820 Acts of Charity

For the first time ever, I have actually gotten my Lenten supplies out of storage before Lent started.  I don’t have much, but one thing I do have is images of the stations of the cross, which we try to pray every Friday during Lent.  Usually, it hits that first Friday, and I remember that I forgot, but it’s too late to go digging, so I put it off until the next Friday…and sometimes then it’s too late to go digging…

But I am all ready to go.  Great thing about a late start to the season, I suppose.

One thing I’m doing this year is encouraging the kids to turn their sacrifices or acts of charity into quarters with a family goal of raising enough money to buy a water pump for a village in a poor country.  A water pump costs $205, so at a rate of $0.25 per deed, we will need to do 820 things in 40 days to “earn” the pump.  I think the kids will like having a tangible goal…sometimes reward in Heaven is just too out there.  I am assembling a list of things to do to merit a quarter.  Here’s what I have so far.  Anything else you can think of?


·         Pray a rosary for the poor.

·         Give up dessert or some other favorite food for a day.

·         Walk away from or ignore an annoying person.

·         Stop doing an obnoxious behavior.

·         Give up electronics for the day.

·         Do someone else’s chore.

·         Change a stinky diaper.

·         Pay someone a compliment.

·         Say you’re sorry for hurting someone.

·         Do all your schoolwork.

·         Hold your temper.

·         Let somebody else pick the game.

·         Be cheerful when you don’t feel like it.

·         Listen when you’d rather talk.

·         Do an extra chore.

·         Come the first time you are called or obey immediately.

·         Forgive someone…

·         …especially if they don’t seem sorry.

·         Thank someone for helping you.

·         Do a good deed.

·         Say a kind word.

Confirmation Weekend

We enjoyed having family in town this weekend for Billy’s and Katie’s confirmation (there was a BOGO special at church).


I’m just kidding about the BOGO.

Katie did the second reading.  She had practiced it so often that she had it nearly memorized.  Between that and the nervousness of standing in front of 500 or so people meant that she raced through the reading.  Or maybe she just wanted to get on with the sacrament.


Billy’s time with the bishop was twice as long as everyone else’s.  I leaned over and told my husband that this did not surprise me at all.  Billy’s confirmation saint was a Robert (Bellarmine), and the bishop’s name is also Robert.  Billy went through about 5 saints before finalizing his decision.  I told him he could have many many friends in heaven, but he had to pick just one for confirmation.


The bishop had suggested that we just photoshop his photo into our own instead of waiting for him (there were 90+ confirmandi, I think).  Had we been toward the back of the group, we just might have.  But we were in the first few rows and didn’t have to wait long at all.




I could never get everybody to look at the same camera.

Billy with his Godfather (Uncle Tom) and confirmation sponsor (my Uncle Steve).  My SIL, Margaret, who is Billy’s Godmother, did not get there until later that night.  My in-laws and BIL flew from the snowy Northeast with no trouble.  My SIL’s flight from California via Phoenix was canceled.  Go figure.


Katie with her Godparents, Uncle Glenn and Nana.  Katie’s sponsor was celebrating her own daughter’s confirmation.


As an afterthought, we got a shot with the parents.


As soon as the group came home, Peter threw off his church clothes.  Then we decided to do pictures, so Bill made him get dressed again.  Then we took no family pictures (immediate family), so he really hadn’t needed to do that.  I took a few pictures just to justify his efforts.



Bill took this picture of Mary because she looks like a hockey player.


It was a lovely weekend.  Missed a few of my siblings, but such is life when we are all so far away.

George at 18 months

We have extended family coming to visit in a few weeks so I thought I’d post a few pictures of the “baby.”  He’s not so much a baby any more.  Oh, they grow so fast.

Here is George in January of 2013.



And now…




With the big brothers….



He loves to watch shows on the Kindle.  He’ll make a hand gesture for “Signing Time” while I’m skimming FB or playing Candy Crush.  I have a hard time saying no to “educational” programming just so I can read a few more puns or like a few more memes.  The thing is, though, that he knows how to change the shows once he’s in Netflix.  So, while he starts with Signing Time or Daniel Lion or Curious George…he really wants to watch Dr. Who.



Netflix always plays the next episode, so George walked into a room the other day watching a Dr. Who the big kids hadn’t seen yet.  They all started screaming “turn it off! turn it off!”  They tried to convince him to watch something else, but he was persistent.  Finally, they managed to get it on an older episode, and everybody was happy.

He likes to jump on the bed, and is adept and getting down.


He likes to pretend to be a dog.  He likes to roll around with the dog.  He likes to feed the dog.

The dog does not like him to pretend to be a dog.  We all say, “Good dog!” and pat his head, and she gets a little upset that we use those special words and gestures with him.  The dog does not like him to roll around with her, especially not when he climbs in her crate, especially not when she’s in the crate.  Sometimes the lock on the crate gets used just to keep him out.

The dog does like him to feed her.  Then they are the best of pals.


George likes to play the piano.


George loves to wear other people’s shoes, especially daddy’s boots.


George is very adept at maneuvering the kitchen step stool around, and a favorite pastime is opening the drawers and scattering the contents all over the counter top.  Such neat things to be found in the drawers.  I especially love it when he finds the steak knives.


George does not have an extensive spoken English vocabulary, but like most boys, his capacity to make noises, especially of motor vehicles, knows no bounds.  He loves things with wheels.


Right now, I am working on a dress for Katie for confirmation (why we have family coming into town).  My sewing machine has been out quite a bit, which means my rolling suitcase that holds my sewing machine has been empty.  At least it’s been empty of the sewing machine.  It is George’s favorite hiding place.


And that’s George at 18 months.  Words can not convey how much joy this child brings us all. 

Fighting over bones

Confession: my family has eaten too much fast food for the last two weeks.

Yesterday, Fritz had a soccer game (they scored three goals which is awesome…except the other team scored 9). Since the game was in Tampa, Bill was able to come.  Since the game was in Tampa, the stop and go construction traffic meant he only saw the last 10 minutes. 

Afterward, we went as a family to the mall to shop for each other.  Bill takes half the kids shopping for me, while the other half shop for him.  Plus each child buys for one sibling (we draw names out of a hat).  I think the insane trip to the mall is what they will most remember in 20 years. I remember going with my dad to shop for my mom. It’s the fabric of family life.

We arrived at dinnertime, so we went to the food court where we had to go to 4 different places to please everyone. Bill and I had burgers from Five Guys. What a treat.

Fritz had pizza, which he’s really not supposed to eat because he has an overbite and braces to correct the overbite and the braces hit his teeth when he chews. He uses a knife and fork and is careful not to mash his jaws together. And he doesn’t eat the “pizza bones” – the crust.

I can’t remember which siblings ate the first crust, but Billy was hungrily waiting for the second one. Billy and Peter had eaten sandwiches from Subway. Just as I had done when we ate at Subway earlier this week, Bill restricted them to 6″ subs. And it was not enough for the growing boys.  Fritz was done and handed over the crust, but now Peter was claiming half for himself. They started to bicker, each expounding on why he was entitled to this scrap of food, and appealed to me to render a favorable verdict.  

“You split it,” I told Billy, “and he picks the one he wants.”

And then I saw the man at the next table throw his head back and laugh. He’d been watching us, this young dad with two little girls. Probably fascinated by my enormous family, definitely intrigued by boys, certainly curious about how the older, more experienced parents would handle this typical situation. I am just glad that, at that moment, the big girls were walking the squirmy tot around, I had finished a wholly delicious meal, and I was relaxed and mellow, enjoying sitting next to my husband while we waited for the kids to finish up. I don’t always have a good reaction to kid bickering, but the conditions were right and I was able to be the good mom when I needed to.

But can I just say how fatiguing it is to always be “on” – to know that there is always someone watching, evaluating, judging?  

Dear Young Mom,

Yes, you, the one rushedly ushering her four children out of Mass last night before it was over.

I didn’t mean to eavesdrop.  I know you hesitated before lecturing your oldest…is she 7 or 8?  Probably getting ready for First Holy Communion, and just having made her First Penance…plus being the oldest child…she knows right from wrong and just has to correct those younger brothers, even if it does cause the meltdown you desperately wanted to avoid.

I’m that bossy woman in the vestibule who blocked your escape and made you wait for the final blessing.  I’m sorry if I overstepped my bounds.  I just thought you needed some reassurance.  When I said I know how you feel, I meant it.  Really.

Perhaps you think I have no idea.  Maybe you saw my family across the aisle during Mass.  Six, or at least five, well-behaved and reverent children who did not need their mother’s constant reminders to be quiet, pay attention, keep their hands to themselves, sit/stand/kneel.  In fact, yes, I did leave them to take the toddler out, and they still behaved properly without any adult supervision.  This is not an indictment on your parenting at all.  In fact, it should give you hope.

Eight or nine years ago, I had 4 children under the age of reason.  It was hard.  Let no one tell you otherwise.  And like you, I frequently had to attend Mass without my husband.  When one child acts up, you have to drag them all out.  I promise, I did have to drag them all out.  Often.  Their behavior last night is not due to naturally docile personalities, rather, it comes after years and years of fits and tantrums and walking in the back and hiding in the vestibule and retreating to a crying room and sometimes even leaving the building for a bit because I was sure they could be heard through several walls.  I’ve dealt with children with ears so sensitive they could not tolerate the loud music.  I’ve dealt with children coping poorly with a deployed father…and I was on the edge myself.  I’ve had 4 year olds who think since the 2 year old is getting away with it, they can do.  And 6 year olds who thought the same about the 4 year old’s antics.  I have brought food, books, and toys…and not brought food, books, and toys.  I have made the mistake of giving a toddler some item in the hopes it would make him a bit quieter only to have his sound effects in playing with the toy be louder than the original fussiness.  And I have let him play with that item anyway, knowing that the fit he will throw when I take it away will be even louder.  And at age 7, I have felt that every single one of them was not ready for Communion because they were so bad.  But something happens, perhaps the grace of the sacrament itself, and a squirmy 6 or 7 year old blossoms into a well-mannered 8 or 9 year old.  Most of the time at least.

I am now, finally, at the point where the majority of my children are older than your oldest girl.  I can take one (sometimes two) out of Mass when necessary, and leave the rest behind.  My oldest, like yours, will step in to discipline if necessary.  And if he did, that would cause problems for us, too.  But it’s not generally required.

There were many times that I did not think I would make it through Mass.  There were even a few Sunday mornings that started out so badly that I didn’t go.  I just did not have the strength.  And my sin, of course, was not so much in missing Mass as it was in thinking that I could ever have enough strength to do it.  I can’t do it – any of it – on my own.  Even last night, even arriving a few minutes late, right behind you, I took a moment to ask God for a good Mass, to get something out of it, to make it through without too much angst.  Sometimes the answer is yes.  But sometimes he sends me to the vestibule with a squirmy kid.

I know for certain that God gave me these seven kids, with all their unique faults, because I, with all my unique faults would somehow be the best thing for them.  I am also perfectly willing to believe that God gave me these special crosses to bear for the sole purpose of being right there in the vestibule last night when you needed a hug and an older mom to tell you it’s going to be all right, you can do it.  You can.  One day, sometimes just one hour at a time, with the grace of God.

One more thing: don’t ever take away a promised dinner out if they are too much during Saturday night Mass.  The person you punish most is yourself.  I hope you did drive-through as I suggested.  And I really hope you poured yourself a glass of wine when you got home.  It’s the best way to wash down that quarter pounder.

I’ll see you next week.  And in case I don’t, be sure that even if it’s from the vestibule, you stay for the final blessing: go in peace.