Monday, January 30, 2012

sweat equity

Even the kids found ways to contribute to this project.

Our (former apartment) new family room remodel:

Phase 1: Demo. (check.)

We spent this past weekend readying the space by clearing it of everything. No more carpet, no more cabinets, or appliances, or plumbing fixtures. more walls, no more ceiling tiles. Even the electrical wires were pulled to make way for a completely new open floor extension of our kitchen, an added bathroom, and a family great room.

My dad and brother along with John did the largest part of the labor, but the older kids sure did their share as well. Alice, Emma and Sam helped with hammers, and hauling, and even hours on step ladders pulling the staples left overhead after the ceiling tiles were stripped away. I was never more proud of their hard work.

In another week or so, contracters will be coming in to remove a couple walls between our kitchen and this unused space...and the room will blossom from there.

I've not decided if I'll post pictures as the work progresses or just tease you with a couple "before" shots, and a final "after"...and then backtrack. Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Here are Lucy, Mary & Grace showing the kitchen wall "before." That wooden door down the hallway on the right is currently our only access to the apartment space. For now.
Here Alice and Grace are dodging dust and debris in the completely gutted apartment space. In this photo, I'm standing on the backside of the wall I just showed looking across the space, toward the street. Things will look different very soon. (and I couldn't be more tickled.)

Monday, January 23, 2012

random acts of kindness

The weekend brought snow to these parts. Unfortunately, the rain that came through last night washed it all away just as quickly. While it was here though, we made the most of it. The kids spent a large part of Saturday outdoors building forts, clearing sidewalks, engaging in snowball battles, and the best...building a snow family in our front yard for all the passers-by to see. It took them the whole day, in shifts, to develop the ideas and finally build each, mom, a child playing in a pile of snowballs, even a snow-puppy whose tail wags in the breeze. Very cute indeed. All the while, those "on break" warming indoors to hot cocoa (coffee for me) would supervise from the snuggly comfort of the couch in the front window. It was great. A real team effort. Well, except for me and Anne. We just kept hot cocoa on the stove, and enjoyed the mostly quiet afternoon. (Laundry kept me plenty busy during her nap time.)

Dark came too soon, and I had to beg them all inside, assuring them there would be snow left on Sunday for another day of play.
Just as the last ones stripped off their snow clothes and settled inside, waiting out supper...the doorbell rang. None of us recognized the kind stranger at the door (I apologize if I should have...I'm terrible that way.)
Turns out, someone driving by saw the kids hard at work finishing the snow-family, and enjoyed the view. Enjoyed it enough in fact to be moved to stop by the grocery and pick us up a little treat. This kind lady on our front stoop, thanked the kiddos for their hard work, and handed over a grocery bag of 'smores fixins. Just like that. Random kindness.

I thanked her as she walked away, with a "thank you" that seemed way to insignificant for the trouble she'd just gone to. Sometimes I get so caught up in myself, and my little world to forget how simple, and powerful a little kindness can be. AWESOME! And the coolest is that the kids really got it...they couldn't say enough about the "cool" lady that stopped by.

In fact at dinner later (the one none of the kids ate much of, cause they were too full of 'smores and hot cocoa...and I was cool with that) we went around the table sharing the day's "Best" (an opportunity for everyone to speak about the best thing that happened that day) They were all in agreement that the BEST thing was that a total stranger would do something so nice. Me too. That is the BEST. And such a simple lesson for us all (especially me) about doing little things with love...and how it leaves us better for it...the giver and the reciever. So cool.

That kind lady with 'smores...she was God's hand in that moment.
And God is good (and apparently enjoys snowfamilies, and teamwork too.)
Thank you for reaching out to us in such a fun unexpected way.

Here's our snow family reaching out their hands in a friendly hello, and "thank you!"

ancient chinese secrets...debunked

A few of us ordered Chinese take-out Sunday night. (Yummm. HUGE treat.) Only a few of the older ones care for it, so it's a relatively inexpensive meal, while the younger ones nibble on baked chicken nuggets or some other "favorite" from home.

Anyhow, Rose opened one of the fortune cookies and asked me to read...

"Ignorance never settles a question."

Charlie was quick with a "What the heck does that mean?" and before I could muster some nonsense response (cause I really had no clue,) Rose saved me.

"It means, that's a DUMB fortune."

There. Settled.
Confusious might say that's one genious 5 year old. I'd agree.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


It's my word.

Pam over at Roamin Catholic Mom challenged her blog readers to find their "word" for the New Year...a montra, or theme, or thought to ponder/consider. Sort of resolution word.

Mine's easy. Obedience. And already being challenged. Big time.

You see, I've been praying since early December for some clarity in the New Year. Clarity to hear God's call, to recognize it, and more importantly to answer with a resounding "Yes." His joy being my strength and all, I want to please Him. And in doing so, recognize that if He's happy, I'm happy and back and forth. Sounds simple enough, right?

Till he comes calling...

And then I want to say..."is that really you, Lord? Or just a wrong-number? Cause, this doesn't sound like something you really want me to say yes to. Does it? Or does it. Oh Lord, how bout Maybe. Are you okay with maybe? Or how bout Next time. Or Not this thing, but the next thing, I'll for sure say yes then. I promise. Seriously. This doesn't seem like my thing...

Obedience. Ugggh. I stink at that.

The readings all last week weren't much help, either. (Thanks a lot God! You know how to nudge my heart just so, don't ya. Darnit.)

This song at mass on Sunday put me over the edge...oh, He's gooooood.

The Summons

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In Your company I'll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow in you and you in me.

So after a lot of ignoring, and him-hawing, and procrastinating, I gave a reluctant Yes. And now, giggling a little bit, cause hubby's involved in this too. We were asked to speak as a couple at an upcoming marriage retreat. He's reluctant too, but we both commented after mass Sunday that God's pretty clear about what he wants.
Somehow it seems easier to speak about the whole mom and chaos and kids topic, but sharing about our marriage, well...that's a whole 'nother ballgame.
One that's sure to inspire some good conversation and reflection as a couple as we prepare.
Shoot. Maybe that's okay.
Maybe, well maybe the Good Lord knows what he's up to afterall.

Speak Lord, I'm listening. I want to do your will...not? Yes, Jamie. Yes you do.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

and his droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow

Droll...d-r-o-l-e...(ding) That is incorrect.

The book she's had memorized word for word since the age of three ('Twas the Night Before Christmas)...and it was a simple, strange word that caught her up in the fifth round of the school spelling bee.


What the heck does "droll" mean, anyway?! It means she won't be going on the the county bee.

Still incredibly proud Emma! Way to represent!

Frank-the story teller.

I'd be a lying fool to tell you that our kids don't fight and bicker and argue and annoy the heck out of each other...often. They are brothers and sisters after all. One of my biggest pet peaves right now is the way any two of them can go on forever with Nuh-uh, yuh-huh, Nuh-uh, Yuh-huh business. Seriously! Someone just end it already!

But a weeks' worth of those drive-me-nuts--God-grant-me-patience--we-can-get-thru-this-together--Mom's-gonna-lose-it! moments, can be cancelled out with a single moment like this...
Frank barreled down the stairs the other morning, just as the older kids were gearing up for their walk to school. He was all fired up and excited about the dream he'd just awoken from, and wanted to share the good news that he'd "won first prize in a contest for a brand new Nerf Stampede ECS" (the coolest in Nerf's arsenal). He's been wanting one for awhile, and was so ecstatic by his dream, that even though he seemed aware it was only a dream, the joy it gave him was enough to last the whole day. And the big kids recognized this, and dropped everything while they gathered around to hear his story. It was awesome. I couldn't have begged them to do something this kind...but sometimes they just get it. They get the joy, and the need for attention, and know how to pull together when they should. Totally awesome. All eyes on Frank as he recalled his First Prize dream.
Made my little heart all warm and fuzzy and full again...seriously...yuh-huh!

Thank you God for these get me thru the others.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Christmas Wrap

--of birthday bashes, christmas chaos, and seasons smooching. Yes, I mean mistletoe!
I love Christmas! I enjoy advent, and the waiting & anticipating, and surprise planning, and sneaky-wrapping, and all that comes with the prep-work. But I LOVE Christmas! The big show. I love the family time, and the laughter, and the letting loose after weeks of well, hard-work, and the food, and the family time, and the laughter, and the music, and silliness, and even whiney kids all hopped up on too much chocolate and sugar, and even POP! Yes, Christmas means the older kids get soda. Wooohoooo!
I love that at our house Christmas lasts a full 12 days...and sometimes longer. Seriously. It's just that good. And by the time that first day of school rolls back around, it's darn hard to crawl out of bed. But being back in some sort of routine is good for us too. Sort of. Okay, yes it's good.
Anyways, since I've really slacked at telling you all about our 12 days of Christmas I thought I'd summarize with a few pics and thoughts.

Of course there are birthdays to celebrate. (Jesus...obviously.)

But then we've got a few here too.

Like Lucy... (okay, she's before Christmas, but I need to give her equal time)

And Sam, who turned 11 on the 28th. (that's 3 11-year-olds in the house now)
And me. 29 on the 29th! (my lucky year) Of course no cake or pictures. But Emma did make brownies, and I got the best birthday party EVER. Even my kids would agree.

Oh, and January Grace turned NINE! Oh my. Not baby Grace anymore.
Yes that's an ice-cream cake...cause by this time of year, I'm over birthday-cake-baking.

Next week (the 16th) my oldest pair, Alice and Emma will turn 12. And then we've got a break from birthdays until February 11...when we clebrate the gifts of John and Mary. Whew! moving on. As if Christ isn't enough reason to celebrate.

We also spent a few days hanging out with cousins over the Christmas break. Moms and dads visiting, and laughing, and eating, and story-telling (occasionally sitting in on a random card game or tiny tea-party, or joining in an impromtu karaoke show in the "quiet" room. Ha!) All the while kids doing what kids do best...playing hard...making memories with cousins...playing hide-n-seek, and games, and Nerf wars, and dance/karaoke parties, and even a sleep-over. (That was on my birthday!) Yes, we had 23 people sleeping under this roof for my birthday...only 3 adults and the other 20 ranging from ages 1-14. It was totally AWESOME!!! And, I should mention, that when I woke up the next morning to a quiet house, and sipped my coffee in the sitting room, no one ever would have guessed there were that many people sleeping in! I felt so incredibly blessed in those moments. For our family, immediate & extended, and for our home, and for all the goodness God brings into our lives. My heart was full. (and luckily so was my fridge!) They all woke up hungry, and I was tickled to death welcome them all around the table.

My niece and her long-time beau got engaged for Christmas! More celebrating! They live in Knoxville, TN. Although he is a native Canadian..."french Canadian!" my kids are quick to tell everyone. They spent Christmas with his family in Montreal, and then joined us after the first of the year for a couple days to visit, and what else? celebrate! More card-games, and laughter, and family times, and of course good food! We could listen to J.F. talk all night with his french accent...we're simple that way. I think he could be telling us that we have bad breath, and stinky feet and it would still sound beautiful. The kids love asking him to translate everything into french. Pretty sure he was ready to hit the road after a couple days...though they've visited before, and they've managed to stay together. Our family is a test for relationships that way...he still seems anxious to get married, and wants kids. We think he's a keeper! Conratulations Jenna!

Anne was a treasure this that stage where real joy comes in the paper and boxes. And most of her time at parties was spent doing just that. Running through the paper and squealing with delight. (or mooching for treats at the food table...she was on a 12 day sugar buzz I'm sure!) I tried desperately to pin her down for photos...I stink at's what I got...

Yep. Dear year I'd love a camera that doesn't have a 9 minute delay...I'm just sayin'
I'll try to be good.

Well...mostly good.

Can't be good all the time...not with this around...

Merry Kiss-mas! (I mean...Merry Christmas everyone!)

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Not this one...

But this one...

A few Christmas' back, I spotted this adorable little Elf on the clearance sales at our local Hallmark store. I fell in love instantly. Not because I read the box, and understood that this was a "magical" scout elf from the North Pole. No. Definitely NO! If I'd read the box, I might have put it back on the shelf. I fell in love for purely nostalgic grandparents had one exactly like him that they hung over the doorway to their kitchen every Christmas. Yes...Christmas at Grandma's...and Bing Crosby, and dancing, and card games, and hard tack candy and chocolates of every possible kind all spread out on colorful plastic trays on the coffee table...within kids reach. This elf brought the memories flooding back I bought it immediately.
And then I got home and read the book...and the "strings attached." And at first it sounded fun. He arrives at our house each season with St. Nicholas (Dec. 6th) and leaves again with Santa on Christmas eve. In the meantime his job is to keep an eye on the kiddos and report back to Santa each night. (He's a flying, spying magical elf, you know.) After a night of flying north and back, he lands at the house, in a different location each morning for the kids to find him, and be mindful. (right.) Sometimes he plays pranks thru the night. Sometimes he likes where he's at and doesn't move for several nights (if mom forgets.)
Truly, some nights it's fun and silly, and makes me feel like a kid dreaming/scheming up little pranks or places for the kids to find him in the morning. But mostly, it's become one more thing that demands energy from me at the holidays...not good energy...not focused on Jesus-energy. And I forget sometimes to remember about Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa's when I see him, cause I'm forcing myself to remember to just move the darn thing somewhere else before I go to bed.
Alice and Emma helped me with the scheming this year...and on his last night with us...before catching the sleighride with Santa...he threw us one wing-dinger of an Elf-surprise. He "elfed" our family room. Paper chains, tacky gold tinsel that we found in a bag of stuff from a house-warming prank years back, colored lights and paper snowflakes...a kids christmas wonderland. It was a fun farewell...

And it's more fun now that the older kids can help in the surprise and fun for the younger ones. But I have to say (scrooge that I am) I'm really looking forward to the year I can just pull him out of the box and set him in the doorway to my kitchen, and let my grandkids "remember" songs and dancing, and cardplaying, and christmas treats within easy reach...a silly elf bringing smiles and happy christmas memories of grandma and grandpa's house.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

“These are days you’ll remember
Never before and never since, I promise
Will the whole world be warm as this
And as you feel it,
You’ll know it’s true
That you are blessed and lucky.”

~lyrics, "These are Days" by 10,000 Maniacs

I borrowed these lyrics to paste into my Christmas letter this year. Simple words that manage to sum up my feelings for where we're at in life right now. One of my favorite songs from---shoot---many years ago, that somehow made their way back into my head recently.

We kicked off our days of Christmas on the Eve. We all (minus little Anne, who preferred to nap at Grandma & Grandpa's) attended 4:00 Children's Mass at our parish. Eight of our kids had "jobs" to do, ranging from singing in the choir (3 oldest girls) to dressing up in the Nativity play...4 Angels and a Dove to be exact. Sam and Lucy were the only ones in the pew with us, which somehow made me feel older, and was a strange mix of feelings at the realization that the day will come when there will be no little climbing toddlers or crying babies at Mass with us anymore. I didn't know whether to cheer or cry. I kinda missed the climbing babble...kinda.

Anyhow, it was a beautiful Mass, and I particulary enjoyed visiting the Manger scene afterwards with the kids and pointing out the various "players" (statues) in the real story of Christmas.

Afterwards we celebrated at my parents for their traditional Christmas Eve get-together. My brother and family from Tennessee weren't able to make it, but we talked on the phone briefly, and celebrated both Christmas, and his 40th birthday in his absence. We whooped it up good.
Dad likes to come up with Trivia games for the kids...their answers are sometimes priceless. I can't recall them now, but I know we giggled more than a couple times at their simple words of wisdom. Too cute.
We exchanged gifts, and played games, and ate good foods, and just enjoyed spending happy times together; adults grateful for each others' presence, kids grateful for well, presents.

~Our traditional pose in front of the tree...just after mass before sweaters and "stuffy church clothes" are ripped off, and just before diving into the food goodies. Say CHEESE!

on the 10th day of christmas...

Wow! Has it been nearly 2 weeks again, since I've posted?!

I hate that.

I mean, I love that our days have been so full...good full. Each day blessed, like a new gift to unwrap. Truly these have been the richest days of Christmas I've ever experienced. Maybe it comes with age...or increased understanding of God's great love...maybe I just have my eyes (and heart) open. Who knows. It's been a wonderful Christmas season thus far, with more treasures to come. It's gonna take me several posts to unravel exactly how we've spent our time since I've last written (Christmas Adam, I believe.)

I'll start with something from this morning though...very random...and completely unrelated to Christmas at all. Can't help it, that's how my mind works...randomly.

As I was wiping down the windows and glass doors in the kitchen this morning...God laughed. And sent me a "helper."

Ewwww....gross boogies, and drool mixed with tears. Had to set down the windex and towels to clean her up, and just love on her for a bit. 'Tis the season for runny noses, and babies needing extra snuggly time.