Catholic Family Vignettes

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


July 2010

Daybook…choosing joy edition!

Visit Peggy at The Simple Woman for more Daybook entries!

FOR TODAY – July 26, 2010

Outside my window: a brilliant blue sky and zero humidity!  Walls of corn, towering against that same sky.  Beds of impatiens, zinnias bowing and dancing upon slender stems…high summer and a mere 72 degrees…

I am listening to: hubby tippy-tapping on the computer in the next room…he’s working from home right now…and has graciously handed over his laptop to the recliner-bound wife.  What a nice guy…

I am wearing : Aqua cotton dress with a yellow cotton cardigan.  A blue cast and one white sock.  A smile…

I am thankful For: being released from the terrible fear that had plagued me since Thursday’s fright.  I spent most of Thursday night and all day Friday just waiting…waiting for that nightmare to begin anew.  The call from the surgeon did little to help…no reassurances, just concerns from a new source.  And so I waited.  Every little ache, twinge…seemed to forebode doom.  And then I wept.  Prayed.  And watched this video.  And it changed things.  FEAR IS USELESS!  If our fear is not a holy fear, grounded in hope of salvation and ultimately trusting in God…well…it’s ridiculously pointless.

And I know this…but it’s one thing to know it and another to live it.  To really, really trust.  To say that even when the most inconceivable things happen, all is grace…

“The Lord is my Shepherd.  I shall not be afraid…”

I am reading: you’d think with all this time on my hands I’d be reading something worthwhile, alas, I’ve still been trying to “do…”  So, I’m back to my knitting and currently on my second pair of socks in a week…these using Stroll’s Tea Party…yummy!

From the kitchen: hubby and children have been preparing the most amazing meals.  Tonight, I’ll try to venture into the kitchen and teach oldest son my favorite Shepherd’s Pie recipe…his repertoire is expanding.

I am thinking: about how much joy can come from the simplest things…your prayers and sweet comments…a 20 yr. old young man who brought a friend over to visit, armed with two gorgeous loaves of zucchini bread and one of the sweetest cards I’ve ever received…a long, long conversation with a dear friend…a good movie with the two big boys and hubby…a morning alone with my two little girls and their sweet solicitude…little things mean a lot!

I am creating: socks.  Strong tendons, well knit bone and scar tissue.

On my iPod: mostly hitting the apps, utilizing knitting patterns, listening to Viva La Vida over and over again…

Towards a real education: time for me to take this down time and put together our education plan for the coming school year…it seems rather overwhelming.  I’m also working on my talk for the upcoming Educating For Heaven Homeschoolers Day of Reflection…Holy Spirit guide and inspire me!

I am hoping and praying: hoping for healing and praying for acceptance of all that God wills…

In the garden: oh, the garden is glorious…I can’t see it from here, but I’m enjoying the fruits of earlier labors.  Last night’s fresh green beans and red potatoes were delish!  Tomatoes are coming on very, very slowly…you’d think with all this heat and our early planting that we’d be up to our ears in them.  We will be…all at once…

Around the House: oh, my poor house.  It’s so sad.  There is truly something to be said for a “woman’s touch…”  They’re trying…keeping up with the basics.  We have clean clothes.  The dishes are getting washed and meals are prepared.  But the house…it’s a total and complete disaster.  Clutter, clutter, clutter…at least the rooms I can see.  And I don’t want to complain, so I’m trying to let go and appreciate that which is getting done. 

On keeping home: it’s tough to be sedentary…oh, yes it is!  Yet, there are blessings.  Because I can’t, now they can!

I can’t mop…but now the 7 yr. old can!

I can’t cook…but now the 16 yr. old is preparing the most amazing meals and has such a sense of accomplishment!

I can’t clean the bathroom (yeehaw!) but my 11 yr. can and does and makes sure that it’s safe for mom…

I can’t go swimming…but hubby can and does, playing and splashing with the kids, enjoying late night swimming with the boys…

And so on…with my dependence, their independence grows!

One of my favorite things: choosing joy.  It is a choice, you know?  I almost forgot that one…

A few plans for the rest of the week: I have no plans…

A picture thought I’m sharing:

Max and Buddy…a funny kitten who really likes me, as long as I’m wrapped in my pink micro plush snuggie ;-D


Unexpected trip…

Fifteen years ago, I had my first, and I had hoped only, trip to the hospital in an ambulance. I had been in a serious automobile accident…an ambulance ride was pretty much a given.

Yesterday morning, I had my second ride…this time picked up from my living room after a frightening bout of non-stop vomiting followed by repeated loss of consciousness…the slightest movement and “lights out.” It was terrifying…I couldn’t articulate what was wrong. It felt like everything…at one point I felt as though I were dying, fading, drifting…I remember calling for “Jesus…”Jesus, please help me…” “Jesus, I love you…” Then nothingness…

I awoke in an ambulance with an oxygen mask on my face. I remember a discussion amongst the EMTs that they couldn’t establish a line…all my veins were collapsed. They roused me, asked me to sign a paper. I remember picking up the pen and trying to put it to the paper. As soon as I lifted my head…gone, again.

I awoke in the ER…I don’t know how long I had been there. My clothes had been removed, wires attached here and there…an IV was in place and it seemed as though the fog was lifting. Slight movement still caused me to lose consciousness, but I was no longer vomiting. Lots of questions. I answered them as well as I could, hubby filling in the missing pieces. There seemed to be no explanation.


Wednesday was a great day. Less pain. I actually ventured to the kitchen in my wheelchair for the very first time since the surgery. I helped the boys establish some order, offered a few tips, instructed the oldest on making stir fry and then retired to the recliner to knit. I felt a real sense of accomplishment just doing that little bit. Wednesday evening : a pleasant meal. Hubby and oldest decided to make a grocery store run and returned with chocolate. I took my before bed meds, ate 3 Hershey’s miniatures and watched Seinfeld. I remember it was a particularly vile episode, so I hit the internet and then retired to bed.

I slept better than I had in ages. When I awoke, nothing felt amiss. It wasn’t until I sat up that everything in my line of vision shifted. I felt this horrible…”wrongness”…a sense of dread. “Roger,” I said. “Something’s wrong. Something’s very wrong!” I felt a pain in my chest, a wave of nausea and then began vomiting. I passed out. Repeatedly. Throughout the time that hubby got me out of bed, down the stairs. I remember begging God to “spare him…please spare him this!” I remember passing out in the bathroom. And then being wheeled to the recliner.

Ambulance.  Hospital.  Tests.

Tests, tests, tests. CT brain scan. Heart and chest xray. Venous ultrasound. CT heart scan with contrast. Bloodwork. Between the failed attempts at IV and blood draws, more than 15 needle marks…the big concerns were blood clot, stoke or heart attack.  I didn’t feel ill…just “wrong.”

Conclusion? They don’t know. I don’t know. I’m weak. Still mildly disoriented, but only mildly and only when I move. My body aches. There’s a possibility that the ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin may be causing some kind of problem, but I’ve never, ever had problems before…and I’ve been taking them in decreasing amounts over the past three weeks. The two day supply of pain medication my doctor gave me nearly two weeks ago still contains a few pills.  My surgeon has pulled the ER records and is forwarding them to my family doctor.  In the meantime, I’m discontinuing all medications until further investigation.  It’s awful to have nothing for the pain…but that’s all it is…pain.

Your prayers would be very much appreciated.  Primarily for my family…this has been so hard on them.  Yesterday was frightening…I don’t want them to have to go through that again.  Please pray that we find an answer, or at least that it doesn’t recur.  It rather felt like a brush with death but my comfort remains that when I feared death I remembered to call Jesus, the Holy Name that saves…


Here we are…

Just realized I never posted our latest family photos.  I managed to get them uploaded to my Facebook album, but not the blog!  Too…much…technology!

It’s odd to call these lovely shots our “family photos” when only six of my children are pictured.  Missing my three big girls (women!) so very, very much…


Love conquers fear…

Second in a series of “family tales.”  The following took place nearly 7 years ago:

The path wound familiar, through the forest and along the rushing river.  We hiked, children and friends in tow, and gazed with wonder at the pounding falls, rushing water and refreshing spray…

It was a lovely day.  Hot and humid, to be sure…but the woods were cool and the

One of our favorite haunts...a peaceful creek!

sandy beach along the river offered the perfect place for sandcastle building and  wading, a delicious respite for sweaty hikers.

Dads accompanied a host of little ones to the water’s edge, while the two moms sat in the shade, upon a fallen log to nurse and calm two fussy sling-riders.  Two teenage sisters sat and chatted, neither interested in wading.

The water lapped the shore, little toes danced upon the sand.   Farther out, and around the bend, the water roared by, churning furiously as rivers do, carrying branches, leaves and debris in a mad swirl.  The recent rains were the culprit, but we were safe, in a little cove a good bit away from the rapids…still, we warned the children, particularly the olders…accidents can happen so quickly.

One little fellow remained aloof from the fun.  He kept his shoes on, tousled blond hair lying sweatily across his brow.  No amount of coaxing would convince him to wade…four years old and so terribly afraid of the water.  So he walked along the edge, watching the others play, occasionally stooping to pick up a rock or stick.  Watching my cautious one, I felt a certain relief.  He was so very small for his age…it was just as well.  One less little one to worry over.  Until…

He ventured towards a rocky/sandy overhang…he only wanted to look at the water.  Before I could yell “Max!”  the ground crumbled beneath his feet and he fell…down, down…into the rushing water.

Such horror!  A mad rush from all directions towards this little guy who was being swept away by the current.  Before any of us were able to move in his direction, we heard another splash…for a brief moment I was certain it was my 17 year old daughter, a Red Cross certified life guard, trained in CPR, now entering the perilous water to save her brother.

No!  It was her younger sister…not nearly so good a swimmer and certainly not trained in rescue.  But she had seen her brother first…love and fear for his life combined to override any concern she had for herself, she simply dove in…and I watched another of my children, caught in the rapids, and swept down river.

There are no words…if you are a parent, search your own heart…reach into that place where fear dwells…amongst the cries and pleas, prayer wells up without conscious effort…angels and saints, help us!

Swimming, struggling to keep her head above the water, she miraculously reached him within seconds.  She grabbed him, the current tossing them both, and with super-human effort she managed to snag a passing branch, just before the riverbend and the mad rush of white water…She pulled herself and her brother ashore…my sweet heroine…the most unlikely rescuer!

Tears of joy and relief!  We had nearly lost them both…and now embraced them, all praising God for her quick thinking, and yet also realizing that the ending could have been devastating.  Her big sister praised her, saying “I never even heard or saw a thing!”  She would have entered that water just as quickly, prepared after weeks of training and employment  at the local YMCA…it was rather ironic that help came from the least expected place…divinely ironic!

It is a testimony to the power of love…no training or special skills are needed.  Just a heart and the will to override fear and live the Gospel:

Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

We praise God that their lives were spared oh, so long ago…her name is Meredith and she will celebrate her 21st birthday in just a few days.  Her brother, Maximilian, still remembers that day, only vaguely.  He’s 10 years old, not the least bit afraid of water and swims like a fish.  Time marches on, but these memories are precious.  Remembering the past, these images fill my head as though it were only yesterday, and I’m once again grateful for the gift of life, indeed for the lives of all my children…



…my cast, that is!  A lovely, pale summery blue…light enough to allow the children to express their love and creativity with a great, big pack of Sharpies in multiple colors…

Stitches have been removed, xrays taken (dig those nifty titanium screws…just call me Robo Mom!) and the cast in place.  It was quite a shock, looking at my foot for the first time…one six inch long incision on the right, a four inch incision on the left and two smaller on the heel…and it actually felt good to have the sutures removed!  Casting, on the other hand, was horrific.  The foot had to be manipulated to 90 degrees…in other words, flat with the floor.  Every tendon in my foot feels like a non-flexible steel band.  I’ve spent the past 24 hours in excrutiating pain, far greater than the post-surgical stuff…it’s passing now, thanks to lots of medication, elevation and rest.  And the post surgical depression/haze is lifting, too.  It’s been a struggle, mostly the letting go of plans and ideas.  I don’t want to be an armchair General, ordering my troops hither and yon.  I do wish I had a fast forward button…yet, I know, that this time belongs to God alone.  He is still working on His poor, stubborn little girl.  Consider this my Divine “time-out!”  My tantrums probably amuse Him as much as my little ones’ amuse me…He’s probably shaking His head…”poor, deluded girl…she still thinks she’s in charge of everything!  Ah, well…a little more down time will bring her around…”

I love you, Father God!   I’ll be better this time…promise!

And He’s heard it all before…

I’m so blessed to be surrounded by infinite patience…something I lack.  To my Heavenly Father, my spouse, children and friends…thank you so much.  Thank you for your kindness and solicitude.  Your prayers and letters have done much to bolster my spirits and help me focus on healing.

So…back to knitting.  Yes!  I’ve picked up the needles again and am nearly finished with a long overdue pair of socks.  And I’m working on my “talk” for the upcoming Educating For Heaven:  Homeschoolers Day of Reflection.  My topic:  Homeschooling As A Mission.  Praying that the Holy Spirit will guide my thoughts and words…

Wishing all a joyous summer full of fun!


Let the little children come…

*This is the first in a series of “family tales” – you know, the ones that always begin with:  “And then there was the time…”  The following “tale” took place nearly 10 years ago…:

Daybreak…up long before the alarm, I surveyed the baby, finally sleeping peacefully and nestled in the co-sleeper beside the bed.  It had been a long night of around the clock nursing and now it was time to rouse six other children and the bleary-eyed spouse.

I fell back into bed.  “I just can’t do it!  Just once Lord, once…I just want to get up, get ME ready, and attend Mass without all the Sunday morning drama!”  Already swirling in my head and ringing in my ears were the predictable laments:   “I can’t find my black shoes!  “Where are my tights?”  “I don’t like this kind of cereal!”  “MOMMMMM!  She won’t let me in the bathroom!”  “I feel carsick…”

Quietly…oh, so quietly I leaned over my husband’s sleeping form:  “Honey…shhhhh…don’t wake the baby…I have an idea.  How about just you and me attend Mass together this morning?  You know…quiet ride to church, just the two of us…no pacifiers falling on the floor…no toddlers to take to the potty…just you and me and the first homily we’ve been able to actually listen to in ages.  We can take the kids to the 5:00 Mass…they won’t mind sleeping in one bit!”

My siren-like voice lured him from his sleep with these seductive promises and he agreed.  We awakened the 17 yr. old, installed her in our bed with the baby and dressed like two giddy teenagers sneaking out for a forbidden date.

Ah!!  The quiet ride to church…no one crying, no one pouting, no one yelling or carsick.  Just me and hubby…grown-up conversation with no little ears hanging upon our every word…

We pulled into the parking lot, walked into the sanctuary hand in hand and smiled at friends here and there.  Our smiles were met with raised eyebrows.  I don’t believe anyone had ever seen us together without our children…I’m not sure that they even actually recognized us!  We sat up front…no crying babies to disturb the rest of the congregation, therefore no need to install ourselves on the back row as we had in the past…You’re familiar with the back row, right?  You know, the easy getaway row, reserved for large families juggling more than a few toddlers and an infant.  We sat down, side by side, no children wrestling between us, and breathed a sigh of contentment.

Mass began.  We were pleased to see one of our favorite visiting priests, a lovely man in his 70’s with a Marine brush-cut and a cane.  His deep, booming voice filled the sanctuary, as hubby and I stood, sat and knelt in unison throughout the Mass.

We were so happy, so blissful…so at peace.  Babies cried, toddlers wailed, mothers and fathers shushed and rushed out…we observed it all with  bemused smiles, thinking how very wise we were to take this opportunity to worship in silence.  We felt true compassion in our hearts for our friends, who, harried and exhaused, paraded a succession of children in and out, never really getting a chance to sit down and listen.  Ah, such a familiar dance!  One we were grateful to “sit out…”

And then this elderly, precious priest approached the lectern.  He greeted the congregation, following our pastor’s protocol of making announcements prior to the homily.  He introduced himself and then said the following…these words have been ringing in my ears for nearly a decade:

“I’m so very pleased to look out into the pews and see all the beautiful families gathered together…how you please God!  Mothers…don’t you worry one bit about those crying babies and toddlers, Jesus loves the little children and wants them here!  I know it’s hard…hard to get them up on a cold morning, get them dressed and fed and then bring them here, where they cry and fuss.  God is glorified!  Don’t fret over what you think you’re missing, just attend to them!  There is nothing that I have to say, that is more important than the example you set for them by bringing them here under difficult circumstances.  I bless you for it…so does God!”

That’s pretty much verbatim…sitting in the front of the church it seemed his eyes were riveted upon me and my now squirming husband.  Actually, we were both squirming.  Oh, the conviction in that statement and the heavenly rebuke!  If we hadn’t been so embarrassed, I believe we would have laughed out loud at the irony, the perfectly beautiful irony, of those words…

I don’t remember another thing he said.  The homily was a blur.  I sat there, near tears, embarrassed and contrite over my selfishness.   Questions and recriminations:  “I’m so selfish!”  “Do they think they’re a burden?”  “Why does it bother me when they cry?  I’m never bothered by my friends children when they cry?”  “Why am I not better organized in the morning?”  “Do they feel unloved?”

And others…

The Mass ended, hubby and I made a hasty exit out the side doors…I lacked the courage to thank that priest for his unplanned admonition or to face the inevitable questions from curious friends and, quite frankly, I just wanted to get home to my children as quickly as possible.

We opened the door and entered a quiet house…the children, still sleeping, were unaware of the important lesson imparted at a Mass they didn’t attend…

This happened nearly ten years ago.  We’ve laughed over it quite a few times and use our experience as an anecdotal tale to encourage friends who are walking that same exhausting path…the one we bypassed, for just a few moments, so many years ago.  It’s a sweet lesson…one our Lord, Himself, wished to impart to His disciples:

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” ~Matthew 19:14~


Their eyes…

…are capturing the beauty of summer for me!  Bringing inside, all those things I’ve not been able to experience first hand:

Sparkly nights:

Towering sunflowers:

Garden-y goodness:

The village they built…complete with a guided video tour of the brewery (you gotta love Catholic boys!) and well:

These are my little slices of summer…the ones that join the few gathered before my “downtime”:

Bonfire times:

Splash downs:

Hugs and kisses…summer days and nights:

Sometimes it’s hard and I feel like I’m on the outside looking in, but I look back at the times I’ve had, rejoice in the fun they’re having, the beautiful way they try to share it and am looking forward to being in the midst of all this beautiful chaos, rather than just a passive observer.  Life is beautiful…and getting to see it through their eyes is a precious gift!


Wrapped up…

Sorry I’ve been away for so long…I’ve been a little too wrapped up in my own suffering to reach out.  Indeed, reaching up has been difficult, too.  My prayers of late are nothing more than “inexpressible groanings.”  Quite frankly, they feel so much more like complaints…I thank you all, so very much, for the letters of encouragement and prayers offered…they have sustained me.

These early post-surgical days are not pretty.  I’m lacking elegance and eloquence in word and movement.  I thought, perhaps, I shouldn’t bother expressing these things…that maybe, given time, my words would reflect a gentler disposition and greater acceptance of these temporary limitations.  But I think that I, not you, dear friends…need to read them.  I need this “literary snapshot” of my weakness.  I’m always trying to manage it all alone…it’s nearly impossible for me to ask for assistance from anyone.  Seeing my family shouldering the burdens that had been mine is difficult in the extreme.  This is truly a temporary situation…yet I suffer as though it were for all time, hence forth and evermore.

A few days prior to my surgery, the children brought in a very small Monarch caterpillar. They placed her in a jar, where I could watch her.  Fed a daily diet of milkweed, she grew and grew.  This morning, suspended from a silken thread, she hangs, enclosed in a glistening chrysalis…underneath those wrappings, hidden from sight a metamorphosis is taking place…a transformation that will change her from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

I am that caterpillar…my wrappings are not so very lovely…but:

I’m praying for the same transformation.  That I can shed these trappings of ordinariness to expose the extraordinariness of grace…the grace God pours upon the soul in waiting…and waiting is all I can do at the moment.  Waiting and praying that I make good use of this time of suffering.  It is so small, and on the other side of it:  the possibility of healing and  improved mobility.  And yet, while I await bone, sinew and tissue to heal, our Lord is working something greater, I’m sure.

Praying that this caterpillar will soon emerge a butterfly…

Do ye not comprehend that we are worms,
Born to bring forth the angelic butterfly
That flieth unto judgment without screen?
~Dante Alighieri


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