"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, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

I had the honor and the joy of watching our annual Memorial Day parade with a veteran.  He is a 6' 2" Marine, and his beautiful bride was with him.  They dated for ten years after the Iraqi Freedom war. 

cookies courtesy of Baker "Bilbo"
The thing is, my brother (the vet) was just standing by my side, watching.  He cracked jokes and held his niece and nephew, pointing out the firetrucks and ponies to their little One-Year-Old eyes.  He's always been great with babies.  He commented on a really sweet golden retriever that was walking obediently by its master in the parade: the dog looked to the master instead of leading and pulling on the leash.  My brother had trained his golden to hunt following hand signals and whistle commands.  That dog died while he was at war.

A car with veterans in it passed by, and I asked him why he wasn't in the parade.  "Because I'm still alive, for one reason", he joked.  His 19th birthday was covered on our local news station: he turned 19 in Iraq.  I remember my Mom in that interview...

Another float passed by with old veterans singing patriotic anthems sitting on hay bales.  They were grey-haired and bearded old men.  "That's the group I belong with," he joked again.

A sign was held by a group, thanking our veterans.  I turned to my brother and patted him and said, "thank you!"  A glass hearse with an empty covered coffin was driven by, with a sign saying "This coffin is in honor of all those who died protecting our country..."  It passed in silence.

Today, I pray for all of those who died at war.  I pray especially for Eric, who died in my brother's arms.  For their families.  I pray for those who survived, too.  And I thank God.  I thank Him for bringing my brother home from war, through healing, and to the life he lives today.  I thank Him that my brother was there to watch this parade, to hold my baby, and to be the handsome husband he is to my sister-in-law.

When I was little, my Mom would tell me about my grandpa in the Navy.  She'd tell me about dating guys from the Air Force.  She taught me about patriotism.  Today Memorial Day isn't so much about men from the past.  I "live" Memorial Day as a present reality.  A reality of gratitude to these men from the past and the present.  I pray for peace as I think of our country and the future.

May God Bless America.

We love you, Uncle Michael!!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Red-Winged Blackbird

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My Mom was on a walk at a nearby park with my brother who is a priest. He was home on his first visit after his ordination.  There were tons of red-winged blackbirds. 
 As his visit came to an end and her first-born flew back to Europe, my Mom returned to that park with my Dad, heart heavy after saying goodbye to her son.  As my parents walked, my Mom remembered the red-winged blackbirds she had seen with my brother.  There had been so many!  Today, there were none.

I love this picture.  What secret joke are these two sharing?

She missed my brother so much (he belongs to an order in Europe).  She began to pray that she'd see just one red-winged blackbird, as a sign from God that my brother was ok.

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A silly request.  From a mother's heart.  Not really silly at all, though.  A mother's prayer.

And it was answered!  Just as she was leaving the park, about to enter her car, she saw a red-winged blackbird.

Just a little gift from a loving and merciful Lord.

Well, this May my brother celebrated his First Year Anniversary as a priest.


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I was running my morning run around our pond.  Dozens of red-winged blackbirds make their homes here, nesting in the reeds near the water.  I never thought of it before.  I took them for granted and made sure my kids didn't touch the eggs in the nests as they hunted for frogs or fished.  The birds are known to dart at anyone coming too near.

But I was alone on my run, and my mind went to my brother.  The red-winged blackbird.

Forgive me, my father is a poet.
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Black bodies like the black robes of a priest.

Red shoulders: fire.  The Holy Spirit resting upon them.

The reeds that are their home: like the reeds that held the bitter gall to the lips of Jesus, like the reed in His hand at the passion, a home is made amidst sacrifice.

And their trill: loud, sharp, even abrasive.  Salt.  A sign of contradiction.  Words for ears that are open to hear.  "Be alert."
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They can be a little scary.

They are bold, they cry out as you pass, there is no mistaking their appearance.

And they fly!  My brother only comes to us via air!  And he goes again after his visit.  He happens to travel quite a bit, actually.  In fact, I use his location to teach my children quite a bit of geography!  The Holy Land, Helsinki...Poland, and here!  I like to think of him as a bird flying around as he does his work.  His work for the Lord.

Today, I renew my gratitude to God that I have a brother who is a priest.  I renew my resolve to support him in prayer.

I will certainly say a prayer for him, and for all priests, when I see this bird with it's flame-red wings.

Friday, May 19, 2017

7 Quick Takes

Today I'm linking up with Kelly  and trying my hand at 7 Quick Takes.  I always have a hard time with this because 7 seems like a big number...lets see how many I can come up with!

The Cat

Cooper remains with us despite my husband's daily demands to call the Humane Society for a "surrender".  Cooper's greatest fault is eating food off of the kitchen table.  Aragorn is diligent in his efforts to keep the chairs all pushed fully in so that Cooper can't make his way onto the table, but, well, Aragorn is just one boy and there are about a dozen chairs to keep pushed in at all times.

So, why haven't I followed my husband's requests?  Well, I haven't really had the time to call the Humane Society and schedule a surrender appointment (and yes, they really do make it that complicated around here), but...also, he's just so cute!  Look at him all sitting in the corner of our couch for an afternoon nap.    I'm sure I'll find a new family for him soon.  In the meantime, I appreciate his visit in our home. 


The Fish

Bilbo has been chasing this fish for two years, and finally on Wednesday, he had his great victory!  It is a sweet sweet Large Mouth Bass and we're getting it mounted for him (yes we are--$12/inch).  Funny story:  My husband called the taxidermist and left a message.  She called back when I was the only one home.  She asked what kind of fish it was.  I said I thought it was a Bass.  She asked if it was Large or Small-mouthed, because they WERE taking Large, but NOT Small-mouthed bass. I said something about the mouth looking pretty large, but asked if a small-mouthed bass might look like it had a pretty big mouth to the untrained eye.  She explained something about bronze vs. green and horizontal vs. vertical stripes...all of this was lost on me.  However, we googled images of the difference between the two and indeed it was a Large-mouth.  Huzzah!  Bilbo gets to have this pride of the local pond mounted after all!  Very important to a 9-year-old fisherman.

The Garden

I am fulfilling the desire of a decade of dreaming: I am planting a vegetable garden!  Why have I not done this for a decade?  Because we used to always go to my in-laws for a month or two during the summer.  Last summer was the first summer that we did not go, and I was 9 months pregnant in June, had Sam in July, and skipped the garden.

But you have to understand, I really really love gardening!  I have a collection of books on vegetable gardening.  I have been planning my plot.  So, this week, I dug a space.  But first I had purchased some flowers for the yard.  Bilbo and Galadriel had come with me and bought a flat of flowers.  My children were SO EAGER to plant their flowers and could NOT decide upon a place for them in the yard, so I let them line my vegetable garden with them (certain flowers will deter rabbits, these are not of this variety, but I may add some marigolds to the mix when I am finished.

Lest I bore my readers to death, I know it will not be only the avid gardeners among you that will be able to foresee that planting perimeter flowers BEFORE planting rows of vegetables must not be the wisest of strategies in the order of operations in garden planting.  Alas, it made my children very happy and they have stopped clamoring, so I am now waiting for a free day to make my seed purchases and get that garden up and running!


The Haircuts


First, my baby.  Oh how I hate cutting my babies' hair!
But Sam's bangs were hitting his eyes and making him blink, so...I buzzed him.

Then, Galadriel:

 Before: Galadriel's hair was approximately...three feet long!

So I whacked off a bunch.

And she saved her hair to donate!

(Ok, I see that it looks incredibly uneven in this picture. That's just the picture. I promise!)


The season has begun!  My husband is coaching Bilbo this year, much to Gimli's dismay.  We didn't let the girls play softball just because we have to keep the numbers down in terms of schedules t o keep.  And joy of all joys, after much pleading on my behalf, Gimli consented to playing up a league with Aragorn.  Being 18 months younger, Gimli should still be in the middle league, but he can keep up with the oldest league, and it saves us a separate practice and game schedule, bringing our total number of schedules down to a mere TWO for the summer!  This is record-breaking and incredibly helpful.

I am more ready than I think I have ever been for summer to begin!  Unfortunately, it is clear to me that several of my children have hit a "stride" in their learning, suddenly really making great progress.  I am going to give it a final "push"--and then, I hope, have a little plan for summer "maintenance", which, we all know, will amount to nothing after about the first week of vacation, and we'll pick it up again in the fall.

The Three-Year-Old

Rosie is officially potty-training with success!  (Judge not, ye early trainers!) It was the new pack of undies I picked up that did it.  She declared to her big sister that they were "gorgeous" (a word I did not know was in her repertoire).  

She got my camera and decided to try her hand at selfies.

What a nut.

Hey, it's FRIDAY!!! Have a great weekend!

Monday, May 15, 2017

May Musings

I've been revisiting Fr. Jacques Philippes "Searching for and Maintaining Peace".  I need to read that every day!  PEACE!  And that is all I'm going to say about that.

This little kitten is feisty.  Too scratchy and bitey for me.  And he gets on our kitchen table (which is a huge problem in my estimation).  But Arwen, my resident cat-whisperer, and Aragorn (surprisingly to me) have banned together to save Cooper from the pound!  They are on a mission to keep him off of my table.

I find my teens with this cat quite often.  Cooper seems to calm them down or console them in times of teen-duress.  He amuses them during dull points throughout the day.  And my little kids mess around with him all the time.  I have been observing what role this little kitten plays in our home.  While I have my issues with this guy, and while I  am not really a "cat person", I have to admit, his little life is a gift to our family.

And I'd rather have my kids fondling a kitten than an electronic device.

Mother's Day was a beautiful day.  My kids and husband spoiled me.  And when you have nine perfect children (and by perfect, I do not mean my children don't sin, or have their issues) it is pretty easy to go through your day feeling rather important.

Each child is so important.   Created by God to exist for all eternity?  I'd say that's pretty important.

I don't feel "proud" as in "proud of my accomplishment"...because, it's really just a gift, my motherhood.  Each child.

Mostly, I feel humbled and grateful.  I certainly do not deserve to be a mother.  It's too great and glorious a vocation, going through life with banana goo on my shirt and all!  These are my children!?!!

 May the Lord judge me mercifully.  I'm still as selfish and impatient as the next human.  But I do love them.  I am so thankful that I get to be a part of their lives.

I thank God for the gift of motherhood.  Now, off to my day!

Friday, May 12, 2017

On Mother's Day

Dear Mom,

It was a beautiful day on Wednesday, and Maria was headed to the park with her twins.  I headed out with a bunch of my kids, some with fishing poles and nets.  I texted Beth on the way.

"Ok, I'm Coming!" flashed on my phone a few moments later.

And just like that, the three of us girls were headed for the park.  Together, with our kids.

That would be 17 kids, if all of ours had come.  I only had six of mine, and Beth only had four.  So, thirteen.  Three moms, thirteen kids.  

And it's just us sisters.  Thinking of Ann and her children at every moment that we get together like this.  It should have been four of us, and 18 kids.  

The weather turned a little cold and threatened rain.  I didn't want Maria getting caught in the rain with her newborns, having to walk home, so I said we should cut it short.  We had to track down the boys (and a couple sisters) at the pond.  A net covered in muck was tossed in my stroller.

I was following the pack when I just had to take these pictures.  My beautiful children, my beautiful nieces and nephews, my beautiful sisters!  How can my life be so good?!  Well, God is so good.

But, you and Dad had to be open to giving us this gift.  God wants this for more of us, but so many people won't have it.  They couldn't image having the eight children you and dad had!

Maybe you couldn't imagine doing it either.  Maybe there were days where you wouldn't recommend it.  Maybe there were days when you wished you hadn't!
But you did.

You were our mother.

And now I have friends a phone call away.  And friends for my children.

Except these friends are related by blood.  In part, your blood.

And there is ease, and there is fun, and there is love.  Most of all, there is love.

So, on this mother's day, I thank you.  Thank you for your sacrifice.  Every day for so many decades.  It hasn't stopped yet, your self-giving, your mothering, your love, your prayers.

remember painting this room for me? And when Amelia started high school, you painted her study for me too!

How many Thanksgiving turkeys do you think you've stuffed?

How many rosaries?  How many novenas?
How many hugs? How many tears?
How many cookouts?!!!

You've thrown six weddings, and an Ordination to the Priesthood First Mass.

You traveled to Europe for that Ordination with your oldest grandchild, my daughter.  Did either of us think that would ever happen?  I didn't.

Another wedding this summer.  More grandchildren?

Did you ever wonder if your life had meaning?

I never did.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!  We love you!