Friday, May 31, 2013

Immaculate Mary

Happy Feast of the Visitation! The day when Mary went to see her cousin, Elizabeth (pregnant with John the Baptist), who greeted Mary as "the Mother of My Lord". What a beautiful scene that would have been.

Such a perfect day, also being the last day of May (the month dedicated to Mary), to have a May Crowning. We were blessed to do this as part of our Armata Bianca group (after the procession we prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary). What a wonderful way to spend the morning!

The pictures are blurry because, as is often the case, I had a baby strapped to me.
DD got to wear her Communion Dress and was honored to crown Our Lady

Big D singing his heart out

Blondie actually stayed that way for almost an entire decade ;0)

Racing day, it's racing day...

if you get that, you're a true Backyardigan's fan  ;0)

Sometime last Spring I happened upon an entry form for the Hershey Invitational Track Meet at Mt. Lebanon track. For $7 you can sign up your kid for running and field events. It's low pressure, they each have a "coach" to cheer them on, and at the end everyone gets the same ribbon. I am not usually a fan of such "no one/everyone wins" but for non-sports people like my little ones, a few hours among their peers with a concrete result is perfect. was VERY hot!

the boys got to run together :0)

Don't know where the other guy went...probably hiding under a tree. It was really hot!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; but only say the word and my soul shall be healed

Matthew 8...the story of the centurion. If you forget, go here: Matthew 8:5-13

I love this story. Most days, Mass is a blur of chasing/teaching/glaring (yes, sometimes I do) but at this point in every service I try to be present and prayerful. I cannot believe that we have the gift of saying it each and every time we prepare to receive Jesus in the Eucharist! I, for one, identify with the centurion.

1. This man, who tells Jesus, "And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”  is a lot like ME. I supervise many people every day. I have responsibility to make sure they are in line and working toward the common good.

2. This man loves his servant so. He takes the time and risks the embarrassment of being turned down in order to find healing. I don't think he does it because he would lose a servant and have more to do. I think he truly wants this man, who works with and for him, to have an end to suffering. He becomes the servant when he takes it upon himself to ask for healing of another who is so close to him.

3. He goes directly to Jesus and asks for healing. We can do this too! What an amazing gift, again, that we get to take our cares and concerns, or those of our loved ones (and even those we don't know) to Him who can do all things.

"I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof"...on any given day, if Jesus were to walk through the door, I would not be terribly embarrassed but, that being said, I would rather entertain Him on the porch. Rowdy kids, dishes to do, dinner cooking, lots of irons in the fire. It might be easier to just call to Him from afar.

Yesterday was a day when I would have been both embarrassed and ashamed to have Him come anywhere near. Same kids, same house, different me. Hormonally (or something to do with my mental stability) I have a few days a year when I just fail to live like a normal human. I am sad, angry, withdrawn. I feel despair that is so deep that I don't even want to breathe, let alone deal with other people or things.

Because I am always learning and maturing, I didn't just "sit with it" (genius advice from one too many therapists). Instead of asking for healing from afar, I went with my broken spirit right up to His house and, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, they were in the middle of Holy Hour. I took all of my cares, my sadness and my despair and I laid it all out to Him. I acknowledged my unworthiness even to be under His roof, let alone Him coming under mine.

Like the centurion, my crying out was heard. I didn't magically leave humming a happy tune (have you noticed, I'm not that person) but I was given the gift of peace. It didn't change my house or my family but it did give me the grace I need to move forward again.

How good is our God? By acknowledging our unworthiness, we are able to move closer to Him and gain the grace we need to continue. He doesn't want perfect or even really good. He just wants us to try and when we fail, to ask for healing. It really is that simple. How blessed.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Raising God-First kids

In these days of Facebook, Twitter and blogging, there are thousands of voices reflecting a myriad of parenting styles and advice. How do you, as a parent, know which path will produce faith-filled children?

In her last book, Raising God-First kids in a Me-First World, Barbara Curtis recounts her parenting story from the beginning (a single New-Age mom of two) and brings us along to present day. In the process, we are blessed to observe the journey of her life as she travels to her ultimate vocation as a mother of twelve (including three adopted sons with Down Syndrome).

Mrs. Curtis points out two fundamental truths about today's society: 1. many parents want to be their child's friend not parent and 2. children for the most part are seen as a burden not a blessing. She uses these show how difficult but necessary it is to buck societal trends and raise children to grow up in character and integrity. These traits are essential, not just for the parent and child, but for society as a whole.

She tackles many parenting challenges that are experienced by those coming from a background of little or no faith (although I am sure there will be those raised within a faith who struggle with the same issues). Mrs. Curtis does a lovely job of mixing Biblical references, Christian beliefs, and old school common sense to reveal the path to raising God-focused children.

The book, overall, is a fresh perspective on parenting that looks at children as blessings loaned from God and our responsibility to raise them in the best way possible. The author relishes her vocation, with its successes and trials, and that shows in her writing.

Prepare to find many God-centered, Holy Spirit driven words of advice in this book. Much of her suggestions clearly stem from the many years spent within an Evangelical religious framework. While there are a few mentions of specific Catholic-based issues they are in the minority, which is a pity. Being a later convert (2007) she points out that much of her parenting was done by the time she entered the Catholic church.

Even without the specifics of Catholic parenting, there are many ideas and tools worth considering in this book. I would recommend it to anyone who would like to step away from the "what's wrong with our kids" parenting guides and instead use the time to rejoice in the gift and gain the tools necessary to properly fulfil one's vocation.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Raising God-First Kids in a Me-First World. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your seasonal needs such as First Communion gifts as well as ideas and gifts for the special papal Year of Faith.

Monday, May 27, 2013


It's Memorial Day. That means a lot of things around here. I was pleased, while making breakfast, to hear DH reviewing, "This is not about parades and candy, it's about sacrifice and freedom." Yes, it is. Excellent of him to point that out first thing.

To the under-8 crowd, of course, it is also about parades and candy. I do love that they get to see so many veterans riding by between the candy grab. The kids clap and say "thank you" even though they probably don't really get it right now. That always catches me. I cry at parades. I know I'm weird.

For me, this day is also about my memories. This house is all about babies and little kids (4 of the 5 were born here in the last 6 years) right now. The parade is all about time passing and great memories of those babies and little ones. It's the first parade we attended after moving here in mid-December and it will always be my favorite.

So, here are some Memorial Days past.
I have no idea why there are no outside shots in 2008





So many good times. So many blessings. So grateful for the men and women who have and continue to keep America free. Wishing all of you good memories and a very blessed week.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Second son

I love my middle child. He is quick to yell, quick to make up and always has something hysterical to say.

N: Mom, what's this? (pointing to a sippy cup)
M: That's a sippy cup.
N: Who is it for?
M: No one right now. G is too big for them. They are for smaller babies.
N: Well maybe you could put it away for the next baby.
M: Are we having another baby?
N: Not now. When you have a baby you get a fat belly. That's not happening at the moment.

Ah, I adore him. He even ignores my "fat person" belly.

I think that's one of the best thing about raising lots of kids close together. They're always on baby-watch and the rest of the time, you look just fine ;0)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Long, grateful exhale...

1st Year of Homeschooling Reflections
--- 1 ---
I started out the year in sort of a panic and, while it has lessened a bit, it still rears its head now and then. During this year, I have learned the value of listening to others when they have a comment about our homeschooling. Especially if it's positive, I'm working on believing it (for whatever reason, I always feel like I'm doing a bad job). This is true only if, of course, they are knowledgeable and can judge what's happening. If not (especially if they begin with a comment on socialization ;0P) I just smile and move away quickly. Ultimately, I'm listening to my little voice and praying and talking to my husband. I think that will be the best guide for the years to come.
--- 2 ---
Unexpected Blessings
We just finished our evaluation with one of the teachers at #1's old school. She is such a wonderful woman and great teacher. Since she teaches fifth grade, I figured we might run into her again if DD decides to return by then. Alas, she is retiring this year. What made me reach out to her for the evaluation? I'm guessing it was the Holy Spirit, coupled with the fact that she, for some reason, adores my daughter. Don't know why, exactly. She never had DD in class, she only saw her in passing and while on bus duty. With my daughter, sometimes that's enough to work the magic. fortunate we were that all of this came together. Now, instead of losing her for good when she retired, we have an ongoing connection. Just from one contact about an evaluation. That is truly a blessing.

--- 3 ---
This is such a hot-button topic that I had thought about it even before we started homeschooling. Where will they find friends? How will they adjust to living in society? I already talked about this in a prior post but, in my end-of-year-reflection, I have realized something. We have kids who are social and kids who are less so. The less so ones will have their head in a book whether they are in the middle of a parade or at home in a quiet room. Totally not kidding so much about the parade, either. We were on a walk the other day and #1 almost walked out in front of a car. "Uh, honey, what are you doing? Do you see the car?" "Oh, I was just thinking". She is in her head and will spend much of her life there. It's OK. The world needs research scientists and theologians too. I have, for the most part, felt blessed with the friends she has made this homeschooling year.

--- 4 ---
Real Life
One of my main purposes for homeschooling was to keep the siblings together for the entire day, not just a few minutes at breakfast and after school. This has worked wonderfully. I have been so blessed with a mother's helper who comes twice a week. This has enabled me to take the "school kids" on field trips when appropriate but, more often, we're headed wherever as a whole family.

Yes, there are days when I just wish I could put a few of them on the bus. Mostly, though, I have a greater appreciation for fleeting childhood. I look forward to not sending #s 3&4 to preschool but, instead, letting #s 1&2 be the teacher sometimes, teaching, reading, helping. I pray that this time together will make some permanent mark on them and help them have a deeper connection in this world where you "know" everyone without any type of intimacy. When DH and I are gone, I hope that these days will keep them tied to their faith and to one another. For now, I am enjoying all of our new adventures.
--- 5 ---
The negative of the year was the huge smack in the face with this area of my life. I know I'm disorganized (have you seen my office?) but trying to be a mom and teacher has created a new kind of chaos. I have managed to get some semblance of a system going (except art supplies which appear to multiply on their own) but I know it needs work. Perhaps that can be one of my summer goals. I know that I could be more effective if I could put my hands on what I need when I actually need it!

--- 6 ---
I remember pulling all-nighters in college...I thrived on writing the 15-page paper the night before, especially when I ended up with a good grade. I'm pretty much the shoot-from-the-hip kind of person.
This doesn't really work with homeschooling. Not for me, anyway. I am blessed that my oldest child has a knack for picking things up with little direction. Number 2, who will be in first grade next year (so I feel like I have to start taking things a little more seriously than I did in kindergarten) is not gifted in this area. He requires MUCH more instruction.
So, back to the drawing board. It's OK. My plan of teaching while the little people were napping has vanished with the naps anyway. Perhaps this year we can do school first thing and have our afternoons free. I like the challenge of each child needing something different. I feel like I am really working for the first time in a while and at the end of the day when I fall into bed exhausted, I am very, very grateful.

--- 7 ---

The Portfolio

Not having done this previously, I wasn't exactly sure how it would turn out. I think it came together pretty well and it turns out to be a great compilation of the year. Like a yearbook but with all of the stuff that you personally did every month. I'm astonished with how much we did. How blessed we have been to have had so many great experiences!
So, in the end, I am grateful for the opportunity to homeschool. We have been blessed with people and situations that have made it all work. I know that there will be years when things aren't quite as thrilling/challenging/insightful. I hope, like dry times in prayer, I will have the strength to persevere and reap the benefit on the other side.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Impossible world? Do good.

Today is the feast of St. Rita of Cascia, patron of Impossible Things. Pope Francis had a great homily about St. Rita today - telling us how to improve the current state of affairs in the world (a pretty impossible thing, if you think about it) - Do Good.

"We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much."

I love that I saw this while I was catching up on blogs before dinner. It just so happens that we had a perfect opportunity to do good today. We took a different way home and happened upon a friend and her family, recently involved in a car accident.
Of course, the fact that they were friends allowed me to do things like take some of the kids to our house while the car was sorted out. Unfortunately, this isn't too likely in the world today. Still, what if we could all start to do good and go back to a place where strangers helped one another? What a beautiful thing that would be.
For now, it was a good exercise in how bad can sometimes turn out OK (like having an unexpected hour to play with your friends!). I like learning that comes courtesy of the Holy Spirit.
Let's all pray for one another and even if it seems like a small thing, do good. Perhaps it's not such an impossible thing after all.
St. Rita, Pray For Us!

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Miraculous Morning

This morning we had the 9 AM tour slot for Homeschooler Day at Springhouse Farm. We went about 5 years ago with another moms group so it's been a while. I remember it being a pretty good representation of a working dairy farm and that my two tiny ones were less than impressed (except the opportunity to milk the cow - that was cool). I was hoping for a better experience today.

My hopes were fulfilled. Today was completely different. I had three more kids this time and was so blessed that my mother's helper decided to join us since she spent the morning pushing a cranky baby around.

The kids enjoyed seeing the cows so close-up (they are city kids, after all) and learning a bit about the whole world of cows. Did you know that beef cows also give milk but it's very watery and not good to drink? Did you know that there are 4 different kinds of dairy cows and each type has different amount and quality of milk production? I didn't. We grew up close to dairy farms but I'm not sure we ever actually went on a tour.

The kids also got to milk a cow (who knew middle child would be so fascinated by the whole process?) and feed a calf from a bottle. I love that both times I have been on a tour, one of the moms has said "but if a calf is fed formula, where does the mother's milk go?". Uh...

So the miraculous part happened after the initial cow visit but before the feeding part. Someone said, "Is this cow pregnant because, if so, she is giving birth".

That's right...we actually saw a calf being born this morning! The whole thing was amazing to me. The cow was SO quiet (as were the kids, who were transfixed) and the whole thing took less than 30 minutes (the farmer had to help deliver the calf because the first-time mom was struggling a bit). #1 child was praying to St. Francis and I was praying to St. Gerard and I had tears when it was all done. Amazing.
The calf presents Superman style (front hooves first)

That bump in the middle is her nose

A little help from the farmer

Mama cleaning up

New babe
After the excitement lessened and we were back on our tour, our tour guide (an old farmer's wife and teacher) said, "I'm going to say something that's probably politically incorrect but each of the 40+ calves I've seen being's nothing short of a miracle. You can see God's hand in the whole process." Amen. I like farmers. They are so close to God. It was such a blessing to witness new life. What a beautiful way to spend a bright Spring morning!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dino boy

Our #1 son thinks differently about a lot of things. Some days I wonder if he's really a little boy or a secret agent from the planet of loud and jumpy. At least once a week, though, he goes into dinosaur mode and then I know he's really just a 6-year-old boy.

This week he set up "Dinosaur Diner". Each dinosaur had a "dinner" consisting of meat, veggies, or whatever it is they eat. I don't know about dinosaurs and their diets but DH seemed to be impressed. I'm still not buying that any of them ate cheese ;0)

Then today he went to the Children's Festival with our sitter for a belated birthday present. Should I be surprised at what walked through the door?


Monday, May 13, 2013


Today was my husband's 48th birthday and my baby's first birthday in the Church (his Baptism anniversary). Both of these "men" - one is a little man ;0) - are such gifts to me. Being able to share my life with them is a double blessing that I honestly couldn't have imagined. God is so good!

Some pictures of the May crowning (of course, on Our Lady of Fatima!) and the birthday: