Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Real post very soon - I just wanted to pop in and say Happy Easter - things have been crazy in this house, getting ready for big family parties and sacraments, and everything - no time for computer, sadly. Good, too, in a way. We spend WAY too much time on the computer!
Until later then -

Have a Blessed Easter, everyone!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Please Pray for a Miracle for Sweet Regina Sweeney

 An update - I am so sorry to say that little Regina passed away a while ago. More info is on the FB page.
Lord God, ever caring and gentle,
we commit to your love this little one,
quickened to life for so short a time.
Enfold her in eternal life.

We pray for her parents
who are saddened by the loss of their child.
Give them courage
and help them in their pain and grief.
May they all meet one day
in the joy and peace of your kingdom. Amen.

A little while ago I posted a request for prayers for my son, Jonah, who is having some severe and undiagnosed leg pain. I mentioned that I knew it could be so much worse. I have been keeping this little girl, Regina Sweeney in my prayers for a couple of weeks now, ever since I heard her situation. She's 11 years old, something happened to her lungs through an incredibly bad bout of influenza. It's as if they are being destroyed. The doctors told her parents that there is no more they can do for her, so my friends and fellow prayer warriors, it is time to beg heaven for a miracle for this little one. Please, please join me in prayer for this little child.As her mother says constantly, Jesus, I trust in you!

St. Gerard, who, like the Savior, loved children so tenderly and by your prayers freed many from disease and even death, listen to us who are pleading for our sick child. We thank God for the great gift of our son (daughter) and ask him to restore our child to health if such be his holy will. This favor, we beg of you through your love for all children and mothers. Amen.

Almighty and eternal God, you are the everlasting health of those who believe in you. Hear us for your sick daughter, Regina,  for whom we implore the aid of your tender mercy, that being restored to bodily health, he may give thanks to you in your church. Through Christ our Lord.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

He's on my heart right now

I have a little boy. He is actually starting to be a rather big boy, but to me he is just a little guy. My Jonah is 12 years old, and so far, has had a good bit to deal with, health wise. I know it could be so much worse, but a seizure disorder, along with some major dental work due to his medication, and now, he is having some sort of leg pain.
I took him to our doctor, and she pretty much ruled out growing pains. I know this isn't growing pains. We have nine kids, I have seen my share of growing pains. This pain is so intense that his legs often sort of buckle under him. He is in a lot of pain in the morning, and has been taking ibuprofen to help with it, but it is with him all day.
This has been going on for about a month. But my Jonah, who has been through so much, has barely complained. He has mentioned it a time or two, but he doesn't whine about it. He just goes about his day, and occasionally winces as he moves around. Watching him breaks my heart. He's such a trooper. We're going to get this figured out, but until it happens I am going to be nervous. I have been successful so far in avoiding Dr. Google. I know it will just scare me with things I don't have the strength to consider at the moment. Our doctor sent out blood work, and his neurologist is following it just to see if he needs to be referred to yet another specialist.
I hope and pray that I am being paranoid with my worry. I was praying for him and thinking about him during Mass on Sunday, and I had a sort of paralyzing fear come over me. I hope that this is just some manifestation of my general paranoia where this child is concerned. He is basically a healthy kid, who happens to have a seizure disorder, and takes meds to control the seizures. I have no reason to think this is anything major, but if I could ask for your prayers and good thoughts on his behalf, I would be grateful. I can't seem to shake the worry, and I have been busy telling myself that it is just because he has been through so much, and I never take this child's health lightly.
I used to be the kind of mom who didn't feel compelled to run to the doctor for every little thing. My Meg was pretty healthy, outside a some ear infections as a toddler. Then came Kenzie and her heart problems. Then Jonah and his seizures. When Jenna was born healthy and didn't end up in the NICU, I couldn't believe how blessed we were. I thanked God over and over for letting her be born healthy. Kolbe, Luke and Ben had uneventful births, though they all had medical issues of one kind or another later. Then my Yeb was born and had to be transported to a NICU in another town. All in all, 3of the 9 have been in the NICU,  7 of the 9 have required some sort of surgery. All have had some fairly major health issues requiring treatment, so I guess my paranoia is not so much paranoia as a "What's next?!" kind of attitude/fear. ( I tease my husband that we had better not check too carefully into our family history, with all the health issues, we are probably some kind of cousins. Kidding of course, but c'mon already!) But for some reason, Jonah is different. He has had more to deal with than the others. Through everything, he has always been great. Our dentist claims he is his favorite patient because he is good as gold for everything, tooth extractions, root canals, everything (his meds make his teeth decay), and is as sweet as they come.

So tonight my sweet Jonah is on my heart and in my prayers. I pray for his general well being, and that his pain is something treatable or something silly I have not thought of, and can be alleviated. I put my son's care and health into the Hands of the Lord. I know he truly belongs to Him, and that He will provide for my sweet son. I will also pray to Our Lady, she has been a special intercessor for me and my Jonah many other times, and I know she will take my prayers to her Son. She has protected and cared for this boy before, and I trust that she always will.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


 I was talking to my sweet cousin Suzy via Facebook chat last night. She and I both have a child preparing for First Holy Communion this Spring. She asked me if I had started my cooking yet for the celebration after the Mass. She of course, being Suzy; industrious, never let your hands be idle Suzy, had started cleaning and cooking for the upcoming day and already had stuff in the freezer. Me? Zilch. Zero. Oh, wait, I ordered the cake - does that count? I have also planned the menu and started making a list in my head - does that count? And I had Kenzie start cleaning out my kitchen cupboards. I think she got three of them done the other day. You can't tell anymore that anything had been done to them, either. Such is life with a 2 year old who puts things in all the wrong places and is just...messy. I found a yogurt container in a basket of laundry that was brand clean - now it's a sticky mess! - I think he's out to destroy me.

Anyway, we have about 10 rooms that need a thorough scrub down. Not to mention my rather ambitious menu. Why can't I let myself order out and forget about it? I also have a myriad of other things to do before all the sacrament stuff the last weekend of this month. Jonah is serving so many Masses for the rest of the month, including the Easter Vigil, Easter morning, the Confirmation Mass (with Bishop Conlon!) and the First Communion Mass. So, I had to buy him shoes. I wasn't about to let him serve Mass for the bishop in ratty shoes! Jenna and Kenzie are singing for all of those same Masses. We also are hosting Easter dinner for Doug's side of the family. Before that, we have Meg's choir concert and a birthday party. After Easter, my three middle kids have to spend a week doing standardized testing at a church 20 minutes away. When, exactly, do I think I am going to do all this cooking and cleaning? Anyone out there want to volunteer to help? I need an Alice. Remember her? Always cheerful and kept the Brady Bunch house running smoothly so Mrs. Brady could soothe Jan's hurt feelings and figure out why Bobby was telling lies? Where is Alice when I need her?!

So, any of you ladies have any cleaning and organizing tips or tricks? My plea to Oprah went unanswered, so I guess that means I am going to have to get this place whipped into shape by myself, and it's not looking good. I mean, I don't know if this is something ingrained in me by my mother, or what, but if you have a priest coming for dinner, your house needs to be pretty much spotless. You don't want him dropping his keys in the couch, moving a cushion to retrieve them and pulling out Popsicle sticks or stinky socks, or broken crayons, or  Please God, No! a dirty diaper an old apple core. (Aren't you all just dying to come to dinner now?)

But, we have some of the most important preparations already complete. My Kenzie, who is being Confirmed, has a sweet dress and shoes. She has finished all of her Confirmation work, and is ready. Kolbe and I found a suit, and he has learned his prayers, and his form for Communion. He is so looking forward to it - it's a day he has waited for a long time! I love how excited he is! I have my small gifts for my parish school of religion class  - they are being Confirmed, Kenzie is in my class. I need to find a gift for my Kolbe, and I want it to be meaningful, because he has so looked forward to this day. What a blessing these two sweet, beautiful children are. Both have a tremendous love for the Lord that I try to imitate, rather than the other way around. Their love and faith is as yet completely unquestioning. Blind faith  - what a gift. If only I could make sure they keep in all their lives!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Surrendering yourself. It's awfully hard sometimes, isn't it? It's an interesting phase of life I am in. I have older children, middle children and little bitty children. I have college students and potty trainers. We have dorm rooms and cribs. Ramen noodles and nurser. And everything in between. I find myself often feeling a little sad that we are wrapping up our years with little ones. I wonder if I will ever feel as though I've had enough of it? I chase and tickle and love on my baby (who is nearly two) and think to myself, "Wow, I have never gone this long without a pregnancy." and am sad and relieved at the same time. So, I surrender myself to the moment, and enjoy his giggles of glee while I flip him over my head, or chase him through a room. And I think back to when he was just a wee little one. I think back to when they all were wee tiny. The smell of that newborn baby. They way they curve against my body. The waking in the night to nurse and whisper and cuddle. The way the oxytocin just courses through me and I fall in love over and over, and praise God, and thank Him again for the gift of a child. How can anyone feel they have had their fill of that?

I have been a nursing mama for over 14 years, consecutively. I nursed my oldest, too, so I could add her on, but I think the 14 years is enough. I have loved nursing my babies. I am still nursing my last baby, and am not quite ready to give up the last vestiges of our nursing relationship. Once the nursing is gone, he will be a little boy, not a baby anymore. I need him to be my baby for just a little while longer.

Nursing is the one area of motherhood that has come so easily to me. I have always felt so blessed about that, and I admit to having some rather adamant feelings on breastfeeding. This is one area where I am in complete surrender to my child. When I have a newborn, I know I am going to be spending a lot of time in a chair with that baby. I surrender myself to the needs of that baby. And I love every minute of it. Such a sweet, lovely way to begin a life long love, don't you think? I really don't think about much else during that time. I surrender that time period to that baby. We establish a great nursing relationship that way. So important in the beginning of a nursing relationship anyway - so we sit, and I sigh, and do my very best to memorize the features and the sounds and the way I feel about that baby. I miss this kind of surrender a lot.

Surrendering can be so hard to do. I would love to do nothing more than surrender myself to this houseful of little boys, and my girls. I would love to paint nails and braid hair, play cars and make cookies and even organize toys. Wouldn't life be so simple if that was all there were to it? But there is so much more. So many obligations to family, school, church, work. So, I have to dig deep and find surrender in other areas of my heart. Maybe I should call it perseverance, rather than surrender? But it feels like surrender a lot of days, doesn't it? But surrender sounds like whining, when I have been so profoundly blessed. So, persevere I will, even when I long to surrender to little boys who want to play, or tickle, or chase. Balance, perseverance, and a little bit of surrender - how do I find that? If you have got the recipe for that one, would you mind sending it along to me?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

One of Those Moments I was Talking About...

Teachable moments. They have been consuming my thoughts lately as we try to wrap up this school year and start contemplating the next.

In my heart of hearts, I know I am a teacher. Some things come easily to me, and teaching is one of them. It's ironic that this year, when we have accomplished so much, I feel as though I have taught so little. I have been yearning for the sweetness of sharing something precious with my children. In this new school we are doing, I don't have time to teach them the simple sweetness of Anne of Green Gables. I haven't had the time to do trips the library as I would like, and we haven't done the cooking and baking and other "family" activities that I think are just as important as math and science. I want to give certain things to my kids. A love of reading is so much a part of me, and I want that for them, too. The ability to travel through time and space inside the pages of a book is a treasure. I want them to know the great stories. I want them to feel connected to the past through great literature and accurate histories.

So, I decided to take a moment. On one of our few and far between library trips I happened upon a book called Hana's Suitcase. It is the true story of a little girl from Czechoslovakia whose family was taken away, person by person, by the Gestapo until one day, she and her brother were also deported to first a Ghetto, and then, Auschwitz.

I have always studied the Holocaust. It is a part of history that frightens me to my very core. I cannot understand or wrap my mind around what was happening in Germany - all of Europe, really, that could lead to such evil. I fascinates and terrifies me. I also feel somewhat tied to it, for a number of reasons. One of them, and probably the most compelling for me, personally, was meeting several ladies who were survivors of the Holocaust. I used to work at our local Jewish Community Center. First as a receptionist, and later, in the child care department. These little ladies would come once a week to play cards in one of the rooms. I noticed that they had numbers tattooed into the skin on their forearms. I never asked them personally about it, but I did ask one of the women I worked with, and she shared what she knew of their stories.

Another thing that implored me to learn more was the stories my grandfather shared with my brother and I. You see, he was among the American troops that liberated Dachau at the end of the war. He spoke of the stench from rotting bodies, left unburied. He spoke about the heartbreak of the soldiers who were forced to bury them in mass graves before disease broke out. He spoke of the survivors, the horror they had been through and how they looked more dead than alive - skin and bones and despair. He also told us how they gathered enough strength to cheer when they saw help - the Americans - coming, once they realized what was happening.  All this spoken so quietly, because he didn't really want to speak of it at all. I can't remember why he told us - maybe my brother remembers. I think maybe he wanted us to know.

So, I piled my four middle kids on the couch to listen to Hana's story. It was sort of a mystery. Her suitcase had been sent to the curator of a Japanese museum. Fumiko, the curator,  had written to one of the German Holocaust museums, requesting some items for her display. The story flashes back and forth in time - Hana's time, and Fumiko's. Fumiko and her students are intrigued by the suitcase when it arrives, and want to learn more about the owner. This set is motion a search that took two hears and several continents of travel to unravel.

My children listened. They were transfixed by the story. They wanted to see all the pictures of Hana and Fumiko. They didn't want to go to bed before finding out what happened to Hana. They were touched by her story, and as soon as I had finished the book, they were hopping on Google to learn more. They were asking me questions and begging me to come look at pictures they had found of Hana's brother, George. I had my moment. They learned. They were touched by the lives of those who had come before them. They had heard the horror of the story, and been scared for Hana's and George's fate. They were sad, and in the end, wanted to know more. Kolbe already knew some bit of the history of the Holocaust, as he is named for St.Maximilian Kolbe, a priest who died as a martyr at Auschwitz.

And as I had hoped, they learned a little bit of history. A little bit of what is in my heart, as well. Does a teacher ever ask for more? If you haven't yet read Hana's Suitcase, I highly recommend it. It is very well written, and it shows how a young woman in Japan can teach children all over the world about a little Jewish girl from Czechoslovachia who lived 60 years before.

Teachable Moments

Homeschooling has always been a struggle for me. I'm not sure I was cut out for it. The amount of work and planning, the details, the level of devotion needed - I just really never wanted all of it. What I wanted from homeschooling was the moments. The joy of having the children home to learn to cook, and sew and do art with their dad. I had this pretty picture, you see. It was going to be lovely. I would teach them to read and write. They would love literature and poetry and social studies. History would give them goosebumps and somehow math and science would be dealt with. We would go on field trips and they would pick apples in the orchard and strawberries in the fields. We would go to daily Mass at least once a week.

Fast forward to real life. Math is hard. Science is hard. I don't know what a nominitive noun is. I comma splice like a madwoman. We have only once ever made it to a daily Mass, and that was years ago. We have way more fun hanging out and goofing off than we do doing school. I can't get them to read what I want them to read, and managing several students in the higher grades is just...hard. So, we leave our sweet Mother of Divine Grace curricula that we haven't really been doing much of behind in search of something more structured, something where I have to answer to someone just so things are getting done. We enrolled in an online school. For the first few months we were slavish about getting school done. We were in the school room for 8 or 9 hours a day. By the time Christmas got here, we were DONE. Fried. Over. It took a long time to want to get back to it, but we did, at a somewhat more relaxed pace. Trying to find the middle ground. But, the joy in learning together is all but absent. We are learning. In fact, we have done more school this year than we EVER have before. That's a victory. But, it has come at a price. We don't have any joyful discoveries. There isn't time. There is poetry, but we rush through it because we 700 more lessons to do before we can stop for the day. There is literature, the good stuff, too. But I don't get to snuggle on the couch and read it to all of them, because the other kids all have their own, separate lessons to do.

So, I have decided to take some of it back. I don't know how to work it all out for next year, but there has to be some balance. We need the joy back. We need the reading, the praying, the learning back. If I am going to teach my children at home, I want the moments! I want the recognition of a new idea. I want the goosebumps of history and the thrill of creating amazing pieces of art with Dad.

So what is in store for next year? I am not sure yet. I know we will be home, I know we will be better than this year, and far better than the years before. I think we are going to have to find something that gives me the moments back. I miss them.