Thursday, December 9, 2010

I Must Be Getting Old...

Remember when you were a teenager and you watched your parents or grandparents freak out over something that seemed relatively minor to you? For example, when I was 16, my grandmother went shopping with me at a local department store. As we entered the Juniors department, the jazzy, soothing muzak that the store piped in over the speakers became this jarring, slightly heavy-metal-type rock and roll. Almost immediately, my grandmother's lips formed a tight, thin line through which I heard something like, "Pick out your damn pants and let's get out of this screaming nightmare.". I remember thinking, "Geez, it's not that loud. Why is she so bothered by a little noisy music?". (Also, I may have rolled my eyes when her back was turned, by I can neither confirm or deny that.)

It was always the "little things" like that incident, that convinced me that my grandmother or one of my parents was overly impatient and intolerant. A waitress that took too long to bring our meal to the table. An argument between me and one of my siblings. The phone ringing for the 17th time during dinner. All of these things could potentially yield a very cranky comment and/or look from my "elders". What was the big stinking deal, people? Chill out. I would never react that way. Ne.Ver.

A couple of months ago, as I shopped in a local department store for my son's 1st Communion suit, I realized I was becoming more and more agitated with each minute that passed. The store was ridiculously crowded (think street fair in some third world nation crowded), the racks of clothes were all out of order, price tags were missing, there was absolutely no pants in a size 7. As my husband touched my shoulder to let me know that he was taking the baby and our son to a less crowded part of the store, I jumped about 12 feet in the air and snapped, "WHAT?!". Another proud moment to add to my memoirs. I tried to calm down but I felt like I could have been confused with one of the meth addicts on Intervention: jumpy, twitchy, cranky, and wild-eyed. What in the name of all that is holy was making me act this way?

In a word: AGE.

Is there some invisible "age line" that we cross that turns us from a laid-back hipster into the old lady who sits on her front porch screaming at the neighborhood kids to get off her lawn? Maybe, but I don't think so.

I believe that, like fine wine, it happens gradually and within certain environmental conditions.

Over the years of my adulthood, I have watched as minutes, days, and months have been taken away from me just because I have spent the time waiting on hold or arguing with sassy customer service people. For the past almost-16 years, I have been daily subjected to the sights, sounds, and smells of a cheap zoo in China, while never having to leave my own home. I have stood by while an apple that cost me $2.99/lb was thrown in the garbage with one bite taken out of it because it displeased a finicky 2-year-old. I have asked God to hold back my hand during Mass so I would not use it to smack my bratty 4-year-old who was stage-whispering, "I hate Jesus" over and over again.

Yes, the spirit and will that my own parents worked so hard to preserve and protect in me has been worn down and hopelessly broken over the years. Let's pause for a moment of silence for My Spirit...


Thank you.

Does that mean I am now an nearly-empty, bitter shell? Lordy, I sure hope not!

I realized that my character has been burnished to a fine shine. I have learned to not take less than is owed to me (or my family). I have learned that tolerance has a time and place and should be used with compassion, but not squandered in foolishness. I have learned that my days are numbered and I should spend them usefully --- OK, maybe I am still learning this one.

When I look at my parents (and, my grandparents, when they were alive), I realize how much I truly enjoy their characters, how much I still learn from them as people, not just as "Mom" and "Dad". I see that they have learned how to treat people well, while still commanding respect for themselves. I see that, even in their persnickety moments, they look for Christ in others (but NOT in loud, offensive music). I see that I, too, must learn to "use my crankiness wisely.".

Now, I am just waiting to see how my children will learn. And, look for the signs of senility in their mother.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog...

OK, so maybe not so regularly scheduled...

Anyhoo... I WON!!!! I WON!!!

Oh, just watch the video...

And, THANK YOU to Lydia and Kate! Love you gals!

(I totally promise to post more regularly. Really.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Now I've REALLY Lost My Dang Mind!

OK, stepping out of my comfort zone completely here.

For those of you who know me, you are familiar with the part of my personality that prevents me from choosing paint colors, wall tiles, or plumbing fixtures. I cannot explain this indecisive part of me, as I usually have no problem choosing anything else (new cars, babies' names, pizza toppings, etc); it's just there. Even after I have chosen a wall color and painted an entire room in that color, I still can waver between love and hate for the new color. Maybe I'm fickle. If I am, only my husband should be worried. As it is, he has no idea that I'm about to post this particularly crazy idea on this blog. (D.R.A.M.A.)

Anyhoo, we need to re-paint three "major" rooms in our house and three-ish major rooms at our lake house. Needless to say, the part of my brain that is supposed to choose the wall colors for these rooms is scared fecal-less. Here's where you, the enlightened and fashion-forward readers of this blog, come in: help me choose!

I can narrow the choices down to 2 or 3 colors per room, but you have to vote for the one you think I should use!

Let's start with our "regular" house and worry about the vacation house later (like Spring... of 2012?) .Later this week, I will post pictures of our living room, dining room, and kitchen. In the same post I will try to figure out how to put in a voting widget (tech-y suggestions?) that shows my paint color choices for each room. Then... YOU VOTE! Whichever paint color receives the most votes will get slapped up on the walls of that room. Promise. I will even post "after" pictures to prove my honesty and commitment.

Truly, you are doing me a great service. Now, if you could do the actual painting for me...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Today, I just needed to re-read and pray this:

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
 I needed to read it s.l.o.w.l.y. I needed to read it thoughtfully. I needed to read it prayerfully. It seems that there is a crapload lot of upheaval in the world all around us right now. It also seems that there is a lot of upheaval in my tiny "world within the world" lately.

Nothing horrific. Mostly just your garden-variety angst. Typical parenting stuff that you would expect in any family, maybe just ratcheted up a notch because our family is more than twice the size of the average family in the U.S.. So, while it's typical for a child to go through incredibly selfish stages of brattiness developmental phases that drive their parents into states of froth-mouthed insanity test their parents patience, it's a little more tricky when you have 3 or 4 kids going through different phases simultaneously. AND, one child's phase can, directly and indirectly, affect another child's phase. 
 What does this mean for parents like my husband and myself? Three things:
  1. Prioritizing:  While each child's phase is important (especially to that child!), some phases require a more "hands-on" approach than others. This does not mean we ignore or downplay certain phases --hence, our exhaustion!--, it simply means that we deal with certain phases more directly and firmly than we do with others. And, it all works out in the end, because eventually you'll be that kid who is in that phase which merits "top priority" --- and you'll probably hate all the attention!
  2. Teamwork:  Recently, my husband was on the other side of the freaking planet out of the country sightseeing and getting hours of uninterrupted sleep on business and I witnessed the absolute and total need for a two-parent home. Sorry,I am not single-parent-bashing here, just giving those single parents major kudos if they can make it through the child-raising years without selling their kids to the gypsies losing all sanity. Instead of saying, "Listen Mister, just wait until Daddy gets home tonight!", I found myself saying, "Listen Mister, just wait until we Skype with Daddy tonight!"; not an equally scary threat. It really does take two present parents to raise children, and sometimes a third parent would be ideal.
  3. Prayer: Lots and lots of prayer. This does not include phrases uttered in exasperation, such as "Sweet Lord! Please remove the vocal chords from these children for just 5 minutes!". Wait. Maybe it does include phrases like that. As much as I know and talk about "giving all burdens over to God", it is really, really difficult to do that. Trust, hope, and pray. Trust, hope, and pray. C'mon, say it with me now!

Number three brings me right back to where I started: St. Francis.
THANK YOU, St. Francis. THANK YOU, Lord.
I need to be reminded to ask for peace, to let myself be used as a "instrument of peace", and that there is peace. Always.

Friday, September 10, 2010


With the beginning of each school year comes new clothes, new colored pencils, new friends, and new things we've never heard before.

And, by "we", I mean "parents".

This year has not disappointed. Five of our six kids are enrolled in school, and four of those five had meetings that parents were required to attend (a big "THANK YOU!" goes out to my son's high school who doesn't seem to care about seeing any parents unless their kids are in trouble). My husband and I divvied up the meetings as fairly as possible (Me: 3.5 meetings, Him: 1 meeting. Fair, like I said.) and tried our best to hunker down and hide behind the teacher's handouts. Our goal is to "get in/get out" and, yes, we are the people who hate you if you ask ANY question because it prolongs the meeting unnecessarily. *Side note: Lest you think we are old cranks, we have been attending these meetings unfailingly since 1997, and it just gets OLD after the first 7 or 8 years.*

And, because you know how I love to make lists, I am going to give you some of the interesting (read as "un-freaking-believable") things my husband and I heard at some of these meetings:
  1. The teacher in my 2nd grader's class made the decision to eliminate the privilege of trading/sharing lunches in the class, because one of the children has a severe chromosomal disorder which makes consuming most carbohydrates essentially lethal for this child, as well as causing him to have zero impulse control when it comes to resisting carbs. This child's father gave a lengthy description of this child's disorder, the history of his care, and of his very uncertain future, then left to attend another of his children's meetings. Immediately after his exit, another father in the class proceeded to complain that it was "unfair" and "un-Montessori" of the teacher to change the rules on trading, and it was infringing on his son's right to, apparently, do whatever the heck he wants to do regardless of the well-being of others. Yeah. Only one word comes to mind when I think of this guy, and I can't say it here. Jackhole. Whoops, sorry.
  2. The same teacher told us that the best way to reach her was to send in a note with your child or leave her a voice mail message at school. Another jackhole father asked her, "You don't use email?" Teacher says, "No. I don't give out my email address for various personal reasons." Jackhole Daddy asks, "And, what are those reasons?". Uh-huh. So, Mr. Nosy, didja hear the word "personal"? And, what I'd like to know, even more, is this: were you planning on trying to convince the teacher that her personal reasons were wrong? In the middle of the class meeting?
  3. At the class meeting for my 3-year-old's Primary class (ages 3 to 6), one set of Type-A parents wanted to know what allowances the The Montessori Method has made for technology. Yes, because what I want the most in the whole wide world is for my 3-year-old to go to school and spend even more time staring at electronic screens. Mr. and Mrs. Our-Child-Will-Never-Be-Able-To-Add-Without-A-Calculator, listen up: I'm sure in your 6 whole years as excellent managers of your child's life parents, you have realized that children log in a huge amount of hours in front of TVs, computers, and video games; in fact, too many hours.  I, for one, do not want my tuition to be converted into quarters to be used at a classroom arcade. But, I'm sure your son will have a very happy future at the Ho-Chunk Casino slot machines.
  4. And, to the mother who loves to be her 4-year-old daughter's slave, I just want to say that I really do not care one whit that your child is afraid of the toilet flushing. And, no, I don't think she should have a "designated flusher" every time she "makes tinkle" (grrrrr. Grow up! We are all adults here! It's called "pee-pee"!). I'm sure the teacher with 25 years teaching experience is going to immediately try to hire a person to accommodate your daughter's neuroses. Also, I know you think she should be able to bring and use her own disposable toilet seat covers, because "she can't stand to sit on an icky-wicky potty", but I think using regular old toilet paper to cover the seat is good enough for every other of the 172 students, so it's good enough for The Poopy Princess. Sorry, was I being too mean? Well, I'm probably having a crash from low blood-sugar because this meeting was scheduled at my dinnertime and it's now 90 minutes past that!
  5. On to the mother of the 2nd-grader who wanted to know what the "theme" for the year would be... OK, I got nothing. I'm truly flabbergasted. A theme? Really? A? Theme? How about the theme of EDUCATION??? Lady, this is your daughter's third year at this particular Montessori school, her second year with this particular teacher. At what point did you think you had enrolled her at The Wiggles Playschool? 
I already know what some of you are thinking. I'm being too cranky, harsh, touchy, whatever..... Obviously, you are neither a parent who has attended a class meeting nor a teacher who has led one. Or, worse, you are one of those parents.

The good news is that most people seem to come to their senses by the time their child reaches 4th grade. Those meetings tend to move quickly and genially. And, next year, I'm bringing margaritas!

Thursday, September 2, 2010


In our family, over the years, we have "re-defined" some basic words, phrases, and uses of the English language. I am quite certain that this happens in a lot of families. What I do find quite peculiar is that we use these re-definitions effortlessly throughout a normal day and not one of us seems to think twice about it.

Before I go any further, let me first list some of these definitions.

Bargage (noun) Pronunciation: bar gaj.
Definition: Receptacle for holding trash.
  "Can you please put your apple core in the bargage?" 

Bizz-Bizz (noun, verb) Pronunciation: biz biz.
Definition: A barber's electric clippers.
   "Let me give you a hair cut with the bizz-bizz." (n)
   "Your hair is getting too long in the back, tell the barber to bizz-bizz it shorter next time."
Blecha-Blecha (adj) Pronunciation: bleck uh bleck uh.
Definition: Something that is very disgusting and/or messy. 
    "I just changed the baby's diaper and it was blecha-blecha."

Chopths (noun) Pronunciation: chawpths
Definition: A tasty, crispy snack made from potatoes or tortillas.
   "I think Ruffles Sour Cream and Onion chopths are the yummiest!"

Jerk-a-phone (adj) Pronunciation: jer kuh fone.
Definition: The ultimate insult from a three-year-old directed at anyone who angers that three-year-old.
   "My big brother told me to pick up my blocks or I wouldn't get a cookie; he's a jerk-a-  phone!"

Kitch (noun) Pronunciation: kich.
Definition: The room in the house where cooking, storing of foodstuffs, and eating occur.
   "Dinner's ready! Go to the kitch and sit at the table!"

Live (noun) Pronunciation: Liv
Definition: The room in the house used for casual and formal gatherings; usually contains a sofa.
  "Go clean up the live! Company is coming over!" 

Makery (noun) Pronunciation: may ker ee.
Definition: A person who is extremely talented at creating culinary delights.
    "Mom, I love your chili! You are the best makery!"

The above list is just a smattering of our family's re-definitions/creations (Hey! Give me a break! It's exhausting to try to be Webster or Oxford!). Using some of these words, I will show you an example of the kind of conversation that happens daily in our home:

Dad to Kid: "Where are you going with those chopths? We only eat in the kitch."
Kid to Dad: "Mom said I could eat them in the live this one time, cuz Sally-Sue was being a jerk-a-phone to me.
Dad to Kid: "How was Sally-Sue being a jerk-a-phone to you?"
Kid to Dad: "I made a peanut butter sandwich and I let Sally-Sue taste it. She said it tasted blecha-blecha, but I told her I was a good makery! I AM a good makery, right, Dad?"
Dad to Kid: "Yes, you are a great makery! Listen, go ahead and eat the chopths in the live, but when you are finished, please put all the crumbs in the bargage."

Yep. Everyone can understand each other but an "outsider" would think we were insane... or, that we were re-creating an old Twilight Zone episode.

The English language is complicated all on it's own, so I cannot fathom why families try to add even more confusion by changing it up. Although, just the opposite may be true. Maybe, because the English language has so many rules and exceptions to those rules, young children in their innate stubbornness, create a word or phrase that makes sense (to them!) and parents "adopt" these mutations because it is easier than arguing with a 30 inch tall tyrant. Maybe that's how "language" was invented in the first place: by toddlers.

Maybe, this is like the eternal "chicken vs. the egg" question: what came first, adultspeak or childspeak?

What do you think, you big jerk-a-phones?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Been a while!

Gosh! It has been a while since I last posted; almost three months! Actually, I have come back to my Blogger "dashboard" several times with the intention of writing a new post, but LIFE has gotten in the way each time.

How do I define LIFE, my LIFE? That is actually a very complicated question which requires a fairly long answer, but if you are willing to read along, then I will try my best to answer it!

When I was pregnant with my first baby (15 years ago!), my mother gave me a "Mother's Journal" as a shower gift. It was a beautifully illustrated, hardcover book with blank, lined pages. Those blank pages were pretty daunting, and the book just sat on my bedroom nightstand for a month. Then, one day when I was one week away from my due date, I was moved to write a "letter" to my unborn baby. As I look back at the letter, I can feel the worry and exhaustion I was feeling at that point. But, even more evident is my excitement and happy impatience at becoming a mother for the first time and discovering just "who" that little person was inside of me. One part stands out, in particular: "Who are you, Little Baby? I cannot wait to meet you, and find out if you are a boy or a girl! I cannot wait to smell your sweet head and cuddle you close to me! WHEN are you going to be born?!?".
Can you tell that I was at the end of a very long pregnancy?

Then, my son was born and I was swept away in a whirlwind of diaper-changing, breastfeeding, swaddling, and laundry. The Mother's Journal lay untouched, again, for months. Until, one day it occurred to me that many years down the road, after my passing, my children might find my journal and wonder, "Did Mom not care about being a mother at all? Could she not just write a few lines every now and then, to record her feelings?". OK, I realize that that is a bit melodramatic, but it's completely true. So, it was then that I decided that I would (very) periodically update my Mother's Journal with short, positive glimpses into my daily life as a mother.

Looking back, I think I was a sweet, romantic little lunatic.

When my oldest was eight months old, I started off my "updating" my telling him how much I loved him and loved being his mother, and then I gave an "accounting" of what he and I did on a typical day. If you want a good idea of how flippin' easy it is to take care of one child, you should read that entry:

"-We wake up every day at 7:30 and I nurse you in bed for a little while.
-Then, we make our way to the kitchen and I fix my breakfast and give you some applesauce.
-After we are finished eating, I give you your bath and we splash and have fun.
-Next, we take Mommy's book to the rocking chair where I nurse you to sleep for your morning nap, and I read for a while.
-When you wake up, Mommy puts you in your stroller, pushes you into the bathroom, and you play with your toy while I shower.
-We both finish getting ready for the day, and we decide what we are going to do while we eat lunch together."

The entry goes on and on like that, ending in, "Then, you, Mommy, and Daddy all lie down together to fall asleep.". Yah. What the heck was I complaining about back then???

At one point I would have been embarrassed to admit the fact the the next entry in my Journal did not occur until seven months after the birth of my third child, but, as you can see I had a very rigid schedule of eating, napping, reading, and showering for all those years, so I couldn't be bothered with writing it all down.

My entry, at that time, was also a bullet-pointed listing of my daily schedule, but it looked somewhat different than my daily schedule with just one baby. At that point, I had two kids in school, a baby, and a dog:

"-We all wake up with Daddy at 6:30, and Mommy tries to nurse the baby while Daddy helps her find everyone's clothes for the day.
-After we eat breakfast, Daddy leaves for work and we keep getting ready for school.
-Mommy helps the 2-yr-old go potty, while the 5-yr-old gets dressed and takes his lunchbox out of the fridge.
-After Mommy and Baby drop off the big brothers at school, they come back home to nurse and take a nap."

Yes. Still napping and nursing. Kind of became a theme, as well as a goal, of mine. 

It was after reading this entry, and a very similar one written after baby #4's arrival, that I realized that I was making my life as a mother sound idyllic and pampered. While trying to remain positive about motherhood, I had not given an authentic accounting of what it is like to be a mother. I suspect that I was trying to make up for all those not-so-perfect-mommy-moments, by re-writing them; all in the hope of my children reading these entries in their adulthood, and thinking, "goshdarnitall, she was a great mom! How she loved us and sacrificed for us, enjoying it all the while!". I am a nut.

Enter the Digital Age and the advent of blogging! 

I guess this blog is my mea culpa

So, LIFE is insane, busy, sticky, hilarious, distracted, messy, prayerful, desperate, fun, exciting, and... REAL. My LIFE is my vocation as a mother, my path to my Eternal Treasure. While I bemoan all the little inconveniences almost daily, I truly love that my LIFE is also the truest definition of who I am. I wouldn't re-write any part of it, no matter what.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Walking to Escape

Last summer, our newly-turned-two-year-old decided that he was going to stop taking his daily nap. Up until that point, I could lie down with him and we would both pass out for an hour or two, then awaken feeling refreshed. (This worked out fairly nicely for me, as I was pregnant and dealing with the "pregnancy tireds".)

However, right before his 2nd birthday while we were on vacation, our son decided that he was absolutely not going to make napping one of his daily activities. It wasn't that he had outgrown napping, because he hadn't. He still needed a nap and was a miserable little guy if he did not get one. He just thought he was ready to give up being well-rested.
Silly boy. 
He did not realize that we are seasoned parents who have the patience of saints, coupled with a million parenting tricks up our sleeves.
I'm lying.
We panicked. My husband did the "get in there and nap. NOW." routine, while I sobbed and pleaded with a toddler.
Yeah, I know what you're going to say, "That doesn't work.". You are correct.

So, there we were. Two intelligent, creative adults brought to our knees by a very short tyrant with gorgeous, big blue eyes and juicy, chubby cheeks. Always a man of action, my husband told me to take a nap by myself, while he buckled our son into his stroller. I think his plan was to distract our over-tired toddler with the sights of the country roads so that his pregnant mama could still get a break.

Approximately five minutes into their nature walk, the little guy fell into a deep sleep and my husband brought him back home. It was obvious that this new "independent phase" required our son to by physically immobilized along with being constantly moved, not unlike swaddling and walking him when he was a newborn.

So, the walking continued, interspersed with some napping in his car seat during errands. Two weeks before his baby sister was born, I was still pushing him in his stroller around our neighborhood after lunch every day, so that he would fall asleep and I could bring him back home so I could join him in Dreamland.

Now, I realize that his 5-month-old sister has never liked to lie down for a nap with mommy; she has to be walked and nursed and slowly "tricked" into it. Every day after lunch, I put both kids in their double stroller (yes, even if it's lightly raining) and we trek all over our neighborhood until my little ones cave into the Sandman's persuasions. Then, we all come home for a "group nap".

The other day, I realized what a huge relief it was to get the kids buckled in and start walking. They both start off the walk jabbering and/or fussing, but very quickly are mesmerized by the Spring breezes and the rhythmic movement of the stroller's wheels on the pavement. It is the Mommy Equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and saying, "I can't hear you! I can't hear you!". 

I also realized that I enjoy the walk and the new perspective it gives me. All of a sudden, my neighborhood looks friendlier and more beautiful. I can pray in peace. I can leave the chores, the computer, and the phone calls behind. I get some much-needed exercise. I feel like a better mother, a new woman.

Our daily walk is an escape for all three of us, in so many ways. I hope that my little ones feel the same way and continue to take daily walks as they grow into adulthood. I hope that they ask me to join them, sometimes, too!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Highlights of a Little Life

Since tomorrow is Good Friday, I decided today was the time to post my memorial tribute to my daughter who passed away on April 2, 2006. I wrote the following memorial on her first Heavenly birthday, but was not ready to let people see it at that time. This year, I am ready. As with any of my other children, I am a proud and loving mother and I like to brag about my kids around the time of their birthdays. This is no different.

Highlights of a Life

Fiona May was a gentle baby who loved to give her Mama soft kicks at bedtime. Her heartbeat always showed strong and true throughout the pregnancy, beginning at 12 weeks. That's when her Daddy nicknamed her "Thumper" because of that strong and persistent heartbeat.

That nickname "stuck" and soon all of Fiona's siblings were calling her "Thumper" - whether they were referring to her or addressing her directly through her Mama's belly.

After a very healthy, full-term pregnancy, Fiona died sometime during the early afternoon and was delivered by C-section soon thereafter. No reason for her death was discovered.

Her Daddy held her close, shortly after delivery.

Fiona was baptized by her "Hamma", her maternal grandmother. Both her Hamma and Hampa stood in as proxy-godparents for her chosen godparents, who were present in loving spirit.

Later, Fiona's older brothers and sister, maternal aunts and uncles, and godfather joined Kyle, Mary Kate, Hamma, and Hampa for a blessing and prayer service led by hospital chaplain, Fr. Peter. We all had a lot of time to hold Fiona, kiss her, bless and anoint her, and tell her how much we loved her.

Her beautiful funeral mass was celebrated on April 8, 2006 by family friend, Fr. Brendan O'Sullivan. The outpouring of love and support for our family was overwhelming.

Fiona was 20 inches long, weighed 7 pounds, 14 ounces, and had a lot of beautiful black hair framing her pretty, pink face. We'll never know the color of her eyes. They opened in Heaven.

Every mother knows the feeling of never being alone during her pregnancy. Fiona's whole family will have that feeling all of their lives.

We have realized that this awful tragedy begins to feel, at times, like a rare joy, a gift. Our daughter, our sister will always exist in God's perfect happiness. Fiona will always know peace and unsurpassed love. She will always be ready, willing, and able to give that peace and love to all who ask her. How blessed we are to have God grant both Fiona and us this very powerful grace.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Library Inspires Something Really Special!

Yup, it's true. Our public library is completely inspirational to my two youngest children. 
Do they aspire to being great authors? 
Maybe. But, at 2.5 years old and 4 months old, I highly doubt they have given that career route serious consideration.

No, the inspiration to which I am referring falls into a much more "natural" category. And, with all the thoughts that the word "nature" conjures up: earthy, relaxed, comfortable, smelly, somewhat embarrassing for Mom.


Two weeks ago, the three of us took a quick walk (5 blocks) over to our library. It was a gorgeous, warm Spring afternoon and we had just enough time to make a quick trip there to read one story, pick out some books to take home, and then walk back home so I could pick up my oldest child from high school. Since I didn't want to lug out our heavy and ancient twin stroller, I clipped the baby's car seat into her single stroller and let my son happily hop along beside me. Mistake #1.

We had a fine walk there, and made it up to the little kids' reading room which was uncharacteristically empty. The baby was sleeping very soundly in her car seat (still attached to the stroller) and my son and I sat in one of their comfy reading chairs to read a quick story. After that, I let my son choose his books to check out while I perused the children's CD collection.

Sounds picturesque, right? I thought so, too, and I was feeling very pat-myself-on-the-back-ish about the whole thing. Well, pride goeth before the fall, as they say.

I realized that we had to hurry to the check-out and walk home quickly in order to be able to pick up my eldest, so I called to my 2 yr old, "OK, buddy, lets take those books home now! Quick, like a bunny!" (see? still being nice at this point!). That's when I noticed two very important things simultaneously:
1) The reading room smelled just like diarrhea, and...
2) My son was walking over to me with a very wide-legged stance.

Bye, Patient and Prideful Mommy! Hello, Irritated and Humiliated Mommy!

Here are some random thoughts that ran through my head at that moment:

I hope the women's bathroom is empty.
I am fairly certain I have his size diapers in my bag.
I am also fairly certain I still have a change of pants for him.
I know I have a full package of wipes with me.
I hope the baby stays asleep.

Mistakes #2, #3, #4. 

Of those five thoughts, only numbers 1 and 5 came true. So, what I was left with was a very messy, half-naked toddler and a sleeping baby in an empty bathroom, which also had no paper towels. What to do?

Well, here's the plan -- worthy of the A-team and MacGyver -- I came up with:

1) Try not to get angry at the toddler who most obviously has the stomach flu.
2) Use 3 dry wipes very judiciously to clean up the lower half of his body (yes, the entire   lower half).
3) Ditch the pants.
4) Tie my brand-new nursing cover around his waist, apron-style.
5) Have him straddle his sister's car seat and tuck a blanket around him.
6) Pray that he doesn't have another disgusting bout of the green-apple-splatters while he is sitting on top of the car seat.

"So, Mommy, can we check out my books now?"

We did. I was trying to re-gain some of my Good Mommy Points.

And, we high-tailed it the 5 blocks home. The entire way my son was holding onto the handle of the car seat yelling, "Giddy-up, Pony! Yee-haaaaa!". 
The. Entire. Way. 

That day, I swore I'd never return to the library again. Can you imagine what the Children's Librarian was thinking when she smelled us leave???

But, lo and behold, I took the five youngest kids back to the library yesterday. Lightening doesn't strike twice, right? WRONG!

The baby had a massive blowout. 

Lucky for the librarian, I was prepared!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Holy Week

I love Holy Week. I really do. I have always loved it, even as a small child. 

I love the reading of The Passion at Mass on Palm Sunday. (Secretly, I think it's because it calls for the whole congregation's participation and that pleases the actor in me!)

I love the "prep work" of getting the house clean and shiny, and dying Easter eggs during the first half of the week. 

I love Mass on Holy Thursday, celebrating the Last Supper and re-creating the Washing of the Feet. Hearing the Lord's Passion from a different gospel writer's perspective. After Mass, I really love visiting other parishes and seeing how they handle Adoration; I tell my own children it's like visiting Jesus when he was jailed after Judas' betrayal.

Good Friday is a highly emotionally-charged day for me because it focuses so intently on Christ's Passion and Death on the Cross. I find the Stations of the Cross are a wonderful way to "walk with Jesus" through his last few, painful days. But, I find the Liturgy Service with The Veneration of the Cross to be a very meaningful experience for me, personally. I love that a true-to-life sized Cross is carried into the church by the priest, who stops at various intervals to sing, "Behold, the wood of The Cross, on which hung the Savior of the World.". I love that we pray for specific groups and things (i.e. People Who Do Not Believe in Christ and World Peace), in great detail and reverence. My two favorite things are receiving Communion and walking up to the front of the church to place a kiss on the huge cross.

I love the Easter Basket Blessing that happens in the church on Holy Saturday, where the priest has a specific blessing for candy, wine, meat, bread, eggs, and flowers for the Easter Baskets that people bring filled with these traditional items. And, I am sure the priests love that people come to the rectory to drop off a sampling of these delicious goodies after the blessing!

Easter is particularly sublime, as it is the Catholic Church's biggest feast day. The church (which has also had a Spring Cleaning!) is shining with light and decorated with heavenly-smelling Easter Lilies and other spring flowers. The music is joyful, to the point of effusiveness. And, all the people look so beautiful in their new Easter clothes (especially, the children!).

For a moment, let me back up a bit and talk about this year's Good Friday. This particular year, Good Friday also happens to be our daughter's 4th Heavenly Birthday. What do I mean? Four years ago, on April 2 (her due date), our beautiful baby girl was born into our family, into the Church, and into Heaven. She is a saint. It is her feast day. Our Lord's death on the cross definitely trumps that feast day. While we cannot have a Mass said in her honor on that day (no masses are to be celebrated after the Mass on Holy Thursday until Mass is said on the Easter Vigil on Saturday night), we will still be in church and receive Communion at the Liturgy Service. (We also will have a Mass said in her honor later next week.) 
However, being that Good Friday is a very emotional day for me normally, this year will probably be even more difficult for me. Our Lady's sorrow and grief at her Son's Passion and at the foot of His Cross has been very real to me ever since our daughter passed away. Not that the two events can be even remotely equated, but the feelings are very similar. 

I believe that was also in God's plan. I believe that in His Blessed Mother, He gave us a holy example of how we (especially mothers) are to handle our own personal grief and sorrows. While, Our Lady's heart "was pierced" by the awful treatment and horrific death of her Son, she knew that He was God, and it was necessary for Him to suffer and die in order to save the whole world. She cried and suffered, but with dignity and without questioning God's Plan for all of us. She knew that God's Plan trumped any personal sorrow she would suffer, and that, even greater than this, she could unite her own suffering to her Son's.  She showed us that she could make her suffering "count" by offering it to God as a sacrifice for sinners. (For those of you who have not already seen it, I highly recommend watching The Passion of the Christ (Full Screen Edition) this week; it shows Mary's "human-ness" coupled with her saintliness in a way that is very easy to relate to in modern day.)

I, too, will cry and re-live my sorrow this Good Friday. I am sure that the Liturgy Service with the Veneration of the Cross will be very difficult for me. The Church's Service is designed to affect us in a profound way, and this year it will ring even truer for me. But, I will also use the example of Our Blessed Mother, and not let my suffering be in vain. I will unite my pain to Our Dear Lord's pain, and offer it up for sinners. For, if Our Lady could offer up her pain and suffering at her Son's Death realizing her pain was just a small part of God's Bigger Plan, than I can certainly do the same regarding my own child's death.

And, in the midst of your own Good Friday offerings, reflections, and prayers this April 2nd, if you could manage a quick, "St. Fiona, Pray for Us!", my family and I would be very appreciative.

"St. Fiona, Pray for Us!"

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Baby Soothing 101

I wish I could say I was teaching a class called Baby Soothing 101, but I cannot. You would think that after six babies, I would be an expert on the subject. Oh, how I wish I were an expert!

What I have learned is that each baby has his/her own very distinct personality (even when they are biological siblings!) and each personality calls for it's own kind of care. Like they say in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding: Seventh Revised Edition (La Leche League International Book), all babies are inherently "good", some are just "easier to live with"! Now, on this I am an expert!

While I absolutely love learning my new baby's personality, the lessons I am taught are not always easy. All of my babies have had their fussy days, but most have been of generally happy dispositions. However, two babies have given me a particularly rough time while I waited for their nervous systems to mature (their identities will be kept anonymous, but suffice to say I may be referring to my latest newborn and her 2nd oldest brother!).

Even between these two harder-to-live-with babies, there are distinct differences, though. 
My son was colicky all night long, every night for the first six months (not even a slight exaggeration), hated car rides, but was a happy camper during daylight hours, and loved to go shopping.
My daughter sleeps quite peacefully during the night, is happy in the morning, loves car rides, but howls like a banshee from noon until 8 or 9 at night and cannot stand to be in a store for more than 3 minutes.

There are pros and cons to both types of these high-needs babies, but, for some unknown reason, I have not been able to choose which kind of colicky baby I receive!

There are some tricks which have worked for both types, and while they are nothing that has not been published in baby books everywhere, I felt that they were worth repeating here. So, what has worked for our family during these difficult months?

1)  The oven vent and box fans.  White noise drowns out most of the noise that a baby's immature and sensitive nervous system cannot process. They are so successful for our babies, that even my 14 year old cannot sleep soundly without some sort of white noise in his room.

2)  Moby Wrap Original 100% Cotton Solid Baby Carrier, Chocolate While I haven't used this particular carrier/sling until this most recent baby, it is the best one I have ever used. Hands down. I've tried all of them (the bjorns, the snuglis, the mayawraps, etc), and not one of them ( has proven to be as effective at calming a screaming baby as this one has. It also has the added bonus of fitting any body size and type, which is great when Dad wants to take a turn soothing the Little Dear. (The word "chocolate" is not up there by accident, either, as it helps to munch on some while you are pacing the floor!)

3) ANY homeopathic colic remedy. One of my favorites has always beenHyland's Colic Tablets, 125 tablets (Pack of 3), but over the last few years it has become more difficult to find at my local  drugstore, so I have taken to purchasing the colic remedy my local herbal store offers. Either way, these homeopathic remedies tend to work in less than a minute (no kidding!) and are safe to use frequently, so you don't have the worry of over-medicating your child.

4) Swaddling, swaddling, swaddling. I know, I know. (Wow, that was a LOT of repetition!) You are going to tell me how your baby hates being swaddled, and that may be true. But, what I have learned is that most babies fight against the swaddling for the first minute or two, and then they magically quiet down and fall asleep. It's worth giving it a try for a few minutes, anyway. (Daddies are usually the best at swaddling, for some reason!)

5) GO OUTSIDE!!! Barring sub-zero temperatures, wrapping up a colicky baby and stepping out into the elements can bring on a much-needed break for everyone. Maybe it's the temperature change, or air, or the feel of being in a really big space, but it usually works! And, anyone who is still inside gets a chance to take the cotton out of their ears and enjoy a moment of silence.

6) Get a blog! This does not soothe your baby a bit, but it does provide a distraction for you! There is nothing like venting about a colicky baby to help bring levity to your situation.

So, in a swaddled nutshell, there are my colic "cures". Good luck, God Bless, and "this too shall pass"!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Happy St. Joseph's Day!

"Glorious St. Joseph, model of all who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work in the spirit of penance in expiation of my many sins;
to work conscientiously by placing love of duty above my inclinations;
to gratefully and joyously deem it an honor to employ and to develop by labor the gifts I have received from God,
to work methodically, peacefully, and in moderation and patience, without ever shrinking from it through weariness or difficulty to work;
above all, with purity of intention and unselfishness, having unceasingly before my eyes death and the account I have to render of time lost, talents unused, good not done, and vain complacency in success, so baneful to the work of God.
All for Jesus, all for Mary, all to imitate thee, O patriarch St. Joseph! This shall be my motto for life and eternity."
- Pope Pius IX

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lá Fhéile Pádraig!

From Saint Patrick's Breastplate

Christ be with me
Christ before me
Christ behind me
Christ in me
Christ beneath me
Christ above me
Christ on my right
Christ on my left
Christ where I lie
Christ where I sit
Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man
who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of every man
who speaks of me
Christ in every eye that sees me
Christ in every ear that hears me
Salvation is of the Lord.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Thanks, Honey!

The story of Maria Esperanza Medrano de Biachini is quite fascinating and I highly recommend everyone, Catholic or not, read it.

In short, it is the true story of a modern-day woman from Venezuela who seems to be a mystic in the truest sense of the word. The movement for her canonization began this January, and I will be very interested in seeing what happens. She was a wife, mother, and grandmother who lived to spread God's love throughout the world. In the course of her life, many amazing things happened to her, including having apparitions of the Blessed Virgin and St. Padre Pio, and during one of these her face transfigured into the face of Padre Pio while her husband watched!

My husband and I were discussing her life and marveling at how God seemed to use her for His purpose by granting her very special and powerful gifts. I commented on how amazing her family must be and how wonderful it would be to say she was your grandmother, wife, etc. Then, referring to the episode when her face transfigured into the face of Padre Pio, I said, "Can you imagine witnessing that? Being her husband, and watching your wife's face do that? Can you imagine being married to someone so holy?"

My husband simply replied, "No.".

Monday, March 1, 2010

March Yuckies

Icy Mud.

Coughs. Runny Noses. Sore throats. Stomach flu. Pent-up energy. Bouncing off walls. Cabin Fever.

Tempers flaring.
Voices yelling.
Children fighting.

Obviously, Mother has lost her marbles.

Friday, February 26, 2010


Well, I did it. I bit the bullet. As part of my Lenten sacrifice this year, I gave up Crackbook.. ahem, I mean FACEBOOK for the full 40 days. To those of you who don't participate in this social networking "stuff", or only participate peripherally (how do you do that?!), this may not seem like a big deal.

You're probably saying, "OK, so what? So, for 40 days you don't read about 100+ people and their hourly trials about being exhausted or cold. So what if you can't find out what kind of mom you are (Crunchy Granola, by the way!); don't you know already have that figured out? Who cares if you don't update everyone about how many diapers you've changed today?" And, you know what? You're right!

However, that's precisely why I gave all of that up. It was wasting my time! Every chance I got, I would check email and then bounce over to Facebook and try to keep up with all of the updates, quizzes, games, and posted pictures since my last check-in... 15 minutes before that! There are so many other things a busy mother of 6 could, and should, be doing.

Here's my problem, though: I thought it would be hard. Really hard. I thought that I would be offering up some really difficult thing by not participating in my favorite time-waster. But, it's not hard. Not at all. Hmmmm....

While, Facebook has been a wonderful way to reconnect with old grade school friends, catch up with current friends, and have mini-cyber-family reunions, it has mostly been a way for me to avoid doing the things I hate doing. Namely, laundry and dishes.

Now, don't get me wrong. The laundry and dishes get done. But, they get done at the very last minute, in a hurry, and with a really bad attitude because I have let everything accumulate.

After 2 days of no FB, I figured out that the true sacrifice was cheerfully doing all of the things I had ignored while playing online. I found that if I smile while I throw a load of laundry in or fill the dishwasher, the chore seems less onerous and goes more quickly. I also find that I stopped muttering things like, "Oh, why can't someone invent disposable clothes?" or "Do we really have to eat dinner every night?". Sounds simple? Try it some time! You'll be amazed at how difficult it is to smile through a hated task, and even more amazed at how much better you feel once you DO smile!

Keep in mind that part of my kids' chores include doing dishes and laundry, so it's not even as if I have to do all of the dishes and laundry. Sheesh! I'm a real whiner, aren't I?

So, I guess what I really gave up for Lent was complaining?????

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe

"There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children, she didn't know what to do. She gave them some broth without any bread; Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed."

When I was a young child, I had a book of Mother Goose nursery rhymes, and the above rhyme was one that held a particular fascination for me. I can clearly recall the illustration that accompanied this rhyme: a very large old boot with a roof and chimney, under a tree, with children spilling out of every gap, running around on the grass and an old woman brandishing a large wooden spoon was chasing them all around.
I can remember slowly counting all the children in the picture over and over again, and always reaching the number "13". I can also easily remember saying to my mother, "Thirteen children isn't a lot!". I just could not understand why this old lady was so confused and cranky.

Fast forward 30+ years, and I am beginning to understand that old woman.

For argument's sake, let us say that The Old Woman (TOW) was once a young woman, recently married and holding her first baby. As she inhales that fresh newborn smell, she thinks, "I will bathe you only in all-natural, herbal soaps, diaper you in the best diapers money can buy, dress you in designer clothes, and make homemade baby food from organic foods. I cannot imagine that you will ever do anything that will upset me, mostly because I have read all the parenting books and I know how to stay in control.".
Yup. I am sure she also thought she would lose all the baby weight in one month, never dress in frumpy clothes, and never have a diaper bag full of old grocery receipts instead of clean diapers and wipes.

My dear TOW, we have all been there. More specifically, I have been there. And, how sweet, naive, and blind I was all those years ago. I almost want to reach out and pinch my young and dewy cheeks!

These days, I would never dream of under-nourishing my kids before spanking and sending them all to bed. But, that is about the bottom of the "parenting ladder", is it not? Now, I might be maybe one or two rungs up that ladder.

Hearty chicken soup (that I defrosted from a batch I made a while back), salad-from-a-bag, with french bread and butter is still nourishing, right? Sternly (and loudly) admonishing my kids for fighting with each other, then saying bedtime prayers before shooing them off to their rooms is not the same as whacking them with a spoon and sending them to bed, right?

While TOW is an extreme example of how parenting more than one child can test even the patience of a saint, it is not that far from the truth. I think most women who enter motherhood, arrive with the best of intentions. As time marches on and more children are born, you begin to reason with yourself: "what's the difference between homemade applesauce and the store-bought organic kind?" which somehow becomes "hey, it's really almost the same thing as applesauce, if I just peel this apple and let my baby gnaw on it...". Convenience wins out over sanity, in many cases.

But, what I recently realized is that most of the things I wanted to do as a new mother, were just that --- things. All of the ideas and principles that were truly important to me have not only survived the years, they have gotten better.

For example, I was firmly committed to breastfeeding my babies using the Three E's Rule: Exclusive, Extended, and Ecological. And, I can honestly say that as of today, with Baby #6 still nursing, I have never fed my babies formula or even expressed breast milk (we don't even own a baby bottle!), I have allowed them to lead the weaning process (we average 2- 2.5 years for age of weaning), my infants nurse on demand, and we co-sleep. Before I had my oldest child (almost 15 years ago!), I knew these things were important to me, but I wasn't sure "how it would go". Now, both my husband and I realize that this commitment to The Three E's has resulted in healthier babies, stronger bonds between parents and children, and the natural spacing between children has been a gift to our marriage. But, that's a whole separate post...

My early-on commitment to, not only attending Mass every Sunday, but bringing our children with us to Mass (no matter how unruly they were being) was a scary proposition at first. But, now I can easily see the fruits that promise to myself has yielded. In the last 15 years, there has only been a handful of Sundays where we haven't heard a compliment from fellow parishioners regarding our children's good behavior. Many times, other parents and grandparents have asked us what our secret is for instilling good behavior. I am saying this with a lot of humility, because most of the credit goes to my children's temperaments, my prayers to their guardian angels, and a approximately 4000 lollipops. Somewhere in there, though, was the fact that my kids always know that Mass with the family is non-negotiable and, if they have to go, they might as well make is as pleasant as possible. Some days they even pay attention to the homily and discuss it with us and/or each other! ***This same commitment also applies to taking kids to restaurants!***

So, what I realized was that I am not a "bad mom" because I buy the majority of my kids' clothes at Target, or because not every piece of fruit that they eat is organic. And, neither is any other mom who started out with some very unrealistic ideals, only to find herself caving into the siren call of convenience items in order to simplify her life. What makes me a "pretty darn good mom" is that I eschewed a lot of materialistic (or non-essential) ideas in order to be able to keep up with the ideals that truly matter. It's nothing ground-breaking or mind-blowing, but it something we all need to be reminded of, periodically.

Maybe that's how the whole TOW rhyme got started: a mother with a few kids lost her way remembering what was important in raising a family, and she never took the time to review the "whys" and "whats" of what was important to her. Or, maybe the nursery rhyme is supposed to serve as a reminder to all of us to take the time to do that kind of evaluation every so often.

Of course, it could just be that a long time ago, some old lady had had a really bad day with her kids and needed to vent. That reminds me..... Where is my wooden spoon????

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I'm so sorry for being "absent" for so long, but I have been a little busy for the last 7 weeks.

Although my c-section was not scheduled until December 10 (which would still have been a full month before my due date!), my sweet and determined daughter decided that she wanted to be born on November 29! She was 6 weeks early, but still weighed a tad bit over 6 pounds.

Very long story short: my uterus ruptured over a period of 3-4 days (yes, it hurts very badly. No, the doctors didn't believe me at first.), her amniotic sac (with her inside it!) was in the abdominal cavity when they opened me up, and BOTH of us are extremely blessed to be alive and healthy. My sweet baby girl inhaled a bit of amniotic fluid on her way into the world, so she spent 5 nights in the NICU, but we have been home and doing really well for the last 6 weeks.

I cannot thank Our Dear Lord enough for listening to the intercession of his Blessed Mother, his holy saints, and our family to provide such mercy to us during that very scary time.

When I have a little more free time (ha!), I will post more about life as the mother of an even-larger family!!