Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Magnificent Seven

When I hear the phrase "The Magnificent Seven" I am very much inclined to think of my sons. Those wonderful young men we have been raising for the last 19 years of  marriage. They certainly are terrific, and occasionally wonderful, and at times they can even be magnificent, but that is not what this post is about.

A friend lent a copy of  the movie The Magnificent Seven to us, and we watched it last night. I haven't seen a Western in a really long time.Like, my Dad was still alive, and I was a little girl long time. I was totally surprised by how good it actually was. Really. The message of good versus evil was so straightforward it was refreshing. OK sure, there was lots of gun fighting, but honestly at least everyone died with one easy shot! No blood or gore necessary to get the point across.

I think I may have found a new favorite genre of film.I think The Good,the Bad,and the Ugly will have to be next.Cause nobody did cool like Clint did. Nobody.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Stage Fright

John-Paul and Matthew are participating in the play Frankenstein this coming week. Another few moms, (who have way more talent and  energy than I do), put together a small drama club at the boys Tutorial. The idea is not really so much  the stage performance, (though that is a whole lot of fun) as it is to introduce the kids to classic literary works. They study the script for a few weeks in parts to get to know it, and end it with a small public performance before moving on to the next selection. 

John-Paul plays Dr. Frankenstein,( which unfortunately  will always and forever be synonymous with Gene Wilder's face, in my mind, after seeing Young Frankenstein) and Matthew plays his college roommate. They had a dress rehearsal today to ready themselves for next week. My older boys never wanted to perform on stage in the home-school plays in years past. They were not at all suited to it, and I thought it best not to push them. When John-Paul and Matt said 'yes' right away to the invitation, I was pleasantly surprised.  Let's hope this might be a way to get the next batch of kids involved. I am always amazed at the variety of personalities coming from the same set of parents. 

Not sure what play will they will tackle next, but I know the original list had some great Sherlock Holmes selections, and choices from Shakespeare as well. It makes me seriously happy that my kids are being exposed to classic works in a place where its perfectly acceptable for it to be cool. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

R.I.P. Lady Sibylle

I didn't post this yesterday, because it didn't seem proper to do so before the folks who had missed Sunday nights airing, had a fair chance to catch up.Rest in peace Lady Sibylle. I really didn't see that one coming. How utterly shocking to us all! And to lose you when you showed you really didn't care about all that money and other great stuff that the rest of us care a whole lot about.  Love was the thing for you and you found it in the driver. Then it killed you. Well, that sort of rots.

And of course The Dowager Countess of Grantham had the best line of the night once again:
"The decision lies with the chauffeur."
Fred thinks it will take us far longer than one week to get over this one.  I've already laid out our black clothes for the rest of the season. How about you?

In the meantime I have found a lovely interactive site to help you decide which Downtown Abbey character YOU are most like. Do you belong upstairs, or down? Go take the test and find out!


Monday, January 28, 2013

Chinny, chin, chin

Sophie fell this afternoon and landed on one of her dolls. It was the hard plastic sort of doll. It split her chin open. Not quite bad enough to get stitches, but almost. For  Fred and me stitches are sort of  a last resort. I am not  personally opposed to stitches, but I  do think they can do far more damage then the cut that warranted  them ever did. That  has been our experience at least. JP cut himself when he was small, causing a gash in his eyebrow. It didn't hurt him too much, but we decided it was deep enough that he needed stitches.

 Young, naive, fools we were back in those days.

 Bringing our child to the Emergency Room for a few stitches meant they would take a normally placid child and restrain him,using several nurses, and his own mother, then cover his entire body and face in a sterile drape, leaving only the one blood stained eye peering out from behind the blue shroud of fabric. The screams were horrifying. I was 7 months pregnant with Matt at the time and the doctor that was  stitching him wanted to know  if I had named him John-Paul after the Beatles or the Pope. I can still remember answering him "I just told you he's my third and you can clearly see I have another one coming...I'll let you go ahead and decide which one was my motivation." I am pretty certain JP was traumatized. I know I definitely was. 

But it was a  learning experience. We now are quite good at discerning what needs stitches and what does not. I called Dr. Fred home from work to make sure he concurred with my decision. While waiting I was determined to keep Sophie calm and quiet so she didn't see the cut and freak herself out, cause you know little girls do FREAK OUT at the sight of blood. And sometimes they freak out just hearing the  word blood. So, peace and tranquility were definitely in order. 

That was, of course, until my other kids came strolling along. Nothing says PANIC to a child in my house as loudly as Mom sitting quietly rocking the baby on her lap. The first to notice was Thomas. 

"What's wrong with Lolo?"

"Oh nothing at all, she just bumped her chin a wee bit" I said while scrunching my face into the most threatening positions possible to visually shove him from the room, while shielding her from seeing with my other hand.

Thomas wide eyed, quietly slunk out of the room, but must have told Michael who appeared within moments asking the same thing again, only louder ( cause Michael pretty much talks in a quasi cry).

"What's WRONNNGGGG, with Lolo MOMMY?"

Striving to sound like Snow White I spoke gently "She has a small cut, that's all-  now go run and play!" But  this time I made even worse facial contortions that were certain to drive him away if they didn't shut him up quickly enough. He knew I meant business. Sophie seemed to sense something was wrong as she shifted uncomfortably in my lap. I rocked faster.

Goodness, what is it with kids? Why is their timing so awful? If you want them to be concerned about something, they are oblivious- but just try to keep something from them for a moment and they become Sherlock Holmes deducing the slightest inconsistencies. With Michael and Thomas spooked off, I knew it couldn't be very long until the two little imp girls peered out from behind a wall somewhere.  

Mary and Sarah waltzed in together- hand in hand, as if to show force in their desire to get straight answers. 

"Ohhhh! Whats wrong with Lolo?" They asked.

They are too cute to make ugly faces at, so instead I decided I better try to get them to play along. I covered my face with one hand and mouthed to the girls " SHE HAS A BOO BOO-I DON"T WANT HER TO BE SCARED...SHHHHH!" and winked big and hard at them both. Mary winked back, and Sarah smiled and nodded.

Then they walked over and in sweet motherly tones said "Lolo what happened? Did you cut yourself?"

Lolo whispered   "Yeahhh"

"Ohhhhh, where did you cut yourself?"  Sarah asked

"on my chin" she said turning to show them both.

They both took one look and began making horrible noises. Sarah clearly repulsed began making retching sounds.  Mary announced loudly "Thats so gross!"

Sarah now yelled "Lolo, it looks like you have a wicked witch on your chin! Eeewwww!"

Of course there in nothing, NOTHING in the world Lolo hates more then a wicked witch after seeing the Wizard of Oz a few months ago with her siblings during movie night. She is terrified of her. She grew pale and grabbed at her chin, simultaneously screaming.

"No I don't have a wicked witch on my chin Sarah!"

Mary was a bit swifter and tried to take my cues. She adopted my tone of voice and said "No, Lolo you don't have a wicked witch chin" but she continued to make faces showing great dismay.  Trying to pull herself together she then announced to Sophie:

"Don't worry Lolo, just because you have a  big cut on your chin doesn't mean you'll be ugly forever and ever!"

And then she turned down  the corners of her mouth and visibly shivered.

Thankfully Fred arrived with butterfly and princess band-aids which not only  cured Lolo completely of her fears, but by handing her a fistful of  assorted flavored lollipops, he also made her the coolest kid in the room ( restoring her to her former glory)- she was especially cool if you wanted a princess band-aid.
It should heal up nicely in a couple of days.

No thanks to ANY of my other kids.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Toddlers and Teenagers

Sophia ( Lolo) turned three today, and Matthew turned thirteen. This is our last birthday for a while now. It picks back up at the end of Spring. I can hardly believe that, not only is my baby three, but I have ANOTHER teenager in the house. Time is flying. Lolo was happy just being the 'special person' in our house for the day, while Matt and his brothers, and some friends, went off  ice skating for the afternoon.

Since many of you are probably wondering- yes, both Matthew and Sophie share the same birthday exactly 10 years apart. Matthew born in 2000 Sophia in 2010. Matt was one of my easiest births, Lolo- not so much.

For the past 6 weeks Lo lo has gotten up every morning and asked if it was her birthday yet, and if she could have a pony cake for it. Ponies are  all that for Lolo right now. And since this birthday cake was of such vital importance to her, I decided to call in the experts on it. My friend Sarah pretty much rocks the cake decorating scene. I asked if she would be willing to do the cake again this year ( she has done the last 2 years also) and she agreed. Matthew graciously decided  a  pony cake was wonderful this year, seeing that his baby sister really wanted it. But my friend Sarah is not your ordinary kind of clever. She decided to make it work for both of them while still being one cake. The best part of that tasted even better than it looked!

Lolo side
Matt side
The cake and a few games of pass the parcel, and musical chairs, made for a pretty sweet day around here.
But the both of them are pretty sweet anyway.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


John-Paul got a telescope for Christmas. Tomorrow is the full moon, so tonight is a perfect night for viewing. The sky is crystal clear and Fred and Peter messed around with the adjustments so he can maneuver it well.Its a shame its so cold, but that's a small price to pay for being able to look at moon craters.

Hope you all find something fun to do under the moon tonight!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Impaired Judgement

Normally if this were like other years, my whole family would be at the March on Washington in D.C.   This year we weren't. Fred has not seen a doctor in almost 20 years for anything other than stitches and glue. And even those ER trips have been blissfully sparse. After spending so much time on making sure our kids were doing well,I decided it was time to make sure their father was OK too.

 Fred doesn't do doctors.
 Or vitamins.
 Or basic upkeep.

 So, I had to nudge him pretty hard. Finally and mostly, because he wanted me to stop bugging him, he agreed to go see a G.P. Naturally she ordered a whole  load of tests, and blood work, and X-rays and labs. We've been running around town for the last week or two checking them all off the list. Today was his final test, requiring a bit of sedation. After drinking a few vials of explosives, Andrew, Fred, and I headed out in the early hours of the morning, leaving Peter and JP to play the roles of Mom and Dad for the better part of the morning.

Women don't have too many choices about dealing with doctors. Especially during child-bearing years. You just get used to it all. Fred on the other hand is not used to any of this. I sat in the waiting room thinking of how much he means to me and how many times he has had to drive me to appointments, and doctors, and other generally invasive bodily procedures. It is hard to be the person waiting. He has never mentioned that.  He means everything to me and  I knew that as I sat watching the clock tick.

They called me in when he was still groggy and pale. I sat next to him and was handed a stack of papers. The top one was for the person responsible for driving him home. I began to read. In bold letters it proclaimed :

Warning! Anesthesia will impair your judgement and perception for the remainder of the day...

Almost on cue, Fred chose that moment  to open his eyes, smile softly, and say "Ellie- You look beautiful". Naturally- I chuckled and informed him his judgement was clearly impaired before he closed his eyes again to rest. Every one of his tests came out perfect. He is the picture of health. (Thank you Jesus!) I gathered him together, and Andrew and I drove him home stopping at Red Robin to celebrate his first taste of food in two days.

The thought occurred to me later on today, that drugs aren't the only things that impair our judgement. Love does as well. It washes away what is really there and leaves in its place years of memories to view each other through. They become the real lens of how we see one another. The rough spots forgotten, the gentleness and happiness our vision. We share a perspective on the world that is  our own. We have walked it together and therefore can see what no one else can. I am so happy to know he is healthy and well and mine. I am happy that when we look at one another, neither of us can see what the rest of the world does. Time and age have no  place in how we remember each other- the heart and soul  which have a different memory to draw from,  triumph over that 'reality' gently washing away wrinkles, and grey hair, and weight gain  and years of hard work and aging from the picture.  Our vision has been mutually impaired by our marriage  and we are all the  better for it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Uma Numa

We've had a lot of Sophisms lately.So I thought I might as well share them with you. Last week the little lady climbed into my lap and sighed, then said "I've always wanted a Mommy just like you." Its funny, cause I never knew I wanted a little girl just like her until she was already here. Thank Goodness God  knew it ahead of me.

John Paul was babysitting for her recently and she told him " John Paul if you don't give me a banana RIGHT NOW, I'm gonna die!"

Last night as Fred was putting her to bed she announced to him "Daddy, I can speak Spanish." Fred kissed her and said "You can, show me..." To which she replied proudly

"Uma Numa"

Sounds Spanish enough to this un-discerning ear. Its hard to believe she is almost three. I can't imagine the world, or my life, without her.

Monday, January 21, 2013

You Heard it Here First

Winter is practically over. It doesn't stand a chance in my book. Heck, I am just abut ready to pack up the coats and boots.
I know, I know, you'll all complain that I am speaking too soon. Fred has told me I'll jinx it if I say it out loud. His theory is that if I look out the window and declare Winter over too soon, the shadows will bring 8 more weeks of snow. It sounds like he has his holidays mixed up- and I am not superstitious anyway ( knock on wood).
But even the cold awful days seem to have a lot of sunshine in them lately. I can feel Spring in the air. Where are my sandals anyway?Start making plans for Spring cleaning and bird feeders.Stay hopeful with me- it just can't be long now!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

We've Finally Named Our House

As of last night we have finally named our house. And  honestly, after too many episodes of Downton Abbey, it was high time we did so.  I tried my best to discover the proper way of doing these things on-line. I hate to tell you, but there is little information available on how one goes about naming property, or the history of this tradition.We also  weren't certain if there needed to be a certain amount of land, but in the end we supposed three acres were enough to begin with. I was able to find that in anthropological accounts of Europe  there was a strong movement to name houses and estates as a means of declaring the members within its walls as a  formal social organization. I don't know if this tradition carried on from there, or was developed elsewhere, but for a long time it was a natural part of social life. 

The name we decided upon is Four Gables. It sounds right doesn't it? Fred pointed out that technically, there is a small portion off the front that could be considered a fifth gable, but since we had already settled on Four Gables by the time he mentioned this- I objected. After-all the name doesn't mean we don't have a fifth Gable, just that there are certainly four. In days to come, there could in fact be many gables more, but that doesn't mean I'll change the name. Four Gables it is. Fred says he'll have a small plaque made up to make it official. Now, if we could only hire a good valet- things would be settled nicely- but it is so hard to find good help these days.  

front view
at the edge of our property
My English Mother-in-law (Angela) grew up in Jamaica and all of her homes had wonderfully colorful names. There is something different about a house with a name. It takes on a life of its own, after having been given a certain dignity. Angela, always speaks of these places and they conjure images in my mind that are somehow wistfully romantic and  connected to the names themselves.   There was the main house where all the family lived called Good Hope, located  high on a mountainside- with huge old furniture and servants bustling about, (and even a few whispers of spirits that roamed , but those are just tales). And the family would always summer at Low Ground, which was in the countryside as suggested, and of course there was the little parcel called Peters Field, the family sugar cane plantation as well. We spoke this morning and I told her of our choice and she seemed delighted. In fact, she and my father-in-law may come to visit Four Gables as soon as this Spring to celebrate. 

future servants quarters ( or a chicken coop- we haven't decided)
This is not my first attempt at naming a piece of property. Once years ago, my sisters and sister-in-law, niece and I, tried to name my Mothers summer house in Southampton, but my mother protested vehemently to our choice ( which if memory serves me correctly was unanimously  The Cuckoos Nest). It really dashed our hopes when she wouldn't allow us, but in the end we yielded to her wishes. 

I trust all you good folks out there will be pleased with our name choice. Do come and visit us here at Four Gables soon. We'll look forward to it. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Company of Saints

Catholicism is a curious thing. The beliefs, the practices, the traditions are all so lovely but can seem so obscure to the outsider. Take for example the Communion of Saints. We Catholics believe that those who have gone before us, and lived worthy lives are still accessible to us here and now. They are 'in heaven' but also where heaven and earth meet - (where there is love)- they are also present. And they are not just present in a ghostly-luminous-cue-the-choir-music sort of way; they are to be a real and tangible help to us here, on the other side of the veil, who could certainly use some assistance. 

It is well enough to say your prayers, and read saintly books that inspire us by their example, but even better when we are personally touched. God, in his goodness to me, has always found a way to send a helper to me when I am really in a spot and I am always very grateful. In the past I have had just the right book fall off a shelf at just the right time or heard a homily where a priest will mention something a saint has said that just cannot be a coincidence and off I go, encouraged by the word. 

This past week after going through various difficulties, I quite accidentally stumbled onto a website of Fr. Walter Ciszek. I knew it was more than a coincidence. He is on the path to canonization in the church. Some of you may have read his book With God in Russia which is an outstanding work on the time he spent (about 25 years) in the Russian Gulag and the infamous Lubyanka prison. The book which was co-written, is an account of the various tortures  he endured  in arctic temperatures, and how he did so, it  is certainly a worthy read.

The lesser known, but in my humble opinion superior work, is his memoir called He Leadeth Me. It is the spiritual account of what he endured during the same time frame. I read it years ago and was touched beyond measure by the work. In this account, there is no heroism at all. He simply tell us how each day went, and how horribly he failed to meet the demands he felt were before him as a Christian. Almost every page was filled with personal failure, betrayal, heartache,distress,cowardice, loneliness, less than worthy efforts on his part and that of others. Yet shockingly, over the course of the book you come to see his soul and its magnificent struggle towards a life of Grace. It is the story of a perfect failure turned into  more perfect success, simply because he persevered

There are so many times in all of our lives when that is in fact all we are really being asked to do. Stay in the game for one more day. Despite how we feel, despite our failures, despite how others have treated us, or we have treated others. Forget about the heroics or the glory of it all, we must simply keep going. But to keep going is really more than enough.To keep going can sometimes be a great heroism in itself. I am happy to be learning this lesson right now, and even happier for feeling heaven reached out to teach it to me. 

The future, hidden as it was, was hidden in His will and therefore acceptable to me no matter what it might bring. The past, with all its failures, was not forgotten; it remained to remind me of the weakness of human nature and the folly of putting any faith in self.
 Fr. Walter Ciszek

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Les Mis

Last weekend we saw Les Miserables, the movie version. If you are looking for something to see- it is well worth it. I saw it on Broadway years ago, and thought this version might disappoint me, but it didn't. In some ways the story was more magnificent since the screen captures the emotions of the actors so well. One new song appeared called Suddenly which I have listened to on the ipod  over and over, and each time it makes me cry. What a powerful story of redemption.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Post Christmas

We are back to school today. And to order, and schedules, and work, and  daily duties. We had a lovely Christmas time break in which we ate and drank too much, played games until late into the night, went sledding  every single  day, and grew three times more lazy than we ought to have. (Full disclosure- Fred bought me an easel and some paint supplies, and so in lieu of writing I have instead been painting-yay!) Christmas has lasted in our house this year, and seems to have taken hold, even today a dear friend brought me a late gift of a darling Wedgwood teacup that has been for years in her family! It is so sweet and the only one I have that has raised, cameo like features.
But play time is past now and today had me itching for my normal life again. I don't 'normally' feel like getting back to school and work and life, but I am cheerful right now and so it doesn't seem too bad. I am thinking that many of you are back to your own view of 'normal' but maybe you are not so happy about it as I am. Oh bother!

Plus, today Joseph turned eleven years old. ( but that's not the same as his eleventy-first birthday mind you.)
We made tacos for dinner at Joe's request, and had more cake and presents to open and more celebrating as well. What a good son he is. Pleasant and happy with a small twinkle always in his eye.

The twinkle is easier to see without shades!
We rekindled an old tradition at our house this year. I had known it from years ago, but haven't done so in a while. We copy out all the virtues we humans should have with a small explanation and then place them individually in a jar. In the New Year as we approach the epiphany ( which is when the wise men gave gifts- so we are now in this tradition, the lucky recipients of these heavenly gifts) we all draw one virtue out which is supposed to be sent to you from above. You in turn are to work at cultivating that virtue for the rest of the year. Its sounds like a game of chance until you pray over it and draw one out. We were all astonished at how appropriate our virtue was- (its particularly telling with those whom you live as you are sure to know their vices so well that you actually hope for what they get!) In any case, its a wonderful exercise in building Christian character. And after all the awful tragedy we had these past few weeks, isn't it time to be part of making a difference in ourselves in order to make this world a bit better for the people around us?

I happen to have a jar stuffed full of virtues still, so if any of you good folks out there are looking for a gift from God in this New Year, email me or stop by and I am happy to draw one for you, or let you pick yourself!
Here is what we drew:
Fred- Impartiality
Ellen- Joy
John-Paul- Simplicity
Mary- Spontaneity