Catholic Family Vignettes

A collage of literary snapshots from the life of a large traditional Catholic family


December 2009

Sixteen things…

…I love about you, my son:

1.  I love the way your mind works, logically assessing every situation, affirming daily just how much you’re like your father…

2.  I love the way you raise that one eyebrow…quizzically, humorously, disarmingly.  No one can stay mad for long, nor argue effectively when looking at your expression!

3.  I love that you call me “momkins” in that silly voice…

4.  I love the way you’re so protective of your siblings.  Yes…I know they think you’re a tyrant at times, but one day they’ll understand just how much you worry about them…

5.  I love the way you’ve embraced your masculinity.  Fearless and bold…never afraid to step up and defend the defenseless.  I’ve seen it time and time again…

6.  I love your creativity.  How quickly you find a solution to a seemingly impossible dilemma…

7.  I love your skillfulness.  There’s nothing you can’t fix or repair.  Just…like…your father…and his father before him…

8.  I love the way you serve the Mass.  A Master of Ceremonies by the age of fourteen…the gravity and awe of that responsibility is etched so clearly upon your face every Sunday.  And seeing you kneel beside sibling after sibling for their First Holy Communion?  Priceless…

9. I love the way you love your sisters. How you consider yourself the “big brother” no matter their age…especially with Clementine. Your protectiveness of her is a joy to observe…

10. I love the way you always take the lead. You don’t wait for someone else to get the job done. You’re more than willing to shoulder full responsibility or to make things happen…

11. I love your sense of humor. Like Father Lutz says…you’re one of the funniest guys he knows, but most people would never realize it because you seem so serious…but we know, don’t we?! I’m thinking about all those little “tricks” you particularly like to play on “momkins!”

12. I love the relationship you have with your Grandfather…how you love spending time with him. You’re very much alike, and he loves you so very much…

13. I love how tenderly and lovingly you help those in need…thank you for your compassionate heart!

14. I love that you think your dad is the best guy, ever! Your so much like him and you’re growing into an amazing man. You’ve had a fantastic example…

15. I love our conversations. How well you express yourself. You’ve become a great companion…

16. And, finally, I love you because you’re you. There’s no one else like you…I praise God for you, my first born son, and could go on and on…but I also know that this kind of stuff drives you crazy…so I’ll stop now and simply say:

Happy Birthday, big guy…I’m so proud of you!



‘Tis better to give…

For nearly two weeks it lay there, nestled far beneath the low branches of the Christmas tree.  It was the first gift she had ever wrapped by herself.  Roughly the size of a walnut, wrapped in many layers of paper and tape, she proudly showed me what she had done.

“It’s for you, Mommy…I wrapped it all by myself.  I think you’ll like it,” she said with a shy smile.

“Well of course I will!  Emily, you are so precious to wrap a gift for Mommy!  I can’t wait to open it.”

She gingerly placed it under the tree and would, from time to time, check to make sure it was still there.  I mused at what “treasure” my sweet six year old might have placed in such a small container.  Bubble gum machines are a big thing with Emily, and I was quite sure I’d receive one of the many plastic and metal adjustable rings she’d collected over the past few months.  I was touched…knowing how hard it is for this little one to part with her “jewels.”  I kept reminding myself to make a big fuss over it on Christmas morning.

And so it was, with great joy, that she placed that tiny package on my lap on Christmas morning.

I struggled past the many layers of tape and gasped in surprise at the beautiful chaplet bracelet that lay inside a small plastic egg…one usually reserved for those bubble gum machine treasures.

“Emily!  Is this for me?  Really?  You don’t mean it…this is your very favorite chaplet.  It’s so lovely.  Surely you don’t mean to give this away?  It’s one of the nicest things you own, and it was a gift.  Don’t you want to keep it for yourself?”

Smiling broadly, she explained:  “I like it very much, but I wanted to give you something really, really nice.  It was the nicest thing I have.  You told me how much you liked it, so I wanted to give it to you.  It’s yours.”

Torn.  I had told her how lovely that bracelet was when she received it.  I had even stated how much I’d like to have one like it.  I certainly had never meant for her to give it to me!  I was so tempted to refuse the gift…it seemed too precious, too valuable to take from such a loving child.

So many thoughts ran through my mind and almost instantly it dawned on me…this is what we all must do.  We must, without reserve, without thought for self, give the very best we have.  Isn’t that what God did when He sent His only begotten Son?  Our very first Christmas gift…a gift of infinite value, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger…a little baby waiting, little arms reaching up, later to reach out, stretch out upon the Cross at Calvary.  God gave the best He had…He didn’t weigh the cost of this Gift.  Our Father in heaven held back nothing, not even His own Son…born to die, that we might live.  God is the ultimate giver of all gifts, and by His example we all learn what it is to give from the heart.

Like little Emily.

I thanked her, and immediately put on the bracelet.  It lay cold across my wrist, it’s brightly polished grey beads slowly warming to body temperature.  Even now, it jingles upon the keyboard as I type…a reminder of how well my sweet girl has learned “it is better to give than it is to receive.”  I don’t believe she opened a single gift as joyfully as she gave the one I’m wearing.

The bits of wrapping paper and boxes are all cleared away, now.  Christmas has begun…days of joy, days of peace, days in which we’ll all try to remember the beautiful Gift we’ve all received that still waits in the manger in Bethlehem…

Merry Christmas,

A busy mom’s daybook…pink candle edition!

Visit Peggy at The Simple Woman for more Daybook entries!

FOR TODAY – December 14, 2009 – 3rd week of Advent…hurray!  The pink candle is lit…

Outside my Window….a not-so-cold, but infinitely dreary Monday morning.  Mist and rain, more the look of dusk, than dawn.  It’s good to be inside…

Thinking…about yesterday.  It was a lovely day.  The Feast of St. Lucia, celebrated by little girls singing and serving at dawn.  Rose colored vestments at Mass and another amazing homily.  A Christmas party with a visit from St. Nick and the Krampus, lighting the pink candle on the Advent wreath…lots of friends, family and fun…

Thankful for…Nyquil.  Looks like I’ve picked up some kind of virus.  Just in time for my consult with the ENT surgeon…

From the kitchen…Hot coffee, bagels and cream cheese.  Eggs, grits and toast.  For dinner:  I don’t know.  I’m totally uninspired and feeling completely ill.  I’ll have to get back with you on this one.  My meal planning has gone out the window for the last four days.  The kitchen painting catastrope has thrown me for a loop.

What?  You didn’t hear about it?  Oh, yes.  Well…picture this:  10 days of painting a kitchen that should’ve taken maybe 2 to 3 hours tops.  Fatigue and perfectionism are a deadly combination.  It only took a gallon of paint to finish the entire project…except for that one four foot swath of wall…thank heavens I had another gallon!  A few strokes and rolls here and there, and eureka!  The kitchen was done.  Jubilant, I went about my day trying to finish up other tasks that had been shelved during the kitchen project.  A few hours later I return and discover that the drying paint is a full shade darker than the current paint.  EEEK!  Trying hard to compose myself, I decide that I can probably get by with the one wall…I’ll simply repaint that wall, and the shade difference would most likely be imperceptible.  That’s when I notice the other wall.  With the big, drippy roller marks where sweet Charlotte attempted to try her own hand at painting.  And then I looked at the can of paint…satin, not flat like the original color…

To say that I “lost it” would be a bit of an understatement.  Let’s just say, I made a nice apology, went to confession, and I promise to be a good girl now…

So we’re back to square one.  The whole kitchen must be repainted and I just don’t have the energy to do it.  Seems the Lord is asking me to let go and let one of the other able bodies in this house take care of it!

Faith and learning…reading, crafting, baking…all the seasonal joys of Advent.  It’s almost time for the O Antiphons.  We have a few activities planned for this week in conjunction with them…

Creating…well…until I get over this awful virus, whatever  I can manage from the couch!

Planning…a visit to the ENT surgeon, pick up the CT scan and report.  A period of convalescence and healing…hopefully after Christmas, not before!

Wearing…hot pink fleece pajamas covered with cupcakes…

Reading…Holy Scripture.  That’s about it.

Praying…for a sick friends, for two friends who’ve recently given birth, for a pregnant mom that she continue her pregnancy safely, for my three adult children whom I miss greatly!

Hearing…the children talking over hot tea and breakfast…

Around the house…a Christmas tree nearly decorated, mantle decked in greenery, nativity sets and candles…the delightful scent of pine…

One of my favorite things…hot beverages and how they soothe a sore throat…

Here’s a picture thought I am sharing with you

This weekend we were visited by an enormous flock of wild turkeys.  I wasn’t able to get to the camera before they left and lamented that missed shot.  Then Gaudete Sunday…returning home from our parish Christmas party we spied a small flock of swans.  As lovely in flight as they are gliding upon the water.  Camera ready, I snapped a couple photos.  Not as close, nor as clear as I’d like, but lovely nonetheless:


Gaudete Sunday and the Feast of St. Lucia…

Long before sunrise, two sleepy girls dressed quietly in the cold, a holly berry wreath upon the head of one, a candle in the hands of the other as they approached the darkened bedrooms…singing in the hushed darkness, presenting buns and hot tea to brothers and father…

Such began another traditional celebration of the Feast of St. Lucia…which, this year, happened to fall upon Gaudete Sunday.

The day has been full…from our early rising, to Mass, to the parish Christmas party…we’ve made memories galore and have captured a few sweet images I’d like to share.  Here’s a quick peek at the day’s fun:

Emily’s first time serving as St. Lucia…she’s so very serious:

Two giggly girls…

Making up after a quick “spat”:

A pensive moment for our young “saint:”

And now the parish Christmas party…very well attended:

Our beloved pastor…and an amazing pianist, Fr. Kevin Lutz:

Oh, my goodness!  It’s St. Nicholas!  And the dreaded Krampus:

Have you been a good girl, Emily?  The Krampus is not so sure…

“Pray for the poor…be a good girl!”

Charlotte’s not afraid…she’s with the Patron Saint of Children!

How about you, Gareth?  Have you been very, very good?

Good Ol’ St. Nick thinks you’ve been pretty good…

And how about Galahad?  St. Nick asked him if he wanted to be a priest and told him to strive for holiness.  Words of wisdom for us all!

And now, off to bed. May God grant you joy and peace as you continue your Advent journey towards the crib in Bethlehem…


Wild Lights…

Every year, my mom and dad gift our family with a Columbus Zoo and COSI membership. As a large family, these gifts are invaluable, providing us a year long opportunity for fun at two of our best-loved places. One of our favorite aspects of the zoo membership is the annual Wild Lights display. It is truly spectacular! And there’s something so very festive about walking through this zoo at night. Vendors selling hot cocoa, cider and cinnamon roasted almonds and pecans. Cotton candy in the brisk, night air.

This year’s trip was most enjoyable. Our dear friend, Hilaire, was our guest, in honor of his birthday. It was a lovely evening, though we were a bit disappointed that the Christmas model train village was not on display.

Here’s a reprise:

A wonderland of “wild lights…”

A whirlwind ride on the carousel…

A happy family…

Tired bats…

Tired langurs…

And a very tired little girl…

And yet, an enjoyable evening. Little traditions make a big difference. Do you have a special favorite? What does your family enjoy most during this season? I look forward to you sharing!


The gift of a day…

A few months ago, on Memorial Day, we were privileged to attend an extremely rare Traditional Latin Mass offered at a cemetery.  Two of the boys served the Mass on that very windy and rainy day…it was difficult to keep the candles lit, but the Mass was lovely, nonetheless.

Following the service, I was approached by an elderly man in uniform, a member of the VFW.  He had been a parishioner and alumnus of the old school that had been attached to our parish.  How fondly he recalled his days of serving the very same Mass he had just witnessed.  Commending the boys for their devotion and for serving on Memorial Day, he made a very generous offer:  a free Christmas tree.  He handed me his card, scrawled “free tree” on the back and told me to call around Christmas – he’d be happy to let us choose a tree from his farm.  The card was quickly filed in my wallet and forgotten throughout the summer and fall.

Until last week…

We typically purchase a Christmas tree rather late in the season.   Choices are not always the best, but prices are lower and it also helps keep the focus on Advent, rather than the tree.  This year our schedule and resources are as tight as ever, if not tighter, with all the medical expenses incurred.  That free tree began to look very, very attractive.  Noting that it was an hour drive from our home, we decided sooner rather than later would be best.  I called Mr. Albert on Saturday and was thrilled that he remembered us and the offer.

“Make sure you come to the back entrance of the farm…by the red barn.  You might not recognize me…” he said.

“Oh…I guess you won’t be in uniform this time?” I replied.

“Oh, I’ll be in uniform all right, just not the one you’re expecting!” he merrily replied.

We loaded up the children, grabbed a map and headed for Amanda, OH.  Thinking we were just going to say hello to Mr. Albert and quickly pick up a tree…little did we know what he had in store for us!

As we approached the red barn decked in greenery, it was obvious this was not a small-time operation.  The Albert Family Tree Farm has been in business for 33 years.  Mr. Albert, his children and grandchildren have been raising these beautiful trees for most of my life!  And they love it…which is quite obvious when one looks into the smiling faces of this beautiful family…though none quite so beautiful as Mr. Albert…who was decked from head to toe as Good Ol’ St. Nick.  His eyes, how they twinkled…his dimples, how merry!  His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry…


Warmly welcomed, the children were quickly gathered into his arms and soon everyone was posing for a picture with St. Nick.  While the children enjoyed hot cocoa and popcorn by the fire, Mom and Dad had a pleasant chat with Mr. Albert.

He soon arranged for his daughter to take us for a tractor ride to the back side of the farm to pick our tree.  Hot chocolate in hand, we piled on the trailer and had a very cold, yet delightfully pleasant ride…winding through beautiful conifers of every shape and size…207 acres, to be exact.

Roseanne found the perfect spot and the hunt began.  It didn’t take long.  I’ve never seen such beautifully formed and well tended trees…uncrowded, each on display like a work of art.  The children found the one they proclaimed as “our” tree, and Arthur was given the privilege of cutting it down.

Roseanne cut down a few other trees to place on display back at the barn and then took us back the long way…giving us an amazing sunset tour.  Pale gold light streaming through the trees…it was memorable.  I can’t imagine that we’ll ever be able to buy a tree from a lot again!  It was a happy day…

Back at the barn, hot chocolate in hand once again, the tree wrapped in netting and tethered to the top of the van, we heartily thanked Mr. Albert for the gift of that day.  A new tradition has been born for this family…we will do everything within our power to budget in a visit to this farm, every Christmas.

And then another generous offer.  Mr. Albert noted that we homeschool and promptly offered a tour of his farm in the spring for our homeschool group.  Complete with the offer of a picnic and the promise to try to secure a priest to offer Mass.

It was an incomparable gift of a day.  The time spent, the memories made…though cold and tired, the trip home was extremely pleasant as each one recalled the kindness of the Albert family.

Our tree is waiting on the porch.  Tonight we’ll put it in the stand and prepare for decorating, and as lovely as a decorated tree may be, this one will be decked in the memories of that day…I don’t own a single ornament that can compete!


A busy mom’s daybook – 2nd week of Advent

Visit Peggy at The Simple Woman for more Daybook entries!

FOR TODAY – December 7, 2009

Outside my Window….soft and gently falling SNOW!!

SNOW!  SNOW!  SNOW!  Come out in the snow!  The children are so very excited.  So is mom!

Thinking…about a weekend full of blessings.  A party, a visit to a Christmas tree farm, a night at the zoo for Wild Lights…and a special intention.

Thankful for…Everything…everything…everything.  Did I mention everything?

From the kitchen…ah…when I started this post it was dawn, here it is noon!  Lunch:  looks like a soupy kinda day…dinner:  an enormous beef brisket – I’ve never prepared one before, but this is what I’m doing with it.  Should be tasty…I need something yummy for the family I’ll be leaving home for Ladies Night Out.  Cookie Exchange!!!!  I love cookies…

Faith and learning…Jesse tree and Advent prayers.  Soon the O Antiphon House.  Coloring pages and Christmas crafts.  Outdoor play and indoor fun…my favorite kind of school…

Creating…a few homemade gifts.  My energy level is pretty low, but I’m doing what I can!

Planning…probably postponing a going away party.  Looks like flu has hit our dear friends.  Ah, well.  It seems they may not be leaving quite so soon, so perhaps we’ll have time after all!  We’ll see…

Wearing…this morning it was enormous, blue, footed pajamas.  This afternoon:  blue jeans, a turtleneck and polar fleece jacket.  It’s ccccoooollldd!!


Praying…reflecting on these words from Fr. Lutz’s homily this past Sunday”

“God created you, and it cost Him nothing.  Jesus redeemed you, and it cost Him everything…right down to the last drop of His precious blood…”

Hearing…Clifford the Big Red Dog on PBS.

Around the house…more mess than I’d like.  A whirlwind of weekend activity left very little time for tidying.  And I’m still not through painting the kitchen.  A chore that should have taken only a spare half day is now stretching over a week…like I said:  my energy level is non-existant.  I wish I was better at turning these kind of things over to others…hint, hint…

One of my favorite things…freshly painted trim in the kitchen.  You have no idea how many fingerprints I’ve covered up.  Paint covers a multitude of “sins!”

Here’s a picture thought I am sharing with you

Sunset at the Christmas tree farm…a day worthy of a post all its own…coming soon!



It is morning, still dark…

Here I sit, typing, sleepless in the silence while the rest of the family slumbers under warm blankets, sweet dreams and peace.

There is no great woe that has taken me from slumber…no…the opposite.  My heart is full, a prayer answered in an amazing way and an interesting journey ahead.

It has been hard to put into words yet another day of fear.

Bright and early, the phone rang…my doctor.

How does the mother of many small ones explain how her heart clinched when she heard these words on Wednesday morning?  Ominous words…CT scan reviewed again…early lymphoma…immediate consultation with surgeon necessary.

What?  CT scan reviewed?  Why on earth?  Everything was fine.  Blood work:  negative.  Chest xray:  negative.  CT scan:  negative.  The odd swellings remained, the altered facial appearance, but confidence soared and life goes on despite fatigue and other sufferings.

Life goes on…

And then this.  A 24 hour wait for a surgeon’s consult.  Thoughts of cancer, chemo and radiation.  Scars and hospitals.  My husband.  My children.  Feelings of helplessness.  I must be a lamb…I must be a lamb…I must be a lamb…God is asking me to be a lamb, to allow Him to shepherd me, to lead me out of those dark paths, the mind trip that fear inspires.  Trust.  Be still.  Know that I am God…I’ll take care of you.  You are my lamb…

I couldn’t write my fears.  Couldn’t.  A quick prayer request posted on my facebook account.  That’s it.  I couldn’t talk to friends…I felt such horrible doubt.  Why?  Why now?  I don’t want to do this!  Not now…please Lord…not now.  please…

Oh…it was a dark day and night.  Clouds, rain and wind mirroring the tempest of emotions.  And then the appointment.

With an angel…

Have you ever thought how important it is that your doctor be a Christian?   This precious surgeon…this Godly man, drawing illustrations, careful to put a cartoon smile upon his caricature of me (no doubt noting the fear and confusion on my face), explaining how marvelously and miraculously God had made me…had made all of us.  How the lymphatic system works.  Why mine isn’t working so well due to a long-standing, deep-seated infection in a pair of extremely enlarged, and increasingly enlarging tonsils.  And that he absolutely, positively did NOT see a cancer profile in the swelling of all these lymph glands.  Willing to stake his reputation on it…


Yes..tonsils!  For decades they’ve plagued me with continued sore throats, many trips to the emergency room and even surgery for a peritonsilar abscess.  Many, many times I was admonished to have them removed.  But I was pregnant.  Or nursing.  Or nursing.  Or pregnant.  Or sick.  Sick.  Sick…

Always sick.  From the time I was a child…

And it seems, that now, perhaps after years of suffering, and the past six months of odd symptoms, constant sickness and increasing swelling, shortness of breath and a host of other issues that it may just be as simple as taking out a pair of tonsils.

And it really needs to be done soon.  So I have a referral to an ENT surgeon on December 16th and will be scheduled for surgery either before or right after Christmas.  It won’t be easy.  I’m not exactly five years old and tonsilectomy for an adult is no walk in the park.  But, hey…it’s not cancer!  And this just may be the answer to the prayers for healing that my children, husband and I have been praying for.

Oh, yes…did I mention that this surgeon had the same experience in his 30’s?!  That’s how he made the diagnosis.  Looking at my detailed medical history, interviewing me and my husband in depth…he said it was a perfect mirror of his own experience.

“Well, Doctor…I absolutely believe in Divine Providence.  God sent me to you.  May God bless you!”

The warmest, most genuine smile…”Why thank you…thank you so much!  I believe in Divine Providence, too.  I pray this is the answer.  I feel very confident that you will be well…that this surgery will improve your health tremendously.  I’m giving you a referral to my Doctor.  God bless you…”

“God bless you.”

Oh, yes…He has!  And in oh, so many ways!

So…an interesting journey ahead, a necessary period of silence (of the vocal sort!) once the surgery is accomplished, ten days of real suffering and about a month of recovery all to move towards improved health.

Who’d have thought someone could be this happy over the prospect of surgery?


Nativity Advent-ure, 2009 edition!

Once again, the slips have been drawn, and this year’s cast of characters have been assembled.

Every year, for the past several years, our family has endeavored to emulate the virtues displayed by the various “characters” of the Nativity of our Lord. Slips of paper containing the names and virtues of each are folded and placed in a hat.

This year’s selections truly seem to reflect changes that we all really need.  For the first time, Mom has to be a lamb.  Helpless and dependent.  Innocent and trusting.  Ouch!  This is going to be really, really hard…but good, right?  A holy Advent season stretches before us and we must stretch, too.

Here are the slips as they were drawn:

The Christmas Star: Arthur

Virtues: Provide a steady light to guide the weary pilgrims. A source of guidance and illumination.

The Angel: Dad

Virtues: Proclaims the “tidings of great joy”. A source of inspiration. Obedient to the will of God.

Blessed Virgin: Galahad

Virtues: Meek, humble, modest and pure. Full and complete obedience to God. Holiness.

St. Joseph: Charlotte

Virtues: Humility, leadership and humble trust in God. Chastity and patience

The Shepherd: Emily

Virtues: Leadership. Listens to God. Kindness to the “lambs.” Goodness.

The Lambs (2):  Mom and Gawain

Virtues: Docility, innocence, obedience and trust.

The Ox: Gareth

Virtues: Hardwork and diligence. Patience and sacrifice.

The Donkey: Clementine

Virtues: Humility and docility. Patiently bears all burdens.

We’re on our way, journeying towards Bethlehem…meet you there!

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