Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Our Incredible Human Nature

We are watching a NOVA program on Trishna and Krishna the co-joined twin girls. When I first encounter a story like this, my knee jerk reaction is to turn to God and ask "why?" and fall into hopelessness. These two little girls from Calcutta are a simply amazing gift to the world.

How amazing that doctors were able to separate them and give them productive lives on their own. What at first appears all sadness, slowly turns into a miraculous story. From the woman who adopted them, to the doctors and nurses who are true miracle workers and separated them, to the little girls themselves who are growing and progressing- the story has meaning.

Christianity answers the question for me of how to make sense out of suffering for me. This is a perfect example. Think you had a bad day? How 'bout now after seeing them? Aren't they lovely?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Kid's Lenten View

Lent started last Wednesday. All those in our house capable of discerning the meaning of it chose various things to do or not do during the next 40 days to prepare. I find it really interesting that the younger children really want to participate even though there is no pressure to do so. It really hits me how much our example helps to form a small person, and that works in both good and bad ways as most of you can attest to. This morning Thomas told Fred and me  he intended to not just give up sweets for Lent, but for two days after Lent was over as well. I gently explained I think 40 days is a good long time for a little boy to do without sweets and that he needn't add the extra two. I can imagine him writhing in agony on Easter Sunday trying to refrain from the chocolate bunny and it hurt me far more than it hurt him!
Michael followed into the room and announced he wouldn't play any computer games ( despite the fact he isn't allowed to anyway- still it was generous of him to offer it).
Sarah hearing her brothers talk about what they were giving up chimed right in "I'm gonna give up sumpin too!"
" OK Sarah, what are you giving up?" I asked.
"I'm gonna give up breaking things!" I must have gotten a puzzled look on my face cause she followed up with:
" I won't break any toys or touch things I'm not supposed to."

  Wow, that was a really generous thought! Sarah has quite a knack for getting into all sorts of things she shouldn't and slinking quietly away leaving the damage to be found later.
Lastly Mary came in and with a noble smile announced she would not be eating candy for Lent. She followed up by asking if cookies were candy too? I told her they weren't but that to make things easier for all of the kids I wouldn't buy cookies during Lent. This seemed to help everyone to feel better overall
( though a good cookie temptation would probably forge steel in the soul of my children!).

Monday, February 27, 2012

Daytona 500

Well, we don't do Oscars- but we do watch the Daytona 500. We happen to be doing so on Monday evening since it was rained out for the very first time in its history ( 56 years). Fred loves car racing. I have grown accustomed to it. I don't understand why he loves it, but he does. Apparently it has something to do with the amazing smell of racing fuel. And the intense noise. And the thin layer of dirt that settles over your entire body as the tires spin on the track. This is an other-worldly experience for my Freddy.

Like I said, I don't really get it. I am also not about to stop Fred from doing something he really loves. He likes dirt track racing a whole lot more  than NASCAR, but hey any racing is better than no racing- right?  His favorite driver tonight is Mark Martin. He is currently in the top ten. He is pretty much always there, though seldom wins. How unfortunate for Fred. So far it has not ever stopped my better half from being mesmerized by the whole racing world. It is in his blood. 

Only Matthew shows the potential for a real race fan after his father. The other boys don't mind spending time with Dad, and eating hot dogs and nachos(I don't mind that either), but Matty really watches the cars go around the track and picks a driver he likes, and thinks it smells good too. I am glad Fred has one son to share this with. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar Who?

Yeah- we don't do "Oscars" in this house. We don't really get to the movies much so we wouldn't know what all the fuss was about anyway.  For you trivia addicts-one of the genius winners who saw the statue called 'the Academy Award'  thought it looked like her Uncle Oscar, and so it was nicknamed ever after 'the Oscars'. (Clearly the I.Q. level of the winners has remained a steady feature.)

Here are more enjoyable Oscars to watch in my humble opinion.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


I barely slept last night. I woke up after 3 hours and that was that. I then proceeded to solve the worlds problems very poorly. Most of the problems seemed to pertain to me or my family in some way coincidentally.
Since Fred was under the weather as well, we were sure it was going to be a pretty miserable day overall. Off we went to food shop, but on the way there, Fred was inspired to change directions and head to Red Robin!!!

Needless to say the day was a success after all. How could it not be after one of those burgers? It simply is not possible. When I returned home, my sister Annie had posted on my wall she had visited Red Robin for the first time. The Burger gods were watching over our family! ( now if I could just get a few hours of sleep!)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Movie Picks

A short while ago Peter posed on facebook asking his friends opinions on best movies ever. He got quite a variety of responses. It also sparked me into choosing a few good movies for our older and middle kids to watch along side us as a family. The first one we picked was Ethan Frome. That is my all time favorite movie. Everything about it speaks to me. Liam Nieson is the lead.

We also watched the Age of Innocence recently. It's another incredible movie with Daniel Day Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer. I loved Winona Ryder in that one. I would really like my boys to read all these novels, but since they do study lots of classics, I am happy to supplement with the movie versions of these stories.

Two nights ago we watched Moby Dick and Matthew has told me repeatedly how much he hated that story. It was terribly upsetting to him. He couldn't believe the madness that overtook the men and wanted desperately for Starbucks to make it at the end.

We are going to watch To Kill a Mockingbird next. Fred can't wait to see how they react to the premise and the characters. The impressions they make on the heart are unforgettable.

Tell me, do you have any recommendations for other good movies based on compelling novels?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Harpers Ferry

My cousin Bob came for a visit this past week. He is in from Wisconsin and drove 5+ hours to visit the crew here in MD. On Tuesday we drove down to Harpers Ferry where Bob used to work for many years as a Park Ranger. He took us all for a tour and did a phenomenal job helping the kids enter into the historical significance of this place that helped begin the Civil War. Bob also happens to be a Historian and so sprinkles all sorts of interesting facts into his little talks and asking the kids tons of questions to get them thinking about significant events. The day was windy but that somehow added to the experience for us all.
embarking on our tour
the whole gang!
All of the kids insisted Bob hold or carry them at one point
the flood markings from greta storms in days past
reunion of 2 old friend!
We wound up spending the evening around the fire in the living room, eating tons of cookies on Shrove Tuesday and talking about God, religion and education long into the night. All of us seemed to take a great deal away from the conversations and I am still chewing on a lot of it. For me, perhaps the most pleasant aspect of the whole visit was hearing stories about my family I could never have heard from anywhere else. It is so neat to see my family from different angles and hear about my grandparents, and aunts and uncles, and cousins too. Bob told us so many colorful stories, and touching ones as well. My kids simply LOVED him and said they could have spoken to him for weeks. I am afraid we probably exhausted him. But I am also certain it was a good exhaustion. My kids think Bob is quite special- I agree. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I got my splotch of ashes this afternoon. The day was so beautiful and sunny it hardly felt like the beginning of a penitential season. We'll start the 40 bags in 40 days rolling too, to make some progress on decluttering and freeing up life for more essentials and focusing on what we should. I know a whole bunch of you are waiting to hear about my house guest for the last few days. I promise I will get to that, but there is much to digest and I want to make sure I don't simply rush into it all without a bit of care and thoughtfulness. (In case you don't know what I am speaking of my cousin Bob came to visit our family for a few days. I have written about him before here.) There are lots of highlights and I want to do it all justice. Be patient for a few days longer- it's coming!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Just Plain Cool

OK, check this out and tell me you're not impressed.
The above flower has been regrown from seeds that are between 30,000 and 32,000 years old! Thirty-two-thousand-years old???? The scientist that developed it have been able to prove that permafrost is a natural depository for ancient life forms. While I am aware this is likely to open a whole new can of ethical concerns- how simply unbelievable is this? I want them to make whole greenhouses full of these flowers. I'd love to plant a whole bunch of them in front of our little outside Mary garden! It is so simple and pretty a flower,and such a marvel.

Monday, February 20, 2012


My kids were outside in Tee shirts today. They played in the yard, in the sunshine and Sarah came and asked me when we would open the pool. It really felt like an 'almost pool time' kinda day. Maybe that was because it was my cousin Margaret's birthday...hmmmm?


( sorry it overcame me)

Of course, since we had last week off for our 'break' so today should have been difficult and dreadful. The sun changed all that. We got back to work, tackled new problems, breathed the air, cleaned the house- it was all good! How 'bout you? Did you enjoy the sunshine?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lo Lo's Language

Lo Lo has developed her own brand of speak. Most children do. Their parents are  the only ones to notice it and it fades pretty quickly for most 2 year olds. It is also one of the best parts of parenthood in my opinion. It's such an amazing feat to express oneself, and to watch it develop is wonderful. Words start to come forth, and the cutest mistakes ever as well. Lo Lo speaks a whole lot. She also puts everything and everyone  in the past tense by placing a simple "d " at the end of most words.

"Mommy's on the complutered."

"We had  dat for dinnered."

"Petered liked dat."

"Dora's on the TVeed."

Lo Lo rocks. She also gets up in the middle of the night sometimes now and walks around the house until she finds us. Then she lays herself down and kisses my face and says "I loved you Mommy." I love that her past tense is part of my present tense.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Heart Attack Grill

Fred wanted me to share with you his favorite headline of late: Diner suffers cardiac arrest while eating  in restaurant called the Heart Attack Grill:  I am not sure why this struck Fred as so funny, but he was rolling on the floor.
Apparently the 6000 calorie burger he was eating  has lived up to its name. It is named the triple bypass burger. I find this , well gross. Fred says I should mention Jack in the Box is now offering a bacon milkshake that would pair nicely with this bad boy.
Double gross. And I do hope you realize that I would never frequent this type of establishment (I wish I could say the same for my husband- sadly I am unsure) If you really want a taste sensation forget about calories- THINK-  Red Robin- there will never be a need to go elsewhere.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

NY Has the Best Bread

I know I told you that I was in NY last weekend. Did I mention they have the best bread on the planet? Not simply real bagels. I stayed with my brother Paul and His wife Hilary and their two kids Luke and Brennan in Queens for the first night we arrived. He went out and bought 3 loaves of fresh Semolina bread from a bakery in Brooklyn. The crust was exquisite. Every bite more perfect than the last. WE ate all 3 loaves and I'd do it again if I had the opportunity. It didn't even need butter ( but it did enhance the experience).

The bagels are as you already have heard from some other NYers- the best too. And yes the pizza as well. I miss those things a good deal when I am home. I'll still eat bagels and pizza outside of NY, but it is a radically different experience.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What Will YOU Do for Lent?

Ash Wednesday is coming up. A week from today. Have you made any plans yet for what you'll be doing?  I have ( of course, since I am a planner- I actually look forward to Lent and planning it all out!) I also like the whole idea of penance. I know that sounds a little crazy. I guess I just always find that it straightens out my twisted thinking to deny myself of certain things. I realize what things are a luxury, and in which ways I am wasteful, and where I still need to grow. I think a 40 day period for getting your life in order is just tremendous. Fred and I have already made a few decisions we're kind of excited about. One of them is called 40 bags in 40 days. The idea is to declutter your house one bag at a time over 40 days. You make a list at the start and then buy those big black  contractor bags and on day one- you fill one bag until you end. Each bag either goes to trash, recycle, or giveaways.

We always try to pray more as a family during Lent too, but we haven't outlined that piece yet. The rosary is my favorite as most of you know by now. Then we also make an effort to do something good and here Fred and I part ways. He brings the children to the local nursing home ( and yes I reluctantly go along but feel so heavy hearted when I do) and I pick homeless shelters or drug rehabs to do drop-ins at.

So, think about it. What will you do for 40 days to improve yourself and make up for some of your sins, and be more grateful for the life God has given you? It can be a small something, but pick something. We can all do a little something can't we?

(P.S. I will make you $100.00 bet my sister Angela answers this post saying she is giving up chocolate and we'll all spend the next 40 days hearing about her withdrawals -God help us all!)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Dear Freddy, 
 Thank you for loving me and caring about me. Thank you for believing in me, especially when I didn't believe in myself. Thank you for loving me, when I didn't deserve to be loved. I am so very grateful that this year you are once again, my Valentine.
(P.S.- I wanted to tell the whole world, but unfortunately I only had access to a few hundred blog readers.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Families and Evolution

I have had an interesting few days. I spent them in New York. Some issues had come up with my family that needed addressing ( for those of you not so savvy folks, that means we were in  FAMILY CRISIS MODE!) 

Of course my family does crisis pretty well. But we are also Irish so we never bother letting anyone else know we are having a crisis, because clearly we are the only ones on the planet who have troubles. All 11 of us are practically crisis experts. Before you all start cringing and asking for gory details -I have no intention of revealing deep dark family secrets here tonight ( they could be about me after all and we can't have any of that now can we?). 

What I do want to reveal to you is just what was revealed to me- or at least IS still being revealed to me as I settle in back home. It turns out that families do in fact evolve. Being stuck at the bottom of a pack of 12 siblings and being  the youngest girl to boot, certainly has put me in the lifelong position of being 'one-of-the-little-ones' role. I know talking to different siblings not simply this weekend, but at other points also, we can mostly each feel 'stuck' in  our place in the family and also in how we view each other. Somehow we never really break free of those memories of acne, and first dates, and which place to sit at the dinner table without having to be told. That seems almost more true in a BIG family as everything is amplified in our interactions; not simply our voices.

This weekend we came together to deal with some tough old issues and yet none of us reacted in tough or old ways. We had grown up. And not just in age. We  stuck together, and spoke our minds to one another in a way we had never been able to before. We worked many things out. Isn't that neat? I'd like to tell you that there is some magical fairly tale solutions to what we face, but that isn't the way real life goes. The road ahead looks hard to navigate, with lots of twists and turns. And yet, maybe it is better that way after all. Maybe having easy answers wouldn't really be best for all of us. Maybe having to struggle through the tough calls and hard decisions is actually better for our relationships with one another. Being forced to accept one another with our strengths and weaknesses and learning to work together is  perhaps even more important than solving an issue and walking away. Time will tell. 

Peter and Andrew had stayed home for the weekend, marking the first time we had trusted them alone in the house thus far. After settling in,  Peter and I got into a small battle over some plans he made and as he went stomping off  I realized I had probably over-reacted and needed to talk it out with him. I walked down the stairs and told Peter I was just tired and shouldn't have reacted so strongly. He teared up asking if I trusted him to which I answered "yes!" and he followed with "Don't you remember how it feels to be my age?" And I smiled and said  again "yes".

 It sounded almost  silly  to hear my kid ask  if I remember what it was like to be a kid. His world is so small. He has so little life experience and yet he doesn't even realize that yet. He has spent his 16 years in the incubator of our home with lots of other siblings staying warn and chirping along side of him. He is only discovering who he is.  As I hugged my growing 16 year old son, and turned to walk up the stairs I caught a glimpse of myself back in time.

Before Fred.
Before marriage.
Before children.
Before life had really begun.

And yet I wasn't alone. God had put me in a house much like Peter's. With lots of noise and chattering, and kids fighting and playing with each other, and shaping each other into who we all are today.All of them playing a very significant part in each others lives.I stood there on the stairs for a moment  straddling time- caught somewhere between the enormous family I grew up in and the enormous family I am now raising  And I drank in what it was to be both 16 and 41 in that single moment. Certainly none of it is easy work, and yet both sides made me break  out into a smile.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Running Up that Hill

I am totally loving running these days. It is special time I set aside in my day to take care of myself. Fred is up to 5 miles most night and has lost almost 20 pounds! We're still eating well and making important changes in our diet, but not so radical we feel like we're constantly being denied. Turns out- we actually need a lot less food than we had ever thought to survive! Wow- great news!

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

HHS Updates

Well, we are almost at 100% coverage from our bishops. There are only 4 men left who have not publicly spoken out against the mandate, ( and at least one of them is sick). A whole bunch of Catholic colleges and universities have also publicly spoken out and filed law suits. There are countless other Christians, and Jews, and Baptists who are joining forces with us against this mandate. I am awfully happy that Mount Saint Mary's University and Seminary ( right down the block from me!) has decided to make tomorrow a day of prayer and fasting for the cause. Plenty of folks are calling for civil disobedience. Let's put a face to that for you all to show you how important this is to some of us folks.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal."  ~Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Why We Can't Wait, 1963
I cannot teach you violence, as I do not myself believe in it. I can only teach you not to bow your heads before any one even at the cost of your life.Ghandi
If nothing more- recognize that many people feel so strongly about this. I hope there are none left out there who are still feeling complacent abut this topic. I am absolutely fine with you starting out at "What's the big deal" but hopefully after checking out just a few links here and there you'll be able to see it's not over nothing. In fact this isn't even simply about Catholics, its about YOU TOO! It may have hit the Catholics first, but I assure you, rights and Freedoms are not something you should give up easily.Too much blood has been spilled in order to gain freedom to simply say any longer "What's the big deal?" So, whether you agree or not, whether you use contraception or don't, whether you go to church or sit home every Sunday- just look a little deeper into this issue. Pretend there will be a test on the topic and you'll have to land on one side of the issue or the other. Next time you have a few minutes to surf on-line type HHS into the engine and see where it takes you. Try to understand what it is we Catholics are fighting for right now. It means something to us. It is part of who we are.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Self Cleaning Oven

Most of you know that Freddy redesigned our kitchen a few months ago. We snatched up on craigslist a wall double oven in stainless steel. Fred decided he wanted to try to self cleaning mode for the first time. We have always had to do that nasty easy off carcinogenic stuff before. He set it and the oven door locked, and he walked away. Three hours later we had a brand spanking new oven interior. What can i say but- Wow!
Totally love it. Yeup- its the little things that make life worth while ( and the big things too- but it's the little things)!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Winter That Almost Was

"They" are predicting snow tonight. Hmmmm. Its sounds kinda nice doesn't it? Its OK for it to sound nice when your Winter to has been so mild. We have barely had any snow at all. My kids were playing outside without jackets most of the afternoon. It was sunny and almost warm. And it's February. Yes, I know it could actually still get cold and we could have some snowstorms, but I am pretty confident they won't last. Enjoy the snow shower if it comes! It simply can't hang on so enjoy it!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Blaise or Blaze?

Please forgive me if my voice seems a little quieter than normal tonight. I have the beginnings of a sore throat. It began midday and has been building momentum. I am drinking tea, already so yes-thanks for asking! If it gets bad I will use chloraseptic. Peter says I need to gargle with vinegar, but alas I have none on hand (shucks- I was really looking forward to GARGLING with VINEGAR????gross! Sure Pete right after I do an eye wash with cayenne pepper!)

 The irony of course is that I counted myself lucky for having gone to mass last week on the feast of St. Blaise and had my throat blessed. Hee hee I chuckled to myself as my throat was blessed against all harm! Not gonna get me this year! It is barely a week old blessing at this point. I need to contact the returns department. Apparently some of the wires got crossed up above and someone sent me a blazing throat rather than a blessing for my throat from St Blaise.I'll have to talk to the Blessed Virgin about that. (In case I haven't mentioned her lately, boy do I love Mary!)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Told ya'

Well, I guess it's no surprise that the Giants won, since - as I said last night- New York is the best place in the world.
Fred did all the food for the big day. He actually spent the day in the kitchen prepping. beef stew nachos and chips potato skins jalapeno poppers forgotten ribs ( he forgot to take them out of the oven and 2 hours later realized he had made the best mistake of the night-so tender!) pumpkin pie
What was your favorite commercial?