Friday, September 27, 2013

7 Quick Takes

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 230)
All I can say is TGIF. Today has been the worst of the worst and I am DONE. #1 child is in her room writing "I am not an adult" 500 times (no, it's not excessive...dh wouldn't let me give her 1000 because he didn't think she could count that high. pshaw...or however you spell that). The rest are wisely resting in their beds. Seems a shame to waste a beautiful day but behavior is behavior. If you act badly, there should be consequences.
I make this with the disclaimer that, yes, those were my two children arguing and pushing one another on the tennis court just now, followed by a shrieking 8-year-old (mama was soooo very proud - not). If it helps, I immediately pulled her off the court and her lesson was done for today. Having been to more music/dance lessons and sporting events/practices lately, I'm wondering: why don't parents pull their kids who misbehave? Why, when there are little boys being disrespectful to the coach or little girls who would rather talk than listen to the instructor, do the moms/dads just sit and talk to other moms or read their Kindle? Just thinking out loud here. If there was a "do not reprimand your child in public" memo, clearly I missed it.
Whew. Vent over. Thanks for letting me get that out. Yesterday, these came in the mail...
Aren't they DELIGHTFUL? The kids said, "wow, Mom, they're REALLY bright." Yes, they are. I'm so excited to go out with them tomorrow. I may even get up early. Oh, and they are Mizuno! I spent my entire high school career sporting a sweet pair of Mizuno volleyball shoes. The best ever. I hope the runners are as comfy. Ahhh, sweet nostalgia.

 Dubliner with Irish Stout
This, my friends, is Kerrygold Dubliner with Irish Stout. I ran across it at Market District last week and had to try some. Oh, my. This is some kind of amazing cheese! Sharp, crunchy in parts, crumbly, so fab with a Guinness or even a Cabernet. Oh, and it's coated in GREEN wax. So very cool. We're kind of cheese people and this is definitely one that we'll be serving more often!
Over the last few weeks, God has given me the graces I've needed to finally realize that our parish is where we belong. I have struggled for many, many years with the place we've decided to call our religious home. It is the "Cathedral of the South Hills" complete with all the pomp that goes along with that. It is a beautiful space and there are many special people who fill the pews. Still, it is a see-and-be-seen parish. We have sports celebrities (I touched a Superbowl Ring at the sign of peace a few months ago) and we have news personalities and we have wealthy businessmen and women. People line up for the right to be married in our amazing church. If you want an aisle in which to make your entrance, we've got the place for you! All of that turned me off from the moment we started attending here. I've never been the "show vs. substance" person. I don't care what the space looks like...the community is most important to me. So, little by little, God has been making the community more clear to me. We have made such wonderful friends here and our pastor is the greatest ever. He goes out of his way to engage the children and make us all feel welcome. Last week he took time out of his very busy day to give me a pep talk that was sorely needed. Going to daily Mass, having Armata Bianca here, helping with the Baptism Preparation class...there are so many things that make this place comfortable for me. It's nice to have a home.
This morning I said to my husband "I'm turning into one of those people who don't know who the Kardashians are." Even though we both laughed, I'm kind of thankful for that fact. We used to be completely tuned into the "reality TV" boom. We got busy and gave it up. Now, when I look at teasers or see someone watching an episode at the library, I just chuckle. I wonder if people realize that "reality TV" isn't really reality? Why do people care about someone "game playing" aka lying, or what this "wife" said to that "wife"? I'm a little disturbed at the trend society is taking. More on that for another time. Let's just say it's probably better to talk with your spouse, go for a run, or just read a book. Yes, the libraries are still there! They would love to see you ;0) Oh, and pick up an auto/biography, not the latest romance novel. Learn a little something.
I realize that this list has been totally random. I'm beginning to understand that my life is like that. At any given moment I'm teaching division or helping someone learn to cut and paste or arranging a play date or cooking dinner or talking a friend through a difficult decision or trying to keep the clutter monster at bay. I think the multitasking is to blame for my randomness. This morning I stayed in bed an extra 5 minutes which made me 5 minutes later getting dressed so that I could get my 3 of the 5 dressed and fed before we headed out to Mass at 8. I wanted to check up on my email so I grabbed my phone as I headed into the bathroom. Then, I thought, I don't have to multitask right now. I would really, really like to just do what I need to do, concentrate on my kids and get my day underway. So, I did. I'm not saying I always do that but it was a good start. I think I'm going to start leaving my phone in random places and forgetting it there. So if I don't answer right away, you know what happened.
PS - 40 Days for Life is underway! If you're in the Pittsburgh area, go to and sign up for a vigil time or pledge to fast for a day. Defending life in all its forms is so important. Defending the unborn is our most sacred duty. God bless!


Thursday, September 26, 2013

John Chapman

So, for those of you in public (and sadly, lots of private as well) schools, today was "Johnny Appleseed Day". This is one of those days I'm really thankful to not be in an organized educational environment and, if I happen to be again one day, I pray that the kids are aged past this celebration.

I get the little kids making apple crafts and talking about apples and eating apples. Yum. Apples are always good. Even better if peanut butter (oh, never mind, allergen...) or caramels are involved.

Still, if you take a little time to learn about Mr. Chapman, I sort of wonder what it is they're teaching in school. I hope they're sticking to the "tall tale" bit because, otherwise, I'm unclear how this fits in a public (aka, NO religion) or private (especially Catholic) school.

- John Chapman was a missionary for The New Church (aka Swedenborgianism I probably spelled that wrong) if you're interested, check it out...What do they believe? At best, it's a marginal Christian religion, at worst, some new age deal (even though it's fairly old). Regardless, how is any school teaching this? He was a missionary. It was kind of a big part of his life. Or, are they not really covering the man's life? Besides the apple thing, I mean.

- Johnny went around the states, spreading seeds to grow trees in nurseries, allowing the people living nearby to tend and keep them for a fee (he was a real estate developer). He did no grafting (he was religiously opposed). Apples from seeds are mainly sour and only useful in making liquor. So, ahem. Again. Is it possible that this man about whom the day is centered didn't really have a hand in that apple you're currently crunching? (lest you think I'm what I am not, I am a particular fan of hard cider but, really, is this what they're teaching in school these days?) I am down with the real estate thing. Economics is good at any age!

- Johnny hated extravagant living and loved animals. Bravo! Are they teaching this? It would be really good to have a lesson on either (or dare I dream) both these things!

- There are legends of Johnny Appleseed traveling all around PA , OH and IN. Are they using this day as a geography unit?

I have no idea what they're doing. If they're covering geography, avarice, economics, nutrition and botany, OK, I suppose I can get behind that. I know that when #1 child was in Catholic school, 1st grade, they had to take in apples and had taste tests and made caramel to dip when they were done. It was called "Johnny Appleseed Day" and they read the legend but, perhaps that was it because I don't remember anything else. If that's the case, let's just call it "Apple Day" huh? Apples are healthy. Apples are good. Unless they're the technological kind. That's a discussion for another day.

We are blessed.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I love my life...

I realize that some of the posts here have been kind of sad/deep lately so, here's my attempt at cheery ;0)

Seriously, though, I am thankful almost every minute of every day and I tell God that as I'm running from one thing to another. Since you can't hear me talking to God (I'm really quiet), here are a few things...just so you know I'm still my chipper old self.

1. I love that my kids sing. OK, there are times (at the dinner table!) that I would rather not hear a rousing edition of "Table of Plenty" (however appropriate) but it's so nice to hear them sing through their day. Since we lost Kids Place Live a few months ago, it's mainly hymns and VBS songs. Which is my personal preference.

I wish I had an audio file for this. Right now #3 is singing a VBS song as loudly as possible and the other ones are joining in on occasion. I think we're going to do an entire month's lessons in song. Perhaps that will help with memory!

2. Our summer trip. We were so blessed to make it to Slovakia and back! The churches and the family experiences were amazing. Now, having reflected on those things, we are starting to remember (and unearth) some of the funny/interesting things from our trip:
They sell Coke with your name (or Slovak equivalent) and "Duff" beer (for all you Simpson's fans)

This is their local has extra bylinkova...which, I know now, translates to "Herb"...don't know about you but I'm not sure herbs really belong in cola.

The Smurfs are BIG in Slovakia. And now you know that "Smurfette" is called "Smolinka" in Slovak!
3. Little people friends. It's great to have friends that are my friends but when their little people get along with my little people. Well, that's just about as good as it gets :0)

4. My nerdy husband. I say that with the utmost love and respect! He listened in science and math and now, when the time comes to talk about deca-whoozit or tetra-whatever, he's the guy I call.

5. Fall. Not for the weather, I'm kind of a Summer girl. It depresses me that in a few months I will need to deal with five sets of snowsuits dripping (only that part - I love being out in the snow, if not the cold!). What I love about Fall is the increased need for the Crock Pot (aka, busy mom's favorite dinner-maker). I made a huge pot of beef and butternut squash stew the other day and froze most of it for a chilly evening to come. Yum.
6. Running and Rhapsody. Yes, I started again. I have actually run this much  in September

If you can't read it, it's just shy of 23 miles this month (be kind you runner's good for me)!!! I am kind of shocked myself. Mainly it's a reason to separate myself from the little ones for a few hours a week (although G man does come along on occasion) and listen to my AWESOME playlist of 80's tunes, courtesy of Rhapsody. Seriously? I love this app. So many songs I haven't thought about for years. Elton John's "Island Girl", XTC's "Dear God", Paul Simon's "The Obvious Child". Whew...I have hours of songs to listen to. I think this will go on for at least another month ;0)

And, no, I'm not losing weight because...

7. My beautiful neighbor. The woman who lives down the street has nine grown children. NINE! I think she feels a kinship to me (even though I'm a slacker baby-wise) because many times a month immediately after a new baby but even now, at random times (like today, bless her) she drops by a dinner casserole, cookies and BREAD. Lovely Italian soft, yummy bread. So, yeah, I guess I need to run.

Thanks for listening. I AM BLESSED!

Sunday, September 22, 2013


This morning's bulletin included the "Mass Request Form" so, since DH and I split Masses (sick little people) I had the chance to fill it out and turn it in on the same day. Score! With 10,000 people at a parish, you need to get in early to get your space.

This year, instead of just our usual July 26th request for the deceased members of both families I made a second request. August 20th, Bernadette Rocco. Yes, we named her Bernadette. It just seemed like the right thing, given the date and even better, the kids reminded me that we now have our "B" name to round out the first four letters of the alphabet. If we ever had "E" and "F" we could go all the way to "G"...never getting to "S" though. She is on her own ;0)

So, next year, we will gather and remember our little one. It will be good for us to be together and remember our trip - good and bad - and pray for our newest family member. It seems like the right thing to make it a public event so that our friends who prayed us through the trial can gather as well.

After that, we will remember in our hearts and maybe light a candle but mainly, that memory will be at rest. The little person we never got to know will be waiting until that day, God willing, that we see her again in another place. That is enough for me.

Tomorrow is my dad's birthday. This is another story altogether, as I believe it should be. Knowing someone for a few months is totally different than knowing them daily for 18 years and fairly often for 11 after that. My dad is not so easy to forget and for that I am thankful. He is in my heart but he is also in my children. That gives me the peace of knowing he is with me still. How blessed we are.

So, we will carve out time this week to tell the kids about their grandpa and to visit the cemetery to say "hello". It was so painful for so long. It's good to move past that and start remembering all the times before...the times when we were a family.

Happy Birthday, Dad. Hug that little girl for me ;0)

Friday, September 20, 2013


It has been some kind of looong week! Wow. But it's FRIDAY!!! How wonderful!

Today we celebrated my aunt's 78th birthday (which was actually yesterday but I've decided I can't do parties during the week right now). It was so much fun with her and my mom. I love them both dearly. We are so blessed that they are close by.

My aunt is an animal lover so the cake started like this

and ended like this, once the decorators got a hold of it.

I think they did an excellent job ;0)
Happy birthday to my dear Aunt Syl - many more happy years!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My beloved...

Some days my husband annoys me. Truly. It's as if his only goal in life is to get me agitated after I have just spent 8 hours with 5 mostly unreasonable little people. Thankfully, though, that is rare. Most days we're just kind of getting things done. I know he loves me and I hope the opposite is true but other than kissing hello and goodbye, it's kind of ships passing in the night.

Yesterday, however, we shared some time (bills, Internet and TV-free!) after the kids went to sleep and laughed...a lot. Since we rarely get this opportunity any more, I am so happy for it. It gave me a glimpse of a time when babies are older and more independent and we can spend more time concentrating on one another like we did in the "good old days"! 

I am blessed!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

You are invited!

Eldest child was reading Luke:14 in religion today. The parable of the great feast is so good. Sometimes the parables are a bit above me but I think I get this one.

God invites each of us to Heaven. We are honored to be chosen! We get ready, we're excited. Then, as the time between now and Heaven wears on, we get a bit lax:

 - I would love to go to Mass on Sunday but it's my only day off and I'm tired.

- I would love to take my child to CCD "but with soccer and ballet and girl scouts, we just can't fit it into our schedule". (this is a quote because I spoke to someone who said it to me directly last year. I didn't really respond. What could I say to that level of commitment?)

- I would love to say the rosary every night but I would miss my favorite show.

- I don't want to go to confession because I don't do anything wrong, really, it's mainly the people around me that have the problem.

-I can only give a few dollars in the collection because, after my cable bill and cell phone bill and gym membership, there isn't that much left.

So, we make our excuses and we go about our lives. Do you notice when you put worldly things above God, everything else seems a bit less vivid? Things don't go the way we planned, we're stressed, life seems harder for some reason. Most definitely not like reclining at a banquet.

The parable goes on to say that, once those who were invited all backed out, the rich man sent his servant to invite "the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame" all of whom seemed to come when asked.

Of course there are poor and crippled and blind and lame people who are faithful and those who are not. Still, I like to hope that you get more credit when you have exceptional crosses here and deal with them well. Especially if you start out as a less-than-faith-filled person.The person who has little faith but grows on account of carrying a difficult cross will be celebrated in Heaven, right? Maybe even more than the faith-filled person who accepted his crosses, knowing what was to come?  (Have you just now realized that my Masters is not in Theology? Give me some room, people, I'm thinking out loud).

I was writing a few days ago about what I was willing to give back to God if I were asked. When I sit and look at this parable, I'm always kind of smacked in the face. Yes, I did take my kids to daily Mass today instead of catching up on school or walking to the library. I also signed up my son for art class in the evening that would put a big crimp into family rosary time (if there was such a regular thing as that...guess I'm saying I would like there to be but I sabotage it whenever possible). So, am I in the banquet hall or not? I don't know. I know that I still have to keep working...that I always have more work to do to get farther in the door.

I don't despair because the best part of the parable is when the servant comes back and says ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’! Oh I love to hear that. The banquet isn't full! The doors aren't closed! If we changed our plans away from God, we can still change them back! What a good God we have. How blessed we are!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Home "school"

We've entered the second year of home "school" (see photo below) and I feel like, although many days are hectic, we're settling into a mindset around here. Sometimes it's a good thing, sometimes not (like when we sleep in too late in the morning) but that means there is always a teachable moment!

#1's portfolio, back from the school district
I showed her and she said "What does that mean?" I said, " It means you passed 2nd grade!"
That's ceremony or anything.

Lately I've been reading blogs with "our typical day of home school" used mainly as a teaching tool for those who are interested (or not even) and kind of clueless about what goes on. I was that person two years ago so I can relate. I just have a few things to say before I lay out our day today which, I admit, was fairly decent as far as accomplishments go. More on that below.
1. For us, there is no "typical" day. All of our days involve some structured learning, some helping around the house, and a lot of living with 5 other people (6 in the morning and evening). I think the last part is the biggest chunk because that's the way it should be. It's real life, people. There is no point in doing worksheets if you have no application.
2. Home "school" is a terrible phrase if you ask me. The kids are learning a LOT but it is in no way "school". School is a building where you spend a lot of time waiting, do a lot of worksheets, make friends, play, watch videos, have parties, etc.. We do that too. The nice thing about our school is we do it on the kids' schedule. They don't wait all that much although waiting is an important skill to learn and it is definitely practiced. They don't do a lot of worksheets. It's annoying and someone has to check them. If you work directly with your child, you know what's happening. You know what they get and you know what needs more work.
       2a. It's not school because #1 has a curriculum (which she will not have next year) and #2 does not. This is not neglect in any way. They are both learning what they need to learn (according to the state) but, because it's not all about filling time and busywork, they also learn a whole lot more. The curriculum thing is hard for me to grasp. The one we use now is basically "school in a box". If you want that I'm not really sure why you're home schooling in the first place (same with cyber-school) but whatever, that's each individual's choice. We home school because we're trying to get away from the imposition of "every child learns exactly the same thing at exactly the same time". That's not life. If they learn that things are interconnected they remember a great deal more and they are already prepared for actual life! i.e. You have to use fractions to measure (math) a have to know the difference between baking soda and baking powder (science) if you are going to be a good look at the pretty purple icing we made by mixing together blue and red (art)!
         2b. It's also not school because it happens all day long. Mass is school and family walks are school and rest time is school. Helping mom clean up the playroom is school and dinner is school. Learning is everywhere. It's called life. What a wonderful classroom.
So, here was today. As I said it's not "typical" just because there is no typical when you school without a set schedule. I was afraid of this too. Still, amazingly enough, I made up the portfolio and was kind of astonished at what we covered last year. I know even the younger ones are learning because yesterday they made up a "homework" sheet for Mr. G - everything he needed to learn this year. The older two wrote and everyone but G had a hand in one part or another. They all know something (or everything) that is on the sheet. That's pretty cool (especially since I didn't ask/know about it until it was handed to me).
8:00 Downstairs/breakfast (I wrote up a schedule that had us downstairs at 7:30 so that we could say our prayer, pledge and do the calendar before breakfast. That happened until we went for Europe and hasn't been back since. I hope to work up to it one of these days). I also put a chicken in the crock pot to roast for dinner this week. I think we're having stew tonight. I need to do more with the prior-meal-planning-thing.
8:30 Everyone cleans up their breakfast dishes, dad leaves for work and we start our art project (Monday is art) - Cards for great aunt who has a birthday on Friday.
9:00 Clean up from the little ones who were playing after they finished their cards. Mr. G plays in the back room (which makes me wonder why we cleaned up) and we have a science lesson on the parts of a plant and the structure of a flower.
9:30 G goes up for his nap/quiet time and we head to the basement to re-pot two plants. The avocado pit which is now a full-grown plant is an excellent demonstration of roots, stem and leaves. The "mommy plant" (because it has babies...I don't know the name - bad teacher) just needed a new place to grow.

We now take a break to re-clothe the 3yo who had an accident while watching the plants get a new home. This is a perfect time for mom to practice compassion (which she passed with about an 80% grade) and the older kids to witness just how much laundry they all make (yes, the cage was full again - must be Monday!) I throw in a load of laundry. I must try to remember to put it in the dryer and put another one in. Is there an app for that?
10:15 Everyone heads to the 3rd floor. #1 plays her cello while the other three play and I pull out Fall clothes. Is it possible that we need to change clothes again? It seems like we just did that! Ug. I have decided to give all the girl and boy stuff away after the little ones are done. If there are more kids, they will live from OUAC or other sources. We have too many clothes anyway. On the way downstairs, we grab G from his crib.
11:00 Story time in the living room. Our library system has a lot of great "kits" that you can borrow. Most have the storybook plus some type of activity. This one was called "The year at Maple Hill Farm" and came with flannel pieces that had the month name on a themed piece of flannel (heart for Feb, etc.). The story is about what happens each month on the farm. They loved it! Learning about nature, animals (when they have babies, move closer/farther away from the barn, what they eat, etc.), months, colors, counting. Excellent, excellent exercise for the pre-school/kindergarten crowd. The older two took turns reading and G stole all the flannel pieces one-by-one. Sharing/patience/cleaning up.
11:25 Prep for lunch while everyone plays. I was shocked but no one asked to watch Daniel Tiger. They were just having fun with building/construction. That changes as the week goes on. By Friday we're usually leaning hard on PBS. I don't mind. I watched a lot of Sesame Street. I have an Ivy League degree ;0)
11:45 Lunch. We try to talk about nutrition while we eat lunch. It used to be forced but now it's like a check-list they do to see how the cook fared. It's fun to talk about colors of vegetables and fruits and what does and does not constitute a balanced meal. I think we covered dairy, vegetable, fruit, protein and grain today. That's a pretty good day. Sometimes we have Spaghettios and that's OK too ;0) I do try to get the veggies in at lunch because they like to eat them more than at dinner for some reason. Whatever works.
12:15 Lunch was early today because #s 3&4 head out now for Sporties for Shorties with Grammy. It's once a week and they get to run around with their friends for 30 min each while the non-active child sits and chats with Gram. It's win-win because we're home doing some real school work and I get my Mr. G time in between teaching and helping answer questions.
2:00 #1 is upstairs putting her clothes away from the last load (probably two days ago - she is bad about that and we don't check as much as we should) before the next load appears this afternoon. The little ones come home and we all hear about their day of playing hockey and what else is new in the neighborhood. We have playtime for another 20 minutes while the older two finish their work and then they all head up to rest. I used to force naps but now they either nap or read books. See? Even naptime is a learning experience! I have a friend that plays them books on cd during rest time. I have not done that because it seems to keep one awake while the other two listen. Maybe in a year or so.
4:00 It is a great time of year because the Farmer's Market is in full swing and it's only a block away! Time for a family walk, with a stop to get some lemonade and see what kinds of veggies we can find. I made some awesome stew with Butternut Squash yesterday so maybe we'll find that and maybe we'll just get the standard tomatoes, broccoli and cukes. That's the fun of the FM. You never know what you will find!
5:00 This is bargaining time. Usually, if G has terrorized the playroom, I tell them they can watch TV (Wild Kratts for the 10th time) while I get dinner on if they clean up first. Usually someone does. Sometimes one or two don't want to watch so they don't pick up. I'm still deciding what happens then. For now, I think it sounds fair to me.
6:00 DH comes home and we all eat dinner. I don't have a meeting until 7 tonight so there is no urgency about dinner. I have been trying so hard to preserve it as family time and, most days, I am successful. I can see that soccer for #2 will not be repeated since practice seems to be 5:30 on most days (when do these people eat?). For now, we scramble and make decisions, always trying to keep the family together after Dad gets home and we are again one unit.
This is the great part of home school. We are a unit all day long (minus one or two). There are disagreements, quiet fun, noisy silliness and hurt feelings to work through. If it is the choice between my kids doing this out of my eyesight 7 hours a day or under my care, with my assistance, I will choose the latter; at least for now. I know there will come a time in the near future when I feel like they can go out and work through things with the help of teachers I trust. Now, though, my peeps are right where I like them. In the nest.

After dinner, I clean up and finish the laundry which then does or does not get put away depending on what else is happening. We will take another family walk or play in the back yard so that I can catch up with DH and we can all be together. Bedtime is his ritual because he needs time with them as well. So, I will go to my meeting, do my jog on the way home, shower and go to bed. It has proven to be an exhausting life but one that is mostly free from wasted time on the Internet or with television. I haven't watched a non-PBS/Roku show in I don't know how long. I have no idea what season Big Brother is on and I am better for that fact. I am spending time growing my family. We will see if it is beneficial or not in the long run. For now, it's the right choice for us.
We are blessed.

Let's Root, Root, Root, For Our Home Team!

Wow. What a great day for some baseball!

On Sunday we were blessed to finally(!) get to our family baseball game this year. We were joined by some home school friends and we had a blast. The Bucs even won a very exciting contest against the Cubs. The boys were hysterical saying "The Cubbies are having a bad day!"

It's Sunday and that means kid fun outside before the game begins. We love Saul ;0)
It was little man's first game and he was AWESOME!

Our friends' son, like our son, has a talent for amusing Mr. G

Thanks to a small catnap he made it through the whole 9 innings!
What an amazing day. We have been blessed with some new friends that seem to be turning into good friends and for that I am thankful. Parenting is a wild ride. It's good to have some fun and faithful people riding along. We are blessed.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Our Lady of Sorrows

This  excerpt from a sermon by St. Bernard of Clairvaux  (Sermo in dom. infra oct. Assumptionis, 14-15: Opera omnia, Edit. Cisterc. 5 [1968}, 273-274) is  used in the Roman Office of Readings for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows on September 15. 

Perhaps someone will say: “Had she not known before that he would not die?” Undoubtedly. “Did she not expect him to rise again at once?” Surely. “And still she grieved over her crucified Son?” Intensely. Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.

So, on this feast of Our Lady (again...she is with me constantly), I thought I would reflect a bit on my latest sorrows...and the grace that flowed through our Blessed Mother from her Son to me, in my very hours of need.

I like the passage above because a.) it's from St. Bernard and b.) it is so true. You can know something is going to happen. You can know that pain and sorrow are about to overtake you. You can know that good things will come from that pain. Yet, you have to walk through the sorrow to move into the good...from dark to light. It is a rare person indeed that is permitted the joy without the trial. If Our Mother suffered this intensely, how can we expect better treatment? It should be with joy (later, if not at that exact moment) that we realize the blessing of suffering with Christ and His Mother.

Three days before we left for Europe I had an OB appointment. It was the "first after the positive test" appointment which I had put off a while since I knew this pregnancy was different from all the rest (and because I didn't feel like dealing with all the stress of the nonsense involved with being pregnant at 44 - see my previous pregnancy posts). Still, I moved it up a week since I figured I should see someone before, rather than after, traveling 5000 miles away.

Because of the changed appointment, I was unable to see my regular OB and saw one of his colleagues instead. It's funny how you get used to someone so, when she did things differently, I guess I was taken aback a bit. (That and after "how did this happen" and "you know most women your age can't get pregnant" I kind of stopped listening.)

When she proceeded to send me on my way with no sonogram, I realized it was a really unusual situation. Why, when it's sitting 10 inches away, wouldn't you take a peek before I get on the plane? Now my husband asks why I didn't ask her to do one and, truthfully, it would have been a more responsible thing for her to do. Still, at that moment, I was totally at peace. I felt like I wasn't supposed to know right then what was going on inside.

Off we went. As I said, I was pretty sure this pregnancy was different and not in a good way. Knowing that, I was sad but not exactly surprised when the bleeding started after landing in Vienna on Friday...and continued during the 5 hour drive to Levoca, and got worse over the next three days. I am so grateful to the friends I had here, praying me through those days.

Here is where God and the grace part come in. On Sunday, my Aunt, brother and I were escorted to the family cemetery in Siroke. We were able to pray at the graves of our relatives and learn more about our extended family. When we got to the top of the cemetery, where the babies are laid to rest, we stopped in front of my Aunt Margitka's grave. I asked my Aunt who was with us how old Margitka was when she died and she thought less than 2 years. (Truly, now that I have kids, the plots are so striking up on top of the hill. The graves are elevated and they are so very tiny).

So it was there, in that moment, that I asked God to let my baby rest with her great aunt. The baby that my grandmother had to leave behind over 90 years ago when she came to America.

The bleeding continued and I continued to press on. We spent Monday just walking around the town of Levoca and staying local. I was blessed that afternoon to take a small journey with my husband and our two youngest to Mary's Chapel, just down the trail from the shrine on the hill. This is the place with the stream that runs up hill where pilgrims come to pray and ask for blessings.

When I drank the water that day, I asked that Our Blessed Mother be with me and help me to gratefully accept God's plan. I knew things weren't going to end with a happy, healthy baby. I wasn't praying for a miracle. I was praying for the grace and strength I needed to get through the next week.

Tuesday morning we set out to Kosice, a town about an hour East of Siroke. We arrived just in time to attend Mass at the seminary where my cousin used to work. It was wonderful to see Fr. Peter (my cousin) assist with the Mass and to receive (with my husband and daughter) Holy Communion that morning. Unexpected blessing and so much grace. It was extra special since it was also the feast day of St. Bernard, the patron of our home parish.

We proceeded to tour the town, have lunch and eventually, about 5 hours later, head back toward home. Before leaving Kosice, Fr. Peter mentioned that we needed to stop briefly at his mom's house for "one more surprise". We did. It turned out to be two surprises.

We drove the hour+ to his family home and after having walked through the door and into the bathroom, our baby made her arrival. We had stopped because Fr. Peter's family was hosting a surprise party for our #1 child's birthday two days later. The joy and pain that filled me during those ten minutes was one of those life-changing experiences. I was giving thanks that eight years ago I had given birth to our first precious child while silently mourning our newly deceased baby. It was surreal on a Kubrick kind of scale and yet the beauty and grace were there. How blessed was I, after all the travel of the last few days, to bring my baby into the world in such a loving and peaceful house?

The blessings continued ...after speaking with Fr. Peter, he assured me that he would go with his pastor and bury the baby that evening. What an amazing gift, knowing that we wouldn't be able to bring the baby all the way back home. Oh, you already know where she was to her Great Aunt Margitka. See? Graces and blessings. God is so very good.

I didn't see then but now it seems so clear to me. Not having a sonogram before we left meant not seeing a baby who was already deceased or not progressing and setting up the d&c before the trip. Allowing the baby to travel with us meant allowing God to determine when and where she would be born and laid to rest. I believe to my soul that our journey and her journey were destined so that our ties to this place, the place of my ancestors, would be strengthened. Was it easy? No...but it was the right thing.

So, here I am back in my home, without my sixth child. There are moments of sorrow; deep and anguishing sorrow. There are times of self-pity; times of jealousy; times of guilt. They are very real when they come but, by God's grace, they come less than I had expected. Mainly, when I am sad, it is simply because my sweet babe is so very far from me. I know, in the end, she is in Heaven so it doesn't matter much where her body lies. I also know that the family, my family, who lives in Siroke will visit and tend to her grave much more than even I would. Still, I am missing a place to go and grieve in person.

That's my cross for this period of my life. I will grieve in my home, when we light the red candle just like the ones they will light at her grave, and remember our little one. I will also go to the grave of a friend's child, born full-term but already in Heaven. That friend has moved away, also having to leave her little girl behind. Perhaps, by tending to her, I can repay some of the kindness that will be shown to my baby.

What I know is that I am sad. The sorrow will change but it will always be there. I have lost a child and that's worth my grief. Not overwhelming though because, through this precious child, God has shown me a real glimpse of His abundant love and care for my family. He led us through every step of this process, guaranteeing my health and safety and the eternal rest of my child. How blessed we are! What joy we will have on that day in Heaven when we are all reunited with this beautiful little soul. Even now, the grandfathers who never held any of their precious grandbabies here on Earth have one all their own to enjoy. That image warms my heart.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Fr. Peter's friends, Jan and Veronika spent the whole of Tuesday  with us in Kosice . (They had come to Pittsburgh with Fr. Peter a few years ago and we had met them then.) These are two of the most beautiful people I have ever met. They were so welcoming and took such wonderful care of our children; always helping out and making our lives easier. When we were leaving them to head back to Siroke, Veronika hugged me and handed me a bag of gifts to remember them. She mentioned that one thing, a statue, had come from their recent trip to Medjugorje and she wanted me to have it. When we finally got back to the house that night, I was too distressed to sleep so Pat and I opened the gifts. The statue was just as I had suspected. My Mother, always walking with me (even on the darkest of days) and leading me to her Son.

Our Lady of Sorrows, Pray for Us.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

17 months...

and since I'm chased through the house at least twice a day by this
(small boy carrying nursing pillow)
I'm guessing he won't be weaned anytime soon. Oh well, that was the cost of keeping him quiet on a 9-hour plane ride and, frankly, it's all good (which is kind of shocking since all the others were all on their way to independence by now). I do plan to wean him one of these days but, for now, knowing he is most likely my last, I do enjoy the extra time with my baby boy ;0)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Giving it up

***Disclaimer - this post deals with death and dying in some parts so it may come off as a bit dark. I truly don't mean it that way. Sometimes, though, we have to get down to the bare bones of life and it can be a bit touchy. I'm talking entirely about myself in this post. Any resemblance to you, your life, or someone you know is simply coincidence (or the Holy Spirit)***

I've started jogging again in preparation for the Run for the Little Flowers 5K (see my previous post). It's wonderful, really, because it gives me a lot of time to ponder my life and just notice all the little things I usually miss (people in Mt. Lebanon throw out a TON of great stuff, there is a $1999 all-inclusive sale on plots at the cemetery near St. Bernard, that sort of thing).

It also helps me to process some of the things that I hear and see in the 24-48 hours preceding my run. I usually end up at the tabernacle at St. B's, which is my very favorite part...mostly giving thanks that I did not drop dead in the previous 45 minutes ;0)

This week, I've been thinking about giving up our lives to God. The previous post about defending the unborn, "even if they KILL you" and Sunday's Gospel from Luke 14:

If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.
Kind of a lot to ponder. Add to that the fact that God seems to be taking (allowing me to lose?) some meaningful (truly or seemingly) things lately, from my satellite radio to something much more precious has me wondering what it is, exactly, that's expected from us? (of course Luke, again, is always in my head).
From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.

That one is particularly sticky for me, since I have been blessed so much in this life. More than I can fathom or understand.

So, when I run, I I give all that I can? My last 5 miles of pondering...

We tithe. As with most things, it's a personal decision, it's just something we've chosen to do. It means fewer (not no) vacations, no cable (well, I think we pay $10/month), no fancy cars, no shiny new house in suburbia, etc. When I left the freezer door open and lost $300 worth of meat, it means lots of pasta for the next few months. It's a lifestyle but, considering I'm a convert to it, it's easier than I had originally imagined.

We are open to all the new life God chooses to give. That's an easy one for us. We are old and who doesn't love babies? Today #2 said, "what if God gives us 10 total babies (meaning 5 more)?" I tried to explain the logistics but ended up saying, "we'll just love them, I guess." Having done this for some time now, being truly open to God's will, I realize just how in control He is and how truly blessed we are to play a role. As I said, we're old. I am amazed by the women I know in their '20s that follow the same path. That is discipleship!

We give time and talent to our parish and to our community. I would love to do more but, with all these little people, time can be tight. We try to choose activities, friends, and events that are in agreement with our faith beliefs...not the easiest thing in society. We home school now because it's important to us that we teach our "class" the fundamentals of our family and faith before sending them out to defend them. We can't do that when we see them 4 hours a day.

I'm not going to get into all the stuff I don't do or do wrong because, well, the post would be too long and I've already kind of digressed. Clearly there is much I could still be doing to further the Kingdom of God. The point of this post is, what do I have to be willing to give up...after all, that's the "hating" part, right? It's not "hating" in an emotional way but making sure that we don't connect ourselves more to our family, our possessions, our status, than we do to God, who should come first in all things.

Then I run more and think, what could I not give back to God if he asked?

Family of Origin? Nope (don't take that wrong, I love them all dearly). My dad is already in Heaven ( I wrestled with God a while on that made my faith SO much deeper in the end), my Mom is my mom, not my best friend, etc...I love my family but they, each and every one, will die one day and whether it is before or after me, it will be their time and I'm good with that. (I know my sibs are reading this and shaking their heads...luckily they already know I'm that crazy religious lady)

My babies? No. That was with more hesitation. I could definitely not (I'm pretty sure) do the Abraham and Isaac thing. That was the kind of faith I definitely lack. If one of them (or many of them) died today, I would grieve for a very, very long time. Still, I know where they are going and I would look forward to meeting them (hopefully) again in Heaven one day.

My house/car/diamond ring (my sole valuable possession)? You know, it's about once a year (when the Little Sisters of the Poor collect after Mass) that I seriously consider dropping that ring in their basket. I love it SO much but, truly, it's not a deal breaker. Worse, it opens me up for people making judgments..."oh, have you seen her ring, of course she's living a certain way, blah, blah, blah". I do the same thing sometimes (see pride below) so I know others do it to me. Lately, I've been wearing it much less. It was a sign that my husband-to-be loved me a great deal (because he would part with so many dollars) but my wedding ring means so much more after ten years. My car and house? Have you seen them? Do I need to explain? (see the post about getting rid of my Cabrio...that was a bit of a struggle).

My husband. Ahh. That is a tough one. Any time I start feeling like I'm so with the faith thing and doing everything right (which is almost never, by the way, but pride is there at certain moments...I've been known to judge people without merit. gasp.) I imagine my life without him. Actually it's done for me during weeks like this, when he is gone from our house for business. This is it. Truly. When I think, "what could God ask from me that I would have a very, very, extremely hard time giving?" It's him. He is my world, for better or worse. He is what makes this whole train run. He is my partner in all things. Being without him for the rest of my life is not something I can easily comprehend.

So, when I finish my run and go to the tabernacle, I am always thankful first for the gifts that I have been given, the blessings of my children and marriage, the abundance of my life. Then, often tearfully, I ask Mary (have you made the consecration? It is truly worth your while. It's not worshiping Mary, btw...just making her your intercessor to Jesus. What a wonderful help to have!). Anyway, I ask Mary to take everything I have (I make a list in case she thinks I'm not really serious) and use it/them to bring me closer to her Son. I do believe my children and husband have been put into my life to draw me closer to Heaven. I still worry, though. My beloved's father died only a few years older than he is right now. Life happens. God's ways are not our ways. Sometimes we can scream "but I WANT it!" as loudly as we can (I know 'cause I have) and still, like a loving father, He will refuse to yield because of the good He knows will follow. I think, if we keep in mind that His will is the right one, always, we will be able to continue, even in the midst of the most earth-shaking difficulty. God is always with us. That must be more than a little comfort.

We are blessed. Remember that.

Monday, September 9, 2013


When you aren't going to school every day there are a RIDICULOUS number of opportunities to fill up your time. Today, and for the next three weeks, it's tennis. It was a nice day, there was nice company, and what else were we going to do? Schoolwork did come later. This was more fun.

The three older kids took part along with two other kids.

She stood around looking cute

He was building some type of rock fortress. Not sure, really, but the rocks were a perfect size for him!

Enjoy your week :0)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Happy Birthday, Blessed Mother

Today we celebrate the birthday of Our Lady, Queen of Heaven. How amazing to think of Joachim and Anne, in their old age, not only having a child (finally!) but having THIS child.
The woman who would herself carry the Word Incarnate. Certainly a day to celebrate!

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

So, however you did it, I do hope you found a moment to celebrate this most wonderful birthday.

In our house, as with most things, that means cake. I was helping out with a project after Mass and then #1 had a writing class so I was in a bit of a time crunch. Still, cake is cake. So, we started with a family rosary...
He steals everyone's rosary but who can be angry at that sweet face?

They did pretty well. Might make it a weekly exercise.
Happy Birthday, Holy Mother of God.
Pray for us sinners!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Our Week

We are back in the swing of things this week, even with the holiday. We actually started school in July but then took a break so school pictures were the first thing on the agenda for Tuesday!
She wanted the sign but didn't feel like holding one ;0)

How cute is this kid? He insists on wetting his hair and fixing it like this for every picture.


Big brother practicing his "reading aloud"

Our "class" for 2013-2014!


All week we have had a real-life construction lesson outside our door - they repaved our road. Endless fun for the little boy in the house :0)

Has this weather been amazing or what? We enjoyed the privilege of schooling out-of-doors with a trip to the park with friends. It was mainly recess but there was also a spelling lesson and some math problems in the car during the trip. We love home schooling!

#1 is waaayyyy over there on the swing. This place was a huge maze. Kind of cool.
Knob Hilll park - about 30 min away but a really excellent space. Lots of green for picnics and a castle park (like Dormont but MUCH bigger)

Hope you are enjoying these amazing days. We are blessed!