Monday, December 27, 2010

MISSING: Sleep. Generous reward offered.

I'm certain that I've experienced this before...but these days, sleep is more elusive than a blade of grass beneath the thick blanket of snow in my back yard. I've had the most horrible nights. I'm tired--exhausted--and yet I cannot sleep. Even when my mind is not racing, I can't sleep. Even when I read until my eyes are closing and I begin to read the same sentence five times, when I shut off the lamp, sleep runs from me at Olympic sprinting speeds. Even when I pray the Rosary and get stuck saying twelve or fifteen Hail Marys because I lose count, sleep does not come. It's ridiculous.

Tonight, I cannot sleep because of a truly impressive amount of pain running down my left hip and leg. Sciatic! GAH!! It started just before Mass this morning, and it's probably directly related to all of the driving of the week. And combined with the SPD that I've been experiencing for a few weeks's

The week was crazy-busy, and mostly relating to all things Christmas and church.

Thursday, the kids and I went to town to go to daily Mass. After Mass was over, we helped to decorate the church for Christmas...which I *love* doing. It is all so beautiful and elegant--really well done. One tall lit tree in the sanctuary, lots of red and white poinsettias, and two of the most beautiful Nativities--one more elaborate set-up in the narthex, and one very simple ensemble in front of the ambo.

Friday, being Christmas Eve, found us having supper with some dear friends. Between the four couples there, we had 23 children! What a lovely time it was! We departed for Midnight Mass according to what part we had; four of the servers and I left early, they to vest and prepare for the junior servers, and I to rehearse with the choir.

Unfortunately, Friday began a little differently. It was the second day in a row during which I longed for sleep. I had fallen asleep at four-thirty in the morning, and accumulated about 3 hours' worth of sleep by the time we had to leave the house. It really seemed on Friday that anything which could go wrong went wrong, as though Satan were attacking my desire for a peaceful Christmas. The stinker. But you know how he works--he sends his nasty little minions to do his bidding, a la Screwtape and Wormwood.

I wanted to just rest up, and since My Darling was home, he let me hole up in the bedroom for most of the day. I rested, but did not sleep. When I came downstairs, though, it was to a room which had been clean the night before--now completely trashed. THREE apples lay on the floor, because no one had been watching Cuppie. This made for a crabby Mama who then informed the three older children that they could rinse off the apples and have themselves a snack.

I received a package from UPS, but the box, labeled "2 of 2" lacked it's companion. Of course, when calling UPS, one never really gets to speak to a person. One is encouraged to say various things to trigger the automated response, which sounds very much like an actual person, but which is really a tool of evil designed to drive perfectly sane people completely and very directly mad. And of further course, the company from which I had ordered this shipment was understandably not open on Friday--it being Christmas Eve and all. Was this understandable to Yours Truly on Friday afternoon? Not on your life.

Well ok then--I decided to have a shower in the afternoon so that I would have plenty of time to dress carefully and attend to my ridiculous hair, which has plagued me since I was about twelve. While I used to have to do strange things with chemicals to make it curl, after I had the Frog, that all changed. What used to be a lovely wave in my hair is now a combination of frizz and pseudo-curl, with which I can do very little. I must put all sorts of things in it to make it behave, but it has to be done while the hair is still wet...if it's even the slightest bit dry, then all the products in the world will do nothing, and my hair mocks me as I stare at it in disbelief. I think I actually saw a little man within my riotous locks dancing a jig of glee and sticking his green tongue out at me the other day.

After the Battle of the Locks was fought and...settled...I turned to cosmetics. With the dark circles making my eyes appear akin to skid marks left behind by a race car, and the bags beneath my lower lids looking like Santa's bag of presents stolen from his sleigh, there was no way I was going out of the house without attempting to do something to improve my appearance. I began washing my face and realized not once, but twice that I was using the wrong substance to cleanse my skin. Good grief. The nasty little man danced.

After finally getting my face clean, I went through the usual three minute routine: loose powder for foundation, light eye liner and shadow, blush, and mascara. I am always a little bit nervous about mascara, because it has the power not only to thicken and beautify the lashes, but also to create absolute havoc on a freshly made-up face. And which potential did it fulfil on Friday? Why, none other than the latter, of course! First, the tip of the brush collided with the inside right corner of my nose, making it look like a gigantic black tear had squeezed from my tear duct and landed squarely next to it. Then, even though the brush never touched my left eyelid, I blinked. Anyone who has attempted to apply mascara knows what happens when you blink. It leaves a perfect print from the brush on the skin beneath the lower lashes.

Oh, this was perfect. Juuuuuuuussssssssst perfect. It is nearly impossible, without completely starting over, to remove mascara from skin. If you rub it, it smears. If you try to wipe it away, it rubs in. Again, in the mirror, the horrible little man with the green tongue began to mock me with his nasty little jig. I did get the majority of the mascara off of my face, but was left with what appeared to be an even darker circle beneath my left eye and next to my right eye--making me look, oddly enough, even more tired than I did when I began!

I came downstairs, looking tired and frazzled, but determined to make the "Happy Birthday Baby Jesus" cakes as pretty as they did in my mind: two white cakes, nicely frosted, with the words written in red, and holly leaves and berries in the corners. I found My Darling swirling the frosting onto the cakes, and I reached for the can of frosting and the finishing knife to smooth it all out--only to drop the can of frosting onto the cake. "HA!" shouted the little man, his feet tapping furiously on my shoulder.

After I came back to the kitchen, having walked away to cool off (but not before stamping my foot and complaining rather loudly that nothing could go right today!), I looked for the icing and the decorating tips to do the writing and drawing of holly leaves. Now, I'm not a professional cake decorator. I totally buy those nasty tubes of "icing," colored with horrid chemicals. I use the plastic screw-on tips that come attached to the "flower nail" that I never use. But I do know enough to keep them all together, in a baggie, in a bin in the cupboard, so that I can find them when I want to do things like...oh, decorate a cake.

But they weren't there. The decorating tips weren't there. They weren't in the bin, or on the shelf that the bin lives on, or on the other shelves in the cupboard. And since I only have two cupboards which hold food items (the other used to store canned goods), pretty much they were missing entirely. And the nasty little man danced some more. I wanted to swat him like an insect, but since My Darling was already looking at me a little sideways because of the Mascara Incident, I resisted the temptation to bat at something only I could see.

The cakes were for dessert for this Christmas dinner which we shared with friends. The beautiful thing is that I didn't even have to explain...I just said to the Mamas, "They're Happy Birthday Baby Jesus cakes, and they're white for purity. Also, I couldn't find my decorating tips." They've all had Those Days, too, so they understood.

At least from the dinner on, things would get better.


Except that we left for church later than I had thought we would (I wasn't driving, or we would have left well sooner)--but not being a regular part of this particular choir, I wasn't in on all of the details, so I didn't know what time I was supposed to be there...and it turns out I was quite late. It did work out ok rehearsal-wise. When we were finished running through the things we needed to, I left the choir loft to run to the ladies' room. A friend was there with her mother and three small ones--one sleeping in Grandma's arms, one being terribly tired and less-than-cooperative, and one being only three months old. She asked me if I could hold the baby while she ran to the ladies'...and I ought to have said no...but I cannot resist the lure of a cute, pudgy baby..........and the choir started singing. Without me. And it's a chamber choir, which is very, very small. So I passed the baby to the Grandma, who I'm sure juggled the two of them just fine as I huffed and puffed my way back up the stairs to the loft, having missed singing Dixit Maria, which is one of my favorites. The nasty little man danced so much I was sure everyone else could see him.

Thanks be to God, that was the last of him though. The beauty and grace of Midnight Mass actually at Midnight and not at ten or ten-thirty, like some places do (and still call it Midnight Mass...), seemed to cause the nasty little jig-dancing, green-tongued man to evaporate into thin air. And good riddance!!

There were so many priests, deacons, seminarians and servers in attendance, one had to look for the miter to know where the Bishop was. The incense was lovely and pungent. The music was sacred and beautiful. The people were rosy-cheeked and alert. The ancient prayers and rituals were reverent and inspiring. And even though we didn't get back home until around two in the morning, our children were well-behaved and polite and helpful with the little ones.

We are a family which goes not only to Midnight Mass, but also to Mass on Christmas Day. This year, I was scheduled to cantor, and it's the first time I've done so in months. I prayed hard for good stamina to make it through Mass, and I was well-rewarded. The odd thing was that since almost all of the families of our parish, of which there are a great number, had attended Midnight Mass, most of them had planned not to attend on Christmas Day. Two of the families who had planned to attend didn't--one family had sudden and severe illness (of the intestinal variety) go through, and the other family had a last-minute change of plans. This meant that my Pickle Boy was the lone server--on Christmas Day, mind you, only one server! Unheard of in our parish, which usually sees about a dozen on any given ordinary Sunday!! But the boy did us proud. He did an excellent job, lighting all of the candles, setting things to right on the credence table, carrying in the Crucifix, holding the book, setting the altar, bringing forward the cruets, helping Monsignor to wash his hands, ringing the bells at Consecration, cleaning everything up, holding the book once more, and carrying the Crucifix again as they recessed. I was so proud of him I think I cried a tear or two. It was lovely to see him move gracefully, with confidence and concentration. I think he was pretty proud of himself, too.

When we got to Mass this morning (because it's Sunday--or it was when I rolled out of bed last--I do realize that it's not quite Sunday anymore...), the boys who grouped up to serve were surprised and impressed that Pickle had done the job on his own. Several of them wished that they were old enough to drive so that they could have been there...but that will come soon enough, for Pete's sake.

The pain that began this morning has been unrelenting. I've iced it, My Darling has massaged, I've propped with pillows, I've soaked, I've done everything I know to do as I bide the time, waiting for the chiropractor's office to open in the morning. In the mean time, I am offering my suffering as a prayer of sacrifice for Candy Rant's mom...and I would encourage you to pray for her, too. I know that my pain will not last forever, and that the cause of it is something to rejoice in. Pain and suffering can be joyful!! But this dear woman's pain is not joyful...and is taking a great toll on her and her family. Read her story and offer your kind prayers for her, and for all those who suffer during this time of year, especially those who are cold, who are hungry, who yearn for love, who cannot find relief of their suffering in grief, and for those whose pain and suffering is not visible to our eyes, but only palpable to the soul.

May the profound joy of the coming of Our Lord as a tiny baby more than two thousand years ago ring deeply in your heart and soul, and may His Peace reign in your home and in your family today and each day in the year to come.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Between the moments and moments

I have been soaking up the last days of my sweet Cuppie's babyhood. She comes to sit with me, climbs into my lap, and asks for her "nulkies." I happily oblige her.

She brings me the stuffed monkey puppet and says, "Hep me, Mom!" I press the button on the hidden box within and the monkey makes monkeyish noises.

She comes to me and puts her little hand on my expanding midsection and says, "Baybee bellee!" and "Wuf-oo, Baybee!"

She pats my cheek and says, "Wuf-oo, Mama!"

She toddles in sometime in the night and starts to climb up onto the bed. All the while, she softly says, "Mom?" and I answer her, "Yes, sweetie." "Mom?" she says again--are you still there?--"Yes, sweetie." "Mom?"--still??--"Yes, sweetie." When she has climbed atop the mound of sleeping Mama, she lays her little head on my cheek, tucks her feet into the blanket, and says, "Mom."

And then she sleeps, too.


This has happened each time. Each time a new life is coming into our family, I go through a small bit of mourning for the babyhood of the youngest. With the Frog, being my first, I had no idea what to expect when the Pickle came. With the Pickle, I was so sad that he had ended our nursing relationship--he was ready, but I was not. He was the type of baby who only let me hold him when he was nursing...he was not a snuggler, and I knew that the days of holding him close were ending. And even when we were expecing the Squash, and Reepicheep was nearly seven years old, I mourned the loss of her being the "Babyest" of the family. I always said to her, "You're all my babies, but you are the babyest!" ....and then that wasn't true anymore.

When Cuppie was the expected one, Squash and I would snuggle and he would put my Rosary around my belly, and we would pray our way around the Pumpkin within. He has always been a snuggler--he still is--and he sucked up every single minute that he could of it being Just Him in my arms.

And now the Cuppie. In her small ways, and in the best of her understanding, I know that she anticipates with joy the coming of this baby. I know that she will still be a snuggler, and that she will happily share her Nulkies with the baby.

...and I know that very soon, she will no longer be The Baby of the family.

She will be a wonderful big sister though.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Better than a month

Bad blogger. Bad, bad, bad little blogger.

What can I say--things here have been pretty even-keeled, which doesn't inspire me much for writing.

The snow finally came. I'm not a fan of cold weather, but I'm even less of a fan when it's cold and gray and brown outside. If it's going to be cold, I want it to be pretty, too. I think I anticipated our snowfall as much as the kids soon as that "S" word was in the forecast, being tossed around like so many flakes, I became excited, anticipating the frozen winter wonderland that was sure to come.

Eight to ten inches, they said. Blizzard conditions, they said. Beginning late evening, they said.

Well no wonder I was disappointed when, upon waking up multiple times in the night to visit the water closet, there was not only a lack of snow on the ground, but also a clear, starry sky above.

They only missed the timing by about.....twenty-four hours. What was supposed to fall on Friday night waited until Saturday.

Better late than never, I suppose, although it did also mean that we wondered until about 9:00 whether we would be able to make it into town for Mass. The comedy was that we left at 9:30, which is a half hour earlier than usual--to give ourselves extra time, of course, because the roads were terrible, of course. But they really weren't! Of the three lanes usually open on the interstate, two were drivable, and one was really just sloppy. So by the time we arrived at church, we had FIFTY minutes before Mass began.

Better early than never, I suppose, although it did also mean that we had the kids run around like wild people in the basement so that those other intrepid souls who braved the city streets (which were not anywhere near as passable as the interstate) were not disturbed in their prayer time before Mass.

The church, as one might imagine, was sparsely populated. But those who were there sang with gusto, responded boldly, and prayed earnestly. It was inspiring!

The drive home was not quite as impressive as the drive in. We took a different road--a state highway, which goes more-or-less directly home just as well as the interstate. As happens every year, the closer we got to home, the worse the road was. For some reason beyond all human understanding, the county in which we live has made the idiotic decision not to use snow fencing. For those of you in warmer climates, snow fencing can be either stick-and-wire fencing or plastic construction site type fencing. The function is to catch the snow on the back side as it blows through, creating a gigantic drift against the fence--and preventing drifting on the road (or your driveway, or whatever you're trying to protect).

Now, I'm just a tax-payer, so I probably have no idea what I'm talking about...but I'm just going to hazard a guess that this fencing is cheaper than sending out plows multiple times, especially when they are sent out when it's not even snowing. The drifting across this particular highway is notorious, and happens anytime it's windy, for Pete's sake, because the wind picks up whatever loose snow is on the surface of the surrounding fields. With no hills and no tree lines to protect the road, the snow just blows right across and covers, usually, an entire lane, and sometimes part of the other for good measure.

I'm thinking, since this is a state highway as well as an interstate alternate, wouldn't it be a priority to make sure it's clear? And wouldn't that priority include, perhaps, making sure that it doesn't become snow-covered when it's not even snowing, for Pete's sake??

Right, I know. Crazy talk. I'll stop. ;)


I had such a lovely talk with my Grandma yesterday afternoon. She just cheers me up every time we speak. I love hearing her stories, and I ask her various questions every time we talk, just so I can soak her up a little more. When your Grandma is 95 years old, you want to soak up every drop of her that you can.

Yesterday's story was about my mom. Grams and I share the experience of having a baby in February, which tends to be the coldest part of our winter here. The temps plummet well below zero degrees, and the wind chill is even more impressive. The day my Squash was born, for instance, the mercury struggled to read -17 degrees. Chris, the loveliest of midwives, made a note of it in my folder. It was so cold and clear that your eyes felt frozen if you poked your head out the door.

Grams loves to tell the story of when my mom was born. It was February of 1942, and the coldest day of the year. The hospital where Grams delivered was at the top of a hill, which was covered in ice. The tires in those days were no latch for the ice, so it took a long while to get up the drive.

They made it eventually, of course, and my mom was born. She weighed a bit over five pounds--she was right on time, just very small. She's always been very small. The nurses nick-named her "Dolly" because of her petiteness.

Grandpa's mother tried to get hold of him. She called the people and places she knew to call, and finally called the Red Cross. "In those days," says Grams, "Papa didn't think much of the Red Cross. They were do-gooders, but it was nothing then like it is now." Well, they were able to find Grandpa, which was more than anyone else could do!

Since the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor just two months before, Grandpa was off with the Army, and his Division was conducting exercises in advancement. Up the East Coast they were preparing to move, and the men took turns going in groups to scout ahead to find a suitable place for the entire Division to stop, make camp, prepare and eat their evening meal, bed down, and then make their way again in the morning. When the Red Cross found Grandpa, he was in one of the scout groups. He was a Captain, so he was the man in charge. The Division was crossing Northern Florida at the time.

Grandpa was able to get leave for seven days, and it took almost two days for him to get home. He made his way to the hospital to see his first child, expecting a somewhat larger baby...his mother had been so embarrassed by her smallness that she had told Grandpa that Mom weighed six pounds, five ounces, rather than five pounds five ounces.

The nurse said to Grandpa, "Would you like to see your baby?" He said, "Oh, I don't need to. I've seen babies, and they all look the same." Well, that nurse huffed and puffed and stormed out of the room, only to return a few moments later with two babies: my mom tucked into one arm, sweet and tiny and content, and in the other arm, a great big red-faced, squalling, nine pound baby boy with a shock of black hair stuck to his head like bristles on a brush.

"NOW!" said the nurse to Grandpa. "Do you still think all babies look the same?"

Well of course, Grandpa was terribly sheepish, and happily took his daughter into his arms.

They named her and brought her home and had her Baptized. Grandpa had five days left of his leave. He was supposed to get on the train to head East to meet up with his Division, but he received a call from some higher-up officer. This man had a car which he wanted brought to the East Coast so that he could take it on the transport ship with him over to Europe, and he asked Grandpa to drive it.

Grandpa's sister had just been married a few months earlier, and her husband was also on the East Coast waiting to ship out, so she rode along with Grandpa to keep him company, and so that she could say goodbye to her new husband. Grams said it was a good thing, because Grandpa squeaked out every minute he could of that leave, knowing he wouldn't be home for a very long time...and so he had planned to drive straight through. Having his sister along meant that he had company--and someone to keep him awake!

When he got out East and met back up with his Division, Grandpa learned that General MacArthur had ordered their Division to Australia. Australia was under attack from the Japanese at the time. So the men, who had advanced all the way up the East Coast in preparation to ship out to Europe, found themselves getting on a train instead of a boat, and crossing the country to the West in preparation to ship over to Australia. Of course, they didn't know where they were going; they just knew that it wasn't Europe.

Grams said how glad she was for that time of leave with Grandpa. He left when Mom was ten days old, and the next time he saw his daughter, she was a week shy of turning three years old.

Thankfully, Grandma's younger brother was just returning from some army training, and was able to finish out the winter helping Grandma with household things like cleaning the chimney and splitting wood.

I had heard the story many times about the coldest day of the year, the icy hill, Grandpa's mother misreporting Mom's birth weight, the remark about all babies looking the same--but I hadn't heard the part about Grandpa and the army.

Things are stressed for us right now. We are feeling the financial pinch of a much smaller paycheck than we should be getting, and the house is much cooler this year than last year in an effort to shrink the heat bill. But I stand in awe of my Grandma and her contemporaries who shipped their men off to a war that killed hundreds of thousands of a generation in an effort to protect the world. It is a staggering and sobering thing to ponder, and I am inexplicably grateful to God that I am living and raising my family right here, right now.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Drawing nigh

I suppose that with nearly a month having gone by, I ought to update the things that need updating.

Life in our home has continued much as usual: rising, praying, breaking fast, sending two off, schooling, playing, reveling in the gorgeous sunshine and unseasonably mild days, gulping great quantities of fresh air throughout the house, lunching, napping, praying, tending chores, schooling, playing, welcoming home, cooperating, praying, supping, playing, bathing, praying and sleeping.

That's the general of it.

The extras have been...well, not profuse, but present.

There have been births within our home school group and parish family, with the requisite ministering to the Mamas, celebration of Baptisms, and loving on sweet, new, beautiful babies.

There have been deaths within the family, with the expected and mixed blessings of late-in-life passings and the shock of heart attack and death, and the requisite ministering to grieving families, prayers for the souls of the departed, and the always mixed emotions of gathering with those we love to speak of memories, sweet and sorrowful.

There have been celebrations of feasts and solemnities, including a grand party to celebrate the great Feast of All Saints, at which my sweet Squash won--to the very pure delight of his four-year-old-heart--an authentic Buzz Lightyear, who shares his days and nights, being set down only briefly, and only for bath time. He may have been aided by some awesome big kids who knew that Buzz was the desire of his little heart, and who may have been having Squash's name written on their tickets for playing games, and they may have then popped those tickets into the bucket in front of Buzz from which the winner's name would be drawn at the end of the night. Yep. That may just be what happened. Perhaps.

That party was pretty cool. It's a tradition several years old now, and for the past seven years, has also served as a fund raiser for the Frog's school. The high schoolers all set up and run little-kid games in a big shed, where the little kids (as mentioned above) receive tickets for having played, have their names written on the tickets, and then put them into buckets to be drawn to win donated prizes. There is a pot-luck supper (amazing amount of delicious goodies!), a lovely bonfire, including last year's Christmas tree, the singing of the Litany of the Saints, the parade of saints (very cute costumes, and some of them quite elaborate!), and the saints trail (middle school-aged kids handing out candy to the little ones on a lit trail through the woods, with daddies watching to ensure safety!).

I did *not* go through the haunted trail. Totally left that up to the big kids who just really seemed to enjoy having the stuffing scared out of them (no little ones allowed, thanks--in fact, most of them leave before the haunted trail even opens) by the returning college kids and upper-grade high schoolers who put the thing together and man the various stations. I like my stuffing exactly where it is, and continued to sit through the evening near the warmth and comforting light of the bonfire.


The Frog continues to shine at school. Her grades, save for one class, were definitely worthy of a hearty hug and congratulations. That other grade happens to be in a class where my dear friend (and the Frog's teacher) assures me that a low grade is completely within the realm of normal when a student is brand spankin' new, as is the Frog, not only to the school, but also to the classroom setting. There are quite a number of formerly-home schooled students, and it just plain takes time to adjust (or in the case of the Frog, to readjust after years of being home schooled) to being in building school. And since that grade in that class was given for the first quarter of the Frog's freshman year, I'm holding perspective and trusting that she will adjust and that her performance in that class will improve.

The Pickle and the Reepicheep are also doing very well. We are able to incorporate most of their subjects, so that they are learning about the same things at their own levels on everything except math, which they pretty much share. They have made up nearly a dozen games in the back yard, and cannot get enough, it seems, of pumping that beautiful fresh air into their systems. They trek to the library each week, delighting in reading until their eyeballs practically roll straight out of their heads and onto the floor. They love going to our weekly enrichment activities with our home school group. They participate in art, phys ed, science and schola. They're learning physics, multi-media applications, doing the Presidential Fitness tests, and learning Gregorian chant (!!!!!). It's a blessing--it's a long day, but generally a good day.

The Reepicheep has been growing closer to the little Cuppie. The two of them play tea party, dance, dress up like Cinderella (whom Cuppie calls "Reela") no matter what the dress really looks like (did you know that a blue t-shirt with a picture of a fish on it is a "Reela Dress"?--even, or perhaps especially, if it's worn over pajamas!!), dance some more, sing songs together, dance a little, and snuggle in the rocking chair to read books. This is so good for both of them. It's good for Cuppie, because though she misses the Frog greatly during the day, she has discovered that she has a good and trusted friend in her other big sister. It's great for Reepicheep, because she is learning that she is capable of caring for someone smaller than she is. She's learning that when little ones depend on her, and when Mama expects it of her, she really can do things that a lot of big kids just aren't expected to do--and so they just don't do them. She regularly changes diapers, gets snacks or sandwiches, snuggles for snooze, and makes a general invaluable helper of herself. I'm really proud of her!

Squash and Pickle have been learning to play better with one another, too. Squash is a wonderful, energetic four-year-old, and Pickle is a wonderful, focused twelve-year-old. They definitely clash on occasion, but almost always find a way to work with (or around) their differences. They play legos, knights, baseball, sandbox, bikes, and made-up imaginary games galore. They race and wrestle, they fight and argue, and they love one another fiercely. Squash willingly lets his brother play with Buzz....which is a gigantic deal.


Squash participates in the enrichment activities, too, attending the Junior Saints group. He learns songs and activities, plays games, works on crafts, and just grows and fills me with wonder and astonishment.

The other day, I was leaving a response on a message board. Squash saw my pregnancy ticker in my signature--it's a baby floating around in a circle, drawn to represent "about" what our baby looks like right now. He asked me if that was the way babies grow inside of Mamas. I explained that it's a picture that probably looks a lot like the way our baby looks right now, except that the picture is really small. And I said to him, "Our baby probably isn't bouncing around like that, because there isn't that much room...but there is some water in there for the baby to float in."

He said, "I know. There was water in there with me, too."

Now, we've talked a lot about when I was pregnant with him. He remembers the glow from light, and he remembers seeing what he calls "bloody grapes"--which is a pretty darned accurate description of the texture left behind from other placentas. He *loves* watching the PowerPoint slide show that I made of the pics of his birth, and listening to the music that I labored to. (He calls it, collectively, "Baby Water"--because he was born in the water.)

So I said to him, "What else was in the water with you?"

And he said, "God. God was in the water with me."

I said, "You remember that God was with you?"

He looked at me like he was sure I was a little bit confused, and said, "He's always been with me, Mom."


My sweet Cuppie will swiftly turn two. TWO. TWO. I cannot even begin to believe it. And the Reepicheep, merely days later, will turn eleven. I have no idea to where the years have fled. I've searched my memory for them, and they only seem to exist in tiny fragments of memories, but even then, as mere wisps of the richness of experiences I know they once held.


There are only fifteen weeks left of this small child growing beneath my heart. We've come up with the nickname "Little Apple," because, once-upon-a-time, one of those nifty compare-your-unborn-baby-to-the-size-of-a-common-fruit-or-vegetable websites said, "Your baby is about the size of an apple," and the Squash was utterly charmed. In our prayers each night, we say the names of each member of our family, concluding with "Little Apple." When he types the names of everyone in our family, Squash always includes "Little Apple." So even though it's currently about the size of a lovely squash, it's still our "Little Apple."

I'm looking forward to a visit with Chris tomorrow. I'm starting to notice, unfortunately, some of the signs that my body always gives me that my muscles are just a bit touchy. Some people call it "irritable uterus." I call it "stretching ligaments and sore, achy Mama, with plenty of cramping to boot." We probably won't even say the words "bed rest" this time, but I will definitely take it easy as I need to.


I am not as anxious for this baby to come as I have been with most of the others. I am anxious about what February will bring. Will people be willing to venture out in the winter weather, with the cold, the ice, the wind and the snow, to visit with us? Will I have the energy to keep up with the little ones and the baby, and the patience to make it through each day? It's a whole different ball game with the Frog at school, but the Pickle and Reepicheep have definitely been stepping into more responsible and charitable roles with their younger siblings. That's been a comfort, to be sure. Will postpartum depression make a return, and will I be able to cope with it?

My depression continues to hover, like a storm that refuses to calm. Though I don't feel mired down quite so much most days, it lurks, waiting for my weak moments, and then it sinks in like a weight on my spirit. There are so many parts of it: guilt, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, shame, doubt and lingering grief. I recently spoke with a very dear friend who helped me to think differently on the suffering that comes with depression. I was feeling much as though perhaps God was asking me to learn how to suffer in the right way, like I'm just not getting it the way He wants me to. I don't remember her exact words, but I do remember her bringing up
Blessed Mother Teresa, who walked the valley of doubt and darkness much of her life. And I remember well reading the words of Fr. Neuhaus in his book, Death on a Friday Afternoon, in which he reminds us to remain with Our Lord at the foot of the Cross, with Him in His suffering, rather than rushing too soon to the joy of Easter.

It's hard to remain in suffering willingly. It's even hard to think of Mama Mary, waiting with Him in His suffering--and very much in her own. To know that God has something for me to learn from this depression, this suffering, is a joy! But it is a joy unknown and unseen and even unimaginable.

"Lord, I believe! Help me in my unbelief!" Saint Thomas, pray for me!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Advent, 2011

If you're Catholic, and if you've been paying attention, you know that the beginning of Advent next year means that the new, corrected Translation of the Roman Missal will be implemented by churches throughout the world.

What does it mean? Does the use of a translation other than what we use now during the NO Mass mean a step backward? Does it mean that the people attending Mass will somehow be less able to participate in the Mass?

Read the Order of Mass for yourself here, and then think about it. It's not difficult, I promise.

The thing is, there seems to be a huge debate rising about what it means to have this "new" translation. But it isn't a new translation at all--it's a corrected translation. Fr. Z frequently presents to us the beautiful prayers and collects in the original Latin, then with a literal translation, then what has replaced the literal translation, which has nearly always been watered down so far as to change the original meaning. Take a look at his post of last Sunday (Oct. 8th) here.

How does it serve the faithful if the original meaning of our prayers is removed? And how in the world could anyone see anything negative in that original meaning being restored? Does it somehow change the tenets of the faith, the very foundation that the Catechism has laid out for us? It is not an edict demanding a return to singularly Latin Masses being said; it is far more in keeping with the "Spirit of Vatican II" that people rave on and on about. How does this equal somehow moving backward? And what's wrong with Latin, anyway?

To my mind--admittedly rather young, in all things Catholic--the corrected translation is an incredible blessing! The removal of "every day" language from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is something to which I very much look forward. To have Heaven on Earth be brought just a little closer by the reverence of the very words spoken is something the heart and soul ought to long for.

When things are phrased in a particular way, it makes us perceive things in a different way. If the phrasing is crude, choppy, disconnected, then the idea will not be properly conveyed. If the phrasing is smooth, eloquent and refined, would logic not then bring us to the conclusion that our minds would be collected in such a way that we might perhaps be further drawn into contemplative thought? Isn't that what Mass is supposed to be about?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What would you do?

What is the charitable thing to do in a difficult situation? Here's the set-up:

There's a family of four--two little girls and Mom and Dad--who've been attending the same Mass as our family (and loads of other families) for about 2 years now. They seem like very nice people. The children are roughly 3 and 5, though they might be a bit older. It is obvious that there is no mental illness nor disability on the part of any member of the family.

The trouble is that the girls chatter like squirrels throughout Mass, and they do so without correction. They ask for (and are given) snacks. They ask for (and are given) paper and pen. They dance on the pew. They balance on the kneeler, as though on a beam, pulling hair and pounding arms of those in front of them.

When a parent does speak with them, it's usually Mom--and she actually speaks to them. At a conversational volume. Regardless of what is happening in regards to the Mass. She does this during the homily, during the readings, during the hymns, and even during the crux of the Mass--the Consecration. Her speaking to her children is never to correct them--just to answer and pacify them. The children are never removed, for any reason. The younger one has cried loudly during Mass before, and nothing was done.

I think this might be one of the families (though I've not seen other families with this type of issue at the Mass we regularly attend, but there are also three other Mass times within our parish) which prompted the message written by our dear Monsignor about six months ago, regarding behavior during Mass, and when it becomes necessary to remove a child from the nave in order to allow other parishioners to worship appropriately.

It is maddening. It is distracting, and it is completely disrespectful of Our Lord during the Mass.

So I ask you--what would you do?

I understand what it's like to wrangle children during Mass. I have five, for Pete's sake, and am not looking to be out of the Narthex Crowd anytime soon!! I know what it is to sit in the narthex as close to the speaker as I can, or where I can watch through the glass panel on the door, knowing that I can hear the Mass just fine from there, and that my small ill-behaved child is out of hearing and sight range of the rest of the people, and that this leaves only me as the distracted one. I definitely know what it's like to have the strong desire to be in the nave, seeing the beauty of the Mass, immersed in the ways in which the Mass stirs our senses, and feel as though I'm not really there at all. In other words, I've been in their shoes--but rather than sit there, I've gotten up and moved my feet!

I am finding it terribly difficult to remain charitable in my heart, especially in those moments during Mass when I am left to strain to hear Monsignor's homily, because the woman behind me refuses to whisper. I found this to be especially so this morning, when this family sat down directly behind our family. Finding another pew at that point was not possible.

So, besides "offer it up"--which, believe me, I have been doing!--what in the world would you do??

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The autumn comes

Leaves are swirling in the autumn wind and falling onto the lawn, making a tapestry of beautiful colors. They are soft and damp, and the husky smell of them blows in through the open windows. Birds are calling to one another, signaling their end-of-summer plans to find sheltered places to build their winter nests.

Mama Cardinal keeps her eyes sharp against squirrels and bees.

The house is quiet today: Squash is at work with My Darling, and Reepicheep and Frog are both on an adventure with my sister-in-law. (While normally the Frog would be in school, when an Auntie purchases tickets in April for a big Broadway show staged in September...well, the Mama might just excuse a Frog from the afternoon school hours....) Pickle and Cuppie are puttering from outside on the swings, to inside, to the basement to play blocks.

I am content.

I began, about two weeks ago, to feel the small, quiet flutterings of a certain Someone. Though my sweet babe measures only about eight inches from head to toe, I am daily aware of the goings on within. Last night, for the first time, My Darling felt the soft thump of--what, a knee? an elbow? a little hand or foot?--and murmured something sweet.

This afternoon, I find myself daydreaming about frozen, deeply snowy winter afternoons, with a small, warm babe snuggled on my chest, breathing quietly, moving slightly, eyelids fluttering, sighing in satisfaction and thanks for the warm belly full of Mama's milk.

Perhaps it's that I slept better last night and then into the morning. I feel better today than I have in a long time. The Nausea Bug and Major Pukey, thanks be to God, have packed their meager belongings and ordered the retreat of their Miserable Minions. Late this morning, I started a shoulder roast in the crock pot, with onion soup mix, carrots and potatoes hedged around the sides. The smell is so tantalizing that I am eager for suppertime to roll around.

Perhaps it's that I am currently comfortably set up in the sunroom. That would be the main common living space which was included in the addition--the addition that began Four Long Years Ago, when we first broke ground. It's completely drywalled, wired and painted. The only things remaining are trim and flooring--but we do have a temporary carpet over the plywood subfloor. We moved the living room furniture out here about a month ago, and it's just as beautiful and spacious as I dreamed it would be when we were planning our scheme years ago. (The bedroom still isn't done.........but progress is being made here and there, and I know that it will be done eventually.............................)

Perhaps it's that I have been leaning back into the comforting arms of Our Lord more lately, allowing Him to fill my heart with His peace. I definitely have my days--we all have our days (as my last entry will attest)--but they are becoming less frequent. The bad days are intensely bad, but they are fewer. My Lord is pulling me ever closer to His Sacred Heart.

Whatever the reason, whatever the circumstance, I am infinitely grateful to be where I am in this moment--enjoying carrying this small child, this beautiful soul beneath my heart. I am learning to be without my Frog each day, and though I miss her terribly, I am able to see the fruits of her attending The Wonderful School. I am loving the time that I've been able to spend with each of my other children, watching them learn and grow. Reepicheep has been busily knitting things--booties, hats, small squares--for the baby. Pickle has been reading nearly non-stop about all things space and engineering. Squash has learned to write his name (!!) and is learning to read here and there. And Cuppie is talking so much that we can almost always understand what she wants and needs.

God is so very, very good.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bad days happen even here...

Disclaimer: Gratuitous whinging ahead. Read at your own peril. Even Catholic homeschooling happily-married Mamas have bad days.

I am grumpy. I'm in a terrible mood, and no help for it.

I know, I know...this funk is not something of Heaven; rather it reeks with the foul stench of the other place. And I know that eventually the clouds will lift.

But it's been a rotten afternoon, and part of me just wants to sulk in it for a few minutes, get it off my chest, and move on.

I'm trying to adjust to my Frog being gone from me each day to the wonderful school. I know full well what a blessing it is--especially for her--but it's been really hard on this Mama's heart. I miss my girl! I miss her companionship, and I really miss her capable help.

I am becoming increasingly frustrated with my Pickle. I'm stretching myself each day to find the wonderful qualities that make him the lovable boy he is, but for Pete's sake, when you have to tell a 12-year-old to look on the floor for things like shoes, rather than staring at the walls and saying, "...but I don't see them!" just gets old.

The Reepicheep is trying. Ten is a really difficult age. It's physically awkward, and it's psychologically worse. She wants desperately to be more capable than she is at lots of things, and frequently tries to do things with disastrous, or near disastrous, results, and sometimes at the peril of others. She wants to stay up late and have the privileges that come with being a teenager, but she's really not even close to teenagerhood. She rebels at the things that we know are best for her (like the earlier bed time and the necessity of school work and chores) sometimes, but other times (at this very moment, for instance), I'll say, "I need the counter spiffed up," and she'll practically scrub all of the counters, sweep the floor, shine the sink and set the table. It's just so blasted unpredictable! I know she'll grow out of it, and I know it won't be long...if we could go from eight to eleven, and skip the two years in between, that would be fabulous.

My little Squash boy....well, he just melts my heart almost every minute of the day. When he's not smooching my nose (because, you know, sometimes it's empty...) or snuggling with me and sighing and saying, "Mama......I just love you..." he's unfortunately squabbling with either the Pickle or the Reepicheep. And his squabbling generally takes the form of a very loud, insistent voice which is audible throughout the entire house, for Pete's sake, and which does not cease until the world bows to his short little whim. If you're playing for points, that's a long way down to bow.

The Cuppie......well, she's on the cusp of two. She has two volumes: tolerable and sweet, and LOUD AND HORRIBLE. If she has what or who she wants, life is good and she's terribly cute. If she does not have it or them and she wants it or them, then you'd better grab your ear plugs. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and she's apparently in need of a great deal of grease. We could buy an industrial vat of olive oil and pray that it would be enough. In other words, there is a great deal of my day which is spent attempting to entertain or appease my sweet Cuppie, and the rest of my day is spent in grateful thanksgiving to my merciful Lord that she is peacefully napping.

And may I say, I would just like one. evening. with. my. husband? We're so busy, it really feels like I can barely come up for air. I'm trying to figure out when we even have time to go grocery shopping, because we're running out of staples like bread and cereal, and I totally consider grocery shopping to be a date, but only if we have no children with us.

The upside? I'm feeling markedly better. In the last week, I've only had to battle Major Pukey and his Miserable Minions thrice. The Nausea Bug is still around, but is showing himself to be pitifully battle-weary, thanks be to God. Now if I can just get my blood pressure up a bit--you know, not in the I'm-having-a-terrible-day-and-will-probably-explode way, but in the I-can-stand-up-for-more-than-two-minutes-and-maybe-even-stand-at-the-appropriate-parts-of-the-Mass-and-not-pass-out way.....well, that would really make my day.

I guess perhaps there could be some help for it after all.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

And the time has gone.............yeah, I don't know where.

Before I start my long-overdue update, I need to plug a new blog by a wonderful priest who just happens to be very close to our family (and also has fabulous hair!). With as much of a flourish as I can muster on a blog, I give you...........the Commune of Cufflinks! At the moment, being very new, Fr. E has only a couple of his homilies posted for a listen--but they are most definitely worth a listen. Visit him and leave a comment, and encourage him to give us more!!


Yeah, I know August is almost gone. It's been busy here, and in the mean time, I've been entrenched in the battle with Major Pukey. The Nausea Bug has become a permanent resident, for Pete's sake, and it turns out he's one of the worst neighbors ever. His thug friends are annoying and show up at all hours, and I'm so over their frat-boy schedule of parties. But all things continue to move like the tide, and I find myself on the other side of the trimester markers. The Little Peach has been growing beneath my heart for nearly 14 weeks now, and that puts us into the Second Trimester. God is good!


The Frog has been running. I had a phone call from the cross country coach, and she wondered if it was something the Frog would be interested in. I asked the Frog, and she said, "No way!" so of course I signed her up immediately. I feel badly for kids of all ages whose parents never make them try things they're certain that they'll hate. If I never made my kids try things, they'd never do anything, for Pete's sake! At any rate, she didn't hate it right off the bat, so she stuck with it, running her beginning training runs with My Darling, and quickly starting to out-pacing him, much to his chagrin.

We figured if she was going to go the whole season, we ought to get her some decent running shoes, so we went to a place which specializes in just that, and gives a hefty discount to high school cross country runners to boot. Bonus for us, since good running shoes are really not cheap....

Her endurance is fantastic, and she's working on her speed now. It's an impressive thing to see your child blossom in ways you never dreamed you'd see! Best of all is that the team has taken as their patron saint Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. His is a truly inspirational story and I love that the Frog and her teammates have such a wonderful role model in him.

The Pickle, the Reepicheep and the Squash are all settling into their schoolwork already. I'm not starting them out with everything at once, rather I'm having them do "subject days," where we pick a subject for the day and see where it takes us. They don't always want to do the same thing, so it's fine with me if Pickle chooses one thing and Reep chooses another. Squash isn't exactly going to get into the finer points of history or science the way the big kiddos do, so we work together on things more his speed.

And the Pudge? The Cuppie? Her latest trick is gigantic temper fits of impressive proportion. If it's true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, then she must be greased for good. It's tiresome, but I know it'll pass. She'll be 2 in November, so this is right on track, I suppose, for what many toddlers go through. We've been blessed to never have to deal with it this way before, so we're definitely learning as we go.


Yesterday, My Darling and I celebrated thirteen years of marriage together. As I said to him last night (after soundly whooping him at cribbage...), "It certainly hasn't been an easy thirteen years, but it surely has been a good thirteen years." His response? "If it had been easy, I would have taken it for granted."



To keep in your prayers: Richard, who suffered a major stroke and is recovering slowly. He has been almost single-handedly responsible for coordinating the volunteers and regularly-scheduled adorers for our parish perpetual Eucharistic Adoration.

AJ and Sarah, who welcomed their beautiful little baby girl a couple of weeks ago, and are learning so well what it is to love and parent your first child!!

All those who are suffering from unexplained or undiagnosed medical troubles, and for wisdom for their doctors.

All pregnant Mamas, those families waiting to adopt, and those praying to become parents.

All married couples, to live their vocation together in the Grace of Our Lord.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Changing and unchanging

The unchanging:

Things are still putrid concerning Major Pukey. He is using all of his most effective weapons...and I am reduced to Carnation Instant Breakfast for most of my calories. I gotta say, of course I realize the blessing of this beautiful life growing within, and of course I am unendingly thankful--but for Pete's sake, it's tricky to keep that point of view with scarcely 500 calories a day, nurturing this new life, and still nursing my Cuppie. My least favorite is that lately everything I drink leaves a metallic-sweet aftertaste in my mouth......this does not bode well with the liquid calories I've been needing, for lack of anything else.


The changing:

We have purchased the Frog's school uniform. The clothing comes from Land's End, which is of notoriously superb quality. Many years ago, the Frog received a Land's End footed lasted us through the Frog, the Pickle and the Reepicheep. We ended up cutting the feet off only because after 3 children and 6 years of wear, the toes finally started giving out--and the Reepicheep still wanted to wear them, even after her feet were pushing through the ends. Suffice it to say, we bought things as they were on sale, and I have no doubt that they will last a good, long time.

The Frog and I attended a school meeting the other night which was an introduction to cross country. When I received the call about it last week, I assured the mom/coach that I would be "making" the Frog run, because I think it's important to at least give it a try. When I told the Frog, she rolled her eyes, teenager-style, and said, "Well, who else is running?" I told her the one child I thought would be, and then said, "So at least you'll have one friend you know of." When we got to the meeting, her enthusiasm immediately sky-rocketed upon seeing the students in the room whom she knew. At this very moment, she is out running with My Darling, working on her pre-season work outs. They ran last night and this morning as well, and will be running every day until the season begins--and then probably at least 2 or 3 times a week together. She has discovered, much like soccer, that she likes it very much.


And that's the changing and the unchanging. I have had so little energy of late, and though My Darling instructs me to, "...just be patient and let that baby grow and don't worry about the house," I still feel guilty for letting some things pile up the way they do. I am eternally grateful for the help from my children. Mostly they are uncomplaining, and mostly they are readily obedient, and always they end up doing the things that I need done. I have much to be thankful for, and I am aware of God's constant outpouring of blessings on me, unworthy though I am.

Please continue to pray for Sarah and AJ as they patiently await the birth of little Pip...we are all waiting for you, little one!!

Rejoice with me in the birth of the second daughter of Monica and Ryan...she is a beautiful baby and so blessed by the abundant love around her!!

And please continue to pray for all those who suffer in any way, body, mind and soul, from the pains which we cannot see with our eyes. Monsignor once spoke of them as the Unseen Hurts that we all carry with us.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


As in, Major Pukey has declared victory. It's not so much that I've surrendered at this point--it's just that when I am having to sprint for the "oval office" in the middle of the night...twice...and then several times today...well, I know when I've been rousted. Beaten. Defeated. Trounced.

Major Pukey has brought in his entire legion of pukey little minions--Private Bile, Sergeant Uvula and Lieutenant Dry Heave...and all the little thugs they boss around.

Today's impressive nutritional list includes none other than the physician himself--Dr. Pepper. He brought along some chips of the potato variety, for texture and salty flavor. Even water doesn't seem to settle well.

I know that it all adds up to hormones doing what they're supposed to do, and the strong liklihood of a healthy's awfully hard to see that particular angle of it from a rim shot though! But I know, as with all challenges, this too shall pass--thanks be to God!

Well ok then--I guess we'll try again tomorrow.

I do like to think of others, and it brings me comfort to hold intentions in pray with me for AJ and Sarah as they celebrate their wedding anniversary and draw near to their due date, Maggie as she travels in this general direction for a wedding (and a visit!), all Mamas who are nurturing small loves beneath their hearts...and most especially all those women who long to be Mamas. May God grant them the desire of their hearts, in perfect conformity to His will.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Nausea Bug Returns with a Vengance


I was hoping it was just a passing thing, but clearly the little rascal means to stick around.

I've only run into Major Pukey once so far. It was in the middle of the night at some point last week...and it was a pitiful response, I admit, but I did feel much better afterward and slept well. I'm not so sure that was the last frontier for him though, as he seems to be on the march this evening.

Camping with the Nausea Bug is a blasted nuisance. He is petulant, insistent, and just plain bothersome. Things like the unavoidable smell of the camper, the fragrance of the campfire, and the various aromas from other people's food make it unpleasant, even though the company was fine, the conversation was delightful, and the change of scenery was a relief. But such was life over the weekend. I was thoroughly relieved, though, that the porta-lets seemed to be a bit "fresher" this year than in years past--that made it much easier to face the prospect of heading to the loo.
Today's attempts at eating have been largely unsuccessful. I was lucky with a couple of waffles, but they pretty much turn to sugar immediately on impact. I really wanted some ravioli, which My Darling brought to me with love--but I could barely choke one of them down and had to settle for a small cup of applesauce. This evening's fare was a cheeseburger, which I surprised myself by ingesting rather quickly--I only hope it wasn't too quick, because for the past several minutes here, I've been hearing the rumblings that tend to mean the Major is on the move.....I hope it's a slow march!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Making it right in my heart

This weekend was a very joyful time. On Friday evening, my choir sang at the Ordination Mass for two exceptional young men who we are now blessed to call Father.

I love ordination!! It's a wedding, really--a man taking the vows of obedience and fidelity to Holy Mother Church. I am humbled when I witness the anointing, the vesting, the laying on of hands by the bishop and each of the priests present--and my favorite part: the first blessings given by each of the new priests are to his mother and father, and then to the bishop. I am an absolute wreck at that point, just the same as when a daddy walks his little girl down the aisle to give her hand to her see these men bless their parents and then the bishop is a very intimate moment of tenderness and love. Thanks be to God!!

On Saturday, My Darling and I attended the wedding of one of his many cousins. This dear young woman was like a sister to My Darling when they were young, because she stayed with his family for a summer. What a pleasure it was to see her, so elegant and confident in her white dress--trimmed with red, no less!--taking her place as a married woman!

On Sunday, I cantored at Mass. It's been a go so far--no blood pressure issues just yet, though that blasted Nausea Bug continues his plodding march. Looking out into the congregation, I spied a dear friend walking in with her family, and she looked a bit--well, smaller than she had the last time I saw her. Bringing up the rear, I spotted her husband, carrying a baby seat! Ahh....the blessing of seeing new (again) parents holding their tiny baby for the first time at Mass!! He was to be baptized afterward as well, so the joy of it really was overwhelming.

When I went to speak with them after Mass, another friend, Mary, was there as well. She and I hadn't seen each other since My Darling and I discovered our New Life, so she gave me a hug of congratulations. She looked me in the eye and said, "This one will be better, don't you think?"

I knew exactly what she meant.

It's something I've really been thinking a lot about, but I've been working hard to convince myself that when the Cuppie was born, the circumstances filling the following week were so incredibly extraordinary that they are just not likely to ever, ever happen again. Ever.

I hope.

There are those friends--like Mary--who understand the fear and anxiety so well that for them to voice it feels absolutely natural. I am so glad that she did, because I almost instantly felt better, like the lancing of a swollen wound. To know that my thoughts were not just some random obsession or some unfounded fear was incredibly comforting.

So now, I truly am completely joyful in this pregnancy, despite the marching of the Bug.


Prayer intentions: For Fathers David and Gregory, for their ordination--Thanks Be to God! For AJ and Sarah, as they approach the due date for their little Pip, and for AJ's birthday today--Thanks Be to God! For the "changing of the guard" in an important ministry office in our parish, as one lovely lady leaves the office to care for her babies at home full time, and another lovely lady comes to continue the good work of that office--Thanks Be to God! For our Dear Bishop who continues to teach us the Truth in love, unfailingly in line with the teachings of Holy Mother Church--Thanks Be to God!

And for all those who continue to search, to listen carefully, to desire the Will of God the Father in their lives, Thanks Be to God.

Any other prayer intentions today?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Well, it's out there now!

My belly, that is..........I have achieved the Poof of Proof of #6!!

We are joyfully expecting our next blessing to arrive in February, God willing.

The Nausea Bug began his march today.


I chart very carefully. We. We chart very carefully. So we knew precisely what was what, when, and apparently were very blessed at that particular moment.

I could not help myself. I know in my brain that before around 8 days post ovulation, a home pregnancy test will not give anything but, what is known in the world of charting women as a "BFN"--Big Fat Negative, for those of you playing at home. But way back then, I had tested late in the evening of that 8th day, only to see a faint line taking shape before my very eyes.

This time was no different....except that I did, I confess, actually begin testing on the 7th day. Ah, that Seventh Day! The Day of Rest! Of Regeneration! Of Renewal! Of BFNs!!! Rats!!!! But I can't say I wasn't expecting it. (Get it? "Expecting"? Hahaheh.........I know. Groan away.)

But on the 8th day--well, on the 8th day, there was that little line that I had been hoping to see, once again. (And in that girl world of all things pointing toward conception, we call that a BFP--a Big Fat Positive.) Just to be certain, I called My Darling and asked him to pick up another box containing two plastic cartridges which would soon be soaked....and not with that I could make absolutely certain that this was not the same as the evil false positive we had seen two months prior.

He made the purchase, and I tore into the first package, and immediately used the plastic thing the way it's meant to be used, for Pete's sake, and My Darling and I both watched as a line, a little darker than the last time, appeared next to the control line. It looked like this:
Better try once more, just to be certain. It's a bit faint.

And the next morning, I tried once more.

And there was that second line, again. This time, a bit darker:
And so I write to you in the very wee hours of the morning, exhausted, but nauseous, fending off that dastardly thug, the Nausea Bug. Now, I will admit to being encouraged. Though my first four pregnancies were completely defeated by this formidable adversary, the last was not too bad, all things considered. The reason I find hope in this is that so much of my last pregnancy had to do with prayer and visualization. I firmly believe that the reason I had such an incredibly calm and comfortable labor and delivery (save for that particular 20-ish minutes, which really packed in every bit of pain possible!) was because I prayed for it to be that way, and because I had spent many moments leading up to then visualizing the kind of labor and birth that I wanted to have. So here's the thing: I am visualizing very little nausea. Teeny, tiny bugs. Like, smaller than chiggers, which must be reeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaallllllllllly small because you Can't. See. Them. At. All. Little bugs which can be swatted into oblivion by the mere movement of my eyelashes as I blink.

It's terribly handy, because My Darling has forbidden me to be sick, so Major Pukey had just better keep his bags packed wherever he is.......

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Joys!

I needed to make another, completely separate post. That one, just down there...well, that was a necessary re-introduction. My mind is bubbling with the events of the past weeks--a graduation, a Confirmation (!!), a Grand Decision, and just general life, which, really, adds up to quite a bit.

My Little Frog was confirmed a couple of weeks ago, on Pentecost Sunday! What a joyous day--gorgeous outside, an amazing Mass, and the beautiful hearts of her classmates confirmed with her. Two days prior, she graduated from 8th grade. Again, it was a wonderful event, with Mass and a shared meal with friends. We are so blessed to be among so many families who share our faith and our lives! It really helps to make these important and sacramental milestones more joyous, more deeply meaningful, and more memorable.
Our beloved Bishop prepares to confirm the candidates--LOVE the Fiddleback and lace!!

Back in early April, we received an e-mail about a local private school needing players for their soccer team. When a school is so small that their graduating class includes all of 6 students, it's difficult to put together a team big enough to have people on the field and on the bench. By opening up the roster to local home schoolers, they were able to make it happen. I replied to the e-mail by saying, "I think the Frog would like to participate."

Well, except that she didn't want to participate. But I'm a mean Mama, and I made her go to the first practice.

She loved it!

We had been given shoes, and the socks, shorts and shin guards were relatively inexpensive, and all of a sudden--I became a soccer Mom! AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! But no--not one of those soccer moms. I was the Mom who grabbed the big orange drink coolers and hauled them to the practices and games. I was also the Mom who came to the tiny school to help transport the kiddos from school to the practice field. I was further the Mom who decided that kids who are playing soccer should also have something delicious to eat every now and then, and that cupcakes (filled with cream cheese, of course) were definitely on the menu.

No, wait--I guess that does make me one of those soccer moms.

So be it.

In the mean time, here's what happened: We came to know the kids from some of the families of our parish with whom we don't get to spend a lot of time, because they're not homeschooling the kids who are my older kids' ages, and they don't have little ones crying through Mass in the narthex (like Cuppie does). We also met and came to know some other amazing kids from families in other parishes--families we'd heard about, but we'd never had the blessing of meeting. Most of the kids were familiar to the Frog because of a diocesan-wide retreat she attended in February. Some of them were in her confirmation class.

This tiny little school, with the itty-bitty classes, is made up largely of families who were homeschooling and wanted to pool their resources into an intense, classical curriculum, and in turn allow their kids to absolutely flourish academically in an authentically Catholic atmosphere. The kids wear beautiful uniforms, attend Mass 3 days a week (easily done, because the facility they use adjoins a church!), and they have Eucharistic Adoration and silent reflection time the other two days. Their days begin and end with prayers, their class periods begin and end with prayers, and the teachers are all wonderful, dedicated professionals, who also happen to be practicing Catholics--some of them are parents of students. God is Good!

And now......this tiny little school will have a new student in the fall. My little Frog is going back to Building School!

The very best part about it is that we have absolute, complete peace about this decision. We can't even come close to affording it, but there are financial aid and fund raising and volunteer opportunities. And sometimes, the Holy Spirit makes things so very plain that it is easy to know that He will take care of the financial side--and so we're trusting Him to do just that!

There really is so much more in my heart......but I'll be back--soon and very soon, I'll be back.

Rediscovering Me

I've been gone a long time. I've been thinking about coming back to post, but have just not been in the right place in my head--or my heart.

What's changed?

So much. So very much.

I stopped taking my medication. I stopped for lots of reasons, but mainly because so much of my heart has healed that I just wanted to see if I remembered who I was before it all began.

So much ground was covered, so many new rooms built in my soul, and all of them have finally found a way to fit together comfortably, like old jeans or a favorite sweater. It feels good.

I have learned that I am stronger than I thought I was, and that sometimes to get stronger, you have to feel the hurt and truly grow from it. I haven't felt the true pain of my depression in so long, I almost forgot it existed. There was a dull ache for months, and a fog of near-contentment that was just a little off, the way you can't quite get comfortable on a hot summer night. Now that I'm not taking my medication, I've had to face some things head-on: anxiety, having opinions, noticing that I can pray through my day successfully, and remembering that no matter how small my tasks, My Lord is with me.

I have learned that it's ok to go through something which shocks the soul so greatly and come out alive, joyful, radiant, and peaceful.

I have learned that when there is a blessing amid the hideous darkness, that it is important to hang on to that blessing and celebrate that blessing with every breath, until the light begins to glimmer again.

I have learned that when the windows of the soul are left open, fresh life comes in, and the Holy Spirit makes things new. I have learned that new is good.

I am grateful for my time in the valley. I am grateful for the wisdom I've found there, for the lessons learned, and for the beauty I have come to see in suffering.

Thanks be to God, it seems the climb is on!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pardon me, may I sit here?

It's been a long few weeks. Long and eventful, for Pete's sake.

*Easter was awesome. Holy Week was absolutely jam-packed, but the Holiness aspect of it all was phenomenal--and then Easter iced the cake. I hope to collect my thoughts a bit more on that and do an entirely separate entry.

*We watched the crocuses come up and bloom beautifully purple, and then shrivel under a late freeze. The tulips are not far behind, and in the meantime, we have the white hyacinths to perfume the air between here and the mailbox. I'm still waiting on my plum tree.

*I have been torn between saying something and saying nothing about the persecution of our Holy Father and Holy Mother Church. I am sick to my very heart over the whole thing, and continue to read, until my eyes are dry, everything I can in order to understand the different aspects of it all. The bottom line is, the teachings of the Church are infallible, but the human beings who make up the Church are human beings...and if Christ became human and was like us in all ways but sin, then I guess we must understand that people err, even though they have the Word of God as their guide. No exceptions. The exceptions come when there is remorse, reform, repentance and forgiveness.

*I broke my toe. It's not even a good story. It happened on Tuesday afternoon while I was making the bed with clean sheets. I kicked a shoe, for Pete's sake, and it resulted in my left pinky toe being broken clean in half. The bruise is spectacular, at least, and I shall return and post pictures just as soon as I can find the USB cable.

*Things are moving at a pace on the addition. Drywall has gone up in the mudroom and is going up in the sun room--it is amazing what even sheet rock can do to make a shell look more like a room. Same deal as above with the pictures.

*Hopefully I'll be back more frequently, though the Frog just joined soccer--which makes for two days a week being gone in late afternoons. I can't believe how busy we are around here, but I love it...I love it!!

**Prayer intentions: AJ and Sarah (!!!), several friends who are carrying babies beneath their hearts, several single friends who are quietly pondering God's plan for them in their hearts, my sweet nephew who will receive the Body and Precious Blood of our Lord in First Communion one week from today, my dear sweet Frog who will be Confirmed in the Holy Spirit in scarcely a month, and of course continued prayers for the sanctification of all priests, for an increase in vocations to the ordained and consecrated lives, and for our Holy Father and Bishop. +JMJ+

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Life changes

It often amazes me how quickly things can change.

He is beside me, flinging a plastic beaded necklace from the Saint Patrick's Day parade around like a wild man, engaged in some sort of four-year-old tribal dance. His feet scarcely touch the ground, and the necklace is a blur of flashy green. His laugh delights me, and his unfamiliar song is composed from thin air.

Suddenly, his little feet stop. His face crumples, and fat tears squish from the corners of his big, brown eyes. I hear the beginning of an "0w," mixed in with a wail of betrayal. He clutches the offending beads and bows his little head, his shoulders drooping, his back and chest heaving with his cries.

In his fury of dance, the necklace had leaped into the air and slapped his eyes. His immediate instinct is to come into my arms...and not surprisingly, my instinct is to hold him. His small body curls into my lap, his arms around my neck, his breath and tears hot on my cheek.

When his cries subside, he still hangs on. He rubs his forehead on my cheek and kisses my chin. I smooch the top of his ear, the sweet sweaty neck, the soft tufts of hair. He breathes deeply and sighs heavily. He snuggles in a little more.

He pets the back of my neck and says softly into my ear, "Mama, we just have a lovely home, don't we?"

I wipe his tears and kiss his little cheek. "Yes, we do, sweetie."

He asks if he can watch Foghorn Leghorn.

It's a good perspective.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Coulda, shoulda, woulda...

I used to be in really great physical shape. When I was in high school, even though I was skinny and socially awkward, I was in awesome shape. I ran three days a week after school, clocking a couple of miles just running the halls around the school (really--the school I attended was like a giant square-shaped 8, and the outer halls were open to runners after school) and did calisthenics. The other two days I did strength training. My strength training included lifting weights, push-ups and sit-ups. The sit-ups were done inverted, because I couldn't stand pressure on my tail I would hang from my knees on the pull-up handles on the universal gym and do them from there. Like, 50 at a time.

In my late teens, I was in drum corps. Our days were extremely physically demanding. We were up at 7:00 AM, had eaten breakfast by 8:00, and were in block formation for warm-ups by 8:15. We stretched, did marching warm-ups, and then blocked to march and run. Always beginning out marching, we ended up running in step, military-style, usually 2-3 miles. We finished up with a group cool-down, and were on the field for the remainder of the day, often times going well past dark. During our rehearsals, the general rule was that for each mistake you made, you had to do ten push-ups. I could handle it. I could mess up 5 or 6 times and still be ok. I thrived on it. I loved it.

These days........not so much. I can do one, maybe two push-ups, if I really try hard. Though dreams of running have plagued me for years, lately they seem to have intensified. They started out badly--the kind of running where I was running from something, but I wasn't really sure what. I don't think it was a bad something--just something I needed to run from. So I'd start running and running, and little bit by little bit, one leg would get longer than the other one, and I ended up really lop-sided and not able to run. Lately though, I just dream about stretching, snapping the leash on the dog, and going out for a run. Sometimes it's in the morning, sometimes it's while the kids are having quiet time. Sometimes I'm alone, and sometimes My Darling or the Frog come along.

Until today.

Today I just couldn't take it anymore. My legs were twitching as I sat like a comfortable lump on the couch. A comfortable lump with a laptop and a can of Cherry Coke, switching from e-mail to facebook, viewing the world through a virtual window, listening to the thawing snow drip from the roof onto the awning over the living room window.

I've been wanting to get in better shape for a long time.

"Frog," I said to her. She was in the kitchen, mixing up the batter for her birthday cake. "Frog, I'm going to go for a run."

I don't think she understood me. I kind of doubt that she did, since in all of her years, I've never uttered that particular phrase before. She gave me a look which was both confused and sympathetically supportive. "Uh, OK," she said tentatively.

I don't think she believed me, either.

I went to the bedroom and snatched up the running shoes that My Darling helped me choose months ago, because I wanted to start getting in shape way back then. They're really pretty, and very clean. They're super cheap--whatever Target had that day that fit me and in colors that I kind of liked.

I stretched, just like in my dream. I threw on a long-sleeved T-shirt over my tank and tied on my shoes. I snapped the leash on the dog and headed out.

Disclaimer: At this point, I would suggest using the loo, hitting the head, taking a leak--whatever. If you choose not to exercise this option, I take no responsibility for your clothing or furniture....

So off we went, me and my dog. We headed to the end of the driveway, and eased into a gentle lope to the end of the block. We rounded the corner. I was counting my breath, like I used to do in corps: "In-2-3-4-5-6-out-2-3-4-5-6-in-2-3-4-5-6-out-2-3-4-5-6..." and eventually, "In-2-3-4-out-2-3-4-in-2-3-4-out-2-3-4..."

By the end of the second side of the block, my lungs were burning as though the air had become molten lead. My breathing was shallow and harsh: "In-2-3-out-2-3-in-2-3-out-2-3-in-2-out-2-in-2-out-2--" until I knew. My legs were fine. My feet were swell. Not swelling--just swell. But for the love of all good, sweet, holy things under Heaven, I could no longer breathe.

The boys playing basketball would never notice. They would walk right past, never seeing the woman laying on the pavement, her dog long gone. There are no driveways on that one-block street. I could literally lay there for weeks without anyone noticing, because it's not yet warm enough here for my decomposing flesh to begin to stink.


My daughter doesn't believe that I'm really out for a run, and no one will miss me until it's time to change a poopy diaper.

I decided to just give up the run I'd dreamed about and let it go......just walk. One *gasp* foot *pant* in front *choke* of the other *wheeze*.

I walked. It took me the remaining two sides of the block to begin feeling like perhaps death was not quite as imminent as I thought. I was still panting harder than my dog though. She was giving me a look that said, "Man, I really hope none of my friends see us together. You're such a wimp. I'm so embarrassed."

I walked around an additional block so that when I came back home, the sound of their Mama hyperventilating wouldn't send my children into hysterics. Hey, it could happen. They could have been concerned. Of course, they'd have to look past the alien sight of their mother in running shoes and smelling slightly of sweat.

I stretched a little to cool my muscles down. After I released the dog from her leash, she glanced back at me as she slunk away, too humiliated to admit that she'd actually gone along with this farce of physical activity.

I called My Darling. I said, "I did something so completely out of character for me--you will never in a million years guess what I did!"

He said, "You went for a walk."

He was serious. I was crushed. Like he'd believe that I had gone for a run.

My muscles are rebelling. This activity is more than they've been engaged in for a long time--but if I have my way about it, they'd better get used to it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The blessings of alms giving

It's amazing how God blesses faithfulness. I'm seeing it all around me, everywhere I turn, no matter the hour of the day, the day of the week, or the seemingly smallness of the sacrifice.

Some cases in point........

My dear friend AJ, for whom many of you have been praying, has received some amazing news. You can read about it here. For now, just know that the power of prayer should never be underestimated.

My dear friend Sarah has an incredible story. After a year of challenges that most people could not even begin to fathom, this lovely young woman has held fast to her faith, and faced with another challenge--she turned to prayer and faith. Rock solid faith. Her prayer--answered very quickly, positively, abundantly....Gracefully.

Another dear friend who was grieving the loss of her sixth child due to early miscarriage has found that she and her husband are again expecting. She is feeling wonderfully nauseous, aware that the worse she feels, the stronger her baby grows.

Last week, my girls and I were so blessed to spend a few hours in the company of three Sisters of Life. At the request of my dear friend Deacon Greg, we transported these wonderful Sisters from one retreat venue to another, in cities which lie roughly 3 hours from one another. It was obvious to me that the Holy Spirit had moved Deacon Greg to ask me, even though he is in Rome--and that the Holy Spirit had moved me to respond affirmatively. For Pete's sake, what's the good of having a van like Bucky if you never take it on an unknown adventure which promises to do nothing but bless in return? When we picked the Sisters up, they were so thankful to have transportation! They were joyful, excited, and effervescent in their love for the Lord. We prayed together, we talked about our lives up 'til now, we did our best Bronx accents, and we thanked God for the flawlessly clear, sunny blue sky.

At the end of that journey, I began another. When we arrived at the convent where the Sisters were to spend the night, my dear friend Fr. Eric met us. He had brought with him a bag, containing, as he said, "something for you, which, as it turns out, is also something for me." His cassock was in the bag, with a small tear in the back that I had noticed back in January. He hoped I would be able to spare the time to mend it.

I had offered to mend the cassock, so it didn't come as any surprise to me that he sent it home with me. But the "something for me" bit took me off guard. Fr. Eric, though, has a way of infusing words, just a few at a time, with deep wisdom. He has given me books to read which have been difficult to pick up, much less get through...but the Holy Spirit has always guided the timing of my reading them, and I have never failed to grow and to be blessed in turn by whatever God has intended me to glean from the things I've read. So I figured that this latest comment would likely fall into that category.

I was right.

I had assumed that the repair would be an easy one, but it proved to be rather difficult after all. To conceal a mend on a hem is one thing. Even a seam can be cleverly disguised. A pleat can usually be pulled into line with a little work. But this tear involved a pleat pulled into a central back satin-stitched dart with no seam in sight. And worse, it extended beyond the dart--meaning that even after I had resewn the pleat to the satin-stitched dart, I would have to mend the fabric back together in a place where there was no possible camouflage for it. It measured about a centimeter, but as I carefully pieced it together, tiny stitch by tiny stitch, it appeared to be a gaping slash, covering half of the back panel, and I may as well have been using neon green yarn.

As I sat on the couch, mending tools at hand, with this garment laid across my lap, the scent of Mass wafted gently toward me. I don't know how else I could possibly explain it. This cassock had been worn by my friend, a priest, who stood at the altar and offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It was positively intimidating to even attempt this repair.

I relied heavily on prayer while I completed this small task. I didn't do it all in one sitting; though it was what some would deem a minor thing, I prayed for God to steady my hand and to help me make it just right. It turned out better than I had hoped for, though I was still a little less than pleased...but what can you do when the fabric tears where it wants to tear? It needed to be mended, otherwise it would have pulled into a bigger tear, which would have been far more obvious after mending.

When I returned his cassock to him, Fr. Eric was very thankful. It was so humbling to find him sitting in the church, meditating on the day's prescribed readings and just being in the Presence of the Lord.

My reward was his thanks, but more so the time that I had been able to spend in prayer while even contemplating how to begin repairing the cassock. *And that was it*! There was the wisdom! My heart has been so heavy lately with the lack of time to spend in prayer, but Fr. Eric was allowing me to see that it is there, after all.

Thanks be to God for the small, everyday ways in which He allows blessings to come into our lives. Since our venturing out last week, I have been far better able to sleep, to truly rest, and to look at each morning with a welcoming spirit than I have been in months.

Speaking of sleep.............................................................

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lead me into the desert, Lord

Those days come in so unexpectedly. Those days which begin with the gaze of the sun warming my window. The light sifts through the drapes, filtering in softly as though being whispered. My Darling has brought my coffee in, and I am tucked in with my warm and snugly little Cuppie (she who so recently was the Pudge.....). Her whiffles indicate her sleep, though her fluttering lids hint at the pleasure of her dreams.

So many of my mornings begin this way. So often, I roll over to the smiling watch of the Monkey, or perhaps the quarrelsome whinge of the Reepicheep.

Yesterday was actually a sweet morning. I was really looking forward to the day--for once--rather than dreading it's length, the hours stretching before me like taffy that's been pulled and re-pulled. Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent. The prime season in which to lay bare the soul, asking God to call me to decrease so that He may increase. The season when everything feels as it should--penitential, because that's how I've been feeling for so long. Lent feels like coming home.

I was scheduled to cantor for the Mass. The plan was that My Darling would meet us, and then he and the children would depart for destinations unknown. The afternoon would be mine, and I had planned to meet up with my very good, Dear Friend--who was once called Tiffany by a complete stranger in a little diner (which is a hilarious story that I promise to tell another time). She and her family relocated last month, coming from a couple of hours away and now residing a mere 25 minutes from my very door. The bliss! The blessing! God is good!

And He is. He is so good to know when we need the challenge of a bad day.

Mass was beautiful. It was the liturgical shock that the beginning of Lent always is--the silences, the barren sanctuary, the somber hymns, and the fasting from the great prelude to the Gospel, that word which we do not utter these long days, which we reserve for the great joy of the Resurrection.

Then there was that verse. The hymn which was sung during the distribution of ashes was done as a Psalm is done--with me leading the people in the refrain, and then me singing the verses alone, bringing the people in after each verse to repeat the refrain. But it was unexpected and unfamiliar, and I was arrogant enough to believe that the two verses which were beneath the staves would just fall into place. You know how it is when six or seven verses are printed directly beneath the notes, and then a few more verses are just typed in stanzas below? The problem is, of course, that the words are not near the notes...and when the tune is unfamiliar and one is the only voice heard, well, it can present a difficulty.

It was disastrous.

I picked up the first words of the fourth verse, but completely lost my place in the music. The refrain was at the top of the page. The verses began in the middle. I was trying to put the words of the fourth verse to the notes of the refrain, and felt like someone had picked up my brain, my eyes, my voice, and the beautifully played notes of the very confused organist, put them into a blender, and just started tapping away at whichever buttons caught their eyes.

Oh, the train wreck that was me. My face burned. My knees became jello. And I knew that I could not stop. I just had to plod forth, like a camel in so much sand, until the merciful end of the verse. For short little verses, this one certainly seemed to take it's sweet time, for Pete's sake.

I realized my error as soon as the refrain began again, and the next time the fourth and fifth verses came around, I corrected my error. But it sure was a great tap on the shoulder in humility.

And thus began the falling-apartness of my day.

After exchanging pleasantries with a few parishioners after Mass, speaking with the Bishop, and thanking my friend the organist profusely for covering my pitiful self, we headed out to the van. My Darling informed me that his day was not going as he had hoped, and this required me changing my plans. I knew that my Dear Friend would understand, because she's beautiful like that, so we went on our separate ways.

It was when I reached into my purse to retrieve my wallet that I nearly freaked out. It was not there. My wallet was gone. I snatched my phone and fired off a call to My Darling to ask him if it was perhaps in his jacket. He didn't answer.

I hastily reviewed the way the morning had gone: After leaving the house, I stopped to fill the tank with gas. I had used my check card, and in the cold, I tucked it into my coat pocket. I never did have the chance to return it to my wallet. We drove into town, we parked, I took a fortune in quarters from my wallet to plug the meter (only to discover that since the last time I had used one of the blasted things, they raised the bloody rates), I stuck my wallet back into my purse. We went into the church, I had my purse with me while I ran through the Psalm and Gospel Acclimation (and even that blasted hymn, though apparently, not enough...), I carried it downstairs with me, slid it into the pew with my family, and took my place in the sanctuary for the duration of Mass. From that time until we left, either My Darling or one of the children took charge of my purse, and I don't believe it was ever unattended. Reepicheep let me know that she had taken my wallet from my purse during the collection, but then she put it back afterward. The kids dumped out my purse and the diaper bag and sifted through the contents of both. No wallet. They searched the entire van, all of the nooks and crannies, under the seats, in the bins, behind the car seats. No wallet.

Good grief. I turned around. I drove back to the over-priced metered spot where I had been parked. No wallet. I ran into the church, and Monsignor helped me search the several rows of pews in the area where my family had been during Mass. We looked on and beneath the pews, walking from one end to the other, checking in the hymnal shelves and under the kneelers. No wallet. I drove to the lot where My Darling had parked, since we had driven him there after Mass. No wallet. I finally heard from My Darling. No wallet.

Oh, this was so not good.

I called my Dear Friend. She did understand, because she truly is beautiful like that. She and I both prayed for the intercession of Saint Anthony. I began to thank God for the blessings in this thing. My check card was safely in my pocket. I had just used my last check and had not replenished with a new book. I only had one credit card and one store card. I had perhaps a dollar in cash and some change. I almost never carry cash, unless I intend to stop for a meal--and even then it's not guaranteed.

I began to pray that if someone had picked up my wallet, that they did so with a good heart and pure intentions of returning it. Or that if someone picked it up because they needed money, that the little bit that I did have would somehow bless them and ease even a small burden.

When we got home, I immediately called the bank and cancelled our credit card. We talked about the options concerning our checking account. I called the DMV to see about my license. I e-mailed Monsignor with a description of my wallet.

And then I just waited. When My Darling came home, I departed for my Dear Friend's house.

Such joy to be in the presence of her spirit and the warmth of her family! There is a balm in Gilead after all! Ah, the balm of a sweet friendship, tempered with hours of prayer and the strengthening of years.

We talked, we laughed, we played, we prayed. We drank water and watched the Olympics, and gawked unashamedly at Shaun White, while he demonstrated once again his blatant refusal to remain tethered to the earth like the rest of the peasants. We reminisced and filled each other in on what had been going on in our lives. I listened to her eldest daughter read a story--a flashback for the two of us, since she listened to the Frog so many years ago read her first book. It was such a wonderful and fulfilling visit, and in the presence of my Dear Friend, I felt God gently mending some small, faraway place in my soul.

I heard my phone ring at some point, and after a while, returned My Darling's call.

That Saint Anthony is one fast worker! Monsignor had called to let me know that some kind soul had found my wallet following the evening Mass! And where was it? In the pews, where we had looked, with unseeing eyes.

Sometimes the Lord keeps hidden from us the very basic, everyday things, and He offers us a chance, as our dear Bishop said recently, to run toward holiness. We are given plain chances to grasp at faith, to reach toward Him in prayer and to fill our hearts with the desire for Him and Him alone. We are given opportunities to bless or to curse, to display our tempers or to remain composed, to give in to temptation or to avoid the near occasions of sin. Thanks be to God for the awesome blessings He lavishes on us in the uncountable details of our days.

What an end to the day, anyhow. Thanks be to God, Who heard my small prayer for such a trivial thing as to reunite me with my wallet, for Pete's sake.

The day ended as blithely as it had begun. The calm warmth of my sweet little Cuppie, the inviting embrace of My Darling, and the knowing that He will again walk me through the desert, through the fire, through the darkness of Lent and into the Light of Easter.

A fruitful Lent to you all.