Saturday, October 19, 2013


We had a good Fall break. Monday is back to the reality of homeschooling and life with ten kids. Since we have so much on our plate currently, I have decided to turn into a bear for the Winter and hibernate the blog.
See you all when  I wake up!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

My five year old dolly

It is Sarah's fifth birthday. Its not possible for her to get any sweeter. I am absolutely addicted to this child. Maybe its because she is second to the last in our family, same place I was. Maybe its her gentle disposition. Maybe its her way of making everyone around her feel special. Maybe its all of the above. In any case, I wanted to make her birthday really wonderful. After all she is a whole hand old now.

Since it was raining, we first took her to a movie. Planes. Just like the movie Cars, only with airplanes.
Mary and Sophie made this in their room to surprise their sister.

After, it was still raining. Its actually been raining here for days and days. Fred says its the remnants form the tropical storm,which must have been a doozy if it's lasting this long. Anyway we don't let rain stop us for most things. This weekend was the Colorfest in a nearby town. Vendors making crafts, and selling food all through the streets, so we went despite the weather. We picked up some roasted nuts, from the kettle corn people, and spent time in and out of the happy wet booths.

Then we came home and had Sarah's request for dinner- tacos. Why do kids like tacos so much? I made chicken fajitas as well for the folks who don't love tacos as much as the little ones do. Sarah also wanted a zebra cake for her birthday, ( aka an ice box cake). After opening presents we hit a pinata around until all the kids were laughing and ready to pounce on some candy. I hope she knows how special she is. She seems pretty happy. As I write there are peals of laughter as they play hungry, hungry, hippos!
icebox/zebra cake

she is happy with EVERYTHING!
A doll for the doll
it took quite a few hits

Joe decapitated the pony, but we still had to send in older reinforcements after to finish the job!

 a happy bedlam

Friday, October 11, 2013

First Quarter

First quarter tests and grades ready for mailing. Included in the package are grades for  one preschooler, one kindergartner, one second grader,  one third grader, one fifth grader, one sixth grader, one eighth  grader,  one junior in high school.
Its blurry, cause my whole life is blurry right now...

What the package does not show for the same time period is three stops in New York, one funeral,  one visit to Washington for an unofficial field trip ( good thing we got to the National gallery before the government solved all our problems!) one week where 4 kids got a stomach bug, 7 weeks at the tutorial,  3 birthdays, chicken care, mountains of laundry, and dinner made every night ( yes I still count it, even if it was pizza or Chinese a few times).

One dog tired Mom, scheduled for fall break next week is currently.... ready.for.bed.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Poor Pete

Along side full time schooling this semester, Peter is stocking shelves at the local grocery store. He is tired and happy, and mostly tired. But we all know that's good for him. After all, Fred tells me, he has lots of fond memories of doing the same at his age.

Whats not so good is having Fred as your father when you're working in the local grocery store.

Tonight, Fred had to make a quick run out for milk. Knowing Peter was the only guy stocking shelves tonight, Fred walked down the aisles and pulled items like Clorox, sponges, tuna fish, soap, bread, cheese, etc. from the shelves and placed them in the middle of the floor all around the store like a bread crumb trail.

Peter  figuring out who was causing the chaos quickly collected them, found his father, and promptly dropped the armful into his cart with a smug- 'got ya' look on his face. I told Fred it sounded like Peter had the last laugh. He said actually he didn't , he just left the cart in the middle of a different aisle before paying for him milk.

Poor Pete.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Things I actually said today...

Here is a short list of  some things that actually came out of my mouth today, God help me :

1) "Is this yogurt or oatmeal I'm combing out of your hair?"

2) "No, this pile of laundry has still not been washed... Neither has this one... Or this one."

3) "Chickens don't belong in pillowcases."

4) "I just got an email that we have to redo some of your math problems from last week, right after we finish all the ones from this week."

5) "These jackasses STILL don't get that the gospel is about MERCY!"
(Note to self: jackass isn't a merciful word)

Monday, September 30, 2013

The prodigal pope

Have you read the story of the prodigal son recently? I keep thinking of it as I contemplate the Popes new article that was published last week. It is causing quite a stir in the Catholic world, and outside of  it as well. Lots of faithful Catholics are indignant that the Holy Father said we should focus on the gospel message before all else and are apologizing for him everywhere, liberals are certain he has just changed every rule in the church and erased thousands of years of history to conform to their desires.

 If you read the story  of the prodigal son, you might be inclined to think the father had one awful son, and one pretty good son. But if you look a little closer you might find that the father really had two lost sons. One who left his house and made it obvious, and another who got lost within the very walls of his father's house. 

Lost is lost.

Neither of the sons knew who their father really was, and they certainly couldn't get their head around his merciful heart. 

One felt unworthy to be called his son.

 The other felt entitled. 

Both got it wrong. 

But the story is about the father, and his relentless desire to have them both in his home. Try not to get distracted by which brother is better off, remember instead that they are both lost. Watch the father and how he treats them both; first lets take the younger brother: 

"And when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion and running to him fell upon his neck and kissed him. " (Luke 15:20)

And now the 'faithful' older brother hears this news and won't even go within his fathers house! But the  father once again  acts:

"His father therefore coming out began to entreat him."
( Luke 15:28)

The story is about the father with two lost sons. Sometimes we can fall in serous sin, intentionally or not, and come marching back home simply because we have no other place to go and  we feel really, really, desperate. That is one kind of lost. 

And sometimes we can sit in church pews for so long praying our rosary and checking off our good deeds, that we are righteous enough to think we know better than the Pope, and demand of him to give us a kid goat for our years of service. That is another kind of lost. 

I'm pretty certain that Pope Francis doesn't care which kind of lost you are, he just wants you to come home. And that is really, really great. Because I am all kinds of lost. And I'm not afraid to admit it.
I'm lost.
I want to go home.
I need a father.
How about you?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Letting go

I'm being asked to let go of  so much right now in my life. First my Mom. Now Greg.  Just after we buried Greg last week, we packed up my Moms house. It is sold already and awaiting a closing date. A lifetime of memories divided into boxes and bags. It all feels hard and strange. Like my siblings and I have suddenly been tossed ashore on a new land where we don't know the language and cant quite get our bearings. 

Greg suffered so long. He was such a complex person, and the five years of his illness took a toll on our whole family. But the last six weeks of his life were filled with a peace that had alluded him in years gone by, and one that gave all of us such comfort to finally see him grasp. When God does things, He does them right, and  there is no mistaking it.I know God had really touched his heart as he was changed  into such a loving, forgiving, patient soul.  The transformation was really striking, especially to his siblings. 

I have been reflecting on this ever since he drew his last breath. I wish I could find words to share with you. Words to touch your own heart and make you feel as confident as I do in the mercy of God I have just encountered. I wish I could take you to his bedside, and let you watch him as he chose to put away old gripes and grudges, and choose instead  to love, and forgive, and ask forgiveness of, the people God had given him in this life.
I wish I could show you how God had calmed the stormy seas of Greg's heart, and then let us walk across those stilled waters to meet him in faith.

I wish I could show you how God took an ordinary and often broken family and used them to pour an extraordinary amount of grace into the world. Each of my siblings working all day, long hours, and then driving over to our childhood home to spend the night with an ailing brother. Most of those night were entirely sleepless ones, and yet each one met with joy and patience, and a smile to ease any of Greg's fears, or help his agonized body feel a bit more comfort. 

I wish I could show you the happiness of my family as we cooked dinner together in the kitchen, and tore through old photo albums, and pretended for Greg's sake that life hadn't taken us twenty years into the future where we had our own families, jobs, children, worries, and cares to contend with, and instead gave that up for those precious few weeks of his life so he could feel home once again in his heart.  Greg's heart needed to be oriented towards home, and love, and a God of mercy, and forgiveness, and tenderness. And in the end,we all know deep inside, that is best of all shown to us through our family.

I wish I could show you the care that family and friends, and sometimes perfect strangers, poured out on us as we struggled to handle the last weeks of his illness.

I wish I could explain to you how my heart felt  when he asked me on Saturday last  "Ellen, am I dying?" and I had to answer him calmly "Yes, Greg, you're very close now." and hold his hand firmly to reassure him he wouldn't do it alone. 

I wish I could show you the final smile left on his face as he breathed his last breath, telling us all he had seen something ahead, that was better than anything he had left behind. 

I wish I could show you the courage it took for my heart-broken brothers to carry him down the aisle of the church to his final resting place, next to my Mom and Dad. Or show you my sisters clinging bravely to one another as they marched him out of our church and lives.

I have wondered what the message of Greg's life was. I believe the message was mercy. These last weeks have shown me so clearly that our existence is not defined by single moments of bad judgment, or sinfulness, or petty disputes, but rather by our ability to ask for, receive, and extend mercy to one another. And even should we do that at a late hour, we have a father in heaven not simply ready, but anxious to greet us in his embrace.


Sunday, September 22, 2013


There's a grief that can't be spoken.
There's a pain goes on and on.
Empty chairs at empty tables 
Where my friends will meet no more.

Phantom faces at the windows.
Phantom shadows on the floor.
Empty chairs at empty tables.
Where my friends will meet no more.

There's a grief that can't be spoken.
There's a pain goes on and on...
                                (Les Miserables)

Gregory William Rogan
December 29th, 1967-September 16th, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013


I saw this neat video about jellybeans on one of my friends walls last week. It illustrates our time here on earth pretty succinctly, and helps to show -hopefully-how to treasure the days, things, and people in each day you are given. I'll link it at the end so you can tell me what you think. Anyway, it got me thinking I'd like to spend some of my jellybeans with my family so,  I spent the last five days with Greg and my siblings  in New York. We took advantage of the Labor Day weekend to grab our freshly opened school books and use them on the beach. At least Fred did. I stayed with Greg while he played teacher for a few days. I might as well have asked him to walk across broken glass, as Freddy finds school so hateful. But he loves me, so he did.

And- our washing machine broke right before we left. As it turns out, its not one of those things that heals itself. I knew when I got home I would be facing the same mountain I left behind, only dog tired. We left anyway. I wasn't going to waste any jellybeans.

The time with Greg and the others popping in and out was rewarding. I wont say easy, as tears spilled across too many faces, on too many days, to make it that. But it was rewarding in so many ways. Fred too, seemed to do well with the kiddos on the beach.

And so we came home this afternoon to that dreadful situation with the washing machine. And no sooner did we get through the door than we both sighed at each other, and headed back out to the appliance sales at all the major department stores in hopes we'd find a good deal. And a thousand dollars later-even with the sales- we found what we needed, and put it in our van, and drove back home. We spent more time bringing it into the house, maneuvering it through doors,and hallways, and landing it in the laundry room to replace the old one. Tired  wonderful Fred pulled old faithful out of the wall, only to hear a giant GLURP, and turned giving me a weird contorted face.I wasn't sure what it meant. He had already replaced the motor before we left and it didn't repair the problem, but apparently he loosed something from the drainage hose that might after all that trouble, solve the problem!

We said a quick prayer, held our breath, and clicked our heels together three times before we started the watery,whirling machine. Lo and behold, it worked! Yahoo, and praise God. I cannot tell you how happy Fred was to not need a new washing machine. He would've been happy all night if the kids hadn't done what they did next. When Fred went to pack  back up the new washing machine, he found them using the packing and all the bits and pieces inside the box as an obstacle course in the backyard- (Hey,who could possibly resist a new giant box and all that Styrofoam?)  He kinda  lost it, but just a little.

He'll return the new washer in the morning. It really is true that sometimes losing something is what it takes to make us grateful for it. Remember, that doesn't just count for washing machines.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Once begun is half done

We began school today. I am hoping that old adage is true, once begun is half done. I think it must be so.
It was such a pleasant day. The weather cooperated, and the kids were genuinely excited. The older boys headed off some to the tutorial and others to college. Sarah started her first day of kindergarten. Only one baby left in the preschool range in these here parts by the name of Lo lo. I am also tutoring a small class at our tutorial this year. We began that today as well. Those kids are also all bright eyed and ready to learn. Its a wonderful role to play in their life.

And I really love being in the classroom. It opens new parts of my heart. I discover far more each year about myself and my children, then I ever thought possible. I do teach them some things, but mostly I listen. I listen to all sorts of things- complaints, frustrations, questions, curiosities, new ideas, wonder. We don't have all great days, but mostly they are if I am honest. They work through problems, grow a little taller and wiser, figure out life, and eat some lunch.

I have discovered there are things that never grow old . The ABC song, coloring pages, the intensity of sounding out words for the first time reader, teaching the months of the year poem to the kids, or going through the acronyms for the planets ( and I still don't have the heart to eliminate poor ole Pluto so my kids will clearly be scarred for life. Hey,  I'm okay with that.)

Some things I still haven't figured out; like why I keep buying electric pencil sharpeners year after year. Fred actually warned me against  it while we were shopping in the store, but did I listen? No. I went ahead and bought it anyway. And folks, one day in- I already regret it.

 The tips break off and clog the blade and it takes a steak knife to dig out the piece of lead. I am hoping pencil sharpeners don't operate like toasters.(You know that one must have piece of equipment we all keep despite knowing we are inches away from being electrocuted at any given breakfast-at least in my house- where the handle has long since disappeared and Mom  always has to 'rescue' the bread with a knife) . Since Fred is a hands off homeschooling parent I ignore anything he says about school even when it makes perfect sense. "WE" home-school the same way "WE" build around here. One of us does it, the other takes the credit. But hey, after 20 years lets not fix what ain't broke ( except-for-that-dang-fool-electric-pencil-sharpener-honey-if-you're-reading this-go-fix-that-pretty-please!)

I am sure I'll be ready for the end of school by December. I always am. But I'll push through, and so will the kids. For now Fall is my favorite time of year and its almost here. There is new chalk and construction paper, books that still crack just slightly when you open them up, and even a compass and protractor in our near future, what could be more perfect?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Moments of Gratitude

I have been thinking a lot these last weeks of how good my life actually is. There are so many people struggling and suffering, with crosses I can barely summon the strength to watch, yet they do so. My own life feels so fortunate- almost every single day. So I am trying to cultivate gratitude. To simply remind myself that life is short, and that I can choose to see and count the blessing before me- or not. So here is a list of some of those things I have been grateful for lately. I hope you are all able to add a few of your own, if not please stop by for a cup of tea and I can loan you a few minutes of time and we'll  look together.

1) Freddy. After all I write about him, do I really need to say anything else? He is smart, funny, patient, hard-working, a terrific father, and he loves me despite my obvious flaws. God knew he was my match. Perfection.

2) My kids. Yes its a ton of work. Yes, its a whole mess of fun. P.S. Its way more fun than work.
This is all of my kids and only my kids on the playground.

3) We harvested our potatoes today. Which officially means that just about everything I planted this year, actually grew ( we'll forgive the broccoli for its poor show and hope for better results next year).

4) Chickens! Not only do they give us almost half a dozen eggs a day, but my kids have had hours and hours of fun caring for them. The first things our little girls ask in the morning is if they can let the chickens out for a while.
Sarah and Lolo chicken shepherding

5) My siblings. Who have impressed me each one, so very much, these past months by their absolute devotion to Greg as he battles cancer, and to one another. There are so many of us with so many personalities that navigating it all could be really tricky. But you know what, its also been wonderful.They are the greatest gift my parents ever gave me.

6) Biscoff spread. Nutella, watch out. OK- full confession- I found this in an Aldi aisle. On a whim I decided to purchase it. I opened the jar  today, and took a small scoop out to taste, and found myself transported into the seventh heaven. This stuff is seriously good. You can ask what to spread it on if you'd like, my best answer at this point is... everything. Because its that good. And I already checked on amazon to make sure I could order it in an emergency-and its available. Nirvana!

7) Classroom. My school room took me only  one afternoon to set up entirely.( we officially begin classes on Monday)This was mainly because I wisely prepared last May for this September, but still, it actually worked! Can you say stress free start off?
I actually imagine my classroom to look like this.

8) Friendship. I got to see a few of my favorite friends this week, and chat with  some others. You know, the old faithfuls that add so much to life and yet are as comfortable as a good pair of slippers? Today Josh and the kids came by and spent the afternoon catching up. I don't think I have ever spent time with Josh and not walked away feeling blessed. I mean that.

9) Romantic dinners. It can be hard to sneak away from ten people on a regular basis. So, Fred and I have devised special dinners where the kids eat separately, and we set up a candlelit table by ourselves, and the  two  worlds don't collide for at least a few hours. Tonight was one of them. Snow crab was on the menu.

10) A home I love. After dinner we walked around the yard, and looked at our fruit trees, and blackberry bushes, and raspberry bushes, and talked about the plans we have for the future. God has been so good to us in all of these things. I love where I live.

I know there are a million things on all of our plates to worry and fret and be sad about. But I do find it helpful in my own life to stop and think on these blessings and remind myself how good life really is. In all things, there are silver linings. So, where are yours?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Day in D.C.

Thanks for all the kind calls and emails inquiring about Greg. I left New York on Sunday afternoon and arrived back home Sunday evening. It took me a few days just to catch up on my life from there. Today, Freddy, that wonderful man that I married 20 years ago, decided we needed to do something as a family. He knows that I am, like the rest of my siblings, trapped right now between living and dying. My thoughts naturally turn to my brother and seem to linger there with him, yet I have an entire life that keeps calling at me too. Both need my time and energy. Both are incredibly important. 

So we headed to Washington DC with 8 of the kiddos in tow. Andrew and Peter opted for a day of ice-skating with friends, but the rest of us became tourists an hour from our home. The best part of all this is that these wonderful places are all free to boot.We started with a picnic on the Mall, and followed it by a walk through the sculpture gardens, then the Museum of Natural History, and the National Gallery. We made a pit stop at the Good Humor truck and then headed to the Zoo before ending the day with a late dinner of Il Forno Pizzeria outside in the warm breezy air. I'll post some pictures below and you can judge if it was a success. I sure think so. 

picnic lunch -picture perfect
love this sculpture tree!
Natural History Museum
the crew
Our treasures looking at the national treasures
plum-tuckered-out!(  with Adam and Eve in the background!)
outside the national gallery
mission zoo-with things one and thing two!
outside the sea lion exhibit a new set of play fountains

almost ready to spray!

thar she blows!
a shadowy performance