While driving home from Sam's:

"So, Mom?  In . . . nine years Max will be old enough to . . . enter a liquor store?" - Ellie

"Uh . . . Yep." - Me

"I hope he only goes if dad asks him to!" - a scandalized Phil

File Oct 01, 10 31 09 PM

*For the record, Jac hasn't asked anyone to go to a liquor store at any point for him.  He buys his own booze, thankyouverymuch.  Not that he's drinking heavily or anything.  You know what I mean. Riiiiiiight.

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My great uncle Bert was a character. Or, that's what people say in these parts. In the south, folks would have said, "Bless his heart!" At least I think they would. He didn't wear his teeth, watched the movie weather channel for fun, started arguments to watch people fight (then laughed and laughed!), loved liver and onions (and taught me the 'only' way to cut onions), enjoyed his fair share of beer, and smoked more than anyone I've ever known.

Anyway, he was a fan of the colorful language, if you know what I mean. While attempting to teach me- a sixth grader- simple algebra he told me, "If you hit this side on the a**, you hit this one on the a**, too!"

Good times.

For his wide swath of vocabulary, though he was Rather tame when it came to naming the passing of the gas. Perhaps he picked it up from Saboin, but he always called them "fanny burps."

Now, it never stuck with my brother and I. Not in a way that we actually said such a thing. . .

I think Tess was a baby when he passed but maybe it was Philip? The kids dont remember him beyond the stories I've told or the recipes we make. (Uncle Bert was a true renaissance man and passed on a plethora of kitchen knowledge.) So it is strange that Lucy knows what she does.

When she has a rumble in her diaper or she hears one of her siblings let one loose (most often at the table because they're classy like that), she will clutch at her bum,  laugh and yell, "Burp!"

Uncle Bert would be so proud.

File Sep 29, 11 19 40 PM

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It's what the kids kept saying to each other as we prepared for our photo shoot.

"This is exciting!"  They say it like it's said in a kid history episode which makes it even funnier.

So, without further ado, the photo!


That's right!  No one can raise 6 kids so we're having a seventh!

It seems to make sense to us . . .

So the behind the scenes:

The kids have known since the first week of August when I threw up one morning.  No one asked or acted like anything was out of the ordinary but at supper when Jac told them, there was a lot of whopping and hollering and cheering and "I knew it!" flying around.  To say they're stoked is an understatement.

We've been tossing around ideas of how to mark this occasion for weeks and weeks.  But when I looked at Jac and said, "The light's good right now in the bathroom," he responded with, "Let's do it, then." "Now?!" "We've got a few minutes left on the pizza.  It's go time."  We called for the kids and quickly explained what we were doing.  In 5 minutes, the bathroom was tidied, the door removed from the hinges, props and kids in place and Jac was framing the shot.

Oh, the laughter when Jac requested someone help him with a towel on his head!

"Some people are going to be very scandalized that dad's not wearing a shirt."

Max was ecstatic to get to "Totally Max out!" on purpose and not be chastised for it.

We didn't notice until Jac went in to do final edits that Lucy is copying him.

Ellie and Philip?  No acting necessary as that is them 100%.

Lu balked at everyone being in the bathroom but when I asked if she wanted to get in the tub by herself or if I should help, she mumbled something and climbed into the tub.  As confused as she might of been, she obviously had a good time!

I was feeling fine until I had my head over the toilet like that.  Ellie's currently in charge of the bathroom and she doesn't have the highest of standards.  "I'll be in charge of flushing if you need it," was Max's generous offer.

Gemma's face had been painted by Tess earlier in the day which was serendipitous as we had intended for her and Tess to be playing in the makeup all along.

We are calling this baby Septimus Prime or Septimus.  Jac made up two images - one with the title you see above and one with Septimus.  To my great surprise, the kids all voted for the Septimus one.  "Well," reasoned Ellie, "We have been learning about ancient Rome and Latin and stuff so it just makes sense."  They were sorely disappointed that it didn't win out.

Actually, that and the fact that we're not making an actual movie and that our friends our expecting twins and therefore will "beat" us, are their only disappointments in regard to this baby.  This kiddo doesn't know how good it's gonna have it.

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Tess really has been counting down to her ninth birthday for months. Her wish list?  Itemized.  Her menu? Planned well in advance.  The movie . . . well, that was something else entirely and took up more than a few days with anxious deliberation, perusing of trailers, and indecision.

A study in contrasts, that one.

In the end she settled on Kit Kittredge, An American Girl so a typewriter graced the table and newspapers were used to wrap her gifts.


She requested crepes for breakfast.  With whipped cream, of course.  Dear future spouses of our children who end up called to marriage:  I apologize for the crepe thing.  When you innocently ask what they want for breakfast and you are expecting a trip to the donut shop or breakfast in bed at the most and then they request crepes . . . yeah.  Sorry.

Tess cheerfully tidied and then helped me with her cake.  Vanilla with green buttercream.  The morning was filled with loads of "Mama, how else can I help?" because she's a go-getter with a servant heart.

Come lunch time, she looked up hair-dos and was stoked that her pony tail got curled.  She had planned exactly what and how she wanted for lunch at Perkins so there was a collective groan when we drove up and found it closed for remodeling.  Now for some in our family (me included), such a change in plans would have been the end of all good things for the day.  But not Tess.  It took her a moment to gather her wits and change gears but she cheerfully decided that Burger King was a good substitute and off we went.

She was dragging when we got home but didn't want to miss a thing.  She made and received calls while we finished party prep and guests arrived.  By the time supper rolled around, she was near tears.  She was feeling pukey and didn't want to miss out. แผนที่ดาวเทียมสด  Instead she was sent to her room for a little cat nap and after that and some enchiladas, all was well.

Riddles AND puzzles led her to her haul of gifts.

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Hurray for roller skates!  Hurray for candy!  And face paint!  And clothes! The skates were donned immediately and she teetered then careened in and through the chaos.

By the time the movie rolled around she was straight up delirious with satisfaction and fatigue.  And she was one very happy nine-year-old when she finally collapsed that night.

Hope this year's as fabulous as you are, Tess!


Tess turned 9 today.  I fully intend to put up the pictures and write about her day - this day she's been counting down to for so. very. long.  But tonight . . .

Well, tonight, I'm left exhausted and emotional. Yes, pulling off an Extravaganza is tiring but watching your children grow up?  That's real work.

As we were coming to the end of the movie tonight and things were reaching their poignant climax, I felt Gemma stiffen next to me.  "Are you crying?" I asked because I sure was.

"No . . . " she said, wiping furiously at her face. แผนที่จากดาวเทียม  "No, it just feels like the wetness is going to come out of my eyes."

Yep, the pretty much sums it up.  So, to keep that at bay, I'll save the reflecting for another night and focus on not crying.




We have a month and a half until she turns two and yet . . . And yet it feels like there is a gorilla in our midst.

She can remove and put on all of her clothing.  She likes to do it herself, thankyouverymuch. Last week there was a morning that included Jac and I working together to wrestle her into a shirt, loads of kicking and tears followed by some alone time (for her) after which she emerged with said shirt on inside out and backwards.

She wore it like that the rest of the day.

She can turn on faucets and knows how to barricade herself into the bathroom.  She jumps- really, truly jumps,- on the trampoline and usually wakes up from her nap yelling "Jump!  JUMP!"  She sings "Maybe" from Annie!, the Kyrie from Mass, and our night prayer song at full volume.  She can summersalt, climb to the top of the bunk, and has found every hidden candy stash in the house.

Her temper . . . Lord, have mercy!  Her language is lagging behind her desire to communicate and certainly her opinion and the frustration erupts out of her in thrown plates, fierce frowns, full blown fits and biting.  Oh, the biting!

But the thing that strikes fear into my heart?  She's learned to climb out of her crib.  But that's the only place she deems appropriate for sleeping and so there is a problem.  And many tears.  Mostly on her part but some on mine.

Please, God, let this mean potty training will be easy!


We're experiencing a renaissance of sorts.

Math is all the rage around here.

Last night, Susan publicly chastised me for the lack of math instruction in our home.  "We were just saying how sad it is that you don't love math."

Mmmm.  Saaaaad faaaaace.

But the truth is, there's been plenty of math as of late.  Algebra, geometry, a little physics. . .

This summer, we asked Max to tell us what he'd like to focus on this year.  Math was at the top of his list. "Will do!" I said and I meant it.  Here's the thing - somewhere around sixth or seventh grade, math and I had a falling out and we never fully recovered.  I feel insecure about my math skills at best and an incompetent fool at worst.  I don't want that for these children of mine but I'm also not going to let them flounder and convince themselves that they're bad at math.  It doesn't end well.

Max requested more Life of Fred.  We obliged and while Philip groaned and whined, we learned the art of long division. Things started slow and haltingly but we kept at it.

All week long, Philip has sought out his breakfast and then immediately turned to work out problems of his own devising.  Today, Max busted out his skills on his own to figure out how to divide up his timeline into equal parts.  That part in Star Wars Episode 1 where Anakin finally gets his pod racer running and he's yelling, "It's working!  IT'S WORKING!!" over the engine?  We've been feeling it this week.

Tonight Philip chuckled to himself.  "Life of Fred is right.  Doing long division is funner than using a calculator!"

It's working indeed.  Next up, grammar.

Another school year is up and running.

Or, limping around the track whilst wheezing and clutching at it's cramping side as it were . . .

Yes, a new year has begun. Today that looked like times tables and long division and formulating letters and making birthday cards while I ironed all the parts and pieces for the many FNE neckers that needed to be done by tonight.

"Tell me again what 2 times 5 is, Ellie?  Yes, h-o-n-o-r-e-d is honored. Phil, bring down the 7 before next."


But we were DOING IT!

This was the same motto we had the night of our kick off.  You see, Chelsey got engaged this summer (woot!) and then sent this text: "Could you come to California to go dress shopping?" And really, who could say no?  But the date - the last weekend in August- I knew right away would be a problem.  Because that Friday, the 28th, was the feast of St. Augustine.

Jac and I kept it a secret as long as we could but when the kids started to make plans for the kick off, we had to tell them things would have to change.

"WHAT?" was Philip's incredulous and indignant reply.  They were all skeptical that we could do it earlier or later.

"But that's Philip's feast." they kept repeating.

We planned for the 27th - St. Monica, Augustine's mother's feast- instead.  Oh, the frenzy.  Oh, the excitement!

The wait at the Alpine was just long enough for us to get pictures in.

Max, the seventh grader (I know!  I know.) was fine with the customary crown but not with the sitting normally for a photo.


Phil was beside himself at the prospect of a slice of grasshopper pie. Fifth grade was a bonus.


Tess had been a huge help getting everyone ready and has earned the right to be a big third grader.


Ellie wore a brave face about being in first grade and had her menu planned out, but was fretting on the inside about me being gone for 4 days.


Gemma had a pose DOWN for her pic and was so very excited to be a preschooler.


And Lucy thought the whole thing was dumb.


Everyone held it together (aside from Lucy.  That girl has a will of iron and can get hangry like nobody's business) until dessert when the reality of me leaving left a few in tears. The rest, however, tanked up on icecream and puff pastry.


It was certainly a memorable evening.

Our theme for this year is from Joshua 24:15 - "Choose today whom you will serve."  The rest of that verse, of course, is "But as for me and my house we will serve the Lord."  So we begin, with hearts full of the truth that following the Lord is a daily, conscious decision.  Even in math and while wielding an iron, we must choose.  Let us be bold!


We ironed 3 shirts, 3 pairs of pants, 3 dresses and one sweater then tamed 6 heads of hair. Shoes were found and we loaded up in the heat to go to Cathedral for a funeral.

I saw it on Facebook en route to California.  Then Jac texted:

"O.C. died last night."

I felt the void of his absence as sure as if the air was sucked from the room. Through the weekend, in the few still seconds between all the other things we were doing, I felt the emptiness and gulped in the oxygen.

It's true we did not know him well, not much beyond acquaintance really, but as Bishop Gruss said in his homily, "It's like a rock star has died. But the Rock is the rock of Christ.  His love was Christ loving us." Monsignor O'Connell shone Christ and an encounter - no matter how brief - left you feeling known and loved.

So we went to mass, over lunch and naptimes.  History lessons were abandoned for life lessons because I want our kids to understand life is a terminal condition and that they have a call and if you're going to spend your life, it's best spent for Christ. I listened to Gemma ask Elizabeth if that was his body, felt my throat tighten at the plain pine box draped in a star quilt, and prayed hard for our sons who are listening for their call.


Praise for our death that makes our life real,
the knowledge of loss that helps us to feel;
the gift of yourself, your presence revealed
to bring us home.

The pall was placed and the procession began, our Crucified Lord leading the way. And yet the priests wore white, the symbol of the resurrection and victory.  I watched his family, large and healthy spanning several generations and was struck mute.  O.C. belonged to Western South Dakota, to the impoverished, the Native, the Hispanic, the priests, the widows, the people.  And yet, here were his people, his blood and they loved him ounce for ounce as we did.  These priests, they are never lonely and their families expand beyond their reach by the grace of God.

O.C. left specific instructions about the homily to be shared.  Don't talk about me, he said, but the love of God in the priesthood.  The Bishop admitted to falling short, of struggling to ignore the presence that was the Monsignor.  This man, a priest's priest, did what he did through Christ's strength and the Lord allowed him to serve 58 years when the doctors optimistically said 10.

The people there today mourned our loss, celebrated O.C.'s gain, and thanked God for the gift of his vocation.  Jac and I, at opposite ends of the pew, prayed the same passionate prayer for our children.  "Please, Lord, give them eyes to see and ears to hear the joy that comes in obediently following your call."

O Lord, with your eyes set upon me,
gently smiling, you have spoken my name;

all I longed for I have found by the water,
at your side, I will seek other shores.

I was reminded of a conversation I had once with someone who was upset by a Catholic funeral.  "They didn't talk about her at all or let anyone share."  I tried to explain that a funeral isn't meant for that.  A wake?  Yes!  But a funeral?  A funeral is a final send off, a time to pray for the departed, to commend them to God, to come together and, shoulder to shoulder, remind ourselves of the resurrection.

That was real today.

In the silence post communion a singular priest began low and loud, "Salve Regina . . . " The entirety of our presbyterate stood together and joined the song. They faced the coffin and us, their masculine voices filling the sanctuary.  Our kids, and everyone else, froze, moved by O.C.'s brother's farewell.  There was a second of silence and we stood for our own goodbye.

Give him eternal rest, O Lord.
May light unending shine on him.
Receive his soul, O holy ones;
Present him now to God, Most High.

Again, the silence breathed and then, from the choir loft, a lone voice began a Lakota honor song.  Three others joined in and soon the drum, too.  I wept, holding my breath against sobs.  It wasn't because of the drums - though Lord knows they get me every time! - or because I understand Lakota.  I cried, overwhelmed with the ferocity of the love the people of the diocese have for our priests.  The song was glorious and fitting for O.C., but it was the spirit, the pure gift of it that conveyed all our hearts.  When the mass was over, eyes red and puffy, person after person admitted to being overcome.

And really, it was perfect.  The song was a mystery to most of us but it moved us in the same way that God's love and mercy is beyond understanding and yet changes hearts and lives again and again.  O.C. lived his life in that truth. . . what a way to end it.

You can read O.C.'s obit here and the local news story here.
The words in italic were all sung today.