"When we had our children, our ideas changed somewhat. Thenceforward we lived only for them; they made all our happiness and we would never have found it save in them. In fact, nothing any longer cost us anything; the world was no longer a burden to us. As for me, my children were my great compensation, so that I wished to have many in order to bring them up for Heaven" -- Saint Zelie Martin, mother of St. Therese of Lisieux, canonized October 18, 2015 along with her husband St. Louis Martin.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Be Ready For Christmas List

I know it's too late to apply this year, but I like to try to track my method in getting ready for the holiday parties.  I am sure that not everyone has 8 children under the age of 13, all of whom are home schooled.  And I am sure that most of you are better at housekeeping than I, so my house is probably far worse than yours on any given day.  You can take that into account and cut out the tasks that do not apply.
I just whipped this list up off of the top of my head, I think it's roughly the path I followed today and yesterday.

Phase One (that is, going into the holiday)

1) Do laundry.

Because it is all too tempting to let the hidden daily chores sit while you are busy baking and decking halls and shopping.  When the laundry backs up, panic strikes the heart of the large-family Mother.  So for heaven's sake keep the laundry going!

2) Keep doing dishes.

This one you will probably have less choice on.  Baking cookies and candies and serving ten people three meals a day will pretty much force you to do dishes on a constant basis.  Still, I say do them.  Because I am the first one to know about those stray pots and pans…or that stew that's still sitting in the crock pot…ew.  Just do the dishes.

3) Vacuum.  Or tell a kid to.  Because it sucks dirt and things off of your floor, it raises the base-line before you begin.  Especially because there is usually some picking-up that has to be done in order to vacuum, so, more progress by one simple request.

Phase Two

This is when the work gets a bit harder, but you can bring in the kids to help on this phase.

1)  They're excited about the influx of presents that is about to happen.  Capitalize upon that and tell them that if they want to get new toys, they need to make room for them.  (Advent and Lent are great times for purging the home of old toys, but this list is focusing more on the last-minute efforts).  All stray toys in bedrooms and main floor areas are to be gathered and banished to basements or toy rooms or personal storage bins/shelves/closets.  The main living area needs to be TOY FREE! (Other than a possible small basket for a)the baby and b)as a catch-all for stray toys that are discovered as you clean…which comes next).

2)  Throw in slip covers or throw pillow covers if this applies to you.  My children are like herding cats when it comes to PB&J covered hands or leaky juice cups.  I know there are supposed to be rules about these things…I do try.  But look, if your couches look like mine, you don't want company having to sit on them.  Either spot clean them or throw the covers in the wash. It's work, but Christmas only comes once a year (thank Heavens!).  Now get out your vacuum and since the couch is torn apart, vacuum it out.
[We're morphing into phase three here, which is the deep clean, but go ahead and get the couch done while you're at it.]

3)  Make everyone put everything away.  Dirty clothes down laundry chute (and make someone keep the loads rolling), clean clothes away, stray hats/socks/baseball mitts--away!!  This part can be the worst, but if you tell the kids that anything you find you have the right to throw away, it is very motivating to the children to help put things in the right place.

Phase Three

Ok, now you absolutely must have help, because time's a ticking and there's SO MUCH to do!

1) send someone to the play room if you have one and tell them to organize it.   If this is just their bedrooms again, have them make them bomb-proof from little cousins who may be visiting (that, too, can be motivating).  Now realize, these are children you are using to help you, so you'll probably have to glance at their efforts to make sure the job is acceptable.  I prefer to send my husband, because if I get started on the toy room, I may never leave.  If he's able to vacuum while he's down there, he earns extra bonus points.  (I don't know what the reward is?!  But he totally gets the points).

2) Put the slip covers/ pillow cases back on the couches as they come out of the wash.  And tell someone to do more laundry (here's looking at you, Miss 13 year old!);)

3) Move all couches (if you have time, if the company is due in just hours, skip this part and do more surface efforts) and vacuum or sweep (if you have hard wood floors--and if you're really ambitious, mop!) under them all, grabbing a wet rag for the window sills to hit the winter dust/cobwebs and possibly some window cleaner if you have windows that are hard to reach while the couches are in place.  Yes, now you're multi-tasking, so focus, because you're getting back to the floors after this.

*You can get help on ALL windows at this point (thank you, 11-year-old-Son), but at least hit the front door if there's a glass storm door on.

**While you're getting help, send someone out with a stiff broom to blast the winter mud/grime off of the front stoop and door mat.  Tell them to make it nice for the guests as they arrive.

4) Keep vacuuming/cleaning the floors if you have hard wood and feel like actually washing them, picking up as you go, moving away from the couches and out of the corners of the room, because there are always things on the floor and now you're moving the coffee tables too, and vacuuming under them as well, and clearing out any detritus that has accumulated.

4) Now dust all flat surfaces, clearing off everything that has piled on every table, desk and counter.  Oh it can be terrible! Err on the side of TOSSING odds and ends if you can.  You can do without a stray rubber band or broken crayon.  This is not time to be a perfectionist.  If you're as late on this part as I am, you'll start shoving things randomly in drawers, and that's OK!! Because Spring cleaning is just around the corner and you'll get to those drawers then.  Right now we need to move on!

5) Make someone else scour the bathrooms, you're doing the kitchen last.  Tell them to make sure the mirror and sink is shining and there are hand towels and bathroom tissues aplenty!

While you're asking for help, shout at some dear soul to haul out the trash that is accumulating from all of this. (And thank them kindly).

6) Start that final load of dishes.  Hand wash whatever doesn't fit and put it away.  Scrub the counters (after clearing them as completely as possible)  and stove.  Clear off the table and wipe it down.  Sweep and mop the floor.

8) Set the tables.

You're ready!

Oh, are you in charge of cooking?  Ok, that's something I did NOT have to do this year since my Mom brought the dinner.

In that case, you must do the bulk of this in days prior to Christmas.  I, on the other hand, was sweating and in my sweats as my sister arrived.  I dashed upstairs, changed, and joined in the party. (Told you I was late).

How long did this take me?   7 hours of non-stop, hard, fast labor, with my husband and about 4 able-bodied children assisting (my big girls were out for a few hours).

Christmas was awesome.  I. am. tired.  Tired, and very happy.  So worth it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

O Christmas Tree!

 Taking 8 children to pick out a Christmas tree is a delightful prospect in theory.

The day was clear and cold.  We arrived at the lot and piled out of our 12 passenger van with high spirits.  Within moments we were surveying rows of green trees, all of them quite lovely.  My husband pointed at the closest tree on the end of the closest row: "how about this one?"  Oh how I wish I had said "yes!", grabbed the tree, and run!  But no, I had to dash off down a row to see if I liked anything better.  Unfortunately, my 8 children followed my example.  Well, I held the baby, and my husband had Legolas, so only 6 children ran hither and yon, pointing here, shouting there.

At one point I had three girls hugging a tree. I turned to see my three sons looking somewhere between unamused and nauseated.  They wanted a big one.  Galadriel burst into tears at their choice.  Arwen was heavily in favor of a compromise tree, a compromise which the others were unwilling to accept.

Did I mention it was cold?  Pain set into my ears.  The baby grew unhappy.  The man working at the lot was…watching.  We picked one.  The kids dashed off to the store to pay.  Arwen had tears rolling down her face.  Thinking quickly, I promised her that she, and only she, could pick out a new tree skirt (I have NO idea where our old one vanished to!).  Satisfied, we came home, strung lights and let the kids hang the ornaments.  The children were ready to celebrate. I breathed a sigh of relief!  Here's how I found poor Eowyn moments after setting her down upon arrival home--I think that says it all!

the "new tree skirt"

anyone surprised that it has "bling"? (Arwen did just turn 13);)

St. Nick's: Sweet and Sour

 Since it is Christmas time and I have no time for posting, but wish to capture some moments from our Advent season, I am posting a little highlight from St. Nicholas morning.  My Mom always made popcorn balls for our stockings, and now, with 17 grandchildren, she still drops bags off at each of our homes the night before St. Nick.  She is the real Mrs. Claus!

Here is Eowyn with her first St. Nick's popcorn ball and orange!

And now for the orange!
still sweet

I could have stopped her, but instead I snapped more pics!


Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Finished!!

Baby Surprise Jacket KnitAlong
I didn't have the sweater buttoned all of the way here--she was being
as cooperative as... a One-year-old!
"So big!"
This is the story of the tortoise and the hare.  I am the tortoise, but I didn't win any races.  I just finished. And that is so awesome!  Let's see, it was May of 2011 when Elizabeth Foss came up with the amazing idea of knitting a simple sweater as a blogging community, just ten rows a day.  She and her friend walked us through the project clearly and simply, and did such an amazing and wonderful job!  But I didn't quite keep up, and at the VERY end of the project, I put my knitting up on a shelf in my china cabinet, where it sat…well, since 2011.  My baby was exactly one year old at the time, now she's four and a half, but she has a little sister who celebrates her First Birthday TODAY!!  And the sweater? It fits perfectly!!

I added the cutest buttons to make my very amateur efforts look a bit fancier!:)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Martinmas, 2014

Last year I was introduced to the tradition of celebrating the Feast of St. Martin with a lantern procession.  Celebrating the saint who brought the Light of Christ to the darkness of Pagan Rome, the saint who gave warmth to the beggar by sharing his cloak, we light lanterns and go out into the cold ourselves, shining our lights and fighting back the darkness that has encroached with the turning of the season.

This is us last year, making our way around our home, singing…not sure what the neighbors may have thought.

This year my sister and I were inspired by Auntie Leila to expand our celebration beyond our families.  We hatched a wild and crazy plot and called our pastor!  Imagine me trying to explain Martinmas, requesting the use of the hall for a light supper, and wondering if he would very much mind leading a procession?  Because our pastor is wonderful, he did not mind, so we got busy!
This is my kitchen table, under a wild mass of tissue, Ball jars, and Mod Podge! The best part was that my kids, even my boys, remembered the lanterns from last year and dove right into making theirs. I love that!
Now I have to track down my sister, because as usual, I forgot my camera for the actual event. (Yes, I'm hopeless).

My sister made two large pots of clam chowder, muffins and delicious spice cake.  I brought ham and rolls.  Our friend brought a fruit and veggie platter and candy for the children (another nice opportunity to repurpose trick-or-treat loot).

Father joined us for supper, led us in prayer and procession out into the frigid night.  We prayed at a Mary shrine outside of the church, and then we just so happened to be lucky enough to land our celebration on the usual night for perpetual adoration, so Father had us all process into church and leave our lanterns burning before Our Lord in the Eucharist.  We received benediction, and we processed out.

We could not have been more blessed.

St. Martin, pray for us!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A New Friend

I am not sure if I mentioned that our sweet golden retriever passed away last February.  She was an angel of a golden, actually an English Creme, white, golden retriever.  Unfortunately, such a fancy specimen was not of hardy "mutt" stock, and she got juvenile lymphoma at just 3 years old.  We were very sad (I still am!) to lose her.  But there was also a sort of relief after having gone through really huge efforts to get her healthy (before we knew it was cancer).  It had been hard work, and stressful.  So for a while, we didn't mind not having a dog.  But, for better or for worse, I am a dog person.  Somehow dogs just make me happy.  I like having them in the house as an extra set of eyes and ears, especially when I'm alone and at night.  I like walking dogs.  I enjoy watching them.  

Long story short, it was time to try again.  We were through with fancy breeders who charged too much and couldn't guarantee health.  We decided to look for a dog from the pound who would be some crazy mix of who knows what with a sweet disposition and a long life expectancy.  We found Violet! 

The humane society guessed that she might be part border collie and part welsh corgi.  She has a long body and short legs.  She actually looks a little Pekinese!  Her tail is long and curls up over her back, and flops in the air as she prances along.  She does not have the energy of a border collie, but she is smart and eager to please.  Can you tell I'm pretty much crazy about her?

So, Violet is our new addition.

October, reprise

I can hardly believe that fall came, stayed, and is already beginning to fade into winter.  This year the leaves turned early with some crazy cold weather in September.  Then it rained. I think there was a full week of rain in October and I began to be very afraid of how long this winter might seem (I'm still a little weary from last winter).  But then some nice days came, and the leaves that turned early did not fall, but stayed gloriously on the trees all month long. 

After learning that leaves could be preserved by simply ironing them between waxed paper (as opposed to dipping them in beeswax), we gathered the leaves that did fall and revisited some traditional fall crafts: 
After ironing between waxed paper.

I still have some saved for our Thanksgiving table.  I must confess, that while I would probably not have done this at all if I hadn't learned of the "easy" way, I really do miss the thick layer of beeswax that leaves such a delicious scent with a touch of honey in the air. 

And we did our wax crayon rubbings melted with leaves again as well: 

This project is so pretty, and the mess is totally worth the fun the kids have shaving their crayons.

Then, at the end of the month, came Halloween.  We seem to do things en masse for this holiday.  Last year we formed "the fellowship", this year? Racing Sausages: 
(google this if you have no idea who we are).

This was the biggest hit in the city.  People were cheering, shouting, and making my kids race. "Chorizo" (#5) seems to be the most popular…and actually the hotdog (is that #2? I don't even know)…followed by "cook", who is really Polish Sausage, I think.
Anyway they got their candy, had a blast, and yes, we all ate too much sugar.  The next weekend we all dressed up as Saints (well, I didn't, but the kids), and celebrated All Saints day as it should be celebrated.  I'll have to see if I can track down pictures of that.  But for now, that brings us up to date and into November!

Oratory revisited

Auntie Leila was explaining again (she did in her book, and she just reminded me on her blog) about the notion of arranging things in an octagonal formation.
She writes:
"David Clayton explains, “The octagon represents the ‘eighth day’ of Creation, by which Christ instituted the new order.”  

Hold that thought.  Here is where I am at:

I had to remove the table.  It was too wide for the space which is on a wall between two doors (you can see part of one door and part of the molding of the other below).

 I would like to find a very narrow console table to place statues and candles on, but for now, we just have our kneeler, which doesn't impede the flow of traffic as much as the table did.
 Hello--I have a visitor (this is Violet, more on her later), and I am happy to include this photo because it reveals one of several large stains (not from the dog) that have surfaced on the carpeting in this room.  I am happy to tell you this because I am hoping to re-carpet this room before too long,  Then I can show you how nice it is when it is done and you'll know that it was indeed quite needed.  So, probably within two years you can expect me to get around to this project.  Just to give you a realistic time frame.

Big digression.  Back to the oratory.

Well, the first thing to change was our crucifix:

We received this one from my Mother-in Law who had it blessed by our favorite priest, Fr. Chacon.
I love that it is a Saint Benedict cross, replete with exorcism powers.  I also think the corpus is quite beautiful.  This cross was considerably shorter than our old one, so there was some space that needed filling.  I was happy to fill in with a few of our favorite patrons:

St. Pio is up there too…
And I have a few more to add, but I was elated when I discovered that I was *near* to creating a nice octagonal shape with the collage.

Anyway, that's a glimpse of my little work in progress!

Grandma? (Overheard)

My Mom's birthday is coming up and yesterday I told my husband that I needed to get my Mom a birthday present.

Rosie was sitting next to me on the couch.  Who's "my mama?" she asked.  What? says I. "You said "my mama" who's "my mama".  "Oh, my Mom." I said, "Remember, we just talked about this the other day.  Who is my Mama? Do you remember?"

(Rosie thinks hard). "Oh yeah…who was it???…Oh YEAH! It's Aunt Maria!!!" (that would be my sister who is 8 years younger than I).

I won't tell you who she guessed next, when I said she'd have to be OLD enough to be my Mom (Aunt Ann! haha--still 18 months younger than I!)

We finally worked our way around to her grandmother.  That girl. <sigh>

Sunday, October 26, 2014

For Colby;)

I am going to try to restate what my husband tells me when I am pregnant.

Before I do that, I need to let you know that my first months of pregnancy are usually unpleasant.  Pretty tough nausea.  Nothing a whole bunch of mothers don't experience.  Easier than some.  Sometimes worse than others.

When I am down, beat down by, say 14 or 15 weeks of feeling nauseated (17 is my record), I start to whine, sometimes incessantly, and my dear husband knows that I need encouragement.  So, he digs down deep, and gives me riches of wisdom.  It totally helps, so I'm sharing it here, since my friend asked me to:

When you are weak, then you are strong.  

This is your hour of glory.  

Use it!  (Don't waste it).   Remember--your suffering is powerful.  Give it to God, and He will use it for the good.

When you feel good, when you're in times of "consolation", that is a gift.  It is a blessing to be grateful for, but the times of suffering are the hours of glory.  This is when we are like Christ, following in our Master's steps, which lead to Calvary.  Was it Mother Teresa who said that when you get really close to  Jesus, you are close enough to feel His Cross?

There is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday.

 …I guess that's about all I've got.  I probably haven't tried to post this before because it's sort of difficult for me to put into writing, but I'll throw it out there, even if it isn't in a particularly eloquent form.

And if that doesn't hit the spot in your hour of need, then try this:
find an image of the Divine Mercy as given to St. Faustina, and gaze upon Jesus and pray "Jesus, I trust in You".  

I usually have to add "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief" as well, since I know I need to learn to trust and grow in trust.  But I want to trust, and if I do trust, then somehow, I can go on.  His grace is sufficient.

Pax Tecum

Friday, September 12, 2014

First Day of a New School Year

1:31a.m.  awake, fully clothed, and wonder if it's morning

                 It is not morning, but I fell asleep nursing my fussy 9-month-old earlier than I usually go to bed, so it almost felt like a good night's sleep by then.

2:30a.m.  awake to cries of "Mama" from down the hall.  Legolas has lost his pacifier. Please don't write anonymous "recommendations" about 2 year olds and pacifiers.  I know. I know! (and I'm paying for it).

6:30a.m.  Now it's morning!  About half of the kids are up.  Make coffee. Try to pray.

7 a.m. emergency cleaning effort.  Dishes, vacuuming, pick-up.  9-month-old Eowyn is eating everything off of the floor.  I try not to do housework on Sundays, so Monday mornings can be tricky (read: big disaster everywhere).  On the first day of school, we knew we didn't want to start like this.

8:15 a.m. leave for daily Mass.  Mass begins at 8:15a.m.  We live 10 minutes away from church.  You do the math, we made it to communion.

9:10 a.m. scramble a dozen eggs, toast a loaf of bread (no I'm not exaggerating. Ok, I think there were maybe 5 slices left).  Tell everyone to eat fast.

9:30 a.m.  Begin "Circle Time".  Bible study and Shakespeare to start our day.  Bible study went great. Shakespeare? I was pretty much hearing the kids' version of "boo and hiss":  "This is the worst lecture ever!" and "Can we just do workbooks or something?!"

Am I daunted? Oh heck no! This is going to be great!

11a.m. I give in: workbooks it is.

stay with me now: 11:01 no lesson plans for grades 4 and 6.
                              11:02 smell something and realize it's someone's diaper
                              11:03 three to five children need me to direct them before they can start
                              11:04 discover 4th grade lesson plans (Thank You!!)
                              11:05 bickering over someone counting too loudly, and counter-bickering
                              11:06 complaints that "this math is too easy"
                              11:07 tears that this math is too easy
                              11:08 tears over the noise, and that the (other child's) math is too hard
                              11:09 tears because noise sensitive child called other child the "scourge of the schoolroom"
                              11:10 tears because help is needed
                              11:11 shouting (through tears) because help is actually NOT needed
                               [exodus from classroom of three children seeking silent places to work]
                               11:12- 11:30 surprisingly productive and cheerful work accomplished
I made mac n' cheese, so my kids thought I was the best mom ever.  The afternoon was our annual "Birthday of Mary (Sept. 8th)/ Back to School" party.  We sang Marian hymns outside of our local church and then went to a park for Marian-blue cupcakes and soccer.  The kids scored loot bags filled with pencils and erasers and candy.  I got to vent to my friends about the "first day".

Basically, it was great!

Saturday, August 23, 2014


This little girl was three weeks old.  Found under a truck at a flea market.  She is still on formula and a wild little thing!   The first night home she would only hide under our couch.  But with 8 children in the house, that wasn't going to last long!  My kids have handled this little kitty and fed her formula, kibble, and treats...and decided to clicker train her.  They aim high.  Anyway, these are pictures of her at the store where we found her for sale for $9.95.  She looks like such a little ragamuffin!  I'll get new pictures up of her now that she's been living with us for about a week.  She has a name.  Please don't roll your eyes when I tell you it's another Lord of the Rings character.  She's Galadriel!

(more to come)
Ok! Here we are, playing at home!

exploring the screened porch...please excuse the mess, my children will be attending to that...

Yes, her collar is too big, but it has a bell that jingles as she plays!(...and a pink bow, because, she needs a bow).

She loves her formula, but is eating kibble as well now.

We are having so much fun with her!

and we got her a pretty new bowl, and yes, it matches her bow!  

A Promise in the Sky

It was a rare rainy day here yesterday.  But a rainy day doesn't mean the clear blue sky won't peek through (you can see it in the corner of this photo).

all photo credits: Arwen
With the bright sunlight of the Southwest and the dark stormclouds that came in from over the mountains, the colors of the rainbows can be so vivid!