Montage Mondays

When Mama Syd and Papa Chris arrived, after they unloaded their treasures, they packed up our bikes and the kids immediately began to speculate about when we would take to the Mickelson. Tomorrow? This week? When?!

By the time we got up to the lake, the kids were in a frenzy. Tess immediately put on her helmet and was gone, finding her legs and courage again. In fact, she was so anxious to be on her wheels that there were days that she buckled on her helmet before breakfast and left it on the rest of the day.

It took homeschool chic to a whole new level.

As the days passed, there was some jockeying of bikes. Philip gave Max's bike a try and refused to move back to his own. Tess picked up Philip's ride and rode and rode until she was confident and convinced us that she was ready to move up. Then? Then Jac picked up two 20 inch bikes for the boys and the next thing we knew, all 3 of the oldest were on big bikes with gears.


I was still reeling from the shock that Tess would ride the Mickelson on her own and now it was on a "big" bike to boot. The afternoon we set out for Dumont was rather spur of the moment and whirlwind feeling. There was no time to feel sentimental about growing kids or worry about abilities because we were riding!

It was a gorgeous evening at the end of a miserably hot day. Not far into the ride, the wind picked up and the route that is usually all downhill fun became work. Max, Philip, Jac and the littlest ladies shot out in front while Mama Syd and I hung back with Tess. She was savor ing the experience.

Well, she was until it began to rain. First a drop or two was sort of fun and adventurous. After the heat, it felt rebellious and welcome. But it didn't stop and instead stung our arms and flew in our eyes. Water dripped from the visors of our helmets and ran down our legs. We were pedaling hard by then and only about half-way in and Tess announced through shivering lips,

"I want to get in the truck now." She never slowed or even turned her head, but she was done. I laughed and told her I did, too. Coming over a hill, we saw Philip, alone in the rain, standing on his pedals and not gaining much ground. "Poor Philip," I yelled over the wind."He's all by himself. We need to go tell him he's doing a good job!" it was all she needed. Her mind focused on Phil, she took off and we were glad to try and catch them.

We waited out the storm in an old tunnel on the trail and after some jolly ranchers all were in better spirits. We finished the ride in the sun and relished our picnic supper by the creek.

And Tess? She was jubilant and beaming for the remainder of the evening. What a trooper she was. Her brothers are becoming real veterans ad trail riding pros. The littlest sisters were happy as could be in the kiddie cart- Ellie because she had access to all the snacks and Gemma because she had Ellie.

I think the kids thought the ice cream from Cheyenne Crossing was the treat but I found that evening the sweetest part of summer yet.


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The Olympics are here, old Sport!

We have been on countdown since Vancouver. Really, looking forward to the London 2012 games are the only thing that have taken away the sting of Mama Syd and Papa Chris leaving. We went to the library in search of books about the Olympics, ancient Greece and Great Britain. We came home with over 60 books and we promptly immersed ourselves in the Olympic Spirit.

Come the 27th, we took the day to ready ourselves for the Opening Ceremonies that night. We made fish and chips with this recipe (perfect for Fish Fridays! papa Chris, you would have loved it!) and served it up with malt vinegar. The little buggers had fish sticks and frozen fries - there's only so far they will be pushed. We toasted the Queen with The Big Liz cocktail (Turns out, I like gin. The Queen has good taste!) and The Little Lizzie for the kiddos and discussed the finer points of "God Save the Queen."

"Confound their politics!
Frustrate their knavish tricks!
On Thee our hopes we fix!
God save us all!

Jac baked a bread pudding that the kids deemed less than impressive but managed to eat half of anyway and we ate and drank ourselves into a fine frenzy then tore into the English crackers I made for the occasion. My favorite part? The tissue paper laurel wreaths I cut out that were such a hit.

We retreated to the cool of the basement for the ceremony, bells in hand to chime along with Big Ben. (We cleaned Salvation Army out of all of their bells and are now the proud owners of several Santa shaped ringers and even a ceramic unicorn. Fancy!) While we never did hear that happen (darn Internet rumors!), we rang with abandon during the final fireworks.

It was impressive, the Brits third go. Quirky and a little odd, it was them . We liked that. As always, we also liked the parade of nations and we voted on our favorite outfits and flag bearers. We giggled over awkward camera angles and oohed and ahhed about inspiring stories. But my favorite moments? When Fr. Would yell,

"Shut up, Matt Lauer! I hate you so much! Stop talking now!" It was perfect.

The kids were Olympic in their endurance, managing to stay awake through it all and then sleeping downstairs together to cap off the celebration.

They awoke early Saturday requesting to watch more Olympics.

It's been on ever since.

Let the games begin!




Dear Philippe,

You're seven now. SEVEN! I can't even begin to wrap my mind around it. I mean really, how did that happen?

My wish for you, bud, is that you have 12 times as many years ahead of you, each better than the last. And I hope, too, that at the end of those days you will still remember the week you turned 7.

I hope you will recall how you requested eight months before the day to receive your first confession on your birthday and how you asked to have Fr. Christensen administer the sacrament becauses he baptized you. I hope you never forget that we drove to Timberlake to make it happen and then stayed the night with Father and enjoyed his pool table and a Mardi Gras party. I pray you never forget the joy you felt at being reconciled to God and being old enough to make that step on your own.

I hope you will remember going to Chuck E. Cheese on the real, actual day of the anniversary of your birth. Yes, Chuck E. Cheese! May you never forget the MacGyver party (though it gave me much grief) and the bomb cake dad and I made. And never, ever forget the feeling you had upon receiving your very first one hundred dollar bill.

I hope you forget the nasty coughing sickness you came down with, but it will be hard consideering you felt like poo the day of your first pine wood Derby race. I do hope you will remember making your car with dad and watching the race. Never forget the wonder and excitement and surprise you felt at receiving a second place trophy.

Your birthday week was such a full one. I hope this year can compare to those special seven days that marked your magnificent seven years.

We love you, kiddo.


When you have a princess or three in your house one of the best possible gifts they can receive is a real life tea set. And when it arrives in a Union Jack emblazoned treasure box with tea and molded sugar and cookies and miniature spoons and a hand-made table cloth? HEAVEN, I tell you.

Aunt Cristie bestowed said wonderful gift on Tess for Christmas. From the moment it was opened, it was non-stop "NOW can we have a tea party?" until it did happen, four days later.

A very long four days, might I add.

When the date and time were decided, the next order of business was attire. We are talking about girls, after all. Dresses were tried on and rejected and put on again. Then there was hair to be done and lip gloss! That was the easy part, believe it or not. Because after the hostess decided that the boys could attend, if they acted like gentleman, there was some serious drama about what to wear. A dress shirt was not nice enough and where in the world were the neck ties?!? In the end, Philip decided on a tuxedo two sizes too small as it was deemed the most appropriate. Max, on the other hand, donned his first communion duds and volunteered to be the butler. With everyone dressed to the nines and giddy with excitement, the party commenced.

The "Queen" was seated on her throne and was a fine regal hostess. Her sister, the princess, made a fine showing at her first tea party. Philip, the Duke, was gracious and Max was the best butler we've ever had and I'm not just saying that. They had such a great time, the party morphed into a dance party - or "ball" according to Tess. And that's saying something since her brothers don't dance.

It was a great party with a great gift from a Great Aunt. Thanks Aunt Cristie!

Last week kicked off the baking/making frenzy around these parts. It seemed early to me, too, but I figured that planning for the first part of the month would up the chances the baking would actually get done. With this baby on
the launch pad as it were, who knows how much longer we have for anything besides feeding and sleeping.

Anyway, first up we're the cookies. The pantry was scoured for fixings while Jac and the girls crushed dum dums to make rainbow jewels. Ellie was EFFICIENT, completing a cookie and asking, "I have a-other one?" before I could get anyone else started. We used our Ninja cookie cutters for the first time (thank you Lang's for the new tradition!) and ended up with not just ninjas but Santa with his sack, Elvis with a white and silver jumpsuit and microphone and even Spiderman. There was a baby ninja in a diaper, too, that Jac made and all found hilarious.

A few days later it was onto the Ginger bread houses. Or, as Ellie says, "Ninjabread house!" because, really, she has no idea what a gingerman is. This year we scaled back the size of the houses slightly, and after putting them together, set the kids loose. Philip was all about the yard accessories and planning but not so much the execution. Let's hope that's just a stage and not a life pattern, hmmm? Max decided early on he was going for an "East meets West" theme and diligently worked to carry that out. Ellie, meanwhile, ate more candy than she used on her house and after chattering like a squirrel for over an hour, lapsed into a diabetic coma. And Tess? She was the art-teest. Patterns and matching and much detail went into her abode. Incidentally, if she is engrossed like that there is very little talking. Good to keep in mind. . . The final touch for the oldest three was a dusting of powdered sugar for snow. Philip, distracted as usual, chatted about what would be cool if blah-blah-blah-flamethrower until Max broke into the plan by bellowing, "Shake it like you mean it, boy!" Perfect.

Thursday brought pulling taffy with Fr. Tyler. He had made the request a month or so ago and we were happy to oblige. Then I started simmering ingredients and had some serious self doubts. Candy thermometers and I just don't get along and it is so easy to really mess things up. Hands were washed and buttered, (except for Susan who, God love her, doesn't like to get slimy) and the pulling commenced. In the end, Fr. and his muscles saved the day. His wad was the only stuff that became taffy- Philip and then the girls just didn't have enough brute strength to get 'er done. Instead, we had vanilla flavored hard candy. Philip sighed and pined over the taffy until Fr. wisely told him, "You lose enough teeth all on your own, you don't need any help." His spacers thank you for that, Fr.!

Lastly, today we made Mexican sweet bread. We figured if we can't go to it, it can come to us! And with today being the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it seemed fitting and right. Just the ladies helped on this one-the boys were otherwise occupied- and Tess hand ground the cinnamon all by herself. Believe me, she deserved it. The rolls turned out pretty good in our estimation but fantastic to the kiddos. "Where did you find the recipe?" Max asked. "'Cause I think I might want to take that one to college with me." Always good to plan ahead.

*Lest you think everything is all lemon drops and gumdrops (and cavities) around here. . . We had a leak in the bathroom, from the ceiling. I spent an entire morning cleaning out the innards of the exhaust fan. The dog is still sick. There was some experimental hair cutting during the making of our St. Nicholas ornaments and they broke their light switch. I thought I had lost my purse and was in tears when we asked the kids if they had seen it. " N-n-n-o-o-o-o" Tess said slowly and then disappeared. She came back quickly with the purse and admitted to boxing it up with Philip's shoes because she thought it'd make a good present. They are adding to my insanity, I tell you! It's the hap, happiest season of all!!!!


Jac and I like to accuse each other of being a hoarder. And why not? We both come from good, strong lines of hoarders. Undiagnosed, of course,but it's there. Saving and squirreling runs healthily through our veins. We're working on it really, but we stuff things away for those "You never know moments.

This last week we had plenty of those. The kids' costumes for All Saints Day we're all put together with what we had about. No kidding. We really spent less than $3 for all four get-ups. And the most impressive part? They were all completed way before they needed to be. Jac pronounced it an All Saints Day miracle.


My favorite pieces included the shin guards (thanks Phalen's !) and pleather studded skirt on Max. Oh, and how he tailored his own tunic and cape. Next generation DIY! And on Tess - well I love it all. The collar beaded with beads from our college days, the tunic out of sheets from Chrisa's wedding (thanks Jarvi's!), and sash left over from a dress modification for Julie (thanks Julie! Oh, and the Moses basket, of course. I used the rest of the sheet to crochet it and Tess dyed it with some old dye Jac had. it really helped, too, that Philip and Ellie requested and fit into costumes we already had. Thank ya, Jesus!


All that is to say sometimes hoarding pays off. Papa Chris would be so proud to hear me say that!

So the costumes were made and together and we took them for a spin at St. Elizabeth Seton's greet and treat Friday. We showed up to an evacuated building and the arrival of fire trucks. Exciting! We met up with the Brown's and walked the halls with them. Good times. After, they came over for Pumpkin Fest '11 with Fr. Tyler and Susan. Nate broke a sweat manhandling a gourd masquerading as a pumpkin and somehow Susan managed to not have to gut Tess' pumpkin. Philip and I turned his into Goliath and Fr. And Max teamed up to create a cyclops which left Ellie and Jac to make a cat. They were all incredible.

So, without further ado, St. Martin of Tours, David who Slew Goliath, The Pharaoh's Daughter who Saved Moses and St. Elizabeth of Hungary. (Or, as Ellie says it, "I'm Lidabiff and hungry.") Can't hoard this goodness.

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Before Philip fell asleep on Friday night, he needed to be sure we were all clear on the plans for Saturday.

"Dad says tomorrow we are doing something fun and exciting. We ARE going to do something fun and exciting right?

I didn't want to tell him that just being with Jac was all the fun and exciting I wanted, so I just agreed. But that made Saturday morning a little difficult - there were high expectations at stake!

First stop was the bank followed quickly by a trip Starbucks. Yes, Starbucks. It was Max's request since he has become a coffee aficionado as of late. We enjoyed our ciders, hot chocolate, juice, coffee and pastries in the warm autumn sun. The bonus? We STILL have money on the gift card after our visit. Nice!

Then, it was time to make a choice as there were so many things going on in Rapid. Would it be M Day? The Great Pumpkin Festival? A Charlie Brown Movie? Down to Custer for the Buffalo Round Up? Bike ride? What, what, what?!

About this time Jac decided that we needed to find Susan to get her some prayer cards and we were preeeeeety sure she was in Wall. And we had an hour to get there. Off we went, at rather high speeds, to get to our destination.

Except, when we got there, we found a barbershop quartet at St. Patrick's church instead of Max's godmother. After more than a few phone calls, it was confirmed that Susan was not in Wall and did not need the cards as we had thought.

Fun and exciting in our lap!

The day was perfect for a visit to Wall Drug and the Backyard. And aside from Philip's panic about the T-Rex, it was flawless. The crowds were small, the sun was warm and Dad was with us. Fun and excitement was had by all.

Couldn't have asked for a better day.

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When your princess of a four-year-old is preparing for her big F-I-V-E birthday, a little panic ensues.  Not on her part, of course, it all belonged to us, her parents. It needed to be good.  It needed to be big.  It needed to be appropriate. Alas, we were out of princess movies so what, WHAT! , were we supposed to do?

Luckily, we remembered she loves rainbows, remembered some cute things we had seen on the internet and remembered WE WERE IN CHARGE.

It was liberating.

We decided on a Wizard of Oz extravaganza and set about creating the best rainbow birthday we could manage.

56 rainbow cupcakes for Co-op?  Check! ("This might be the most ridiculous thing I've done in a really long time." I confessed to Jac as we frosted cupcakes at 12:30 Thursday morning)

The Emerald City on the chalk board? Yep.

How about a 6 layer rainbow cake?  You bet. (When I poured the  batter into the pans, I almost went into cardiac arrest.  There was not enough to reach the edges without a great deal of coercion. "This could be a disaster." I said. Jac skeptically eyed the sorry excuse of a cake. "It sure could be.  BUT you never know 'til you try!" Not comforting.  We baked them anyway and you know what?  They turned out just fine. THANKS BE TO GOD.)

There was even a tornado, a house, a pair of ruby slippers (thanks to Max!) and a yellow brick road to decorate the downstairs.

Sadly?  I don't think Tess took any of it in.  From the moment she went to bed the night before, her mind was already 5 steps ahead of the given moment.  During the day she buzzed about in a deep thinking daze, pondering what would happen next.  The requested chicken on a stick, rice and blueberries was left uneaten as was the cake and the much anticipated grape sorbet.  She was just too busy to sit back and enjoy it.

Thankfully, the movie was another matter.  Fr. Tyler led the sing-alongs when appropriate and much laughter was shared over the funny parts.  They're still talking about it.

And, I think it's sinking in that she is really, truly 5. For her it is, anyway. Us?  It's a little harder.

At the breakfast table the morning of her big day, she said quietly, "I don't feel five.  I know I am.  I just don't feel like it."

Me neither, sister.  Me neither.

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(As an aside, you know you were in high school in the nineties if 'Back to School' is always said in an Adam Sandler voice a la "Billy Madison."  Just saying . . . )

As August 28th is the feast of St. Augustine, patron of students, we like to have our annual 'Back to School' dinner then where we can refocus and introduce our family motto for the year.  In all actuality, because we never really STOP schooling, it's just a good time to draw the kids attention to beginning another year.

So -

That's just what we did.  This year we invited the Wittes to join us for our kick off and they came with the best bread and salad this side of the Rockies.  The kids played and played and played, destroying the downstairs and completely wearing each other out.  Meanwhile, the big people enjoyed some adult conversation and polished off the dessert all by ourselves.

This year, we commit ourselves to the the charge of Saint Benedict; Ora et Labora, or Prayer and Work.  Sounds easy enough, right?  And if tonight is any indication of the future, it's gonna be a great year.

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After last summer and Philip's attempt and subsequent failing to ride 10 miles on the Mickelson , conquering the beast was HIGH on the priority list.

But then I was puny and Mama Syd sprained an ankle, the visitors came, Papa got sick and life added up.  Before we knew it, Papa Chris was putting on a new roof and it was the last week and we were running out of time!!!!!!! And wouldn't you know?  The weather turned scalding hot and hope nearly seemed lost.

Then, compromise.  What if we rode on Sunday evening?  We spent our Mass praying Papa would finish the roof so he could come, too, and that the weather would cool down.  God, in his goodness, answered our prayers with a productive work morning and late afternoon clouds.  Happily (read: noisily and with much excitement) the kids loaded into the "big green truck" and we all set off for the Mickelson.

This year we deviated from our usual route so that all could see the half-marathon course.  So Englewood to Deadwood it was, with Philip on a bigger bike (Max's old one), Max with gears for the first time, Tess behind me on the  AlleyCat and Ellie in the kiddie cart.  It was a glorious night, perfect for a ride and there were no problems until we came to the top of the big hill.  The route down - the race route - had grades up to 20%.  This upped Papa Chris' pucker factor by A LOT.  The Sugarloaf trail, also with steep 11% grades seemed a much better option, so off we went, away from the race course and continuing up hill.

Not once on those big uphill treks did Philip waver or even think of stopping.  He just went and went.  So did the vistas.  We oohed and awed over the beautiful views we'd never before seen.

Pulling into Deadwood at dusk was lovely but the best part by far was Philip's unbelief that he had done it.  All on his own!  On that little bike!

And guess what else?  This time he rode 10.3 miles.

Way to go bud.

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