Homemaking

7 Quick Takes Friday: Mother Of The Year, Books, and Birthdays

1.

Story Time!!!

Last Friday evening, Christopher came into the house with swollen eyes.  He muttered something about Mary hitting him, which invited a rollicking and "effective" lecture from me about the

Importance Of Keeping Our Hands To Ourselves.

There was  a lot of hand waving and my voice may have been raised and I was sure everyone understood my message because only a few of them nodded off.

But funny thing, the next morning, Christopher's eyes were even

more

swollen and he looked as if

he'd been in a bar room brawl.

It was then I realized no one actually hit him (thereby rendering my lecture completely unnecessary), but that he actually was having an allergic reaction.

Yet another parenting win for the books, folks. 

There were many cell phone picks to family members asking if they had a clue why he looked so puffy.

When he woke up Sunday morning with slits where his brown eyes used to be, I hightailed it to the After Hours clinic.  We made it there by 8 am and when the doctor walked into the room, her first question was,

"Did you put your face in the poison sumac?"

I looked at her blankly.

"What's poison sumac?" I said.

"It's worse than poison ivy and as bad as poison oak.  And he needs a round of steroids."

She dosed him up and we were on our happy way.

2.  But It Gets Better!

We eked into the 10:30 Mass after waiting at the clinic for over two hours and we made it through Mass, though Toph was still very puffy and even a bit groggy from the mega dose of Benadryl the doc gave him. 

When Mass was over, we exited the pew and I don't know what happened, but as I was gabbing with a few of my lady friends off to the side, when I heard Christopher scream and then there was a delayed pause and then on cue...loud, very loud crying.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw John walk past me quickly, hissing for me to follow him and then I noticed the trail of blood down Topher's face and all over John's white shirt.

He's always taking one for the team, that John Duggan.

Appartently, Toph ran out of the pew, tripped and cut open his very swollen eyes.

The gash was large enough to warrant some stitches but I was

not

going back to sit in a waiting room.

So I did what all pushy mothers do, I bulldozed my way over to our doctor friend and asked him his medical opinion.

He gave me very specific, complicated instructions involving super gluing the wound shut, which I totally jumped on, and Boom. 

We escaped a trip to the ER.

Thank you, Doctor Woo.  You're my new best friend.

A few hours after the 'roids and with his new busted eye.  I'm a big fan of drugs.  He's gonna have a scar from that cut, though.

3.  But wait, there's still more!  

A few days later, I asked Topher to run outside and water my mums.  This has been a chore I'd been having him complete on the daily for the last week.

"I can't" he said.

I stopped washing dishes, turned around,  put my hands on my hips, and in my best mother voice said,

"You go outside

right now

and water those mums!"

"I can't," he said again.

Now I was getting mad, reved up, as they say.  

This kid doesn't know who he's messing with

, I thought.

But then he started crying.  A Lot.  He was hiccuping and trying to talk and the water works were in overdrive.

"What is the problem, Christopher?" I said, when I realized he was seriously upset.

"THE POISON IS BY THE HOSE!  EVERY TIME I BEND DOWN TO WATER THE FLOWERS, I PUT MY FACE IN THE POISON!"

Oh.

4.  Well, we're back in the swing of things.  We've been plugging away slowly at school for the past two weeks and...

it hasn't been awful. 

Granted, I did have a few learning curves in the first week, but I've learned a lot from my previous homeschooling years and I'm implementing what I know, so there's that.

It also helps that the kids are attending school a full two days a week.  They get to see their friends and interact with beloved teachers and they love it.  We do school work on the three other days they're home and while it's crazy chaotic, it's working for now.

I did take the obligatory first day of school photo and

every time

I look at it, I can't believe I have four school aged children.  

Not to sound dramatic, but I never thought this would happen. 

It seems like I've been in baby and toddler mode for so long that I was starting to believe I would forever exist with a nine month old on my hip and a toddler tugging at my pant leg. 

But that's not going to be true forever...it's not even true right now.  (I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!!!)

Topher started Kindergarten! 

Kindergarten

, people!

And he's so cute in that uniform, I can't stand it.

 So everyone is back at school two days a week and I'm at home with these two to keep me company:

5.  We've had two birthdays in the last week and I now have a brand new four year old gracing my halls:

Oh my gosh, this kid is such a handful.  My dad likes to remind me I'm in for it when she's a teenager.

And a brand new eight year old.  

With a heart as big as they come

Crazy.

6.  Last week I thought I would be cute and clever and post this picture on Instagram with a caption that read:  It's only 12:30 pm and dinner is ready!   (or something like that...)

Of course that was an official invitation from fate to strike my kitchen to smithereens.  

I went upstairs, forgot to turn off the stove, and burned the entire cast iron pot of Mexican casserole.

My lovely friends, Janet and Danny, sent me this

Lodge

preseasoned cast iron pot (y'all it's authentic) after they visited us this summer and in the short amount of time I've had it, I've already managed to char the bottom of it so badly, I need to re-season the stupid thing!

Just call me Martha.

Still, to prove I'm not a total failure on the domestic front,  Mary Bernadette and I did make these for her classmates:

Cute little suckers, ain't they?

I should tell you that the extra effort was made only as a compromise.  Mary asked to invite all her classmates to our house for a party.  When I broke out into a cold sweat, she conceded and took my cupcake offer.  

She was happy and so was I.

7.  I haven't done a post on books recently but I've been plowing through a few of them lately.  

Here are a few recent favorites I'm pondering--

I just started Flannery O'Connor's

The Habit of Being

, which is a collection of her personal letters, and I love it.

O'Connor is quirky, sarcastic (without being overly critical or negative), and

funny.

 "Last summer I went to Connecticut to visit the Fitzgeralds and smuggled three live ducks over Eastern Airlines for their children, but I have been inactive criminally since then."

And this:

“My mamma and I have interesting literary discussions like the following which took place over some Modern Library books that I had just ordered:
SHE: “Mobby Dick. I’ve always heard about that.”
ME: “Mow-by Dick.”
SHE: “Mow-by Dick. The Idiot. You would get something called Idiot. What’s it about?”
ME: “An idiot.” 

Also, she didn't take herself too seriously.

"Harcourt sent my book to Evelyn Waugh and his comment was: “If this is really the unaided work of a young lady, it is a remarkable product.” My mother was vastly insulted. She put the emphasis on if and lady. Does he suppose you’re not a lady? she says.”

And this:

"One of my Atlanta cousins informed me that she had written a book review on Wise Blood for her class (9th grade).  Why? said I.  Because, said she, I had to write one on some book the Sister wouldn't read.  I asked her what she said about it.  She said she said her cousin wrote the book and then she said everything that was on the jacket."

O'Connor suffered with the debilitating disease of Lupus, from which she died at the young age of 39, and she was an ardent creative and hello?  A Catholic. 

Overall, her letters make for a very interesting and delightful read.

I'm also digesting Pope Francis's

The Church of Mercy

, a collection of his homilies from the first year of his pontificate.

I loved JP and Benedict, don't get me wrong, but Pope Francis is

my

pope.  I know people have all kinds of "concerns" about him, but...

sigh

.

While I am not a theologian, I do think Pope Francis is the Holy Spirit's response to the radical traditionalists in the Church today who tend to be overly rigid and closed off.  Pope Francis does not encourage the Christian to live closed off.  Case in Point:

"While we Christians are enclosed in our groups, our movements, in our little worlds, we remain closed, and the same thing happens to us that happens to anything closed: when a room is closed, it begins to get dank.  If a person is closed up in that room, he or she becomes ill.  Whenever Christians are enclosed in their groups, parishes, and movements, they take ill.  If a Christians goes to the streets, or to the outskirts, he or she may risk the same thing that can happen to anyone out there: an accident....I would prefer a thousand times over a bruised Church to an ill Church! A Church a catechist with the courage to risk going out, and not a catechist who is studious, who knows everything but is always closed--such a person is not well."

The fact is, the longer I'm a Catholic, I find that what Francis is talking about--this tendency for Christians to inculcate ourselves in our comfortable little Catholic cliques-- is the norm, not the rarity. 

Anyway, the book is also challenging me, which is always a good thing because I'm an American and I like to be comfortable and feel good about myself and have everyone else feel good about me, too.  Sadly, comfort and self-esteem, and the good thoughts of others aren't going to get me to heaven.

Too bad, huh? 

I just finished reading Vinita Hampton Wright's

The Art Of Spiritual Writing

, which was very good.  I particularly liked her insight that just because something was spiritually significant to a writer personally, it might not necessary be spiritually insightful for the reader. I also liked the chapter that outlined the difference between personal and public writing. 

Wright says,

"Public writing takes the concrete details of a single, personal experiecne to generate a discussion of the more universal experience readers will relate to.
This aspect of writing takes a lot of nuance, because the writer is using personal details but they are carefully selected ones.  The end result is that they don't point so much toward the writer's experience as they evoke in the reader's mind their own experiences that fall into the same category.  To write more universally is not to write in more general terms.  Here is where in the world of essays, the truly skilled writers shine above the rest of us.  They manage to choose just the right details.  They unfold personal experience in such a way that the reader feels as if her own life is being described."

One spiritual writer who does this well--selecting the perfect detail to illustrate a larger theme--is Ann Voskamp. 

8.  And that's it.  

Have a terrific Friday and be sure to stop by Jenn's for more quick takes.  

Photos care of a friend

These photos care of Meaghan

______________________________

Why Blog?

Last week, a friend asked me what it is I write on this here blerg...aah...blog.   I fumbled for words because...what do I write about?  I threw out some random answer like, "I write about the funny things my kids say and my vocation and motherhood," but I wasn't really happy with my response.

Yes, I do write about those all those aspects of my life, but so do a lot of other people. I thought about this brief conversation for a few days afterwards and then I read one of my favorite creative gurus' thoughts on why he maintains a blog.  This is what Steven Pressfield says:

..."I don’t ask myself, “What do I imagine others want to read in this space?” I ask, “What do I want? What issues are bothering me? What questions am I exploring?”
Why write a book?
Why make a movie?
For myself, I set aside such answers as “To make money,” “to achieve success,” “to deliver a message,” “to change the world.”
I don’t believe in any of those. In my view they’re either unattainable or, if attained, do not produce happiness or peace of mind.
How about “to have fun?” “To produce beauty?” “To tell the truth?” “To serve the Muse?”

Now, for me at least, we’re getting closer.

When I read this, I gave Pressfield a virtual fist bump.  The reasons he mentions for blogging are the same ones that motivate me as well. 

I write to have fun and to laugh.  Hello?  My kids are hilarious.

I write to to tell stories.

I write to tell the truth, from my limited perspective.

And instead of saying I write to serve the muse, I would offer I write to serve God.

When my friend asked me what I write, I wish I had said, "The answer to that question for me is not what do I write, but why?"

In answering the question about why I blog, what I write about becomes obvious, I think.

I blog because it allows me to be a co-creator.  I blog because it allows me to search for beauty in daily life.  I blog because it allows me to think aloud, to figure out what I already know.  I blog because the act of sitting down to write is a good in and of itself and the writing helps me survive.

Oh, I also blog because I take a lot pictures, which I'm negligent about framing (ever!),  and I need a place to put all these photos.

7 Quick Takes Friday: The Hodge Podge Edition

1.

We had a fascinating discussion at my Great Books Book Club last Tuesday evening about whether or not it's possible to be a cranky saint.

  We are reading the classic novel

The Brothers Karamazov by

Fydor Dostoevsky and we were comparing two of the characters, Father Ferapont--a prayerful, religiously fastidious monk and Father Zossima--a prayerful, relationship-oriented monk.  I argued it was impossible to be cranky

and

be a Saint.  Not everyone agreed, though.  I really enjoyed the discussion, but was particularly moved by a story one of the participants shared.  I'm paraphrasing below:

There was a Catholic priest whose relative, Aunt Sally, caused a lot of drama and emotional turmoil within the extended family.  As Aunt Sally aged, instead of mellowing, her cantankerous ways worsened and were the source of much contention in the house.  When the old woman finally died, everyone in the family, including the priest, breathed a sigh of relief because...peace.  Finally.
The priest said shortly after his aunt's funeral, he had a dream where he went to heaven and when he got there, he was shocked to find Aunt Sally sitting at one of the tables!  Not only had St. Peter let her in, but when he spoke with her, he was shocked to discover how pleasant she was!  She made jokes and she was interesting and there was nothing at all off putting about her personality. 
It was then--through his dream--the priest realized how much his aunt physically suffered during her life and that suffering rendered her unable to be pleasant.  She was actually incapable of a gentle demeanor.
Yet God didn't judge his aunt on her ability to be pleasant, like the priest and his family judged her.  He judged her according to His standards and His standards are different than ours.  The world might have condemned this woman to hell, but Aunt Sally was counted as one of the Saints in Heaven.

2.  Speaking of dreams, both Mary Bernadette and Meaghan have had intense dreams recently where I played a starring role.

  I worried when they told me I was in their dream because what the heck?  If these were the most horrible kind of nightmares what exactly was I

doing

while my girls were being maimed and murdered in their slumber?  Did I just let some whacko take them while they helplessly struggled?  Did I allow them to suffer while I sipped on a Diet Coke and painted my nails?

Neigh, my friends.  Neigh.  It was better. 

I slayed the dragons.

In Mary's dream, a python snake was charging at all five of the kids at full speed while they were outside playing.  Mary, convinced she would be swallowed whole,  started to panic when I ran into the middle of the kid huddle, handed the baby to Meaghan and yelled,

"Run!  Let him take me instead!"

In Meaghan's dream, we were all in a grocery store when the store manager attacked Meaghan, punching her in the face and kicking her in the gut.  When I saw what was happening, 

I ran over to the manager dropped kicked him to the floor and then fired him.  

This is probably sick and twisted, but the girls' nightmares made me feel so good about myself as a mother.

Even while they sleep, they know if anyone ever messes with one of my kids, I will finish them.

3.  Deedoe slipped each of the kids a $20 the last time she visited. 

She claims they did something to "earn" the money, but her definition and my definition of the kind of work it takes to merit cash payment are different.

Deedoe gives money for things like getting dressed, brushing teeth, and going potty.  (I can see her huffing and puffing in disgust at her keyboard now.)

I give money for things like mowing two acres of lawn, doing the Thanksgiving dinner dishes/pots/pans, and cleaning toilets that have seen two weeks of the Bubonic Plague.

In any case, the kids all had money burning a hole in their piggy banks so I brought them to Michael's to pick out some new craft supplies.

See if you can guess what Camille picked out.

Ironically, she also purchased a pair of purple flip flops

, but her most favorite possession is the purple plastic cell phone with which she currently sleeps and takes photos.

She's a Diva, that one is.

4.

As many of you know, I lived in southern Louisiana for eleven years

and over that time, I perfected a couple of authentic area dishes

.  However, I never had much luck with Jambalaya, which is strange since it's one of the easier ones to perfect.

When my friend, Janet, came to visit me in June

, she rectified my lack of kitchen know-how by slipping me her Jambalaya recipe.

It's

slap your mama

good and because I love you, I've included it below. 

Your Welcome.

Janet Hoover's Awesome Jambalaya

That Will Feed A Large Crowd

1 lb chicken cut up into bite sized pieces

1 lb loose sausage

1 lb link andouille sausage

1 lb country style pork ribs grilled on the barbie

1 to 2 onions, green peppers, celery

White rice

Can of Rotel (or tomatoes depending on the kind of heat you want)

Cayenne

Salt and pepper

Saute loose sausage.  While sausage is cooking, add an onion, a bell pepper or two, and some celery and saute.

Add some cayenne pepper (I only used half a teaspoon) and some salt and pepper.

Add a can of Rotel.  (I skipped this step because rotel is spicy and my kids don't like the extra kick.  Too bad, so sad.  I added a boring 32 ounce can of tomatoes instead.)  Add 3 cups of rice and 4 1/2 cups of water.

Bake in a deep dish with a cover at 350* until it smells donzo.  (Janet said two hours, but mine was finished faster.  I'm not sure why.)

5. 

Behind our house is a gigantic golden corn field and a safe haven for copious deer

.  For the last few weeks, my family has been privy to up close and personal sightings every afternoon from around 4:00 pm until dusk.

Every time I see one, I think of that line from scripture that says,

"Like a deer thirsts for running water, so my soul thirsts for you, My God."

The deer are my constant reminder of how parched I am.

6.  Were slowly settling into the house and things are returning to "normal". 

I can't believe it's the middle of July already.  Before I know it, we're going to be gearing up for another year.

7.  Some photos of our "ordinary" summer days:

Go see

Jen for more quick taking

.

Happy Friday.

7 Quick Takes Friday: The My Internet Connection Makes Me Dangerous (and excessively loquatious) Edition

1.  Do you hear that?  It's the heavenly chorus of angels singing because...that's right....

WE HAVE AN INTERNTET CONNECTION!

It only took three weeks but hey, I'm detached.

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

2.  In a rare moment, Camille is taking a daytime nap beside me while I attempt to rectify my

status as a negligent mommy blogger.  I hear her soft, rhytmic breathing and am grateful for this quiet moment to think and to write.  Life has been chaotic this summer and so I'm grabbing this quick minute and running with all my might.

3. 

Well, we moved.  It was hard.  I know,

I said that already

.

4. 

Permit me a little tech talk, if you will.  John upgraded my phone and now, I am a card

carrying

member of the I-phone club.  Until now, I didn't get what the big fuss was about.

A phone is a phone, right?  Sure, some smart phones might do a few fancy tricks, but overall I thought people to attached to their technological devices.

But now?  I

get

it.

The I-Phone is a tool, a powerful tool.  It's ability to quickly allow you to surf the web or engage in everyday activiities with apps has changed my world.  I am flabbergasted at how easy my phone has made it for to do certain things, especially things like prayer.  I downloaded these apps and they've been so helpful:

Divine Office

I Confess

Rosary

I have even used my phone to help me pray my daily meditation at the 3 am hour, after a child has awakened me and I can not go back to sleep.

I am also loving the Pacer app and it's ability to track my steps in real life, which motivates me to get out the door and walk my hiney off (literally).

(I walked for

miles

last week!  It was the only productive thing I accomplished, I think.  I was too overwhelmed to do anything but walk.  So walk I did and I felt better than I have in months.)

And don't even talk to me about Instagram.

Instagram was

designed

for people like me.

(Are you on Instagram?  Follow me and I'll follow you back!)

See?  Instagram.  Love it.

5.

When John was a kid, his mother implemented a rule that required all eight of her children

to wear shoes from morning to night.  I always thought this was a little intense but now that I have six kids of my own, I think my mother-in-law was a genius.

None of my kids, especially the little ones, can

ever

find their shoes.  Seriously, it's a problem.

I'll load everyone and everything into the van for an outing and just as I put the car in reverse, someone announces:

Kid informant:  "Mom, insert one of my six children's names, doesn't have shoes on."

Me:  "(Insert one of our six children's names) WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES?"

Shoeless child:  (wide eyed and confused) "I lost them."

I put the car back in park and glare at the child in the rear view mirror.

Me:  "Go find them. 

Now.

"

Shoeless Child scurries out of the van and into the house or the yard to look.

Child returns,

shoeless

.

Me:  "WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES?"

Shoeless child--still looking dazed and confused--says,  "I lost them."

I look down at my lap and I clench my fists.  I utter a silent prayer.  I try not to swear under my breath and I fail.

Me:  "A PRIZE TO WHOMEVER FINDS--insert child's name here--SHOES!"

Five bodies scamper out of the van.  Minutes pass.  I sigh--again--and tap irritated fingers against my steering wheel.

Suddenly, a child emerges from the house triumphant, waving pedestrian footwear victoriously over his head.

"I FOUND THEM!  I FOUND THEM!  WHAT DO I WIN?"

"A trip to the grocery store where I will buy you food to sustain your body and nourish your mind," I mutter.

But the winner doesn't hear me.

He's too busy licking his chops and dreaming of his candy treat.

6.  This shoe conversation and search happens

every time

we leave

.

Every

time.

But sometimes, a shoeless child escapes my attention and we arrive to our destination and as I unload children and supplies and strollers, I am met with this:

 One shoe on, one shoe off.

Why?  Why?  Whhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhy?

7. In case you were wondering, this is what one's foot will look like should one decide to walk

around IKEA for

sixty

minutes with only one shoe.

This is so gross, I'm not even sure what to say about it.

Would any of you find it comfortable to routinely wear only one shoe? 

8.  Today is July 4th!  Happy Independence Day.

God bless, America, Land of the Free, Home of the Brave and Place of Abundant Wifi and Internet Access.

We live in a great country.

Go see Jen F for more fun.