This afternoon, when I was cruising home in my husband’s 1996 Oldsmobile Sierra, I was mighty thirsty for some coffee.
You see, I didn’t sleep well last night and had just finished a Holy Hour at the Shrine, where I mostly “slept in the Lord,” if you get my drift. Why, I could barely stay awake navigating that Rust Machine down the highway. My eyelids were drooping, and my spirits were waning.
Fortunately, Caribou Coffee was right down the street, and I zipped in the drive-thru. Unfortunately, I forgot that my husband’s window wasn’t working. Apparently it’s missing some piece that keeps the glass in place when one hand-cranks it down. (There are no new-fangled electronics in this Classic.)
I remembered about the broken window, just as soon as I rolled the window down, and it sort of “fell” forward. Not out, my you, but down into the door panel, in a crooked fashion.
There was no need to panic at this misfortune, however, because I was still able to receive my hot coffee. It’s just that I wasn’t able to properly hand-crank the window back up. I did my best, though, at getting the thing mostly up, in an angular position. Then, I flipped the sun visor down over the window, while the Coffee Lady modestly averted her eyes to avoid embarrassing herself, for I wasn’t embarrassed.
As I drove through the exit, I cooly reached for my phone, looked up Janet Jackson’s 1990 “Escapade” and blasted it. I thought this appropriate for the occasion. (Not that I particularly recommend that song….it was just a moment of weakness after all.)
I sang the whole way home.
My husband took my picture when I rolled into the driveway.
Now I’m properly disposed to commence Dinner Detail.
This last weekend, my husband took our three sons camping with the Troops of St. George for their annual Midwest Assembly. They thoroughly enjoy this weekend every year–canoeing, hiking, Latin Mass, traditional priests, marshmallows, corn on the cob, tents, and campfires–the whole bit.
The real question is, what do the ladies of the house do while the men are all gone?
We drove straight to a friend’s house, whose husband and sons were also at Troops, and commenced a lovely afternoon of visiting. The little girls ran around chasing a puppy, the big girls spent hours styling each other’s hair, and the mothers enjoyed a glass of wine.
I will say that I very much dislike evenings and nighttime without my husband around, however. For I had to perform all his evening chores by myself. For example, I had to grind the coffee beans and set the coffee maker. (When he’s around, I claim that I don’t know how to do these odious tasks.) Also, I had to put the dog in her kennel and lock all the doors. Horrible!
Well, really, the horrible part is trying to actually sleep through the night, ignoring all those strange sounds that always appear when my husband is gone. For example, why did a bird decide to knock himself senseless against my upstairs window at 1am? (Or was it a bat?!) And why did the dog start barking in the garage at 3am? Were we being robbed?! Horror of horrors! For I had to get out of bed to investigate these things, instead of just kicking my husband to do it.
Between those strange incidents and attending to the Little Girl who decided to cry for no reason at 4am, I didn’t sleep much. So, what to do the next day? I promised the girls we would make it special…
So after praying Lauds–another task that I had to lead since my husband was gone–we drove straight to a coffee shop. I could think of no better way to start the day, as my mind was already fried by 8am.
My morale did pick up, however, as I enjoyed a traditional cappuccino. The Eldest chose an iced hazelnut latte, and the Little Girls shared an iced turtle mocha. We blasted a little of Rhett Walker Gospel Song on the drive home, and I decided that I wasn’t cooking the entire weekend.
Except that resolution quickly evaporated, for I forgot about my kitchen counter, which was loaded with tomatoes, peppers, green onions, carrots, and a cabbage the size of a beach ball. Now most of these vegetables came from my neighbor’s garden and the rest from ours, and I wasn’t about to let them go to waste.
Aprons on, girls!
We spent the afternoon chopping and putting together coleslaw and salsa, while listening to Stillwater Hobos and blasting their song, Saint Therese.
The rest of the weekend was fairly uneventful, except when we decided to watch an episode of Pride and Prejudice. You know, the version with Colin Firth from the ’90s. I’m not so sure the boys would have tolerated that, but we loved it.
Our family has great news: Miss Severed Fingers is whole again! It’s been a little over two weeks since her calamitous encounter with a folding chair wherein one finger was dangling by the skin and another was sliced through the bone. These fingers, however, haven taken nicely. A couple of days ago she had all sixteen stitches removed.
It was quite the ordeal, though, having those sixteen stitches yanked out. Miss Severed Fingers screamed bloody murder during the entire clipping and tugging, especially when the doctor had to forcefully wrestle with the ones stuck in her nail beds.
We had a very sympathetic nurse, whose job it was to hold sharp-looking implements for the doctor. She kept smiling and crooning, “Oh, Honey, you’re doing such a good job! Just a few more!” Whereupon Miss Severed Fingers wailed even louder, and I snickered and interiorly rolled my eyes. Doing a good job? Humph. Four-year-olds. Everyone in this hospital is wondering what kind of hellish operation is happening in this back room.
But I did my part to console The Poor, Afflicted Thing too. I said, “Honey Babydoll, calm down! I’ll buy you a lovely coffee afterwards!”
The Little Dear quickly turned her teary, blue eyes towards me, and whimpered, “Really?”
“Of course, Honey. Coffee fixes nearly everything, you know.”
And so that’s what we did. After her little fingers were re-bandaged, we drove straight to Moka Coffee. Miss Severed Fingers ordered an iced vanilla latte; I had a hot cappuccino with a much deserved extra shot of espresso.
Notice the delectable donut? The Coffee Check-Out Lady was so impressed with Miss Severed Fingers that she even threw in the donut for free, along with a tootsie roll. For you see, Miss Severed Fingers rolled her window down from the backseat and stuck her damaged digits out for the Coffee Lady to admire. She even graciously wiggled them too.
Then we drove to the Post Office. She showed her bandaged extremities to the Post Office Lady, and you guessed it, the Post Office Lady was mighty impressed with her cuteness and gave her two suckers–one for each afflicted hand.
Does Coronavirus have you down? Are you wondering what you might do? Never fear! Here are 3 things I’m doing to distract myself from everything shutting down…
I’m drinking more coffee. If cappuccinos weren’t so confounding expensive, I’d drive myself to a drive-thru and drink them all day long. On second thought, I am a Catholic, and we’re suppose to practice moderation and all that, so maybe I’d limit myself to two–one at 6am and one at noon, to ward off that darn Noon Day Devil–but as it is, I’m lucky if I get one a week. In any case, coffee helps, I’m telling you.
I’m listening to Mariah Carey when my children aren’t around, so like during “Quiet Time.” Naturally I’m a secret Mariah Carey admirer. I can’t help myself. I grew up blasting her music and singing at the top of lungs with my sister. I know, I know, you’re going to remind me that she dresses scandalously and has terrible lyrics/music and all that, but I am a weak individual. Mea culpa. I’ve written about it HERE. Pray for me.
3. I’m painting, and I hate painting. It’s the worst. And every single house we move into always requires it. How about you? Are there any home projects that you need to get done? Now’s the time!
BTW…the only way to survive such everlastingly tedious housework is to drink cappuccinos and blast THIS. You know what this song is really about, right? Not having enough coffee, of course.
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.
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?
The other day I came across a curious acronym – JOMO.
Now I know that some of you are much more up-to-date on these things than I am, so you likely have an idea of what it stands for. For the rest of you (and me) it means: Joy of Missing Out. It’s a play on the famous “Fomo,” Fear of Missing Out.
This caught my attention because my husband and I joke about Fomo every time we get a new email suggesting another activity for our children, or I listen to another podcast about someone else’s family doing great things out in the world.
Now don’t misunderstand me, I am glad that extra activities exist, and I am glad that other families do great things, but I also know that I’ve got to be comfortable with where we’re at and not fear missing out.
This is where Jomo comes in. For it’s true, there is great joy in missing out. We say no to many things and prefer to be together as a family. Instead of running our children to multiple sporting events or musical performances, we limit these things and stay home. Our children ice skate in the backyard and build snow forts. We have friends over for coffee. We pray the rosary together every evening. We play Up and Down the River with gummy bears. We laugh with our children.
No, our home isn’t always peaceful. Quite the contrary. Most evenings someone’s crying or whining. My point is that family life seems to have been lost or tossed aside in this modern world, and it’s worth fighting for. It’s worth it, to be home with the children in a meaningful way.
So the next time you’re tempted to say yes to another commitment, maybe pause a moment to reflect. Will this bring joy to your lives? Or will it result in more running?
One beautiful thing you might consider doing this Lent is signing up for a silent retreat.
As we’re now in the middle of Lent, and most of us are trying to step it up a notch, I want to strongly encourage all of you to sign up for a silent retreat this year.
You all know how important it is to step back in silence from time-to-time to be with God. I’m sure I don’t need to convince you. The hardest part, however, is actually going. Of course Satan hates silent retreats. He’ll do anything to prevent you from spending time with God. In fact, retreat masters will often tell you to expect all kinds of obstacles to appear, especially at the last minute.
Let me give you an example. Two years ago I was signed up to attend a private silent retreat with a small group of mothers, but just hours before the retreat was to begin, our Retreat Master was forced to cancel. So we were left wondering if we should still go, without a Retreat Master? Well, we decided yes. After all, what harm could come from spending time alone with God for a weekend, even if it wasn’t directed? And I am so glad we did! For God always provides, and He sent an excellent priest at the last minute to replace the previous one. We had a Shepherd and the Sacraments.
In any case, you all need to go on retreat, or into the desert, if you like. And since I can’t ever get enough of Cardinal Sarah, I’ll leave you with a quotation from his book The Power of Silence.”
It is vitally important to withdraw to the desert in order to combat the dictatorship of a world filled with idols that gorge themselves on technology and material goods, a world dominated and manipulated by the media, a world that flees God by taking refuge in noise.“
As we’re nearing the end of the year, I thought I’d look back on my stats. Today I’m reposting my Most Popular Fun Post of 2018. Obviously this resonated with a lot of you. Pass it on to your friends!
Later this week, I’ll repost my Most Popular Serious Post.
But today, enjoy a little lighter fare!
Lipstick: It’s Not Just For Your Grandmother
A week or so ago, I mentioned something very important in my post on How to Survive Barfing Children. (Click HERE for it.) You’ll notice that Point Number 2 mentions Lipstick.
It occurred to me yesterday afternoon that many of you may not understand this one. You see, I grew up around a grandmother who was convinced that lipstick was the key to a great life. Ok, other things were important to her too, like family and big jewelry, but there is something simple here that she taught me.
While of course one can go overboard with relying on material things for happiness, there is something to say about a little dash of color and an attempt at looking well put together. I always go back to what Paul Harvey, the decades-long, iconic radio broadcaster, had to say about it all. You will always perform better if you dress the part. Statistics prove it. (Click HERE for a Wall Street Journal article on that.)
Paul Harvey. My grandmother named my father after him, literally.
My grandmother knew this secret—attempt to dress well, throw a little lipstick on, and Bam! Most of the time, you’ll feel better. No, it won’t solve all your problems, but it might help.
Now I know that many of you do not wear lipstick. In fact you may not even own any brightly-colored fun-in-a-tube. This is too bad because after all, St. Thomas himself speaks of it in his Summa Theologiae. (Click HERE for that one.) If there are any further lipstick naysayers, please know that I understand. I was once one of you, as I gave it up for a time, just to see what it was like. (I was miserable.) And truly, I suppose it’s not for everyone. (Like those with a vocation to the Carmelites?) But for me, I had to go back to lipstick, because it’s just that fun.*
Some of you, however, may be thinking, “Yes, yes, lipstick is fun and all, but what will my husband think?” Well, try it out. Tonight when he arrives home, greet him at the door with your lipstick on and his favorite drink in your hand. It will be impossible to not smile at that moment. Lipstick is so powerful, after all, that you may even be wearing sweatpants, and you’ll still have fun.
So, when there just isn’t enough coffee in the house and your hairspray runs out and it’s -20 degrees outside and your children are all screaming…quietly walk to a mirror and brighten your day with a splash of hot pink.
*Do I need to say, “all things in moderation?” One probably shouldn’t own bags and bags of makeup? You know that, right?
A few weeks ago, here’s how I worked on my Christmas cards:
And here is how I scrubbed onesies full of poop. (Laundry doesn’t go away during the holidays.) It just so happens that a dear friend stopped by and gave me the coffee. May God bless her thoughtfulness!
Here is my son traveling to his doctor appointment wherein we didn’t discover much of anything.
Here is our sweet Christmas tree. It has a gaping hole in the back. But that’s what you get when you wait until two days before Christmas Eve to buy one. (As of last year, we decided to wait until the last possible moment to get one. Oh the excitement!) Then we decorate it on Christmas Eve. Click HERE for last year’s Sweet Thang.
And, here are the rest of the children helping with the cookies.
In any case, I pray that your Christmas may be holy and jolly! Come, Lord Jesus!
Now I know that some of you live in warmer climates. You know who you are. You’re probably reading this on your iPhone, sitting on your deck, listening to birds sing, while the rest of us are freezing our tushies off and drinking anything hot to stay alive. I’ll have you know that the windchill was zero this morning. Zero. (Yes, it called for an extra cup of coffee just for coping reasons.)
Anyway, I wanted to brighten everyone’s day with a little poetry. My daughter recently came across a lovely poem in an obscure South Dakota centennial book.* The author is unknown, and I’ve typed it below for your enjoyment. Of course one might substitute “South Dakota” for “North Dakota.”
And I must warn my sensitive readers, this anonymous author uses the word butt. Goodness, the language some people use these days.
Winter in South Dakota
It’s winter in South Dakota
And the gentle breezes blow
Seventy miles an hour,
At thirty-five below.
Oh, how I love South Dakota,
When the snow’s up to your butt.
You take a breath of winter in
And your nose gets frozen shut.
Yes, the weather here is wonderful.
So I guess I’ll hang around.
I could never leave South Dakota
I’m frozen to the ground!
*Celebrating 125 Years of History and Growth, pg. 17. Email me later if you actually want the publisher, etc. I don’t have the book in front of me at the moment, and I’m too cold to get off the couch right now. Happy Winter!
I’ve never paid for the children to have a haircut. Or my husband. We just line ’em up and start clipping.
Early on in our marriage, my husband bought a clippers and begged me to cut his hair. He hated wasting time at a salon and despised fancy haircuts. All he wanted was his hair to be buzzed off as short as possible. So, I snapped on a #1 and went at it.
There are eight attachments with our clippers that are numbered 1-8. 1 is the shortest; 8 is the longest. My husband insists on a #1 for him. The boys, however, don’t care. I generally buzz the bottom off with a 1, shear the top with a 3, and blend the edges with a 2. I learned that trick from my sister. She went to hair school and worked in a salon for a few years.
Now normally I do all the clipping, but occasionally my husband likes to “help out.” He thinks it’s funny to tonsure all the boys first and then chase after them with the clippers to finish it off. (Don’t know what a tonsure is? Click HERE.)
And how about the girls?
Every now and then I trim the girls’ hair, but that’s trickier and requires a bit more skill. Again my sister showed me a few haircutting tricks, but I’m just not that good at it. So, every year or so, I bribe her with coffee to fix their hair, which she gladly does. (May God bless her soul.)
And what about me?
I’m the only spoiled rotten one in this family. So I go to a salon where my hairdresser washes, cuts, and styles my hair beautifully. If I lived anywhere near my sister, however, I would bribe her to cut my hair too, but alas, she’s 6 hours away. And when I do see her, I’ve got so many girls with uneven hair that there just isn’t time for me.
If you don’t own a clippers, buy one. I promise it’s a lot of fun.
As we’re now in the middle of Holy Week and most of us are trying to step it up a notch, I want to strongly encourage all of you to sign yourselves up for a silent retreat this year. Yep, just look at your spring and summer calendars, and do it.
Unfortunately for me, I’ll have to wait until my latest baby is done nursing before I can go, but for the rest of you, just do it!
You all know how important it is to step back in silence from time to time to be with God. I’m sure I don’t need to convince you. The hardest part, however, is actually going. Of course Satan hates silent retreats. He’ll do anything to prevent you from spending time with God. In fact, retreat masters will tell you to expect all kinds of obstacles to appear, especially at the last minute.
Let me give you an example. Last year I was signed up to attend a private silent retreat with a small group of mothers, but just hours before the retreat was to begin, our Retreat Master was forced to cancel. So we were left wondering if we should still go, without a Retreat Master? Well, we decided yes. After all, what harm could come from spending time alone with God for a weekend, even if it wasn’t directed? And I am so glad we did! For God always provides, and He sent an excellent priest at the last minute to replace the previous one. We had a Shepherd and the Sacraments.
As an aside, It should also be noted that we had coffee available all day too. This is important because during day two or three, when you’ve already put in a few holy hours, read your Bible, prayed a rosary, walked a few miles, and spent an hour sitting on a rock pile at the end of a tree row, you will need coffee.
In any case, you all need to go on retreat, or into the desert, if you like. And since I can’t get enough of Cardinal Sarah lately, I’ll leave you with a small quotation from his latest book The Power of Silence. (Click HERE for it on Amazon.)
“It is vitally important to withdraw to the desert in order to combat the dictatorship of a world filled with idols that gorge themselves on technology and material goods, a world dominated and manipulated by the media, a world that flees God by taking refuge in noise.”
By the way, have you ever read anything by Cardinal Sarah? He’s got two of the greatest books ever written out now – God or Nothing and The Power of Silence. Buy a copy for yourself and your priest. You won’t regret it.