adequate outdoor play, trailer set-up, and general settling-in can happen before dark, child-meltdowns, and adult fatigue set in.

After the trailer was finally level and the beds were made, we made a quick dinner of hot-dogs and beans, then I snuggled in with Baby M at around 9:30.  Hubby played with Antsy outside, roasting marshmallows and making dirt-castles, until well into the night.  Antsy finally crawled into bed with Baby and me in the master bed, and Hubby slept in the bunk. =)

The next morning was surprisingly beautiful.  Andrew had to head to work for a few hours so I was alone with the girls.  We sat in bed for a while, snuggled, played and talked, then Antsy opened the trailer door and grinned at the wilderness outside.  We had a leisurely (yet tedious to make with two wiggly children) breakfast of pancakes and bananas, then I put Baby M in the stroller and we went for a walk around the resort.  Antsy found about a dozen rocks, which she carefully loaded into the storage compartment of the stroller and in my purse and back pockets.  Baby M cooed and gurgled at the wind, at the rustling live oaks, and at her big sister's antics.  We stopped at the office and picked up some miniature candycanes for which Antsy was very grateful.  While we were there, we chatted up the old man who lived at the park and served as the "landlord" and watched some elderly ladies do their morning "low-impact" exercises.  Antsy found that pretty entertaining. Then we meandered back to the RV; I made lunch and Antsy played in the dirt with some sticks, building forts and making shapes, for-- I kid you not-- at least two hours.  

We spent three days without TV, internet, pillowtop beds, and all of our stuff. It was three days of getting to know eachother and learning to cope with less than we're used to.  Good times.  Truly a trailer "truffle."  =)

I have so much more to say about this one trip, but will post later; I am pooped!  

To be continued...