"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.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Life issues

I presume you've come across the headliner about Pope Francis and the "rabbits" comment.  Here's the full interview so you can see what was said:


As usual, the media has had a hay day with something that I really didn't see as a big deal.  After all, the Pope didn't say anything new.  He emphasized using our reason as regards our parenthood.  He mentioned that there are ways to licitly deal with situations that require avoiding pregnancy (think NFP).  He ended by encouraging us to see the child as a treasure.  I do recognize that His Holiness speaks "off the cuff" in his interviews and doesn't speak so as to deter misinterpretation.

I want to post a lengthy but super article on the issue of openness to life, in light of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the "rabbits" comment that has caused such a stir.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Home school post

My sister was suggesting I do a home school room "reveal"…

Want to know the truth? I used to have a kickin' home school room.  We have a huge basement, finished, with nice recessed lighting and built in bookshelves (my friends know it's not quite as fancy as all that!).  I think it is about 40'x12' or so…

We bought a huge standing chalk board which I really did enjoy using.  There was a large dry erase board on a side wall.  Strips of the alphabet in both cursive and print.  Cheerful posters to encourage the students.  And desks for each child.  Folding tables along the walls for projects.

Then came the winter.  My boys asked and I said ok.  Everything was lugged into the unfinished laundry room.  Everything.  Duct tape basketball courts and end zones were placed over the carpet.  My children disappeared into the basement to play.  It was pretty amazing up here on the main floor, child-free with joyful shouts and booms emitting from below.

The honest truth is that this happens Every. Single. Winter.  And I think I've finally learned my lesson: in the Northern Midwest, one needs (or is very very grateful to have) a (large if possible) indoor space to play during the winter.  Truth be told, no one wants to work in that school room either.  We ALL want to be on the main floor, in the natural light, glancing out the front window to see the mailman arrive or to hear the phone and dash to see who's calling.

One benefit to having such a large family is that we by necessity have a ridiculously large dining room table.  The benefit is that I can place the bulk of my schoolers around that table comfortably with their stacks of workbooks.  I just place buckets and baskets of pens, pencils and crayons in the middle of the table and easily step from one child to the next (because you know they ALL want to ask you how to get started or what to do, and speed is of the essence in saving your sanity and the children from frenzy.)

We all drift to the couches for oral reading, history and religion.   "Recess" is a dash down into that wonderful basement to play some form of football and a delicious break for the teacher as well.

So, my "reveal" has no pictures.  If I charge my phone I can let you see the basement and my dining table.  (Because I only upload pictures from my phone these days. I know, lazy blogger. Busy blogger.)  But that's how I do it.  Before dinner I pile all of the books into baskets and move the pens and crayons to a side table (still need to perfect that lack-of-a-place, thinking about the cupboards under the dining buffet, but I'd have to move some things around…)

It's working for now.  I like it.  If your school room is where you guys all love to work, definitely work there.  But if you actually sort of hate working there and you always drift elsewhere, don't just keep the room for aesthetic or theoretical reasons (I did for many years).  Consider if that space might be enjoyed more if used in another capacity.  (And now you know why there is a huge hole in our dry wall and a black eye on my oldest son.  We've actually forbidden tackle football games of any sort.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I bloomed it!

So, am I the only one who has never bloomed an amaryllis before?

I tried once about a decade ago, but I had to leave my home for Christmas travels before it bloomed, and it died before I returned.  I always regretted not seeing my amaryllis bloom.  I never really saw an amaryllis that I knew of.  And I'm a very curious person.  And I get kind of attached to my plants.  

"Phyllis" is just so cheerful on the kitchen table! (Yes, I do name my plants. Don't you?)

photo credit: Arwen

 This little lady just came from a kit at Target. I opened the box, added water to the block of dirt, and planted the bulb.  I think it took about three weeks for her to bloom.
photo credit: Arwen
So pretty! And it's not even Spring yet!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Just for My Sis

Ok, B--I'm giving this a whirl, but it'll probably be a lame attempt!  Still, I love you, and you inspire me, so I'll see if I can make it good!:)  (And then you can pin me! ha ha)

HOW I "DO IT" (i.e. How To Be a Mother To 8 Children and Be Happy Too)

Well, the first presupposition, that a woman wouldn't naturally be happy with a large quantity of children in tow, just needs to go.  Children are the joy.  So let's just get that clear right from the start: your children are your great blessing.  True riches. And unlike just about everything else in this world, they get to go with you into eternity.

If you're with me so far, that's tip #1: If you're going to have a bunch of kids, you'd better realize the glory of the human race.  Then you'll realize the dignity of your calling--yes, you!, with the spit up on your shoe and the baby diaper leaking on your white shirt (what? That one didn't happen to you? Lucky you.)  We're raising immortal souls here ladies.  Quite honestly, I don't care when you last showered! (But do, (shower) because you'll feel so much better!)

2)  Your husband is your best friend.  If he isn't, work and pray really hard until you can make that a true statement.  He'll keep you sane and make your kids listen to you.  What else do you need?

3) Make your home your sanctuary.  It's not a prison or a cage (as feminists have worked so hard to have us think).  You like to "get out" or you "go crazy"? That doesn't mean that your home isn't your happy place.  Go ahead--hit the pavement, find a friend at the park or grab coffee…but your home needs to be beautiful and comfortable and full of food and clothing for your children, husband and self.  (Food, clothing and shelter. Yep, we're talking real basics here).  We all need a place to be provided for, nourished, and loved.  It all happens here.  With 8 kids in tow, do you really want to make it happen somewhere else? (Think: "table for ten", how many hotel rooms?).

3a) about that beauty: "Clean" is actually your first step towards beauty.  I know because I've bought some lovely items in my day, and if they are scribbled on in Sharpie, well, it takes the edge off.  So do the dishes and your kitchen, no matter how un-updated, will be a pleasant place to put on a pot of tea.  Pick up the piles of toys and books and find shelves or baskets for them.  A clear surface is really good for your chi. I heard that once. I'm not really sure what chi is. I think it's something I'm morally opposed to, but I must say, a clear surface really reduces my stress levels!

3b) about the food: simple, basic, and plentiful.  Wanna know what I buy? Milk, eggs, butter. (Half and half and coffee because I'm an addict). Bread. PBJ. Oatmeal. Pancake mix.  Deli turkey if I send my husband because I have no patience at our SLOW deli.  Chicken. Ground beef or turkey.  Pasta. Rice. Bananas. Apples/grapes/oranges--whatever's in season.  And then I try to throw in as many veggies as I can on top of all of that.  So, broccoli and stuff for salad (spinach or romain), baby carrots…stuff my kids will eat.   And we do a bunch of kefir and yogurt.

That, my friends, is what you call food. What do I make with it? I don't know. Whatever inspires. With BBQ sauce or Ketchup you can make the above into meatballs or meatloaf (add breadcrumbs to the list).  Any random pasta/chicken/veggie dinner (maybe add pasta sauce to your list).  Chicken salad (add mayo to list), which reminds me to throw tuna onto your list and you've got friday covered.  Maybe some taco shells/tortilla shells because tacos are easy and good (add black olives to list).

I'm telling you. That is ALL I buy! (ok, chips and salsa in moments of weakness).  My kids do drink almond milk and juice in somewhat random and theoretically limited quantities.

3c) clothing.  This is my weak spot. I hate shopping.  My advice: try to buy less, try to buy quality, and if you have good sale/thrifting strategies employ those! Then, get more underwear and socks than you could imagine an army needing. Don't listen to me--I got that one from Auntie Leila. And she's always right!

4) "Sleep, prayer, and exercise."  Some other mother of a large family said these are the three things necessary for a happy mom.  The friend who shared this with me (another mother of eight) said to this she'd add "a good book".  I think they're right.  I hate this one.

a)Sleep is soooo annoying!! Who has time for it?! What a frustration--trying to sleep while nursing, for instance.  Alas, here's my take: go to bed early and hope for the best.  The more hours you can get in before midnight the better off you'll be, and that's a good thing--because you may not get many in after. (Just saying).

b)Exercise.  If I don't like sleep, I REALLY don't like exercise.  Who has time for this?!! (Did i just say that?)  My advice (that I struggle to live out): lift heavier weights than you thought you could.  Pumping heavier iron (for me, this is like 15 pounds) gets you sweating fast. Do a hundred crunches and hop on something for cardio until the kids make you stop (somewhere between 5 and 30 minutes--ha!-if you're lucky!)

c) prayer.  mmmmmm.  Do I need to speak on this one? It's just a way of life. Your life-line.  Don't stop. Ever.  ("Pray constantly" 1 Thess 5:17) St. Paul's got the idea.

d) the good book is a bonus.

I'm just going to stop here.   That's my list. The basics are covered so you can maximize your time loving your children in peace and not chaos.

Sunday, January 4, 2015


Look, I know we've all just blown our pocket books coming through Christmas and I know we can't just keep on buying...but...we've got this second semester of school and long winter months and sometimes it's just inspiring to infuse the school room with some colorful new tangibles to keep little hands occupied and interested.  Anyway, I've purchased none of these things, but I do have some spring birthdays coming up...  And just because it's fun to browse together, I thought I'd post a few things I've been looking at.;)

I wonder if my kids would love these, or if I'd just get really, really sick of picking them up! ("Gears"):

Why are these things so darn expensive??!!! (Magnatiles)  Because I think they'd be a ton of fun!

These Plan Toys "gears" are less expensive….hmmmm.
Plan Toys.  I may be obsessed.

Very Montessori, n'est-ce pas?
Nice and pretty little princess blocks…I should see if they have a boy version too.

Oh--and there's a tea set! Where is it?
Here it is!

And I really do love this shape sorter--I've had one, but I'm terrible at keeping things with lots of pieces for many years.  I think it's time for a new one for Legolas and Eowyn.

I could go on an on!

But, let's just remember, cute toys don't make us good mothers.  Love makes us good mothers.
Love.  I'm going to repeat that to myself and make sure I stop browsing Amazon in my spare time.;)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Epiphany

There's this little tradition, that is age-old and world-wide.  Actually, way older and more universal than our modern day Santa Claus.  The idea is that the Three Kings bring gifts to all of the children.  In some places, it's the "Epiphany Camel" that brings the gifts.  I think I am correct in my understanding that it is actually the more usual way to celebrate gift-giving in Europe and South American countries, rather than giving gifts on Christmas itself.

Can I just say that I would LOVE to get the presents off of Christmas?! But, then of course the kids would be all excited for the Epiphany.  I'd hate for Christmas to come in as second-best. I think I just wish it could all be EASIER, but celebrating with food and gifts is never simple with a big group of kiddos and extended family to boot! So, enough bah humbug out of me and back to the point!

The Epiphany, the visitation of the Three Wise men from the East who followed the Star to Bethlehem.  This feast is January 6th, but it is moved to the preceding Sunday in my diocese.  So...tomorrow!

If you've stayed with me this far, I get to the fun part here: you know all of that straw your kids put into the crib to prepare for baby Jesus? The pieces of paper or string that formed his soft bed with each sacrifice or good act throughout Advent?  Well, you don't have to throw them away! No!

The Epiphany Camels must be fed!!

So, have the children put some of that hay from the manger into their shoes to feed the Camels as the Wise Men pass on their way to Bethlehem...and see what gifts the Wise Men leave in token of appreciation!

I know we've just come through St. Nick's and Christmas and everyone is feeling sick of sugary treats.  Although, one last little candy cane would probably be cherished at this point if you are like me and started tossing cookies the day after Christmas because we just. couldn't. go. on!!  But I'd also recommend something to enjoy as the school year is about to commence and the winter looms large ahead.  A new box of crayons?  Water color paints? Adding splashes of color, new art supplies remind us all of the fun side of education, get us excited to get back to some of those workbooks as well as provide creative outlets on long cold afternoons.  On the other hand, as my husband said, "we could just get them a candy bar: it's what they want anyway".

Either way:).

My time's up.  Get creative, and have one last day of festivity and gifts.  Celebrate the Epiphany in small or full-fledged manner. (You can celebrate tonight or any time through the morning of the

7th).  Your kids won't complain!  Let the Christmas season play out in full.  Stay with the Baby in the Manger, linger near His Mother, and meditate upon the homage paid to the baby King.  He would not die in like manner.

Friday, January 2, 2015


Thank heavens for the octave of Christmas!  If you read my previous post, you know that my Christmas (day) was not one of quiet reflection on the gift of the Incarnation.

 If I had better planning, or if we didn't have 8 kids, or if I hadn't offered to host my large extended family, it could have been different.  But it wasn't…and that's ok.  It's ok, because I didn't miss it.  It took a few days to come down off of the rush and crush that was our large family Christmas, but I have a few days.  More than a few: an Octave!

 And as I try to sweep up the crumbs of the last cookies and pull furniture back into place, I am trying to notice, too, the Chirstmas afterglow:

 the peaceful spots of beauty that rest in the corners of my home.

   I just want to appreciate them and let them sink in--because whisking them away and getting excited about a fresh new year and a new Spring Semester of homeschooling is also a big temptation. [ And there will be time for that. ]

But this time is the baby moon.  I don't want to miss it, because newborns don't keep very long.  We do want to get back to the normal rhythm of life, but not before we drink in the precious moments with the Baby, breathing in his sweet breath.  Listening to the rhythm of His breathing.  Drinking in His Spirit.

And celebrating His Mother, the Mother of God, on the first day of the new year.

The manger, Christmas, Mother and Child.  Welcome 2015!

Happy New Years!