Big family fashions

I actually don’t like to wear t-shirts with words, slogans, pictures or corporate logos. But when going en masse to a large public venue like an amusement park, it is nice to have a “shut-em-up-before-they-even-open-their-mouths” option for apparel.

My sister sent me this link with this t-shirt:

Why do we have a large family? We’re trying to outnumber the liberals!

They really should make it in maternity sizes.

Bacon for breakfast

My running partner, Greta, is injured. I haven’t been running without the dog since October, when I ran the Army Ten Miler. I’m not sure I know how to do it alone anymore.

Last night I found myself in an awkward corner. A friend of mine had one of those parties where you come and buy stuff. Worse yet, it was jewelry. I just don’t wear jewelry, and I have a difficult time thinking things like, “Oh, this would look just simply adorable on my mother!” I really should have declined the invite, as I have done with all the other invites I’ve gotten for similar parties during Lent, but the friend wasn’t sure many people would really come and I wanted to support her. So the checkbook and I went, leaving the kids with their doting father who put them all nicely to bed.

There were only a few people there when I arrived, and so the hostess gave me a personal tour of the food selections which she had made herself. It was a limited array, because it wasn’t a big party: brownies, mini-pecan pies dipped in chocolate, cheese pinwheels with marinara sauce, stuffed dates wrapped in bacon and sesame bread sticks wrapped in bacon. And after proudly showing off the result of her labor, she stood expectantly waiting for me to sample them and tell her what I thought.

I felt badly. I really would have enjoyed tasting her food, but I had no good excuse for eating bacon on a Friday in Lent. Had I found myself at a seated dinner at which my presence was required, and the host served roast beef, it would be awkward indeed to refuse the food. But these were appetizers in the evening, and I had already eaten dinner. I politely explained that if there were any leftovers, I would happily sample them the next day, but that I couldn’t eat the bacon on Friday. Naturally, as a hostess, she was terribly upset that two-thirds of her finger foods were off limits to her guest. She asked about the desserts, and I told her I had given up chocolate too. I tried to reassure her that I would not starve, that I had eaten dinner, that those cheese pinwheels looked yummy (they were!). Thankfully, the doorbell began ringing, and she was soon distracted by the needs of other guests.

My two Catholic friends who came later were spared a similar scene because there were enough people there that the hostess just waved in the direction of the food and drinks. Mental note: arrive a half-hour after the start time of the party next time.

I did try these bacon wrapped delicacies this morning, and they were delicious. I’ll have to call my friend to tell her so, and I will have to clarify that she should never feel she has to cater to the dietary limitations of a Catholic. I do know how she feels, having frequently had vegetarian guests and once having hosted a boy who was allergic to pork (hooray for Hebrew National hot dogs!). But still, I don’t expect a non-Catholic to remember the no-meat-on-Friday rule and to provide a vast selection of acceptable alternatives.

Will you, or will you not, bow and sing the bunny song?

You have to have seen the Veggie Tales video, Rack, Shack, and Benny to be able to laugh at this story.

“We’re obviously surprised by the overwhelming response and offense people have taken,” said Semler, adding that the Holy Week timing was an unfortunate coincidence. “We are certainly in the process of trying to figure out what we’re going to do next.”

Surprised, huh? Come on, don’t they know by now that Christians have no sense of humor? Gosh, we’re almost as bad as the Muslims who get all offended when you desecrate a copy of the Koran. Sheesh, what is up with these fanatical types?

I don’t find the “artwork” amusing at all, but I’ll leave the ranting to others. In the meantime, you’ll find me singing:

Da bunny, da bunny –
Ooo – I love da bunny.

H/T: The Cafeteria Is Closed

Another day, another dollar

Fritz has been feeling under the weather since this past weekend. Nothing terrible or needing medical attention, just a run-down feeling, some stomach achiness, headache, stuffy ears. On Sunday, Bill told Fritz they needed to go get him some cleats and a new glove for the upcoming baseball season, and he begged off – a sure sign that he was sick.

So when he told me yesterday morning, in tears, that his ear hurt really badly, I was not at all surprised. And even though he hadn’t had one in years, I was positive that he did have an ear infection.

But, boy oh boy, was I mad at him. You see, he woke up at his usual time between 6 and 630 am. He asked to watch the two episodes of Lost in Space that he hadn’t seen yet on the Netflix DVD. After that he got dressed and then set to work at the dining room table on his first drawing of the day. {My three oldest kids draw multiple pictures every day from their imagination. I do not know if this is normal for most kids, but it is quite the usual thing around here. The drawings have gotten more and more detailed as the kids have gotten older. Billy now adds word bubbles, asking me if he spelled “RETREAT!” correctly – can you guess what his drawings look like? Katie did one the other day with snooty-looking women walking snooty-looking dogs. It was hysterical.} And this is where I found him at 9 am when I suggested we begin with math.

That’s when the tears came. And I asked him why he didn’t happen to mention the earache in the previous 3 hours he’d been awake. Why suddenly tears when it’s time to start school, but no tears when he’s busy working on his drawing?

I called the doc and got an appointment for later that morning (sort of – the post had a power surge and after the guy on the phone told me to come in at 11 am, the power went out and the appointment wasn’t finalized. I went in anyway, and they accommodated me, thankfully). In the meantime, I made him do his schoolwork, because I am a mean teacher and an even meaner mom.

Off we go to the doctor, and we get out of that office before noon, but we need to go to the pharmacy for antibiotics (yes, he had an ear infection). Jenny decides she’s had enough and wants to go home, so she moans and sprawls on the floor. I cheerfully remind her several times that there are big men wearing big boots who will not see her and will accidentally step on her and it will hurt and perhaps she ought to not lay herself quite so much in the aisle. After a while, she grew tired of the hard floor and relocated to the chair into which she proceeded to contort her little body into a myriad of ever-changing shapes. At least she was no longer moaning.

I suppose I could have picked her up from the beginning and made her sit in a chair. Or tried to hold her and Pete in my arms. But the floor area wasn’t particularly high-traffic, and I figured that her low moaning and inconvenient location was preferable to everyone within fifty feet than the full-blown tantrum that simmered just below the surface and would have boiled over at the first sign of a battle of wills. And despite her imperfect behavior, she was well within the normal for her age and only those in the immediate vicinity were aware of her presence: I judge acceptable behavior not by how many people tell me my kids are well-behaved but by how few people notice their even being there to begin with.

In the meantime, Pete did some squirming and back-arching in my arms and then finally settled down and went to sleep. I really would have preferred he squirm and arch his back, though. He slept for about 10 minutes before they called our number. Five minutes later, as I’m getting him in the car, he woke up. And that was the end of naptime. Three hours later, he was a mess, and his usual two-hour midday snooze was sorely missed.

What’s a mother to do? Make dinner, take the kids to baseball practice, and thank God Almighty that both little ones fell sound asleep on the way home (and not on the way there!), and that they stayed asleep, and that the older ones didn’t give us (much) bedtime grief.

And then rise this morning to begin a fresh day.


I tried this bread recipe from Barbara at Praying for Grace. I was skeptical. Less than 5 minutes to get all the ingredients through the food processor. Rest the dough for 10 – 30 minutes. Roll it out, roll it up, let it rise and bake. Easy. It was yummy. I made a second loaf with one cup of whole wheat flour and two cups of white, and that is good too. Next time, I’ll try half and half wheat/white. Tastes great toasted and slathered with butter, but doesn’t everything?

And here’s the recipe I made last weekend for my friend Doug’s party: Kells Guinness Meatballs. They are similar to Swedish meatballs, but the cream sauce has Guinness beer in it. I do not like beer at all, but this sauce is really good – sweet. Double the recipe uses about one can of Guinness, which is sold in packs of four. Those other three cans will keep, if you don’t happen to have a close family member who will gladly finish them off.


Fun with braces. These are paperclips. He calls them fangs. He had fun playing with magnets too – seeing just how many he could get to dangle in a drooping line.

And I lopped off all my hair. I like it better today than yesterday. I guess it’s growing on me (awful pun intentional). Bill, in trying to say something positive, said that it was a good cut for running. Because there are so many people I’m trying to impress at 5 am.

There are those who do…and those who tell others what to do

The other night at dinner, Bill and I were discussing the Great Books curriculum at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California. We agreed that if our kids wanted a liberal arts education, this would be the program we would encourage them to consider.

“But honestly, Bill, I really would like them to enroll in a Bachelor of Science program. I just, uh, well, no offense, but I just don’t see the use of a liberal arts education.”

“Face it, Michelle, people with a Bachelor of Science degree work for people with a Bachelor of Arts degree.”


Dear, sweet husband, please note that I did not argue with you.

Because everybody deserves the same treatment we give our wounded soldiers…

…be sure to vote for Hillary in the next elections.

Make no mistakes about it: the Walter Reed fiasco is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to problems with government sponsored health care. It is not the care that wounded soldiers get, it is the care that every single person in the military health care system gets. It is wounded soldiers, healthy soldiers, spouses, children and retirees. What is happening at Walter Reed is happening everywhere that the military, the former military and their dependents receive care.

And it could be your health care system, too. Just vote for her. Watch it happen. No, you won’t pay a dime for that office visit. Will that be any consolation when the care you receive is inadequate? How about when it takes a month to get an appointment? And guess what? If your child has an earache, you will be directed to the nearest emergency room, because their offices will be too booked to accommodate you. But you won’t mind spending 3 hours waiting for a doctor to see you and another hour waiting for your antibiotic at the pharmacy, because that ER visit and the prescription will be totally free.

Go here to read about Lorri’s nightmare, and then think long and hard about the real cost of a universal health care system. Is that really better than what we have now?

Do you want more examples? The ER doc who wasn’t sure if Petey’s arm was broken. My neighbor who had constant menstrual bleeding for six months and was repeatedly told that it was an “hormonal hiccup.” The doctor who told another neighbor that she could not possibly have strep throat despite the fact that all three of her kids had it – she had to demand a throat culture.

Tricare: when it is good, it is very very good; and when it is bad, it is horrid.

I know, two daily rants in one day. I’ll calm down soon.

Just another reason to homeschool

When Bill and I decided to homeschool, there was a long list of reasons why. Among the top five was his military career. We knew he would deploy during Fritz’s kindergarten year, and we knew that if he continued his employment with Uncle Sam, there would be many other times when it would be more convenient to have a school schedule that suited our needs.

Sure enough, six months after he returned, he began working in DC on temporary orders that did not give us an allowance to move. Unwilling to pay out of pocket to relocate the family from New Jersey, we put up with his weekend commute for about 6 months. It wasn’t fun, but it was better than deployment.

During the week, Bill lived in a one-bedroom hotel suite. He had a kitchen with a full-sized fridge, a microwave, full-sized range/oven and even a dishwasher (I didn’t have one of those in NJ!). The dining area had a table and four chairs, the sofa was a sleeper, and the bedroom contained a king size bed. I would have moved in at once, but it was in the city of Arlington and dragging four kids to the little playground a few blocks away would have been tedious to do 3 or 4 times a day. And keeping the kids quiet in a hotel for hours on end was not realistic.

We did go down for a few days at a time on more than one occasion, hauling Fritz’s 1st grade books with us. It was just an attempt to have a bit more family time. We were desperate.

Every day I was thankful to have the ability to homeschool. I’m not stupid. I know that administrators and teachers don’t appreciate it when kids miss school. I doubted I would have much trouble with the particular parochial school to which I would have sent Fritz, especially not in those really young grades. But now or a few years from now? You expect 3rd or 4th or 5th graders to spend much of their school day learning. Not learning in an ambiguous osmosis sense, but actually learning facts like history dates and state capitals and multiplication tables. How much of that does a good parent want their kids to skip? How often would I have pulled Fritz out to go have dinner with Dad in Virginia? I doubt more than once – if at all. School is important.

And so when I read this article, and I see that envisioned nightmare of mine happening to another military family, I am reminded that this reason of mine to homeschool is a very valid one. Dad is due back for a two-week leave from Iraq. One week falls during their spring break, but they’d like to keep the kids home the other week too. The principal initially told the mom the kids would get zeroes for the missed work – that it was an unexcused absence.

“I said, ‘We’re not talking about Disneyland here. Their father has been at war for the last eight months and all we have is this little bit of time together.’ God forbid if he goes back to Iraq and something happens to him,” Keila Rios said.

My bet is that the media stink will make this principal a wee bit more tolerant of the family’s request to do the schoolwork at home. Oh, and the best line from the article:

Griffin (the principal) told the Star he is a former soldier himself, and that he supports the troops and sympathizes with the family.

Yes, sir, I support you, I will just do absolutely nothing within my power to make your life even the tiniest bit easier or happier or nicer. But if you give me your APO address, I’ll be sure to send you some beef jerky and gum.


What business it is of yours?

Don’t you know about birth control?

For those of you who didn’t catch my first hint or my second, I am about eleven weeks pregnant. This fact was one topic of conversation at our friend Doug’s welcome home party yesterday. I got the birth control question. Someone else asked my husband if he didn’t happen to know what caused that sort of thing. Bill politely laughed and said he knew it was the water, and henceforth he would only be drinking beer.

I wonder what sort of response these people expected?

Do they really want to hear about how much we love our children? Would they possibly understand how awestruck I am whenever I hold a newborn? How fascinated I am by their sweet smells and ultra soft skin?

Or would they rather hear of my love of the Church and my trust in her wisdom? How being open to new life with every procreative act has deepened my intimacy with my husband? How my respect for myself and my sexuality (and also my respect for the dignity of all people) has matured through the use of NFP? How I have discovered that in all the world the only institution that has stood solidly and consistently for centuries against behavior that hurts both the individual and society is the Catholic Church and that to ignore her teachings on human relations is foolish and destructive?

Or do they want to learn about how I love my vocation of motherhood? How with every child I become less selfish and self-centered? How I have learned to surrender all my thoughts, words, desires and actions to do what is best for the family (and by extension, all of society) not just me?

Would the woman who asked me if I knew about birth control really want to hear that this child was intentionally conceived? Although I’ve had plenty of not-quite-planned pregnancies, this one particular one was quite deliberate. And even if it had not been planned, would she understand the difference between unplanned and unwanted? Never, never have I had an unwanted pregnancy.

The negative comments I get don’t really get me angry. I’m not surprised or shocked or upset or bothered. At least not in the sense that my blood pressure rises, and I get red in the face. It’s a bit silly to react that way when I’ve been hearing similar things since my third pregnancy in three years.

But at the same time, I am upset in a cool, logical sort of way. I think it’s outrageous that someone would say something like that. Really. The woman who asked about birth control is open about having her tubes tied. I’m sure she would consider it offensive if I told her she was foolish for doing that. I would never say such a thing. She’s obviously quite happy and comfortable with her decision…what purpose does it serve to make her feel badly? It’s not as though she could wave a magic wand and reverse her tubal ligation.

Just like I can’t wave a magic wand and change my pregnancy. Would these nosy commenters prefer to see me break down into tears, saying that I was overwhelmed with my five kids and couldn’t handle another? Would they counsel me to have an abortion? Or are they just trying to “help” me for next time? Point me in the direction of the pill or an IUD?

Is it that I look unhappy with my life or simply that they cannot imagine anyone truly being happy with a large family? I am not thrilled to have wrinkle lines beginning to form on my face, but I am pleased with this: the wrinkles are forming around my eyes and mouth from where I smile. And the “worry” lines on my forehead are mainly from squinting against the sun (curse these sensitive blue eyes), not from truly being anxious or even scowling. Perhaps when my kids hit their teen years, less pleasant wrinkles will begin to develop, but for now my life is more joyous than anything. And I know this feeling of contentment is projected to others because I get those “good mother” compliments all the time (not that I think I’m so good, but that I have that calm that comes after years of successfully outwitting and outmaneuvering the younger crowd).

And so today, since it’s a Sunday and the popular thing seems to be to relax our Lenten resolutions a bit on that day of the week, I’m opening comments. Tell me how thrilled you are that I’m having a baby. I need to hear from happy people.

Addendum: I know that lots of people don’t blog on Sundays – spending time with their family, blahblahblah – so I’ll leave the comments open through mid-week.