Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 4, 2018.
The season of Advent usually begins with a perception of being a magical, jovial, and anticipatory time of the birth of Jesus. My Advent began with an anticipation. Yet it lacked marvel and apparent joy. God encountered me in an incarnational way this Advent season. I juggled the infectious side effects of projectile vomit and diaper explosions. Both of my sons came down with the stomach flu over the weekend.
Parenting Sucks (Sometimes)
Nothing tests a parent’s patience, will-power or love of their children quite like a continual cleaning of bodily fluids. On top of the symptoms of the stomach flu, my youngest son is also recovering from an adenoidectomy (see below diagram if you never heard of that organ before–as I never did prior to this surgery!) Because the flesh is healing behind his nasal cavity, my two year old’s breath smelled like death since the surgery. The doctors estimate three weeks before his rotting-breath odor stops! What a start to the New Liturgical year!
Prepare for Christ not the Perfect Season
Too often society places pressure for the perfect “holiday” season: all the gifts must be precisely wrapped and laden under the Christmas tree in a tidy order, the Christmas meal has to be cooked to the exact temperature and paired with the appropriate side dishes depending on the main dish, and family members need to behave–especially your “estranged/weird” uncle [or aunt or other unique relative you may have]. Honestly, I fall into this fallacy almost every year myself.
This year was no different.
I hoped to be able to take my entire family to Mass to celebrate the First Sunday of Advent. Sadly, this didn’t happen. Because of my priority as a parent, I had to miss this Mass to care for my ailing family.
Advent— A Time to Prepare for Jesus
After taking some time to reflect on the apparent failures of the weekends, I realized maybe God was preparing me for something greater—Advent really is all about preparation for the coming of Christ. Revisiting the birth narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, showed me the arrival of Jesus did not occur in the ideal standards, at least according to the world’s standards.
Luke 2:7 details how Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem “too late” and the innkeeper denied them a room at the inn. Mary had to give birth to Jesus in a humble way—in a simple stable. American novelist Flannery O’Connor wrote the following about the Incarnation,
Man’s maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey; that Truth might be accused of false witnesses, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.
Advent is Incarnational
By becoming a human Jesus was able to encounter the entirely of the human condition save for sin. In my children’s pain, suffering, tiredness, and thirstiness this past weekend, Christ was with them in a unique way as he already suffering all those things during his 33 years on Earth.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 463, “Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.” The season of Advent is not about preparing for the “perfect” Christmas where Mary and Joseph get a room at the inn. Advent prepares us for the birth of Jesus Christ. His birth took place in the messiness of the stable. And his Passion and Death took place on the messiness of the Cross.
Not everything in my life will be neatly fit in my control. But after this incarnational and infectious start to Advent, God grace me with the gift of perspective and opportunity in serving my children as Christ served the world.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 28, 2019.
According to C.S. Lewis, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” Recently, my faith has been lacking so I was missing the miniature and miraculous letters forming a story before my own eyes. I have previously written about my family’s journey of finding out our youngest son, Josiah, has autism spectrum disorder, but I will provide a short recap for any new readers.
Josiah’s Journey [So Far]
In the summer of 2017, my wife and I noticed our son struggled to make sounds and form words. Because Josiah could not communicate with us he started to bang his head on the ground when he got frustrated. This habit became so bad that we were basically homebound unless both my wife and I were off work at the same time. On good days we could only take our son out for one errand as any transition proved too overwhelming for him.
We knew something had to change—he had to get better help then what we could offer at the time. In December 2017, Josiah was evaluated and diagnosed with autism. We enrolled him in a birth to three program offered by the city. He received speech, occupational, and development therapy. Eventually, his speech therapy was increased to weekly hour long sessions. It took a lot of time, focus, and diligence, but with consistent therapy with professionals and reinforced at home Josiah made tremendous gains. He was able to learn to talk and show us his needs for water, food, a preferred toy, and diaper changes. This summer he said his first 10+ word sentence!
Power of Words
Over the weekend, Josiah hit another milestone goal—telling me his full name and recognizing the letters to his first name. As I was in the playroom getting him dressed, Josiah pointed at the letters on the wall. For each kid, my wife and I hung their names in wooden letters in their rooms. We recently moved Josiah into the older kids room so the wooden letters remained in the “new playroom” (formerly Josiah’s room). Our exchange centered around those letters:
Me: “Yes, Josiah that is your name on the wall. What letter is that [pointing to the ‘J’]?”
Josiah: “J, O, S, I, A, H!”
Me: “And what is your name?”
Josiah: “Jo-sia-ah, Fabian, Sha-qin [Chicoine]!”
Practice Makes Progress
Some people have told my wife, “Aren’t you hoping that scientists find a cure for autism? Then you won’t have to waste all the time doing therapy.” This is the wrong thing to say to a parent of children with autism. Thankfully, my wife is quite professional and always tactful otherwise a vicious verbal exchange may have ensued. Autism is not something to be cured. Instead, it is something to be explored. Different does not mean diseased. Unfortunately, people naturally fear the unknown and sometimes treat it with disdain.
The reason I continue writing daily and sharing my thoughts is because I want to provide hope, perspective, and joy to families and individuals going through similar situations. Our world does not readily accept differences. I want to be a help change that. I want to bring tangibility and reality as to how autism looks in our little boy.
The Gift of Healing
Before he was born, I struggled mightily with depression. Our previous pregnancy due to miscarriage. We named our unborn child Jeremiah. Josiah proved to be God’s healing gift to us. His name literally means “healer”. All our triumphs are intricately tied to our struggles, doubts, fears, and worries parenting Josiah. We all have a cross to bear. Our cross is not more difficult than most people’s. It is merely different. Josiah’s smile and giggles are infectious. Hearing him tell me his name meant everything in during that moment in the playroom.
Do you have special needs or have a family member with special needs? I would love to hear your story. Please feel free to share in the comments.
Miracles do happen we just are too busy to see them sometimes. Our son’s special needs forces me to slow down and view the world differently. I am thankful that I embraced that change of pace this past Sunday. I pray for the strength and humility to be more willing and ready to learn from my son in the future!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 5, 2018.
Albert Einstein once stated, “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Simplicity is an attractive quality. I experienced simplicity in a unique and seemingly ordinary way—through a game of paper football with my 4 year-old daughter!
Too often I strive for the complexities in life—whether that be in solving difficult problems or seeking joy in extraordinary things. Technology is also a double-edged sword, its purpose is to simplify human life, however, because of the explosion of technology in the 21st century we face a digital deluge—I feel the daily pressure [that I impose on myself] to constantly check my social media and blogging sites.
Why do I inflict such frivolous constraints upon myself? What do I need to prove by keeping up with the trending blogger scene and marketing on various social media platforms? Will my family love me any less if I fail to hit my target goals for views and monthly posts? Certainly not! My struggle is that I tend to implement false activity to mask my slothful tendency.
Raising children—especially children who recently suffered continual fevers—takes a toll on a person. The daily grind of parenting wears on a father, mentally, physically, and spiritually. While I strive to live a virtuous life, I fail, and fail often as a father. Love for my children is replaced by a mindset of viewing children being burdensome. When that occurs the seed of sloth blossoms into a tree of acedia!
Paper Football and Prayer
The Holy Spirit conferred graces to help me withstand and eliminate my slothful nature through the simplicity of a paper football game. Triangular paper footballs are becoming common in our home. I recently renewed interest in the classic middle school table-top game. Football is my favorite sport to watch. And I always enjoy football to help keep the stresses of life at bay during the icy winter months.
Having to stay home [YET AGAIN—at this rate I may be burned completely out of my PTO before spring 🙁 ) with my children because of low-grade fevers, unbeknownst to me a fantastic, yet simple encounter with love. After dishing out a bowl of cereal for my daughter, I sat at the kitchen table with her. Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out the paper football and flicked the triangular toy across the table. This simple gesture turned into several minutes of laughter and great fun!
Find Joy in Play
St. Mother Teresa speaks of joy in this way, “Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” I’m not sure if my daughter will remember this simple and joyful experience of playing football paper. I’m confident this memory will stay with me forever. Both the Holy Spirit and my daughter taught me that play and prayer do not have to be mutually exclusive, instead God intends to use all types of interactions to draw us closer knowledge and love of Him.
Both my parents are too tired to chip in with input on the letter. And my three siblings are too busy acting like lemurs or black & white pandas to care about starting a new tradition.
Anyways, it’s up to me to present our family’s successes and 2020 highlights. Free of shenanigans.
Yeah right! Shenanigans are part of my middle names (unofficially).
Hope you enjoy the seasonal shenanigans!
January— New Year Same Routine
I started the new year as a fresh one year old. Noah, Amelia, and Josiah enjoyed going to school and playing in the snow. Mommy continued teaching special education at Valley Springs Elementary. Daddy worked overnights at a local grocery store.
My new year’s resolution was simple— add new shenanigans each month. Last year, I got caught stealing too many blueberry muffins (Pro-tip: Make sure to clean up the evidence before leaving the crime scene).
Daddy wrote about this incident and dubbed it Muffingate. Since then, I’ve acquired the nickname “Muffin Miscreant”.
February— Ground’s Day Month
Noah, Amelia, and Josiah enjoyed going to school and playing in the snow. Mommy continued teaching special education at Valley Springs Elementary. Daddy worked overnights at a local grocery store.
Yes, I know my family’s boring.
I think Noah was still in his Pokémon obsession and my parents were still watching Superhero shows on The CW.
I continued to watch how my siblings got in or avoided trouble and took notes.
March— The Ides are Turning
This seemed to be a turning point. Suddenly, Mommy, Noah, and Amelia stayed home more often. I heard mommy talking to weird kids on the computer. Daddy kept referring to himself as a “Zoom call goaltender”.
Josiah had school therapy at home and this involved him being a black & white panda all the time! Pandas? Seriously, that’s such a predictable move. Couldn’t he pretend to be a platypus or something cooler than a bamboo eater?
While my dreams of traversing the Australian outback didn’t happen, I did experience a “ground under” moment.
Mommy was on her 97th Zoom call and this gave me the perfect chance to try the legendary liquid—coffee. I found a K-cup in the pantry and gained a new moniker— The Coffee Culprit.
April— Sickness and Added Shenanigans
Daddy received a promotion at his local grocery store to Assistant Manager. He was even more excited when Mommy gave him an “Assistant to the Regional Manager” hoodie to celebrate the new job.
April felt like an entire lifetime (1.5 years).
Home school made Mommy and my siblings very tired and cranky. Even worse, Daddy got super sick with a virus-thingy. I couldn’t even see him for two weeks except on the computer. Josiah was really sad and kept saying “Daddy
in downstairs emergency room”. Mommy was stressed with teaching from home, taking care of us, and being Daddy’s doctor.
But this month did have good things: the Easter bunny visited us and Josiah learned to ride a bike.
I maintained my moniker as the Coffee Culprit by eating another K-cup.
May— More Zoom
The Zoom calls continued, and Daddy resumed his role as goaltender against my shenanigans. I miss the good old days when I could bust open bedroom doors without repercussions or being shushed. The strange kids didn’t seem so strange anymore. Mommy even gave up and let me say “hi” to my new friends.
Pro-tip: Persistence pays off.
Noah was obsessed with Star Wars and cars. Amelia (and Daddy) enjoyed pushing me in my throne on wheels. Mommy and Daddy got a new swing set for us to play in. I loved sliding and swinging!
June— Celebrating Sacraments and Sprinklers
Noah received his First Holy Communion on June 14th. It was supposed to be in April but it was delayed because of the virus-thingy or the panda-emic (not sure what to call it officially). “But God’s plan is more perfect than anything we can possibly imagine.” That was something Daddy kept saying. He seemed super-smiley and happy about Noah’s First Eucharist happening on The Feast of Corpus Christi.
Along with celebrating the sacrament my siblings and I played lots of times in the sprinkler. What wonderful waterworks! Josiah showed me how to play carwash in our water table. We play carwash often.
Mommy and Daddy celebrated their 10-year wedding anniversary! This was neat for me because grandma and grandpa got to watch me and the other kids overnight! We had so much fun.
July— Zoo Fun
The local zoo reopened with panda-emic precautions. Josiah called the gibbons “black and white pandas” and we all enjoyed watching the snow monkeys and ducks.
I set a family record by becoming the earliest to ride a strider bike. Strider bike didn’t seem right, so I called it “a butt”. Mommy and Daddy laughed. I think they’re proud of me. I say “a butt” so much.
August— Back to School
Noah started third grade and Amelia began first grade at Valley Springs. Josiah went to early childhood for the second year. I enjoyed more time to plan hijinks as daddy and mommy got more tired from getting house projects done. I continued to get my hands-on Mommy and Daddy’s coffee (I love coffee!).
Amelia learned how to read and created artwork daily. Josiah continued to play carwash in new and creative ways.
September— The Mystery of the Missing Toys
This month began normally with me playing with my dolls, cars, and other gadgets. But soon I noticed things disappearing. First, books I enjoyed were gone. Slowly my stuffed animal supply shrunk, and baby toys taken. I did notice more and more cardboard boxes.
Thankfully, I had Aunt Mary’s wedding to take my mind off the missing toy misery. I had fun playing with grandma, grandpa, and Uncle Steven.
Pro-Tip: Pushing doors open to go outside the reception is fun and an effective way to get my parents to chase me.
October— Mystery Solved
More and more boxes piled up in our living room, garage, basement, and kitchen. My siblings enjoyed many afternoons riding their bikes (and I riding my “a butt”).
I had a busy month with speech therapy starting and I broke my arm. Amelia was dancing with me and I thought a flying leap was a great idea. But the good thing is I got a cool pink cast.
I got used to life with limited toys. But then something changed! All the boxes moved. We played in a different room and slept in a different area. Mommy and Daddy called this our new house. We all thought it was pretty cool!
November— Shenanigans Supreme
My siblings and I love our new house. More room to run and climb. Noah had fun throwing the football in the garage with Daddy. Amelia found new places for art.
Josiah and I found a new way to play carwash. When Daddy was sleeping on the couch (from working a late night) my brother and I overflowed the kitchen sink. Water poured on the entire floor. We had TONS of cars to wash that morning! Daddy seemed surprised about all the water. After this incident we couldn’t sneak and do carwash anymore. Still not sure why?
Mommy continued to balance her teaching job with her additional virus-things protocols. She seemed tired most days, so I try to cheer her up with hugs!
December— Enter the Boss Level
Daddy kept making Jumanji references throughout the year. Everyone was talking about an election thingy. What more did 2020 have in store?
This year they say was tough, but in my experience all life can be challenging but fun too. I’m going to turn two on December 29th. I felt I gained a lot of wisdom this year.
Noah taught me countless facts about Harry Potter and read books to me. Amelia taught me how to draw and be creative. Josiah taught me how to laugh and play with cars. Mommy taught me how to love and hug. Daddy taught me the importance of a balance between seriousness and shenanigans.
Hope you have a Merry Christmas and a blessed 2021!
P.S. Daddy thinks he’s a creative writer, but he gets all his best ideas from my shenanigans. Follow #Muffingate for more funny stories
P.P.S. Special thanks to Daddy for being my secretary for this Christmas Letter. Extra special thanks to my brothers and sister for all this great content
Avila: The Muffin Miscreant, Coffee Culprit, and who knows what else.