Life is Worth Living

Paul’s Suffering: Updated

Dear Readers,

We cannot thank you enough for your kind words of encouragement and more importantly, for your prayers.

We have good news today.

After 5 surgeries, and ever since late last Thursday, the Feast of the Assumption, Paul has steadily been getting better.  His heart rate and breathing are normal.  He hasn’t vomited.  He hasn’t had any seizures.  His head does not hurt very much.  He sat up, and he smiled.  He ate and is gaining weight.  He even went for a little walk around the ICU.

And he lost a tooth.

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See that gaping hole on the left?

A good friend of ours drove 8 hours to bring Paul’s two brothers to see him yesterday.  This was a great boost to his morale, which had been waning after 3 and a half weeks in the hospital.

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Here they are, eating dinner together last night with another friend of theirs.
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Paul’s twin, Michael, is in the upper left.  Johnny, Paul’s younger brother is on the right.

If he continues to feel well, the doctors will remove the tubing in his spine, and he may get to come home sometime later this week.  We certainly hope this will be the case.

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Tubing in his spine, which measures pressure levels in the brain.

Again, we cannot thank you enough for praying for him and for our family.  This has been the most difficult trial we’ve ever experienced.

Nevertheless we feel God’s love, and we thank Him.

 

 

Life is Worth Living

Paul’s Suffering

Well, I am back at it, after taking a 3 week break.  During this break I had intended to vacation with my family, attend my brother’s wedding, and enjoy some carefree timelessness.

But nothing has gone as expected.

Rather, two days before we were to leave for South Dakota, my husband and I had to rush our son, Paul, to our local ER.  His incision from last May’s surgery had become infected.  And before we knew it, he and my husband were driving straight through the night to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester.

And thus began 3 weeks of the most excruciating suffering I’ve ever known–watching a child suffer.

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Paul Endures Surgery After Surgery

During these last 3 weeks, Paul has undergone surgery after surgery, with almost everything going wrong that could go wrong.  His shunt tubing became blocked.  His heart rate kept dropping dangerously low.  He quit breathing for 10-15 seconds at a time and would struggle for breath, for hours upon hours.  Blood leaked into his brain.  One shunt malfunctioned.  Another shunt slipped out of place.  His left ventricle collapsed.  He hasn’t eaten for days upon days and is losing weight.  He is suffering seizures.  And then there’s all the vomiting.

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All of these things have been happening in addition to the most excruciating head pain.  And we sit helplessly by him and watch and pray.  I’ll never forget the terrible day and night I had to watch his heart rate slow, his breathing cease, and then the trembling of his body to grasp a breath.  It was terrible.

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And it’s still going on.  I beg of you, dear Readers, to remember him in your prayers.  But remember the other children too.  They are suffering in a different way.  They wonder, where is Paul?  Why can’t Paul just come home?  Why can’t the doctors fix him?

We don’t know the answers.  We only know that for some mysterious reason God is allowing this suffering, and we can choose to accept it, or we can drive ourselves mad with endless, unanswerable questions and blame God for ruining a perfectly healthy little boy.

But we choose to trust in Him.  He who is the beginning and the end of all things.  He who created the heavens and the earth.  He who loves us so much that He died for us.  And His name is Jesus.  And all knees on earth and in heaven will bend to Him at the end of time.  May His kingship reign forever and ever.

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Paul Prayer Intentions

In the midst of his suffering, Paul has been praying.  He has been asking Mary to hold him.  And he has been praying for Ex-Cardinal McCarrick and for my cousin, Tony.  Up until today, Tony had been in psyche ward of a hospital.  All within a few years, his brother died in a motorcycle accident, his wife died from cancer, and his father just died last week.

Tony was released this morning.  He drove to his father’s house and killed himself.

Please, Jesus, You have a most merciful heart.  We pray, that in those briefest of moments before his death, Tony in his agony turned towards You.

 

 

Life is Worth Living

Summer Vacation: Weddings & Books

Dear Readers,

I will be taking a break from this blog for about 3 weeks.  Firstly because we’ll be doing some traveling in the tropics of South Dakota, and secondly because I have a few books that I’d like to get through.

Firstly: A Wedding

My brother is getting married on the Feast of St. Martha, July 29th.  He and his fiancé have a devotion to this great saint, hence a Monday wedding.  We are very excited for them both and will be traveling down a few days prior to and then staying a few days later.  I am looking forward to toasting glasses of wine and visiting with my family.

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My mom snapped this photo of The Eldest, me, and my dad when we last visited for the Bridal Shower a few weeks ago.

After the wedding, we’ll be driving to my parent’s lake house to watch the children splash around, and then after they go to bed, we’ll play endless card games.  It promises to be a lovely few days of no internet.

Secondly: Lovely Books to Read!

Lately I’ve been enjoying a number of James Herriot’s books.  It all began when I stumbled upon a cheap paperback of his at a used bookstore.  It was All Things Bright and Beautiful.  I picked it up because my children and I love to read his Treasury for Children.

Anyway, All Things Bright and Beautiful was such a charming and entertaining read for summer that I decided to check out every book I could find at our library.  I can’t wait to get at them.  If you need something light and bright, then definitely read some Herriot.

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Lastly, A New Book Club

Lastly, I’ve started a new book club for moms in my area.  I had been thinking about doing this for awhile now, but I just never did for the logical reason that I already belong to a book club–a good one, too.  My current book club follows the reading suggestions of the Well-Read Mom website.  They’re generally great reads, but even better are the women in the actual group.  But the meeting time is very difficult for me, and so I’ve done it.

Saturday Morning Book Club

Yep, you guessed it, we’re meeting on Saturday mornings, once a month.  I chose Saturday mornings because this is when I happen to have free time.  In fact every Saturday morning, once I finish my cleaning chores, I leave for the day, and so I thought, why not see if other mothers would like to join me to discuss books?

I didn’t think there would be much interest, as many families tend to be busy.  In fact, I really thought I’d only have one to two other moms interested.  But I was wrong.  I’ve got 12 moms on the email list.

For those of you who might be curious, I’ll list this year’s selection of books below.  I chose these books for the simple reason that I wanted to read them, or reread them in some cases.  I’ll try to post a word or two about the books, when we get to them.  Maybe you’ll want to read along with us?

August:  Michael O’Brien, Father Elijah
September:  Taylor Marshall, Infiltration
October:  Gertrud von Le Fort, Song of the Scaffold
November:  Cardinal Sarah, The Day is Now Far Spent
December:  Sigrid Undset, Ida Elizabeth
January:  Joseph Pearce, The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde
February:  Hilaire Belloc, The Path to Rome
March:  Michael Richard, Tobit’s Dog
April:  G. K. Chesterton, St. Thomas & St. Francis
May:  Gereron Goldmann, The Shadow of His Wings

 

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Happy Summer!

See you all in 3 weeks.

Homeschooling

Is Classical Academic Press “Catholic?”

Nope.  It’s not.  Bummer, no?

I am bringing this question up because the other day I received the following enquiry:

Have you found Classical Academic Press to be Catholic based?  I am planning on letting my daughter join the Schole Academy online and I just wanted to make sure that Classical Academic Press didn’t have anything anti-Catholic.

As this isn’t the first time I’ve answered questions about CAP, I thought I’d post a few thoughts.  No, Classical Academic Press is not strictly Catholic.  However, our family has been very happy with 99% of the content and 100% of the online class discussion.

We’ve been using their Writing & Rhetoric, Grammar, and Latin materials for about 5 years now, and our daughter will be entering her second year of Scholé Academy this fall.

We are, though, moving her towards Queen of Heaven Academy this year too.  (She’ll be taking Writing & Rhetoric and Latin from Scholé and Algebra and Religion from QOH). Because we homeschool 5 children, I need her to be enrolled full-time, and I don’t want to worry about the Catholicity in any classes.  So in two years, she’ll likely be all Queen of Heaven.  All the younger children will continue in their CAP courses with me.

Clear as mud?

The short of it is, we do really like Classical Academic Press.  I can only think of one chapter in a previous Writing & Rhetoric book that spoke too charmingly of Queen Elizabeth.  (Book 4, Cheia & Proverb).  Blech.  I wasn’t worried about it, though, because we talk so much about these things.  In fact, I just pulled out my Hilaire Belloc Characters of the Reformation,* and we discussed his chapter on Queen Elizabeth together.

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Love this book.

The only other questionable thing I can recall from CAP is that their Latin B Reader features famous people and events during the Middle Ages.  Obviously Catholics and Protestants are going to understand this time period very differently, but CAP’s paragraph summaries are so benign and uncontroversial that I didn’t have a problem with them.

I hope that’s helpful.

 

 

*If you don’t own this book, you’re missing out.  Sheed and Ward first published it in 1936, then Tan in 1992.  It’s great for referencing those infamous heretics.
Call Me Catholic

Why do I veil?

The other day I came across a great article at Catholic Sistas, written by Antonia Goddard, called 5 Reasons to Wear a Veil (and Five Not to…).  For any of you who might be curious about veiling, click over there and check it out.  She’s spot on.  (I especially appreciate #4.)

My own experience with veiling began around 15 years ago.  I was living in St. Paul, MN, and was attending St. Agnes Catholic Church.  At the time I had never even seen a veil.  And there I was, attending both the Novus Ordo and the Traditional Latin Mass, and there were women veiling all around me.  It was beautiful, and my heart wondered about it, and I was drawn to this tradition.  Naturally, I began to pray about it.

Two years later, I ended up in Bismarck, ND, where such things as veiling and the TLM were sighted as often as the Lock Ness Monster.  They just didn’t exist.  And my heart ached for them both.

Should I Start Veiling?

I spoke to my spiritual director about veiling, but he didn’t know anything about it, being from the area and likely never having attended a TLM.  But he suggested that I continue to ask Jesus for guidance in wearing it, and that I just begin to veil at home during prayer and also at Adoration.

Of course I immediately did this, and it was great for me, because I became used to having something on my head, but more importantly, it gave me time to learn about it, for I wanted to be sure I was desiring it for the right reasons.  (Again, see Antonia’s article HERE.)

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The 3-year-old modeling her older sister’s veil.

Over those early years, my heart did grow in love for Jesus and with the desire to veil at Mass, whether it be the TLM or the Novus Ordo, for wasn’t Jesus present at both?  But I was scared too.  What would people say about me?  Would they think I was being prideful?  Or holier-than-thou?

Eventually those fears, however, melted away, for how could I presume to know what other people were thinking?  Why should I attribute negative thoughts to them?  I know I certainly try to curb my own negative thoughts.  It’s just best to not live in other people’s minds.

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The 6-year-old modeling one of my veils.

So after a few more years of praying, I brought the matter before my spiritual director again, and he agreed.  It was time–my heart was in the right place.  And so I began veiling at Mass–at both Masses, the Novus Ordo and the TLM.

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The Eldest modeling my black veil.

And What Do People Say?

Surprisingly, I’ve never received a negative comment about veiling.

I do think, however, I have some family members who think I’m crazy, but they never say anything, and I don’t ask!  Probably other people think I’m crazy too, but most people are just used to seeing me this way.

I have, however, received positive comments from other women, both young and old.  Generally the older women touch my arm after Mass and look into my eyes and say, “I, too, used to veil.  Thank you for veiling.”  And the younger women say, “I’ve always wanted to veil.  Where did you get it?”

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Look closely to the right, in the first pew.  There we are, veiling.  I’m holding the wriggling baby, but the veil is staying put!

Practical Matters

Where do I buy my veils?

I buy them online at Veils by Lily.  I prefer these veils because for a few additional dollars, they will sew a clip or a comb into the veil.  (You can do this yourself; it’s just that I detest sewing.)  And these clips are absolutely necessary for any mother with children.  This way my babies can grab all they want, and it’s not coming off.  It’s also nice to not worry about the veil slipping.

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See the clips?  Genius.

It’s better to buy locally, though, if you can.  For those of you living in the Bismarck/Mandan area, Mayo Pharmacy on 4th street now carries beautiful veils.  You can walk right downtown and buy one.

And how about colors and styles of veils?

Over the years I’ve noticed that married women tend to wear darker veils, mostly black, and unmarried girls tend to wear lighter colors, mostly white.  While there is no rule about it, I kind of like this distinction.  White is a great symbol of virginal purity and black has always been a reminder of our death to this world.

But really, you can wear whatever color or style you want.  Go with what’s comfortable.  I’ve seen it all.

Any questions?  Be sure to ask!

And for the fun of it…

Photo of the Week

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Check out this 4 foot serpent.

We accidentally ran this thing over on our way to Mass.  Of course we had to pull over and check it out.  You can see the guts protruding in the middle of it.  We think it’s a bull snake.  (YUCK!)

Life is Worth Living

Date Night: You Need It

A week ago, my husband and I enjoyed not just a Date Night, but a weekend away by ourselves.  Except that, it wasn’t really away, as we stayed at home, and the children went across town to Grandma and Grandpa’s.  (A “stay-cation” vs. a vacation.)  It’s a lot cheaper that way.

There is a danger, however.  One may be tempted to work on home projects and ignore each other, instead of simply enjoying carefree timelessness.  But we didn’t, and we had a great weekend.

A Word About Date Nights & Weekends Away

If you’re married, when’s the last time you sat outdoors with your spouse and enjoyed a drink?  Or played Scrabble together?  Or hiked a nature trail?  Or reclined under a tree and read a book aloud, without the children?

It’s time.  You need to schedule it.  Your marriage is more important than running around to baseball games or swimming lessons.  It’s more important than mowing the lawn and scrubbing the kitchen floor.  Shoot, it might even be more important than sleep.

After Jesus, this spouse of yours just happens to be the most important person in your life.  Then your children.  Many people mix this up and end up running themselves ragged, as the expression goes.  Life is too short.  If you can’t do a whole weekend away, surely you can manage a few hours on a Saturday night?

Our Recent Stay-cation

For those of you who’d like an idea, here’s what we recently did.

On Friday, I picked my husband up early from work with cappuccinos in hand, and we wandered around Menards.  We had a great time laughing and shopping together for trees stakes, mouse traps (now there’s a story for another time), and Mike and Ikes – just the essentials.

Then we parked the car downtown and strolled around some more.  We perused isles of used books at a local book shop and found a few good ones–Immaculee Ilibagiza’s Left to Tell and an authorized biography of Tolkien.  Then we were thirsty, so we enjoyed a cocktail and an appetizer.  Lastly, we made our way to a local pizzeria.

Saturday morning, we drove a mile down the road to Harmon Lake Recreation Area, and we hiked the 9-mile loop that we’ve always wanted to do, but never could because of the children.  And here’s what we saw:

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This single-file dirt trail was breathtakingly beautiful.  It wove in and out of trees and prairie.  We took our time, and quite literally, stopped to smell the flowers.

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Like these prairie roses, which were everywhere in bloom, along with many other wild flowers.

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Shell Leaf Penstemon
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Scarlet Globemallow

We also saw patches of wild strawberries, and we tasted them.

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Wild Strawberries

We crossed a bridge over a swampy area and looked at bluegills swimming in the water.

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We saw gnarled oak trees.

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I love these beautiful tree trunks.  One must reach out to feel the bark.

We saw cacti and yucca.

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Cacti, almost ready to bloom.  Did not reach out to feel these things.
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Yucca.  (In the wild is the only acceptable place for this horrid plant to be.  See HERE.)

And there was so much more.  We saw deer, bunnies, birds, and snakes.  Yes, snakes.  A garter snake and then a bull snake.  The 2-3 foot-long bull snake was sunning himself on the trail and was not about to move for us.  So we walked around him on the grass while my heart pounded away.

But more than everything we saw, heard, smelled, and tasted, we just felt God’s presence around us and experienced His blessing in our marriage.  It was just the two of us, meandering along, not worrying about anything.  Not necessarily doing anything.  Just being together.

My husband is my best friend, but he wouldn’t be, if I never spent time alone with him.  All relationships require time together.

Want my advice?

Make time for God in prayer every day.  And make time for your spouse too.

 

Life is Worth Living

Airing My Dirty Laundry: Room Tour

As any mother knows, there must be a method to the madness of laundry.

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My Laundry Room.  I even left some clothes out for you to see, with a dirty pile of whites on the counter.

It just so happens, however, that the chore of laundry is one of my favorite things to do.  And why?  Because the machine does all the cleaning.  All I have to do is calmly shut the laundry room door and fold the clean clothes in peaceful solitude.  So, I hog this chore all to myself, and then I make the children put their clean piles away later.

Of course, someday soon, I will have to make sure the children know how to open the lid, put the clothes in, and press the correct button.  But I can go over that process later.

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So back to the laundry room.  Now this is the first year of my life that I’ve actually had a laundry room.  When my husband and I were first married, we lived in a beautiful, old craftsman-styled house in Duluth.  This house was lovely, but it had the scariest, creepiest dungeon of a basement that I’ve ever seen.  Of course that’s where the washer and dryer were.  I made my husband douse the place with Holy Water before I even set foot down there, and I shudder to think of it.  I don’t know how I made it that year.

Then in our second home, the washer and dryer were in a closet.  This wasn’t so bad, especially since there were two shelves above the machines, and I was just happy to not be in a dungeon.

Our third home featured a shared laundry room/bathroom.  Now this was almost worse than the dungeon.  Almost.  Because every time I wanted to shut the bathroom door and fold clothes in silence, someone had to use the toilet.  It never failed.  And then this bathroom/laundry room was right by the back door, so the children were constantly in and out of it.  With dirt and mud everywhere.  Just thinking of it makes my stomach queasy.

But finally, in the 13th year of our marriage, God saw fit to provide an entire room, dedicated to blessed chore of laundry, and I will forever be thankful.  It’s my favorite room in the house.  Now I can fold clothes, gaze at my Virgin Mary pictures, and drink my wine in peace.  The only thing that’s missing is a lock on the door.

So without further ado, I’ll post a few more pictures, for those of you who might be interested.

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These are the cabinets above the machines.  The bottom right shelf features piles of socks, missing their matching pairs.  Amazing how that happens.
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These lower cabinets store extra toilet paper that I buy in bulk.  The drawers above have gift-wrapping paraphernalia in them.

Opposite the machines, there is a closet.

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This side features coolers on the bottom, our extra blankets that the children use for forts in the middle, and my sewing box on the top shelf.
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This side has more sewing stuff on the top shelf, our extra “puke” towels in the middle, and my ironing board down below.
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The cabinet under the sink stores all the basement cleaning supplies.

That’s all for the laundry room.

Advice About Doing the Laundry?

The best piece of advice about actually doing the laundry, however, I think I picked up from Holly Pierlot, years ago.  (If you’re looking for a great book on how to order your days, click HERE.  This book changed my life.)  Pierlot said something about waking up and immediately putting a load of clothes in the wash.  Then, after lunch, switching it out to the dryer.  And finally, folding it after supper and doing this every single day.  Our days must be ordered.

It’s genius advice though – having a routine for laundry.  I’ve been doing it for years.  I put a load in right away in the morning and so forth.  I used to only have one load a day, with Sundays off.  Now, however, I do 2-3 loads a day, depending on the season, always with Sundays off, and I’m never behind.

Parting Trifle

And this is what we ate for supper tonight, in addition to a pork chops and lemon noodles.  It has nothing to do with laundry per se, except that after supper, when all the children were doing their chores–washing and drying dishes, sweeping the floor, chattering away–I hid in the laundry room and folded the clothes with my glass of wine.

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Avocado, red onion, blueberries, and feta over spinach with a homemade lemon/olive oil dressing.
Book Review

New Biography of Michael O’Brien and Some Novelties of Summer

If you’ve ever read any of Michael O’Brien’s books, chances are you’ve wondered, just who in the blazes is this man who writes so well?  As soon as I discovered that his biography, On the Edge of Infinity, was for sale, I bought it and was not disappointed.

I couldn’t put it down.

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You need this book written by Clemens Cavallin.

Not only do I consider Michael O’Brien the greatest Catholic novelist since J.R.R. Tolkien, but I also wonder about this man’s sainthood.  He’s got an amazing conversion story, going from such things as Ouija boards and seances to being attacked by malevolent spirits and spontaneously reciting Psalm 23.

This book is not boring.  And the neat thing is, as one suspects from reading O’Brien’s fiction, many of his stories come straight from his own life.  For example, has anyone ever read O’Brien’s A Cry of Stone?  This book features the story of Tchibi, a boy who experiences abuse from his headmaster at his private school.  O’Brien modeled this boy on his own experience of abuse at Grollier Hall in Canada.  It’s excruciating to read.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Back to On the Edge of Infinity.  Clemens Cavallin begins this biography of Michael O’Brien (born in 1948) with stories from Michael’s parents and grandparents.  Then Cavallin moves into detailing O’Brien’s childhood in the Canadian arctic and then chronicles the turbulent years following the Second Vatican Council wherein suddenly altars were stripped and destroyed, statues of saints disappeared, and families were discouraged from praying the rosary.  O’Brien’s family was deeply affected by these radical changes.

Naturally the book goes on to relate Michael’s conversion, his meeting of Sheila, their marriage, and his momentous decision in 1976 to devote himself wholly to God and to art – specifically icon painting.  (Writing fiction would come later.)

Probably what fascinated me the most in reading Cavallin’s biography, however, was Michael and his wife Sheila’s utter trust in God, to the point of downright poverty.  Seriously, at one point, Michael and his eldest son had to push the wheelbarrow to the local convent, because they didn’t have a working vehicle, to get the leftover vegetables from the sisters, just to eat for the week.

The other thing that I greatly appreciated about this book was its focus on art and beauty.  I’ll never get tired of this subject, because in our culture it is of extreme importance that we get it.  Art ought to be beautiful because it’s a reflection of the Divine.  Beauty matters!

Finally, if any of you have children and homeschool them, you will probably enjoy hearing about the trials and experiences of the O’Brien family.  Michael and Sheila homeschooled their 6 children.  And it wasn’t easy.

The Novelties of Summer

  1. I hope you’re all enjoying summer.  We are.  Normally the children start a little Summer School by now, but we haven’t yet.  For we’ve had this to contend with:
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This is our backyard.  We’re in the process of planting grass, trees, bushes, and a garden.  Oh, the work!

2.  We have had time for ice cream, however.

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3.  And we did just recently make a little pilgrimage to a beautiful rural church in Strasburg, North Dakota, named Sts. Peter and Paul.

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Here are the children on the front steps.

Even though this church is in the middle of nowhere, people still go to see it.  Why?  Because beauty is attractive.  The following is what one sees when walking in.  I apologize for the lack of lighting.  We didn’t know how to turn all the lights on.

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Check out those sweet confessionals flanking the sanctuary.

Of course you can see the high altar behind that newly inserted wooden table altar from the 1970s.  Here’s a closer look of both altars:

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And an even closer look of the high altar:

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Just look at that detail.

Question of the day:  Which altar speaks to the greatness of God?

 

Christ-Like Minimalism

Christ-like Minimalism: The Beauty of Hooks

Many of you know that I’ve got a large family – 7 children – which requires living minimally with a great amount of organization.  So for the most part, I like the rule, “You Get One” or “The Rule of One.”

For example, in the wintertime, each child gets one pair of boots and one pair of tennis shoes.  They also get one pair of snow pants and one winter coat.  (The three older girls do have a nicer Mass coat…it’s the exception to our Rule of One.)  In the summer, they get one pair of rain boots, one pair of flip-flops, and one sweatshirt.  They also get one swimsuit and one beach towel.

But the question is, how in the world do I keep track of all that stuff – 7 pairs of boots, tennis shoes, coats, sweatshirts, beach towels…  Just where does all that stuff go?

My solution is hooks.

Thankfully hooks are possible in our new house, as there’s room on the garage walls.  And since it’s summer, the children keep their life jacket, beach towel, and swim suit on their appropriate hook out there.  This way they always know where to find their things, and these things stay off the floor and out of the house.  (Mostly!)

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Everyone has their name on their beach towels too.  That way there can be no doubt about ownership.  If Johnny decided to leave his beach towel out in the yard to get muddy, then that’s his fault.

This is my first year of not allowing beach towels in the house, and it’s been lovely.  There are no more wet children tramping through the house to find a towel only to use it once and throw it on the floor.  Done with that.

We also have hooks on the other garage wall for their sweatshirts.

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Obviously the hooks lower down on the wall are for the younger children, who cannot reach very high yet.

Of course during the 9 months of Never-Ending Winter, their winter coats hang in those places.  But for now, it’s sweatshirts.  You’ll notice that the winter hats and gloves are in the basket sitting on the top shelf.  The boys also keep their Mass shoes up there too.  The gray bin on the floor is for their one baseball hat.  My husband’s winter gear, however, does stay on those hooks off to the right all year round.

Here’s a shot of both walls.

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There are two things that make this possible for us:

  1. We have the extra space in the garage
  2. We put cheap carpet down, so that the children do not have to stand on cold concrete to put shoes and things on.

As an aside, do you see the pencil sharpener above the white garbage can?  This was a genius move too.  No more are the children allowed to sharpen their pencils in the house.  Inevitably the little ones dump that container of pencil shavings all over the place.  Now, they can sharpen away, and spill it, and I don’t care.

Lastly, where do I put their winter gear?  Well, I don’t have a storage “room,” but I do have a little space under the basement staircase where we put more hooks.  (And dressers.)

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Here they are, waiting for the return of colder seasons.  Their snow pants are hanging underneath their coats.

In the background you might notice a few dressers?  I’ve got 5 of them hiding back there, which is were I keep the children’s clothing that is currently not in use.  Each drawer is labeled as either “Girl” or “Boy” and is also marked with a particular size.  This makes it very easy to find whatever clothing I might need.  It’s a lot easier to pull out a labeled drawer than to dig through a large tub.  In fact, I’m constantly in and out of these drawers every single season, and it’s lovely to be able to get in there so easily.

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Here’s a shot looking out of this storage area.

In the end, there are definite challenges to having a large family.  To all of you out there, living in the midst of it, I encourage you to keep at it!  Try to institute your own version of “You Get One.”  And experiment with some hooks.

Motherhood & Parenting

A Mother’s Heart During a Miscarriage

I just recently miscarried our 8th child.  I had only been pregnant 5 weeks, which is to say, that I had only known I was pregnant for about a week before the baby died.

Backing Up a Bit

Now let me back up a bit.  In case you’re new here, you may not know that our family has had one wild year, with the most stressful thing being the health of Paul.  In particular, we have spent the last few weeks making multiple trips to Mayo in Rochester, resulting in two surgeries.

In the midst of this, I became pregnant.  Now I know some of you will think this is irresponsible.  Some of you will shrug your shoulders and scoff at the effectiveness of NFP.  Some of you will think we’re just downright crazy.

And so we are.  For we knew what we were doing.  It was not a reckless choice; rather, it was a decision of love.

Because I do chart according to the Creighton Model, I knew I was pregnant before I took the test.  And truthfully, in spite of it all, I was struggling with feelings of doubt, of stress, and of, well, craziness.

In fact, I spent an hour with Jesus in Adoration, discussing these very things.  After I poured my heart out to Him, I opened my Bible to read my passage for the day, which happened to be Isaiah 61.  Knowing my passage was coming from Isaiah, I fully expected to read something about fire and brimstone and years of exile.  Instead, I got this:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me…to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called the oaks of righteousness…”

A Year of the Lord’s Favor

I read and reread that passage.  A year of the Lord’s favor…garlands, oils, mantles of praise…  I let it wash over me, and I left Adoration feeling light and full of hope.  This was going to be a year of the Lord’s favor.  I mean, that’s awesome!  Who know what’s in store for me?  Whatever it is, it’ll be great.

A few days later, a pregnancy test confirmed my suspicions.  I’d be lying, however, if I said that I was all jumping jacks and high fives.  No, I was worried.  My pregnancies are never easy after all, and how was I going to handle this?

Then I thought of all the things I’d have to say “no” to.  No to a silent retreat.  (I’d be too sick.)  No to running and biking and even walking later on.  No to fitting into my clothes again.  No to wine and lemon martinis.  No to sleeping ever again.  No, no…no.

Thankfully, however, I have great friends who reminded me of my silliness and then, I also remembered Isaiah  61–a year of the Lord’s favor.  After I hyperventilated for one more minute, I stopped and laughed out loud.  A year of favor from the Lord!

Yes, suffering and pregnancies and children are great blessings from the Lord.  All one needs to do is read Psalms 127 and 128 to know that.  In fact the Bible is replete with passages about children being a blessing.

As a couple of days went by, my husband and I began to be excited.  8 kids!  Under the age of 13!  Wow, we’re so blessed!

St. John Marie Vianney’s Heart

During this time, the heart of St. John Marie Vianney happened to be at the Cathedral for two days of public veneration, so I loaded the children up and braced myself for long lines.

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This is the holy card that they handed out at the door of the Cathedral.

When we walked into the church, however, almost nobody was there.  I held the baby, grabbed the hand of the 3-year-old, and led the children straight to the kneelers, which were placed directly in front of St. Vianney’s heart.  We knelt and prayed.  We touched our scapulars to the glass of the reliquary.  Then I handed the baby off to The Eldest and prayed some more.

I prayed that my guardian angel would somehow take the heart of St. Vianney and touch my heart with it.  I prayed that he’d touch the heart of my cousin, who suffers from alcoholism.  I prayed that he’d touch the heart of a certain priest I know.  I prayed that he’d touch the heart of my husband, my children, and lastly, the little baby growing inside of me.

My heart swelled with emotion, as I knelt there with all 8 of my children surrounding me.  God is so good, so good.

Afterwards, we stopped by a friend’s house, and I mentioned my pregnancy and the Isaiah passage about a “year of favor from the Lord.”  She said, “You know, that reminds me of the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel greeted Mary with, ‘Hail, Favored One.'”

How beautiful!  To connect a year of “favor” and pregnancy to Mary, Full of Grace, and certainly favored.  My heart was full.

My Heart Breaks

Two hours later I began bleeding.  At first I couldn’t believe it.  Maybe the baby would still be ok?  I called my doctor, but I couldn’t get in to see him until the next day.

And that night the baby died, as I bled and bled.

In the morning, my husband and I stood before the icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and my soul cried, My little baby!  I will never hold you in this life!  Did I tell you how much I love you?

My husband held me.  We prayed Morning Prayer and knew that the baby needed a name.  As I had mentioned Isaiah 61 and the Annunciation to him earlier, we named the baby Gabriel Marie.  We thanked God for his life, and we commended him to Jesus and Mary.

We told the children too, as they joined us for Morning Prayer, and we answered their innocent, concerned questions as best as we could.

Then my husband had to go to work, and I had to take care of the children.  It was an emotional day.

My Heart Grows

Life must go on.

A few days later I was in Adoration again, and I was overcome with a spirit of doubt–doubt about my feelings, doubt about naming the baby, doubt about the existence of the baby himself.  Maybe I was just being ridiculous?  Overreacting?

I soon realized, however, that these agitating thoughts were not from Jesus, and I cast them aside.  But still, in a place of fear, I begged Jesus, Please will you give me a sign about little Gabriel?  Jesus, I am weak.  If my Gabriel was real, let me come across someone named Gabriel today.  But not my will, only Your will be done.

I left Adoration feeling a little down and drove to the grocery store.  As I pushed the cart around, I forgot all about my prayer and moved to a checkout lane.  I zipped by an empty one, because I was looking for a particular clerk that I always go to.  But she wasn’t there, so I backed up and entered the empty lane and began unloading my groceries.

When I glanced up, I noticed a new clerk, someone I had never seen before.  His name was Gabriel.

I was stunned.  Could this be a coincidence?  No, for there is no such thing for those who believe in God.  Oh, how my heart swelled again!  How weak and fickle I am, but Jesus is so good to his little ones.  I felt His love in that moment and knew that my Gabriel would be ok.

I continued unloading my groceries, and I smiled at Gabriel the clerk.

When I got home, these greeted me:

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While I was away, someone had anonymously sent me these beautiful flowers with a quotation from the Bible which reads,

“Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age, alleluia.”

Life is Worth Living

First Communion, Mud, & Tulips

Our fourth child, Johnny, just celebrated his First Holy Communion this last Sunday.  He was very happy and proud.

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Johnny

This was the first time we’ve had one of our children receive First Holy Communion at a Traditional Latin Mass, and it was simple and beautiful.

The two first communicants knelt at the altar rail while Father lifted the host and said, “Corpus Domini Nostri Iesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam.  Amen.”  This means, “May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto life everlasting.  Amen.”  Then they received Him on the tongue and were forever changed.

I’m often quite distracted at Mass attending to the children or foolishly forgetting what I’m doing.  But that day, after I received Jesus and was kneeling in the pew, I was so thankful.  I felt the love of Jesus surrounding our family.  As the chant schola moved into the Communion Antiphon, my heart soared.  He is so good to us!

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Here we all are.  It’s impossible to get everyone to look at the camera and smile!  Johnny’s twin brothers, Michael and Paul, were 2 of the 9 altar boys serving at this Mass.

Lately it’s been a little difficult to be thankful, as I seem to be falling into this trap again, and it only seems to rain around here.  My yard is a muddy mess!  Seriously, we can’t get even plant the grass, because it just rains and rains.

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My front yard.  The backyard is worse, trust me.

But my tulips are beautiful.

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And my children are too.

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Watching the rain.

If you’ve been experiencing some hard times, you might want to listen to Sterling Jaquith’s brief 20 minute podcast, “Hardship & Discomfort.”  It’s part three of her “Less Stressful Summer Series.”  Click HERE for it and scroll down a bit.  It was just what I needed the other day.

May God bless you this Spring!

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