December 24, 2014

Fighting Despair

Overheard while driving through town; my oldest (and apparently hungry) son by my side...

"Each time we drive past the Chinese Buffet I feel a tiny flutter of hope."

December 18, 2014

Out Of Nowhere

A hairsbreadth. A fraction of an inch. As near a miss as I've ever had.
One moment the road was clear, and the next...

Stupid deer.
The good news is my brakes work.

I can still see the hind legs of the huge buck as he passed my headlights with no room to spare. It all happened so fast. I know Annie shouted the warning, "Deer!" I know I hit the brakes without waiting to spot the animal for myself. And still, I'm completely amazed we didn't hit it.

"Thank you, God. Thank You, thank You, thank You...", I continued to murmur under my breath as my imagination took me down the road of what nearly happened.

Time to pull up some 'Deer Crossing' signs.

Earlier suspicions confirmed, our deer have a death wish. Before going anywhere, we always pray for safe trip with a prayer my mother taught me as child:
Our Lady of the Highway,
be with us on our journey,
for all thy ways are beautiful,
and all thy paths are peace.

Since living here we have added this prayer taught by Annie's Confirmation teacher:
Dear Lord,
Please keep
the deer in the ditch,
and the car on the road.
Thank You.
I'm so glad Our Lord is listening.

November 23, 2014

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

"Is it out?"
The hairdryer switched off and inquisitive fingers ran through the length of my hair.
Leaning over the tub I carefully wet and lathered my hair for the third, and probably not last, time.

I confess, I love to have my hair touched. I do. I love it so much, on my birthday my daughters offer to brush my hair as a present. 
I love it so much I have endured countless braids, 
funky hairdos, and tangles as the only "patron" of nine-year-old Mary's Beauty Shop, just to have my hair played with. 

If I am ever full of stress and tension, rub my hair and I will actually melt before your eyes. Melt. No more stress, just me, eyes closed, slumped over, unable to speak anything more complex than monosyllables, swiftly falling asleep. 
Weird, but true.  

Joseph sat next to me on the couch, running a thick lock of my hair through his little toddler hands. He wasn't pulling or tangling, just running it through his hands. 

"Your hair is pretty, Mama. I'm making your hair beautiful."

"Mmhmm..." I replied suddenly feeling rather sleepy.

"Beautiful. Beautiful." Joey continued.

"Mmhmm..." I murmured again. Someone should bring me a pillow.

Wait a minute. My ears had detected a noise, a quiet noise, an odd noise, a slightly wet, smacking noise that was not the sort of noise that clean, dry hair makes when it is run through clean, dry hands.  The realization that something was wrong seeped into my drowsy brain. 

I lifted my hand to my hair and encountered a wide streak of something terribly sticky. Joey's fists were full of a thick, white paste that I knew all too well. Diaper ointment. The white stuff. The greasy, white stuff that not only doesn't wipe off easily, but laughs - actually laughs - at soap and water. I didn't even know we had any.  

"I make-d your hair so beautiful, Mama." Joey said in a sweet voice.

Yes, beautiful, and white, and stuck in a thick clump to the side of my head. 

You know those moments when something unexpected happens and you truly appreciate just how ...unique... living with little ones is? It's like the times you find yourself stringing together words you didn't know could exist in the same sentence.

"Don't lick shopping carts."
"The cat doesn't want your gum."
"Your dinosaur doesn't need a bubble bath."
"Nice little boys don't shout 'booger' in church."
"Your brother doesn't like you dancing on his head."
"We don't rub diaper ointment into Mommy's hair."

I was having one of those moments. Yes, I was. 

I was also lathering my hair for the fourth time...

November 17, 2014

Smarshmallow Run

Annie was helping Joe wash his hands before dinner. His tiny fingers more intent on splashing water out of the sink than removing any actual dirt, when he leaned his face towards hers and in a conspiratorial whisper said,

"Okay, so, we gonna get the keys, and you get into the driver's seat, then we drive away quietly. Deal?"

Annie turned the water off and grabbed a towel.

"What? Why???" 

She looked at this little person standing on the step stool before her with an intent look in his eyes. 

"Because, Annie!" he exclaimed, waving his hands in the air. "We need to drive away quietly. Okay? Deal?"

Annie shared this with me as I dished up the plates. I glanced over at my little boy. Joey was now standing on his chair trying to reach the lit candle on the table.

"Joey, don't touch that!"

He stopped and looked at me.

"Joe, are you planning to drive away?" I asked, not sure he would want to fill me in on his sneaky plan.

He didn't even hesitate.

"Yes! I'm going to drive to the Smarshmallow Store and buy smarshmallows and we will eat them! Everyone can get in the van and sit in dere own seats and put on dere own seatbelts, and we can go get smarshmallows. Then we can build a smarshmallow house, and a smarshmallow car with smarshmallow wheels... and everything!"

Oh my. I think I need to hide the keys.

September 9, 2014

Meet the Girls

I smiled to myself as I lugged the heavy metal bucket from one pen to another. Farm chores! I was doing farm chores! If my neighbors knew how giddy I felt, they'd never stop rolling their eyes at me. I felt like a little kid at play, only this was real. With a feeling of satisfaction I scooped feed from the bucket to pour into the hanging feeder. The chickens ran out into their yard, clucking a greeting as they came. I tossed a scoop of feed into the ground. They hurried to the spot and immediately began scratching and pecking at the food.

The sun was just peeking over the rise, making the dew on the grass sparkle. I indulged myself for a moment and took a seat on a log near the chicken yard. The chickens left the feed on the ground and crowded the fence near me, talking to me through the wire. I plucked some blades of grass and pushed them through the fence. They shoved each other out of the way in attempts to reach the green stuff and pulled one blade at a time from my fingers. I held a conversation of sorts with the chickens. We clucked back and forth to each other and I was delighted to see if I called one by name, that hen would raise her head and peer at me with a curious look. Was it my imagination or did they really know their names? 

May I introduce the girls: 
This photo cracks me up. They look shocked to have their picture taken.

When we picked them out from a large metal tub at the feed store they were tiny fuzzballs that could fit in the palm of my hand. They spent the first few weeks on our back porch in a brooder box, where they were warm and we could keep an eye on them. This being our first experience at raising fowl, we weren't at all sure what it would be like. I had no idea just how charming they would be or how quickly I would become attached. 

They were handled often and would even hop into our hands when we reached into their box. David discovered that placing a little chick on her back and rubbing her feet seemed to put her into a trance. Blondie loved it so much she would close her eyes and go limp the moment he picked her up. 

I enjoyed watching them grow, each with her own personality. Henrietta and Clementine were bossy and the two of them took turns being top chick. To this day I'm still not sure which of the two is really in charge. 
Penny was the smallest, but super fast. She now zooms about snagging the best treats before the others can reach them. Blondie was a sweetheart. Today, she is the most likely to run up to me to peck at my shoes. Tansy was much more stand-offish. She still doesn't like to be touched.

And then there was Ruby. Ruby was an odd bird. She would stand in the corner pecking at the wall. She's still a bit of a goof.

My Ruby.

They quickly outgrew the brooder and Matt set about building them a safe, sturdy coop and yard. They made themselves at home and a couple of months later I can now look forward to these each morning:

Eggs! Beautiful, fresh, brown eggs! It's like finding treasure - every morning!

I  always wanted to raise chickens. The very idea brought back strong memories of being a little girl visiting my grandparents' farm. How I loved helping my Grandma Neta feed the hens and collect the eggs. Now, all these years later, I have the joy of raising these marvelous birds in my own backyard. I cherish the thought of taking after my Grandma and think of her often when I'm out at the coop. Chickens at last! And I'm enjoying every moment of it.

Blondie still likes to be held.

July 8, 2014

Celebrating the Fourth

 Independence Day Celebration 
Cold Anchor Farm style

I love our giant flag! It seems I'm not the only one. People driving by honked horns and waved. It made me smile.

The inside of our house was glowing red, white, and blue.

 What a great backdrop for a family photo!

 Maybe we should've cleaned up a bit first, seeing how we were all pretty scruffy from playing outside all day. I guess this a very 'real' family photo.

 ...and this one.

 ...and, well, you get the idea.

 At least Joey looked cute.

 A good time was had by all.

 The local fireworks show was so much fun. We then headed home where we sat around a campfire and made s'mores and lit little firecrackers and tiny sparkling fountains of our own. 
We said prayers and the kids settled into sleeping bags in the tent we set up in the backyard. Matt caught a firefly and brought it into the tent to show the children. It was so cool to see their little hands and faces lit up by that tiny glowing creature.
The firefly was released, children tucked back in, and Matt and I sat by the fire, enjoying the warm night air while the kids drifted off to sleep. It had been a wonderful day.

I hope your 4th of July was a happy one!

June 30, 2014


I should be getting up now. I should begin the day's chores, but my chair is so comfy. My coffee is still almost warm-ish. The windows are open and the curtains are billowing with the fresh morning air. We are expecting stormy weather later, but things are quiet now.

I've come to appreciate "now." These past few months (a year?) have been full of ups and downs as we make the transition from military life to civilian. The roller coaster ride is not over yet, and if I think too far ahead it can be overwhelming. I can, however, handle "now" - this moment right now.

It's been wonderful to have Matt home to stay and we settled into our new normal almost immediately. That is the up. The down is the hunt for a job that will support our family and the struggle to... you know... pay bills and stuff. It's easy to borrow trouble and worry about things I can't control. Trust in God is day to day, moment by moment. 
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." -Philippians 4:6

Sometimes the big picture is just too big...

I have become ever more mindful of the small things - finding beauty, comfort and gratitude in discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary. God is good.

July 22, 2013

And So It Begins

I took a deep breath and looked around the room. We were ready. As much as I dislike this next stage, it would not be put off any longer. I had run out of excuses to delay. I only lacked a little encouragement.

"I can't do this, Sam."

"I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy?... But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer... Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something."
"What are we holding onto, Sam?"
"That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.” 
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

Yes. That will do nicely. And if there are setbacks?

"You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it." 
- Margaret Thatcher

Hmm... fair enough. How 'bout a battle cry? Every battle needs a good battle cry.

"For Narnia!" - Peter Pevensie

I like it! Short and sweet.

The scene is now set. Battle lines have been drawn. The step stool has been pulled up. The tiny seat is in place. Cute "big boy" undies printed with cars and spaceships have been purchased. Treats are in the drawer.

Let the Potty Training begin!!!

"You may fire when you are ready, Gridley." - Commodore George Dewey 1898

June 9, 2013

Just Wondering

If the headlights on the riding mower are actually helping, does that mean it's time to call it a day?

June 8, 2013

Table Talk

His little eyes were darting from one face to another, his expression changing subtlety as he listened. None of the speakers noticed how closely he was following their conversation. Our family is typically quite chatty at the dinner table, and stories, jokes, and ridiculous banter are the norm. Joey's conversation skills are improving by the day and we love to include him in our table talk, but tonight he seemed to be all ears.

The boys were laughing about a favorite episode of Dr. Who, Mary was chiming in with her imitation of some of the show's catch-phrases, and Annie was discussing the use of the word "surreptitious". I was caught up in observing Joseph sitting in his highchair, eyes and ears glued to his siblings. As I watched him, his expression suddenly and dramatically changed. Something was building up inside him - a thought that must be uttered! There was no pause in the conversation. He would have to assert himself if he wanted to be heard. He straightened in his seat, filled his lungs with air, and in as loud a voice as he could muster, cried out


The surrounding conversation ceased and all eyes turned to him. "What was that?" "What did he say?" Joey's eyes were twinkling. He had their complete attention. "Poop." he said again, quietly this time. He then burst into laughter, throwing his head back and chuckling at this most humorous of jokes. 

It took a while for everyone to settle down after that. Of all the words in his vocabulary (a fairly descent vocabulary for a 2 year old) he had decided this was the pinnacle. This was THE word to add to any gabfest if you want to be heard. As I took a very self-satisfied little boy off to the bathtub, I could tell he was content in the knowledge that his contribution to the dinner table discussions was so provocative. 

And I? I now realize we may need to decline dinner invitations for a little while. Oh, poop.

May 31, 2013

An Ever So Slightly Greenish Thumb

I am most emphatically NOT covered in bruises. I know 'cause I checked. Twice. No bruises. Not even one. This surprises me because I am aching from the top of my head to the tips of my toes.

Alright, I'm exaggerating. The top of my head is not aching. Although I think it's slightly sunburned.

Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seat belts. 
We have entered Gardening Season. 

Now, I know many of you have been gardening for several weeks already, but Spring forgot to invite us to the party. A belated invite is better than none at all and to show I have no hard feelings I began gardening with gusto. Once again I ordered seeds from St. Clare Heirloom Seeds. Ridiculously kind neighbors with tractors tilled our garden plot and I began the work of creating beds and rows, planting seeds and laying mulch. I learned a trick or two and am optimistic for a better result than last year. At the very least I hope to provide a little less fuel for town gossip.

Last year Joey was not quite as mobile and it was easier to keep him from tromping on my plants. This year he is my shadow, following me into the garden, digging up the seeds I planted, wetting us both with the hose, stealing my garden tools, and in general being as helpful as only a toddler can be.

Using wooden stakes and twine the older kids and I sectioned off a part of the garden (a rather large part) to be a spot just for little Joe. In it we placed his Tonka truck, and a shovel and pail, along with a large metal rocket ship yard-art-thingie my hubby once received as a door prize. (Don't ask.)

Annie planted some mint - edible and he probably can't kill it - just for him smack dab in the middle. Now we shall see if he will stay busy enough in his garden to allow me to work in mine.

While all of the kids have given me a hand, it's David who seems the most eager and even now as I sit at the computer he's nagging at me to go plant something else. I gave him and Alex a section of the garden to plant leftovers - the last couple of seeds remaining in an envelope when I've finished planting a row. They planted an assortment of seeds all crammed into a small plot, with no regard for plant type or spacing.

Most likely it will resemble a small jungle when it all comes up and I've no doubt their plants will thrive, putting my careful plantings to shame. That will be perfectly okay with me. When it comes to veggies, they're always willing to share.

May 29, 2013

Hanging Clothes In Church

I love to use my clothesline. Standing in the fresh air and sunshine, watching the laundry flap in the breeze brings a sense of quiet and peace that takes the drudgery out of this routine task. The noise from the house is muffled and hardly touches me at all as I listen to the birds singing and bees humming while lifting each item from the basket and giving it a shake before pinning it to the line several inches above my head. I usually head back to the house with a touch of reluctance and pause at the porch steps to glance back at the colorful display on the line. It's is strangely satisfying.

Of course, not everything I hang is exactly display-worthy. Some of our things are well worn. There are a few towels with holes in them. There are play clothes stained with dirt. There are underthings that I try to hide from view by hanging them behind other things. I suppose I could instead put these things in the dryer, but I do like everything, even our ragged t-shirts, to smell fresh and clean rather than of floral dryer sheets, (plus it saves electricity) so up on the line they go for all the world to see.

This came to mind this morning while on Facebook when I noticed a post from a young mom struggling with taking little ones to Mass, or perhaps I should say struggling with the difficulty of keeping little ones good at Mass. My heart goes out to her! How well I know that struggle! I remember attending Mass with a four year old, a two year old, and twin baby boys, wishing desperately our church had  a crying room. I remember taking turns with my husband, standing in the back, rocking back and forth, bouncing a baby in my arms, straining to hear the homily. I remember how my face would redden when a toddler used a quiet moment of prayer to loudly announce a need to use the bathroom. I remember one small boy making a dash for the altar and how people laughed when my husband gave chase. I remember almost dying of embarrassment when in an attempt to covertly get the attention of a squirmy child I gave him or her a squeeze on the shoulder only to have that child screech at the top of their voice, "Ow! You're hurting me!" Oh yeah. No one heard that.

Years later, I'm still not much of an expert. I'm a fellow mom doing the best I can. There are (rare) days I think that Mother-of-the-Year award is almost in my grasp, and there are days (most of them) I know I've been banned from the competition altogether.

So, after  almost 17 years of parenting, what works for us? How do we handle going to Mass with little ones? We adopted an insane strategy - (No, we don't bring toys or baggies of Cheerios.) we sit in the VERY FRONT PEW. Seriously. First row. Where everyone can see us. *gasp* Like my clothesline at home, everything is out in the open for others to see: the lovely and the ragged, in full view, flapping in the breeze... When our children fold their hands in prayer or sit quietly listening to the scriptures, fellow parishioners can see that. When children get annoyed and elbow each other, or baby Joey crawls under the pew, they can see that too.

Are we crazy? Most definitely. There is a method to our madness, however. Our children can SEE what's going on during the Mass! They can watch the priest and altar servers. During his homily, our priest, Fr. Pat, looks them in the eye and smiles. Not forced to sit, staring at the backs of other's heads, they have a front row seat for the action. Theirs is an unobstructed view of the crucifix, the pictures of saints, and the stained glass windows. When they squirm or fuss we call their attention back by whispering in their ears "Where is Jesus? Can you see the cross? Look at the candles. Can you see Fr. Pat saying a prayer? Can you say a prayer?" They are included. They copy our gestures. They learn to participate. They learn that they belong.

That's not to say we don't go to the back when there is need. There are times nothing works and a red-faced, squalling, little person must be carried out until they quiet down. We want our children to feel welcome in church, but we want them to learn to be respectful, too. Church is a holy place.

We still attend Mass at a church with no crying room and that's fine with me. (There is a temptation to use a crying room as a playroom.) A trip to the back is not a reward for acting up. They remain in our arms until they settle down and usually look forward to rejoining the family in the front pew.

We've been blessed with a wonderfully tolerant parish family. There are smiles and encouraging nods directed at us and other parents if we're having a particularly trying time. They are vocal in their approval of bringing young ones to church. We have only rarely had to deal with negative attitudes like those mentioned in this article. I am grateful. You see, the Mass is NOT for adults only. We are  all - from the tiniest newborn babe in arms, to the most elderly among us; quiet or noisy, healthy or disabled, the lovely and the ragged- all of us are members of the Body of Christ. We all belong. Even that wild child throwing a fit in my arms.

Well, that's my two cents for today. Time to go hang some laundry.

May 22, 2013

Backyard Camping

"We'll roast marshmallows." they tried bribing me.
"I don't like marshmallows."
"That's weird, Mom. How 'bout we give you the comfortable bed?" they tried again.
"The bed in my bedroom is comfortable."
"Come on, Mom. It'll be fun!"

When I agreed to let the kids open the pop-up camper, I didn't know they planned on having me sleep out there with them. 

I used to love camping. Matt and I used to camp so often we could set up a camp sight - tent up, sleeping bags unrolled, fire going - in 10 min. flat. I loved the hiking, cooking over a fire, late-night star gazing. I had always assumed when we had children we would camp just as often. Then we had children. Camping became work and I became a worrywart.  Instead of hiking merrily through the woods, I began to see bears behind every tree, bears that might want to snack on one of my little ones. I worried someone would get lost. Instead of relaxing around the campfire, I spent time keeping little people from getting burned. We camped less and I grew out of practice. Now when the children wanted to camp they would take Daddy with them and I would stay home with whoever was the youngest at the time. Trouble was Daddy wasn't here. 

We had a camper now. We would be in the backyard instead of the woods. I was being a wimp. I sighed deeply, grabbing my pillow and blanket from my bed. "Okay. I'll sleep out there with you."

It was surprisingly cozy in the camper. Still early in the year for camping, the weather was cool. We snuggled under piles of blankets.We read stories. We listened to chirping frogs. Hopped up on marshmallows, noisy children joked and giggled. Pillows were tossed. Eventually everyone settled down and fell asleep. 

I awoke to the sounds of snoring children and the sun just peeking over the horizon. Sadly, there was no Matt building the fire for breakfast. Instead I crept from the camper, walked across wet grass and into the house to start the coffeemaker and get a shower. We had all survived the night. No one was eaten by a bear. No one had gotten lost. They might still be slightly sticky, but no one had gotten burned roasting marshmallows. It had been a different experience camping without my husband - not bad, just different. I could see us doing this again. 


May 20, 2013

January 31, 2013

I'm On A Roll

Third post in less than a week? What is going on here? Too much caffeine? Actually, this one might not count since I'm only linking to what someone else wrote. Read it anyway.

Hey, America: The March for Life just happened to you

    January 27, 2013

    Plus, I Was Bit By A Donkey

    Blog? What blog? Oh. You mean this blog. This blog that I've been neglecting since...October.
    In the words of Indigo Montoya:


    • The twins turn 12. Twins. I should be over it by now, but there are still days I see them and think "Oh my gosh! There's two of 'em."

    We celebrated with a barber shop themed party. We all wore paper mustaches (I look awesome with a handlebar mustache.) and played silly games.


    • Matt came home for Thanksgiving! It was WONDERFUL. I was so busy being happy to see him that I forgot to take any pictures of his visit.


    • Lots of cold. Lots of snow. 
    • Advent candles. 
    • Van sliding backwards on a icy hill.
    •  St. Nicholas Day. 
    • Matt home again. His ship had a schedule change and he was able to come home for Christmas! Whoo Hoo! 
    • Christmas tree hunting.

    Once again we headed out to the Korbisch Tree Farm. We traipsed over the bridge and wandered across the hills looking for a tree that was just right. Joey was old enough to walk on his own and I loved watching him tromp through the snow in his tiny boots.

    Tromping  Joey

    Tree Hunters - (left to right) Annie, Joey, Alex, Brendan, Mary , and David.

    Matt's mom brought that lovely, warm, red alpaca hat home from her trip to Peru. Matt received it as a Christmas gift. He loves it. Teenager Annie was slightly less enthusiastic about the style. Being a good Daddy, Matt offered to wear it to the next teen's function at our church. Annie politely declined (read -  "Was utterly mortified and begged me to intervene.")

    After cutting down our Christmas tree we stopped to pet the animals. That's when David was bitten by a donkey. He reminded us of that terrible tragedy many times in the days that followed. It usually sounded something like this:

    "Let me have that seat. You got it last time. Plus, I was bit by a donkey." 

    This has become a favorite line in our house.


    • Some people have "Secret Santas". We have "Secret Angels". At the beginning of Advent the children draw names, then pray for and perform secret acts of kindness for the person who's name they drew. On Christmas Eve they revealed who they had drawn and gave a small gift to their special person. 

    Alex and David each gave the other a box inside a box inside another box. The most interior box held... an IOU. (Real gifts were exchanged shortly after.) I don't know when I've seen them laugh so hard! We all thought it funny that they had both come up with the same idea!

    December also brought a little of this:

    A Christmas surprise - Norman Radagast Rabbit

    And this:
    It feels so good to have Daddy home!

    And a little bit of this:



    • The flu round one - respiratory. Trip to the E.R. 
    • The flu round two - stomach. Eww. 
    • Flu round three? Stomach again? Is that possible? Oh, wait. No. Norovirus. Yeah. That makes more sense. 

    • More snow. More cold. Oh, and frozen pipes.

    Before the flu.
    The cause of the frozen pipes.
    God continues to take care of us. We live among truly caring neighbors. The pipes thawed. We are finally well, and we are waiting for the next time Matt will be home with us. There now, I think that sums it up nicely.

    I will eventually get back into blogging rhythm, but it may take a while. Finding time is a challenge.

    Plus, I was bit by a donkey.
    (Not really.)