Sunday, August 24, 2008


When I have a baby or toddler, most of my "lovey" dollars are spent on said child--nursing, hugging, kissing, snuggling. Much of my other mothering time goes to directing, driving, and disciplining. As a consequence, I don't think my children have any idea how fiercely I love them.

Lauren's off to school now. Of course she'll be back, but her life with us will never be the same. That's a good thing, and the way it should be, but mommy feelings aren't always in synch with mommy brains. I miss her.

We have a fun kid cd--Dog Train--with mostly silly songs and one mother-ballad. I've been thinking of a slide show for Lauren for nearly a year now, and have finally made an attempt. I'm not sure whether it's me or the computer (we both have technical issues), but we haven't been able to upload a song to go with pictures to post on the blog. We can, however, put up a movie from the camera, so enjoy this high/low tech tribute. Technical assistance by Len, singing by Alison Krauss.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Patience Please

Posted by Pam:

Barbara's computer has caught a virus. A full recovery is expected, but we're not sure how long it will take. Good wishes are appreciated, but no need to send a "get-well" card. Thanks!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What To Do With a Cool Morning Before a Hot Afternoon

Roast tomatoes and garlic (450 degrees!) for Elizabeth's pasta sauce. I've made it twice this month, tweaking just a little bit (of course). I add salt (up to 2 teaspoons!), and instead of pureeing in batches in the blender, empty the whole pan into my crockpot insert so I can use the immersion blender (aka "the zzh-zzh").
The sauce can stay in there for microwaving later. I cook and rinse the pasta in the morning or at dinner time. Yum!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Amazing Race

Did you watch the men's 4 x 100 freestyle relay the other day? It was the most amazing swim I've ever seen! The boys really wanted to stay up, but we sent them to bed an hour before it began.

All night, the commentators had been talking about how the French were favored to win, and that the Australians were also very strong. Phelps swam the first leg, but the Australians finished it first. We held the lead for a short time, but by the final turn the French swimmer (Bernard) was ahead of Lezak (the US swimmer) by .8 of a second. It looked like a lot, too--about a body length, I'd say. About halfway across the pool, Lezak started pouring it on, and touched just .08 ahead of Bernard! It was almost impossible to discern, even in the replays.

The next day, it wasn't enough to say the US had won--I really wanted everyone to that amazing race. You may be able to watch it on NBC's olympic website, but for some reason we can't play their videos. After a few days, a version of the race (not just highlights or photos) showed up on YouTube. It's from a British-sounding broadcast, and the commentary is priceless, especially when you already know the outcome. If you missed seeing the whole swim, treat yourself:

If the link above doesn't work (this video has moved around a few times), try going back to YouTube. The movie's current title is "Beijing 2008 swiming men 4 x 100 m freestyle final". (Yes, swiming is spelled incorrectly.) It's 3:51 long. Good luck.

Play Time

This afternoon, when Len asked, "Where's Becca?", I realized that I hadn't seen her in a while. All her siblings were accounted for, so she wasn't with any of them. Investigation (Okay, I called and she answered.) revealed an elaborate basement scene:She'd been playing with Marianna's American Girl dolls, arranging accessories and clothes. Rebecca is GREAT at keeping herself busy: coloring, writing, dressing up, or playing in her kitchen.After putting shoes on Josephina, Rebecca climbed onto the couch, laid down, and said, "I'm pretending to be the mommy!"

Did I mention we've been staying up past our bedtimes to watch the Olympics? ;-)

Midafternoon During the Olympics

Yes, we've been staying up past our bedtimes!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My Favorite Mystery

I try to say a rosary every day, usually during the morning "Dusty walk" or a solo car trip (hah!). I say a little prayer or at least think a bit about each mystery. The luminous ones speak the most to me these days, maybe because they're about Jesus' adult days or because they're "newer".

My favorite is the second, Jesus' miracle at the wedding at Cana. I think about how marriage must be so dear to our Lord, since this was his first public miracle. I pray in thanksgiving for my good marriage, and in petition for marriages and relationships that I know are hurting. I also pray for marriages to come, especially for my children and their future spouses.

What's your favorite mystery?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Helping Pregnant Women: the Family Home

There's been some discussion lately about charity and openness to life, especially in the context of Christian families. May I offer some related thoughts?

Sometimes a pregnant woman is not married. Sometimes she is a teenager. Sometimes she needs emotional, financial, or psychological support. Sometimes she has no safe or loving place to live. Who will help her?

In our diocese (Arlington, VA), Catholic Charities offers pregnant women in crisis a "family home". They live with a functional family in a loving environment throughout the pregnancy and sometimes for a short time afterwards. Meanwhile, each young woman and her social worker deal with current problems and make a plan for the future.

We've offered a family home for about a dozen years now. I must have inherited a hospitality gene from my mother, because I called Catholic Charities almost as soon as I saw the bulletin announcement asking for homes. There was plenty of paperwork (It's like becoming a foster home, especially as some of the moms are under 18.), but we were approved in less than three months.

In all these years we've actually housed less than ten young women. There were many "dry years" when we didn't get any calls. Other times, a social worker would call to see if we were open to a placement (We always said yes.), but then no one came. It was discouraging until I was told that just knowing someone was willing to take her in was enough to nudge some women and their families to work things out. Just being available helped in a small way. This past year three different women have lived with us for 3-4 months at a time.

I certainly don't mean to imply this is some sort of rainbows and butterflies existence. It's real life in our real family, with someone new added in. When our oldest was about seven, we received our first teenager. Thank goodness my husband is so level-headed!

Being a family home entails setting another place at the table, but of course there's more to it than that. As our family has grown too large to have a dedicated guest room, we've needed to rearrange bedrooms whenever a mom moves in. We have to adjust to a new, fully formed personality (so different from adding a baby to the house!). There may be less privacy. Our flaws are out there on display. And every woman who needs a family home has a unique but always difficult story. I'm not a cryer, but I did shed many tears this year over one mom's situation.

The benefits for us far outweigh any negatives I can think of. We've come to love all these young women, and that can only be a good thing. Having someone new in the house livens things up--we joke, work, play, and pray together. My children contend that I cook more "good" meals, too. ;-) For some young women, ours is the first functional family (even though we're not perfect) they've been a part of, and Len is a wonderful example of a godly man, husband, and father. Living with us (and our babies or toddlers or teens) is one long teaching moment for these moms-to-be.

Being a family home also gives us a chance to practice what we preach—about being pro-life, hating the sin but loving the sinner, and sheltering the homeless. I want my children to believe I'll love them no matter what kind of trouble they find themselves in, and caring for these women gives me a chance to prove it.

Before you ask, I'll answer some FAQ:

  • We tell our young children that God wants people to be married before they have babies, but that sometimes people don't follow His plan. We don't need to explain much to our teens--they get it.
  • In our experience, most moms have chosen to parent rather than place their babies for adoption.
  • We work hard to respect confidentiality. We introduce our women to friends and neighbors, but don't share their stories. Sometimes they themselves choose to share.
  • Catholic Charities provides support for us as well as the moms, helping with rules or negotiations or information sharing or driving to appointments.
  • Not all of the moms are Catholic, but they understand they're moving into a Catholic home.
  • Catholic Charities provides a daily stipend, so finances aren't an issue.
  • Most women move out right after delivery.
  • Keeping in touch is up to the moms. Some have, some haven't.

Why am I writing all this tonight? It's definitely not to brag. I think every family has a calling, and this is ours. I'm hoping to inspire other families to consider this mission to help pregnant women. Our diocese has just two homes right now, and has recently been getting more and more calls. It would be a shame to turn away someone who is asking for help. Ask me some questions or call your Catholic Charities office or crisis pregnancy center. If they don't have a program already, maybe they'd like to start one.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Men and Directions

The most surreal part of my beach trip occurred during the drive up. There I was, stuck in another Delaware construction backup. Last year it took 45 minutes to travel a mile and a half in the middle of the night! I saw the warning sign detailing the length of the congestion, but couldn't find the map, which probably wouldn't have had the detail to help me anyway. What would you have done?

I called my wonderful husband. He checked a map, and then went online. While he found my location, I inched over to the exit. Then Len proceeded to direct me in great detail around the obstruction and back to the highway just in time to get over the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Our "conversation" went something like this:

"You're coming to a fork in the road. Go left."
"Okay. There it is."

"Next comes Patuxent Street."
"Red light. Green light. Okay, there it is."

"You'll pass a shopping mall soon. Keep going straight."

I hadn't known he'd be able to find so much information, but it surprised me not a bit that I could call him late at night and that he would come through for me once again. Thanks, honey!

Beach Pictures

By driving at night both ways, I was able to spend three full days at the beach in NJ with four of the children. We stayed with my cousin, her son, and parents in the beach house that has been in their family since before I was born (long ago in a galaxy far far away). We had a wonderful time!

Don't be mad about this post's misleading title. Due to the potential damage caused by sunscreen, sand, and salt water, I actually did NOT bring a camera to the beach. You'll have to use your imagination as you read the captions for the wonderful pictures I could have taken:
  • Patches of pink show the downside of sibling sunscreen application. Mom covered everyone the next day!
  • Tide pools (wave free!) are just right for toddlers.
  • Pink cheeks, pale eyes, and weary grins after hours of boogie boarding
  • My cousin's 9 year old is cocooned in towels, taking a beach nap. He was the last to awaken, so we packed up our entire camp before taking this photo of B oblivious and "alone".
  • Our third trek of the day (hot sand! hot sand! hot sand!) to the potty trailer. The newly trained do NOT pee in the ocean. (I'm SHOCKED that you would even suggest it!)
  • Sand, waves, sky. Aaah...
  • Five umbrellas, with people and coolers huddled in the shade.
  • Obligatory "head shots" of cousins buried in the sand.
  • Melty messes at the obligatory ice cream outing.
  • Grandma, parents, and kids playing this year's game discovery: Bananagrams
  • Kids with ice pops waiting for their turn in the outdoor shower (arguably the best part of the beach house renovation)
  • Mama duck with 12 tiny baby ducks wandering around Rebecca
  • The cart. Loaded with umbrellas, chairs, buckets, shovels, coolers, bags, and noodles. Packed by my cousin who has spent enough weeks here to have a system.

It was a great trip!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Me and My House

"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15

Time for another family update:

We got back Sunday night from a wonderful week at Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks (NY). For the second time we shared a 12 bedroom house with 19 cousins, 9 (of 12) parents, and 5 grandparents. The house is just ten feet from the water, so we were kept busy with fishing, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, rowboating, sailing (sensing a theme here?), and windboarding. We enjoyed jumping off Tommy's Rock, rafting whitewater on the Hudson River, climbing Whiteface Mountain, playing bingo, watching a slide show (remember those?), stargazing (it's really dark there!) and staying up much too late. We have pretty much recovered from the week and the 13 hour drive home (whew!).

Len is enjoying a busy summer at the veterinary clinic. And being Len, he's busy in his off hours, too. His current project is building a shelter for the generator he recently set up at his parents' house. The generator is important because there is plenty of medical equipment in the house in an older neighborhood with big trees and above ground power lines, but apparently it is not supposed to run during heavy rainfall, hence the shelter.

I must also acclaim my husband as a master packer. While he prefers the less is more approach regarding what to bring, he managed to fit A LOT of stuff into/onto our 8 seat minivan (LOVE my Sienna!) for the Saranac trip: 2 kayaks, lifejackets, electric guitar, electric bass, 8 people and a week's worth of luggage, plus some groceries. He really got creative. The night before departure, as he took bags of food out for pre-packing he asked if it was okay to not keep it all together, which of course was fine with me. Well, when I opened the van door to drive away, I found three cans of corn in the driver's side door pocket! The passenger door held a jar of salsa and bag of granola. A little drawer held (in addition to my sunglasses) a bag of bread crumbs. Onions were scattered about the interior of the vehicle. You get the picture. Thankfully, after an hour we reached my sister's house and rearranged passengers for the convoy north. David was able to get the bass off his lap, and Lauren found some leg room.

I'm over my typical late spring burnout, and am excited to be planning school again. Lauren will be away (sniff), David and Daniel will be at Trinity, and I'll just have three at home. Inspired by two friends, I have some planners to replace the checklists we've used for many years. They look great for both organizing and inspiring. This year we'll cover flying creatures in zoology, medieval history, and continue with our math progress. I want to use the Signing Times dvds for Rebecca, and spend more time outside this year. As usual, we'll enjoy lots of books on cd. (I can't sit and read aloud without falling asleep.) I've even updated our prismacolor pencil set to enjoy for our art co-op and drawing during nature time at the pond.

I recently knit and felted a potholder. It was a short but interesting project. Now I'm trying to make a copy of a sweater I already own. With some coaching I've done plenty of figuring and refiguring. There has been a fair amount of knitting, but unfortunately almost the same amount of un-knitting. This was to be a summer project, but my chances for the Tuesday night classes are dwindling...

Lauren is busy keeping in touch with her friends (pool, movies, visiting) and preparing for college. We've done a little shopping together, but her grandmother is the one who took her on the major aquisiton expedition. The countdown continues (16 days)...

David is working at the local bike shop, mostly as a mechanic. He's spent his first several days fixing flat tires, replacing inner tubes, and assembling bikes. He's going to learn a lot. Mom likes the fact that the shop is close enough to bike to--yay! Soon enough he'll have his learner's permit and it will be time to teach our first teenaged BOY how to drive.

Daniel will be going to Trinity for 8th grade this year. Right now he's working hard to catch up on the first (of four!) year of Latin before school starts. We did some at home this year, but nowhere near enough... Daniel (with Len) is progressing towards his upcoming Confirmation. He is involved with a ConQuest boys club, which is fun and has also kept him progressing and maturing in his faith life. At the end-of-year campout he received (regional) awards for character and for exemplifying club ideals.

Joseph has a new violin teacher and is a great cheerleader and example for Rebecca. He is going to be the student leader at home for the next two years. Joe recently passed his latest tae kwon do test and is now a blue belt. He is hoping to join Boy Scouts this fall.

Marianna isn't even home now--she went straight from Saranac Lake to Mimi and Granddad's. She's having a special week there with her favorite cousin from Florida, and will transfer back to us at my cousins' NJ beach house in a few days. She sounds so happy on the phone, and today even professed to miss the brother she argues with the most. She doesn't know it yet, but I'm going to try to teach her to sew this year (while Joe and Becca are at violin). Her reading has really blossomed, too; she's currently immersed in her third Narnia book.

Becca is FINALLY POTTY TRAINED! This intelligent and incredibly articulate (You should have heard her when she was two!) child could have done it a year ago, but was just not motivated--not resistant, just uninterested. I am an experienced parent with many skills, but facilitating bathroom independence does not seem to be one of them. Rebecca is turning four in November, so her schooling will gradually get more formal. I want to browse through Elizabeth's Serendipity site for ideas, but Becca will also learn a lot by hanging out with the rest of us. She loves to draw and "write", so I'll try to make sure she gets in the habit of holding the pencil properly.

This has been a very long-winded installment of "Me and My House". My mother will not be pleased that I am once again up past my official 10:00 (hah!) bedtime. Sorry, Mom, the time marker records when the post is started. And if I want to I can write down any time I want there, anyway. So now I'll exclaim as I climb the stairs out of sight, "Happy August to all, and to all a good night!"