Saturday, March 31, 2007

Interview Meme

And now for a little levity...

Here's a fun meme I saw over at Beck's place. She let me play along, too. I didn't even have to be famous; she agreed to interview me! I've never been interviewed before. I'm so nervous. Do I look Ok?

1. Every night, one singer will appear to serenade you after your
sons are in bed. Who do you pick?

How annoying. I would have to pick Kermit the Frog or some other Muppet that I could put away in a toy box. I really don't have time to be serenaded.

Now, if you had asked me this question about sixteen years ago, I'd have said Cat Stevens. But that wouldn't work today, we've both changed so much--really gone our separate ways, Cat and I.

2. What's on your grocery list for this week?

Food. Lots of food.

3. You suddenly have two baby daughters! What do you name them?

Marie-Claire and Marie-Lue. I love them already!

4. Which actress - past or present - should play you in the movie version of your life?

Judy Garland. I've often been told that I look like Judy Garland. I like to think people mean this, but more likely they mean something like this.

Besides, Judy and I both agree: There's no place like home...

5. You can give one piece of advice to the fashion industry. What do you tell them?

This is an easy question. I'd simply remind them that they are supposed to be clothing real people with real bodies and that the vast majority of real bodies (considerations of modesty quite aside) need plenty of coverage.

Thank you for this interview, it has been a pleasure. If you would like to be interviewed by me please email me or tell me in the combox and be sure I have an email address for you to send you your questions.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Beatrice Brigade

This article is making many of us happy today. Though I know most of my readers will have read it by now, I am posting this link for the benefit of those who have not.

Thank you, J. M. Reynolds, for a fine tribute to mothers who educate their children at home.

He's Not Heavy...

While working with Simeon on a language project...

Me: Alex, please, you are a distraction.

Simeon: He's not a distraction. He's just making lots of noise and moving around too much.

The Summons

I was recently called to jury duty. "What? I can't do this!" I exclaimed when I opened the letter. "How do I get out of this? Who do I call?" I looked over the list of exceptions and did not find there that homeschooling mothers of five boys are excused from their civic duties. I was horrified. I called the toll free number in the enclosed letter and explained my situation to the helpful assistant on the other end of the line. She gave me instructions to write a letter including the names and ages of all the children. I wrote it immediately and mailed it out that day.

The following weekend I decided to take a long trip to a favorite health food store. When I arrived, the parking lot was packed. After circling for nearly forty minutes, I finally saw a woman heading for her car and I followed her. She got in and started the car, but didn't seem to be in much of a hurry. I waited patiently with my blinker signaling that I would take her spot when she chose to move.

Just then, another car pulled up on the other side. The driver of this car put her blinker on as well, indicating that she had every intention of taking my spot. I waved at her and pointed out that I was waiting for this particular spot. She turned off her signal, but did not move. As the first woman backed out, the other quickly and shamelessly snuck in. I was taken aback and so was the first woman. She unrolled her window, "I backed out for you," she said, "Go tell her that!"

I did. Now, I don't like confrontation and I don't normally do this sort of thing, but sometimes rude people need to be told they are being rude. So, I walked calmly over to the parked car and tapped on the window. The driver unrolled it and stabbed me with a glare through heavily underlined eyes.

"Excuse me," I began, emotions completely in check (The only sign that the situation was at all stressful was a tingling, warmish sensation spreading down the back of my neck.) "But you saw that I was here before you and I had really been waiting for some time before you came." Her answer?

"I have twins and I have to carry them so I need this spot."

What? I have twins so I can do as I please? I have twins so I don't need to be considerate? Some example she'll be! I might have had more sympathy if she hadn't had a man with her to help carry one of the babies.

"I know what that's like," I responded in as sympathetic a tone as I could muster,"I have five young children."

"But not with you," she snapped back, "You're all alone, now. Go find a new spot."


I lingered longer, standing within view, as the Mother of Twins and the sheepish man at her side unbuckled the children and carried them into the store. I had hoped to make her uncomfortable in the very least, but I'm not sure I accomplished even that. I couldn't believe it. But there it was... and I couldn't do anything more about it. It wasn't illegal. She hadn't broken any laws but those unenforceable laws of common decency and consideration.

I did eventually find another parking spot and I enjoyed my shopping trip despite this incident. On the drive home, I thought about how that woman had used her children to demand special treatment. I was so horrified by the ugliness of her behavior that I searched my own conscience looking for anything similar, anxious to root it out and cast it away-- like an insect that had crawled into my clothing-- should I find anything remotely like it.

My first thought was my response to my summons to jury duty. Had I used my children to demand special treatment? I had been determined to get out of it, but this seemed justified. I thought it all out objectively: My husband could not take time off work for my summons. I would have had to find a sitter during school hours, which didn't seem very likely, AND there was also the added complication that it would have interfered with my children's school day. Certainly, all this seems like excessive burden and reason enough to be excused. Finally, that is how the court judged it also.

I laughed at myself. How funny that the selfish action of another had me looking over my own soul with horror-- picking at non-existant faults when I have plenty that do exist. But the faults and vices of others jar us and have a way of shaking us up. It isn't such a bad thing, I suppose, if it calls us to attention and makes us look more closely at ourselves.

My spiritual director in college always said that it's perfectly fine to "back up" into heaven. By this he meant that we may not see virtue so clearly or desire it the way we should, but if we are horrified by sin enough and back away from it...and back away again... eventually we will turn around to find that we've backed our way into heaven.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Satisfying Answer is up at Catholic Exchange today.

The Giraffe

The Giraffe

I beg you, children, do not laugh
When you sur-vey a tall giraffe.
It's hardly sporting to attack
A beast that cannot answer back...

He has a trumpet for a throat
And cannot blow a single note.
It isn't that his voice he hoards;
He hasn't any vocal cords.
I wish for him, and for his wife,
A voluble girafter life.

Poem by Ogden Nash (who else?) Illustrated by Alexander

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Farm Tales

Farm Tales is a Little Golden Book Collection of stories centered around farm life. Selections include The Shy Little Kitten, The Boy With a Drum, The Fuzzy Duckling, and A Day on the Farm. 212 pages.

This book is Zachary's (age 3) favorite. He call it his "Farmer Boy," referring to his brothers' favorite Laura Ingalls Wilder book, also about life on a farm. I think he's named it well. These toddler-sized Little Golden Book collections with their enlarged pictures and glossy pages capture all the magic of the classic stories and present them in refreshingly enhanced color.

The illustrations of Eloise Wilkin, Richard Scarry, and J.P. Miller are particularly worthy of note in this edition. A wonderful addition to the little one's library!

To Everything There is a Season

Spring weather has returned!

Bees were buzzing around our Crocuses this morning.

Jacob set to washing.

He washed his scooter. Then he washed the breezeway. Then he washed large sections of the house. Odd, perhaps. I don't know. It didn't seem like something I should discourage, anyway.

And I turned the quilt from the winter night sky pattern shown above to the sunflower side below.

This is the last large quilt I designed before life suddenly became too busy for sewing (about six years ago). I say this with some sadness because since earliest childhood my memories are filled with many blissful hours spent with fabrics and needles, pins, batting, thimbles and floss.

I was an untiring creator of all things sewable as a child. I made my own dolls and tailored clothing for them. I made myself a faux-fur costume for the role of Mole in the fifth grade play, The Wind in the Willows. I once made a certain sister of mine a stuffed centipede with fifty pillow body segments and one hundred pipe cleaner legs (a gift that's hard to display discreetly, no doubt)! I could go on and on...

I will return to sewing again some day and while the quilt embroidered-with-favorite-things for each boy's bed has not materialized, (pun noted) perhaps it will be granddaughters that benefit from my interests and abilities?

To everything there is a season; and a time to every purpose under heaven...a time to sew, and a time to rend.... Eccles. 3:1,7
This post is dedicated to Jennifer at As Cozy As Spring, whose newfound joy in sewing has reminded me of happy times and whose blog is Spring in theme! Today, she tells us why.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

On the Mend

I always make the same mistake when recovering from a stomach bug: I always, ALWAYS go back to drinking coffee too soon. I always, ALWAYS regret it and... yet... I know that I will probably do it again the next time.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Last Thought Before Sleep

If I didn't already have a blog name I liked and if someone could design my header to give me that backwards "R" I'd switch to : Boys "R" Us

That Other Shoe?

It dropped. On me....and Jeremy. At the same time. There was nobody well enough to care for the children. The last twenty four hours are a fog. I have strange memories of guiding Simeon to take care of the others. I remember asking him to make dinner. He made the only meal he knows how--breakfast. I think they even had ice cream sandwiches for dessert. Then he cleaned up as best he could.

I remember Simeon bringing everyone's pajamas downstairs and I remember slowly giving him instructions on how to change diapers. I remember Zachary thinking this was great fun. Nicholas did not think this was fun. I remember my husband heroically getting up to change Nicholas.

I remember a cob web on a ceiling downstairs and a child bringing me crayons. I remember little boys giggling in their beds-- though I don't know who put them there. I remember wondering how they had the energy.

This morning the house is a mess and we are very weak, but better able to care for the children. I am amazed at how well they handled the situation. Thank you to everyone who suggested we eat a bland diet for a while. It certainly helped me and I am glad to have what I need in the house today. Oh, and thank you Clorox for this stuff.

A Children's Treasury of Mythology

A Children's Treasury of Mythology is a wonderful collection of Greek and Roman myths and is beautifully illustrated by Margaret Evans Price. This hardcover book is a Barnes and Noble publication much like their Aesop's Fables that we also enjoy. 156 pages.

The captivating stories and splendid artwork throughout really motivated Simeon, age eight, to take on the challenge of its sophisticated language. He read a story aloud each day and the most interesting discussions followed.

We discussed oracles and the concept of fate and how these ideas relate to our understanding of God's Providence.

We laughed at Narcissus and his girlish vanity and the frustrated love of his fitting partner, Echo. We talked about how self-love blinds us and makes others dislike us. The gods mocked Narcissus and turned him into flower, forever sitting on the river's edge staring at his own reflection.

We wondered why Pandora wasn't content to have been given life and be showered with gifts from the gods, but she had to have her way also and open the mysterious box. When the stinging misfortunes flew out madly, we talked about how impossible it is to contain all the effects of our actions.

We are on the last story of this book and Simeon will read about Prometheus today. Though I'm sure we will find something interesting to fill its place, I am sorry to see this book come to an end.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Excuse Me?

Zachary: I hicced-up.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Giving Up the Naps

I'm going to tell you something I wish someone had told me years ago: A child who is giving up his nap and has gone several days without one will suddenly be unable to fight it any longer and will fall into a deep sleep wherever he happens to be at the crashing point. A very deep sleep. This may be in a cute position on the carpet or couch, but may also be out of sight-- under the kitchen table, behind the couch, or in the toy box.

So, before you search rooms in a growing panic, run outside with your heart in your throat screaming your child's name at the trees, begin to imagine all manner of horrors, or reach for the phone to call the police...look under that pile of throw pillows, behind the door, under the bed, and in the cupboards. You may just find a very sleepy toddler.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Happy Birthday Zachary!

Dear Zachary,

Before you were born, I loved you. But when I first laid eyes on you, my heart skipped a beat. You are the most unique of all the boys. What interest you add to our family! You say p'nae-noe; they say p'day-doe (You are all wrong, by the way, it's tomato). You are tidy and cautious and careful in all you do. Spicy is your favorite food and orange is your favorite color.

You have a vast vocabulary, a long attention span, a love of books, of animals, and of playing outdoors. Your deep-belly bubbling laugh is my all time favorite sound-- and your father's favorite, too. You are such a good big brother and a much-loved little brother. You are handsome. You are funny--often intentionally! And your warm little heart warms mine.

Happy Third Birthday, Zachary John!

We love you!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Memory Lane

Nobody asked me to see this, but I'm showing you anyway. In my post, Broken, I mentioned the invitation to our betrothal. It got me to thinking about it and I dug it out. Here it is. I drew it to mimic a Renaissance woodcutting.

So, this is how it all began and its been pretty much the same ever since: A bumpy ride through a strange land. And, my arm is starting to get tired from holding up that Olive branch all these years, but I've been happy all the while-- other arm wrapped firmly around my plumed hero.

Waiting for the Shoe to Drop

Ever since Alexander came down with a stomach bug, I've been looking at the rest of the week's meal plans in a new light. Every time I go to make a recipe I think to myself, "Is this something I'm going to want to see again?"

I've come to the not-too-surprising conclusion that when it comes to tossing your cookies, no one kind is better than the next.

The Boy Knows His Mother

After completing their morning work, the boys wanted to play outside. Often the three oldest go out on their own and I stay in the house with the two babies. Today, Zachary wanted to play in the snow with the bigger boys. Fearing that I might be lonely or bored without him, Zachary sought to appease me.

"You can be in here with Nicholas, " he said in a tone I've often used with him when I expect resistance. Then he offered the bribe,

"You could have some coffee."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Lion and the Lamb

Dear March,

Wow. You really did a great job on the lion part this year. I mean, we didn't see that last storm coming, and the amount of snow it dropped? Amazing. Really amazing. We are all so impressed. Good show.

I am a little bit concerned here though, because... Well, I know you wouldn't want to finish on the wrong foot... There really aren't that many days left for you to...It's officially spring now; you do know that, right?

What I'm saying here is that you need to be getting to the "out like a lamb" part, like NOW. Pronto.


Here There Be Dragons

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


For me, one of the greatest challenges of having small children has been the sheer amount of damage they have done to our property and possessions. Based on experience and conversations I've had with other mothers, I think I've had to contend with this hardship more than most. But perhaps more than most, also, these are sweet, loving, happy, and good natured children. It hasn't been malicious or even wild behavior that caused the destruction, but simple carelessness and curiosity (think Curious George... suds, warped bike, loose swine and all! Ok, now multiply by five). Five times the innocent cuteness. Five times the destruction. Aye...aye...aye.

We have various motivational systems and teaching methods to help the boys develop better habits and the older they get the less of a problem this becomes, but we can't reasonably expect it all to change over night. This is a process-- a long process-- toward responsible and careful behavior, and we have come a long way already.

In the meantime, I've had to learn to cope with the constant and repeated casualties. Just how many times will we repair the banister at the top of the stairs only to see it broken again? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.

And just how should I feel when my things are broken, fixed, then broken again? Desperate, angry, apathetic? None of these seem right. I have a tendency toward the desperate, and so at first I taught myself to look the other way...

From ashes were ye made and to ashes ye shall return.

You can't take it with you.

Build up your treasure in heaven.

I learned a certain detachment from material goods that I'd have never thought possible. It really pulled me away from seeing my worth in what I had to display. It was humbling and a certain point.

Soon, however, I began to suspect that my "detachment" from material goods had degenerated into a kind of stoic hardness that refused to acknowledge the goodness of material possessions. I refused to invest myself in them, even in a healthy manner, for fear of the heartbreak at the inevitable loss of them.

I realized my hardness one day when I found an earring behind the couch. It was an earring that I had treasured because I had worn it on the day that I was betrothed long, long ago in a Spanish-style chapel far, far away. It was a worthless earring from a monetary perspective. It wasn't real gold and the diamonds were not real either. I had treasured them anyway, keeping them in a special box with a copy of the betrothal invitation and the music program because they had hung from my ears when I had heard the binding promise of a life-long love. Then suddenly there it was--behind the couch-- warped and missing some of its fake diamonds-- and I vacuumed it up. SSsccchlllurrrp... So what? It wasn't worth all... at all.

Then I sat on the couch remembering the dress I had worn that day and the shorter style of my hair as I had it then. I remembered the soloist chanting, Uxor tua sicut vitis fructifera... (Thy wife as a fruitful vine...) and the way his voice filled the tiny chapel. I remembered the cool stone floor, stucco walls and sweet musty smell that hung in the air. It was to this same chapel that my betrothed and I had come many evenings and prayed a rosary together and walked the grounds around the hacienda, with its ponds and patios and citrus trees. It was on the way to this chapel one evening, when the air was thick with the sweet perfume of orange blossoms, that he first told me he wanted me to be his wife. I remembered his earnest face,"Come with me...Come..." "Hu?" I replied becoming aware again of the vacuum hose in my hand.

How could I be so cruel to memory just because it hurt too much to care? I needed to care, I realized, and to grieve in measure.

And as the boys get older and some of our motivational work starts to pay off, I can step back a little and see benefit to having learned to deal with broken things around the house. It has helped me to know how to approach a similar problem in my soul. You see, much is broken in there as well and breaks again every day--often the same things in the same way-- again and again and again. How should I feel about this? Desperate, angry, apathetic? None of these seem right. It seems I need not be surprised when I fail, despite my best intentions, and a certain collected response to the smaller, repeated failings common to my state of life is required if I am to keep fighting the good fight. But I should also guard against apathy and hardness of heart. I should still grieve and take my broken self to the confessional often because there, unlike material goods, my sorrow and the sacrament really do heal and restore to me what had been broken.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Solemnity of St. Joseph

The Holy Family by James Collison, 1850.

V. He made him the lord of his household;
R. And prince over all his possessions.

From the Litany of St. Joseph. Read more here.


Alex completed his math work quickly and perfectly. After reviewing it I announced,

"Excellent, Alex!"

Without even looking up from his coloring page Zachary responded,


Winter's Last Gasp

Snow and Sunshine

When my husband brought me these roses, it was nearly seventy degees outside. I had windows open all over the house. By the end of the week, we were hit with one of the messiest storms of the winter. Ah well, at least I could watch it through this rose-colored window.

And the boys cut snowflakes all afternoon.

The view from my computer.

Lastly, we received this fun postcard from a Minnesotan couple claiming to be in Hawaii. Does anyone have any idea who these people might be??

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Let the Children Come

Nicholas likes to carry the rosary box around and put all the extras around his neck. He likes to romp around while we try to pray and can be quite distracting. Tonight, we thought it just might be easier to put Nicholas down to sleep before we say the family rosary. We were wrong. He cried from his crib the whole time. What surprised us, however, was the reason why. When we went to comfort him afterward he was sobbing, "Rosy, rose-a-ee, rosy...say pray'rs." The poor child had just wanted to pray with us... in his own little way.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I came to the Irish people to preach the Gospel and endure the taunts of unbelievers, putting up with reproaches about my earthly pilgrimage, suffering many persecutions, even bondage, and losing my birthright of freedom for the benefit of others.
If I am worthy, I am ready also to give up my life, without hesitation and most willingly, for Christ's name. I want to spend myself for that country, even in death, if the Lord should grant me this favor.
--St. Patrick

Visit the Loveliness of St Patrick's Day at Mary Ellen's!

Friday, March 16, 2007

St. Patrick's Day

Or: More Theology For Your Door

I began this simple project by telling the children the story of St. Augustine, how he walked along the beach trying to understand the Trinity and the angel, who appeared as a little boy, demonstrated how impossible a task that truly was. My boys loved this story as they have very often dug holes in beach sand and filled them with as much ocean as they could hold.

So, we know that we cannot fully understand the Blessed Trinity, but there are a few things we can know because God has revealed them. It is these things that the good St. Patrick used the shamrock to demonstrate and if he did so, we can, too. "Is it one leaf or three?" St. Patrick asks. "It is both," the people answer. So too with God, He is one God and three persons.

We asked all the questions:

Is the Father God? Yes. Is the Son God? Yes. Is the Holy Spirit God? Yes.
Is the Father the Son? No. Is the Father the Holy Spirit? No. Is the Son the Holy Spirit? No.

How many Gods? One. How many persons? Three.

As they cut out their shamrocks and wrote the names of The Most Holy Trinity on the leaves, I read the biography of St. Patrick from the St. Joseph picture books series. Then, we got out the Baltimore Catechism and talked about how man was made in the image and likeness of the Triune God. Man is one nature with three parts. He is body and soul and his soul is divided into mind and will. We made another shamrock to demonstrate this. Man is made in the likeness of God, but is not EXACTLY the same so we used a different shade of green. And a whole new set of questions...

Is your body yourself? Yes. We don't say "My body fell down." Is your mind yourself? Yes. We don't say "My mind passed the math test." Is your will yourself? Yes. We don't say "My will took out the garbage." The boys loved this. They have been saying things like, "My will let Alex have the last hot dog," and "My body put its P.Js on," and such ever since we did this. But then we pointed out that though our bodies, our minds and our wills are distinct, they are not seperate persons as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in God. Man is one person and one nature with three parts.

Again from the Baltimore Catechism: The family is made in the likeness of the Triune God. It is made up of a mother, father, and a child. Here, three separate persons make up one family, but each is not the family all by itself the way each person in the Trinity is fully and completely God. But again, we see a mirror of the trinity in the family and so it, too, gets its own shamrock in yet another shade of green.

On a completely different note, we are still waiting for these to turn green. And there is a recipe for Irish Whiskey Soda Bread over at The Virtual Kitchen.

Have a Happy St Patrick's Day, all!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Brothers In Stereo

Jacob: Mama, Zachary is copying me.

Zachary: Mama, Zachary is copying me.

Me: (bending down and looking him in the eyes) Jacob, you shouldn't let a silly thing like that bother you. Besides, imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Jacob: Oh, ok.....but....I don't know what that means.

Zachary: Oh, ok...but...I don't know what that means.

N.B. title of post. (Not that I'm a huge fan)

Shameless Nepotism

Buy my sister's new book.
You may not listen to me, but they ... all ... say ... it's really good!
* * *

Current Trends

We were out running endless errands on a mad search for sneakers because every child has outgrown his and there is no one place that carries all the sizes and styles I need. My rope was starting to fray so I warned the boys, "Look, I need you to be very cooperative and quiet at this next store. I'm running out of patience here, but we need to get this done. Do you understand?"

Alex replies by addressing the whole van, "When we are noisy and touching too many things at the store it makes Mama's battery low. And when Mama's battery is low it makes our batteries low, so let's all just be quiet and recharge for a while."

I couldn't have said it better.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Two Worlds Colide:

When grown up decorations meet kid decorations.
(found after bedtime)

Sweet Spring


All Over the Yard

Front Yard

Side Yard

My Irish Name

Your Irish Name Is...

Maura Guinness

What's your Irish Name?

But I'm not crazy about Guiness. Maura O'Red Wine would have made maura sense.
But I suppose that's not Irish...but neither am I, which is why I needed an Irish name in the first place.

And the boys each got one, too. My Irish sons are Donal, Lorcan, Kieran, Quinn, and Owen. Now we're ready for St. Patrick's Day.

I'd like to know yours!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Schlump Forward

I've heard some call this Daylight Savings Time thing "Spring Forward," like we're all supposed to skip an hour of sleep and keep on jumping anyway. Did I miss the government caffeine hand-outs? Why isn't the spring back in my step, yet?

Reprinted... Catholic Exchange today, my post: My Mother's Hands.

Just Because You're Educated at Home...

...doesn't mean you can't have a crush on your Kindergarten teacher.

Alex lovingly presented me with this beautiful picture he had drawn just-for-me.
This, from a boy who NEVER draws flowers, but he knew that I would like them. Spring is in the air. Love is in the air.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Satisfying Answer

An errand this weekend took me to a part of town and into a craft store that I had not been to for some time. Wandering around the narrow aisles, I could not help but remember an incident that occurred the last time I had been there just three years before.

I had taken the three oldest boys with me to replenish some of our craft supplies and pass a dull late-winter afternoon. Because I was in the third trimester of my pregnancy with Zachary, and because the boys were prone to grab at googly-eyes, rubber stamps, pom-poms, stickers, and what-nots unless I constantly reminded them not to, I had placed all three inside my cart together and given them some purchases to occupy them.

As I wobbled down the paper aisle, a woman took notice of me, my full cart, and my full belly. (We were hard not to notice, I am sure) She began to comment and ask questions.

"My, oh my, do you have your hands full. How many are there? I see one...two...three...and one on the way? Are they all boys? Were you trying for your girl? Is the next one a boy? If so, you had better stop."

I ignored her... hoped she would go away. As anyone with more than two children knows, this line of commenting and questioning is all too common. Some people's rudeness knows no bounds and on that late-winter, gray-skied, third-trimester, sciatic-nerve-twanging afternoon, I was in NO MOOD for her rude questions. I was annoyed and humiliated beyond description and my hormonal pregnant self was not going to listen to her. I continued to ignore her and she continued to push...

"They are all so little! How ever do you do it? I wouldn't have the patience."

I could not ignore her any longer as she was standing right beside me and addressing the boys. She asked them questions and they cheerfully responded, enjoying her attentions. Then she turned to me again and asked,

"How far apart are they, anyway?"

I peered out over my Cart-Full-O-Boys and pretended to examine them.

"Oh, " I responded dryly, "About two or three inches, but they move around a lot."

She stood for a moment not understanding and then her face fell as my meaning took hold. She looked dismayed, then embarrassed, and then she turned away from me without a word and went on her way.

You might think I was satisfied. I had silenced her. You might think I was pleased with myself. That was awfully clever of me-- one of the best lines I had ever come up with, drawn up on the spot, perfectly suited to the line of questioning, and delivered seamlessly. But I was not...

I thought about her face the whole drive home, later in the day, and even later in the week. I thought about the way it fell from a smile to sudden humiliation. She was as humiliated, perhaps, as I had been by her line of questioning. How could that satisfy me?

Then, I thought about how it was most often women that questioned me about my procreative decisions and that made sense. Women have keen interest in this topic as child bearing lies at the very heart of what it is to be a woman. In child-bearing, every part of a woman's body is affected from her hair to her toenails. In child-rearing , every part of her soul is tried. She is stretched, deepened, expanded, changed--physically, emotionally-- forever, deeply and beautifully changed. But it isn't all breakfast in bed and butterfly kisses. Motherhood entails pain and suffering and self sacrifice. If we forgot this aspect of motherhood for a moment, society would be quick to remind us.

Everyone knows that parenting is difficult, and raising a large family can be very difficult. But how many women in today's secular culture know how wonderful it can be? How fulfilling? Not many, I'd venture to guess. Many haven't even encountered large families. And what if they do one day and in their curiosity they question and prod, however stupidly and thoughtlessly, and the mother of that large family responds with sarcasm?

What kind of an impression have I made? What have I done?

From that day forward, I made a point to be polite and courteous to even the rudest of questioners. In fact, I've seen it as important work for the pro-life cause. I see it as doing my part, however small, to help change the general impressions society has of motherhood, of pregnancy, of children, and of large families.

Often, the women who question me and make remarks are doing so because they see my family as a statement, often one they oppose. Some women, in their insecurity, have even perceived my large family to be a statement of judgement upon themselves. However rudely they respond to that perceived statement, I am determined to make a good impression.

I don't know how much I can do with a cheerful disposition to change the perceptions of other women or the direction of the pro-life movement in America, but I do know that I am more likely to change hearts with charity than with sarcasm. And I know that when I respond to rude questions with kindness that I am defending my way of life in the best way I can. And that is indeed satisfying.

Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.

Matthew 5: 10

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Go To Joseph

"Ite Ad Joseph."
Go to Joseph.
(Genesis 41:55)

Novenas begun today will end on the feast day of this beloved saint.
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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Loved It

Where do envy, greed, hatred, jealously, and anger land you? Watch this and see for yourself...fascinating.

Thankfulness: Lenten Edition

Alicia has taken some time to be thankful this Thursday in Lent. What a great response to the tedium of a winter that has overstayed its welcome.

And Michelle has a wonderful reflection on how easy it is to see the ingratitude of others, but at the same time, how difficult it can sometimes be to remember the abundance of our own blessings.

And what am I grateful for this Thursday in Lent? Five grateful children (ostensibly, anyway). I can hardly lift a finger for these boys without being showered in a chorus of their cheerful, Thank Yous--a habit they learned from their father, and for this I am very thankful.

Boys and Dolls

Jacob swaddled Nicholas' doll, Joey, and brought it to him as a gift.

Zachary: (holding up his bear) Hey, I want my bear tied up, too!

All The Action... in the kitchen.

Would you believe me if I told you that I'm actually not much of a baker? I prefer cooking to baking. No? Me neither. I've been on such a baking kick of late and just when I thought it was finally over, the temperature dipped to 10 degrees below bearable. And so I bake...

Look into the bread. You are getting very hungry....
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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Arws Arw Harwd

Me: Jacob, please make a sentence using the word, weed.

Jacob: I like to weed books.

Sugar-Coated Sweetie

You know you're a mommy blogger when you see opportunity in moments like this...

And this one...and this one.

If I had labels, one would surely be "Nicholas gets into___."

Another way to know you are a mommy blogger...

When your eight-year-old thanks you for a nice Sunday dinner and dessert and he prefaces his compliments by saying he would, "like to leave you a comment."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Now That's Dedication

Jennie C. over at Far Beyond Pearls says she awoke at 2 AM and realized that this would be the day she delivers her sixth child. She says her first thought was, I had better go blog!! Her second thought was to contact her husband!

We're praying, Jennie, and can't wait to see baby pictures!

Spring Has Not Yet Sprung

...but it's coiled.

We've already been Maple sugaring once and we hope to go again, soon. It was a gloriously slushy, wet, puddley day. There were patches of ice and snow as well as pools of water and plenty of mud. When Alex's foot got stuck he said to me, "The mud ate my boot!" The air was sweet smelling, crisp and cool, and the sun was warm and strong.

Today, while we were out, there were flurries of snow that picked up into near blizzards and then dropped off suddenly. Gusting winds carried the flakes, rocking them and suspending them such that Simeon was sure "they never land!"

Oedipus, the snowman

The seasonal change is certainly here with its crazy mix of elements and it has turned our yard into one, great, sloping ice rink. Our snowman has shriveled and his eyes have fallen out, poor thing.

Simeon meets his brother, Zachary, for the first time. March 2004.

Whenever the seasons change, my memory draws me back to that same season from years before. Sometimes it is just one year before and sometimes I suddenly have remarkably clear memories from many years before. This spring I am reminded especially of the spring of 2004; the spring that Zachary was born. Something about this approaching spring, more than last spring or the one before, is bringing to mind those little hands, his funny expressions, his first bath, the blooming tulips outside...

I love the effect seasonal change has on my memory. I find the returning to different seasons of life, experienced in the same season, somehow comforting. I guess I'm a true New Englander.
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Sunday, March 04, 2007

How I Lost My Marbles: A Brief History

Uncle Jeff (my husband's brother) lives with his wife and two children in Germany. He is the kindest Uncle anyone could ever wish for and since he has fond memories of his own boyhood days, he always knows just what toys will be appreciated here at Christmas. A box from him is sure to bring smiles all around. This year he sent the boys a beautiful set of wooden blocks designed to be a marble run, complete with a little dinging bell that hangs from a red-and-white striped string and rings when the marbles pass-- down the inclines, through the shoots and around the bends. This marked the first entry of marbles into our house... and I had a feeling it might end badly. There are just too many possibilities for disaster...

But, you see, at the ripe old age of thirty-three, I have already begun to suffer somewhat from a syndrome commonly found in older mothers-- a syndrome marked by unexplainable acceptance of things previously deemed unacceptable. I don't mean really bad things. I mean things like sugary cereal, plastic toys, singing purple dinosaurs, and--in this house anyway-- marbles. I wouldn't want to give you the impression that I have thrown in the towel, given up all but the most strictly necessary standards, or that I am letting my household run amok. Neither am I regretting any standards I may have set for myself and my family in the past. If one does not have standards, what does one relax? And if one does not have rules, how does one make exception? Rather, imagine a kind of softening-- a sort of mellowing-- or aging, like a fine wine. OK, maybe more like a stick of butter left out on the counter.

In any case, I am surprised to find that this softening is not due so much to being tired and worn thin as it is the result of a certain growing realization that these children will not be little forever, and if they don't have marbles now...when will they? And if they don't eat the occasional Pop Tart or Hostess cupcake now-- when they don't have to fret about their health or weight quite to the degree we do -- when will they? And if that less-than-sightly toy gives them many hours of constructive play... why throw it away after they have gone to bed?

But it wasn't long after these gracious thoughts that I found myself fishing a marble out of a toilet bowl and it was shortly after that, that I found one in the garbage disposal. It wasn't until my washing machine started rattling when it was in the spin cycle, however, that I declared war on those colorful little balls of glass.

"It sounds like something is rolling around in there," said the appliance repair man.

"Like a marble." I replied with audible certainty.

"I don't know M'am, we'll see."

"You were right," he said later (surprised) handing me the marble.

"Uh-hu." I said (not-surprised) writing him a check for $75.00

I put that marble away in a safe place and hunted for the others. I found all but two and squirreled these away from the children, keeping watch-- always-- for those missing two.

Now enter (stage left) the irresistible Nicholas Justin. He is twenty-two months and brimming with personality, just now showing itself in all its complexity and endearing all those who know him. Though he speaks quite well, there are three phrases that he uses most often...

'Pen de doora: "Open the the door." Derived-- obviously and brilliantly-- from the way an open door opens possibilities. If he wants a jar open he says, 'Pen de dorra. If he wants the television on he asks, 'Pen de doora?

"Look at me." Often uttered when he puts something on his head, usually underwear.


I-ya-you: "I love you." This one kills me. Absolutely kills me. It turns me to jelly and when he says it in that sweet sing-y voice of his, I will 'pen nearly any doora he asks for.

And thus it happened. Nicholas came running to to me shouting 'Pen de doora, 'Pen de doora. I did not understand. OOk-a me, he said and I followed him. He led me upstairs and into the big boys' room still shouting in distress. 'Pen de doora. He crawled up onto Simeon's bed and showed me.

There, in the bed post where there is a hole for the wooden peg that would hold the bunks together,were they bunked, were the two missing marbles. They had been dropped inside and were beyond reach.

'Pen de dorra, 'Pen de doora. Nicholas begged.

First, I tried reaching them with a pen. The pen was too wide. I found an exacto-knife and tried to pry them out, but the angle was wrong. Next, I tried a butter knife, but that didn't work either...

Pen de doora, Pen de doora Nicholas cried, and I thought a moment. Then, Nicholas reached in with his finger and the top marble stuck to his finger for moment... before it fell back onto the other. That's it, I realized, we need something sticky to get them out. I found some putty and stuck it to the end of a pencil. I lowered it into the bed post and stuck it to the topmost marble. It stuck. I lifted it out. It worked! I retrieved the second marble in the same way and Nicholas watched me all the while with glee.

When I finally removed the second marble he was clapping and shouting with joy. He took them both and headed out the door.

"Wait," I called, wondering if I shouldn't take them from him on the spot. "What do you say?"

"I-ya-you," he said in that sweet sing-songy voice and that was enough. I was satisfied. He was gone.

...Well, it was partly my fault that that marble got stuck in the washing machine pump anyway, I thought to myself. I should have checked pockets more carefully...

... right??

I know...I know...I have to get them back.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


The First Crocus

In March amid the blow and cold,
Up through the layered leaves' dark mold,
A golden Crocus blooms alone.

Distilled from earth, rain, snow and sun,
Appointment kept, the cycle run,
A Chalice lifts and winter's gone.

--Sr. Martha Wickham, ASC, Ill.

(Photograph: Jeremy's. The first Crocus: Taken on the feast of St. Joseph, March 19th 2004, after a very harsh winter and just five days before Zachary was born.)
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Friday, March 02, 2007

Two Smart


Alex: Jacob, the more schoolwork you do's the smarter you gets.


Alex: (To me, as I turn the pages of our calenders to March) What happens when you run out of pages to turn?

Jacob: (In a faraway, dreamy voice) That is when it is the end of time, the Earth, and the whooooole world...

Me: Or... just time to pick up a new calender.

The Best Kind of Medicine

Yesterday evening I started a migraine headache. I don't get them very often, but when I do, they make me sick to my stomach. I MUST take medication and keep my eyes closed. Any exposure to light will make me sick. This was the state I was in last night while we were praying the rosary. I was lying down on the couch with my eyes closed tightly, responding as loudly and as quietly as I could, when I heard some whispering at the other end of my couch.

I opened one eye just enough to see Simeon and Zachary wrapped in the same blanket. Zachary was holding up one of our new and freshly laminated eight by ten Mysteries of the Rosary Prints from CHC. It was the Transfiguration and Simeon was quietly and accurately explaining it to him. They sat closely together, rosaries in hand. Zachary was wide-eyed, listening, and drinking it all in. For a moment, I forgot that my head ached at all-- and the light could not affect me.

Google Giggles

For the person who arrived here via the google search words,

Why are men so weird?

I assure you, I do not know. But do come back and tell me if you ever find an answer.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


We like to keep motivated around here and so we often have some sort of motivational system going. I have found, however, that the children grow tired of the same old systems and they cease to be motivated by them once this happens. To keep things fresh, I have to "invent" a new system every so often. Here is the latest and it is a hit! (so far)

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the "Happy, Happy Apple Tree." We've given it a very positive sounding name, you'll note, with hopes that the child for whom it is designed will not forget that it is on the fridge just waiting to reward him for good behaviors. This is a positive experience. This is motivation (smile, smile).

The Goal: To fill the tree with the fruits of his good deeds (apples)

How is it done?

Simple. Half way through the day, this child may put an apple sticker in the "Happy, Happy Apple Tree" if he has behaved well in the specific area in which he is working. He may do the same at the end of the day if he has behaved well from lunch to bedtime. This way, the window of time in which he needs to behave before he is rewarded is short and, to him, seems more doable. Also, he still has a chance to be rewarded even if he slips up in one part of the day.

Should he transgress, however, at any time of the day, he must remove an apple from the tree and it falls to the ground. How sad. Let's not let that happen again.

Once the tree is filled (36 apples) he will receive an appropriate reward.

We are on day 8 of this motivational system and it seems to be working. Time will tell if these are lasting improvements, but even if they are not, this child has begun to develop good habits through practice. I like the way, too, that the other boys rally around him, encouraging him to fill his tree. And I wonder if the secret to its success isn't just the way it motivates me to be a more consistent motivator.