Favorite New Parish:St. James the Less in La Crosse, WI. Seriously, we couldn’t have landed in a better place for kind families, beautiful Latin Masses, and heavenly scholas. I’ll telling you, this place has got it going on. They even have potlucks every Sunday after the 11am Mass. It’s all such a blessing.
Favorite Outdoor Activity: Hiking. The weather seems so much more mild here that it makes it easy to be out-of-doors.
I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention all the sledding going on. The boys drag their sleds almost every day to the park and sled down the steep sides into the baseball field.
Favorite Cocktail: The Copyright, which is a signature drink from the La Crosse Distilling Co. and consists of Barrel-aged Fieldnotes Potato Vodka, Orange Liqueur, Honey, Lemon, and Angostura Bitters. Here a picture of it:
This place was hopping last Saturday night. We can’t wait to go back and try more local drinks. Click HERE for their website and more pictures.
Family Game of the Month: Last month was Catan, and indeed, the children are still at it, but lately Chess has captured more attention. This is because the 4 older children played in a local Chess Tournament, wherein The Eldest actually took the championship. She claims it was all luck. My husband said it was all his doing with his careful and attentive teaching at home. Her brothers say that she owes it all to them for spending hours playing with her, and I say it was all due to her grandpa’s expertise and guidance.
Most Enjoyable February Book:Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I’m revisiting it again, probably for the 4th or 5th time. If you’ve never read it, you’re missing out. Mr. Rochester is my all-time favorite male character in a novel. Yes, he even beats Mr. Darcy from Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. HERE’S my favorite Audible version.
My Kids’ Favorite February Supper: Hot dogs. Yuck. Just yuck. But I was desperate the other day. We were in Survival Mode.
One of the first things that must be done upon moving to a new city is locating the local coffee shops. This post is a Tale of Woe, but with a happy ending.
Now, this is not as easy as it appears. Yes, Google Maps is very helpful, but I’m telling you. There are things that Google just doesn’t know. Like how to cruise around in a 15-passenger van full of uproarious children and not pull your hair out or chuck shoes at them while attempting to locate the nonexistent coffee drive-thru.
Like I said, I’ve had some major coffee hardships this last week. All of them ended in complete failure while exploring downtown La Crosse, WI. Let’s just say that one cannot get coffee in downtown La Crosse. Leastways not in a gigantic van. And not with ravenous, dog-tired children.
This is my Sweet Ride, by the way. Shouldn’t this monstrosity really be considered a “handicapped” vehicle. I mean, I’ve got 7 children…
In any case, so much for those cute, chic Caffeine Sanctuaries downtown.
Well, what to do next? I guess explore the usual…Starbucks? Even if the line hadn’t been longer than the Continental Divide, nope. Caribou? Another nope. I couldn’t even find the drive-thru. Not kidding. (Apparently one does exist, however. It’s just hiding.)
There were other places I tried to drive to. For example this place:
But I couldn’t make the lane change quick enough in this big barge of a boat.
Then I saw this place:
You might be wondering if I was discouraged at this point? I mean, how many coffee shops must one drive by? The answer to this question is no, definitely not. I am made of sterner stuff than that. It must be all that North Dakota blast-your-face-off cold that toughened me up. I kept driving.
Eventually the children and I found Dunkin’ Donuts. And they had a nice, big, empty parking lot, and I was glad for two reasons:
While I can parallel park this giant beast of a van, I prefer not to. Big parking lots are heavenly harbors and balm to my soul.
I remembered a gift card a friend had given me awhile back that was itching to be used, and since 5 of my 7 children are coffee drinkers, this seemed perfect. And I wanted to treat everyone because we had just finished with Mass and confessions at St. James. It was time to celebrate.
Dunkin’ Donuts was a success! Guess what else we had besides lattes and cappuccinos?
It was glorious, even if we couldn’t fit around one table.
Lastly, one of you readers requested an outside photo near my house. I’m most happy to oblige. Here a shot towards the east, standing in my driveway. The park is at the end of the road.
There are hiking trails in those woods yonder. These hills extend all around the valley, with a small opening, which you can see on the right side of the photo. If there were to be any kind of breeze, it must come from that opening, which faces the southeast.
This Sunday is Septuagesima Sunday–in the Old Calendar. Kind of a funny name, no? It means that we’re on the threshold of Lent. Are you ready?
Septuagesima, Sexagesima, & Quinquagesima Sundays
In the Old Calendar, the three Sundays prior to Ash Wednesday were specifically dedicated to preparing one for Lent, and they have funny, Latin names: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima. They mean, seventieth, sixtieth, and fiftieth, which is to say, it’s roughly 70 days until Easter, 60 days until Easter, and fifty days until Easter. This next Sunday, we’ll be at Septuagesima.
Well, in the Old Calendar during the three weeks prior to the actual start of Lent, priests wore violet vestments and certain elements of the Mass were dropped, like the Gloria and Alleluia. (In fact, there’s a sweet tradition of physically burying the Alleluia, only to dig it up again at Easter.) All of these things were meant to get you thinking. Sober up, people! Let’s start preparing.
The 3 Pillars of Lent: Prayer, Fasting, & Almsgiving
During these fore-lenten Sundays, my husband and I like to begin preparing for Lent. We take a look at the classic 3 pillars of lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Below I’ll offer a few thoughts for you all to consider.
Do you set aside a time to pray, every single day? If not, what’s stopping you?
For those of you who are married, are you praying with your spouse? Every day?
Or how about praying Compline in the evenings?
For those of you with children, are you praying with them every day?
How about a family rosary?
Fathers, are you blessing your children every day?
And finally, go to confession! At bare, rock-bottom minimum, go at least once this season. If you’d like a challenge, consider going every other week or so.
Fasting is the second great pillar of Lent. In our culture, this one gets ignored a lot. And we need it. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Mark 9:28-29, “And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast [the demon] out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.””
Do you have something in your life that needs casting out? Try fasting. Do you know of someone who really needs Jesus? Try fasting.
If you’ve never done this before, start small. Give up one meal a week. If you’re accustomed to weekly fasting, try two days a week.
This one’s a little tricky, as every family is in a different place financially. If you’d like a little more on what the Church officially says, click HERE for Jimmy Akin’s take on tithing and giving.
The point during Lent is to work towards the virtue of generosity – the virtue of being unattached to material goods and in gift giving. During Lent, one may look at it in two ways:
How can our family work towards giving more of our total income?
In what ways am I able to make a monetary sacrifice during Lent to benefit a charity?
The first one…again, as each family is different, this one cannot have some uniform answer. Wherever you’re at on this one, take a step towards giving more of your total income. If you’re currently giving 1%, try 2%. For those of you who’d like a stricter guideline, I once read somewhere to shoot for 5% of your income to your local church, 4% to any charity, and 1% to the Bishop. This would be a true 10% tithe. (The word tithe means one tenth.)
If you really want a challenge, and are already tithing 10% of your income, then consider giving 10% of your total income before taxes. And tithe that bonus too.
The second point…during Lent make an additional monetary sacrifice. For example, maybe you are accustomed to dining out a few times each month. Consider not eating out, and expressly give that budgeted money away to your favorite charity.
In the end, God cannot be outdone in generosity, and He will reward you! Just take the first step.
And Lastly, a Lenten Challenge
Have you ever wondered what it was like for most Catholics throughout the history of our Church to pray the Mass? I mean, what was it like for St. Catherine of Siena to receive the Eucharist? Or which Mass inspired the great writings of St. Thomas Aquinas? Or the great missionaries?
For nearly 2000 years Catholics have been worshipping the same way at the Latin Mass, and if you’ve got one near you, check it out. Don’t worry about not understanding everything. Most places have hand missals, if you’d like to follow along. (But you don’t have to.)
If you live around here, we’ve a few options. Try the Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe at 9:30am. Or St. James the Less parish at 11am. We’ll be there.
While it is a difficult thing to move an entire household hundreds of miles, it is also an exciting adventure. For it does no good to dwell on negative things, like the absence of grandma and grandpa and the lack of a single friend. No, one had better do constructive things, like find the local coffee shop and clean out the van.
I did just that yesterday, and I found that when I drove out of our valley in search of coffee, the wind was blowing. I had almost forgotten the sensation. This lack of a daily wind is an extraordinary thing for us, as we were used to a blasting gale that blew incessantly out on the wild plains of North Dakota.
When I pulled back into the driveway, I left the van outside for the children to clean and vacuum. The sun was shining with nary a breeze. The children threw sweatshirts on, even though the thermometer read 39 degrees, and went at it. I stood on the driveway, cappuccino in hand, and gazed around at the wooded hills. Amazing. No wind.
Later, when I went for a run around the neighborhood, I did encounter evidence of the wind on the other side of the “bowl,” however. Our valley, you see, is shaped like an oblong bowl. We’re situated on the northwest end, and when I ran around the park, which sits in the very center of the bowl, I noticed a few leaves tumbling across the sidewalk. When I looked around, indeed, a few tree branches were swaying. “Well,” thought I, “the wind can enter into this secluded haven after all.”
But surely there must be something terrible about living in a secluded, wooded valley with almost no wind?
And I’ve thought of it. There are 3 things which must be lamented.
No more sunrises.
No more sunsets.
And I’ll bet the mosquitos are terrible in the summer.
For now, however, I’ll enjoy the calm. And did you know, we’ve got birds? Lots of birds! One can actually hear them in the house even, because there’s no wind.
P.S. There’s no need for hairspray around here either. I guess can save the environment by getting rid of that.
We made it. We survived (barely) the 600 mile trek across the windswept prairie and have finally arrived in the woods of Wisconsin.
And I never want to move again.
Not that the move didn’t go well, for it did, but hauling around 7 sick children in two piece-of-junk vehicles, packed like sardines, without the comforts of stretching one’s legs or lying in one’s own bed for a week, is not my idea of fun.
This sickness was no ordinary cold either. Nor was it your run-of-the-mill 24 hour puke fest. Nope. This was a 3-week-long raging cough that induced violent vomiting from the little girls. The children affectionately called this illness the “Barfy Cough.”
I never got it, praise be Jesus Christ, but I’m still recovering from not sleeping for a week.
In any case, it’s lovely here in Wisconsin. I’m convinced that the wind never blows here. We’re on day four, and I haven’t so much as seen a tree branch flutter. This is not something you woodsy people can understand. Coming from the prairie where a 20 mph wind is seen as a “calm” day, this is just unbelievable.
Perhaps I’ll comment more on that later.
A Few Pictures
For those of you who are curious, here a few photos from moving day. I hope to write more soon, but I’m afraid I’ll need a few more days off, as there are a few items that need my attention…like my backload of laundry and those unopened boxes.
Lastly, here are some Quick Facts.
Quick Facts About Moving:
I’ve learned that all one really needs to unpack are a corkscrew and a crockpot.
In Wisconsin one can buy alcohol right in the grocery store! Scandalous! And so lovely!
Our city offers Log Rolling lessons alongside Swimming lessons. I don’t even know what the former is.
I changed my mind about Number 2. Really, you just need a coffee pot. In fact, you should carry one in your purse at all times because you may not be able to A.) find yours, which is likely buried in a box labeled “books” or B.) feel like driving to the gas station at 4 am when your sick children have decided that they’re up for the day.
I have a new respect for Abraham being called out of Ur. When moving, one should just meditate on that for awhile. At least I didn’t have to sleep in a tent.
The children enjoyed moving because they got to eat candy on the way. (I just asked Child Number 5 what her favorite thing about moving was and she said, “Candy.”)
Look, I’ve got 7 children, and I get asked from time-to-time, “Oh, my, how do you survive that?” I am usually assaulted with this question while buying groceries or purchasing strong coffee or standing in line at the DMV or getting my haircut. You know, the usual places, and my answer varies according to the asker and the situation. For posterity, I’ll offer a few of my varied responses below.
Question: Are all those children yours?!
Question: Haven’t you figured out how that happens yet? (Wink, wink.)
Answer: Yes, and it’s enjoyable. (Wink!)
Exclamation: Wow! Your hands are full.
Response: Yes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Question: Seriously, how do you survive that?
Answer: That’s why I’m here buying strong coffee.
But really, that last answer isn’t the full truth. We survive–and I flatter myself it’s more like “thrive”–because we pray a family rosary every. single. day. Most of the time we pray it in the evening, after supper chores, but sometimes it has to be in the van, if we’re busy.
Our family rosary, however, is the most non-contemplative rosary that I pray. I mean, I have 7 children and most of them can hardly sit still, let alone kneel. And we moved to kneeling awhile back.
Actually, kneeling is more helpful because then no one needs to be touching another person, whereas on the couch, someone is always poking or punching their neighbor. Lest you be deceived, however, kneeling doesn’t solve all problems. You’d be surprised at how one brother can sock another brother as quick as lightening and look as innocent as a dove.
And those are just the brothers. There’s also the little girls. While the 6-year-old does kneel, she has a giggling problem. Everything is just so funny and entertaining! Which is true, because the 3-year-old is always sneaking out of her spot and gathering things–tissues, dolls, random hair binders left on the floor… Then she distributes them, which provokes the 1-year-old to follow suit. Not kidding. It’s a regular circus at times. In fact, here’s a picture from last night:
You’ll notice in the above photo that all the girls are sporting lovely hair clips. That’s because “The Baby” wandered around during the rosary and adorned everyone’s hair. Was this distracting? Yes. But someone forgot to shut the bathroom door, wherein all hair clips are located, and she meandered over there and came back with a skirt full.
Now, my husband had a choice at this point. He could have stopped all rosary-praying and collected all hair pieces amidst loud protesting cries, or he could allow the rosary to continue with only occasional giggles from the girls.
And giggling won. Last night anyway. And the following were my meditations during this fiasco:
1st mystery: Spare us, O Lord
2nd mystery: Graciously hear us, O Lord
3rd mystery: Lord, have mercy on us
4th mystery: Lead me not into temptation
5th mystery: Deliver me from evil, O Lord
You might be wondering if it’s worth it?
I mean, “praying” the rosary every night? Yes. Yes, it is. It’s the most beautiful thing we do together as a family. And while we’re working on maintaining prayerful postures and and meaningful meditations, our heavenly Mother is interceding for our souls.
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!
P.S. I know I said I probably wouldn’t be writing a post for a few weeks, due to the move, but I guess this one just spilled out and wrote itself. Actually, I didn’t feel like packing… But now, for real, I probably won’t write another post for a few weeks.
I recently finished Tobit’s Dog by Michael Nicholas Richard. I had great hopes for this historical fiction, as one always sees it pasted in the Ignatius Press catalogue near the likes of Sigrid Unset and Michael O’Brien–both both excellent authors.
Essentially this novel is a retelling of the biblical book of Tobit, but with an American, racial spin, being set in North Carolina during the Depression. Now, I love the biblical book of Tobit, so as I said, I had great hopes for this modern twist.
Alas, I was disappointed–not disappointed enough to quit reading it, mind you, but just disappointed. It’s like getting all psyched up for a run in the wintertime. You know, when you commence putting on layer upon layer of clothing, pull that face mask on, and then realize the wind’s whipping at 30mph with the thermometer hovering at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. What to do? Suck it up and get going, of course. Realizing that you’re in for a doozy and that things might not end well.
So as I say, I was disappointed in Tobit’s Dog, and here’s why.
Firstly, the characters were all limp and toneless. I mean, there was no real depth to Tobit, Tobias, Anna, Sarah, Gaston Walker, Judge Oliver, Mason Newberry, Del Gaines, Ben Cobb, Crafy Forgeron, Doc Mack…well, all of them. There were too many characters in this book. It was distracting. Like on page 9, not kidding, I had to start writing them down. When I got to 20 names, by the first third of the book, I just quit with it. And let me tell you, there were many more to come.
Secondly, I was dissatisfied with the plot. I didn’t mind it when Richard downplayed the great fish miracle or lowered the number of husbands killed by the demon, or used blessed water from Lourdes to cure Tobit’s blindness, but throwing in that disturbing suicide scene and adding the sodomy bit was…too much. Not too much as in I can’t handle grotesque situations, no. Too much, as in it was too hasty, barely scratching the surface of human nature, and corny and hackneyed. In fact, the whole book had a deplorable element of triteness.
That said, would I recommend it? Maybe, if you’re desperate for a read that won’t assault your Christian morals. Richard does get that right, and I commend him for it. You know, the good is good, and the bad is bad. And good wins. Thanks be to God.
A Note on Moving
Lastly, we’re in the final stages of packing a household of 9 and about to sail across 600 miles of prairie to disembark in a forest. It’s rather exciting around here, and I’m a bit distracted.
In other words, it’ll probably be a few weeks before I can offer another post.
Here are some of my favorite things lately. Is there anything you’ve been enjoying? I’d love to hear about it.
Favorite Children’s Book on Audible:Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Brink. Since we’re moving to Wisconsin, we thought this book pertinent, which it is. But, seriously, it’s very entertaining too.
Favorite Read Aloud: Rebecca Caudill’s Tree of Freedom, which we’re in the middle of. The children groan every time I put it down. “Ah, Mom! Can’t you just read one more page?” But a girl’s gotta have Quiet Time; I can’t read aloud all day long.
My Favorite Read: Hands down, Hilaire Belloc’sPath to Rome. Every time I read it, I just chuckle and laugh to myself. He’s so witty! Everything I’ve ever read by him is a gem, including this travelogue.
Best Amazon Purchase: Besides my new dress with pockets? The board game Catan. We can’t stop playing it; our whole family is addicted. In fact, we should really consider purchasing the 5-6 player Expansion. And Sea-Farers. Or Cities and Knights…
Favorite YouTube Video: Yes, I just made this a category. But if you haven’t been watching Dr. Taylor Marshall, you’re missing out. We especially enjoyed THIS one.
Best Movie Seen in an Actual Movie Theater: Yeah, I know, right?! I actually saw a movie in the movie theater. It’s the first time that’s happened in about ten years, and it was worth it, even if there were jabs at marriage and the plight of women in the 1800s. The ironic thing is, is that in this movie (and the book) all the women end up married. Go figure. In any case, go see Little Women. You’ll sob. (And thank you to my mother-in-law for inviting me!)
Favorite Drink: A Gibraltar. This is a double-shot of espresso with an ounce or so of steamed milk served in a tiny tumbler. You gotta try it. If you live in Bismarck, North Dakota, go to Anima Cucina and order one. Jason makes the best drinks there.
Best Idea Ever: Pay your children a dollar for every lesson in the Baltimore Catechism that they memorize. Our children are on a learning frenzy, thanks to my husband. I guess money can be a good motivator…
It never fails. Every Christmas our family gets sick. This year, thankfully, only one child barfed on Christmas Eve. The rest just got nasty colds, which turned into an ear infection for the baby. And then all four girls got croup. (Remember that scene in Anne of Green Gables wherein Anne cares for Diana’s sister, who’s practically dying from coup? Well, we didn’t have it that bad, but still…)
Some of you may be wondering how it might be possible to survive sickness in your household and teach school all day? Yes? Then read on.
Since I’m in the midst of caring for Sick Kids, I thought I’d update my old post from awhile back. This is mostly to encourage myself and cheer on the rest of you, who may be suffering from this most taxing and exhausting dilemma.
8 Tips to Survive Barfing Children, Ear Infections & Other Nasty Stuff While Teaching School, Cooking for a Family, and Cleaning a House:
1.Don’t clean your house. Or if you must, just make your bed and call it good. Heck, your bed is probably still made from yesterday because you didn’t sleep in it anyway. You were sitting in the rocking chair, holding a screaming baby all night. I know it’s a big deal in this household to get a load of laundry done every day too, but I guess it won’t go anywhere, so that can be left alone. The children can turn their clothes inside-out and wear them again, for the 3rd day in a row, unless of course there’s vomit on them…
2. Put lipstick on. This should go without saying. Not only is lipstick fun, but it brightens everyone’s day. Especially if you’re not in the habit of wearing it. Your husband and children will wonder what came over you. And when you look in the mirror, you will not notice the dark circles around your eyes, but will instead, be stunned by the awesomeness of Hot Pink Lips. You might even laugh at yourself, which is good.
3. Reduce school to a minimum. This is a very good time to renew your subscription to Audible, purchase The Story of Civilization, and commence History Class. When your children are finished with this, send the healthy ones outside for the remainder of the day for Nature Study. If the healthy children do not want to do Nature Study, offer House-Cleaning 101, wherein all children scrub floors, walls, and toilets.
Too sick to move? We enjoyed this series on YouTube last week.
4. Take two minutes and change out of your sweatpants. Why? Because you’re sleep deprived and look like it. There are statistics out there saying that if you look put-together, you will feel put-together. Paul Harvey, the decades-long iconic radio broadcaster, used to wear a suit and tie every day for his program. And his studio was in his house, where virtually no one saw him. But he knew that his performance was always better if he dressed the part. So, this morning, I put on my favorite skirt and my new shirt that my husband bought me for my birthday last week. And yes, it made me feel better about not sleeping last night.
5. Eat takeout or something frozen for supper. Eating Little Caesar’s Pizza every once in awhile won’t kill you. In fact, it might save your sanity. And I’ve found that those $4.98 rotisserie chickens from Sam’s Club are handy too. The best part is, they’re hot and ready to eat, and I’ve done nothing to prepare them. (Someone I know gave me that great bit of advice. Thank you!) And I like to top it off with those pre-made salads in a bag.
6. Decide not to yell at your children. You are going to have a demanding day. Just face it. If the baby was up all night crying, he’s going to be crabby and cry all day too. So, your nerves are shot. You will be seriously tempted to yell at your other children. Just don’t do it. This will take a tremendous amount of effort and a lot of prayer. And in some cases, like mine, it will take a minor miracle. See my post HERE on that one.
7. Spend more time in prayer. Why? Because you’re sleep-deprived and well, crazy from holding a screaming baby all night. All sleep-deprived, crazy people need a lot of prayer. I know this from experience. The tricky part is making time to do it. I suggest leaving your house and spending an hour in silent Adoration. Hire a babysitter, call grandma, ask your husband to take sick leave…anything. This hour of Adoration may be the only time you will get to sleep, until the illnesses go away. And yes, sleeping in Adoration still counts as prayer.
8. Drink More Coffee. It’s a given that this helps, right?
Get yourself a teenager. I’m telling you, it’s awesome. It only took me 13 years, but I finally have one, and I will be eternally grateful to God for her.
Bonus Tip #2
Did I mention that you should just not cook anything? Here’s what we did for lunch today:
Know of anyone else experiencing Sick Children? If so, share these tips with them?
By far, and I mean, by far, all posts related to Paul were the most popular of 2019. This touches my heart because in those dark moments, I wasn’t sure if I ought to post anything on him. I am glad I did, however, for our whole family felt the prayers of everyone.
For those who are interested, today I offer a summary of posts from 2019 chronicling Paul’s journey. For me, this was emotionally intense to read through, especially the August 15th entry. That was a desolate moment. In fact, my stomach is queasy right now just thinking of it.
In any case, here is his story, and I apologize for its great length. Indeed you may not have time for it.
February 13, 2019
Today I ask for prayers.
My son’s migraines have been increasing in frequency lately. Instead of suffering a major episode once every 3-4 weeks, he’s now experiencing them every 5-10 days. In case you’re new here, his migraines begin with a headache, but quickly advance to an all-out debilitating migraine. He quits moving; he quits eating. He curls up in a ball on the couch or his bed and trembles in pain. His eyes glass over, and he moans. Hours later, he vomits and vomits. It takes anywhere from 24-48 hours to come out of it.
After visiting with three of his doctors yesterday, we have yet another CT scan scheduled for tomorrow to check his shunt. (When he was 3 years old, we discovered an arachnoid cyst that covered 1/3 of his brain. This shunt continually drains this fluid into his stomach cavity.) I am not very hopeful, however, that anything will be discovered because he just had an MRI this last fall with everything checking out just fine.
In any case, if you have a minute, stop what you’re doing right now and offer a small prayer for him. His patron saint is St. Paul, who was no stranger to suffering himself.
May 9, 2019
I write this morning asking for prayers again. Our son, Paul, is currently in Rochester, MN, being monitored at the hospital in the ICU.
My husband and father-in-law drove down a few days ago for an Intracranial Pressure Monitor to be placed under his skull. This device monitors the pressure in his brain to determine if there’s too much. For example, the doctor explained, when you have a bowel movement, the pressure levels in your brain reach 30, but only briefly. Normally the levels of pressure in your brain do not exceed 20 mmHg.
One cannot sustain high levels of pressure for extended periods of time without eventually doing great damage to the brain. In fact, one of the first things to go are the eyes. Blindness will result from high, extended levels of pressure.
In any case, Paul’s doctors are concerned that his existing shunt, which was placed in 2012 to drain an arachnoid cyst, might be causing problems. The only way to determine if this is the case, is to monitor it.
Immediately upon placing the monitor on his brain, the doctors noticed elevated levels of pressure of around 40. Obviously, this is not good. After a few hours, however, it did go down, when Paul’s migraine went away.
Last night, though, was a rough night. Paul had another migraine and spend the night intermittently vomiting. The pressure levels in his brain reached into the 50s and did not return to normal until around 6am.
Later today, we should know more information, as to what the doctor wants to do. He’s only seen a handful of these cases – children with existing shunts experiencing dreadful migraines. We are praying that the angels will guide the doctors into making the right decisions.
Please, remember Paul and his doctors in your prayers today.
May 10, 2019
For those of you interested in my son, Paul, here is another update.
Last night he finally slept, and as you can see from the photo below, he woke up with a little more pizzazz.
As an aside, the other day, when the nurses wheeled him in for surgery prep, one of the nurses asked him, “Do you know any jokes?”
With a twinkle in his eye, Paul politely answered, “Yes,” and calmly asked, “Have you seen the new movie called Constipation yet?”
“Nope. Never heard of it.”
“Well, that’s because it hasn’t come out yet.”
And that, my dear readers, is my son’s favorite joke.
The Plan, In Short
After two days of monitoring the pressure in his brain, his doctors have determined that his existing shunt is malfunctioning and possibly sucking in bits of his brain. So next Tuesday, Paul will have another surgery to remove the existing shunt and to place a new one in.
One more week of this! Oh, please pray for me too!
And a Thank You
Lastly, we want to thank Fr. Kasel from the archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul for traveling to Rochester to anoint Paul. Truly, we are very grateful. He not only anointed him, but prayed with him, heard his confession, and played cards with him.
May God bless you, Fr. Kasel!
May 17, 2019
For those of you who are following Paul’s plight, here’s an update.
On Monday we began the long trek back to Rochester for a second surgery, which lasted about 3 hours. His doctor reopened his incisions from 7 years ago and made a thorough examination of his old shunt system, beginning with the shunt itself, down to the valve behind his ear, and finally snaking all the way down his neck into his stomach cavity.
The doctor was hoping that he’d discover that it was malfunctioning, which would be an easy explanation for the incredibly high levels of pressure in Paul’s brain during his migraines. But he did not. The old shunt was functioning. Nevertheless, he replaced it with all newer equipment, in hopes that even though the old equipment was functioning, perhaps it wasn’t functioning optimally.
And how was Paul during this four day trial? Physically he was as well as could be expected, but emotionally and psychologically, he was down. Very down. As a mother, this was the hardest thing to watch. He didn’t want to be in a hospital anymore. He didn’t want to have wires and tubes sticking out of him. He didn’t want to wear a hospital gown. But he didn’t cry about it; he just looked terribly sad.
So we prayed through it. This time he chose to offer his sufferings for our family. We prayed rosaries. We prayed morning and night prayer. But really, I think he was just exhausted, as we all were.
Finally the day after his surgery in the afternoon, he picked up a little, as the beautiful water fountain out of his window was turned on that day, and he could watch it from his window.
My mom and I also walked him down the hall to a pottery class for the children on his floor. He didn’t want to walk out there in his hospital gown, dragging an IV cart along, but he did.
We also found other things to distract him with. We watched the Twins play baseball. (Paul’s a big fan of Rosario, and it was neat to see him hit a few home runs.) My mom bought a lego set, which he put together, took apart, put together… We read a few light books, you know, like Frog and Toad.
In the end, it is our hope that this new shunt will somehow alleviate his migraines, and they will disappear. High levels of pressure in one’s brain is a very serious thing. Children with hydrocephalus die or go into a coma with the same levels that Paul was experiencing–levels into the 40s and 50s. But because his levels are cyclic, however, he manages to be ok, and has not had any damage to his brain, yet.
Paul’s doctor has said that if this shunt doesn’t work, then we’ll have to think about another surgery wherein he’ll take apart his cranium and reassemble it with a plastic surgeon to allow for more space, in an attempt to alleviate those pressure levels.
Lastly, a Thank You
Truly, my husband and I are very thankful for the great help of the staff, doctors, and nurses at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester. They’ve all been so helpful and kind.
We’re also greatly indebted to our parents who have done so many things for us over these last four weeks–watching children, cooking meals, paying for hotels and gas and food, allowing us to use their reliable car, and indeed accompanying us on these many trips. How could we do it without you? We couldn’t. May God bless you for your generosity and love. We love you all so much.
Lastly, we want to thank everyone who has prayed with us during this difficult trial. As prayers and sacrifices are hidden things, and we may never know about them, we pray that God, who is a great Father, will reward you all abundantly.
August 15, 2019
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
August 18, 2019
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.
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.
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.
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.
September 17, 2019
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?
* Compliments of the Web Master:
October 3, 2019
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.
October 7, 2019
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!
Dear Readers, this wasn’t an easy post, and considering the high traffic it got, I suspect that many of you can relate to the hurt of a miscarriage.
What hidden suffering dwells in the heart of a mother or a father who has miscarried a precious, little baby? The Lord knows, and may all these little souls give glory to Him.
The following is my story from earlier this year. It’s almost unbelievable to me.
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.
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:
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.”
Today I offer you my 3rd most popular post of 2019:
10 Thing I Wish I Knew 8 Years Ago
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.