"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.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Little Oratory, "The Hours"

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had a bad experience with listening to the Liturgy of the Hours on my phone.  I only tried one website, so there are probably more beautiful options out there which I left unexplored.  I waited too long to try to simply read the Hours on my phone. But I tell you, I am really not able to gaze into a screen and lift my mind up to God.  I just don't pray on my computer.  I knew it had to be a paper and ink copy of the Hours if I was going to do it.

My husband helped me buy a book of Christian Prayer, which is a simplified version of the Hours (or something, I'm such a novice at this Breviary thing!)  When it arrived in the mail, it was sort of exciting. The book is leather and has pretty colored markers…I imagined how wonderful it would be if I prayed the hours.

 And thank Heaven it came with a guide! I honestly have NO IDEA how anyone would find anything on their own with this book! I can barely make heads or tails of it with the guide and special prayer card that has all of the daily psalms and prayers on it.  But, I decided that even if I was doing it "wrong", I could only learn by trying.  I realized quickly that I am a perfectionist.

I began with just Morning Prayer, and I didn't even fit it in every day.  But I discovered that I liked to begin my day with Morning Prayer. It seemed very complete to me, with the readings, intercessory prayers and canticles.  Then I began to try to add Evening Prayer.  Again, it wasn't every evening I got to it, but I liked to get to it, and I felt a rich and full sense of completeness to my day when I was able to close the day in this way.

Well, upon a very rare quiet moment in the afternoon, I picked up my Christian Prayers book and glanced at some of those other "midday" hours.  Much to my surprise they were much shorter, simpler little moments of prayer for the busier hours of the day.  I must honestly confess that as of yet I have never prayed all of the hours, or at least not at the right time.  I was highly encouraged to think, however, that it would be entirely possible for me to do so!  Maybe I cannot pray them every day at the correct hour on the hour (I do have 8 children under the age of 13 whom I home educate!), but I bet I could get it done some days, close to the hour, and I bet that it would be nothing but…grace-filled.

In short, I love it.  Honestly, I do.  I love that the Hours are there for me to pray, even if I can't pray them all.  They are a huge gift to the Church, and I love that when I do, or can, pray them, I am joined in prayer by faithful throughout the Universal Church.  I am indebted to every one of the women who inspired me and encouraged me to try.  We certainly aren't required to pray them, but I'm posting this just to encourage any reader to just give them a look.  See what the Spirit moves you to do.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Is Eight Enough?

Last summer I was at the pool, 5 or 6 months pregnant, with 7 children in tow.  Erin, the best swimming instructor ever, let out one of her awesome laughs and said "is it 'Eight's Enough'?"
Now, in case it hasn't been made apparent yet, I'm hopelessly behind on cultural norms.  My husband had to inform me that this was the title of a TV show.  I pretty much guessed as much, but I totally struggled to respond in a comprehensible or appropriate manner.  I think I might have said a sort of half-laughing "we'll see…"  I think I might have thought "Heck, one is enough!" It's not really about "enough".

I've beat on this subject before, but you see I was out on a walk yesterday and my kids asked to go past the "dog lady".  She is a very nice young mom, probably 7 years younger than I.  She has two children and  four dogs.  Did you flinch? FOUR dogs!  Big ones too.  A lab, two spaniels, and some shih tzu mix that isn't really big.  Yes, but see, that's ok, because she's some pre-vet degree animal person.  And so it's cool for her to have four dogs, but I'm crazy if I have four kids.  I'll stop being snarky.

We chatted nicely about her dogs (because, really, I'm a dog person too).  And then she looked at my kids and said "I can't believe how good their being for you. I mean, I can't imagine being that outnumbered."
And then (since I'm apparently always at a loss for words at moments like these, buckling under the pressure to be a witness to the entire gospel of life in one witty comeback) she added, referring to her dogs and two children ,"I guess I'm outnumbered six to one, but four of those seem easier." (I was pretty much rendered silent as my mind grappled with my reaction to a woman who houses four dogs yet marvels at a mother on a walk with four children).

Ok, seriously now.  Comparing children and dogs, even in terms of the work they require, is just not a good idea.  I love dogs. Cute, cuddly, loyal, protective. I get it.  Kids? Whiney, snotty, poopy. I get it.  But noooo way.  Kids may not be "easier" than dogs, in the sense that you can't just shove them in a kennel or re-home them if it feels like things aren't working, but they are actually rational and they do have immortal souls that will live for all eternity!!!  Some things aren't comparable.

Since I am not eloquent enough to elaborate on the importance of the issue I sense is at hand in our society, I'm going to have to dump a heavy Chesterton quote on you.  It encapsulates something of what I'm after when I am exasperated at the reaction of so many in our society when confronted with children of even small numbers.  They are just surprised that anyone could ever consider having more than one or at most three.  I think they could raise their estimation of the greatness of human life.

(From The Weight of Glory)
"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which,if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilites, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - These are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors."--G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Last winter was long and it was cold.  By the first months of the new year, there had been over 20 days with temperatures below zero.  By March, my husband packed us up and headed for his homeland in the Southwest.  We stayed for an entire month, and honestly, I didn't really mind.  The fourth week was overkill for me, but I too had "had it" with the snow.  I'm not sure spring came.  I'm pretty sure that winter lasted until June, and then it was summer.  Ahh. Summer.
But the winter haunted me.  My husband longing for sunshine, eight energetic children bursting with life…and being trapped within our four walls by the arctic blasts outdoors.
I seriously considered an addition to our home.  I also considered, for real, school.
Brick and mortar. The Catholic school just down the road.  I know many good families, big devoted Catholic families that I trust, who send their kids there.  Our best neighborhood friends go there too.  Why not just send the kids out of these four walls?  
Sometimes asking these questions is extremely telling...
I can't do it. 
Well, first I prayed hard that the Holy Spirit would help me to be open and to trust, and I honestly asked my husband if he would consider it.  Amazingly, he didn't think twice.  He wasn't even tempted.  The relief and encouragement and joy I felt surprised me.  I don't think I knew how much I loved homeschooling.  My mind started racing with new lists of classics to fill our shelves with: Little Women,   The Secret Garden, The Sign of the Beaver.  Maybe I went crazy and bought a whole bunch of cute new "beginning reader" books about Biscuit and stopped my spree when I saw how much MagnaTiles cost! (dang).  I am dreaming of homemade finger paint and play-doh recipes, art easels and new paint supplies.  I'm planning hikes and feast day pilgrimages.  I'm dreaming big dreams, idealistic dreams, and I know the day-to-day will never be as shiny and sunny as my hopes, but if I don't homeschool, I don't even get to dream!
And you know what? You'd be surprised how many shiny and sunny days there are…amidst the spilled milk and dinner dishes.  You'd be surprised how fun it is to read history aloud to a group of middle schoolers who are totally pumped about the Catholic resistance to the French Revolution.  My six year old had his soccer socks pulled up over his knees and he said "Look, I'm the Scarlet Pimpernel"!  (Did you know that comes in a movie starring Jane Seymore?)

So what about those long winter days?  I guess I'll just have to keep trying to fill them with stacks of books, play dates at our church's gym, and maybe we'll just end up out of state again come March.  I'm not really worried about it.  Mostly, I'm just really really happy, thankful, grateful to God that I get to do this again, one more year.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Putting your money where your mouth is...

So Arwen has been working with the local humane society…

If baby bunnies are found, put them back in the next.
Next, cover the hole with a criss-crossed pattern of twigs. (Mother bunnies tend their young at night.)
If the branches are moved in the morning, leave bunnies and assume mother is caring for them.
If branches are unmoved, assume bunnies are abandoned and bring them into local certified Wildlife Refuge.

Do not attempt to care for them yourself--this is, apparently, both illegal and probably will result in the death of the bunnies due to their highly specialized nutritional needs. (who knew?)

So, our little nest was abandoned.  It's a long story, but some predator carried the bunnies out of the nest to a spot on our lawn, and left them alive there. The mother bunny saw her empty nest and abandoned it.

All of this is nice. Good little real-life science lesson.  Until your very-attached-to-the-bunnies-twelve-year-old tells you that you need to drive fifty miles to a Wildlife Refuge!
I had a daughter in tears, a husband who was being accused of being cold-hearted, and found myself making jokes about finding a mother rabbit to milk (the jokes were not appreciated either).  Bless my husband, he said he would make the drive! What a father won't do...

Luckily I had a stroke of genius and remembered that there is a branch of our local humane society that cares for wildlife. I sent them to the location about 10 minutes from our house. A VERY happy, pleased, proud and relieved Arwen returned home within the half hour.  Best of all, she can actually e-mail the center for updates on her bunnies!

So, they're rescued!