Saturday, November 20, 2010


The weather has been beautiful, perfect for walks in the woods and gathering leaves with the children. Alex amasses piles of them, "This one has PINK in it, this one has brown spots that look like a leopard, this one has a yellow splotch in the middle of the red..." To Alex, every leaf is precious. Every leaf is loved.

The sun sets early, though, and the sudden chill brings us indoors. We get on our new slippers and set Pandora to children's folk music or piano sonatas. A pre-heating oven call us the kitchen where there's dinner to be made and things to bake in preparation for Thanksgiving. Some children sit and draw while others chop apples, crack an egg, roll sausages, or grease a loaf pan.

When my husband comes home from work, he steps in from the darkness into savory and sweet smells, gentle music, and soft light. A baby runs to him and a cat purrs.

Evenings are for books. We're taking time off from extracurricular activities that had us running out at this time and instead we've established autumn evening school. The children work one on one with each of us as the others wait and read quietly. Each fleece-jammied child is eager for his turn with me. I hear my husband working with my oldest son in a nearby room. I can't make out the words, but his gentle instructing tone is soothing. Some last thing baking is now ready and it's time for prayers and bed.

I am thankful...

for the embers of autumn warmth
and burning glory of the trees
for the harvest moon above
and crunching underfoot of leaves.

for the gathering at the hearth
and for the food and thoughts we share
for the evening's quiet repose
and for home and love and prayer.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010


This is from the archives, but I thought it was worth posting again as this topic is now being discussed elsewhere. Some readers responded to this by saying that sometimes some people just need or deserve a smart remark. That may be true.

I would add, however, that Mother Asumpta Long, O. P. of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, MI came to speak at our church not too long ago. She mentioned how it never fails to amaze her that so many people approach her and want to speak with her when she travels. Her full habit is an outward sign of her vocation. It makes a bold statement to the world and it draws people in. I'm sure she gets all sorts of comments and questions, but the thing that struck me was how pleased she was to have a moment in the airport or on the plane to listen and offer people what she could, given the limitations of time and setting.

It occurred to me while I was listening to her that for those of us with large families, our crew is something like her habit. It is the outward sign of our vocation. It makes a statement and draws people to us. So, whatever the nature of strangers' comments and whatever words or tone we choose, I think we should keep in mind that we are representing that vocation when we respond.

* * * * *

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 children 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 and 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 attention. 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 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. I had been as rude as she had been. 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?

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 as a judgement on 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.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Alphabet From Z to A

...with much confusion along the way.

"The Alphabet From Z to A" by Judith Viorst is a new favorite around here. It's very clever with lines like "N is for NIT, NIGHT, and NOT, but not KNOT, KNIGHT, or KNIT," and "K is for KISS, but they won't let us use it for CUDDLE."

Monday, November 08, 2010

Cat Blogging

Tipsy licks Simeon's arms while he reads.

Fall Back

Give us an extra hour and we'll get up early on a Sunday. We'll eat a big breakfast and take our time getting ready for church. We might even squeeze in a catechism lesson and take pictures on the porch.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Communion of the Saints

My youngest child thinks anything he can hold in the palm of his hand is a cell phone. Naturally, he holds holy cards up to ear and talks to the saints directly. He spent the evening conversing with Mary, Queen of the Rosary and judging by his end of the conversation, he seemed to be reaching someone on the other end of his line. I wish I had that kind of connection.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Quick Takes Friday

Beer. That's what it takes to get rid of fruit flies. We had a particularly bad infestation and I tried everything to get rid of them including letting the kids stand on my counters and slap at them. Finally, I tried a little beer at the bottom of two wine glasses with a drop of dish soap placed under a high pressure faucet to create a foaming top layer. The flies can't resist the beer and when they try to get close to it they get trapped in the bubbles. Victory! But I don't know that I'll be able to use these wine glasses ever again.

Micah likes to sing, "I've got joy, joy, joy, joy...down in my heart...where? down in my heart...and I'm so happy, so very happy." Of course it sounds more like this when he sings it..."Goy, goy, goy, goy...sooo appy, soooo appy...goy, goy, goy, goy." It's music to my ears.

Do you have well water? We do. It has damaged my hair. It wasn't so bad that I did anything about it right away, but it was enough that I noticed a difference in the quality of my hair over time. A whole house filter would probably be a good idea, but for now we just replaced our shower head with one of these and it works, I'm happy to say.

Speaking of well water, it doesn't have Floride which might explain why we've had cavities for the first time ever after moving here. It's just been baby teeth, thank goodness, but we need to supplement. The pediatrician set us up with six different prescriptions with six different co pays and six child proof bottles to open each morning and refill each month. Let's say, we haven't been very consistent with this method. The dentist this week told me to just buy Floride rinse and line the little ones up like ducks each night and be sure they swish it and don't swallow. With the little ones losing baby teeth now, it's time to ACT.

We had a really great Halloween this year. We went around our own neighborhood for the first time and since we are the kids in the neighborhood, we got lots of attention at each house. We were invited in, had our costumes admired and pictures taken, and I learned as we were going around that some neighbors had actually asked the boys what kind of candy they wanted and had shopped around for it. So we spent the evening really visiting with our neighbors and returned home happy with bags filled with special order candy and personalized treats. I hope my kids know how good they have it.

There's a family of Guinea hens roaming the neighborhood. We think they might have been blown in on the last storm and may be a long way from home. I hope they find their way again, but in the meantime the boys enjoy spotting them. They were in our yard this morning, bobbing about and walking in circles. Funny birds.

Our Kitty, Tipsy, feels like a part of the family now. I remember the day I told my husband over the phone that we were taking care of a stray for the day and that I wasn't sure who it was that dropped her off or where he lived exactly. My husband did not laugh with me. "I need an exit strategy," he insisted. Now, Jeremy picks up and pats her and brings her to me to show me how she purrs for him. I wonder if we could get a dog, too...
(Ha! Just checking to see if you're reading, dear.)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


We've been drawing and painting saints yesterday and today.

Kid on a Hill

Jeremy says "Kid on a Hill" by Nicholas looks stylized.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Happy Feast of All Saints!

"God creates out of nothing. Wonderful, you say. Yes, to be sure, but He does what is still more wonderful: He makes saints out of sinners."
--Soren Kierkegaard