Saturday, September 29, 2012

New Teacup

Grandma and Grandpa are here visiting for the weekend. My kids have not stopped eating cream puffs since they walked through the door. Angela has been busy playing ring-around-the-Rosie with the little girls. The older boys are picking Phil's brains for stories of his naval days. Its been a good day so far!

ring around the rosie
Phil and Sarah
A few days ago when Angela was getting ready to come down she called and asked if I wanted her to bring anything ( she meant pecan pie, or napoleons, or some sweet). I told her we were all good. She told me if I changed my mind I should call her back. Two days later I called her back. I'll share the conversation with you.
She answered in her high English voice :


Hi Angela

Hi Elle, I'm getting so excited for the visit!

Me too.

Are you sure I can't bring you something?

Well, actually yes, you can- that's why I'm calling.

OK. What would you like? ( sweetness oozing from her lips by this point)

OK. Can you bring me a teacup?

(Silence....then finally an annoyed impertinent tone)

Ellen, are you mad? ( meaning crazy)

No. Not right now.

I am NOT bringing you one of my teacups.

OK, you don't have to. You just told me if I thought of something I should ask.

 Ellen, WHY do you want me to bring you one of my teacups?

Well, because I collect teacups, and my Mom has given me a couple now, and some friends, so I just thought it would be nice to have one from you in my collection.

Dammit, Ellen I am not giving you any of my good teacups.

OK.No problem.I was just asking.

OK, good.

( silence again)

And if I did-you certainly cannot have my good Belleek one.


If I give you any it won't be a good one.

It doesn't have to be Angela. It just has to be from you.

No.( sigh) OK, dammit- you're a pain.

I know but just think about it.

She showed up today with this little beauty.

She tells me this is not one of her good teacups. Its just an old family thing. She got it from her great-grandmother, who gave it to her grandmother Amelia who was from Gal way Bay, which was given to the Munn family (her Mother), and then on to her.  Tuscany china  is located  in Stafford-shire England,you may know it better for the company it eventually became better known as -Wedgwood. Its late 1800's.


Once she saw it on my shelf, she said matter-of-factly "Ellen, that looks nice there. When I become gravely ill, you can have the Belleek teacup too, come and get it." To which I burst out laughing and she did too, while we both hugged each other.

Yup, pretty much sums up how we interact. Should be a fun weekend.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The War on Stinkbugs

Forget about the proverbial war on women. We are engaged in a full battle with the stinkbug varmint. Fred is fully engaged  and readying the troops as we speak. This is actually surprising to me. Really? I though there was a stink bug apocalypse last year that you hated?Why then does this behavior surprise you Ellen, when all the Ellenopians are at risk? Why you ask?

Well, you see, last year before our addition was completed we had an enormous stinkbug infestation in our town. Because the house was widely opened in parts, due to the new construction we became a virtual stink bug magnet. It was (in Tigger speak) G-R-doubleO- GROSS!!!

When a situation is that bad and there is fat little you can actually do about it at that moment, Fred chose to do the only logical thing he could. Ignore them. Each day while the children and I became completely grossed out by these noxious creatures, Fred pretty much looked around like "huh? stinkbugs? What stinkbugs?". As a result of this incredibly manly attitude, we all became totally paranoid.I spent one entire afternoon in my kitchen trying to develop a mint based spray to rid us of these creatures.I prayed regularly to be delivered from the scourge they are. Once the work on the house was done though, the stinkbugs didn't stand a chance.We are practically hermetically sealed over here in the E-burg. There were no more opening or crevices for them to enter our awesome new abode.
So, a few weeks ago the stinkbug season returned. You cannot leave your house without being assaulted by a dozen or so. You better not squash them, or they will do what their name implies- STINK. But considering they can only get into our house through open doors, its a fairly easy situation to monitor.

Until Fred came home. This season he will not tolerate even ONE stray stink bug.He has morphed into the likeness of the minutemen border patrol agents in capturing stinkbugs this Fall.  He is in ready mode at all times. He swats them with a flyswatter, but just to stun them, before whisking them outside, and leveling the deadly blow. He got his industrial sized shop vac tonight after sealing every crevice on our screened porch and sucked them all up from every nook and cranny of the house. All ten of them. Forget about the thousands that were allowed to roam free in years past, these suckers now were going to pay! Except there is no real threat here any longer. Maybe some other houses are experiencing a stinkbug apocalypse, but it aint us. We have been left behind.

As Shakespeare once said  "Methinks he doth protest too much."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Republic of Awesome

Are any of you tired of politics? We can't seem to get away from them in these parts lately. I know I have shared an awful lot of my views already so I won't reiterate them here again (at least not tonight). But I have to tell you about an interesting conversation John-Paul and I have been having. When I was expressing my disgust with some aspects of how our society runs, and the generalized corruption of government officials, we began talking about what options there were. Brilliantly John-Paul suggested we start our own micro-nation.
I had no idea what a micro-nation was until JP started filling me in.Apparently you can begin your own nation without too much trouble. The main gist of it goes something like this: You must make a formal ( and persistent) claim over a piece of land as its sovereign.Size is pretty irrelevant. You can then establish rules, laws, and government structure- some go as far as developing currencies and flags- but we might let that develop over time and- Voila! Of course in my mind, the most important aspect is naming your new micro-nation. John-Paul initially heard of a micro-nation called The Republic of Awesome. When I became more serious about the whole micro-nation idea, I inquired what JP might like to call our new micro-nation. You see already you can tell as sovereign I would be far more civilized and orderly than what most of us experience today. I am willing to 'collect' opinions and ideas before things even get underway. How open of me.Until of course John-Paul replied "OK Mom, how about :The Republic of Awesomer!"  EPIC FAIL.
Not nearly original enough. He may have good ideas, but certainly JP could at best be a cabinet member. He  mighht even be forced to work in a factory if he shoots his mouth off too much.We cannot simply try to keep up with smallish neighboring micronations, or copy-cat them, we must strike out on our own! Land of the somewhat free, home of the sometimes brave! A name really is important and someone else around here must understand that too. Enter my dear Fred, and soon to be prime minister. I asked Fred what sort of name he might prefer. His responses were Daddyoland, and second Daddyotopia. Another FAIL. No one begins by naming the country after the second in command. Didn't they teach him anything in school? Maybe Peter would do a better job at coming up with a name Ponydustpan was his choice. Ummm. OK. (Not) I would have asked Andrew, but you all know Andrew by now.Andrew is far too busy drafting the laws and setting himself up as the secretary of defense to consider a mere name,but I am sure he will strongly object to whatever Peter put forwards and probably arrest him for it to see if an enemy spy put him up to his selection. Other choices were: 

 The Republic of Zombie

 I think I'll have to make an executive decision here and just name our new territory The Empire of Ellenopolis. All citizens will be known formally as Ellenopians.
There. Now that the name is settled, we can start our modified tyrannical diplomatic rule.I promise I'll be nice as long as you do exactly what I say. I am also allowed to give honorary citizenship to whomever I desire, so long as they are good and worthy creatures. You needn't even live here with the rest of the Ellenopians, you can just stop by and bask in our glow from time to time. Let me know if you're ready for some real changes!

Monday, September 24, 2012

False Alarm

I was the study hall monitor over at the kids cooperative today. Two days a week some of our kids go to classes with other home-schooled kids and experience 'socialization' and have a ' classroom experience'  complete with tests and grades  and experiments and lunchtime - you know all those thing us backward home-schoolers neglect to give to our kids. 

This year I have 14 slots of study hall monitoring to fulfill, and since I know myself well enough to realize that doing this after Christmas will be sheer torture, I front loaded the whole work load. I signed on for full days instead of half days to speed the process up a bit more. Of course the difficult part of this is you have to open the place, stay all day, and then close up as well. But I did enlist the help of the older boys and they agreed to work around those seven days so they could at least be there at the days end to help me close up the building, wash blackboards, yadda yadda.

Initially the day seemed to be going well, but one should always be cautious when study hall monitoring. The fates can easily conspire against us.  I should have realized things were starting to go down hill when Andrew who was supposed to show up at 2pm, hadn't arrived at 2:20. I hadn't wanted to call because I was giving him the benefit of the doubt. When I finally did and he answered, I was happy he wasn't dead, but instantly wanted to kill him for screwing up the time. "I thought you said leave at  twenty after  two not twenty to two! AGHHHHH!

OK, so the big end of the day push was gonna take a tad longer than I wanted it to. Adjust, shake it off, move on. He did eventually show up and dug right in to help me out.Friends asked if I needed a few extra hands to which I replied "we are a virtual army!"and watched them as they vanished into cars in the parking lot to go home and ready supper. The little ones were restless by this point and who could blame them. I told them I'd finish up as quickly as possible and asked them to be patient. Mike and Tom volunteered to wash the blackboards and turn off lights. I really felt like we were making progress until Mike mistook the fire alarm for the light switch.

Yup, I just said that. 

He set off the fire alarm in the building. We were the only ones in there, and all the little ones began crying and screaming from the noise.  The screaming kids didn't bother me too much since I couldn't hear a blessed thing above the piercing siren going off right next to my ear drum.  I fiddled with is as best I could but it was one of those old fashioned ones that defy any outside interference.

 Andrew finally came running and we tried to talk over the alarm. I told him to go over to the rectory office and tell the secretary so she could help us ( the alarm is no longer connected to the fire department). Andrew, not able to hear me properly due to intense noise level, thought I told him to go to the fire department. He left the building and drove off in search of the fire department. John-Paul coralled the girls into the van to prevent hearing damage,Matt and Joe did the same for Mike and Tom ( Mike incidentally looked like he was going to go into cardiac arrest and was convinced he would be arrested any moment- TERROR)  and I was then left to close up the building.....alone.

Finally-Terry, the secretary/angel of the parish heard the noise and came to help me. She was so kind, and good, and unflustered. She told me it was not the first time this has happened and went to get a handy man and a screw driver to dismantle it.She was genuinely calm. God bless her soul. 

When I finally got out to the parking lot and found Andrew still missing, I drove home without him. Matt asked me why I wasn't waiting, I assured him that Andrew would figure out by an empty locked building and parking lot that I had gone and assured him that he would follow us home. Maybe next Wednesday will be less dramatic.

I'll make sure to let you know how the cochlear implants take. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Showcase Showdown

Fred and I had a cool experience today. Its the last week of the month and my food budget is running low. I mentioned this to Fred on the way into the grocery store that I had exactly 167.00 to spend for the week and that he should shop accordingly. We both nodded on the rules and took our separate shopping carts to either end of the store, working our way back to the middle. It makes it pretty hard to stay on track when there are two of you both shopping and trying to hit an impossible goal.Oh well. Gotta try your best. As we checked out, we wondered out loud if we had hit our goal. The cashier heard us talking and asked what the goal was. I smiled and said "we need to stay below  167.00" Both of us looked over our items and felt sure we'd gone over. It must have been Fred's tub of ice cream, thought I- while Fred mentioned it must have been the red potatoes over the whites that did us in. 

Finally the total came up $166.97. My mouth hung open, Fred's mouth hung open, the cashiers mouth hung open. She told us we most definitely should get an award. We both laughed as we packed the bags. 

Who was she kidding? An award? In my mind I just won the showcase showdown! Both of them! We came to within a dollar without going over! I want balloons, and cars, and new living room furniture for that kind of 'in sync-ness'.  

Fred says Bob Barker ain't got nothing on us today. 

True dat!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hello, Hello, Hello!

The title of this post was my Dad's normal welcome to any entering his house. He died twenty-two years ago today and I have been sad all day today thinking about him. Anniversary's don't normally 'get me' too much, likely because life is pretty busy most days and I am mostly trying to keep my head above water. Not sure why today was different, but it was. Could be because my Mom has had a long year recovering from her stroke, or because my brother Greg continues to battle cancer, or maybe I just have a wee bit more time on my hands now that Lolo is potty trained. It doesn't much matter. When sadness comes, it comes. 

I am not trying to run from it though. I actually want to sit down with the feelings ( hence the blog post) and feel them all over again. That stinging sensation the heart feels at the loss of one so dear, the tears that don't want to be wiped away  because they show the world what the soul is feeling. At forty two, I want to miss my Dad. I want to wish once again that he had met my Fred, or danced with me on my wedding day, or held my children proudly in his arms. I want to hear him laugh loudly and see him smile broadly. I want to grieve him all over again today, like it just happened.

One memory has hovered about me all day. It was late in the day in the middle of Winter, when I must have been about twelve  or thirteen years old and walked up to our attic to watch my father working on a scaffold plastering a ceiling. The radio was playing in the background and he was busy working, but must have sensed my need to talk ( and teenage girls always need to talk) and so he climbed down for a while and we sat together and chatted. In the course of that conversation we happened upon thoughts of his Mother and I asked a simple, innocent question of him : "Dad, Do you still miss your Mom?" He shook his head yes, and then said nothing for a while, and soon after he began to cry, and then so did I. 

I didn't cry that evening for a grandmother I never knew, but for my father who still ached so long afterwards. I couldn't understand it that day,that lingering grief, though I thought of it many times trying to unlock the mystery of how it could still hurt.

 I do understand it now, from the inside out. I understand that it actually hurts more- not less with time, but I also know that the ache that grows instead of shrinks is a lasting memory of love. Its is a memory I want to keep until we meet again.

And  yes, by golly, today- I still miss my father. 

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mary Turns Six

new dresses from Aunt Hilary
This is hard for me to believe, but my little Mary Joan turned six today! I think its hard to believe because I am still getting used to having daughters, instead of just sons, and yet that happened six years ago already. Wow. She is such a little sweetie.We celebrated with new dresses from Aunt Hilary ( and Mary insisted we take pictures right away as Aunt Hil wanted to see us!) We watched Matilda, Mary was allowed to choose any dinner she liked best and decided on Happy Meals for everyone ( Oh well, it made the little ones night) Not only did she smile happily at every present, she actually shared them and seemed glad to do so. Mary has turned our world upside down and in every way we are better for it. Here are some shots of the party and games that followed.  Happy Birthday Mary!

waiting for her cake
Sarah and LoLo helped decorate
we played pass the parcel, musical chairs, and dead fish

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Nap Time

Neither Fred nor I are nap people. I don't take naps, though I am not opposed to others doing so. Fred would never need to nap; just wind him up and he is good for about 20 hours. I, on the other hand feel tired plenty, but I just don't take naps. Today reminded me why. I woke early, said my prayers, went for a run, fed the girls breakfast and began school. The boys woke slightly later today, so I let them take their time waking and eating before they entered the classroom. I managed to finish most of the little ones just before noon and then headed to mass. I came home swallowed something ( don't remember what-seriously) and then headed back in, to complete schooling with the rest of the kids. 

Somewhere around 2 pm my head started throbbing. I did my best to wish it away before taking some Tylenol. By 2:45 school was complete but my head was simply splitting. I  decided that maybe if I just slept for a few minutes it might help. So I put on a show and settled the  kids and climbed onto the couch to close my eyes. As I began to drift off I thought to myself "Gee this is so nice, I wonder why I never do this???" 20 minutes later Sarah started fighting with one of her brothers and I was awake. But thats OK, I was only looking for a few minutes and I actually got it! 

I stood up to go check on the dinner which was really starting to smell good by this point. As I rounded the corner I spied Lo lo on a chair in front of the pantry. The ENTIRE floor, table, chairs were covered in a white powder. Mixed in with the white powder was speckles of colors. Horrified I stepped closer to find one whole bag of confectioners sugar, and one whole bag of flour virtually empty, next to them lay a small jar of multi colored sprinkles. 

Of course my memory was sharp as a tack by this point, flooding me with memories of Andrew  getting into food coloring at 2 years old, and Peter powdering himself  with 30 ounces of baby powder at 3 years old.  Right, I actually learned something from those good ole days. If you fall asleep on the job- all mishaps are your own fault! 

Some of you wonderful people have children that are normal. I do not. If I close my eyes for 20 minutes I am doomed. 

Next time I'll brew a pot of coffee.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Big Changes

I didn't want to post this until I was really sure and we were a few weeks into it. (No- I am not pregnant). BUT our darling little Lo Lo is pretty much potty trained! Maybe that seems like a small accomplishment to you,but the magnitude of this could not get much bigger in my life currently. I have just potty trained my tenth child. I don't have any diapers in my house, and I haven't in 2 weeks. I also don't have a crib, a high chair,  a changing table or a bottle anywhere in sight. 

If those numbers haven't impacted you yet, maybe these figures will help you understand a bit better. Fred and I have changed approximately 60,552 diapers in our life. No I am not joking.Yes there are apps for this on the internet. Some of my kids were relatively easy to train, others were not. The approximate cost for this winds up being about 16 grand. OUCH! (When parents look at brazen little teenagers, who think they know everything, and wonder what their parents have ever done for them; diapers are what parents think back on.)

For those eco-conscious friends of mine out there, I should also mention that I started out using cloth and only moved on to disposable when no one could decided which was worse for the environment in the great diaper debate. As far as I know, the verdict is still out .If you'd like to know what I think as the wise mother of ten children - it is ALL completely toxic.Far worse than nuclear waste. None of it could possibly be good for the environment, or any of our health, NO ONE should ever have to change a diaper in their entire life- particularly if they happen to be pregnant with another child at the time-and feeling nauseous- or unable to eat -or suffering from a stomach flu- or a headache-or insomnia-or any of the million awful inconveniences in our ordinary days. Diapers are one of those incredibly unfair parts of life. And I was dealt a particularly difficult hand. But all that is-a-changing!( did ya get it...changing???)

I am not sure what I will do with all the extra time and money, but I am open to ideas. 

I am seriously happy and very proud of LoLo!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Oh Deere

We said Goodbye to our John Deere backhoe today, after seven years. Truth is, Fred bought it before he ever spoke to me about the purchase which caused countless arguments between us. I never felt we needed it, he couldn't imagine getting along without it. We finally agreed he would keep it for six months and then he HAD to get rid of it. Six months was long enough to get whatever projects he wanted done around here- in my opinions anyway.

The following week Fred tried it out for the first time. He got in, started her up and began driving around trying to dig, or scoop, or push at anything he could in our yard. After a couple of hours I looked out the window to spot a look I knew,but didn't like, on my husbands face. I was pregnant with Michael at the time ,and trudged out onto our front lawn just as he was nervously hopping down off the machine. We stood facing each other for 15 seconds before Fred announced "I made a mistake, I can't handle this machine. I should never have bought it Elle." If you know Fred, you know these are words that do not easily come from his lips. And so words that didn't come easily from mine poured out next " No, you didn't make a mistake. It'll be fine. Its just going to take you some time to get used to handling it. Soon enough it'll feel easy, just be patient with yourself."

And then we parted ways and didn't speak about it anymore that day, or for many days afterwards when he would go out and climb in and play around. It did in fact take Fred some time to feel confident using it. I cannot tell you that I enjoyed the many Saturdays when the John Deere stole Fred for whole afternoons from me, but I will tell you that I firmly believed it was building Fred in ways he needed to be built up. He needed to conquer it, and that he did. He shaped out yard, dug foundations, put in our in-ground pool, and took down a few trees,in between giving the kids rides over the years.

It hasn't been running so great lately and so when he mentioned he was thinking of getting rid of it, I took it the same way I have taken it every time he has said so in the last seven years. But he really meant it this time, even though I didn't realize it. In fact the very first person he mentioned it to was over lickety split to buy it. He picked it up today and now our yard is empty.

Funny thing is, I think I miss it more than Fred. I'm not sure why. Maybe its because it taught Fred something about himself he didn't know he could handle, but I was sure of. Who knows maybe I'll be the one to buy our next piece of heavy equipment- without asking.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


I don't know about most of you folks, but we have been watching conventions and politicians around here for a while now. My top pick of course was Ron Paul, but that hasn't worked out so well. Mitt Romney sounds a lot like an ice cream flavor to Fred so its kind of hard to swallow ( pun intended). Mostly I am simply AMAZED at how both sides continue to scream "we have to work together!" and in the next sentence take a swipe or give an elbow and pretend  no one saw. Some of it is fun, some of its plain awful. 

You may remember my cousin Bob, who is a die hard Democrat and dearly beloved by all in our household. Today in the midst of emails I decided I needed to break the news to him that I really dig Paul Ryan. Of course, its important to be delicate in these matters as I really do believe there are PLENTY of good folks on both sides of the aisle that have the best of intentions even if we strongly disagree. But how could I come up with a good reason or two for Bob or any of my other Democrat friends  and family for simply loving Paul Ryan without adding further division to our nation?

Bob, Sarah and me at Harpers Ferry last year
Whats a girl to do?

Then I remembered something. There is a story I read about my favorite author C.S. Lewis once, a ways back, that told of his being raised in a strongly anti-Catholic environment. Some people have speculated that his early upbringing was something he was never able to overcome and the reason he never joined the Catholic Church despite how closely he came. I always gave him a mental pass for that one. Some times it just isn't our fault we are the way we are. I also realized I gave plenty of people mental passes afterwards for all sorts of reasons figuring they just didn't see things the way I did and vice-versa. 

What follows is a top ten list of reasons I think any of my Democrat family and friends will be able to give me a mental pass for liking Paul Ryan while still keeping bipartisanship in tact.It complete eliminates all the important stuff like  pro-life positions and fiscal policies ( and allows you to think me shallow and act as if I just haven't done my homework). Most of these facts were gleaned from his facebook page.( yes- I friend-ed him!) I sent it to Bob today and haven't heard back yet, so who knows what will happen. At least its worth a try. Hope you enjoy:


10) He is born in 1970 ( so am I)

9) He loves CS Lewis ( Mere Christianity-wow! yes! )

8) He is Roman Catholic ( really? what a coinkidink!)

7) He loves Austrian Economics ( um- yeah )

6 ) He likes Monty Python (me too! )

5) His favorite movie is The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly (can still recall watching this with my Dad_ God rest his soul. Yet another thing Paul Ryan and I have in common- lost a Dad young)

4) Considers 2 cups of coffee  in the morning a weakness ( gosh I didn’t know ANYONE else on the planet felt that way except me!)

3) He works out 5 days a week ( yup! )

2) OK, I’ll say it- he’s just damn cute!

1) Lastly, he is from the great state of Wisconsin where my beloved  Democrat cousin Bob  Mackreth lives!!!!! How could I possibly dislike that????