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."



"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.

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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.


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!

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

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.


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.

It's been a long week and it's only Wednesday.


Lucy and Gemma have been full of mischief and trouble.

For Lu, this means she's been decorating all sorts of things (walls, bedspreads, herself, herself) with all sorts of things (sharpies, markers, pens, nail polish). This morning she brought a lovely shade of purple nail polish to me and was adamant, "I did not put this on my door. I did NOT." Then she smiled. "I didn't!"

Convincing as this was, I had my doubts. On the wall next to my bed I had found an interesting illustration done in purple sharpie. (Purple isn't the only shade she uses-red, brown, green and pink have been in her repertoire this week, too.) I called her in and asked her if she was the artist behind the masterpiece.

She considered. She demurred. She began to deny and then nodded her assent. I sighed and said I was just so sad that she hadn't done it on paper because paper I could keep, but walls need to be washed. We had what I assumed was a fruitful conversation and I gave her a smooch and thought I had sent her on her way.

I forgot she is the 6th child and fourth girl so she has all of the angst and drama of a preteen shoved into a three-year-old frame.

"I'm just really stressed out! Because I'm afraid you don't like my drawing and think it's stupid."

Speechless pretty much sums up my reaction. Then I laughed (she joined in) and assured her I would never say that about her. But mostly I wanted to say, "If I were you I'd be stressed out about having martial law instituted on your person!"

Anyway, trying to work out how to function without anything in the house that can make marks. Open to suggestions!

Imagine, if you will, that you are hanging out at our table.  For funsies, you suggest a game of word association.

You: Queen

Me: Fat Bottomed Girls

(Here Philip covers his ears and leaves the room.)

You: Butt

Me: Dirty

("Mom!" Tess exclaims.)

You: Wipes

Me: Diaper

You: Penny

Me: Velociraptor

(The kids left in the room erupt into laughter.)

Yes, my precious babe resembles a vicious dinosaur.  She seems friendly enough but she has razor sharp teeth, a penchant for destruction and a scream that induces sheer terror.

Honestly, the scream  . . . ! It started as a way to express displeasure at the sometimes overzealous attention of her sisters.  But now? Well now it's used as a general "Listen to me!"

Poor girl, she so badly wants to communicate but is having a hard time being heard in the chaos.  Being heard when she isn't screaming, that is.  She's been reluctant to use signing, opting to only utilize "All done" regularly until this past week or so.  Seemingly overnight she picked up "Please," "Food," and "Nurse." Then last night as she played with Monday, she started to say what sounded like "Monday." She repeated it again and again.  Excited, I asked her to say "Daddy" and she did several times. That's when Jacques asked her to say "Mama." Without pausing, her hand shot out and she rapidly signed


We laughed because it was hilarious but also because it confirmed my suspicions- she only likes me for my body.  It's cool as long as she's not screaming. ANYTHING to keep her from screaming!

(My laughter becomes nervous and then turns to crying. There's so. much. SCREAMING.)

Update: tonight she said "Mama" a few times! But then when Jac clarified if she was indeed saying "Mama," she signed "Nurse" again.  Baby steps, right.  Baby steps.

On Friday I was explaining to another homeschool mom where Jac was. "He's at the dentist with Phil." A friend overheard and exclaimed, "Again?!"

Yes, AGAIN. February-and it turns out March, too- was the month of dentistry. It adds up quickly when everybody and their mother (no hyperbole here) have cavities and or other issues.

So fun!

Its made us hyper sensitive to whats going on - or more accurately, IN - everyone's mouth.

Gemma is bird-like in her appetitive to begin with but she leans hard in the "bird-like and only things that are sweet" direction. As in, claims she's full after eating three sugar snap pea pods only to ask for an "Oreo? Gumball? Icecream? Peep?" etc., etc. the minute she's excused from the table. The requests for sugar are made ALL DAY LONG and she is often found rummaging in the pantry (or on the counter or above the fridge or in my room or. . . ).

Plain and simple, she is a sugar fiend.

Recently, she announced she was hungry. So, so, sooooo hungry. I suggested some cheese.




Crackers, pretzels, apple, Cutie?

"Yeaaaah. I'd just really like an Oreo. Or some chocolate."

I laughed. "Gemma, we've got to get you eating something else beside sugar!"

"Why? Because I'll get dia-BBs?"

I choked back a laugh. "Do you know what diabetes is?"

"It's when you swallow sugar and you get BBs stuck in your throat and die."

I had a choice here and I did NOT take the high road.

"That's right. You're right."

"So, I can't have an Oreo then?"

A month ago, Lucy turned three.

It was all she could talk about for weeks leading up to it. And heaven forbid anyone mentioned the word "birthday" as she would start to yell in an extremely territorial way, "It's MY birthday!  MINE!"

She didn't have many requests for what she wanted to do so much as what she wanted to get.

"I want a pink cake.  And a monkey to whack."

Translation: Strawberry cake and a monkey pinata.

She was very insistent about the whacking part. . .


We all trooped out to divide and conquer the extravaganza prep and riding in the cart, she was an empress inspecting her dominion.  EVERYTHING was on her wish list.  I wheeled her away from Jac and her siblings and each aisle we passed held some wonder for her.

"Oooh!  Red trees!  I need those for my birthday, mama!"

"Look at that!  I need that for my birthday."

"Mama! Those things are for my birthday!  Let's get them!"

I made the mistake of wandering down the candy aisle in search of Runts (none could be found) and she locked in on the gum.

"Mom!  There's pink gum right there!  I need it. Get it for my birthday."

I laughed at her demanding tone but only because it was so shocking.

"You don't  NEED any gum." I assured her.

"Well, I called the hospible and they said I needed pink gum and you're not giving it to me so. . ." She shook her head sadly and gave me a piteous and guilt inducing look. This kid, who hasn't been to the hospital IN HER LIFE (not even to be born) was pulling the doctor as authority over me?  How did this happen?!


I pushed her through the home goods, figuring it was safe.  Instead, she gasped at the vacuums.

"Wow! These would be great for my birthday!" she gestured grandly with her arms.


When we didn't find a monkey (to whack) she admitted that a pirate ship could work just as well because while she is entitled, she is not unreasonable.

At least not about pinatas.

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Her godparents came along with "Biliff" (Elizabeth) and Susan and Jordan who brought 16 pumpkins.



She balked at the thought of taking a knife to the pumpkins but then her mind was blown when she saw what a jack-o-lantern really was. so we gutted the gourds in her honor. She was embarassed by the demand she skip around the room even though she had practiced that part for a week. But she soaked up the celebratory feel of the night and turned three without a hitch.

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