I forget that my kids have a completely different vocabulary than I did growing up. I'm not even talking about "rad," "dude," "bodacious," (can you tell I grew up in California in the 80's and 90's?) and the like. No, I mean their Catholic language.

Eucharist, examine, confession, canonized, purgatory, etc. were the smallest of blips on my radar growing up.  But for my kids, well, we here them nearly every day.

Most interesting is the way they relate to Mary. I was reminded again of a great quote from St. Maximilian Kolbe recently. "Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Mother too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did." We talk a good deal about and to Mary and, in doing so, have many names and titles for her.

So it's easy to see why Lucy would get turned around.

At the park this week, they had a small merry-go-round.  Lucy wanted to be brave on it but much preferred the swings. Pen though . . . well, Pen stood up while it was spinning and made it to the center where she head banged and laughed. Yes, she is a spitfire. Pray for us. When we got home I was telling Jac about Penny's fearlessness and how the teenagers on the merry-go-round had been so patient with her.

"Yeah, when I was on the lady-go-round, those big kids were nice but I was scared." Lucy explained.

"The what?" we asked to clarify.

"The lady-go-round."

"What??"

"LADY-go-round."

"Ooooh! The merry-go-round?"

"Yes!  That's what I said!"

I didn't laugh, but I did smile.  We call Mary by her name but also by her many titles. "Our Lady," is utilized often. So what's the big deal about replacing what sounded like her name with this simple title?

I doubt this name will stick as the parks we frequent are lame and don't have merry-go-rounds. But I want the memory of this mix-up to hang about a while longer.

1 Comment

The summer is off and running, alleluia! Truth be told, it feels like in the last 4 weeks we've lived a lifetime of summers all at once.  There have been so many activities and so little sleep.

Mostly, it's been great.

Mostly.

This week was Duc In Altum for the older kids and suddenly Gemma is lumped into that crowd.  "Suddenly" meaning that she and her siblings have been talking about it for a year and she has actively been preparing for it for the last six months.  When the DIA schedule came out and we learned that Rapid, Piedmont and Sturgis would not be getting teams this year, skipping it altogether seemed like a viable option.  I even dared to hint about it out loud.

"But MOM!  It's Gemma's first year! Are you saying she won't get to go?!" Wide eyes from them and wet eyes from Gem.

When Gail suggested we carpool up to Belle Fourche, I was more than happy to agree.  I was happy to have a reason to spend time in the little town and explore with the two littlest ladies.

I was quickly reminded the first day I drove how much work two little ones is.  Give me seven that include helpful arms who carry and buckle and have extra eyes any day!  Then within minutes of our solo journey to the park I realized how often these little ones are hurried.  It just happens with bigger kids setting the pace, scooping up their siblings if they can't keep up.

So we went at Lu and Pen's pace.  They chased each other up and down a handicap ramp, always finding the moment they passed each other as the funniest thing they'd ever done. When they moved onto check out a statue in the park, Lu asked who the people were and if she could hold their hands so I could take a picture.  Then it was on to the swings where they spent a solid half hour before even considering if anything else seemed interesting.

After the harried few weeks we've had, it was a great reminder to pace ourselves, to enjoy what is before us, and linger over the things we really enjoy.

We also learned to be quick in a porta potty which is valuable, too.  Lessons all around!

1 Comment

We lost Penny this afternoon.

Okay, maybe "lost" is too strong of a word.  "Misplaced" is probably more accurate.

Anyway, it was a gut-wrenching, frantic, panic-inducing 3 minutes.

It started simply, with the girls in and out of the house through the sliding glass door.  Penny had been traipsing along with them but at some point they all scattered.  The quiet was what triggered my concern.

"Where's Pen, guys?"

Radio silence. I upped my volume.

"Has anyone seen Penny?"

Tess was the first to respond followed by Max.  She ran outside to check and he poked his head into rooms.  We hollered her name and checked all of her usual spots.  Others joined the search and the lists of dark possibilities rang in my mind like the totalling of a cash register.

"She's not out there!" Tess was breathless as she came inside.  I'm unsure if my eyes matched her wild expression but I was less than comforted by her look.  Could someone have left the gate open?  Could she have wandered towards the street? I ran out front quickly and when I got back, I heard a muffled question from Jac.  I hoped he was saying she was with him.

"What?"

"Did you find her?" He was at the top of the stairs, panic on the edges of his voice.

I didn't think my heart could sink any further but it did.

And then, just when I was on the edge, I saw the faintest motion past the trampoline.  Her little ponytail was being buffeted in the wind.

"I see her!  I see her!" I yelled as I ran out to her.

I'm not sure why I ran to her.  She was safe and fine.  But watching her hauling a doll out of the Cozy Coupe and struggling in the wind combined with my overwhelming relief sent me out.

"Pen-pen!  You scared us!" She saw me running and thought it was a game.  She smiled her crinkled nose smile and ran to meet me.  She squeezed me back and patted me when I picked her up.

In that moment, I really, truly understood Luke 15:4.

"Doesn't he leave the 99 in open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?"

I'm not one to suggest changes to scripture but I'm just saying that "lost child" packs a greater punch.  Then, too, I have never much liked the Prodigal Son (I'm the eldest, remember?) but I understood the father running to his son today.

What was it that left me shaky and oh-so-grateful to hold her little body against mine and to feel her happy hands on my shoulder?  We've lost kids before.  (C'mon.  Don't act shocked or like it's never happened to you.) Was it because she isn't talking yet so she couldn't respond to our calls?  Perhaps knowing her speed and her curiosity  was what lit up my imagination.  Whatever it was, I was abundantly thankful that she was found and that I have been found, too.  May I turn with a crinkled nose to the Father who runs toward me even in my faults and failings and may I press into him, patting him back, grateful to be loved. And thank you Jesus that we found our girl.

Now if you'll excuse me, I do believe I need a drink . . .

1 Comment

Jac follows some groups on Instagram that are all about the Every Day Carry.  They feature "pocket dumps" in which the contents of their pockets are artistically laid out for others to gawk at.  In case you're wondering, there isn't a stray coin, receipt or lint ball to be found in any of these images. These are highly curated, high class collections of items.  Only the fanciest of knives, pens, handkerchiefs and moneyclips make the grade.

****

The kids tease me that my purse is less purse and more Mary Poppins bag.  As in it's big enough to hold a lamp AND it's completely possible that one might be in there.  Really, it's possible that anything could be in there.

I have 7 kids. I gave up the idea of having a separate purse and diaper bag a looooong time ago.

****

I think the actual words that came out of my mouth when searching for a tissue during Mass last Sunday were, "What in the actual world?!" Because I found a small mason jar in my purse.  A mason jar, people.  I am not hipster enough to rock that kind of crazy.

I really was dreading the thought of cleaning out the deep, dark recesses of my bag until I remembered the "pocket dump" pics.

My favorite parts? The Penny tights and single sock and shoe. Don't ask me where the others are.  How about the 6 stray coins not in the coin purse or the unsent mail?  I also like the acrylic paint in a ziplock and the purse within a purse concept.  And how about that library receipt?

Was there a more productive way to spend 40 minutes of my Monday?  Probably yes.  Have I ever enjoyed cleaning out my purse more than this? Definitely not.  It was good to laugh at myself (and the kids because the mess in the purse was a team effort) and to realize that of all the crap, I only NEED 7 of those items.  The tiny Cinderella slipper is on that list, obviously.

 

We are all about learning-by-doing around here.  Penny has begun to attempt the sign of the cross and is enthusiastic about holding her hands for prayer.  This is thanks to plenty of, "Penny! Do this! PenPen! Look! Pen! Like this!" (siblings are great!) and her just observing.

It's great until you realize that some of the finer points get lost in translation.

This spring, Lucy insisted she could lead a decade of the Rosary. I'm trying to remember that the little kids need the opportunities their older siblings were given.  So while we were all doubtful, we invited her to lead.

She smiled and got bashful.  She quietly mumbled her prayers so that we asked over and over for her to say it loud enough for everyone. This is what she said/says:

"Hello, Mary! Full of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen."

Now, the Hail Mary actually says,

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed are thou amongst women and blessed in the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of death.

It could be argued that Lu hits the high points.  And while her siblings snicker (siblings ARE great!!), I hold to the truth of her earnest prayer.

The "Hail!" is nothing more than a greeting, closer to a "Hello, Mary!" I'd like to think than to a "Hear ye, hear ye!" from St. Gabriel. And the 'full of God" is really what being full of grace is all about, right?  Plus, it brings to mind Mary, belly stretched tight at the end of nine months, being so very 'full of God.' While we don't abide cutting corners, I do appreciate her pithiness and cutting to the chase as we should always be thinking about the fragility of our life.

Yes, we are working on teaching her the "right" way to say it.  But I'm taking the time to revel in the lessons her learning-by-doing is teaching my heart, too.

"Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever receives on child such as this in my name receives me."  Matthew 18:3-5

Last week. . . Last week I strong armed us back into our school schedule. We had griping and complaining and we had to school in the afternoon (unheard of!) because of a lazy morning and we used Friday for catch up instead of IT. But it was a good week.

This week? Well, this week we are dragging ourselves on our belly by ragged and broken fingernails to the finish line.

The whining!

The crying!

The terrible, angry shrieking from Penny!

I returned home from a meeting today to a filled wine glass and a note alerting me to the fact that it was indeed for me.

It's been that sort of week. One in which a child who shall not be named killed the sourdough starter by not paying attention and using cornmeal instead of flour. (It was white cornmeal in their defense so it sort of looked like whole wheat. I still wanted to cry.) A jar of cold pickle juice was spilled all over me by another child, soaking every piece of clothing I had on. I found long bite marks in my fancy lip stuff. And today as I wrangled and wrestled little girls in the bathroom while out at a concert field trip, the spot where Pen was being held on my hip got very warm and very wet.  Somehow her diaper had slipped so my shirt and pants did the trick.  A change of clothes for her I did not have.  And our lunch that was rather thrown together by the boys for the picnic afterwards was drowned by a leaky water bottle.

I'm blaming the sudden rainy, dreary, threat-of-snow-in-mid-May weather for the funk we've all felt but also remembering the good of the week, too.  We had great friends over for a visit and Tess made playdough solo for the first time.  We've had 2 awesome field trips in 9 days.  Gemma figured out she can clean their room on her own.  And I have managed to comb the girl's hair EVERY. DAY.

I guess the week hasn't been so bad after all.  But maybe that's just the wine talkin'!

 

Penny has been working - I mean working- to convince us that she doesn't really like the idea of sleep. I'm not sure when this aversion started (as I am rather sleep deprived) but it's been a while. For months now, it feels like we have fought for each minute of sleep. If she does doze off while in our arms, she can't be put down too soon or she'll stir but if we wait too long, she's sure to wake up.

It's had me in or close to tears more than once.

But Pen? Well, aside from the angry screaming when she is put into her crib without her permission, she hasn't shown any other emotion aside from stubborn determination. Until this week.

A few nights ago, we prayed with the kids and sent them towards bed. Someone was lingering and I started to sing, "Good Night Sweetheart," as I often do to signal that it is really, truly, honestly bedtime. This time though, Penny gave a few whimpers, her lower lip came out, her eyes scrunched up and she began to bawl. We wondered if it was perhaps my singing voice-or lack thereof-that caused the heartbreak but other songs calmed her right down. I sang the verse again and she started right back up. Same for "Go to Sleep Little Baby," she acts as if her heart is breaking.

And it would be heartbreaking if it wasn't so funny. Luckily, because everyone loves her, there are always a half dozen sets of arms reaching out for her and crooning, "Oh! Pen-pen! It's okay!"

Love also means rubbing it in so there's been a lot of repeating of the songs and watching her cry, you know, just for fun. So now we have a sleep deprived AND traumatized baby on our hands. It builds character, right? Well, character and neurosis, but who's counting? Not me anyway, I'm too busy counting sheep.


This modern age with its diagnosis and syndromes and whatnot. . . It can seem ridiculous. But the first time I read about "Decision Fatigue," I thought, Oh my goodness, write this down, I have that!

Alllll day every day I am bombarded with questions. "Can I eat this? Why not? How come she can? Can I play on the computer? How much time will this get me? What's for lunch? How come I have to make it? Is nap over yet? What's for dinner? What are we doing tonight? What's the weather like tomorrow? What's the plan for Friday? Who's going to babysit us? Why's your eye twitching like that? Are you crying? Mom?!"

Decision fatigue. It's a thing.

But sometimes? Sometimes I'm the one asking the questions. Not always fun ones, either, but necessary all the same. Like why is there raw bacon on the bath mat? Is that poop on that toilet paper next  to the toilet? Why is the counter all wet? Where's Penny? How'd she get in the shower?! Why'd you let her in? How much toothpaste DID she squirt onto the floor? Is that gum in the shower? Who put it there? And why is there a toothbrush in the tub? What the heck is that on my towel? Why do I smell nail polish? Why can't this place stay clean?!

It turns out that asking the questions is just as exhausting as answering them so either way I end up tired. There's no question about that.

*All questions were really asked in the last two days in the bathroom. Life's a barrel of laughs over here!

Ellie,

I want you to remember that on March 26, 2017, you made your first communion. Remember that it was a rainy, misty day. That we all breathed a sigh of relief when Mama Syd and Papa Chris texted to say they were in Hot Springs. They asked if you wanted to go to Fudruckers or Perkins for lunch.

"Mmmm. . . Can we do Perkins? I'm gonna get the 'usual.'"

Remember how Elizabeth came over to make the flower crown you requested. Seeing the white and palest pink spray roses that we had been unable to find was so exciting and absolutely perfect. You two worked together on it and when you tried it on, you positively glowed.

Remember, too, that I had promised you that your Bitty Baby would have a dress to match yours but at 3pm, it was still not done. Dad and Mama Syd said nothing but gave plenty of pointed looks encouraging me to step away from the sewing machine. You hovered close by, repeatedly asking if your dress had buttons yet. They were seen on at 4:10, plenty of time before the 5:30 mass.

You requested a bun in your hair and didn't complain once about the repeated combing to make it just right. On went the dress, the tights, the shoes, the flower crown and then the veil. I'm pretty sure you grew a full 3 inches the moment the veil was pinned in place! Remember how I told you to have a seat on the pew and for-the-love DON'T move so you'd stay clean. You cradled your now matching doll, grabbed a book and proceeded to sit criss-cross applesauce in your dress. I only had a minor moment of panic.

Remember that you were so excited. You had asked for weeks, months, when we could practice. It took us a while to track down the required Necco wafers but we did and we poured wine into a glass and prepped a dish with the candy even though it was very late. Everyone sat still and quiet while we told stories of God's providence, Jesus's miracles and the great mystery that is the Eucharist. You answered questions breathlessly and then, nervous and eager, lined up behind your siblings to practice how to receive Our Lord.

Recall on the day of, as we walked into Cathedral you felt the same eager nervousness that you had felt just days before. The greeter asked if we wanted to bring forward the gifts and I think dad would have said no (he was ALL nerves!) but he looked down at you in your dress and veil and crown and said yes instead. Your brothers served the Mass, grateful to be a part of this with you, so it was Dad and I and the girls that walked the long aisle to take forward the bread and wine. And because it was Lent, we did it to the sound of silence.

I hope you remember that Fr. Dillon called you and your parents up to receive Our Lord, Fr. Giving you the precious body and grandpa offering the precious blood. You were reverent and somehow looked so grown up and yet so tall all at once. You prayed an act of thanksgiving in the pew and were still and relaxed, breathing easy now it was over.

Please remember how many people came up to congratulate you, how many came to support you and love you. You stood patiently for so many photos and smiled and said thank you again and again. Remember, too, how people we did not know came up to tell you how happy they were for you or how beautiful you were. Remember the man who congratulated me and was teary eyed as he shook my hand, pressing into it $10. "For the first communicant. You have a lovely family!" Never forget God's abundant generosity and love that you received in the form of bread and wine and the love of those around us.

I hope you'll remember the tacos we served at the party and too many people for the house. How Joe was so silly and funny you kids howled with laughter and Patrick nearly choked in the hilarity. Remember, too, the gold painted cupcakes and the fun of gifts and how you walked to each gift giver unprompted to smile and thank them specifically.

I know it's a lot to keep track of, so maybe just remember this: you are so loved. First, by the King of the Universe who gave his life for you and shares his flesh as true food. Second, by your family who basks in your joy and thoughtfulness. And third, by all of those who come in contact with you. Yes, you are so loved. Never forget it.

Tonight I turned on 90's alternative rock while we made pizza. Hearing it on the "easy listening" channel on a recent office visit gave me a hankering.

"What is this?" Max muttered.

"This, my friends, is the sound of my high school years."

"Was that a long, loooong, LONG time ago?" Gemma wondered.

Philip chastised his sister's audacity while I laughed.

"I guess so!" Was the final answer.

Recently I started receiving info about my 20 year reunion. Good golly, that just can't be! I remember that 20 year reunions were attended by middle aged people.

The kind of people who say things like "good golly."

So I guess I'm there. Glad I've brought my music and sense of humor with me.