Sunday, August 9, 2015

First comes love

So Andy and Rachel are engaged! So let me answer a few questions that I have been answering all weekend long already.

Yes, we TOTALLY love her!
Yes, we already knew ( and it was really difficult to keep to ourselves!).
No, we aren't sure when yet- I'm sure Andrew and Rachel will figure that out all in good time.

But let's get to the really good part -cause this is going down as one of my favorite stories of all time!

Andrew came to us about 6 months ago and told us he was ready to take this next step and wanted our advice. Naturally we told him he had to go speak to Rob, Rachel's father. Andrew turned the appropriate shade of grey. We both said if he wasn't man enough to speak to Rob, he wasn't man enough to get married. The Rob gauntlet would have to be run. 

A month went by. He was ready to go speak to her father, but he also wanted to keep it a secret, how to do both-hmmph? Sneak that I am, I told him to text Rob. But, he didn't have his number. Ok so, go steal it from Rachel's phone next time she goes to the restroom- problem solved. If you know Andy, you know that wayyyy too much thought went into each of these steps.

Another month went by, he told us he had the number and was ready to text Rob and ask for a meeting. He put the number in his cell as R. Willman (tuck this little important piece of information into your head for later down the page). Poor Peter had to listen to him day after day at work as he ironed out the details of what he wanted to text. 

One bright morning he awakened with a sufficient amount of courage and a solid plan, and decided to  text Rob that he'd like to meet and could they please keep it private. 'Sure Andrew, when and where?' they go back and forth working out the details of Robs work schedule versus Andrew's work schedule versus Rachel's schedule to keep all things private. Andy had arrived at work by this point and Peter was rooting him on from the sidelines. All was going well until....

Rachel began texting him simultaneously. "Hey Andy, I miss you! When am I going to see you again?"

Single minded Andrew starts to get flustered. He doesn't want to give anything away to Rachel and is simultaneously in the middle of texting her dad. He answers her curtly and goes back to getting the details from Rob. 

R. Willman; "Ok then Andy, I'll meet you at Panera's at 5pm this monday."

Rachel texts again- you are coming over tonight right?

Andrew  to R. Willman: "OK. sounds good! I love and miss you and I can't wait to see you and hug you again!"


He got a one word response from her father: "AWKWARD"

And like all loving brothers world-wide Peter got absolutely hysterical laughing. He then came home and told Fred and I and John-Paul and Matt, and we all laughed and cried and rolled around on the floor until  our stomachs hurt. (I also saved the screen shot of the text to make myself laugh at some later date, and as evidence.)

He went on to survive the meeting. And to be honest if he survived that text, he could survive the rest of the gauntlet. He also  managed to keep the secret from Rachel, and pull off a very romantic proposal from all accounts. 

What more can I say to you two tonight Andrew and Rachel? I suppose only this: may you be as incredibly happy and blessed in your marriage as we have been in ours. Keep God at the center of your life and you're sure to do well. We love you so much and look forward to seeing each day unfold!

Saturday, July 11, 2015


I know I haven't been posting as much. My days are busy, of course, which prevents me from doing as I always please.  Also,  the pace in summer just encourages a relaxed take on life. The is always so much I could,  or want to say. The kids teach me new things every day.  I love them.  I love watching them.  I love seeing them grow and discover the world right in their own back yard. These are some recent peeks at what they've been up to.
(Discovering how a  magnifying glass works, our new rope swing, parade, pool party, grotto, picnic,orchard, blueberry picking, water balloon toss, heritage day medal)

Friday, July 10, 2015

R.I.P. Hot-Dog the Chicken

We lost a chicken today. The one the kids named Hot-Dog.  We aren't sure what got it, but there wasn't much left when we found her. Our new ( awesome) neighbor Isaac, saw her and discreetly knocked and gave us the news. Michael came over with me and I sent him back to make sure the girls didn't see the carnage. I quickly disposed of the rest and came in to talk to the girls.

They were hysterical crying.

Tom and Mike were being brave but fighting off tears and sadness themselves. I cuddled them all together in the family room and told them it was sad, yes, but that part of having chickens is knowing something could get at them.We've been awful lucky so far losing only a few in three years time.  My words didn't console them at all and my hugs seemed to help only a little. Suddenly Michael asked if it was okay for us to pray the rosary. The girls all enthusiastically agreed we should pray the rosary for Hot-Dog too, and how could I argue with that logic?

So, we sat and prayed a decade for Hot-Dog.

Afterwards, I set them all to work so they wouldn't keep up being sad all day. I keep thinking of how good it was that they had that place to bring their grief when my words couldn't help and the hurt was so fresh. It is good to have a place to turn when the reality of life is harsh. For me too. A place found inside themselves that oddly takes them outside themselves,  to trust and gain strength and consolation- it is as close to them as their own breath. God is even closer than that, and while children are first taught faith, they also seem to know it so much better and deeper than we all do most days. They live closer to God in their littleness, I see it every day.

Thanks for all the eggs Hot-Dog, and for helping teach my kids ( and me) about God and heaven. Who would've thought you would be so very useful?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Arcade loot

Freddy and I are total S-U-C-K-E-R-S for arcades and carnivals. I don't think I ever passed up a game of skee ball in my life. This morning was over cast, making it the perfect day for the boardwalk. ALL of us went downtown and grabbed pizza for lunch then amused ourselves with sand sculptures and colorful kites flying up and down the beach. The real fun was the arcade loot though. For just 20 dollars worth of quarters, we managed to win about 4500 tickets which were then redeemed into various toys. We're  pretty excited about our selection as are the kids.
Prizes included (but we're not limited to) the following:
1 rubber band gun (thomas)

1 tongue tatoo

1 52 in kite (matt)
1 mermaid doll (lolo)
1green irridescent fiber optic nightlight(fred)
1 oikin pig (Mary and Sarah pooled their tickets- but Mary insists 'it's still a little more' hers)
1 blue stuffed elephant (Pete)
1 duck dynasty beard (Ellie)
Way too many tootsie rolls and gum balls

Monday, May 25, 2015


So, we've been having a ridiculous amount of fun.  Way, way more than we deserve. My sister is such a hoot to  hang out with that my kids haven't stopped laughing and giggling since she arrived. 

Then something sort of went wrong.  Fred noticed the hvac wasn't working properly. It kept humming,  so to be polite he called and let the front desk know (cause-he-notices-how-everything-works-and-when-its-not-up-to-speed #carpenter).

So, Peter calls us while we are at the boardwalk and says our room keys don't work,  and the guy at the front desk had been looking for us cause they're going to make us switch rooms. I tell Peter I don't believe him and say he should quit joking. #hesnotjoking.
Next thing we know, they have moved us to the penthouse,  cause.... why? 

Because this vacation is awesome!  Every room has a view of the ocean.  Since it took them a few hours longer than they anticipated to clean it,  they gave us a dozen free passes to the in house skating rink. 
Life is good.
Real good.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Anniversary fun

We are celebrating 22 years of marriage, at the beach. My wonderful sister Celine, my Uncle Bud, and my gorgeous nephew Braxton have come along with the crew. Pictures will be better than words for this post- particularly since it's from my phone!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Unnoticed Mothering

 All week long there have been murmurings in my household about Mother's day. Whispers of what to buy, how to celebrate, what to plan,  have been taking place in some-what secret fashion. Like most Mothers I know and have known, when asked  I told the kids I don't really 'want' anything. I don't think it is a lie when Moms say this, they are talking from a deeper place inside that doesn't need or desire recognition for a job that is both privilege and sacrifice.

So as I sat in mass last night I was turning these things over in my mind, wondering how to allow my kids to celebrate without drawing a whole lot of unwanted attention to myself. My thoughts kept going back to one of C.S. Lewis' reflections entitled "The Perfect church service".

“Every church service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best– if you like, it ‘works’ best– when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it." C.S.Lewis

It really struck me that this applies also to Motherhood.  Good mothering is the 'long familiarity' process in the life of your child. Good mothering brings a sense of safety, security, happiness, stability, order, and love to a family. It is the force that allows children to grow up and get on with their own lives without having to worry and struggle daily over food, drink and the grown -up anxieties of life. Good mothering fades to the background so the life or lives it supports can get on with it and learn to fly. It makes itself unnoticed. 

As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance.A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling." C.S. Lewis

As a consequence most Mom's who are getting things right  are likely to ask themselves questions like  "Do they really know how much I have given up for them? Do they have any idea of how much I care? Will they ever understand How much of my life I have poured into them each day in the countless unnoticed acts of mothering like cooking, cleaning, washing, teaching, nursing, loving, and praying?" Be careful with how you answer this one- it's liable to make you feel neglected, and under-appreciated if you dwell on it too long. The answer isn't as simple as it seems, at least it isn't for me.

The truth is I don't think I ever really appreciated my own Mom while she was with me. I called her regularly, had a great relationship, shared the same values she did, and was overall very close to her. Yet the moment she was gone,and many times since then,  I wanted most of all to be able to go back and simply thank her again for the endless love she showered on me and my siblings. Her love was so strong and steady and powerful that I grew accustomed to it, and took it for granted. But here's the catch- I think she meant for  me to.  I think she wanted me to know that I didn't have to wonder if she would be there, or if she cared, she wanted her love to be so certain and stable so that I didn't have to worry or fret about it, but could simply move forward secure in it.  I say this because it is what I want for my own kids and what most moms that I talk to desire for their children as well.

Last night Freddy took four of the boys out and I put the little girls down early. Peter and JP were at home with me on a Saturday night while I graded tests for my sixth grade class, and did some planning. Peter asked me what I wanted for Mother's day, and I told him nothing. Then he stopped and asked "Mom, what do you get out of being a Mom?" and I could feel a serious conversation spring up in the room for the three of us. You all know that is an impossible question to answer. Telling him he gives my world form and meaning and that I have learned to love  by being a mother and  to be human, sounds so silly even when its true. The chance to take a little soul and shape that person for eternity is pretty heady stuff and not easy to translate into words. Sort of like the dandelions that get pressed into my hand as a sign of affection from my little ones. On their own they are weeds, but when given to me by my sweet child they are transformed into heavenly treasures only a fool couldn't see. 

The conversation died down and I went back to my work. Next thing I knew, and without warning,  I was being scooped up by  the big strong arms of my second eldest son. He didn't want to look at me when he spoke because, just like when he was little, he is still a bit shy even of his own feelings. So he picked me up instead and hugged me and whispered in my ear "I never know what to do for you for mothers day, because the truth is I never thought I deserved a Mom like you. And I wish there was a way to say thank you for always making dinner, and cleaning, and teaching us,  and  giving us a good life, but I still don't know how to do it.  But I really do love you even if I don't deserve you." and then he let go and left me in a puddle of my own tears and it took me five whole minutes to pull it all back together. 

The truth is, we all deserve that kind of love. That unconditional steady support. The kind of love that is so strong and certain  it goes unnoticed like the air we breathe, or the heart that beats in our chest. The less attention it draws to itself the better it is. It creates a place for people to become human.  It is all worth it. Being a mother is the stuff of life. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Homeschooling- a look inside

I am a little hesitant to begin this post, as I don't normally speak much about our homeschooling experiences- except in occasional jest.  But this one is personal, so try to go easy on me and don't mind if its lengthy as its been on my heart a long time.  Mainly I don't talk about it because its always felt like a private decision we made a long time ago. At first it had really nothing to do with faith, curriculum's, or achievement. It was just a simple conversation between Fred and I in our first house in NY when Andy was about 2 or 3 years old, and Peter a year behind him.

 We wondered where we would send Andrew to school and after talking about the local schools in town, Freddy commented "Or- you could home-school him". I stopped and looked at him oddly, growing up on Long Island didn't afford me a whole lot of exposure to home schoolers. "Isn't that what backwards people do?" Fred wasn't surprised by my remark, and simply said "No, and Robert
 ( his boss at the time) and Mary Rose  home-school their five  kids,  and they are the nicest kids I have ever met."  Interestingly, what I really always wanted was nice kids, good kids, real kids- so this adjective Fred used was a good fit. It resonated with me. I asked how they got books, and he mentioned he thought it was possible to order them. So I tucked the idea into the back of my head, and pretty much forgot about it.

At five years old I drove Andrew to his first day of Kindergarten while I carried Peter on my hip over my pregnant-with-John-Paul-belly. I dropped him off and the teacher told me when to pick him back up. I took Pete home to make a little headway on the house while his older brother was away for a precious few hours. When I came back the teacher told me Andrew had thrown a bit of a tantrum, but not to worry, he would get used to it. I was surprised as he didn't do that at home. I blew it off and figured it would get easier. Second day was pretty much the same as the first, except I enjoyed those few easier hours without Andrew better than I had imagined.  The third day arrived.When pick up time came, he had thrown another tantrum and was visibly red faced when I arrived. The teacher mentioned to me that she also was in charge of the pre-school ( small town) and that she would happily take Pete as well. I asked about Andrew and once again he had thrown a fit when I left but she reassured me that "he would get used to it" and I walked him out of the building secretly wondering what I would do with those delicious hours of freedom from Andrew and Peter I was about to have!

And it was right then that it happened. I was so struck by how quickly I wanted to get rid of them, not for good, but just for a few peaceful hours to myself. As I buckled them in and fit my pregnant belly under the steering wheel of my Chrysler LeBaron convertible ( wedding present from Freddy),  a conversation unfolded between me and God.  I was married only a few years by this point and only a few children into this growing family and already I  felt parts of me wanted out.

I was so sick with my pregnancies, all of them, dreadfully, mercilessly sick.

We were poor and broke. Always.

Kids were cute but also a whole lot of work.

I never slept anymore.

And as I rode home I realized that this teacher was offering me a small way out. Just a little reprieve. And Andrew would get used to it, I knew he would,  as would Peter and I. And I remembered my wedding vows that day, and my promise to love and cherish Freddy and accept children lovingly from the Lord and I knew that so far I was a failure.

So I brought the kids into the kitchen at home and I knelt down before Andrew and I asked him "Do you want to go to school tomorrow?" and he answered "No, I want to be with you" and I looked him square in the eye and told him that he didn't have to . I told him  he didn't have to go to back to school that I would teach him and Peter at home from then on.

So our home-school was born, not out of pride or some queer sense I could do better- (in fact I was terrified I would wreck them all given I had only a high school education)- or some religious reasons, but because I felt that I should at least try to give motherhood a chance. And for me homeschooling was a part of being faithful to my husband and my kids and my vows. What I hoped to gain from it was "nice and good kids" and my only goal post for myself was that I felt I had to be able to at least do what they would get from the local public school had they been enrolled there.

 I only ever home school one year at a time. I didn't start out saying "I will home-school Andrew through High School", I just wanted to make it through kindergarten. Ditto for first grade . And second grade on up. The thought of home schooling for lets just say -five years- is way too much for me to mentally handle without getting desperate, so I just sign on for small bites and don't think about what's next. Which was a good thing since each year brought a new baby and a new grade, and a new amount of work to juggle.

Since to me, this decision was more about a promise between me and God I always counted on him to help me get through it. If I lived up to my end of the bargain and kept going, I expected He would as well. This thought consoled me on many a morning when I was pregnant or nursing a, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth or tenth child and I could not climb back under the  covers  into bed (after I woke and immediately got sick for all ten pregnancies or I would finish school work for the day and realize I hadn't done any real house work yet, and needed to begin what felt like a second full time job.

What I learned most during all those years of meeting new Moms and new homeschooling friends is that we all come to home school for very different reasons. We all have different goals. We are all hiding from the outside world that we really live a double life as school teacher and also as wife/mother that on many or most days, is grueling.

When Andrew and Peter graduated High School it was one of the proudest days of my life. But because I had only home-schooled one year at a time, we still didn't know what the following year/years would bring. Peter had decided to try community college ( yes, even now finances are a determining issue) and Andrew insisted he wanted to get a job.

This nagged at me.

I don't ever ask Fred to be the bad cop, but shortly before that Fall came along I told Fred I didn't care how he did it, but he was to get Andrew to at least try a course at the community college. He agreed to and after much cajoling Andrew was signed up for a few classes. He hated me, but he was signed up. A few weeks in, he found his niche. He decided he'd like to go into law enforcement. I was pleased. He finishes his Associates in a few weeks, and so once again he decided it was time to get serious about work. But again, a nagging took hold of me.

I asked him to apply to University of Maryland. He was bothered again (I have witnesses). But by now we really do know each other well enough and he knew he wasn't getting out of it without a rejection letter, so he submitted his application. He was called in for an interview for a scholarship based on his GPA and essay. On Thursday, after weeks of waiting by the mailbox he got his letter of acceptance and a full scholarship to UMB.

I don't know how to tell you how proud I am of him.

After I hugged him and Fred hugged him and Rachel hugged him and the little ones hugged him, he  stood back and  he said "This is all because of God, I know that now. This wouldn't have happened if he hadn't been guiding me."

And I nodded and thought to myself how right he is, and how smart he is, and mostly ... how nice and good he is.

(Go Terps!)