Thursday, September 29, 2011


Today I heard Michael frantically screaming for me while I was in the school room. When he finally reached me he was schreeching "MOM! THERE"S A HUGE RAT IN OUR BASEMENT!!!! COME QUICK!!!!ITS HUGE!!!" My heart went right through my toes as I leapt from my chair. I bounded down the stairs waiting to see a snarling nest of vermin crawling around our new basement. I shouted out for Andrew and Peter to get reinforcements for the war I was about to wage.

What I found in the basement was instead Michael standing at one of the window wells pointing out."LOOK LOOK ITS THERE ITS THERE!!!!" Immediately I realized whatever nasty creature there was, was in fact still outside my house at this point. Next I drew close to the window to view the culprit. A tiny brown mouse peeked its frightened, hungry, and lost head from a small hole outdoors. "THERE HE IS!" Screamed Michael. "THERE'S THE RAT!!!"

I turned and said "Michael, that's not a RAT, its a mouse. "CAN I KILL HIM???" he hollered. I stopped for a moment and gathered my thoughts together. If the mouse was in our house and causing havoc, I wouldn't have thought twice about swatting it, but this was clearly not the case. I decided to ask Mike a question instead. "Hey Mike, do you know how to make a mouse?" He got quiet and then said "No" , "OK then, lets not be so quick to kill a creature who isn't doing us any harm then, hmmm?" He reluctantly agreed.

I kept thinking about it all day though. His over reaction, his misperception, his hasty and wrong first analysis of the situation. I think there are lots of RATS out there too, to be honest.

The people at the bank who have that snarled up look, the careless check out girl, the rude woman at the doctors office. Maybe it would be best for me to not trust those first intuitions so readily, to give people the benefit of the doubt, to not kill others with my words or shoot daggers from my eyes without first recognizing that those RATS may just be lost or hungry or frightened too. Maybe we all are.

And maybe someone bigger than us, just needs to come along and point that out sometimes.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mother Goose Again

Peter Pumpkin Eater

Peter Peter pumpkin eater,
Had a wife and couldn't keep her!
He put her in a pumpkin shell,
And there he kept her very well!

My Revised Version

Peter Peter brownie eater
had an ipod and wouldn't leave it
His mother got fed up and finally took it away from him
Now he actually does his school work

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


A few days ago, in the midst of a bunch of trials I was really feeling low. Not only did the world look bleak, but when I looked at my life and the mistakes I've made,my failings and shortcomings, I had a recipe for disaster. I was doing my best to keep the glum feeling to myself, but was also whispering for help from above to break the whirlwind.

Suddenly Andrew turned to me and said "Mom, you know what I learned in Religion today?" and being in a fog I kinda muttered "what?" He then proceeded to stand up, which always catches me by surprise. Since he is my first born son, and I can still remember his cries in the hospital room and now he towers over me; "Do you know HOW you are made in God's image?" I wasn't understanding his question and my face showed a puzzled look. "Mom, do you realize what it is that makes us different from the animals and more like God- in His image?" Now I was intrigued and I began to think and wondered out loud "Is it my free will?" and he smiled and shook his head "NO". "Its not my ability to choose?" "NO"."I know the difference between right and wrong?" "Nope" "Then I don't know". He looked up at me and said "Its your ability to LOVE Mom. That is what we can do,we can be good to others and give of ourselves not just out of instinct or for selfish reasons.We can do it just because we want to be good. We are able to LOVE and since God is LOVE (God =Love) we are able to be like Him when we love."

The day seemed to stand still for me then. All my failings and sins, my shortcomings and vices, swallowed up in a single word -- LOVE. Not only did it strike me that Andrew had been used in that moment by Christ who knows every hidden thing, but I could also see Gods tenderness in that moment to reach out and answer such a small prayer in my heart with such a giant wave of His mercy. It was such a gift to my soul.

Isaiah 11 has those magnificent words "And a child shall lead them"...indeed,and sometimes our own child.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fitness Accountability

OK, since I got an email from my friend Steve today asking me if I was well and if I have been running;I suppose it is time for a fitness update.(Steve is also a fitness guru and I get my best advice from him.)

Let me "JOG" your memories and remind you of my goals.

Week1: Run a mile 5 days a week . Its actually OK to walk at times as I get back into gear. (That generally only lasts about 3 days then I am able to run a full mile.)
Week 2: Run 1.5 miles 5 days a week. ( this will be with a warm up and cool down)

Well, I am happy to tell you that not only have I made really good food choices for the last 2 weeks, (I like eating healthy), as of tonight I have also dropped 5 pounds!!! WAHOO! (Now if you really want to be impressed, add that to the 12 pounds I already lost the first day and I'm down 17 pounds !) 

Tonight I began day one of week three running 2.0 miles. It feels great. Don't't misunderstand, I never WANT to run, but once I have I am happy. I also had some serious decoys come my way these last 2 weeks threatening my ability to exercise. Fred threw out his back at work last week, and the older boys were not around. My chances of getting a run in were slim to none. Then I remembered the outdoor track and packed 7 kids into the van and drove them over. I made Matt and Joe wheel Sophie in the stroller and the other kids ran with me. Mary of course told me the whole time she had to use the bathrooms to which I adamantly announced "NO" and made her wait. I don't feel bad about this because no matter where we go, its the first thing she does as soon as we arrive. The second night of Fred's back troubles- he decided to come along. He couldn't run- but he walked, and did so again the next night as well. Tonight he is back to running and seems much improved. (He also lost 3 pounds)

So there you have it, 2 weeks in and 5 pounds down. I have 4 weeks to go. I'll check back with you soon. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Matthew asked me tonight what would happen if EVERYONE in the whole world all clapped at once. My response was "nothing".

 I get questions like this all day long for years now. After a minute I was smart enough to ask him what he thought would happen if EVERYONE in the whole world clapped at once.He responded "I thought there would be a really big explosive sound, like really crazy loud."He reasoned that there would be lots of echoes from people who are in buildings etc. and this would reverberate the noise making it explosive in sound.

Matthew is eleven. He has been on this earth for a while now. It's still a strange and curious place to him. The whole thing got me thinking whether or not we ever really feel at home here on Earth. That should tell us something, shouldn't it?

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Today was Thomas' first day as an altar server. He was very proud. He did so well! John Paul and Joe were also serving to coach him along. I hope he has many happy days at the Grotto altar. What a sweet little boy. His younger siblings were so excited for him also. I wound up having to watch from outside as the older boys were all gone this morning, leaving me with Mike, Mary, Sarah, and Sophie. They do not cooperate at church. (They give a whole new reflection to Jesus' words "Let the little ones come unto me and do not hinder them..." I always think to myself, well you asked for it Lord- not sure when I'll be back to pick them up though- so thanks in advance for the break!) Thankfully the PA system was on outside, and I was able to listen to Mass and observe Thomas at the altar through the glass windows. It's kind of neat to see each of my boys serve as years go on. I was absolutely terrified when Andrew first served. I have to tell you I really didn't want him to. I was CERTAIN he would burn the church down or set the altar on fire. But it never happened. He simply led the way for his younger brothers to join up. It's been a big part of their life, I hope it always stays with them.

Friday, September 23, 2011


I think crayons should be used by EVERYONE from time to time. It is absolutely amazing how they seem to make life dramatically change as soon as a new pack is opened. Maybe it is the variety of colors? Or the crisp box? Or the easy feel? Or the possibilities? I am not sure. I just know it works wonders for big and little people both. If you have not opened a box lately, do yourself a favor and pick one up. A BIG one with a crayon sharpener at the back. If life gets too stressful, color it different- it should work for a while. It does around here at least.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ten Things I am Grateful For:

#10- The Fall weather is just beautiful. It makes me happy to be alive.

#9- A Beautiful House

#8- We are all in good health- and we don't get sick very often either. I love vitamins. (I wish my brother wasn't sick.)

#7- Homeschooling- despite all the work, it is an awesome experience.

#6- Good friends, that I can trust and be myself with.

#5- Fred has had work and during all of these difficult economic times, what an incredible blessing

#4-I am an American - I can vote, complain about politicians, pray, protest, and own property in the best country in the world

#3-  I am Catholic- I have the promise of a Father in heaven who loves me and wants me to be with Him forever (and lets not forget the bonus of his Mother)

#2- I thought it would be absolutely cheating to list Andrew, Peter, John-Paul, Matthew, Joseph, Thomas, Michael, Mary, Sarah, and Sophia so I squeezed them all in here.

#1- Fred. He loves me. I love him. He works( even when he gets hurt- like this week-back troubles-ouch!), he is fun, he loves his kids, he makes me smile. I don't deserve his goodness. He is a really amazing man.

What about you? Are there some things you are grateful for? Think about it for a minute, it's important to be grateful.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Great Frederick Fair

Just back from an evening at the fair. The Great Frederick County Fair that is. We go every Fall. I just love the fair, especially this one. We used to go to the Dutchess County Fair when we lived in New York and were newly married. That was a really wonderful time as well. When we moved to Maryland we thought we had lost that experience. It turns out that the Frederick Fairgrounds are just wonderful and we have enjoyed going each year with the kids so much.

The first time we went was with our dear friends Barney and Deb and Mare. Matthew got lost at the fair and he was only about 4. I was pregnant with Thomas and definitely shortened my life span considerably in those ten minutes. Fred swears to this day  that he came home that night he found grey hair on his head that was never there before, and never left since. Matthew simply wandered away from someones hands. He also wandered back on his own and then told us a policeman stopped him and asked "Matt baby why aren't you with your Mom and Dad? You better go back to them now!" and so he did. Just one more reason to believe in guardian angels.

Anyway. Even though this fair does have rides- we don't do the rides. Fred and I have figured thats what amusement parks are for, so we do rides at Hershey or town fairs during the summer. We really try to keep this to the animals, and foods, bees, and farm equipment, and blue prize jams and pies etc. It makes it really special and we don't want to ruin it by making it all about the tilt a whirl. While that takes a little navigating, the fairgrounds are big enough to take strategic walking paths.

Last year when we went the older boys were teenagers and didn't want to come along, so we said OK fine you duds, stay home and 'be cool'. This year Andy could drive. So he and Peter did so, and JP came as well. They met up with their friends and we took the kids around. We got a phone call after a while and sure enough they wanted to find us too and have fun. That was really nice. Their independence has actually made us a bit closer at times which is a pleasant surprise. Almost on cue a rain started to fall about 8:30 signaling us to head home. The little ones fell off to sleep so easily, happy from the evening out. Life is good.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sad Day

Well, this is what had to be done today. Its starts with a few leaves and before you know it the pool is blanketed with them. So, we buttoned things up this afternoon. Sarah and Michael and Mary helped out ( along with some of the older boys). Sarah was asking why we close up the pool. I answered her saying "when it gets too cold we don't use it do we?" She said we don't use it when its cold, but Santa does. Michael agreed. I am not quite sure how they know this.Anyway it is good to know Santa cares about physical fitness, especially with such a poor diet as his.

She then went on to say to me that she used to be 'scared of Santa', but now she isn't scared of Santa, she is 'brave of Santa' and 'nice of Santa' since he brings presents. It is fascinating to see the connections in little ones minds to me. As soon as the pool is closed, they are ready for Christmas. There seems to be only 2 seasons in their world swimming and Christmas. I know the rest of us 'pretend' there is more than this to pass the time, but they might just be right. 

Monday, September 19, 2011


The following is an actual accounting of a phone call I made this morning:


Good Morning, thank you for calling Verizon, may I help you?

Hi,  I am having trouble with my phone line for the last few days.

Can I verify your name and address?

Sure go ahead.BLAH BLAH BLAH.

OK.What seems to be the problem today?

I am having trouble recieving calls. The phone rings once and then cuts off the caller before I can answer it.

OH,OK. Thank you Ma'am. I am sorry you are having trouble with your phone and internet.

I'm not having trouble with my internet-just my phone.

Oh, your internet is working?


 allright ma'am.Do you have a call back number where we can reach you?

That depends on if I am able to get to you by the first ring.

Why's that?

Because if you call me the phone will ring once and then cut you off unless I can make it there by the first ring.

OH OK. Ma'am, do you have caller ID?


OK I see.Do you have a cell phone I can reach you at?

No. only a land line.

OK. Well I'll tell you what, let me try the line right now while you're on it.

Excuse me?

Would you mind Ma'am if I put you on hold while I try your line- so I can see if it happens to me?

You'll get a busy signal.

Well let me just try, can I put you on hold?


 (cue brief musical interlude)



I'm getting a busy signal.

Thats because I am on the line with you.



Do you have an email address?


OK thats Blankityblankity @

No. Its .net.

excuse me Ma'am?

Its dot NET not dot COM. Its actually your company's email.

OK. How about a cell phone?

No I already told you I have no cell phone.

OH  thats right.Can I send you an email about our services?


Would you like it to be forwarded to your cell as a text message?

silence now on my end.

OH RIGHT You don't have a cell phone.

Well, I'll have a repair man come out tomorrow morning.


I hang up. sigh deeply. walk into the next room. And....the phone rings....ONCE.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New Look

Sooooo, whaddaya think?

I had some down time today so I messed with the settings to change things up a little. I think its refreshing and crisp.

Anyway. Today is Mary Joan's birthday. She is a whole hand old. 5 big ones. There is no going back from this kind of  big. BIG GIRL status watch out.  She had a really wonderful day. Freddy took her fishing on his boat this afternoon and she actually caught a fish, all by herself. Fred said she almost lost the pole she was fighting so hard to reel it in. Talk about proud.

We had a big family party after supper. She got lots of presents,plus cake and ice cream (Sarah and I made the cake while she was out fishing. Sarah couldn't get enough sprinkles on to keep her happy-she just sprinkled and sprinkled and sprinkled).
(Her godmother sent her a wonderful box of gifts with this package of kazoos tucked into the bottom of the bag. Now I don't know whether to thank her or remove her as a friend on facebook! Just kidding Erin, major hit!)

I finished off the night with haircuts. All 8 men in the family have a fresh cut tonight. I cannot even begin to tell you how itchy I was by the time I got to Fred. I cannot imagine how anyone could be a hairdresser. Thank goodness I only wear that hat once ever 6-8 weeks. (They do look awfully nice when its all done though!) Now to prepare for school tomorrow....

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Air Show Deja Vu

Today's headlines featured a terrible accident at an air show in Nevada. 9 people have died thus far and something like 75 critical injuries, when the plane accidentally dove into the crowd. It looks like the tail was broken before lift off.

When we lived in Vermont Fred took the family (Andrew, Peter, John-Paul and baby Matt was our size at the time)to an air show. Guess what happened? 2 of the stunt planes careened into one another and blew up. Both pilots died, but thankfully and unlike yesterday, they were the only casualties. It was a horror to behold. For as long as I live I will never need to see another air show. I was actually really surprised Fred took our boys to a Blue Angels and also Thunderbird's show since then. No THANK YOU, I'M FULL.

I am sorry for the loss of lives today. I know many in the stands will do what I did and never return. Fred on the other hand can go and watch an air show, but he hasn't gotten off Scott-free either. About once a month for years now, he has a recurring nightmare of being in a plane crash. I avoid them while awake, Fred runs from them in his sleep. I wonder which of us is better off?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Poison Control

I never have to do stuff like call poison control,or emergency rooms, but today I did. Let me try to paint the picture for you. I woke up, prayed, ate a quick (diet) breakfast, and went into the classroom. I came back out around 3pm. Having so many ages to contend with makes me have to rotate some of the courses, so I can get the younger ones done early, while the older ones work independently. Once the little ones move out, the older kids get my attention. It works pretty well even if it is exhausting. So around 3 pm I 'left work' and came a disaster. If any of you have ever dropped in on me, you already know it is regularly messy. Today was over the top. 

In addition to the mess, I also realized I had failed to take anything out of the freezer for dinner, so was stuck wondering what to feed the crowd. To boot I had a few of Fred's invoices waiting to be sent out ( yes I do most of the office work for Fred too). And, If we wanted to eat next month, I better actually try to collect what we are owed. So in an effort to prioritize I went for the office work first. Somewhere in the middle of combing through receipts I heard a strange sound in the kitchen, kind of an electronic gurgling. I stood up and saw that Sophia had pushed a chair over to the fridge and climbed onto it. This wouldn't be a big deal, except for the fact she had her hand pressed firmly against the ice and water dispenser and was completely soaking the kitchen floor. There was a small lake growing below her.  The older 3 boys were off to a class, the middle 4 boys out on the swings, and the 2 older girls running around encouraging Sophie's antics. 

I picked up the wet child determined I had to finish the work, and decided since I couldn't trust her to not get back into trouble I'd put her in her crib for a half hour with her door open so she could still play with the girls ( Mary and Sarah follow Sophie around and not vice versa, don't ask me why- she just runs the house.).  While she wasn't keen on the crib idea, the girls came directly in as I thought they would, so she was pleasantly entertained, and I was  finally able to get back to invoices. 

About ten minutes later, while I was making terrific headway, I noticed Mary and Sarah were travelling back and forth between the crib and the bathroom. I didn't think much of it. Then I heard Sophie coughing a bit, so I stopped and listened for a moment just to make sure everything was all right. She started giggling and the girls were still running back and forth, so I let it be. Another ten minutes went by. This time I heard Sophie start to cough again, but it was almost more of a gag this time. hmmm. And then I heard it again. I walked into her room to the most overpowering smell of spearmint. She was standing in her crib holding a little red cup and smiling and gagging both at the same time. As I picked her up I turned to the girls and said "Mary why does Sophie smell like toothpaste?" Sarah immediately began, "I didn't do it Mom". Mary said very matter of factly: " Oh I gave her toothpaste water." I calmly asked what toothpaste water was. Mary walked me down the hall to the bathroom where I found a more than half empty tube of toothpaste squeezed out. "You see, I put some toothpaste in the water and mixed it around and then I made Sophie drink it!" By now she could see my face changing and I didn't have to do anything more then say "Mary go sit on my bed." before she burst into tears and Sarah as well. 

I then began reading the toothpaste tube for clues about how much was too much. I grabbed the phone and called Fred who responded immediately by saying "I'll be there in a minute." (OK here' is a side note. When my girls are finally old enough to date one piece of advice I am going to give them is this: when you finally meet the guy you think is it, call him unexpectedly one day and say there is an emergency and see what his response is. If he doesn't respond "I'm on my way" or "Be there in a minute" dump him immediately, if he does- you found a prince. Fred has ALWAYS responded correctly.) 

I then called poison control and got a very nice man on the other end of the line. I explained what had happened and he asked 'is that her crying/" I answered " Gee- no sir, that is the five year old and the three year old crying because they were sent to their room, the baby is calmly sitting on my hip while I try to talk to you and hide from them so I can hear you!" The biggest struggle we had was trying to determine just how much of the tube of toothpaste she had ingested listen in on how this went. "Well, lets see we have ten kids- and thats a pretty new tube- less then a week old-its the large size though-cost effective- 2 of the boys have braces so they are bushing a lot- but some of the kids have to be told numerous times so I am not really sure how much each one them has used....they can be lazy" The nice gentleman told me Sophie would be just fine. I should give her a bottle of milk to bind with the fluoride. He said she'd likely have a stomach ache ( and minty fresh breathe). 

For the first (hopefully last) time with poison control, it went relatively well. Fred walked in as I hung up just in time to calm down Mary and Sarah, and fill a bottle with milk. Sophie did seem to have a tummy ache, but was fine other than that. ( full disclosure I did call once before when one of the kids ate too many vitamins but since I knew exactly how many it wasn't really an emergency just a question).

Hopefully Mary and Sarah have learned their lesson. I also managed to finish the invoices, and the kids had scrambled eggs for dinner, we all  survived. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Once the kids finished up school this afternoon, Andrew decided to go for a stroll out and about. He headed over to the woods next to our house and the neighbors, an old favorite spot. Walking through the leaves he came upon- a huge snake. He almost stepped on it actually. It coiled up and hissed at him and tried to strike. Not knowing if it was poisonous or not, he promptly grabbed a rock and dropped it on its head. After he stunned it he grabbed a long branch and brought it back to our yard to finish it off. (He even stopped to take a photo!)

I came out to see him carrying this awful looking creature up the driveway while the little ones were shouting Snake! snake! Snake!- sounding eerily  like Froggy in Lord of the Flies.  Thankfully there was a shovel nearby and the rest of the job was done easily. It was a big snake. And since we've seen a ginormous rattlesnake right on the driveway a few years ago, and several copperheads each summer, I think he did well to not take any chances.

I suppose at this point I should've just let him bury the thing and be done with it. But, I do HOMESCHOOL my kids, and this was a unique situation I could use to my advantage- so I shamelessly did. First I asked them all if they thought it was poisonous and how they might tell that. Peter was quick to point out "the pupils of the eyes are too round." (I had no idea you could tell that way- but of course I answered 'very good Peter- and googled it later on). They all thought head shape was important (check-knew that one) and this creature had a diamond shape head for certain. Colorings were dark, but patterned which had  us all scratching our heads. It had no rattle so it couldn't be a rattlesnake. Certainly copperhead could be ruled out by the color, and even the common black snake. We decided against examining the mouth as it still could have poison. I then asked the younger kids what kind of animal it was. Silence. Is it an amphibian I started. "NO" they answered in chorus, Michael giggling as if surprised I could even ask that question! Joe said its a reptile. How do you know that? "Its got scales Mom". OK. Is it a verterbrate or inverterbrate. (This is tricky cause you wouldn't know it by looking). Tom answered correctly "Its a vertebrate cause it has a backbone!"

Finally I let all the kids touch it. This wound up being particularly cool since it had lost its head but was still slithering a bit and bleeding out its neck. Peter explained to the others it would take a while for the nerves to die off.

Afterwards Andrew looked up some classifications and found it was a rat snake. This species tends to be the largest around  this area. None of us were surprised with that news, as this one was really long and scary. Still it appeared from our reading this was not even fully mature yet.(cue skin crawling).

So while we had the heebie jeebies for the rest of the afternoon, it was a valuable lesson. One I hope none of you have to learn anytime soon.