Anyone remember this photo that I posted awhile ago?
At the time, we thought it might be a bull snake, but we were wrong. That is definitely not a bull snake. It’s a fox snake.
The boys and I recently made this discovery while we were in Rochester last week. During one of Paul’s good days, I took the twins to Quarry Hill, which features some scenic trails and a little nature center. This nature center happens to house a few snakes (yuck), and a staff worker kindly let the boys hold their fox snake (yuck, yuck, yuck).
Now this is obviously disgusting, but the boys were undaunted by it and had no problem holding a live snake. Me? No. Way.
The point is, is that I was gravely mistaken about the difference between a bull snake and a fox snake. In case anyone is wondering, a bull snake is fatter, and while the colors of both are nearly the same, their patterns are not. See below.
As it is, when my husband and I were hiking this last summer on some nearby trails, I believe it was a bull snake we came by. But all the other snakes we have seen this year have been fox snakes. Like this one I snapped a shot of towards the end of summer:
And here it is, trying to get away from my boys:
There. I’ve made my correction. My conscience may rest in peace. Science class is over for the year. May I never see a snake again. Amen. Alleluia.
P.S. For those of you wondering about Paul…he’s doing well. He is having daily headaches, but they’re “small,” which means that both of his shunts are working. We travel back to Rochester at the end of November. If both shunts continue to work, but he still has daily headaches, then likely he’ll be in for that big, complex surgery. St. Jude, pray for us.
P.P.S. We’re just kind of hoping the headaches disappear all together. But in the meantime, this last week has been nice, as these headaches are not the scary ones, and he can fully function with them.
Well, the good news is, Paul, Michael, and I are on our way home from Rochester at last! The bad news is, we’re stranded in Fargo because of a big snow storm that’s been raging across North Dakota for a few days now. The interstate is still closed between here and Bismarck.
Fortunately, Fargo is a great place to be stranded in, however, because we have family here. In fact, I don’t mind at all. We’re staying at my husband’s aunt’s house, and it feels like a spa! Check out my room:
And right now, I am sitting in a quaint sunroom:
But here’s a closer look at the snow out my window:
To really get an idea of the nasty weather, however, you must look at a few photos my husband sent of the other side of the state. Here’s my backyard:
Those of you in warmer climates, eat your hearts out! We’re committing a sacrilege and listening to Christmas music. According to my husband, there’s only one thing to do in October weather like this:
Go, grab a beer, and send the children outside to make snowmen.
P.S. For those of you who like wintery poetry, see THIS post. It is very fitting.
P.P.S. Paul is doing well. He is still having headaches, but they’re “small.” Hopefully we can get a few weeks at home before he gets worse again… Or maybe, they’ll just disappear all together. In the meantime, we’re hoping to be together again as a family sometime tomorrow, if the interstate opens up.
I want to begin by soberly thanking every one of you who has offered a prayer or a sacrifice for Paul and our family. Again we are deeply thankful for all the kind words, meals, money, and most especially, the prayers and sacrifices. God works in mysterious ways, and please know that we feel His love through you all.
Unfortunately after another shunt revision surgery last Friday, Paul is still hurting. His head is aching, in an ebb and flow manner, and he isn’t eating well.
Because we were able to secure a house within walking distance of the hospital, however, Paul was allowed to join us. This has been a great blessing for our family. It cheers him to be around all his brothers and sisters.
Yesterday we took the whole family and attended a Latin Mass at the shrine in La Crosse, WI, dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. During his brief homily the priest paused and said quietly, “One of two things happen, when one begins to pray the rosary every day. He either quits sinning, or he quits praying the rosary.”
Put so starkly, those words gave me great hope.
Incidentally, we were able to make this pilgrimage to the Shrine through the generosity of some friends. But also, on a practical level, we were able to take Paul because the Shrine offers rides on a golf cart to those individuals who are unable to make the ten minute hike up the wooded hill to the church. Our Lady was surely interceding for us!
We prayed for Paul, but also for a friend of ours suffering from cancer and for the Amazon Synod. We lit a candle in this small chapel on the hillside:
It was a beautiful day, even if our hearts were aching for our son.
Tomorrow Paul has more appointments, to determine what should or should not be done. Every day we live in uncertainty as to whether he’ll get better or not. It is agonizing. But we continue to trust in God. We want to be loyal to His will, no matter the cost.
Tomorrow is also Paul’s 11th birthday, which he of course shares with his twin brother, Michael. (I wrote about their birth HERE.)
But today…today we thank God for his most lovely and fair mother. Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!
Paul is unexpectedly back in the hospital. (For those of you who are new, click HERE for more details and pictures.)
We are choked with grief, as we watch him suffer. He’s been vomiting for two days now, as the doctors are deciding what to do. As it is, they are going to tap his spinal shunt, to see if fluid will come out. If no fluid comes out, then Paul will have another shunt revision surgery. If fluid does come out, then that means the shunt system is “working,” but it’s not helping him. In this case, he’ll have a cranial reconstruction surgery on Monday or Tuesday. This is where they cut and peel back his skin from ear to ear, take apart his skull, and put it back together, allowing for more space. (St. Jude, pray for us.)
In the meantime, his doctors will do everything they can to get him through the weekend. They can go in, open up his cyst, and drain fluid to release pressure, but again, they won’t do the cranial reconstruction surgery until Monday or Tuesday because it requires more doctors and planning. It is a complex surgery, to say the least.
We should know later tonight which surgery to expect.
This is very painful for all of us. It’s heart-rending.
Just now, we’ve booked a house within walking distance of the hospital, and the children and I are leaving tomorrow morning to join my husband and Paul. Our whole family will be together.
Please remember us in your prayers.
P.S. A friend sent this to me. I feel it in my heart. Thank you, dear friend.
I have a tomato problem. I didn’t think it would come to this, but it has. There are just too many tomatoes in my garden. Every day the children are bringing in buckets of them.
I thought that having six tomatoes plants would be manageable because I treated them so poorly. In fact they’re just lying all over the ground in a tangled mess.
But I guess one can mistreat tomato plants, and they’ll still produce.
This is a problem because I don’t “can.” I don’t know how to can, nor do I have any desire to can, but I do hate wasting good produce, so lately I’ve been making fresh salsa every day.
But that still didn’t get rid of all these tomatoes.
So I sallied forth and made my very first pot of homemade tomato soup. I did this by roasting a bunch of tomatoes, onions, and garlic first.
Then I blended them all in batches with basil from the garden.
My husband loved this soup, but the children thought it needed a little cream cheese. Me? I don’t care, I’m just trying to decide what I’m going to do with these:
In the meantime, what have I been listening to while chopping tomatoes? The Patrick Coffin Show. Have you heard his September interview with Joseph Pearce? It’s soooo entertaining! He and Pearce talk books for an hour and a half. It’s delightful, especially because they’re mentioning such great books like Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and Belloc’s The Path To Rome.
Speaking of good books…if you’ve never read Joseph Pearce’s autobiography Race With the Devil, you should. I have a tremendous respect for that man. He went from being the leader of white supremacist group to writing Catholic biographies and editing a series of literature books for Ignatius Press.
Incidentally, my local Saturday Morning Book Club will be reading Pearce’s book Unmasking of Oscar Wildein a few months. I can’t wait for it.
Awhile ago I was asked if I might share what our children do around the house? You bet.
Children & Chores
It’s just downright hard raising kids, no?
The other day I was delegating extra chores to the children, and it was entertaining to observe their reactions. One rolled her eyes. One flung himself on a chair and cried, “Oh, why?!” Another slid towards the door and ducked out, hoping he wasn’t seen, while The Eldest sermonized on the injustice of it all.
I did have one child quietly and immediately go grab the broom. (What an angel.)
I had the thought that this would be a lot easier if I could just hire a nanny. Except that I’d probably need 5 nannies to get all this work done.
Yeah, like 5 nannies, a cleaning lady, a cook, and a mechanic. That’s what I’d need to run this circus parade.
Just What In the World Do Your Children Do Anyway?
Now, before I begin, I must remind everyone that just because my children do these particular tasks, doesn’t necessarily mean that yours will need to too. All families are different and have different needs after all.
So without further ado, here we go.
The Eldest (12 yrs. old)
1. Makes breakfast for everyone Monday through Friday.
2. Takes out all trash, whenever needed, because she once complained about it.
3. Wipes table at lunch.
4. Dries dishes at supper.
5. On Saturdays, cleans main floor girl bathroom, hallway, homeschool room, and front door area.*
Twin #1 (10 yrs. old)
1. Washes dishes at lunch.
2. Washes dishes at supper.
3. On Saturdays, cleans basement living room, laundry room, and stairway.
Twin #3 (10 yrs. old)
1. Dries dishes at lunch.
2. Sweeps floor at supper.
3. On Saturdays, cleans basement boy bathroom (gross, just gross) and upstairs living room.
Child #4 (8 yrs. old)
1. Sets table at breakfast
2. Sweeps floor at lunch.
3. Vacuums garage rug after supper. (Ha!)
4. On Saturdays, cleans boy bedroom and garage.
Child #5 (6 yrs. old)
1. Sets table at breakfast.
2. Wipes table at lunch.
3. Carries cloth napkins to laundry after supper.
4. On Saturdays, cleans baby room and girl bedroom.
Child #6 (3 yrs. old)
1. She does nothing though.
2. Just nothing.
3. What a slacker.
The Toddler (1 yr. old)
1. Just wrecks stuff.
2. Like all the time.
3. At least she’s happy!
There are other things they help out with too. For example, this summer the twins had to water all 200 bushes and trees twice a week. This took them about 3 hours a shot.
And of course all the children help weed and care for the garden and all that.
Chores as a Consequence For Bad Behavior?
We are firm believers in administering chores as consequences. In fact, I’m really into using consequences to my advantage and to the benefit of the house.
For example, if Twin #1 punches his brother, I just pause a minute and look around. Hmmm…what needs to get done around here? “Twin #1, you will now need to wash all the living room windows.”
“Now you’ll need to wash the dining room windows too.”
I know allowances work for some families, and I’ve even heard of families incorporating math with the administration of them, which I think is admirable, but just the thought of that overwhelms me. In fact, I don’t carry a lot of cash around, and really, I don’t want the hassle of paying the children to do things. Call me lazy. Or just plain busy.
That said, I do bribe them from time-to-time with odd jobs. For example, the other day I wanted the junk drawer organized. I didn’t want to do it. I offered Child #5 a handful of gummy bears, if she’d do it? Gladly.
Then, I wanted the van washed. “Boys, want to earn $3?”
And then sometimes they get creative and accost me with a proposition.
“Hey, Mom, would you like the van vacuumed too?”
“We’ll do it for $2.”
Last Question on Money
From time-to-time the children do get money from us and from relatives on birthdays or whatever. So, then, what do the children do with their money?
We require them immediately to put half of whatever they’ve received into their piggy banks, which eventually gets deposited into their savings accounts.
The other half they may do with as they please. Usually they just stuff it all in their piggy banks anyway.
Any other questions? Be sure to ask!
*These Saturday cleanings are supposed to be very thorough. Each child has a check list of things that they must do to each room. Now, there are slackers among the ranks, and we do have to help those slackers to remember to actually DO their cleaning…
I can’t wait to get at it. Fr. Z has pulled some tantalizing quotations HERE. When I get a chance to read it, I’ll be sure to let you know my thoughts. I have no doubt that this will be an excellent read. His other two books were.
I did notice that Sarah’s new book begins with a Part 1 titled “Spiritual and Religious Collapse.” He quotes Luke 18:8, “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Indeed, will he?
Paul is Recovering
We are now home again after two more surgeries and a week-long stay at the hospital in Rochester. Paul’s doctors are now experimenting with two shunts. He’s got one that sits in the arachnoid cyst on his brain, and the other is in his spine. The hope is that these two shunts will better regulate the fluid in his brain.
We hope this works, as it’s a difficult strain on our family to be separated so much–to say nothing of watching Paul tremble in pain during periods of incredibly high levels of pressure. I really cannot describe the agony one experiences just watching him. I have a new respect for Mary at the foot of the Cross.
In any case, thank you all for the prayers. Truly, we are grateful.
I am sorry to have such depressing news lately, but it cannot be helped. We need your prayers once again for Paul.
Last week he began having prolonged headaches again, and we knew something was up. On Sunday I drove through the night, back to Rochester. It was an excruciating drive, as he was vomiting, and during intense periods of head pain, his body tightened into a ball, and he slurred his speech, unable to control even his facial muscles.
I prayed that Mary would fly us to the hospital.
Paul prayed for Ex-Cardinal McCarrick, that he might come to his senses, and for my brother, who is suffering from a terrible year of farming.
Well, we made it, and spent a few sleepless hours in the ER. Yesterday Paul had surgery to revise his shunt once again, which, due to the incredibly small space within which the catheter must go, keeps getting blocked.
Tomorrow he’ll undergo a second surgery to place another shunt in his spine, in hopes of alleviating the pressure in his brain.
Today, Paul is feeling much better. I am sorry I don’t have a picture to show it. I am incapable of figuring out how to sync photos from my phone to the laptop. My Web Master* will hopefully attach a photo later this evening, for those of you who might be interested. So be sure to check back.
In any case, we pray that this next surgery will be successful, but if not, we pray for the strength and courage to continue suffering this battle. And if you think of it, would you kindly say a prayer for us too?
I haven’t done one these in awhile, so here we are. Welcome to Flashback Friday to those of you who are new to the blog. This is where I look back on my week and offer a few trifling thoughts.
I am just downright thankful for having grass in the yard. Yesterday the wind was whipping 40mph and for once, the dirt wasn’t swirling around the house. If you’ll remember, this is what my yard looked like on June 4th:
2. As it is, on September 4th, our yard now looks like this:
Yes, it’s still patchy in spots, but seriously, it looks great. It’s a vast improvement anyhow.
3. And that’s my garden in the center there. From far away, it looks perfectly respectable too. But don’t be deceived by those delightful flowers. Shall we take a closer look?
4. Here are my tomato plants and onions:
All six of my tomato plants are lying on the ground. That’s because the wind whips them over, and I’m too lazy to walk out there and right those wire cages. In my defense, I did attempt to stand them upright a few times at the beginning of summer, but those weak things just toppled back over with the slightest breeze. Likely this is all my fault to begin with, as I ought to have stuck those wire cages deep into the earth, but I guess I didn’t.
Now the onions…that is just not my fault at all. They look like they’ve been trampled on by a circus parade, and it’s true; they have been. My 3-year-old and the tornado-wrecking-toddler play in there all the time.
Then there’s this:
See this dead-looking bush? Yep, I guess I don’t know how to transplant rose bushes very well. It was an offshoot from my grandmother’s rose bush, and I killed it.
Now this rose bush isn’t just any rose bush. It happens to be descended from a my great grandmother’s original rose bush, which her mother brought from Norway to Elis Island, and then finally to South Dakota over a hundred years ago.
That dead-looking thing is my 3rd attempt at planting it.
5. But all is not lost. Even if my garden is a bit unruly and unproductive, I’ve always got the children’s garden. In fact, they’ve been selling me their produce. I bought a lovely cucumber the other day for 60¢. (I thought that I had planted my own cucumbers, but alas, none came up.)
6. In case you’re wondering, this growing-of-gardens business is what we call Science in our household. Or Biology.
7. Lastly, though, I’ll have you notice that my zinnias and marigolds are handsome. I planted them from seed that I had collected last year.
Well here we go again – the start of another school year.
For those of you interested in homeschooling, today I’ve updated my List of 10 in honor of another year of teaching. For the original, see HERE.
Homeschooling: Hard, But Rewarding
Now I’ve been homeschooling for about 8 years, and this has been the hardest job I’ve ever had. It’s certainly harder than when I taught sophomores at a high school. Or the time I shelved books in a library. Or the time I cleaned toilets at a state park. Or, well, you get the idea.
And I hate to break it to those of you just beginning, but it does get harder. For example, eight years ago, I only had a kindergartner. Now I’ve got a 7th-grader, two 5th-graders, a 3rd-grader, and a 1st-grader. (Not to mention a 3-year-old and a tornado-wrecking-toddler.) But the good news is, it’s all worth it.
The following is a list of things that I’ve found helpful to remember over these last 8 years.
10 Things I Wish I Knew 8 Years Ago
Get up before the children do.
Yep, you just need to do it. You’d never stroll into your old job at the office without being ready for it. I mean, praying, showering, putting on “real” clothes… If you can do this, your day is set.
Now that said, there are seasons when this is not possible. For example, the three-month-old baby screamed all night and Susie puked and Timmy wet the bed.
But just because I think this one is really important, I’ll give you Jennifer Fulwiler’s thoughts too:
“It’s not always possible, but if you can make a habit of getting up an hour before everyone else in the house, it will change your life. (I say this as the biggest non-morning-person in the universe. There are vampires who enjoy watching the sun rise more than I do.)”**
**Click HERE for Fulwiler’s complete list of things she’s learned while parenting. She’s hilarious.
It is a bad idea to compare yourself to others.
I’ll repeat that: it’s a bad idea to compare yourself to others.
For example, I will never be a crafty mother. I detest finger-painting, gingerbread-house-making, and sticker charts. If my children can’t do the project on their own, forget about it. Now I know some of you are very talented in these artistic areas. This is a good thing, and I’m genuinely glad for your family. I’ve decided not to worry about my creative disabilities, however, and it’s freeing.
But it goes beyond not worrying about my lack of creativity. I’ve also got to not worry about all that awesome curricula that other mothers are using and I’m not. So what if my kids don’t have a Book of Centuries? Or don’t have official Science books? I’m ok with that because we’re working on things that we’ve decided are important for our family.
All families will look differently. And that’s a good thing.
Quit worrying about your children not learning anything.
This one’s absurd. Anyone remember Andrew Pudewa relating his experience in a “public prison,” by which he meant a public school? How he would get so bored, he’d see how hard he could bite himself? Then, when he’d get sick of that, he’d see how long he could hold his breath. (I actually remember doing that one in public school too.) The point is, our children are learning. And in the very least, they shouldn’t have to resort to arm-biting and breath-holding.
Make a “Rule” or schedule for your days and stick to it.
This is really freeing–almost as much as not comparing yourself to others. With my Rule, my priorities are set, and I know what I’m supposed to be doing at all times during the day. If you’re looking for more about this, I recommend Holly Pierlot’s A Mother’s Rule of Life. She’s really intense, but insightful.
Just because one child seems born to learn quickly, don’t think they all will.
I had a child who sat down and read the Old Testament for fun, at the age of five. I can tell you, it was a piece of cake teaching that one to read. But with the next two children I spent at least three years in purgatory, just sitting on my couch, praying to Jesus to give me the patience to not rip the book out of the kid’s hand, chuck it across the room, and storm out myself. (May it please God to not test my patience any further with slow readers, for I may not make it. Amen.)
Outsource those terrible subjects you hate.
I hate math. And guess what? When I attempt to teach math, my loathing for the subject comes out, no matter how hard I try to hide it. But my husband loves math, so a few years ago, he took it over. (I will love him forever for it.)
In our household, math starts at 7am. Yep, before breakfast, and it still goes well. If there’s a subject you despise, think creatively. Maybe switch a subject with another homeschool mom? Or, budget for and hire a tutor? Enroll in an online program? (We’ve got one enrolled online this year too, and it’s awesome.)
Eat breakfast like a prison camp.
In our house, everybody eats breakfast at the same time; everybody eats the same thing; everybody cleans up their spot together. We eat peanut butter toast every single morning. We’ve done it for years. There’s never any complaining about it because they know what to expect.
And I never have to worry about meal planning for breakfast. On the weekend, there is a reprieve. Saturday is oatmeal. Sunday is cold cereal, which is their favorite. You can imagine their excitement when my parents give them orange juice, as a present.
Learn to say no.
Do you want to destroy your family life? Then frantically run from event to event, never eat a meal together, and never pray together.
As a culture, we are far too busy. Little Sally does not need to participate in gymnastics and tee-ball while playing on the soccer team and taking violin, piano, and voice lessons. This is ridiculous. Pick one.
And let your children experience a childhood of climbing trees with their siblings, reading a book on the grass, eating dinner as a family, and receiving Dad’s blessing at night. This other Chosen Busyness is Satan’s great attempt to divide families. And it’s crept right into Catholic and home schools.
Are you going crazy?
From time to time, I have to put myself in time-out. I mostly prefer to hide in the laundry room with a glass of wine, but there isn’t anywhere comfortable to sit, so sometimes I sneak out to the garage and grab lawn chair. What do you do to get away?
Furthermore, I recommend instituting quiet time every afternoon. And if possible, take a few Saturdays off a month, and go on a monthly date with your husband. Life is too short to do otherwise.
Lastly, and most importantly, begin each day with prayer.
This goes along with #1. Get up before the children andpray. You need it. In fact, not only should you have a regular time for prayer every day, but you should also consider a weekly Adoration hour. Shoot, it might be the only quiet hour of your week. (It is of mine.) So, get after it!
Jesus should always come first.
If you’ve found this post helpful, send it to someone else who might appreciate it.
Anyone have other thoughts or ideas? I’d enjoy hearing about them.
The other day Bishop Kagan celebrated Mass for our local homeschool group to signal the beginning of another academic year. We were very grateful to him for this.
Two of my sons served this Mass. (Paul, of course, could not, as he was still in the hospital.) Their particular roles during the Mass were to take care of the Bishop’s mitre and crosier. Each son wore a special cope draped over his shoulders, which he used to cover his hands, so as to never touch either object. For only the bishop may touch these holy items.
It was impressive to watch this interplay of giving and receiving. One instinctively knew that something special was being given and received each time, by nature of that cope. It was out of the ordinary and beautiful. I wish I had a picture of it.
Kagan’s homily was beautiful too, even though it appeared to have nothing to do with the Mass readings. Rather, it was all about the Real Presence in the Eucharist. At the time I wondered if he was reflecting on the recent Pew Research Poll showing that 69% of Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence. In other words, the majority of Catholics believe the Eucharist to be only a symbol, which is nothing short of a tragedy.
My Husband is Spot On
I called my husband that night (he was still in the hospital with Paul) and told him about the Mass, about Kagan’s homily, about the boys serving, and finally about the special treatment of the mitre and the crosier.
My husband was quiet a moment and then said, “It is beautiful how carefully and respectfully the bishop’s mitre and crosier were handled. You know, we used to treat the Eucharist this way too. No one touched Him with his hands. Rather, we knelt at an altar rail, and we received Him on our tongues.”
My husband sighed and went on, “I wonder if there would be more belief in the Real Presence if our actions showed what our hearts believed?”
“You mean,” I said, “if churches were to bring back altar rails and patens and if we all knelt once again? You think it would help Catholics believe in Jesus’ Real Presence?”
Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi
This got me thinking. Of course our actions and our postures matter. There is a little phrase that one comes by, “Lex orandi, lex credendi.” It means that how you pray will affect how you believe. For our actions and postures aid our faith and belief.