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?


Entry for June 14, 2008
We were saying the rosary tonight, like we do every night. The rosary consists of 5 sets of prayers (decades) and during each set of prayers, you meditate on some event from Christ's life, through the eyes of His Mother, Mary. Tonight we were saying the Glorious Mysteries and Genevieve likes to be the one to announce them.
"The first Glorious Mystery is The Resurrection...of the body!!!"
I don't know where that came from, but we pray. After the first mystery we have to stop and remind some of the kids to pray reverently and actually say the prayers instead of sitting there with there mouths open, staring off into space.
"The second Glorious Mystery is The Ascension...of the body!!!"
We all meditate on Jesus' ascension to Heaven. After we are done, two of the kids need to go to the bathroom. We wait. We say the third mystery. During the third mystery, Charlie says, "One hour!" We all chuckle a bit. When we are done, Joe says, "Yes, Charlie, it does seem like the rosary is taking an hour tonight."
"The fourf (this is how she pronounces it) Glorious Mystery is The Assumption of Mary...of the body!!!"
When it comes to the fifth mystery, we all say, "The fifth Glorious Mystery is the Coronation of Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth." Then Noah says, "Of the body!!!" We all laugh.
The rosary is supposed to be a spiritual bouquet that you offer to God. Each prayer is another beautiful flower in the bouquet. In our case, we have the chuckle patch from the old TV show The Magic Garden.**
**If you don't remember this show, check out this link:

Entry for June 10, 2008
I took Charlie to the doctor yesterday because he was complaining of a sore throat. They decided to do a culture and while we were waiting for the results he told me he had to use the bathroom ("Use the bathroom, please."). So, I find the bathroom and he goes in. I stand outside and wait a minute, then poke my head in. He is washing up. "Don't forget to flush," I remind him, then close the door. I hear the flush and the water goes on again. I wait a bit, then poke my head in. "Why don't you dry off now?" I suggest. He takes the paper towels and dries his face, then his arms, then back and...legs? I burst out laughing. If anything, Charlie is definitely clean! And he doesn't have strep! Hooray!
Charlie does the same thing with the holy water at church. He will scoop some up, the rub his whole face, then hair, then pull up his shirt and rub his back, but he hasn't gone so far as to douse his legs, probably because we stop him before that. We get stares, but who cares? The kid is holy!

Entry for June 09, 2008
My birthday was Friday. I will not tell you how old I am, but ask any one of my children and they will be happy to. They remind me every day of my deteriorating age. For my birthday this year I wanted longer arms, so I could see. Didn't get them. I guess it is time to break down and get the reading glasses, hmmm?
This was a great birthday. As a pre-birthday gift, Joe got home early on Thursday night and told me to go shopping by myself at Zona Rosa. I took him up on it and got some new clothes.
First thing Friday morning I got a call from a friend of mine, who informed me that she attended 6:30 a.m. Mass and offered it up for me.** She also sang me Happy Birthday, a capella. After the pleasant phone call, we had the requisite tantrum over a pair of shoes. But we were able to get out the door to 9:00 Mass before it was over. It was First Friday, so Fr. Greg exposed the Blessed Sacrament and we all said the rosary in front of Jesus. To me, this was a huge added birthday bonus. After Mass, we headed over to my friend Suzanna's house. She had planned a small gathering of homeschooling families from our parish so that we could meet them. Very like Suzanna-- she is extremely thoughtful. She did this without knowing it was my birthday. We all had a really nice time and stayed way too long. It was an excellent way to spend a birthday morning!
In the afternoon a couple of eager helpers assisted me in making my birthday cake. We made a lemon bundt cake with lemon frosting and decorated it with whole strawberries. Charlie made brownies while we did the cake.
When Joe got home we left for Olive Garden. When the kids asked where we were going, he told them Chez Poisson, but they weren't falling for that again! It was crowded when we got there and a look of alarm came across the maitre d's face when I told him we were a party of seven. But, in about 2 minutes we were seated at a quiet, out-of-the-way table. Bella gives me 2 gift bags, one with 2 new pairs of earrings that the girls had picked out by themselves and one with a brand new prayer journal. Perfect gifts for me! During dinner, the kids were very well-behaved and, except for the 6 trips to the bathroom, we had a nice time. The kids told the waitress it was my birthday. "21?" she asks. "Twice," I tell her. Before we left she brought over several waitstaff to sing me a birthday song. My family thinks it is hysterical. I thank her for the public humiliation and she says I am very welcome.
We get home and rest for awhile because we have gorged ourselves on salad and breadsticks. Then we have cake and brownies and head off to bed. It may not have been the most glamorous birthday, but for a homeschooling mom of five, it was just perfect.
**For those of you who have no idea what this means, it is the Catholic way of saying, "I prayed for you."

Entry for June 04, 2008
Charlie has a new laugh. He sounds just like Tim Hulce in the movie Amadeus. All I need to do is get him a white wig and we can take the show on the road. Too bad he can't play piano...
Check it out:

Entry for May 29, 2008
I will not go into how this happened, but several crayons ended up in the dryer. There was a load of laundry in there, too. It was a color load, but now it is REALLY a color load. Not in a good way.
On the internet it tells you to use either Goo Gone or WD-40. I call Joe at work and ask him to bring these things home. I will not describe to you the hysterical, screaming, crying way I asked. After work, Joe shows up with WD-40; the store didn't have Goo Gone. I had to go shopping anyway, so I take the long trip to Walmart and buy the Goo Gone. I also go to the grocery store as well, and buy lots and lots of groceries-- hey, I'm not in town that often-- I have to take advantage. When I get home, Joe and the kids unload the car while I unpack. Then I go into the laundry room to start the hard work. I open the dryer. It is all clean. Joe took care of it when I was out. Yippee! I get the pile of laundry that has crayon-induced stains all over it and look for the Goo Gone. I cannot find the Goo Gone. "Did anyone see the Goo Gone?" I ask. No one has seen it. I sigh deeply. Then I begin to mutter under my breath. I will not tell you what I muttered. I look all over. It's nowhere to be found. I call Walmart. They don't see it at the register, but they tell me to come in tomorrow and get another one. I thank them politely, but I am thinking that I wish I just had the stuff instead of having to drive 9 exits on the highway back there to get something I already bought. Sigh...
I go back in the laundry room. The WD-40 is there. I use it on all the clothes, let them sit and then rub all the spots with dishwashing detergent (this is what it said to do online, who am I to question?). Then I set the washer to the pre-soak cycle. Before it drains I set it again. While I wait, I begin to straighten up the laundry room. Better get this WD-40 put away before we have another laundry accident, I think to myself. I open the cabinet and what do my incredulous eyes behold??? The GOO GONE!!! It is in the cabinet along with a couple other things that I bought earlier. I make a noise that sounds a little like this: "Praarrrf!!!" Then I pick up the Goo Gone and hold it in my hand and stare at it while trying desperately to remember when it was that I put it away. I have no recollection whatsoever.
So, here I am blogging, while the laundry soaks. Hope it works. Joe's summer work pants were in there, along with Bella's favorite jeans. Well, if the WD-40 fails, I can always use the Goo Gone.


Entry for May 26, 2008
I was so tired after yesterday that I had trouble sleeping.
In the morning we went to Mass. Charlie was extremely giggly and Joe had to take him out. Then, as we were going up for communion, Genevieve had a meltdown and had to dragged, uh, taken out. After Mass, I looked for a woman named Genevieve that I "met" through the homeschool Yahoo Group. In the parking lot I see a woman who fits her description. "Genevieve?" I ask. "Yes! AnnMarie?" We have officially met face-to-face. She says she would like Angelina to meet her daughter of the same age. At the same time, Charlie declares a need to wash his hands and bolts back into church, where a pancake breakfast is taking place, so there are lots of people in there. I tell Bella to follow him and I have Angelina with me, right behind. On the way in, Angelina screams. I look down at her and see blood gushing out of her foot. "My scab!" she yells. She had fallen on concrete several days earlier and had a scab on the top of her foot. It somehow ripped completely off on the way in. I marvel at the volume of blood. We race to the bathroom. I see Charlie coming out and quickly tell Bella to walk him to the car and tell Joe what's going on. Then, I take Angelina into the bathroom and try to stop the flow of blood (did I mention she was wearing her white dress shoes?). I wet some paper towels and sop up what is there, but more keeps coming. I scoop her up into my arms because she is hysterical, and try to hold the papaer towel on, but it isn't working. I decide that, since we live 3 minutes from church, we'd better just get home.
We leave the bathroom and Genevieve comes over and asks how she can help. I tell her that I think it is best we leave. An usher, Vince, comes over. "What happened? he asks, a look of alarm on his face. "A scab got ripped off," I answer, "We are going home to fix her up." The shoe is dangling now, and blood is pooling inside the shoe. "Is that all that happened?" Vince asks, still alarmed. A woman comes running over with a first aid kit and begins to dress Angelina's wound. Genevieve formally introduces me to Vince and he smirks and says, "Yeah, I have seen you and your family at Mass." And heard us, no doubt.
The lady, who I don't remember actually meeting, gets Angelina all wrapped up. Genevieve's daughter comes over and we try to get the girls to talk to distract Angelina. She's having none of it. I apologize and promise we will get together another time, under better conditions. Then we leave and, on the way out, I thought I heard a collective sigh of relief coming from the church hall.
When we get home, I spray Angelina's shoe with some cheapo oxygen cleaner and it works like a charm. Great-- something positive!!!
Then we eat lunch and leave to meet some friends in the church parking lot and follow them to Kauffman Staduim for the Family Rosary Crusade. We get there, surprisingly, with no problem. After we arrive, we lose Noah. We spend time looking for him. We are freaked out. We find him sitting with the friends we came with. It's one of those "I don't know whether to hug you or punish you" moments. Our friends found seats that were in the shade, which was great because it was 90 degrees and very sunny. There was about 45 minutes of praise and worship music, which everyone enjoyed. Then the Bishop came out and gave a talk. Then we said the rosary. They had each prayer represented by a country and the prayer was said in the language of the country. It was pretty awesome to hear the same prayers in all those different languages. But I actually didn't hear all of the prayers, because we had to make 4 trips to the bathroom. Then I had to reprimand a couple of the kids for not behaving reverantly during prayer. I imagined an entire stadium of 25,000 people praying peacefully and there were 7 seats where there was chaos...
Anyway, we prayed for peace in the world and in out families and the Bishop did Benediction and blessed the crowd with the Most Blessed Sacrament**. It was amazing to be at an event like this and we felt very blessed to be able to be there.
After we left, we headed toward a buffet restaurant that Joe and I decided we would go to for dinner. We thought we would surprise the kids. They ask where we are going. Joe tells them to Chez Poisson a fancy French restaurant that serves only fish soup. They all moan and complain. He tells them it took him 3 months to get reservations, mostly because he doesn't speak French. More moaning and complaining. He asks if he mentioned their specialty, a warm salad? "Bleccch!" they all yell. They start lobbying for the buffet restaurant. Joe protests. When we pull into the parking lot Noah asks, "Dad, were you joking?"
We go in and eat and thoroughly enjoy ourselves. It was a good time. Much better than that stuffy Chez Poisson ever could have been ;) So, we had blood, we got lost, we achieved an intimate relationship with a public bathroom, but the day ended well.
**For those of you who are not Catholic and have no idea what I might be talking about, please refer to the New Testament, Gospel of John, Chapter 6. Catholics interpret it literally.

Entry for May 24, 2008
Genevieve's birthday is coming up. She will be 4 in June and she is already plotting and planning for the big event. First came some royal proclamations:
"When I am 4 I will not need help going to the bathroom."
"When I am 4 I will not wear pull-ups at night."
"When I am 4 I will not scream when I get my hair washed."
Big, big plans. She has an ongoing list of presents she wants: a pack of gum ("My own pack of gum."), a box of tic tacs and some gummy worms. She also wants "big scooter." She has a scooter already-- she's not getting another one and has been informed of this.
Then, there's the cake. "I want a lot of cream!" she tells me, shaking with excitement. "And strawberries! Can it be with cream and strawberries? A lot of them?" Yes, I tell her, I can make a strawberry shortcake for her birthday. "Strawberry Shortcake? You will make me a Strawberry Shortcake cake for my birthday? But I wanted Hannah Montana. How about half Strawberry Shortcake and half Hannah Montana?"
Sigh. And I thought I was getting off easy with the gum and candy...

Entry for May 16, 2008
A well-meaning friend sent me an e-mail about the brown recluse spider. Our computer is in the kitchen, right out in the open, and the kids came in the back door just as I was opening the e-mail. Right there in front of us, were disturbing pictures of spider bites. I closed the e-mail quickly, but the kids saw some of the pictures and all kinds of questions get thrown at me. I Google the spider. Turns out the spider is prevalent in Missouri (oh, great). It rarely bites humans, but when it does, if it is not treated quickly enough, the flesh around the bite can rot (oh, really great). I don't let the kids know. I explain to the kids that we need not worry too much about spiders, but just be careful not to play with them or pick them up without asking an adult first. We find a good picture and description of the spider and save it in favorites, so we have a quick way of identifying it. Noah was very interested that it has six eyes and a violin-shaped marking on it's body. The kids are still nervous, though, and Angelina wants to move back to IL. I assure her that every region of the country has some kind of unpleasantness, but she doesn't care. The tiny child is quaking. Being Italian, I assure myself that food will help her get over this. I serve lunch and that distracts her for awhile. Later they go outside to play. Whew!
When Joe comes home the first thing on their minds is the spider. They tell him all about it. I make sure he knows that I didn't sit them down and force them to watch a slide show of graphic pictures of spider bites, just in case he was wondering.
After dinner, Bella and I go food shopping. When we get home, around 8:00, Noah informs Bella that they have started a Backyard Naturalists Club and Dad is the leader. Angelina tells that Daddy found a crab spider and and looked it up online. She was very excited because it is definitely not harmful and it walks just like a crab. Seems she got over her fear of spiders. Bella wants to join. Noah questions her qualifications. Bella announces that she is the one who spotted the skink. She's in.
So, now, instead of a frightened brood of children, we have a club interested in the local wildlife. Obviously there are some things only Dad can handle...

Entry for May 05, 2008
My kids were playing outside today and found a skink on the back deck (if you do not know what a skink is, see above). Sounds like a Dr. Seuss creation. They didn't know it was a skink at the time, but when Joe got home they described it to him and he found out online that it was a five-striped skink. We have also seen wild turkeys in the backyard. Joe says all we need is some wild cranberry sauce and wild potatoes to go with them...
Today is my godson Jonny's birthday. We called him up and sang "Happy Birthday." Angelina did the cha-cha-chas. Afterwards she talked to him on the phone and gave him the news about her tooth coming out. Genevieve, standing next to her, whispers, "Don't forget to tell him Mom pulled it out with lip gloss!"

Entry for May 01, 2008

Charlie got out of bed the other night after everyone was tucked in and came into our room. I asked him what he needed and he told me that in September, he wants to fly to China on a vulture. Then he cracked up. He is such a joker. (Although, with the price of fuel skyrocketing, vulture flight just may become the norm. Maybe Charlie is actually a prophet...)
The next day, at lunch time, Bella was making one of her gourmet sandwiches. She put on some roast beef, provolone, pepperoni, the onions and celery from a container of Sicilian olive salad and some mushroom salad. Angelina was checking out the sandwich and said, "Wow, Bella, you make good crochet sandwiches!" After the shock and confusion wore off, we realized she meant "gourmet."
After lunch, Angelina was complaining that her loose tooth was bugging her. She asked me to help her pull it out. It was really hanging. So, we got some dental floss, wrapped it around the tooth and pulled. It came right out. She looks so cute with her first missing tooth. And she whistles a bit when she makes the "s " sound.
A long time ago I did the same thing with Charlie. He had a loose tooth that hung on for weeks. Every time he smiled it was in a different spot. I took the dental floss and got it out in a jiffy. But after that, he would never let me floss his teeth. The poor kid thought I wanted to take all his teeth out. He got over it, though. He flosses regularly now.


Entry for April 28, 2008

We went back to IL for 4 days because my niece was receiving her First Communion and we wanted to be there. The ride was fairly uneventful. Before we left, we stopped to gas up and Joe got a very large cup of coffee. Charlie asked for a sip. Joe passed it back and he took a sip, then returned it. Later in the trip, Charlie asked again and Charlie began to chug. "NONONONO! That's my caffeine for the trip!" Joe yells. Charlie hands it back and says, "It's empty."
We got there at about 11 p.m. on Wednesday and dropped 4 kids off at my parents'. Then we went to our friends Dean and Kerry's with Noah to sleep there, because my parents can only fit 4 people in their house, so we had to split. I know, we could have gone to our old house with an air mattress, but we wanted to see Dean and Kerry anyway.
We get to their house about 11:30 p.m. They were up and we got to chat a bit, then we went down the basement to sleep. They had it set up as a hotel. HA! There were mints on the pillows and a list of "Hotel Rules" (which included a warning that the remote control was calibrated only for their TV and wouldn't work elsewhere if it was removed), and they had put a price list on their downstairs refrigerator that was like a minibar. It was hysterical! The prices were outrageous, just like a real hotel, except they listed what was actually in the refridge, so there was Gogurt for $7, slices of cheese, $2 each, eggs, $1 each, etc. Then, in the bathroom, they had put a sign over the toilet seat that said, "Sanitized For Your Protection." There was also a note under the bathroom mirror that said, "Forget something? Check at the front desk. We may have what you need!" It was a really funny welcome from some treasured friends!
The rest of the trip was very busy, but we got to see my niece on her special day and that created some nice memories. Other friends of ours had children receiving that day, so we were treated to being able to see them as well. On Sunday, we had a gourmet breakfast at my parents'. My mother made French Toast, bacon, sausage and, not regular pancakes, but gingerbread pancakes. At church it seemed that almost all our good friends were there. Fr. Randy, who used to be my spiritual director, was the celebrant, so I visited with him and also received a travel blessing.
The ride back wasn't too bad. It got pretty hairy toward the last 90 minutes, though, because the kids were really getting on eachother's nerves. After we pulled over on the side of the road to let Genevieve pee in a cup, I put on a rosary CD that was recorded by Angelina's Godfather, Fr. Beekman, and we all said the rosary. Everyone quieted down immediately and the rest of the ride was peaceful.
It was a good trip, but the kids were happy to be home, which made me feel good about the move in general. It is a huge grace from God that the children have adjusted so well. They really miss friends and family, but we are at peace here. Now, what the future holds, only time will tell...

Entry for April 14, 2008
This weekend will be forever known as "couch weekend." Joe and I spent the weekend on the couch with aches, pains and fevers. Joe had such a bad headache that every time he coughed, he yelled in pain. Genevieve, who had gotten better, was also feverish and stuffy. Angelina was fatigued and stuffy as well. We had to miss Mass. We were in no shape to leave the house at all.
Yesterday I spoke to a good friend of mine about our current sitaution. She joked that if we lived closer she'd make us dinner. Hah! About an hour after that phone call, the doorbell rang. Joe hauled himself off the couch and answered the door. It was a guy with a box of food. "This is a get well gift from your friends in Illinois!" he happily proclaims. I think Joe managed a "thank you," and took the box up to the kitchen. Delicious smells pervade the house. Wow! SO glad we're not nauseous! It is an authentic, Kansas City, barbecue dinner. We had homemade baked beans, Texas toast, pulled pork, brisket, burnt ends, onion rings and chicken fingers for the kids. They descend on the food like locusts. Genevieve is too tired to eat. She manages a few bites of Texas toast. I eat a few bites and wrap some up for when I can breathe (and therefore taste) better. Everyone decides that it is one of the most delicious meals we have ever had.
After we are done and I am comfortably settled back on the couch, I reach for the phone to make a thank you call. It rings as a grab it. It is my thoughtful, Illinois, barbecue sending friend. I tell her she's crazy, and then thank her profusely. She tells me that she spoke to the owner of the restaurant and they don't deliver, but when she told him we had just moved, and were sick as dogs, he quickly agreed to bring the food over.
This morning when Joe woke up, he felt a lot better. He took the boys to work with him today, so he must have energy. I still have a sinus headache, but the fever is gone and I actually feel like I can get up and walk around. Genevieve and Angelina are still stuffy, but there are no fevers and they are playing together as I write this. So, what's the conclusion? Friendship and good food cure all.

Entry for April 11, 2008

A Mr. Richard Feder from Fort Lee, New Jersey writes in and asks, "How are the Creedons doing on their fourth day in Missouri?"
Well, lemme tell ya, if it's not one thing, it's another... They got fevers, aches, pains, insomnia, some are throwing up, coughing, chills, night sweats and stuffy noses. It's always something.

Entry for April 10, 2008
I think Charlie likes it here. We set up his room first. His desk went under the window, so he has ample light for drawing. He unpacked all his CDs and has been listening a lot to either Dean Martin or Silly Songs With Larry. He made the green beans at dinner yesterday and did a good job. He has been very helpful all in all and adjusting well, I think.
He starts school next Friday. We take him in on Thursday for a tour and to meet the staff. I am praying that the transition goes well. Giant Steps was his second home for 9 years and I am sure he will miss it deeply.
He keeps putting the heat up to 90. I don't know why. It hasn't even been cold. Noah has had a fever and we all thought we were coming down with it, but it was just the heat. Except Genevieve actually did get a fever last night, then I came down with one this afternoon. I slept for a long time. The kids were good while I slept. They stayed in the kitchen on the computer while I was just steps away in the living room on the couch. When Joe got home he took care of dinner. Now he is with the children that are well, trying to find Sam's Cub to go shopping. Hope he put the GPS on "fastest route."

Entry for April 09, 2008
Yesterday we went to shop for a washer and dryer. We didn't bring ours because we are leaving them with the house. Besides, my washer is a gas one and here we need electric. So we decide to buy reconditioned ones because we had a reconditioned dryer years ago that we bought for $50 and it lasted 6 years. We have no idea whether or not the house we will eventually buy will have these appliances, so reconditioned seemed the best way to go.
I found a dealer online. He is in Belton. We don't know where Belton is. We check a map. It is in Missouri, south of KC. Some very good and very thoughtful friends of ours gave us a GPS system for a going-away gift. This seems like a great time to use it. We get the thing programmed, load the kids in the car and sit back and enjoy the ride. We begin on a very pretty back road. "Hmmm," Joe muses, "Not the road I would have picked, but this thing is supposed to know what it's doing, so..." An hour and a half later we are in Kansas. Bella says to her brother, "Noah, I don't think we're in Missouri anymore." I get a weird feeling of deja vu when she says that, but it goes away. Joe and I are perplexed. We have passed many major highways and still no Belton. The ride has been very scenic, but... Wait a minute! A light bulb goes off over Joe's head. He checks the settings of the GPS. It is set to "scenic." AAARRRGGH! Joe quickly reprograms it and off we go. By this time, Genevieve has to use the bathroom, Angelina and Noah are fighting, Bella is being loud and Charlie is complaining that Bella is being loud. "You kids were great on the long trek out here yesterday. What's the problem today?" I lament.
FINALLY we get there. I quickly pick out the biggest dryer I can find, a commercial grade monster. I get a Kenmore washer that is much bigger than the one I have in St. Charles. Flippin' sweet! They deliver the next day and yes, they warrantee everything for 3 years. Yippee! We get back in the car, completely forgetting that our 3 year old has to pee.
We take the kids to Sonic. While we are waiting for our food, Genevieve begins to pee. "Mom? I'm peeing." "AH! Please stop right there!" I desperately plead. "I'll get you to a bathroom." The girl delivers our food. Joe asks if our toddler can use their bathroom. She informs us that it is not working (yeah, right!). "Everyone, look for a pull up!" I yell. The kids all dive down onto the floor looking for a stray pull up. Joe finds one. We get it on Genevieve and everyone is happy.
We go directly home, because the GPS is now properly programmed. On the way, I start to laugh, because I am thinking what if they made the voice on the GPS like my mother's when she was teaching me how to drive?
"OK, make a right. A RIGHT!!! Watch the truck! Get over! Get over!"