Friday, October 9, 2009

You Must Become Like a Child

I went to NY for a week in August, to see my grandmother, who is 87. She had a lung removed about 9 years ago and we had just found out that the remaining lung has a malignancy. I hadn't seen her in 3 years, so I wanted to go, and I brought 2 of my kids.

I had planned on making a vacation of it, and seeing everyone I ever knew since birth, but when I saw Grandma all of that went out the window, and I just spent the time with her, mostly.

She is not getting a lot of oxygen, due to the lack of a lung, so she has developed some dementia. Thankfully, she remembers people, but she forgets events. She still lives alone, due to the fact that all her children live very far away and she refuses to budge. She does have Mary, a wonderful woman who comes every day for a couple hours to bathe her and do some housekeeping, as well as keep her company.

We went over there every day for hours and just sat with her. When we would arrive, the door would be wide open.

"Grandma," I would say, "You have to keep the door locked."
"But I like it open."
"What would you do if a thief came in the door?" I ask.
She looks up, waves her hand in the air, smiles and says, "Hi!"
"Not the proper response," I sigh.
"Well," she says, "I don't have anything worth taking!"
"OK, let's try another approach. What if a murderer came in the door, then what would you do?"
She thinks for a moment, cocks her head to the side and says, reluctantly, "I guess I should keep the door locked."

Over the week I worked with her on that, asking all the time if the door was locked, why did it need to be locked, etc. She did pretty well by the end of the week. I don't know if she is still doing it, though.

She used to be pretty high strung, before the dementia. Now she is as happy as a clam and nothing phases her. She is like a baby, in that way. Once, we came over in the evening and she was sitting in her usual place; the comfortable chair in the corner, by the TV, with the cat at her feet. She was watching an infomercial about room heaters.

"Grandma?" What are you watching?"
"What am I watching?" she asks, incredulously.
"It is an infomercial. Do you know what that is?"
"Infomercial? No."
"It is big long commercial."
"A commercial!" she laughs and slaps her knee.
"Do you want to buy that thing?" I chuckle.
"Me? Nooooo," she says.
"Then why are you watching it?" I ask.
She shakes her head and gives a toothless grin. "Why am I watching it?"

She enjoys eating. Her favorite is Entenmann's crumb cake. We replenish her stash and the kids get hooked on it. We decide to eat our way through NY, because the kids have never had authentic NY food. We get take out from my favorite childhood burger joint. We get pizza. We go out for Chinese food.

"I can't eat much," she says as we settle in at the table in the Chinese buffet.
She gets a small plate of food and polishes it off immediately.
"Let me get you some more," I offer.
"OK," she says, "Some more chicken...and some egg foo young."
"I'll be right back," I say. Then she calls over her shoulder, "Fried rice!"

One night we had coffee and I put some French vanilla creamer in it for her. My Uncle Tom is a top-notch baker and he had left a chocolate mousse cake, so I cut her a piece. "Uhmmmmm...I love this cake...this is SO delicious. What did you put in the coffee?" She smacks her lips. "Mmmmmm." We should all enjoy our food as much as Grandma does.

The night before we had to leave I have a conversation with Grandma.
"You know we've been here for a whole week, Grandma."
"A whole week," she answers, nodding.
"I am so glad we came, but we have to go home tomorrow."
"Home? But I am so used to you being here now... Stay!" she says, slapping her leg.
I can feel my throat closing as I whisper, "I wish I could, Grandma, but you know I have to get back home so Joe can work and I can take care of the kids."
I go into her kitchen and cry. I wish I could take her home with me and take care of her, but that is an impossibility.

The next day I wake up early, with Grandma on my mind. We were going to breakfast with my childhood friend, Denise, and her family, who patiently put us up in their house for a whole week. I decide to make a quick stop at Grandma's before breakfast and then spend the rest of the time there between breakfast and our departure for the airport. We pull up in front of the house and immediately I sense something amiss. It looks empty and Mary should be there at this time, but there is no car in the driveway. I go up the stairway and knock. While I am waiting I notice a neighbor walking over.

"They took her away in an ambulance just a little while ago."
"But...but she was fine when I left her last night," I stammer.
"Well, I don't think it was very serious, because they didn't have the siren on, but I thought I should come out and tell you." I thank her and then call my Aunt Andrea, who lives in New Jersey and is Grandma's primary care giver. She tells me she is on the way to NY and which hospital Grandma will be in. I find out later my grandmother has been diagnosed with pneumonia. I don't know how she can possibly survive that with one lung.

When we get to the hospital, Aunt Andrea is asking Grandma about the Do Not Resuscitate order. "I know you have one at home, but do you want one for this hospital stay?" Grandma cocks her head to the side and ponders. "Mom, do you understand? Do you want them to revive you if your heart stops?" she asks, with tears in her eyes. "Natural," Grandma answers. "I am ready to meet Jesus."
My Aunt and I both burst into tears. "Why are you crying?" she scolds, "I am ready." She grins, "Hey, what do you expect? I'm 87 years old...I'm pushing 90 here!"

And then it hits me. Scripture says you must become like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven. This is what God has done for my grandmother. What a gift. She is exactly like a child. And she is there with arms wide open, embracing both life and death.

Miraculously, she made it out of the hospital. One day I call her to chat.
"When are you going to come to see me? You live so far away. When do I get to see your kids?" she asks.
"Grandma, I was just there for a week, with Noah and Bella, remember?"
"A week?"
"Yes, remember we had Chinese food and burgers from the Good Steer? You loved the cole slaw. I got you extra cole slaw," I reply, wistfully.
"Burgers? We did?"
"Yes, Grandma; we did. And we had fun." I remind her.
"We had fun," she says decidedly.

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Luke 18:17

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Gimme a Hand

We were eating dinner tonight and all of a sudden I see a black, shiny hand on the table. I look around and everyone's hands seem to be accounted for. "Who's the gorilla?" I ask. Everyone looks at the hand, which begins to tap Noah on the shoulder. Genevieve starts to grin. It is her FOOT, with a black leather glove on it.

Deep in the recesses of my mind, I have a fleeting thought. Something about table manners. But it goes away when I burst out laughing. Everyone joins in. Noah is laughing the hardest, because she is right next to him. "Hey, Genevieve," he giggles, "Snap your fingers!" Then Joe caves and puts a fork in the "hand." She is wiggling it all around. Needless to say, the rest of dinner was far from calm.

But we had fun.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Music to My Ears

Today, after he got home from school, Charlie crashed on his bed and hummed the entire Dance of the Hours, by Ponchielli.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I'd Rather Roast the Chicken

Bella told Joe and I a joke today:

What's the difference between roast chicken and pea soup?
Anybody can roast a chicken!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Woe at Walmart

We were at Walmart for 3 hours. I brought the 4 younger kids with me. I talked the entire time. Here is what I said:

OK, everybody our of the car..lock the doors...I said lock the doors...where is Genevieve?..Genevieve, come here...yes, you can sit in the cart...where is that thing I was returning...darn! it's in the car...back to the car,, we should all go...stay by the, we cannot get Subway for lunch...where are the bandaids...stay close to the cart...don't touch that...Halloween costumes?..well, we can look...(sees a provocative nun costume with a mini-habit)...oh, my! let's not look, after all...yes, the candy looks good...six weeks until Halloween...we don't need candy yet...remember I said you can have a yogurt as a treat...yes, you can get the chocolate kind...don't touch that...don't touch that...OK, let's pull over...what did I say you can touch in the store?..very good...NOTHING...NOTHING means NOTHING, remember...stay close enough to touch the cart...oh, for Pete sakes, I forgot to get the hand soap refill...this way, kids...I said this way...where's Noah?..let's stay together...yes, Genevieve, you can get out of the cart...let's look for paper plates...not are the ones we use...Dad needs a rake?...are you need a rake...a metal rake?..OK, got, you may not hold it...let me put it in the can pick out yogurt the rake...yes, I said chocolate is each...someone is coming, get behind the, you may not have new toothpaste until the old one is running out...let me look over here...where is Genevieve?..get out from behind that clothing rack...I said get out...come over here...OK, I am putting the yogurt, you do not come over here and expect the yogurt...Noah, Bella, go put this back and meet me at the check out...thanks for helping...put the heavy stuff on the rake...Noah, Bella, over here...Noah take the rake...NO TWIRLING THE RAKE...don't put the shampoo on top of the light bulbs...the bread..the bread!..OK that goes on last...thank you for helping load the cart, Bella...let me find my debit card...the rake stays STRAIGHT UP AND DOWN...stay by the cart...hold onto me...I need to get the the rake...the bread goes in the car last...buckle, please...when we get home please help unload...yes, I did put the yogurt back...did you behave?..maybe next time...OK, everyone take a bag...these things go inside the house...come out after you put them in...Noah! Bella! Genevieve! Angelina! I said come back out!...yogurt after lunch...PLEASE wash your hands NOW...yes, with soap...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

He's No Jerry Lewis...

We started school today. All of our books aren't in, but we have the majority of them, so I decided to just start with what we've got. Last night I filled out the white board that we have hanging in our dining room. I wrote a welcome sign, the date and what I've decided is our new school motto. The kids are learning French, so I chose the French equivalent of "no pain, no gain." I wrote "Il faut casser le noyau, pour avoir l'amande." Literally translated, it means, "You have to break the shell to get the almond."

Noah saw it first and asked Joe what it meant. Joe doesn't speak any French, so, of course, he made his answer up, based on what the words looked like to him.

He looks at the words, "Il faut casser le noyau, pour avoir l'amande," and says, "I'll fight Caesar, Noah, until you pour the lemonade." What a wiseguy.

So, this morning I am giving the usual start-of-the-year lecture on how the kids need to try their best, blah, blah, blah, and the kids are all giggling. Of course Noah told them what Joe said. So now our new school motto is: "I'll fight Caesar until you pour the lemonade."

I guess it could be worse. It could be any one of the following:
I'll play video games until my eyes fall out.
I will misbehave until you put me up for adoption.
I will ignore you until you fade away into nothingness, never to return.

So...I guess the new school motto isn't so bad, after all. Thanks, Joe.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Charlie ate 6 donuts today.

We got a dozen Krispy Cremes and each child ate one. Stupidly, we left the box on the table. Now there are 2 left.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

He's Quick!

I went to make chocolate milk recently and when I opened the pantry I found that Charlie had eaten all the rest of the Nesquick out of the container with a spoon, which was still inside the empty container.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Seven Weeks

The new job Joe had just wasn't doing it for our family. It was no one's fault. They couldn't pay him what he had been making and the commissions were taking way too long to come in. I could see his frustration every day when he would get home from work. I prayed. What else could I do? I had cut our budget to the core.

One day he calls me from work to tell me that he was approached by a company, let's call them Company W, to interview for a position. I encourage him to go for it, so Joe starts the interview process. Several days later, he gets a call from Company L, asking him to interview for a job at their company. We can see God's hand in all this, so he goes for both W and L jobs. He has a series of 3 meetings with W and then we wait. In the meantime, he has a phone interview with L and then they call him and ask him to write a proposal of what he would do should he get the job. Perfect timing. The kids and I had planned to go back to IL to visit during the week Joe had to do the writing, so he would have peace and quiet to concentrate on writing.

When we are in IL, I have the chance to visit a wonderful priest; let's call him Fr. Skinny. Fr. Skinny is one of those priests who totally understands that as Christ's representative here on earth, he should minister to more than just the people who show up at his church on Sundays. He tells me to come out and he will do a Mass just for us. Charlie and I make the drive to his church. He just remodeled it and he shows us around. It is absolutely breathtaking. When you walk in, you are definitely aware that you are in the presence of God. We assist at Mass. After Mass Fr. S anoints me with holy oil and prays over me that Joe and I will prosper and be fruitful. "I am your spiritual father," he says, "and I impart upon you my fatherly blessing on your marriage, family and finances." I start to cry because I know that God is working through him and these blessings come straight from heaven. He prays for any healing that may be needed for those on my family tree and then he anoints and blesses Charlie. After all that, we go to lunch. "It's on me!" he proclaims. I protest. "Am I your spiritual father?" he asks. "Yes," I say, reluctantly, because I can see the trick he is using. "Then I bind you to obedience. I'm paying and that is that," he says, with an impish grin.

When we get back to my parent's where we were staying, they get a call that they have a showing the next day. They have been trying to sell their house for quite some time and are feeling rather frustrated. We all clear out the next morning and give the realtor time to do his thing. When we come back the get a call from their agent that the people loved it and will be making an offer. My parents are ecstatic. Quietly I whisper a prayer of thanksgiving. Fr. S's blessings were meant for my whole family, after all. The next day we go look at a townhome my parents have had their eye on. They make an offer and it is accepted. Everyone is happy.

The kids and I head back to IL and a couple of weeks go by with no word from either company on the jobs. Joe calls company L, his preferred choice, and asks them what is up. They get back to him right away and set up a phone interview with one of the owners. I e-mail everyone we know and ask for prayers. The interview went well. We continue to wait.

In the meantime, I ask everyone at church to keep praying. One woman, Terry, who I barely know, approached me each week after Mass to let me know she is still praying. Our pastor even checks in on how things are going. The church secretary, all the Knights and women from the ladies' auxilliary are praying for us as well.

One day, a letter arrives from Company W. Uh oh. Letters aren't good. I call Joe and he tells me to open it and read it to him. It is a rejection letter. Well, he tried his best and that is all I could possibly have asked of him. As I am reading the letter all of a sudden I am infused with peace. In my heart I can hear a voice whispering, "He didn't get this job because I have something so much better in store for you." There it is, my favorite bible verse from Jeremiah 29:11-14, happening right here, right now. God is so good.

We pray, we wait...

One day I get a call from the Ladies' Auxilliary to sub at Bunco. A night out for me? I am SO there! During the day I say my usual prayers for Joe to get a better job. "If he is going to get this job with L, please give me a sign; let me win the big prize at Bunco." Then I feel guilty. Did I just test God? I don't know. So I apologize to Him and go put my lipstick on and flat iron my hair, so the other Bunco women don't run away screaming when I show up.

I thought Bunco started at 6. It was 6:30, so I steal away into the church sanctuary to spend some time with Jesus. I am so tired of praying for the job that I just bask in His presence and remain silent. Then, I go play Bunco. I wound up losing half and winning half the games. I did get 3 Buncos, though. I had no idea if this was good or bad, being a newbie. When it comes time to award the prizes, they ask if anyone has gotten more than 5 Bunco's. Silence. Four? More silence. "Three?" they ask. I put my hand up. "I got three." They all shout, "You are the big winner of the night!" I won $33. But, more than that, I had God's assurance that all would be well.

Joe gets a call from L. They are flying him to L.A., to their corporate headquarters, where he will be expected to do a presentation for 6 of the top honchos. Oh, my... Joe spends hours working on the presentation, perfecting it. Everyone keeps praying. The kids and I are going to daily Mass and offering it up for Joe. Friends of ours in IL have been going to daily Mass at 6:30 a.m. for our intention as well. I feel like the world is storming heaven for us. I pull out the big guns; I ask my grandmother and my Great Aunt Lena to pray as well.**

The big day comes and Joe goes to L.A. The kids and I pray all day. He calls late in the afternoon. "They can't make a decision today. One of the people who was supposed to be at the interview couldn't make it, but they will let me know this week." The waiting is just excruciating...

The next day he gets a call from HR at L. They want to set up a phone interview with the founder of the company. He calls and talks to Joe for about 10 minutes. Joe calls me and tells me he seems like a real nice guy. I almost can't hear him, I am so weary. I pray more and berate myself for not trusting as much as I should. The reading at Mass recently was about how Lot's wife looked back. I feel like Lot's wife. "Just look forward," I remind myself. Joe calls again. They want him to stop by the KC office that afternoon to meet the person who has the job temporarily. "OK," I say, "and then they want you to meet the owner's Aunt Cloris, with the mustache, who has a Yorkshire terrier named after her late husband, Fred. After that you need to meet Keith, the kid who bullied him in the 3rd grade and then Stella, his nanny, who made him eat every vegetable on his plate or no dessert." We both laugh, glad to break the tension for a few seconds.

I had to drive to Kansas that day and there was a detour on the way home that took me right past Company W. "Don't look back," I hear a small voice whisper in my heart. I think of Lot's wife and I resolve to quit worrying. I decide to just pray in thanksgiving for the new job, even though we haven't heard yet.

The next day is a long day. I keep calling Joe. "Anything?" "Not yet," he answers patiently. Finally, that afternoon, he calls and says he got a verbal job offer from company L, contingent upon verifying his past employment. The company pays 100% of all benefits and they have a bonus program. Actually, every small complaint he had about any other company he has ever worked for is non-existent in company L.

That night, we go out to eat (something we haven't done for over a year), on the advice of a good friend. "Kill the fatted calf, baby!" she urges. She is right. This has been such a long and painful journey, full of uncertainty. We have been uprooted from our home, we have suffered financial blows, but God has remedied all of this.

It was seven weeks from the time company L first called to the day they offered Joe the job. 49 days. I think of 40 days in the desert and how Jesus fasted the whole time. This is what my family and I have been through. Only I haven't handled it so well. I need to trust more, which is why God probably keeps putting me in these situations. Someday I will learn that lesson...

At Mass the next Sunday our pastor congratulates Joe on the job. I look for Terry and tell her the good news. She bursts out crying. "Oh, God is so good!" she proclaims.

Yes, He is.

** For those of you who are freaking out at the thought of asking a dead person to pray, here is what I have to say on that: They are not dead! They are alive in Christ and are closer to Him than we are here on earth. For those of you who balk at asking someone to pray rather than going straight to Jesus: do you ask your mother to pray for you? Do you pray for others when they ask you to? Well, you better stop all that, because that is not going directly to God, is it? Look, in the bible Jesus takes the advice of His mother (wedding at Cana, remember?). Why would He give this example for nothing? No one is more powerful than God, but it doesn't hurt to have your friends (in heaven and on earth) asking Him for help, either. Squeaky wheel gets the oil, after all...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

School Is Never Really Out...

We were driving in the car yesterday when I overheard Noah and Bella in the back seat, discussing the Shakespeare plays they have read. They both agreed you should never read Hamlet or MacBeth before you go to sleep because they will give you nightmares. They both think A Midsummer Night's Dream is weird.

Bella: How could one guy write all those plays?

Noah: I don't know. He had a good imagination. But then there is always the Baconian Controversy...

Bella: Huh? Wha...?

Noah: The Baconian Controversy. The theory that it was not William Shakespeare, but Sir Francis Bacon that actually wrote all the works.

Bella: Bacon? Wasn't he a science monk? Oh, wait a minute, that was Roger Bacon.

I was proud of the kids. They held their own mini lit class in the car. AND they retained some of the stuff we discussed during the school year! Wahoo! The dream of every homeschool mom!

Now I'd better go brush up on my Shakespeare...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Ah, the price you pay to Freecycle...

I have been using freecycle a lot since our move. For those of you that aren't familiar, freecycle is an online community where people can give away things for free to others who might want them. You can also post a want ad for something and you may get a response back that someone has the thing you are looking for. I have gotten a couple of things off freecycle, including my nightstand that I faux finished and my beloved elliptical machine, that I use, but not enough. Mostly, though, I give things away.

The people who lived here before us left a corner computer desk in a walk-in closet. I don't want or need the desk. It is in pretty good condition, so I decided to freecycle it. I got about 6 messages from people who wanted the desk. I chose the woman who made a funny comment in her e-mail. I e-mail her back that she can have the desk. She replies that she would like to come today because her husband is off from work and they can load it into their truck together (everyone out here seems to own a truck). Well, I was leaving in a little while to drop Bella off at a birthday party and then do marathon errand running, so I wouldn't be around. I decide that, along with getting 5 children cleaned, fed and ready, I would also dismantle the desk and leave it on the driveway for the freecycle woman. I rummage through a really, really, messy garage (we just moved in) and find what tools I need. Then I remove the hardware. I enlist Noah to help me get it out of the closet. We pick up the desk and hear a cracking sound. Part of the desk came off. Aaaarrggh! I look underneath and see that there is a piece of hardware that I forgot to remove (in my defense it was really hidden). What am I gonna do now?

I go upstairs and e-mail the woman and tell her I am sorry but I broke the desk. She e-mails me back that she would like to come look at it anyway. OK, so I go back down and continue trying to lug the thing out, when I hear another sickening crack. Yep, another chunk came out of the desk. Have I mentioned lately that I am the type of person who could be considered slightly klutzy? Anyway, I go upstairs again and call her on the phone and explain the situation. Miraculously, she says she still wants to come get it. I hang up, tell the kids to make themselves presentable and get in the car. By this time we were running late. I am really hurrying now. I rush into the closet, trip over the remaining part of the desk and gash my leg. Out of my mouth flow some words that, let's say, warrant a trip to the confessional. I get up, drag the thing, limping, through the obstacle course of a garage, and prop it up at the exterior wall. Then I run into the car and back out. As I am backing out I realize there is a piece of the desk I forgot to bring out. It was a small shelf that the younger girls decided to use as a doll table. I shoot back into the driveway, Bella hops out of the car, gets the shelf and dispenses of it, then we go on our way.

By the time we left the house, I looked like I had been through a war. Did I mention the temperature hit 90 today? I was sweating like a pig and my hair felt like it was on fire. I drove like Cruella de Ville to the party and dropped Bella off, got my errands done (barely) and we got home safe and sound.

When we pulled into the driveway the first thing I noticed was that the desk was gone. Hallelujah! I am now one desk lighter...but I had to work for it.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Healthy Trinity

All my life I have struggled with my weight. I have tried lots of different diets and I was always starving on them. Finally, this January, I tried an online fitness program that combines diet and exercise. They had a quiz on there which helps you eat right for your body type. I usually think those things are ridiculous, but, since I had nothing to lose (but weight, of course) I decided to follow the guidelines. I had to cut out wheat and sugar completely. The only fruits I can eat are apples and pears. Yes, there are no bananas for me. Religiously I have stuck to it. Not too easy, as you might imagine. The only bread I can eat is a bread made from lentils and sprouted wheat (yes, sprouted wheat is wheat, but when it sprouts it changes the protein and apparently this is OK.) These guidelines are actually working. I am utterly amazed, especially at the fact that I am not starving all the time. After a lifetime of trying to eat "naturally," it turns out that all those whole wheat foods were the problem to begin with!

I look at this as a lifelong fast and I offer the lack of my special foods (pasta, for one) as a sacrifice. Well, the big, black circles have disappeared from my eyes, I have lost 2 dress sizes and I have more energy. Now I actually have the strength to exercise! I have the strength but where do I find the time? I know I should exercise in the morning when the kids are still in bed, but that is my prayer time.

I prayed for God to find the time for me. One day, at Mass, a thought popped into my head that I should exercise and pray the rosary at the same time. I tried it the next day. Instead of praying it by myself, I turned on my trusty MP3 player with the rosary loaded onto it as soon as the alarm rang. I offered up the beginning and ending prayers for my hubby and each decade for one of my kids (it is very convenient that I have 5 of them). During each decade I did a different type of strength training; crunches, arm work with the weights, etc. (I did the crunches first because you have to be laying down for them and I was tired.) Then, when I was done, I went and took my vitamins. I started taking B6 for the stress and I have increased that to 2 tabs a day. The past few days have been the least stressful of my life.

So, my healthy trinity is prayer, exercise and vitamins.

Now, if I can just find the time to do my cardio...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gimme Your Hugs!

Charlie calls me Cookie Monster. He also calls me Mom, but a lot of time I am Cookie Monster. This morning, I went in his room to wake him up for school and he said, "Cookie Monster, gimme your hugs." So, I went over and gave him a hug. While I am hugging him, he says, "Elmo, Cookie Monster." I think he fancies me Cookie and himself Elmo. I'm OK with that. Elmo and Cookie are buddies. They help eachother learn stuff. Notice that Cookie is the one that gets crazy under stress and is definitely an emotional eater. Elmo is always happy and laughs a lot.

C is for Charlie...that's good enough for me!

Saturday, May 16, 2009


The kids brought in a piece of wood a couple of weeks ago. It was a few inches long and it looked like it was broken off of a log. It had something on it that was hard, white and petrified-looking. Reminded me of a trilobite fossil. It sat on the counter for a few days and then I tried to sneak it into the garbage, but they caught me and strongly expressed their desire to save it. Noah was sure the white thing was some sort of egg sack. I sighed as I stuffed it into a ziploc sandwich bag. There it sat on my counter, keeping us company throughout our daily living, until it became so familiar that I no longer noticed it.

This morning, we were all excited, because the owners of our rental house were moving out, which meant that we could have possession of it. We couldn't wait to go over and figure out what colors to paint the rooms and where to put the furniture. As usual, Angelina was the first one up. Like Mom, she needs her coffee in the morning. She staggered up the stairs, eyes and hair all sleepy. I put my arms out and beckoned for a hug. As she came over to me, her eyes opened wide and her face filled with awe as she pointed behind me and exclaimed, "Oh, Mommy, look! Dad! Look! Look!" We turned around and saw the broken-bit-of-log-in-the-bag. It was filled with tiny, newborn praying mantes (that is the plural of mantis and it is pronounced man-teez; do not argue with me; I looked it up)! And since there was some sturdy plastic between me and the wildlife, I, too, thought it was pretty cool. Angelina went and roused the other kids out of bed. They plod in, one by one, eyes and noses red, hair all askew, to see the wonder on the counter. They marvel at the nature happening in the ziploc bag. As usual, Noah was right.

Then the day began and we had to run errands. Charlie and I had haircut appointments, we had to sign some paperwork for Charlie's attorney and get it notarized and the county was having a program were they were creating ID kits for parents to keep, with fingerprints and dental impressions, etc. So we brought all 5 kids there as well. Busy, busy.

Finally, we get the call that the house is empty. We head over there and the kids immediately go into the backyard to play. It is lovely, with a large playset, and beautiful landscaping. Joe comes out of the house and hold up his hand. In it is the plastic bag. The kids shriek with excitement and go get it. They release the mantes (go ahead, check the dictionary) in an area full of plants and flowers. Joe tells them that the mantes (see, I was right) stay very close to where they hatch, so, this summer, the backyard should be full of them.

We go into the house and bless it with blessed salt and pray in each room for God to cleanse the home and make it spiritually suitable for us to live there. As we are doing this, it occurs to me that those mantes were a gift from Him. It was not a coincidence that they hatched on this day. This day we begin again. God has given us a new life. He took us away from the home we thought we belonged in and placed us in one more beautiful than we could have imagined. Like the mantes. Or the birds of the air. Or the lilies of the field...

Matthew 6:25-33. Read it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Last Day of School Blues

Angelina got a book out of the library with that title. Not in my house. Mom likes the last day of school. It ends with a sigh of relief and a sigh of contentment as well. I love being able to see how much the kids learn over the year and how they grow as people. It is so satisfying when they finally understand something they have struggled with. Our official last day of school should be Friday, God willing...

A friend of mine came over yesterday. The kids planned some entertainment for her. They put on their version of Beowulf and a play they wrote, entitled, Little Red Riding Hood: From the Wolf's Point of View They are very creative! Noah recently said to me, "Mom, I am glad we don't have a TV. If we did, we wouldn't have as much time to read." My kids are voracious readers and have developed a creative streak as a result. They get giddy when we tell them a trip to the library is coming up. Noah and Bella will take out books, read them, then tell Angelina and Genevieve the stories, then they will perform a play of whatever they read. It is a good system for everyone. I think I may have the only 4 year old on earth who not only knows the story of Beowulf, but has played the main character as well.

Charlie enjoys the library, too; for different reasons. The first thing he does when we get there is wash his hands. "Restroom, please!" he says as he bolts toward the door. It took me awhile to realize that he was just washing up. Initially, I thought the atmosphere in the library had some kind of accelerating effect on his bowels. Then he comes out, surrounded by soap bubbles, and heads over to the Children's section. There, he takes out at least a dozen Dr. Seuss books. After that, he goes over to the music and takes out five or six Christmas's always Christmas for Charlie.

We are a reading, geeky kind of family. But, that's OK; we like it that way.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Debut!

Welcome to my new blog! Well, it is the same blog, just a different site. Hey, we are moving too, so why not move the blog as well?

We are coming to the end of the school year. I am pushing to finish so I can unpack without having to school the kids as well. Looks like it will actually happen! We had a good year. Noah learned about decimals and percents and the US government, Bella learned about the Middle Ages and tackled the parts of speech and Angelina and Genevieve learned to read and do some math. And what did I learn? The same lesson I need to be taught every year: To trust that God will give me whatever I need to teach my kids and be a mom.

It is so funny to listen to the kids' conversations. They have come up with their "dumbest thing ever said by a human being." After reading Exodus, they decided that Aaron's answer to Moses' question about the origins of the golden calf takes the cake: "Uh, I don't know...I just put some jewelry in the fire and this calf came out..."

Nothing else is really going on except packing and getting ready to move. Joe is working hard at his new job and we are settling down after a difficult couple of months.

One change I have made is that I am now an affiliate for Sacred Heart Books and Gifts. I have been a customer of theirs for some time and now have decided to join their team. For those of you who don't know about them, they are an online book store catering to homeschoolers and Catholic families. They carry fiction and non-fiction books for preschoolers and beyond; also videos, music and art. Shipping is free on orders over $25. I realize this is a shameless ad, but if you click on the link and order through them whenever you plan to buy a book or gift, you will be helping to support my family.

Well, if you have read this, you have found the new blog. Glad you are here. I'll post again soon...


Entry for April 18, 2009
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 2:21
We have passed through the stark Lenten season and have moved into the joyful Octave of Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday approaches. I find it amazing how often life parallels the season of the Church.
In March, Charlie received the sacrament of confirmation. This is the sacrament that began with the Apostles receiving the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room on Pentecost. We were really excited about this milestone in Charlie’s life. My brother and his family were able to come down here for the event and some good friends of our who live in Smithville celebrated with us as well. My parents were unable to make it because my father had been ill and was forbidden to travel under doctor’s orders. My in-laws were also unable to take the trip, but everyone was there in spirit.
The day before his confirmation, Charlie came up to me and put his forehead against mine and said, “Trust.” He did this several times that day. It was a busy day. I was getting ready to have a party at our house, washing bedding in preparation for my brother’s visit and so I welcomed Charlie’s message as advice to trust God that everything would get done as it needed to Everything did and we were all happy .
The day after my brother and his family left, Joe woke up early and asked to speak to me. He told me that, on Tuesday, the day before Charlie’s confirmation, his company had let go 10% of their staff and he had been a casualty. It took me awhile to process this information. So many things ran through my head. First I thought, how kind of my husband to wait until the visit was over so that I could enjoy Charlie’s special time unmarred by the situation. But my second thought was: How could they do this to us after we moved down here for them? I felt so betrayed. After the shock wore off, the pride set in as I thought of all the people who expressed doubts about whether or not this move would work. What humiliation. Then reality set in. The situation was not good. I know a lot of you are asking, “Why can’t you just go back? You have a house. It should be a no-brainer.” Not that easy. Charlie would not be able to get back into Giant Steps. He would be at the bottom of a waiting list that is hundreds of students long. The school he goes to down here is excellent. We talk, we cry, we plan. We decide to stay. Our housing is an issue, though, because it is corporate owned. We need to leave or pay a very high rent. “How could these bosses, who had been so benevolent, turn on a dime?” I think to myself.
Joe gets right to the task of applying for jobs and making contacts. I offer prayer support and try to figure out how long we can live on what we have and also search for housing. Mostly, I pray. The first order of business is to forgive his ex-bosses. It is Lent, I think, and I am a Christian. I need to forgive right now. Somehow the grace comes and the bitterness goes. At various times it comes creeping back, but mostly I am able to manage the grace that was given me and I even get to the point where I can pray for them. God is good.
It is an emotional roller coaster. I juggle periods of hope with those of complete terror. Two days after Joe breaks the news, there is Eucharistic Adoration at church. I go. I sit in front of Jesus and I cry. I tell Him all of my worries. He listens. “Lord,” I ask, “Don’t you have a way to console me right now? I am really afraid for us. The economy stinks and it could be a very long time before Joe lands a new job.” All of a sudden, my soul is flooded with peace and I hear a voice. Not a real, audible voice, but a voice that speaks inside my heart and says, “I am speaking to you through your son.” Huh? I think, I ponder and then the light bulb comes on. Charlie! Charlie has been telling me to trust!
We tell our pastor and some friends at church about the situation. They all promise to pray. We do not tell our parents. Our fathers are both having health issues right now and we do not want to put undue stress on them. We hope and pray it gets resolved soon so we can tell them when it is over.
The next Sunday friends of ours pay for us to go to the pancake breakfast after Mass. I am so touched by this that I have a meltdown. I literally cannot stop crying. A woman who I barely know comes up to me and tells me that the whole parish is saddened by our news and everyone is praying for us. “We care about all of you,” she says and gives me a hug. I look over at Joe, who is taking to a fellow K of C. The guy is crying. I can’t believe the outpouring of love. I remember that we are all God’s instruments and that this love is really coming from Him, so I run into the sanctuary, kneel in front of the tabernacle and thank Him for showing us His love through others.
I keep praying. I ask God to take care of our every need. I ask him to get us all into the doctor and dentist before the insurance runs out. Miraculously, appointments open up and we all get seen. I ask Him to find a house for us. Coincidentally, I run into our realtor while I was out one day. I tell her what is going on. She vows to find us a house. A tall order. We need a large house at a rent we can afford in case the situation continues for a long time. She e-mails me listings and we go see a few. Nothing pans out.
I have many sleepless nights. All I can do is throw my family on the mercy of God. So much here is beyond our control. Many nights I lie in bed repeating, “God, I believe, I hope and I trust in Your Mercy,” until morning comes.
Joe and I talk some more. We decide to go and get the rest of our stuff from St. Charles. We have a few large things there. We also decide that I should be the one to go because I am really needing some time away. I go out and collect the stuff and my adventurous friend Kerry agrees to make the drive down with me. Her hubby helps load up a truck and we take off to Smithville. It was a good trip. I got to stay with my parents and see another good friend, which was wonderful. It was the first time I had seen my father since his health problems and it was good to see him on the mend. The time off from thinking and worrying was helpful, too. Kerry stayed an extra day to visit before she flew back. While she was here we get a call from the realtor about a house that was on the market, but the owners are willing to lease. We go over and look at it. It is gorgeous., with a great backyard for the kids. Joe likes it, I like it and Kerry also gives it the thumbs up. We begin negotiations with the owners.
Holy Saturday comes. I am joyful. The song “Shout to the Lord” plays over and over in my head. I think of how it is good to be joyful in the midst of tribulations. We are together, we can live for several months without going down in flames and Joe was getting a lot of interviews. We attend the Easter Vigil service, which is about 3 hours long. Noah served. He was the candle bearer, which meant he had to light a small candle from the Easter candle that Father had blessed and pass the light on to the parishioners. The church was dark, except for the candle light, to emphasize the fact that Jesus is the light in the darkness. I thought about how God never changes. He never stops loving us even though we may stop loving or believing in Him. I thought of how Jesus conquered all, even death. My hope was renewed and Easter joy invaded my soul that day.
On Easter morning Joe receives a call from Brett, a former co-worker. “Allelulia! He is risen!” says Brett when Joe picks up the receiver. He proceeds to tell Joe about a job opening at a company where he knows the owner well. Brett recommended Joe for the job and the owner wants Joe to call him the next day.
During the Easter Octave, Joe gets the job offer and we sign a lease for the new house. He starts the new job on Monday and we move in on June 1st.
Life is definitely not what I had envisioned, but it is good. I never thought we’d be long term renters, but it’s looking like that’s the way it is going to be. But we have a place to live. Joe’s new job is base+commission, which is new to us as well. But he has a job. All I can say is...
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 2:21

Entry for February 18, 2009
We are home a lot, because school takes up so much time, but life is not boring. It helps that my kids have wacky senses of humor...
I have a running "to do" list on the white board in our kitchen. Since our homeschool group meets this Friday and we are having a Valentine exchange, I wrote "Make Valentines" on the list. Noah, the prankster, erased some of the letters, so now it says, "Make ale." What a wise guy.
In school, we are reviewing verb tenses with Bella. I had her read me some sentences and tell me whether they were in past, present or future tense. When we were done, there was a doodle in her note book, of a gift with a face on it that looked worried. Above the drawing, Bella wrote "present, tense."

Entry for February 10, 2009
I have always had healthy teeth. I have just one filling and still have all my wisdom teeth. Of course I have a huge space between my front teeth. Not an alluring, Lauren Hutton kind of space; an embarassing, hate-to-smile kind of space. But I digress. Imagine my surpise when I got a toothache. It was a really bad toothache. I was in a tremendous amount of pain and was eyeing the pliers trying to decide whether I should just get it out of my mouth on my own. I felt wimpy. I have had 4 of my children with no epidural, but the tooth I couldn't deal with.
I wound up making an emergency apointment with a dentist. He looks at the tooth. "Well," he says, "we can pull it or do a root canal." "PULL IT!!!" I scream. "Get it out of my mouth!!!" He chuckles. "Well, for a woman of your age, you have very good teeth..." Wait one minute! Did he say, "For woman of your age?!"
After that disturbing statement I could no longer hear what he was saying. Everything was "Blah, blah, blah." I was stuck on the offending phrase. Someone asked me if it was like listening to Charlie Brown's teacher. Yes, it was, but garbled.
When I recovered, he explained that if I pull the tooth it will result in losing the wisdom tooth down the road and he thinks it would be better to do the root canal. So, he patched me up and gave me drugs and sent me on my way.
I went and had the root canal. The endodontist (everyone's a specialist) told me that my root canal would take longer because I have some rare root formation that only occurs once every time Haley's Comet passes (or something like that). I nodded my head and tried not to drool and prayed that this didn't mean he could charge me twice as much. I had already had to agree to indenture two of my children as servants just for the co-pay.
After the root canal healed, I needed to go to a regular dentist for a crown. The hygienist wanted to take a look at it first, so I went in for a visit. When I open my mouth, she remarks, "Wow! Nice teeth! If I didn't know better, I would think I was looking at a 25 year old, just by your teeth." Luckily, her hand was in my mouth, or I would have said, "Just by my butt, you would think I was 87."
So, it all balances out, doesn't it?

Entry for January 19, 2009
OK, so it is MLK Day and the tree is still up. Just haven't had the time to take it down. I am thinking of leaving it up. Noah's birthday is this week. It could be a birthday tree, with LEGOs and Bionicles on it. A few weeks later it would be a Valentine's Day tree with chocolate hearts. After that, it would become a Washington's Birthday tree, with wooden teeth and cherries. Bella's birthday comes next, so we would decorate it with the Schleich animals she loves so much. On Ash Wednesday, we'll burn it.

Entry for December 25, 2008
So, Christmas is Angelina's birthday. I always give the kids a choice of what they want for their birthday meal. Anything (within reason) goes for the birthday kid. This year Angelina chooses Chinese food. The kids were all shocked. On Christmas????? I explain that Angelina can have whatever she cooses and if she wants Chinese food, then that is what she is getting. Secretly, I was hoping she would choose a turkey or a roast of some sort, but I have to keep my word, don't I?
Well, we ordered Chinese for our Christmas/Angelina's birthday dinner and it was great! I didn't have to cook! Everyone liked the food! Wahoo! After dinner, I innocently ask Angelina if she liked her birthday dinner. "Loved it, Mom!" she exclaims, giving me one of her sunny smiles. "Should we get Chinese food every year for your birthday?" I ask. "All right!" she says. So, there it is, a new tradition. Egg rolls, roast pork fried rice, General Tso's Chicken, crab rangoon and a partridge in a pear tree. And NO DISHES!!
For her cake, Angelina wanted a Hershey's Disappearing Cake, a really decadent chocolate cake that I make from scratch. The cake is tempermental, though. It either comes out of the pan perfectly or you have a mess of crumbs. There is never any indication as to what will happen when you tap that cooled cake pan. This time it was a mess of crumbs. Arrgh! I had baked the cake on the 23rd and put the two lumps of crumbs on plates and into the freezer to deal with on the big day.
After dinner, I get to work decorating the cake. I had bought chocolate frosting last week, but Charlie found it and ate it, so I had to go out on Christmas Eve and buy more. I hid it in my underwear drawer so he wouldn't find it. I remove the cakes from the freezer and go get the frosting. I open it up to see that it is open, and half eaten. "CHARLIE!!!" I yell, exasperated. I feel like the guy from the chipmunks who is always yelling for Alvin. That is what my life is like. I must yell, "CHARLIE!!" at least twice a day and at least one of those times involves him eating something he shouldn't (remember the gingerbread?). Sigh... Joe comes running in and I show him the frosting can. He looks panicked. "What do we do?!" he yells. "We make the frosting," I say. By some miracle, I have confectioner's sugar in the house. I never use the stuff, but one day I was compelled to buy it. It must have been a little nudge from my Guardian Angel. I get on and find a simple choclate icing recipe. Joe melts the butter while I gather up the other ingredients. Everything goes into my trusty Mixmaster and we had some good frosting. I did not ask Charlie if he wanted to lick the whisk attachment. That went to my hubby as a reward for helping me make frosting in no time flat.
When I start to frost the cake I realize I had left it out of the freezer and now it was all crumby. It probably has to be the ugliest cake I have ever decorated. The frosting was just full of crumby lumps. I put lots of swirls and flowers and made the letters cover the majority of the cake, but it was still pretty ugly. My little sweetie didn't mind. Angelina wanted red flowers with sprinkles in the middle and she was very happy with what I came up with.
All in all, we had a great Christmas. We woke up early, and went to 9:00 a.m. Mass, where Noah served. He did a great job. After Mass, we stayed and chatted with all our friends. Then we came home and opened gifts, said the Angelus, ate dinner, decorated a birthday cake and had a birthday party. We all went to bed tired and happy.
Before I fall asleep, I mentally visit the little baby in the manger. I tell Him about my day and I thank Him for all the gifts he has given our family. But before I drift off, the last thought on my mind is:
WHAT was Charlie doing in my underwear drawer???


Entry for December 23, 2008
God is Love. We hear it all he time, yet rarely reflect upon this truth.
In 2008, more than any other year, this point has been driven home to us time and again. We left St. Charles with sadness because we had to say goodbye to family and friends we love so much. Yet, we arrived in Smithville to the warm welcome of many new and good friends. We saw much love and generosity in Illinois and we arrived to the same in Missouri. It seems this year was a great tapestry interwoven with love, loss, sadness and joy. Yet all is good.
This Christmas, let us all remember that the Christ Child, who was born in the humblest of circumstances, is Love. He gives love and is the connection of the love between every man, woman and child. No matter what your circumstances, you are rich in blessings if you truly believe in He who is Love.
Look past the presents, the cookies, the wrappings and the decorations, into the quiet stillness of the stable, where a baby lay in a feeding trough. Even in His manger He revealed to us that He is the Bread of Life.
In the humblest of surroundings, the ox and the ass, symbols of pagan gods, now bowed down before Him, revealing that the Christ Child is God become man. Long ago, on a clear, cold night, God came down from Heaven to save us, knowing full well what He would have to endure on our behalf. This, truly is Love. It is a sacrificial love, garnished with humility and truth. This is what we celebrate at Christmas.
May the silence of the stable bring peace to your heart.
Merry Christmas.

Entry for December 16, 2008
It is snowing. We decided to take a half day off from school and bake a gingerbread nativity. The little girls are helping. They want to cut their own cookies. They don't press down hard enough. So, then I have to perform surgery with a paring knife to extract the little sheep and camels from the gingerbread dough, which is getting warm and sticky. I keep having to stop and put the dough into the freezer for a few minutes at a time. I am frustrated. Finally, all the pieces we need are cut out and baked. Whew!
I decide to celebrate by putting on some Christmas music. My back is turned to the cooling cookies. Suddenly, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I whirl around to see Charlie, taking a bite of a cookie. "Nooooooooooo!" I yell and dive across the kitchen. It was Mary. Charlie ate Mary. It couldn't have been a camel or a sheep? ((((sigh))))
Thank goodness I have some leftover dough. I make another Mary and another baby Jesus-- just in case. With the rest of the dough that was too little to roll out and cut anything out, I make 5 small lumps, one for each child. Martha Stewart, I am NOT.
I have no patience for this. I will bake and decorate a cake. I will cook a meal for many people, but no more gingerbread for me. This experience has helped me decide to bake only drop cookies from now on. I'm officially turning in the cookie cutters.

Entry for November 29, 2008
Today we had our first snowfall. Amazing, considering we went outside with no jackets on Thanksgiving. The kids were excited. We let them go outside in the dark. There was just a dusting, but they scooped up enough to make snowballs, which are resting comfortably in our freezer at the moment. Ah, the first snowfall is always special. Noah and Bella collaborated on a poem for the occasion.
Snow Song
First winter's snow, it does not last.
It melts quickly and very fast.
By the time the sun has sung it's song,
The snow has melted and is long gone.

Entry for November 26, 2008
It is about 25 minutes till Thanksgiving and I am still up. I'm tired. I want to sleep, but I cannot. Why, you ask?
Well, Joe went and picked up the "fresh" turkey he ordered from a gourmet market after work. He got home with it at about 8:00. Immediately I opened it up and tried to get the giblets out to make the turkey stock. I couldn't. The legs were frozen together by a chunk of ice. I check the bird. The other side is frozen, too. I knock on it just to make sure. Yep, solid. The breast is thawed, but the wings are frozen to it. I am upset. I need to get at the giblets and I can't, and I am starting to worry that it won't be thawed enough to cook tomorrow. Instead of doing the logical thing (have Joe drive the 20 minutes and return it) I decide I will try to see if it can be thawed first so my hubby won't have to go back out.
I put it in cold water and disconnect the wings from the breast. I notice one wing is broken. Then I chip away the ice in the cavity enough to stick my hand in. No giblets, and it feels frozen in there. So, I have a mutant, half-wing, partially-frozen turkey with missing giblets. I don't want this turkey. I tell Joe. He calls the store to give them the heads up, grabs the bird and heads out.
I am at a standstill. I cannot cook, so I give Genevieve her bath. The phone rings. It is Joe. I answer it saying, "Don't tell me the only turkey they had left had 3 wings." He laughs. He tells me they gave him a new bird, which he checked and made sure that it was, indeed, completely fresh. I am so thankful (it is, after all, Thanksgiving eve). Then he asks me what we should do with the mutant turkey. "They didn't take it back?" I ask, incredulous. "No, do you want me to stick it in the freezer at work?" I sigh. We can't re-freeze a raw, thawed (well, mostly) turkey. I ask Joe if he really, really thinks we should keep it. He thinks we should. I tell him to head straight home, then I go in the kitchen and turn on the oven. The only thing to do is to cook the mutant. I only have one refrigerator and it isn't big enough to hold two turkeys. In my tired, deranged mind, I see a vision of the two raw, naked turkeys wearing holsters and guns. One says to the other, "This fridge ain't big enough for the two of us... Draw!"
I snap back to reality and look for a disposable foil thing big enough to cook a turkey in. Joe walks in at about 10 p.m. and he gets the giblets out for me (a good sign that this one actually has giblets) and I put them in the pot with water for the stock. Then I stick the mutant in the oven. I set the timer for 5 hours. After that I make the stuffing and run the dishwasher.
Now what do I do? Do I stay up and wait for the half-wing to cook? Or, should I sleep? What if I sleep through the timer? Will I awaken to a crispy, Cornish hen-sized bird?
Three hours and 21 minutes to go. However, it is now 12:01 a.m., which makes it Thanksgiving, 2008. Happy Thanksgiving.
Have you put your turkey in yet?

Entry for November 16, 2008
I hate dogs. Not in the sense that I want harm done to them, but I just cannot tolerate animals-- the hair, the smell, etc. Also, I am slightly afraid...
Tonight at about 9:15, I had to go up to church for a few minutes. I pulled out of the driveway, and made the left onto the street and there was a huge husky dog laying down, lounging, in the middle of the street. I move forward. It picks its head up and looks at me. I inch up. It puts its head back down. I gun the engine. It yawns. I gingerly pull the car around the darn thing and continue on my way.
At around 10:00 p.m., I get home and pull into the driveway. The dog is there, waiting for me. I pull up and it moves over, as if to say, "Its OK for you to pull into your own driveway. I'll allow that." Given that I borrowed Joe's car for this quick errand, I don't have the garage door opener doohickey at my disposal (we only have one), so I am stuck sitting in the driveway. The dog comes over and sits next to the door of the car, preventing me from escaping, uh, leaving. I sit and look at the dog. The dog looks back at me. I tap on the window and ask the dog if it is friendly or if it is planning to eat me. All I get from the dog is a deadpan. I sigh. The dog gets up. A glimmer of hope enters my soul. It is bored and it is leaving! I think. No such luck. It walks over to the front door of the house, as if to see if someone is on their way to get me out of the car. Lazily, it walks back and takes up residence next to the car again. I am trapped. I look for my cell phone. Arrgh! I left it home because this was to be a short trip. I am exasperated with myself.
I try to come up with a plan. I decide to beep the horn in the hopes that it will either scare the dog away or one of my family members will hear it and save me. I lean on the horn. The car is located directly under Charlie's bedroom window, and I hear him say, "Beep, beep, be quiet." I laugh at the absurdity of that, then beep again. The dog gets up, but he doesn't go away. He begins to howl like a wolf along with the beeping of the horn. I am in hell, I think. The more I beep the more it howls. "Get away, you demon!" I scream.
Miraculously, a car pulls up at the house diagonally across the street from us. That person gets out of their car and their dog goes bonkers, greeting it's owner. The demon-from-hell's ears perk up. It turns around and checks out the situation. My hopes rise and I put my hand on the door latch. It looks back at me to check and see if I am still there. Guiltily, I remove my hand. Then, I guess it just can't resist and it runs across the street and begins a bark and snarl fest with the dog. Quickly, I open the car door. The dog stops barking and walks back my way. Halfway out of the car, I jump back in. Satisfied, the dog goes back to barking and snarling. I decide that its now or never. I run to the house and fumble for the keys. I am totally freaked and cannot get my hands to work, so I just bang as hard as I can. Joe opens the door. I run in and I am so freaked out that I scream the entire story to him at the top of my lungs. He was at the back of the house and heard nothing.
One of my children begins to cry and believes that the dog will not go away and that they will never be able to go outside and play again. I calm the child and look for Joe. He is outside standing next to a police car. He had called them and they came and got the dog. One of the officers said they knew the dog because it had "priors," but that it was a friendly dog and wouldn't hurt anyone. I have trouble believing him. Even serial killers have to start somewhere...
But at least I have my knight in shining armor to protect me...or at least call the police.


Entry for November 04, 2008
Happy Election Day! I hope all of you voted. I promised myself that this blog would be about family and that I wouldn't go all political. I will keep that promise. But I can indulge in a bit of patriotism.
I do sincerely hope all of you exercised your right to vote. People have suffered and died so that you can have the right to vote. Do not take this lightly.
We live in the greatest country on the face of the earth. I do not say that itn a hegemonic way, but with awe and humility. Think of the founding fathers and all they suffered to get this country going. Some lost their livelihoods, their entire families, even their lives. They had a vision and a dream of unencumbered freedom and they gave all to realize that dream. So, if you are tempted to be apathetic on this of all days, remember those who were there when this all started.
God Bless America!

Entry for October 17, 2008
Today was our 21st wedding anniversary. I spent it making pizza, surrounded by our kids. When Joe got home, we ate and had cake. The kids sang, "Happy Anniversary to you (cha, cha, cha)." We had fun.
Twenty-one years is a long time. Over the years we have learned a lot of lessons from eachother. I learned that men don't have rules. They're just coasting. Joe learned that women have rules-- lots of 'em.
Here's to you, Joe:

Entry for October 08, 2008
One Saturday night, we stayed up late with Noah and Bella and played Lord Of the Rings Trivial Pursuit. Thank goodness Joe and I weren't on the same team or the kids would have killed us. They are good. Each of them has read the trilogy (except, according to Noah, it is not a trilogy; it is a series of six books combined into three; he should know because he has read the appendices) at least five times each and seen the movies as much.
The game ended in a tie, and by the time we called it quits, it was 12:30 a.m. Joe and I were exhausted. Bella and Noah were wired. We agreed they should have a sleepover because the little girls were in dreamland and we didn't want to disturb them by sending Bella down to their room. The kids kept getting up. Noah begins to ask questions across the hall: "Does fire have one syllable or two? Did you know the word orchid comes from a Greek word that means testicle?" ...and on and on. Our response was always the same: "Go to SLEEP!!!"
Finally, the two of them creep in one last time. We read them the riot act. They tiptoe out into the dark hallway. The only light was the blue glow of the printer power light from the kitchen. "What's that?" One of them says. "A light," the other answers, "Oooooo...pretty."
That put Joe and I into hysterics. We were so tired and giddy and we just couldn't stop laughing. This scared the children. They stayed away after that.
Moral: Act crazy and they'll leave you alone.

Entry for October 07, 2008
Today we headed over to Immaculate Conception cathedral in KC. Bishop Finn was saying Mass there and it was to be televised on EWTN. Joe programmed the GPS and we woke up early, got in the car and away we went. As we approached downtown, the GPS lady had me make a right and then I think I either went too right or not enough right, because it was one of those octopus-like intersections and I wound up going out of my way for about 20 minutes. My cell phone rang and it was my friend, Genevieve. "We were right behind you. Why did you make a right???" I shamelessly put all the blame on the GPS. Genevieve talks me over into a place to park and tells me she has saved a pew and she will be standing outside the cathedral so I know where to go in. Didn't I tell you we made some awesome friends here???
I park on the street, feed the parking meter every silver coin in my wallet and off we go. We bump into a couple of nuns on the way and they are giddy with excitement about the Mass. My children say hello and the sisters compliment them on how nice they look. I sheepishly ask if we can follow them to the cathedral, which turns out to be practically in front of us. The nuns are charitable about my ignorance. And there is Genevieve, waiting. She escorts us in and we sit down in the pew. Whew! Made it.
Then panic sets in. I left the GPS on the window, in plain sight. Aaargh! I am not sure if I can find my way back to the car in order to hide the GPS. We decide to send Genevieve's son, Gus, as a guide for Noah, who knows the car and has the keys. They make it there and back in record time. Miraculous.
The cathedral is very crowded and there are lots of Knights of Columbus there in their "regalia" to act as color guard for the Bishop. They wear hats with some feathery stuff on them and, when Bella was about four, she began calling them "sheepheads." The name stuck and now my whole family refers to the K of C color guard as sheepheads. The music starts, the sheepheads walk in and the procession starts. The music is absolutely beautiful. I am turning my mind toward God when Bella tugs on my sleeve. "Mom, I have to go to the bathroom really bad." I hear a small voice say, "Me, too. Really bad." It is her sidekick, Genevieve. Sigh... We wait until the procession is over and dash to the restroom. We come back and enjoy the rest of the Mass. The Bishop gave an awesome talk on our responsibility as Christians to care for others and implore God for help in doing this.
The Mass is almost over, but the next child has to go. I have Bella take Angelina and they make it back just in time for communion. I really wanted to receive from the Bishop, but there was another priest right next to him that no one was going to, so I went to him instead. Bella and Noah received from the Bishop.
After Mass we met Bishop Finn. From his demeanor, he obviously loves being around kids. He was thrilled to see so many children.
I was just contemplating the drive home when Genevieve suggested we go out for lunch. I take her up on it and we head over to Cascone's in the City Market and have burgers or grilled cheese. The kids had fun being with their friends. Genevieve and I talked politics for awhile. It was a good time.
On the way home, my cell phone rings. It's Genevieve. "What road are you on?" "169," I answer. "Oh, good!" she sounds relieved, "We are, too and we just saw a purple van get on 29 and we thought it was you!" HA!
That night, my mother calls. She is watching a rerun of the Mass on EWTN and is looking for us. I put it on my computer, but my broadcast is several second behind hers. She narrates the whole thing for me. Finally, she spots Genevieve, who was sitting at the end of the pew. She is happy. Then she continues to narrate the whole rest of the Mass that I, too, am watching. It comes time for communion and she is looking for us. "I see the Bishop. He is giving out communion. Is that you? No. It's an old lady. Oh! Now they switched to showing candles. Why are they showing candles? Wait. No. It's a statue now. Can't they switch it back?" I patiently listen to the complaining. "Peter!" she yells, "That looks like Bella! I saw Bella receive communion!" "That's not Bella!" I hear my father yell. Then I see Bella on my computer screen receiving communion. I also see my left shoulder going past her to receive communion from the other priest. As soon as Bella receives, they show the choir. I tell my mother that she was right, it was Bella. "Peter!" she yells, "It WAS Bella!" Satisfied that she saw her granddaughter on TV, my mother hangs up.
So, we had a good day. We went to Mass, saw some friends and Bella and Genevieve each had 2 seconds of fame. But most of all, we took time out of the day to lift our minds to God. Mass was a small oasis of peace in the midst of the chaos that (usually) is my life.

Entry for September 21, 2008
At Mass today, we had a visiting priest, Fr. Charles, who was originally from Uganda and lives now in Michigan. Thirty weekends a year he travels to other parishes asking people to sponsor children in need. He gave a great sermon and the kids really wanted to meet him. After Mass, we approached him and I noticed that he had the most joyful smile I had ever seen. It was infectious. He went right over to Charlie and introduced himself. After some prompting, Charlie reciprocated. He explained to Charlie that they shared a name. Then he got really close to me, so close that I could only see his eyes, put his hand on my shoulders and said, "You are truly a mother, because you will always have a baby."
Now, this really struck me, because the way he said it was so sincere. Quickly, the story of the presentation of Jesus in the temple flashed through my mind and I could hear Simeon saying to Mary, "And your own heart will be pierced by a sword." I am sure Simeon didn't say it in some condescending way; full of pity. No, he was merely stating a fact. This is how I took it.
Lots of people say stuff to me about being the mother of a child with a disability. They tell me I'm special. I hate that. "Oh, God knew you were special and that is why He gave you Charlie." Bah. I am no more special than you, or your Uncle Carmine, if you happen to have one. I am a mother, plain and simple. I am raising the children who were entrusted to me by God. That's all. Motherhood is no walk in the park, whether you have one child or seventeen kids. It's all in the attitude. You can whine about it or you can laugh about it. You can embrace it or run away from it. You can throw yourself into it and give it your best shot or spend your life just phoning it in. It is a choice. Most of the time you make that choice moment by moment. Sometimes it is a little of both. There are some days, when things are so wild that I can't even stop for a second. But then, when all is quiet and I am in bed reflecting on my day, I burst out laughing at the sheer nuttiness of it all.
After Mass , Joe and the kids wanted to go for a hike. Now, if you are a regular reader, you know that I hate going outside. But my encounter with Fr. Charles left me in such a joyful mood that I tossed caution to the wind and agreed to go.
We went up near Lake Smithville, to some hiking trails there. Joe was in front and I was in the rear, with the kids in between, except for Genevieve, who held my hand. She told me she needed to hold my hand "Just in case, Mom, because you never know."
As soon as civilization was out of sight, Charlie said, "Use the bathroom, please." Sigh. Thank goodness there were no other hikers in sight. I escorted the rest of the clan a discreet distance ahead, while Joe complied with Charlie's request. The hiking resumed.
Bella brought a small cloth bag in which to collect things. We saw some flowers that we hadn't seen before, so Joe cut one and Bella put it in the bag. In also, went a thorn from a tree that had thorns. There were some mushrooms that Bella thought might be poisoncup mushrooms and she warned me not to touch them. Angelina took a picture and we will try to identify them sometime. Joe pointed out a spot on a tree that ws used by deer for rubbing their antlers. Again, Angelina took a picture. We had to hike across a dry creek bed and the bank was very steep. When Charlie got to the top he turned around and saw me approaching. He came back down, offered me his arm, and assisted me up the bank. I offer up a silent song of praise for this silent, but thoughtful young man.
Noah was diligent about looking for poison ivy. "Remember, Mom, leaves of three, let it be," he reminded me often throughout our journey. He made sure to point out to his sisters all the places that were most likely animal homes. "But don't put your hand in there," he would warn.
At one point, when the trail was easy, Joe came to the back of the line and we held hands for a bit while the kids took the lead. Small rays of light shone through the trees, keeping the temperature comfortable for walking. The forest, with the gentle sounds of wildlife, was peaceful. I must admit that I was actually enjoying the outing. Then a huge hornet started following us and I freaked. A couple of times I thought we lost it, because the loud buzzing stopped. But I realized it was still there; just hovering. Eeeww. That gave me the willies. Eventually it went away, though, and I calmed down.
Deep into the hike, we saw a deer. It stayed so still, that we were able to gaze at it for a long time. Joe and Angelina got some pictures. Then I found some snail shells, which were deposited in the bag. Almost at the end of the hike, the kids spotted a snakeskin. What a prize! After everyone had a turn holding it and feeling it, in the bag it went.
Just when we were starting to tire out, we came to the end of the first trail. We looked at the map and determined that to get back to the car, we had about 0.7 miles to go. Everyone was a good sport and spotting some caterpillars and dead, but intact, cicadas along the way, helped the last part of the hike go quickly.
On the ride home, the children looked over their bag of treasures. They were so happy with the specimens they collected. As I listened to their excited chatter, I thanked God for giving them the gifts of curiousity and love of learning.
Life is a series of moments. In each moment we make an unconscious decision to be happy or wallow in self pity; to take what is given us and deal with it or run away from pain, sorrow or discomfort; to live or merely exist.
One thing I can say for myself is today, I lived.


Entry for September 12, 2008
Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.
My girls love the Strawberry Shortcake characters. I have a vague recollection of these from my childhood, or was that Hello Kitty? Whatever. On our last trip to the library, Genevieve found a book about Strawberry Shortcake. We borrowed it, and I must have read it about 8,637 times. Do you know that all of the charaters are named after foods? There is Blueberry Muffin, Ginger Snap, Angel Cake, Huckleberry get the idea. All of these characters love the foods they are named after.
I wonder what life would be like if we named our kids after the foods they love...
"Anchovy, Garlic, Sundried Tomato Sandwich! Get off the computer! It's time to eat!"
"No, you cannot spend the day in bed reading, Salami and Mayo on Italian Bread."
"Black Olive Pizza, finish your spelling."
"BBQ Chicken Wings, it's time for your reading lesson."
"Maple and Brown Sugar Oatmeal, put your crayons away."

Entry for August 31, 2008
I grew up in NY, which, in my opinion, has some of the best pizza in the world. My grandmother used to make pizza. Not the perfect, round, pizza you see on TV. It was sort of misshapen and really rustic looking, but, oh boy, was it good! There is nothing like a good, home made pizza, especially when it is made with love.
When we moved to Illinois from NY, I hadn't expected that, along with the regular culture-shock, there would be a pizza culture-shock as well. In NY, when I ordered pizza, this is what I would do:
Dial up the pizza place (often called a pizza parlor ).
ME:"Hello, I would like a large pie, half pepperoni."
THEN:"OK, what's your phone number?
THEM:"'Bout 20 minutes."
Short, sweet and to the point. Not in Illinois. The first time I ordered pizza there I had no idea who to call, so I open the phone book and find a place called, "Rosati's." Sounds good. I dial the phone.
ME:"I'd like a large pie, please."
THEM:"I'm sorry, we only serve pizza here. Click."
I stand there, phone in hand, incredulous. Pie? Do they not understand that a pizza is a pie? It is round. You cut it in wedges. It is a pie. I compose myself and try again.
ME:"I'd like to order a large pizza, please."
THEM:"Thin crust, stuffed crust, deep dish or hand-tossed?"
ME:"Huh? I would just like a pizza."
THEM:"We can't just make a pizza. You have to tell us what kind of crust."
ME: (confused) "Oh, OK, well, which kind would be most like the pizza in New York?"
THEM: (getting anoyed) "I don't know..maybe hand-tossed."
ME:"OK, then, I would like a large hand-tossed pizza, half pepperoni."
THEM: "What do you want on the other half?"
ME: (fighting the culture clash) "Uh...nothing?"
THEM: (exasperated) "Look, I think what you want is a large hand-tossed, half pepperoni, half cheese."
ME: "But don't all of them have...Yes! That will do it!"
So, while I am waiting for the pizza to be delivered I am meditating on the fact that I have to say "half-cheese" when it should be a given that all pizzas have cheese on the whole thing. Would I order a pizza that had one half intact and the other half with, say, just sauce? However, the culture shock is not over. When the pizza comes, it smells good. Joe and I open the box and peer in. We stand there, staring, confused. This round pizza is cut into squares!!! We had never seen this before! "What is this a joke?!" I yell. This is supposed to be a pizza pie cut into wedges and the crust is supposed to act like a handle when you hold it. Or do they use some other method of eating pizza out here, like using chopsticks?
Well, life went on and we became used to ordering pizza in Illinois. We learned to say "half cheese," although that still makes no sense to us. We learned to ask for the pizza to be cut into a pie. We found that the local grocery store had $5 one-topping large pizzas on Friday. For a large family like ours, this is about as close to eating out as we get, so Fridays became pizza night.
After we moved to Missouri, we wanted to keep the tradition of Friday pizza nights. We tried Pizza Hut Pizza Mia, but we just don't like it. The crust is too sweet and there is barely any cheese. The only other place to get pizza within a 25 mile radius is a place called The Pizza Shoppe. I get on their website. They have goofy sizes for their pizza: Prince, Queen and King. I assume the Queen is large, so I order two and prepare some salad and crudite to go with it. We are being cautious because we don't know if we'll like them and don't want to waste food if we don't. Joe goes to pick up the pizza. He calls me on the way home. "Do we have any frozen pizzas in the freezer?" "Yes, a few," I answer. "Cook them all." Not a good sign.
Joe gets home and puts the pizza boxes on the table. We begin to say our prayers and I burst out laughing. Everyone stares, because they know I wouldn't tolerate this from someone else. But I can't help it. "It's like Christmas at the Cratchit's!" I giggle. "I have never seen smaller pizza boxes in my life!" Everyone laughs. It is true. We have a large, 9' X 4' table, and it looks like there are two match boxes on it. We thank God for our food and for a good laugh and we eat store bought and frozen pizza for dinner.
That incident put me at the pizza crossroads. I had a decision to make. Do we cancel pizza Frdiay? If not, where do we get the pizza? I get some inspiration from above, in a voice that sounds curiously like my grandmother's. "So, you can't get good pizza. Make the pizza!"
I get online. I look for a pizza dough recipe. I think to myself that if I am going to go as far as making pizza for a family of seven, I may as well just go nuts and make healthy, whole wheat pizza dough. So, here we are, in Missouri, with our Friday night pizza nights. The first home made pizza Friday was a flop, in my opinion. The kids all said they liked it. I think they were being kind. Each week it gets better and better. This week, I must say, it was delicious. I made three pizzas: pepperoni (we have graduated to a whole pepperoni pie), cheese and a garlic-basil pizza that everyone loved. When the kids and I am in the kitchen, making pizza, and I'm wearing my apron (which looks a lot like the snap-front one my grandmother wore), I give a silent salut to her. My grandmother, Angelina Abbate, in Heaven almost two years now, has been a quiet inspiration to me throughout my life. And here she is again, watching over us on Friday pizza nights. Grazie, Grandma.

Entry for August 29, 2008
I realize it has been over three weeks since I have checked in, but there is a reason for that: we've been sick. We all went down like dominoes. First Charlie, then Noah, Bella, Genevieve, Angelina and Joe. I was last and, of course, worst.
It was a horrific virus that starts out with a sore throat, stomachache and fever. Sounds like strep, you say? Right. We all got swabbed. No strep. Just the horrific virus.
My bout with the germ lasted 9 days. Now I feel all weak and I am still not myself. I spent about 7 of the days in bed. Thank God for good husbands who work from home and keep things under control while their wives are writhing in pain and alternately freezing and sweating in bed. The sore throat was the worst. Nothing helped. I tried ibuprofen. I tried acetominaphin. I tried alternating these two drugs every three hours. Nothing. It was like someone was rubbing a cheese grater up and down my throat. The doc prescribed Lidocaine for the throat pain. If you have never heard of this, it looks and smells just like hand sanitizing gel. Seriously. I was supposed to gargle with the stuff. Instead, I was struggling not to vomit. I spit it out and consult the container. What on earth is in this stuff, I wonder? It lists a bunch of long ingredients and then it says: flavoring. Flavoring???? What flavor-- rubbing alchohol? Couldn't they have chosen cherry?
My throat is on fire, so I decide to try again. This time I put it on a Q-tip and rub it on the back of my throat. The sounds that come out of me cause Joe to sprint down the hall and appear in the bedroom. "Was that you? Are you OK? Are you sick to your stomach now?" "No, just rubbing Lidocaine on my tonsils with a Q-tip." A fleeting look of confusion crosses his face. "But you're OK?" "OK for now," I answer. The Lidocaine rub does not take the pain away, but it does take the edge off, so I don't yelp everytime I swallow. In my foggy fever brain I have a vague recollection of bringing the children ice water to sip constantly, to numb their throats. The ice water and Lidocain Q-tips work enough so that I can get to sleep.
Around day 6 my nose becomes congested. Nothing helps. I blow and blow and blow and it doesn't help at all. However, with all the blowing, I wound up pulling a groin muscle. So now I have chills, sweats, cheese-grater throat, nose congestion and groin pain. At this point I thank God for the concept of redemptive suffering. I offer it all up, swab my tonsils, pop an ibuprofen, take some Benadryl and pass out.
On day seven I no longer felt feverish. I was able to get up and walk around for short periods of time, but then I would get dizzy. Same thing on day eight. Finally on day nine the sore throat subsides. Just in time, too, because Joe has to go to St. Louis for two days. On his first day gone I take the kids on a field trip, about 40 minutes away, to learn about service dogs and how they are trained. I drove the 40 minutes, sat for the presentation, took everyone to the bathroom and drove home. By the time we got to Smithville I was dizzy and nauseas. It took me two hours to recover. I feel like I am 87 years old.
Funny, when I am well, I often think how nice it would be to just spend a day in bed, doing nothing. I just got a week of that and hated every minute of it. That old saying is true:"Be careful what you wish for."

Entry for August 05, 2008
Charlie came home today with a paper from school that required him to copy sentences and fill in some blanks.
The first line had him fill in: Cookies smell ______.
Charlie filled in good. Cookies smell good.
Then next line was: Fritos smell like _________.
This is what Charlie wrote: Fritos smell like feet.


Entry for July 18, 2008
The slug either made it's way to freedom or is now a dried out, crispy corpse somewhere in my house. Frankly, I don't want to know...
So, Charlie has half-days of school in the summer, so he's been hanging out with us more during the day. He is such a character. The weather has been rainy and the lack of pressure in the atmosphere really affects him. He needs that pressure and will try to get it any way he can. He's been asking a lot for hugs ("Gimme your hugs.") and bopping around like Tigger. He's really big and I am afraid he will be jumping and all of a sudden disappear right through the floor. He spends lots of time in his room drawing, which is his favorite past time. When I go in there to check on him, he will ususally say, "I'll be right back," which means he wants me to say that, and take a hike.
Noises affect Charlie. Most of the time he wears sound-reducing headphones to Mass, because the music can be too loud, or the pitch may bother him. He will usually say, "It's too loud," when a noise bothers him. It is good that he has learned these coping skills.
Several years ago, whenever Charlie would walk past me, I would see a glint of something shiny white. Frankly, I thought I was having a seizure or something. It was just a split-second flash and then it would go away. By some divine inspiration, I got closer to Charlie and looked in his ears. At the time, looking in his ears was a problem, because he was much more sensitive than he is now. He would either fight you or collapse in laughter and roll around so you couldn't keep him still long enough to look. By some miracle, I was able to keep him still just enough to peer in. PAPER??? There is rolled up white paper, stuffed way in his ear. And, yes, it was in the other side, too. {{{sigh}}}
I call the pediatrician and make an appointment. I tell the nurse to warn Dr. Murphy that he will be dealing with Charlie's ears. The poor man. I explain the situation to Joe and send him to the appointment, because he is stronger and can deal with Charlie's physical antics better than me.
It is hours before they return home. "What took so long?" I ask. "Dr. Murphy couldn't get the paper out, so he called a friend who is an ENT and asked him to do it. The guy said to go over there right away and we did. He got the paper out of his ear. There was a lot of paper."
My heart skips a beat. "Ear? Did you say, "He got the paper out of his ear?"
"Yep. All gone."
"Joe? The paper was in both ears."
I will not tell you what Joe said next. I will tell you, however, that Joe was able to remove the rest of the paper himself, with a tweezer. Charlie was miraculously cooperative. I guess he was all struggled out by that time.
Life with Charlie: very unpredicable, but never boring.

Entry for July 12, 2008
There is a slug loose in my house. A 3-inch long, fat, slimy banana slug.
The Backyard Naturalists Club was busy last night. They were out scouring the property for wildlife. Bella cought a toad, dubbed "Mr. Toad" or "Toadie" for short. Angelina found the slug. They put the toad in a large glass vase with some vegetation, sticks and a bit of water. Angelina made a home for the slug in a clean, empty jar. She added a rock, a bit of water and some sticks. We were discussing their finds and Angelina burst out crying. "The kids got a toad and all I got was a slimy slug!" she wailed. The other kids quickly agreed that both creatures belonged to everyone. Angelina was happy.
Before bed, we needed to find a way to give the animals air and secure them in their homes. Poking holes in the metal jar lid seemed too involved, so we wrapped some Glad Press 'N' Seal securely over the containers and poked holes.
This morning, Mr. Toad was there, in his little habitat, ready to greet the kids. The slug was gone. He had made a break for it overnight. All the kids made a collective yucky noise when they realized he was loose in the house somewhere. After a careful search, we turned up nothing.
So now the big, fat, slimy slug is somewhere in this house, slithering around. Only he knows where he is. Given my luck, I will be the one to find him. And I won't just stumble across him and cheerfully say, "Kids! I found the slug!"
No. You know it will be gross. Stay tuned...

Entry for July 06, 2008
It was hot today. Not just hot, but hot. A steamy, slap-you-in-the-face kind of hot. After Mass, on the way home, in the car, Charlie said, "Too hot. Go home, takin' a shower." So he took a second shower. Later, he went outside and emptied the plastic tub that we keep the outdoor toys in. He filled it with water and sat right down! He was happy as a clam, sitting in the tub with all his clothes on. It was so hot that steam was coming off his body. Then, he took the hose and doused himself. After that, he came in and took another shower.
After dinner, Joe treated the kids to a trip to the beach. I stayed behind and did the kids' jobs for them (aren't I a great mom???). They played in the sand, swam and got to pet some carp. They also spotted a hawk in a tree.
When they got home, Charlie took a shower. Then the kids had Jello, said the rosary and went to bed.
Charlie was wrinkled like a prune. But, he was happy. And clean. It was a four shower day.

Entry for June 28, 2008
There is nothing really going on. It is summer. The kids have been outside a lot. I've been rearranging things in the house to suit us better and washing a lot of sheets (because 4-year-olds don't wear pull-ups to bed). We are just coasting along. But I am aware that some of you check the blog regularly and have been disappointed in the lack of a post. Since nothing hilarious or horrendous has happened lately, to keep you entertained, I will now tell you what is known in my family as The Dead Girl Story. However, I will preface this by saying that this story happened before I turned 40 and my eyesight was good. Now that it has begun to go, I no longer find it as funny. Here goes...
When we lived in Illinois, my parents lived diagonally across the street from us. They could see the front of my house from their front porch or from some of their upstairs windows. Early one spring morning, after I had put Charlie on the bus, I get a phone call from my mother.
She talks in a conspiratorial whisper, "AnnMarie, have you looked out on your front porch lately?"
"No," I answer, "Not since I put Charlie on the bus and put out some bags for Amvets."
"There's someone sitting on your porch."
"Huh? Are you sure?" I ask, incredulously. "Maybe it's the Amvets guy sitting for a minute between stops?"
"No, your father and I have been watching for 20 minutes now. It's a girl. AND SHE"S DEAD!!!!!!!!! Go out and look on the porch. There's a dead girl on your porch. She hasn't moved since we first saw her."
"Mom?" The hair stands up on the back of my neck. "You're saying there is a dead girl on my porch. I don't want to look now."
"Go look," she prods, "I'll hold on."
Reluctantly I put the phone down and go peek out of one of the small windows in the front door. I try to look without really looking because now I am scared. No dead girl. All I see are the 3 bags I put out for Amvets. I go in the kitchen where I left the phone.
"I don't see any dead girl, Mom."
"You didn't open the door and stick your head out, did you? You have to stick your head out. She's sitting on the stairs. AND SHE"S DEAD!!!!!! She STILL hasn't moved!!!" I hear my father in the background say, "I'm going over there!" "Don't do anything! Your father's coming over!" my mother yells.
What am I gonna do?
Then, in a moment of perfect clarity that never again will be attained by me, I ask my mother, "What does the dead girl look like?"
I can hear my father shut the front door to come over. "Well, she has light brown hair and she is wearing a white shirt and blue pants. AND SHE'S DEAD!!!"
Composing myself, I ask, "Could it possibly be the brown paper bag, the white shopping bag and the blue shopping bag THAT I PUT OUT FOR AMVETS????????"
"Hold on. PETE! PETER! It's NOT a dead girl! It's bags!"

Entry for June 16, 2008

Genevieve's 4th birthday. What an event. It was just us family to celebrate, so we tried to make it special. She wanted Chinese food, so we had Chinese food. After discussing the cake for several weeks, we decided on a strawberry shortcake decorated with a Strawberry Shortcake decoration.
All day she would be playing, then stop for a moment and say, "I'm so happyyyyyyyyyyyy!" Once, she came up to me and said, "Mom, I need to go to the bathroom, and I need help." I reminded her that she was 4 now and she promised to go by herself. "Oh, yeah," she says, and happily skips away.
When present time came, each time she pulled something out of a gift bag, she would say, "Cool!" Except she would pronounce it "Coowal!" (Yeah, she has parents who grew up in the '80s.) She got the Tic Tacs, gum and gummy worms she was pining for, and also a bunch of other stuff. She opened up the tea set from her grandparents early and played with it the whole day. Later she opened lots of crafts and art supplies (courtesy of another set of grandparents), some new, fashionable outfits and computer games and a Disney Princess hippity hop ball. She bounced around on that like Ricochet Rabbit. After a scare, we had to make a rule that it stays downstairs.
Genevieve is looking forward to eating candy, chewing gum, having teas, blowing bubbles, creating with play dough and Moon Sand, drawing, cutting, pasting, playing phonics games on the computer and hopping around. What more could a 4 year old ask for?