Feb 29, 2016

Monday Meme: First child.... Second child... Third child... Any children after...

Every time I’ve seen this meme, it just makes me chuckle. Thinking back to our first child, it's rather amusing what was worrisome as a new parent.  As time goes by, and more children arrived, experience began to teach us to trust ourselves, and not a book, or friends, or even family.

For us, the first three children were our "firsts" since they were so close in age, they almost seemed like one. If one had to wear a hat, then they all did. Shoes? You betcha. Start solids at six months, well, yes! Not walking by a year, better call the doctor. And, cookies before dinner?? Hardly. And then we started watching them. The children. They looked good. Rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes.  Attitudes, yes, but we adapted. I always thought God sent us the children we needed, for a particular time of our lives. But I didn’t want to trust. A quiet, calm one after a rambunscous hooligan? Nooo, something must be “wrong”. But the cries of “Lord, Help me!” did not fall on deaf ears. He does know what we need! A little craziness to break up the perfectionism.  Each child a gift with his or her own manual to uncover.  A little dessert before dinner. Because it’s gotta be better for them than dirt.

Feb 24, 2016

"Parenting" a Parent: The Beginning

Back in the day, when we were having babies, I remember that fleeting moment, when we’d find out the next baby was on the way, of wondering how am I going to handle one more?! Sometimes it’s not a new baby that God puts in our path.

It started out as any other day, that day a year and a half ago. It’s the end of summer, planning for the new homeschool year, getting the calendar organized with the all the usual activities coming up. Another child getting ready for college life. Gardening, goats, good times. In the previous week, David has been back and forth on the phone with his older brother. Their mother, who lived about an hour from her older son in Virginia, didn’t seem to be doing well but he couldn’t explain.   David called Mom and she sounded about the same as she usually did on their weekly phone calls. He tells her he’s flying out to Virginia the following week to visit her. We had discussed in the past that at some point she wasn’t going to be able to manage alone. She adamantly refused offers to move in with us, or her other son, or go to a nursing home. David thought it was time to make some decisions.  And then her friends started calling. And then THE call from his brother.  He’s at Mom’s house and she doesn’t look good. He’s taking her to the Urgent Care. David books the next flight out that he can. I remember feeling this was all surreal. I remember praying, “Lord, keep him safe and help him get there in time.”

And David is off. At the home front, we pray for Grandma. Lord, what do we do? And pray some more. The Hail Marys go flying off my lips over and over. David arrives in Virginia and his brother picks him up and takes him back to the house. He is shocked at what he sees. A woman who has traveled to all the continents, hiked up mountains, showered with elephants, changed airplanes more times than I’ve changed shoes, can’t get up out of her chair. The visit to the doctor didn’t reveal anything amiss. So they sit. Brother goes home. We talk on the phone. What to do? He tells her somehow, he’s going to have to get her here, to Michigan, at least temporarily. She’s refusing. They get through the evening, and David starts loading up her car with “important” stuff, not sure how or when. The next day he takes her to the E.R. Something has to be wrong. Nothing. The next morning is Sunday, and David calls as we are leaving for Mass. He thinks he should stay in VA and see her regular doctor on Monday. And that’s when it comes to me, “Get in the car and start driving. She needs to be here.” He puts her in the car, says, "I haven’t see the mountains, so let’s go take a look." And he drives. And drives some more.  And she realizes he’s on the “wrong road” to the mountains. And they continue home.

And so began our adventure in “parenting” a parent. Readjusting our lives to include one more. One more? How do we handle one more?! With the Grace of God we do. The ups and downs, the ins and outs, He is waiting for us to ask to be included. Reach out. Grab His hand and be blessed with His strength. Oma (German for Grandma), as she is now known, is healthy and thriving in her new home, here with us. Learning what it is to live our faith. One. Day. At. A. Time. With one more.

To be continued...

Feb 22, 2016

Monday Meme: Catholic Weight Loss??

Bear with me on this one as I attempt to explain a Catholic Weight Loss observance I am doing for Lent this year...

Dieting for Lent?  Hmmm, can that be done?  Can that be a sacrifice to offer up to Him and grow closer to Him in doing so?  We already fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, so why not incorporate some extra fasting by choice throughout the week....

(Quick side note:  I'm not a fan of skinny jeans, nor do I wear them, nor do I allow my girls to wear them)    But....  I do like the chocolate reference here, especially tied to the possibility of losing weight.  Yes, many people give up chocolate.  So much so that Matthew Kelly is encouraging people to try something new than the same ole same ole of giving up chocolate this year.  But if chocolate is a vice for you and a way to unite that suffering to His, then by all means, continue to give it up!!

My fasting this year has been many years coming.  For 14 years now, I've either been pregnant or nursing, so I haven't been able to do much with fasting.  (other than the giving up chocolate or coffee or Mountain Dew or sweets).  But only one full meal on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday have more or less been out for me.  Not this year though!  Not pregnant.  Not nursing - my little guy weaned himself a month ago (waaaaaah!).  But it was God's perfect timing and just in time for Lent!!

Two Lents ago I was really inspired by one of my closest friends.  She fasted three days a week for both breakfast and lunch, but did allow herself one helping of food at dinner time (so they still ate dinner as a family - we all know how important family meal time is!!).  To get through the day, she allowed herself to eat bread when her body needed it.  As her belly grumbled and rumbled throughout the day, it was that constant reminder of that sacrifice she was making for Him and to rely on Him to get through the day.  And, get this - by the end of Lent, she had lost 10 pounds!!  (she got me there!!)  After 8 babies, I have some extra weight to lose.  You calculate those last few pounds that are so hard to shed times my 8 babies, well, yeah, you know what than comes to!  ....around 25 pounds!  Oy!!  Is losing this amount of weight my goal for Lent?  Nah, I'll be happy to lose even 10.  Even losing 5, I'd be thrilled!!

I've made it through 5 days so far - Ash Wednesday and the Friday after, and then the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the first full week of Lent.  And today I start my second week of fasting on Monday, Wednesday, Friday.  I am tweaking my friend's fast a bit and not doing the bread throughout the day.  My hubby has done some fasting over the years and said the bread/water allowed sometimes makes it harder and makes you more hungry, so he suggested I go cold turkey.  Cold turkey, it is!!  Thankfully, I keep pretty busy from the time I wake up til that dinner time hits, so truly it has been doable to do this.  I am very reliant on prayer throughout the day, for sure.

Here's a peek at my fasting days....

My belly rumbles and grumbles constantly at me all.  day.  long.  From the time I get up and my feet his the floor.  When I'm showering and getting ready for the day.  Feeding my 8 kids their own breakfast.   Grumble.  ++Lord, be with me+  Teaching them school.  Giving the baby snacks.  Rumble.  ++I need You++  Teaching more school.  Giving baths.  Grumble.  Rumble.  ++Help me do this!!++  Running to activities/classes.  Reading books.  Rumble.   ++All for You++  Making lunch.  Grumble.  Serving lunch.  More school.  More running to and from.  Rumble.  Grumble.  Phew - time to make dinner.  ++Thank you, almost there...++  It's getting closer!!  Rumble.  Grumble.  Family dinner time!  I get to eat with my husband and eight great kiddos!!  Yippeee!!  
++thank you, God!!++

So, there's my take on a Catholic Weight Loss program for Lent.  And because I highly doubt I'll lose the full 25 pounds that my body could lose, I may continue with a plan similar to this after Lent., if even for one day a week.  It can be such a blessing to sacrifice and fast from food like this and lift up your heart and rumbly grumbly belly to Our Lord to help you get through it.

And before I send you all off, I couldn't help but share a little wisdom from some holy ones who have gone before us and paved the way on true beauty.  Because truly, it is not about how much we weigh, or skinny or squishy we are, etc... it's about the beauty of our soul and the JOY of our Lord living in and shining through us...

"Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul."
~Saint Augustine

 “The only ones who are truly beautiful are those who look beautiful when they come in out of the rain. That kind of beauty comes from the inside out, not from the outside in. It is the product of virtue, not rouge; it is not skin-deep, but soul-deep.”
~Archbishop Fulton Sheen

 “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”

~Mother Teresa

Feb 19, 2016

Friday Feasting: Best Dinner Rolls

Best Dinner Rolls

"One of my favorite things to make in the wintertime is bread! Normally, the woodstove is going, generating lots of heat and I get a good rise from the dough. While the directions are for kneading by hand, my wrists are shot (carpal tunnel syndrome) from years of making the Eucharist Bread for our parish, years ago.  So, I throw everything into my Bosch mixer to knead for 6 minutes, instead. Kitchen-aid should work, if you have one of those."


2 pkg active dry yeast (4 1/2 tsp)
Pinch of sugar
2 Cups warm water (110-115F)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup oil (I use olive)
2 tsp salt
6-7 cups all-purpose flour


PROOF the yeast with sugar in water for 5-10 minutes, or until it "blooms."

Whisk eggs, 1/2 C sugar, oil and salt together, in large bowl. Add yeast mixture;  whisk to combine.

Stir 3 C flour into the egg mixture using a wooden spoon.  Add more flour, 1/2 c at a time until it becomes too stiff to stir. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead by hand.

(If using a mixer with dough hook, proof yeast in bowl. Then add additional ingredients to bowl, as directed above. )

Knead dough until it's smooth, but still soft, adding a little flour at a time if dough is too sticky.  Place dough in a bowl coated with non-stick spray and cover. Let rise in a warm place, until double in size, 1-1 1/2 hours.

Punch dough and gather into a ball. With floured hands, shape pieces of dough into balls, about the size of golf ball for small buns; a little smaller than a baseball for dinner size buns.

Arrange on a grease baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart. Cover rolls with a towel and let rise again until they are doubled, about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350F.

Bake rolls about 20-30 minutes, depending on size, until golden, then brush with melted butter and garlic salt. Cool slightly before serving.

Feb 17, 2016

Mercy, Mothering, and that Difficult Child

I'm certain that Pope Francis declared the Year of Mercy explicitly for me. Ok, well maybe that's
exaggerating a bit, but let me run with the idea anyway! I have this amazing 4 year old boy (#6 in the
line up of 8) who is very special. Well, they're all special, but this guy is particularly special right now! The aforementioned 4 year old is a unique blend of several personalities in our family – not necessarily a good thing some days. He's sensitive, funny, sharp as a tack, picky,and goofy all wrapped up in the same kid.

You know how you think a child is just going through a phase. You might say things like, “I know this is just a phase, he'll grow out of it.” Or “Surely, she's just tired and needs more rest.” And then all of a sudden you realize it isn't a phase. They continue to complain about strings on clothing from age 18 months to 4 years with no end in sight. Or they can't stand when the food on their dinner plate touches. Maybe this kid is just made the way he is and will always be difficult to some degree. And this, my fellow mothers in the trenches, is where the Year of Mercy was declared just for us (me)!

After raising X number of children, gathering real life experience with each subsequent child, one
might think expert, master, or pro are appropriately earned titles attached to our God-given title of Mother.  Unfortunately, just as soon as you tag one of those titles on, we usually get a dose of humility. Just as soon as we think we've figured out how to get Sally asleep, Jane comes along and won't have anything to do with our new found bliss.

Sleep patterns, fashion choices, eating likes/dislikes, coping mechanisms, and so forth will all be
different with each child and you just can't predict how it's all going to turn out. This makes parenting
in general and motherhood more specifically, very challenging to say the least. So I got to #6 in my
own line-up and the 4th boy so I figured he was going to be super simple to figure out. LOL!!!! Every day is different with him, actually every minute is different with him.

In spite of this seemingly difficult child, God calls me to love him just the same as the other 7 children who call me mom. The funny thing is, or at least I chuckle at myself, I'm the one who needs to change, not my sweet boy. I'm the one who needs God's mercy, His forgiveness, His Grace found new everyday in order that I may love my child the way in which he deserves. The “Year of Mercy” is helping me to do so in meaningful and tangible ways that I had not considered before.

Children are a gift from a God – bottom line. They don't have to be anything special or do anything great to be this gift. As they are, imperfections, quirks, vices, and virtues, these children we aim to get to Heaven are simply and purely gift. So how in the world does something so sweet and innocent cause so much angst in the life of a mother? How can we wrestle the feelings of love and disdain that run rampant through our hearts?

Here is a simple yet helpful way to embrace the “Year of Mercy” and also help to build a better
relationship with that “difficult” child:

  • Desire to Change
  • Ask God for help
  • Start small
  • Keep praying

Honestly, it almost looks like the steps to preparing for a good confession, but that makes perfect sense because that's where we can feel God's mercy in such a tangible way. Lately, I had been super frustrated because I keep praying for help to mother my sweet boy but I felt like I was just stuck in a rut and acting the same way toward him almost shunning him at times. Then I had a light bulb moment at Mass the other day --I was missing one of the steps. I want to change, I asked for help, and I was sort of praying about it, but I wasn't implementing any changes in my own behavior. Light bulb!!!  All this time that I've been asking for help God has been answering, but I wasn't responding back with an earnest effort. If I want to change I need to make a concerted effort to try some new things with my little guy. Once this sunk into my heart and mind, I was able to take some small steps toward loving my difficult child in whole new ways.

Now with the Lenten season upon us in the midst of the “Year of Mercy” I'm feeling as though there is an abundance of God's grace to draw from. He wants me to ask Him for help, He wants you to ask for help, because ultimately He wants us to live out our vocation to the best of our ability and then to be happy with Him forever in Heaven.

So if you have ever or are currently parenting a difficult child, take some time to reflect on my simple
way to build a better relationship with him/her. Dive into the “Year of Mercy” if you haven't already
and run full steam into Lent and you'll find an abundance of God's grace just waiting for the taking.

Feb 15, 2016

Monday Meme: Lord, Please Give Me Coffee or Give Me Wine

I love this quip. I use it as part of my "signature" in all my emails.

Of course, it’s a spin off the Serenity Prayer, but I much prefer this adaptation.  It’s much more applicable in my life.  I drink coffee.  I drink wine.  I drink coffee to be alert and DO.  I drink wine to chill and RELAX.  I know I’m not alone.  I know many moms, especially moms of special needs kiddos who rely on this mantra.
With kids, every mom has a daily to-do list.  If you homeschool, that list is even longer.  I have autistic teens.  My list, well, I’ve learned to call it a wish list.  No matter how I plan, life just throws a curve ball, and I have to adjust.  Sometimes, my kids don’t understand an assignment which I thought would take little time to accomplish.  Other times, I get a call from a therapist, doctor, or Mr. WhoknowsWho, and wham, I have to deal with THIS situation right away.  Of course, THIS situation blows up my to-do list.  Hence, now it;s a wish list.  Maybe I'll get to it...
What am I going to do?  Complain?  Probably.  Will it help?  No.
Sigh.  That’s when I ask, “Dear Lord, what do you want me to do?”  I have to admit it is more fun to pray “Lord, give me more coffee to change what I can change, and wine to accept what I can’t.”  However, it is actually helpful to hold a cup of coffee to slow me down to think of what I should do.  It helps to hold a glass of wine to reflect on what I need to accept. Obviously, I don’t do this ALL the time, but the idea still holds.
SO, I have learned to have a plan and be flexible.  I just say that prayer.  I have to remember that the Good Lord is in charge, and what I thought was important may not be so important.  I pray that God will give me what I need and when I need it.  It may be simply more coffee or more wine, depending on the case.  Maybe it will be just a moment of silence to distinguish His will, and that is enough.

Feb 12, 2016

Friday Feasting: Squash Soup

Squash Soup

"Our farm grows many varieties of winter squashes during the growing season and I've used them all for soup.  For this recipe, I am using butternut squash, but pumpkin and acorn are readily available and can be substituted. The beauty of this recipe is that you can "make more" just by adding more liquid."


2-Butternut Squash, cooked
2 C water
2 C broth
2 C milk
1/2 c heavy cream (optional)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp rubbed sage
1 tsp salt
Sour cream (optional)
Cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
Croutons (optional)


1.  Cut squash in half and place on a greased rimmed cookie sheet.  Roast squash for 45 minutes, or until done. (You can do this ahead and store until ready to use)

2.  Scoop squash from skin and place in stockpot with 2 C water and 2 C broth, along with bay leaf, sage and salt. Bring to simmer, stirring occasionally to break up squash.

3.  Once heated, remove bay leaf, and using an immersion (stick) blender or regular blender, pulse soup until a fine texture is achieved.

4.  Add 2 C milk and any additional liquid (broth, water, more milk) to suit your needs.

5.  Add additional salt to taste, along with sage, if needed.  Add cream, if using. Heat through.

**Serve with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.
**Top with croutons.
**Serve with side salad and dinner rolls.

Feb 10, 2016

One Woman’s Take on How (and How Not) to Survive a Mommy Illness with Some Reasonable Amount of Grace

As I begin to write, I must note that when I agreed to write this piece, I was filled with this zany ridiculous optimism that I would be well, and this would be more a retrospective on lessons learned from this experience.  As it is, I still feel crummy (cue violins), so this will have to be more of a now-trospective on lessons still being learned during the process of being stuck in your bed for three weeks or more.

Lesson 1: Lying in Bed is, at First, Exactly as Fun as You Thought it Might Be

During my long years of having millions of babies, toddlers, middles, teens, and adults needing me for 30 hours a day, I would indulge in this occasional fantasy about lying around in bed. I would get a lot of rest, I thought; I would read a bunch of books. I would get tons of planning done.  If I remembered to, I would pray for everybody I know.  I would have a great excuse to just use my computer until it overheated, not till someone else decided my turn was over.

And the first four days were like that! Sure, I was in pain; incisions from a laparoscopy were healing; delightfully, what we used to call “my Aunt Martha” came to visit the day after surgery; and the gas that they use to shove your intestines out of the way during surgery was seeking to exit my body through my shoulder.  Sure, we were living in fear from moment to moment that the pathology report would come back not so good. BUT! My husband was home for four straight days when he would normally have been at work. My mother-in-law, usually an inmate of our home, was being cared for elsewhere for three of those days. I DID read, and use my computer, and pray my distracted little prayers, and I even did some of the planning I had dreamed of doing.

So I was a chipper girl, a real trouper, smiling bravely through the pain, apologizing for putting people to the trouble of making me an English Muffin or helping me cross the room. I charmed myself- who knew I could be such a sweetie? Bed rest was, in a hideously overused and almost meaningless word, awesome.

Lesson 2: Lying in Bed is, After the Initial Fun Passes, a Giant Pain in the Patootie (subtitled You May BECOME a Giant Pain in the Patootie)

So then my mother-in-law returned, and I noticed a sensible diminishment in the almost exclusive attention of my husband. This led to some rather unfair crankiness on my part, as Chipper Trouper Girl gave way to Ungrateful Snippy Wench.  It is a good thing I have had so much practice apologizing in my life; I have gotten pretty good at it.

Interestingly at about this time, I finished the books I had set aside to read and also unfortunately realized that Facebook is nothing more than a thinly disguised opportunity to make an ass out of one’s self.  I mean, after you have importuned your poor friends (and you know who you are) with more than a few private messages about the deterioration of your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual state, it starts to turn from your gift of a chance to do good for a friend to- well, friend abuse.  Know the signs: usually these messages begin with “I think I may be pregnant!” or “I know you have to make dinner, slop the animals, finish math with your kids, and find something sexy to wear for your husband later, but I am pretty sure I am experiencing demonic attack- can you help?”

How to stay just this side of the Friend Abuse line: limit PMs/texts to no more than 3 a day, short ones with as little drama as you can muster, and know that you already have your friend’s prayers, because she loves you and wants you to get better as much as you do. Maybe more, because then she can actually make dinner and castrate the goats. Or something.

Lesson 3: Plan More Time than They Tell You to Recover

The day after my mom-in-law returned, my wonderful husband left to go back to work, because we had flippantly been told that the recovery time from having two orange-sized tumors removed from one’s body would be, oh, about 3 days, max. Lies. All lies. I still felt, 5 days out, like I had been worked over by a gang of toughs and left for dead, and now that my Lying in Bed Euphoria had passed, it wasn’t any fun any more.  Kids were realizing they missed me; the dog was missing the regularity with which he had been fed and let out; I felt the weight of Unmet Expectations, my own and others, descend upon my soul, and I knew fear.

I felt so much pressure to be better, mostly from myself, but also from my family who had been led to believe they would have their mom and wife and daughter in law back at full speed 72 hours after four incisions were made in her abdomen and parts of her body were removed. This, clearly, was stupid.  As my husband is fond of saying, “The key to happiness in life is low expectations.”  I actually asked him to please stop saying that (people would always look at me accusingly), but he is right.  Recovery is so very much easier if you set low expectations ahead of time for how healed you will be how soon.  If you think it’s going to be 3 days, tell people a week, and tell yourself a week.  Give yourself permission to heal fully before attempting reentry- you are doing nobody any favors by rushing things. This is especially difficult if you have young children, but this is a nice segué to Lesson 4.

Lesson 4:  Ask for, and Accept, Help, in Advance if Possible

I live an entirely different life in my head. In that light-filled space, doctors tell husbands that their wives will need to convalesce for a summer by the sea.  Husbands, in turn, are moneyed men of leisure who exist to dance attendance upon the mother of their heirs.  The maid packs the steamer trunk, and we are away to Brighton or Bath.

The reality, though more harsh, is still pretty nice; I do have a wonderful husband who loves me and wants me to get the best care possible.  I have 92% fabulous kids who also love me and want me to get better soon so I can cook again so we can once again frolic together in the Fields of Elysium.  But there is only so much they all can handle, your illness is stressful for them as well, and they still have all the expectations and duties of regular life to fulfill, plus yours.  Make this easier on them by accepting help from family and friends.  If none is offered, ask for it, or offer a trade if your family/friends are particularly lame/busy. Mine aren’t, and immediately competed to bring the most amazing dinners and take my younger kids for a day to give us all a break in the process.  It has made all the difference; they had an opportunity to be of real service, and my family had an opportunity to be humble and deeply grateful, always a nice state of being.

By the way, the trade I mentioned above is an offer of compensatory babysitting time, when you are well and truly better, to two or three trustworthy folks who could entertain your little ones for a day or two each while you recover, even for just a morning or afternoon around nap schedules.  Most people are lovely and will tell you they would be delighted to just help you out, no return necessary, but it is polite to offer if you are the one doing the asking. Perhaps your friend is in dire need of a day off herself, and your offer will come like a vision of light at the end of a tunnel.

Lesson 5: Accept Meals, and Lower your Dietary Standards for a Short Time

If people offer to make you meals, for the love of Mike, just say a grateful and hasty “Yes please!! I love you forever!!”  So what if you’ve got a kid with Celiac (like I do)- the rest of the family is magically fed, and all that remains for your exhausted hub or oldest kids to do is whip up ONE gourmet quinoa-based dinner.  So what if 5 nights in a row your family has goulash? Goulash is FANTASTIC, and you can lay off it for a month or so afterwards to get everyone back in the mood. So WHAT if people bring brownies and ice cream and your family Never, Ever Eats Sugar.  Give them to someone who will appreciate them, like me for instance.

Hint: do ask people to leave dinners on the porch or in the garage for you, and to let you know in advance when they are coming.  It is a cardinal rule of life that the very moment your pain meds kick in and your kids are quiet and you are juuuust drifting off to sleep, the doorbell must ring. Try to minimize this occurrence with this one very reasonable request: people who are kind enough to bring dinner will understand.  I always do Ding Dong Ditch Dinner when I bring a meal, with the difference that instead of ringing the doorbell and dashing madly to the car, I quietly shoot the recipients a text saying “Dinner will be left on your porch at 5:30pm. Get some rest and I will see you when you are well!” Don’t forget the heart and smiley face emoticons…

Lesson 6: Even When a Hospital has a Teeny Little Post-Operative Infection Rate of only 3%, You Should Still Plan to Get One

Sigh. More sighing. See Lesson about low expectations; see other Lesson about adding on more time for recovery if necessary.

Lesson 7: Always Have a Plan B

I totally forgot this most important rule of sickness, nay, of life itself.  This is what comes of my youngest being 8.  Truly little kids are constant living reminders of this rule, and great teachers of flexibility and docility to God’s Permissive Will.  Plan B is vital to your happiness at all times.  For instance, when you bring toddlers to Mass, Plan A is everyone will sit quietly in a pew in a well-dressed row, hands clasped prayerfully with their right thumbs over their left.  Clearly, a Plan B is needed if one’s head is not to explode. Plan B, of course, is that you won’t be able to find a shoe so boots will be worn in summer by at least one child, you will be ten minutes late to Mass because the teenager left the car 3 gallons below empty, and Challenging Child will become Exorcist Baby the minute his or her little soul passes the portals of your parish church.

With Plan B, you blissfully accept the “early Taylor Swift” look of boots and dresses, you have a gallon of gas sitting in the mower can for just such an occasion, and you carry holy water in your purse at all times. You also just give up on ever hearing a homily again, no matter how much you need to.  These lovely low expectations lead directly to contentedness.  So, in sickness as in life, do have this Plan B in place: you will be recovering much longer than the docs said, you will get a post-operative infection, your mother in law will drain away your husband’s caregiving energies, kids won’t get a ton of school done but will be introduced by your former friends to Avatar the Last Airbender which will lead them to both question western religion and kick box. Full disclosure:  I now love that show.

Lesson 8: Suffer Well- or As Best You Can

I remember vividly the advice given by a Catholic priest to a local Catholic warrior who was going into amputation surgery: “Suffer well!” he said.  Great advice. Decide in advance that you will suffer, and that your suffering is going to be worth something to Someone.  Decide for whom you will be offering up each day; with surgery you can do this in advance, but with illness it may have to be more of a seat of the pants thing, as in, “Lord…(retching), today I offer my vomiting for… uh… someone who really needs it.” God will know what to do.

Accept in advance that you will have cranky moments and less-than-stellar interactions, and vow to give it all to God, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Dwell momentarily on the deathbed of St. Thérése of Lisieux, be inspired, and then let it go.  You are almost certainly not St. Thérése of Lisieux, but you can be St. You all the same, and offer up the gifts you have to give in your own way.  Even when we blow it, these intentions are precious to God. Give yourself a break- you’re sick.

So these are the lessons I am learning as I rot here in bed, I mean rest prayerfully here in my retreat, and I dearly hope they are of some value to you, or at least have given you a laugh. Which, after all, is the best medicine— be well!

Feb 8, 2016

Monday Meme: WARNING! WARNING! Brain on overload!

Do you ever feel run down?

Too many things going on at once?

Your head spinning because it's trying to process/plan umpteen things and you cannot even successfully accomplish ONE thing?

Yeah, me too!  My bet is every person who reads this has felt this way at least once in their lives.  Me?  It's my normal every day life....  when you have a eight mouths and bellies to feed, those same eight bodies to keep clean and clothed, those same eight brains to stimulate and teach multiple subjects to, and last but not least, the same eight souls to feed spiritually and nourish with love daily, your one brain becomes accustomed to planning/thinking/processing way more than it can handle.   So how do you survive this chaos going on inside your brain?  How do keep your cool without blowing it?  How do you make sense of the multi-tasking that causes spinning out of control?  How do you find peace amongst the chaos?

Through Him.
With Him.
And in Him.  

Yes, it is by God reaching His mighty hand down upon my overloaded mommy brain and bringing meaning and sense of the very busy vocation in which He has called me.

"Though the mountains leave their place
and the hills be shaken,
My love shall never leave you
nor my covenant of peace be shaken,
says the Lord, who has mercy on you."

~Isaiah 54: 10

He come to us.  He dwells within us.  He dwells all around us.  He brings us a sense of peace.  If we but.....   Stop.  Look.  and Listen.  For me, this can be done in many ways....

  • say a prayer - something so simple as, "Lord, I need You", "Please take this over for me...", "Saint ***fill-in-the-blank***, pray for me".  Calling on Our Lady and offering up "Hail Mary's" can also bring about a beautiful sense of calm as well.  
  • scoop up a kiddo, smooch them, and go read them a book/play a game with them/or just snuggle them - Seriously!  There is something about distracting yourself from the constant commotion inside with the beauty God's presence in the children He gave you right here, right now.  Distract your overloaded brain and focus instead on their innocence, their love, and the presence of Our Lord within them.  
  • go to the bathroom and shut the door - for prayer, quiet time, alone time, but remember you have been forewarned....  
  • turn on some music - for me, it's Christian music (K-Love, Matt Maher, etc....).  And some make-you-wanna-plug-your-ears singing may follow.  And dancing.  Yes - dancing around the kitchen!  
  • and if you are so blessed to be able to sneak away to get a Son Tan, spending time in adoration is a given that can bring you a peace like no other.  But as a busy momma in the middle of her day, it's not always easy to pack up and leave or possibly to run away to run to Him.  This needs to be a somewhat planned thing for me. 

What brings you peace??

What can you do to calm the go-go-go inside your head?  

Now as an aside, and so you can all laugh at/with me, I had to share my computer screen when I was busy typing this post.... (hint:  focus on the top)

Do you see the multiple tabs open?  Yikes!!  Yes, it's okay to count them....  16 tabs!!!!  You see, I was trying to do way too much at one time - go figure!!!  Not only was I writing this post, but I was also printing labels for a return, reading the new Catholic Icing blog post on Lent, and perusing Pinterest to get new ideas for St. Valentine's day.  And, yes, this is normal computer surfing for me.  (sigh)  All gung ho with doing so much at once, and most of the time, my computer in trying to keep up with my clicking and multiple open tabs often freezes and freaks out at me anyways.  Shall I take this as a hint??  Ummm, yeah....

Breathe, sweet momma....

Slow down....

And, connect to Him, the King of Peace....

Feb 5, 2016

Friday Feasting: Eggs in Purgatory

Eggs in Purgatory

"On our farm we raise chickens. And although we sell lots of eggs, we can have a huge excess at times.  What we don't take to our local church's food bank, we need to use up! This drives me to find recipes that require lots and lots of eggs. Here's a new one we just tried out and enjoyed. An American-Italian dish, great for a meatless dinner; eggs in a spicy red sauce."


8 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste (ketchup works in a pinch)
3/4-1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust heat to your likes)
Salt and pepper
1 tsp oregano, dried
1 C fresh basil leaves plus
2 tbsp chopped  (or use 1 tbsp dried,  in a pinch)
1 (28-oz) can diced or crushed tomatoes
8 large eggs
1/4 C grate Parmesan cheese
2 loaves Italian bread, slices and toasted


Slice bread, drizzle with oil on both sides; broil for about 3 minutes per side. Set aside and heat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat 3 tbsp oil in oven safe 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until golden, about 1 minute. Add onion, tomato paste, pepper flakes, 1 tsp salt, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally for about 4 minutes, until rust colored. Add fresh basil if using, cook until wilted, 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes, bringing to a gentle simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.

Remove skillet from heat and let sit for 2 minutes to cool. Cracking one egg at a time into a bowl, using spatula, clear a 2 inch space well in sauce, exposing the bottom of skillet. Immediately pour in eggs. Repeat until all eggs are added, evenly spaced.

Season each egg with salt and pepper and cook over medium heat, covered, until egg whites are just beginning to set, but are still translucent, about 3 minutes. Uncover skillet and transfer to oven. Bake until egg whites are set and no watery patches remain, about 4-5 minutes for slightly runny yolks, or about 6 minutes for soft-cooked yolks, rotating skillet halfway through baking.

Sprinkle with Parmesan and chopped basil and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with toasted bread.

Feb 3, 2016

3 Tips for Being Friends with a Mom of Many

If you are reading this, you are probably interested in being a friend of a mom with many children. If so, Thank you! Moms with many children need friends, even though it might sometimes seem like we are completely unavailable and sometimes not the best of friends ourselves. Moms of many still need friends – even though we are surrounded by people, we can get lonely. We need to have a friend to confide in, and adult conversation is greatly appreciated! In order to make things easier, I have a few tips that might help you in your endeavor.

First, and probably most importantly, friends of moms with large families need a lot of patience. It may take forever for us to return a call. Please don’t take it personally! Some days there is literally no quiet moment. Most of my friends have stopped calling. The screaming in the background is so distracting. Our free time is extremely limited. Extra kids means extra chores, and this may or may not get easier as our children get older. Our resources are stretched in many directions, and our children require a lot of our time and attention. Finally, please be patient with our forgetfulness! Managing a large family means a lot of moving parts and a lot of appointments, schedules, lessons, and schooling to manage. I might forget what I told you last week. Please, do not take it personally, I sometimes forget my kids’ names.

Second, hospitality is so important. When we invite you over, please know that every part of the house has been cleaned at some point this week, but it takes a minor miracle to get it all done at the same time! If I waited until my house was perfectly clean, we might not meet until we are drawing our social security checks. Please come over to see me and the kids, not the house. And don’t be afraid to invite us over to your place. No matter how big or small the house, it seems that people like to congregate. And if you are brave enough to invite us over, we promise to help clean up so that you will want invite us over again. Besides, there is always something to do, so we won’t have a long time to stay.

Third, flexibility is important. As with any friendship, being adaptable makes things easier. For example, there is rarely a good time to call my home! As soon as I answer, at least half of the children need me, or the baby starts crying, or the dog starts barking at the UPS guy! A Facebook message or a text (if the kids haven’t lost my phone lately) are much better ways to get a hold of me. Better yet, a great way to spend time with a mom of many is to abduct her – out to dinner without kids is a great way to keep her attention, and, given enough notice, most moms of many would appreciate a night out without the little ones.

Being friends with a mother of a large family can be a lot of work, but the rewards are worth it. Befriending these moms means that you have more choices when arranging marriages (just kidding, sorta). But seriously, you can be sure that even if your friend is not so available, she has plenty to offer up, and can be a great resource for prayers for your own parenting journey. And if she has a lot of kids, she will probably have some experience with the struggles you are going through with your own. Moms of many can be great shoulders to cry on or problem solvers when you need to brainstorm.

So, I hope you will give it a try, and persevere! While moms of many may require a little extra effort to befriend, I hope you find that the friendship is worth the extra effort.

Feb 1, 2016

Monday Meme: Stunned Silence

Silence screams, “Go now!”  Being an astute mom, you do not waste the moment. You double check to make sure ALL of your kids are participating. They don’t even look at you, so you flee to _______.  (You can fill in the blank with one on the meme or one of your own.)  Indeed, rarely are your kids completely engrossed with an activity.  You KNOW that they are so enthralled with what they are doing, that they will never notice your absence for a few moments.

Then Silence must nudge the kids, “Hey, Mom is gone.  Where did she go?  Is she safe?”  There is no other plausible explanation.  How else could those busy kids suddenly know you’re gone?  Not only do they yell, “MOM!” but they won’t stop.  “Mom, I need help.”  Or “Mom, I want you.”  Or “Mom, Joey’s finger is stuck in his mouth.”

Their “need” is usually not a need but a want… a want for Mom.  What a nuisance.  How annoying.  Can’t they give you just one moment’s peace?  Can’t they see you need to just_____ (fill in the blank again.)  There just is nothing like trying to use the restroom, and you see their prying fingers under the door as they plea, “Mama, MAMA!”

Silence stands back and laughs.  Silence is thoroughly entertained by the events.  For the moment.  Then Silence is bored.  How predictable.  How boring.  Just like before.

But wait.  You are not yelling.  Silence is stunned and thinks, “What’s this?”

You are laughing.  Yeah, sure, a tear falls, but you are happy.  You realize your kids want YOU.  No matter how crazy your hectic day is or what’s on the to-do list, your kids want YOU.  As you are.  You are like a rock star with groupies!  Suddenly, you are grateful for these little ones.