Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Ten Things I've Learned This Year

1. When you need to be brave, you will be.  So don't waste time with worry when you don't have to.

2. Your worst fears can come hand in hand with your greatest blessings.  You'll be okay. God has a wonderful, mysterious plan.

3. Loving someone you've lost is time well spent.

4. There's more to life than what we see.

5. Love bridges the distance between earth and heaven, and connects the two with a strong and unbreakable bond. Maybe that sounds hokey...  I don't care.

6. You can't lose what you love.  Love will keep you close to the beloved through separation, distance, time, distraction, and the business of life lived apart. Love, indeed, never fails.

7. Pain is, at most, meant to be temporary. When pain comes, remember: Better things are always in store.

8. Even when you feel you're going to fall apart, you won't.

9. Happiness is not "owed" to us.  Neither is safety, comfort, or a long life. So rather than being angry in their absence, we owe gratitude in their presence.


10. Life involves some suffering and hard times. And that's okay. True joy is not diminished by hardship any more than the sun is diminished by clouds it will presently melt away.  Life is worth living.

And oh yes: there are better things to do than dishes. ;)

Happy fresh start, everyone.



Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Tale of Two Husbands

"Mommy! Annemarie says you pay people to watch me when you practice for the show. That's SO silly! You can watch me for free! I can watch you for free too. See? You are watching me right now mom..." 

Here was her exact expression, captured a couple months back...
Actually I wasn't. I was staring at the world of Minecraft, trying to help my 11 year-old find out how to change armor in a make-believe medieval world. Someone has stolen her wild wolf turned tame dog... I have to fix that too. 


"Mom, let me just kill this guy, see?  Oh don't worry he'll regenerate..."


?!?!?!?!?!?!? 

I don't have the wherewithal to explain the finer points of babysitting to my four year old right now. 

Having gotten a new virtual horse from an egg that my 11 year-old has to hatch by cracking it on black wool and then train to follow her commands (my 1980's brain just exploded), I went for a good old, paperboard book for my disgruntled Cecilia. Felicity clambers onto my lap too. They both fight over my right knee (who knows why?) kicking and screaming. I settle them, and then read to them about what Elmo is thinking about today.  

I read the words from memory while parodying them in my head: "What's Elmo thinking about today? Ya da da daaa!! Drowning! Yeah, drowning! Dorothy's thinking about drowning too! Isn't that right Dorothy! Ha ha ha! Whoops, where's Dorothy? Lets ask Mr. Noodle! Mr. Noodle, that's a puddle; that's not how you drown! Silly Mr. Noodle..." 

I look at my watch. Darn it. Should have left 12 minutes ago, to the Christmas germ swap... I mean craft and cocoa homeschool event.  

I slide two unhappy preschoolers on my lap, who would have preferred to hear Elmo 12 more times. I call on my 11 year old to leave Minecraft world. "Just one more minute mom! I'm opening an inn!"  

"Err... Okay just open the inn, and hurry!!" 

Turning to the sock laundry basket known as Luck o' the Drawer (no two are alike... not sure how we did that) I find a pair of socks that just really almost matches... One white ankle and one really faded pink crew. She can deal. I pop them on the four year old, and then go on the oft-recurring "Search For the Other Shoe".  

Meanwhile, Cecilia peels a banana completely, breaks off half to eat, and leaves the other on the rug. This is stepped on. By the white ankle sock. 

We leave 12 minutes later. We scramble up the stairs and start unwinding the kids from hats and scarfs and coats and boots.  The things I do for socialization with other homeschoolers...

"Oh, how ARE you! So good to see you again!" 

I adjust my falling ponytail, grab someone else's doll from my daughter who is about to feed it cocoa, and glance up mid-scream at the woman.  

Why does everyone else look so put together? I wonder sometimes. I mean, we moms probably all feel disheveled and distracted to some extent at some point, but man... Sometimes it's worse than others. And today was pretty bad. 

Neat as a pin, and flanked by two equally neat kids, the woman carried an older toddler with suspiciously flushed cheeks. Maybe it wasn't a fever... right? 

I was just soooo not in the mood for this. 

I recognize this lady, a friend of a friend, but I misremember her name. And I'd love to chat. I truly would. If one child wasn't screaming and the other wasn't touching every cookie left out on that handy table.  

"Yes. Good to see you. Yes. Well...." I half grinned and looked pointedly at the screaming toddler, who had apparently gone unnoticed. (You'd be amazed what we moms can tune out, you really would.)  

"Oh! Oh I won't keep you, I just wanted to say hi." And Mrs. Calm Cool and Collected--somewhere in the time it took to calm the screaming toddler and collect a flung hat--was gone.  

Defeated and fearing I'd come off as plainly rude, I started hot-gluing popsicle sticks and pom poms as my toddler "made" ornaments.  And I thought about you guys.  How I haven't been able to write in days, between Minecraft, homeschooling, Christmas shopping and preparations (mostly the Christmas stuff), and oh yes: being the wife of two men, one by day, one by night. Okay that's called hyperbole: Bob Crachitt is nearly twice my age.  :)





My this acting stuff... it's time-consuming.  It's tiring and fun. And flattering and bizarre to have--like I did a couple hours ago--over 800 people applauding our show.  


But just to keep myself from getting a big head, I have a frumpy bonnet and the biggest, most unflattering dress you can imagine to wear on stage.  I'm supposed to be poor and maternal.  Two very fluffy, sumptuous light-colored skirts that layer and flare out from the widest point of my child-bearing hips... yep, that fits the bill nicely.  As one kindly woman told me, "You're good!  But oh, that costume is the most unattractive dress I've ever seen, bar none."  Yes, she said "bar none."
Photo by Rob McKirdie
Sigh.  Looking at the pictures, I'm cringing at my far less-than-perfectness amidst the so much more put-together magical "Ghosts" of Christmas... but smiling at the same time.  I'm grateful to be part of something so absorbing during an emotional season of the year for me. 

Darn all those "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments... just, humbug.


I love that the Christmas Carol is a story of redemption.  A story revealing that happiness comes from selflessness.  A story about the value of the whole human family.  A story that shows that, whatever bad things have happened, love can overcome.  






A story where, in the end, Tiny Tim does not die.  I'm so grateful.


“He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, 
because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them 
to remember upon Christmas Day, 
Who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.” 
Mr. Crachitt Charles DickensA Christmas Carol

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Put 'em up: Seven Quick Takes

1.  I survived Black Friday.  In Walmart.  On a bike.  Just barely.

You see... my sister-in-law (who visited over Thanksgiving) and I were eager to obtain I-Pad's. My desire for an I-Pad is fueled primarily by this last, shaky week of blog withdrawal symptoms.

My eldest daughter has a lot of homeschool computer work during the day.  And I'm Mrs. Crachitt by night.  Thus, I haven't touched a keypad since my last post.

This shall never, ever do.

Curiosity having grown into want and then slowly blossomed into "need," I finally justified the expense of an I-Pad, at least by the price you can get around here at 1 in the morning the day after Thanksgiving.

2.  Oh yes, and the bike.  The beautiful yellow bike with roses and the super comfy seat.  For my birthday girl, who turned 10 the day before Thanksgiving, in true "if it snows, it blizzards" fashion.

I know you've seen the pics of the hordes waiting outside for hours to enter the hallowed halls of sales, but once inside the frenetic place you realize: there are an awful lot of employees who have no idea where things are, or what they should be doing.  I had an intense discussion with a party of five blue-vested folk who all told me I should look for "Steve, the one with glasses" who was roaming with the pieces of paper that equaled a bike, which I was then supposed to take to "Pet/Garden" to redeem.  All before actually purchasing said bike.  I guess it's a traffic control thing to confuse and disburse massive crowds by putting bikes in the pet/garden center, and I-Pad's in the fishing aisle.  (I only wish I was joking here).

After several minutes of fruitless chit-chat, I went to the correct department, straight to where I could plainly see the bike I wanted hanging two feet above my head.  I yanked the metal bar out, jumped up, unhooked the bike, and eased it down to the floor.  After three visits to the chiropractor, I can tentatively say no lasting harm was done.

So now, I have this gorgeous bike, in a store packed with exhausted and exasperated people.  I pedaled down a couple aisles till I met gridlocked humanity (the checkout line wrapped around the store).  I then painstakingly guided the bicycle past packed carts garnished with huge TV's.  I was alternately complimented on my selection and sworn at for my existence, depending on the stages of consciousness and conscience of the people I came across.

3.  Finally, my sis and I landed at the check out line.  3:30 in the morning.  Only to find the VA card she was using had been put on hold for "suspicious activity" (as in, purchases made in RI when she had--gasp--previously been in VA).

In our caffeinated glee, we had failed to bring a back-up method of payment.  Like oh, say, cash.

Ransacking our purses, we were able to leave with my bike.  But without the doorbuster I-Pad.  I saved $30 in three hours.  Woo...hoo.

It's harder to buy an I-Pad at full price when you had a tremendous deal in your hands.  Give me some time folks, give me some time.

4.  Anyway.  Other than that, I'm currently a rather full-time actress, with an eclectic stage family, who bizarrely hangs out for hours in a black theatre blocking, staging, spiking props, and practicing embracing my new husband in the "vom."  I watch my oldest daughter dancing around as my son, and my younger daughter first pulling an old man around on a chain, and later all in black, gliding around with a lantern as the Ghost of Christmas Future.  Tempers are wearing thin, diva personalities are emerging, colds are spreading.  And overall, I'm having a ball in this crazy life within a life.

What's also fascinating is how the theater works brilliantly with actors of special needs.  One excellent actor has Down's, one is blind, and a few have other handicaps... this also requires extra attention, prompting, and guidance in rehearsal.  But overall... Pepper, thanks for getting mom this fun, fun role.  And y'all come see us, if you can!  :)

5.  But I'm pretty tired, I have to admit.  It does qualify as "work."  Having memorized my lines in a cockney accent, I had to re-memorize them in "my own voice" for a "modern approach."  I managed to elicit tears during my Tiny Tim mourning scene, but just last night it was decided that Mrs. Crachitt would have been "tougher."  (growl)

Speaking of sleep... I'd better seek some now.

6.  While I likely won't be able to blog quite as much this month, I'll try to post some pictures here and there, and will check in more.  Hope you all are handling this beautiful season with aplomb.  As a friend of mine put on her status: "I thought the whole reason for advent was to 'slow down and prepare.'  I'm feeling a lot of 'hurry up and freak out' instead."

So, so true.  In response, I'm sharing a poem (you weren't expecting free printables today, right?)  I actually found on the wall of my husband's ex-girlfriend.  No, not the one I wrote about.  :D  The wonders of Facebook...anyway, it's perfect.  And I don't even know the song that goes with it; I'm just going by the words:
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;

Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.
-- John Greenleaf Whittier


7.  Okay, one more while I'm on my poetry kick.  This one was actually written by a friend of mine, who happens to be Rosie's older sister:

Early Christmas Lights

True, they smack a bit 

Of ignorance...and in sardonic mood
Remind me of how hastily the poor denuded Christmas trees
Will be cast into the gutter on December 26th...


But tonight,

There is a small glow in my heart
Because those lights all seem like little candles
Set out impatiently
To light the way for Christ...
Even the stones cry out for Him,
And even our poor shopping-crazy culture
Longs (without knowing) so much for His coming
That, like small children waiting for a Guest,
They put out all the welcome signs
A month before He comes.
-Wendy-Irene



Like I said in the title: if you're so inclined, just put 'em up.  In joy we await our Redeemer.  Happy Feast of St. Nicholas!
"Let clouds rain down the Just One, 
let the earth be opened and bud forth a Saviour;
let justice spring forth." Isaiah 45:8

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ten life-changing moments of gratitude, from bathtubs to Zuckerberg

10.  Polio vaccines.  I am thankful for polio vaccines (and other vaccines too, actually.)  Folks, I am absolutely tickled pink that I don't have to worry about my kids getting polio, pretty much. Crossing that anxiety off the list right now.  If I'd have kept up with posting one thing I'm thankful for daily on Facebook, like I intended too, that would be one of them.  Along with

9.  The absence of sharks.  Yep, I'm thankful to have a phobia that I very rarely encounter, and then only on the other side of a tempered glass aquarium that I've been assured throughout life would never, ever break, really Katie, are you kidding me.  :D

And yes, I've tried to overcome this fear.  Mad at my stupid anxiety in the presence of a fish as a teen, I'd press my face against the tank and try to be calm while seeing those cold eyes and sharp teeth swim slowly and menacingly by me at Mystic Aquarium.  Now that I'm older and more mature, I just give the predatorial exhibit a wide berth and gaze at penguins.  In the words of Mark Shea "no mortal power could possess me" to get in a shark cage or swim with those ugly fish.  Nor this, which will open in the spring in Kansas City:

World's Tallest Water Slide, which I'm thankful I'll never go on
I'm also thankful for the overall absence of famine, pestilence, war, anarchy, earthquakes, and twisters where I live.  On a positive note:

8.  Bathtubs.  The year was 2001, I was hugely pregnant, I was in Europe, and I did not have a bathtub at my disposal in my Austrian dorm.  There was no way to immerse my procreating massiveness in water.  This was hugely unpleasant.  So we had the opportunity to visit Ireland, Dan took me to the tourist spot I most wanted to see: a B&B with a white tub, in a white, windowless bathroom.  Where I stayed for blissful hours at a time.


 I love my bathtub.  Yes, it was designed in the 30's for a generation that attained, judging by the length, the regal height of about 4 feet.  Yes, when you immerse in said tub, you close your eyes not so much out of a desire for relaxation, but more of an urge to shut out the areas of soap residue you couldn't see while cleaning from a more upright angle.  Yes, your preschoolers will positively howl when they realize mommy is taking a bath to which they are not invited.  It's still worth it.  At least every six months or so.  With epsom salts.  Because they rock.  Really you must try them.

7.  Speaking of baths... I'm thankful to have, despite various chronic issues, an intact and serviceable body.  I just took a bath in aforementioned tub, infused with a dead sea salt tea-like concoction that worked magic such that I've only taken two Advil and one frozen bag of rice to the couch to write this.  Anyway, I had time to consider my pluses and minuses and you know... it's a win.  For having given life to four kids on earth and two in heaven... I'm content.  We all should give our bodies more credit than we tend to do, we women especially, and okay guys too, especially

6.  Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.  I'm thankful for them.  Personally, I didn't get introduced to the internet until college, and our entire dorm shared a corded phone.  When my kids get to college, I can Skype with them on a tablet.  I mean, that's awesome.  :)  I really appreciate I-Phones and Facebook.  I love looking up information and getting it instantly.  Yes, it can be abused, and yes we need to get some eye to eye contact with human beings but... wow.  Thanks, gentlemen.

5.  Fruit.  Sweet, healthy, no cooking required.  As we prepare for Thanksgiving, I am reminded that there was no cooking in Eden.  Macintosh apples are my favorites, an apparent genetic preference since I rarely get to eat any with all my kids ravenous for them as well.   I am not thankful that these seem harder to obtain these days.  I remember when you could get these any time of year, harumph. Which reminds me:

4.  Memory.  I mean, most of the time, I have some.  What was I saying again?  Oh yeah.  It's great to have memories!  Wouldn't it be awful if we just lived linearly?  I love the ability to be in the doldrums of peeling potatoes and busting out laughing over a prank a friend played on me in college.  Speaking of pranks: just today, I found two empty soda bottles in my mailbox (since it was hours ago, I still remember this.)  I've been grinning all afternoon plotting the return of these objects.  Also been grinning while thinking of the imminent visit of

Awesome pic of the three of us.  You're welcome. :D
3.  Inlaws.  To be precise, my sisters-in-law, our flesh-and-blood fairy godmothers.  I've been absolutely overwhelmed by the thoughtfullness, generosity, and kindness of these two ladies, which has materialized in everything from furniture to shoes.  It's a rare woman who can take another woman and say, "Sister, I love you dearly, but you are never to wear x article of clothing again. Here's five new ones of x.  Wear them or I will haunt you." And oh!  They have great taste.  :D And they are such fun to go Black Friday shopping with (no, I didn't say Thanksgiving shopping: we will dutifully be thankfully eating turkey at the proper times, never fear.)  Thanks to these beautiful ladies, Black Friday shopping is very much "family time."  Even more so than Thanksgiving football.  Go figure. :)

2.  Women and Infants Hospital.  Yes, they were awful during my pregnancy losses.  But they also sent me home with my 32 weeker, who's now a towering 11 year-old little mommy to her sisters. I'm very grateful for that, and that I can work to affect change at the hospital to help other women have better experiences.  Currently, I'm honored to be putting together a "miscarriage task force" to improve the treatment of women who have losses at the hospital.  Please feel free to message me with any personal stories, ideas on what to do, and/or what to avoid when a mom has a baby they can't take home. And thanks for your prayers for the success of this project! 

1.  Literacy.  Cuz how bad would it be if, like centuries of people before us, we couldn't read or write?

It goes without saying that I'm tremendously grateful for God and my faith, my husband and kids, my friends, my country, my home.  And you.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  :)


"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever." Psalm 136:1

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A maudlin memorial

"Great.  They are trying to make us cry."

I've never been so happy to end a church year and start off a new one!  Today, the Feast of Christ the King marked the end of the Year of Faith and boy, it really has been a year of testing my faith.

I was glad to take a moment this November--the month of giving thanks and the month of remembrance--to attend a memorial for the little girl who looks out for me in the heavenlies.  It wasn't quite what I was expecting however.

Two flutists were playing a sad, slow song in a corner.  Tables were stacked with grieving literature: How to grieve.  How not to grieve.  When, where, why, and how to get help with your grieving. How to grieve better.  How to help children grieve.  Holiday grieving.  How to help your goldfish grieve.

"Registration" was the first table.  You had to say and spell the name of your lost little one.  I wondered if there was a prize if you didn't break down, cuz good golly...

The woman in front of me wouldn't have gotten the prize.  "Lily Grace Comptan."  Tears streaming down her face as she corrected her last name.  I hesitated in the moment of decision: do I put my hand on her shoulder?  Or do I pretend to offer her the privacy she doesn't have?

The moment was over.  She'd gone to find tissues.  My turn.  I'm... okay.

"Perpetua Grace.  Yes, Perpetua.  P-E-R-"  The flutes played on.

Next hurdle was a table full of delicate glass angel figurines.  "You can choose one with praying hands, or a heart, or a star!" the usher chirped with a bit too much enthusiasm.

I chose one of the hundreds of faceless glass angels, one holding a heart.  And one with a star, for Gabriel.  I selected a square of colored cloth to make a memorial quilt piece for next year.  I got a "goody bag" with a worry stone in it: a small, cool, round thing with tiny pink footprint impressions. I wondered how much anxious rubbing it would take to wear the footprints away forever to plain, smooth stone again.

Handed a program, we entered the main conference room, walls lined with memorial quilts.  Every folding chair had a small packet of Kleenex on it.  Couples sat holding hands, leaning on shoulders, some crying quietly, some laughing distractedly, some staring blankly at the two instrumental guitarists tuning up.

I grinned.  It looked like a charismatic prayer meeting was about to start. "Will the flutists join them for a dirge?" Dan whispered with muted glee.  But they didn't.  Instead, a Beatles song began. "There are places I remember..."

Really??  I sighed inwardly.  Stop toying with my frayed emotions and get to the speaker already...

Fortunately, Marianne Leone was pretty good.  She quoted from her book "Knowing Jesse," reading of the 17 years she had with her son with cerebral palsy, recounting the tremendous value she found in serving a person who could neither speak nor walk.  When he died in his sleep in 2005, Marianne traveled to Italy for Easter, to see the "Running Madonna": the centuries old tradition where the mourning Mother of Sorrows sees her resurrected Son for the first time.

In Leone's case, she said she finds her own son, again, when she can serve others without expecting anything back.  That this was her son's gift to her.

Then the floor was opened up for bereaved parents to share their memories.  I just listened and got to use my new Kleenex pack as stories were told, and poems like "An Ugly Pair of Shoes" was read.  Despite its unpromising title, it hit the mark well.

Moms whose babies died of SIDS.  Moms with perinatal losses like mine, who had that awful, silent ultrasound.  Moms whose babies were sick, and died in the NICU.  Moms whose babies were born still.  Moms who had been coming to this service for years, and still carried great guilt about eating that underdone meat at the Portuguese festival in 1998 and the tragic e-coli infection . that followed. And one drunk dad who added a bit of comic relief by sharing about the trouble his ex-wife had caused him.

The babies' names were called, with parents hanging up the little angel ornaments.  That was my favorite moment of the whole service: to be recognized as parents of kids we'll never be seen with in the grocery store, the ones who can't be in the Christmas family pictures at the portrait studio. That was nice.  Healing, even.

With all the little angels in place, the trees were lit with white Christmas lights.  This called for yet another sad song from the guitarists:



And finally, the sad songs were over.  Couples retrieved their ornaments from the trees, and filtered away towards the cookies and coffee.

But a few moms lingered behind at a side table.  Using what was left from their tissues packs, with a quiet intensity, they were wrapping their ornaments so they wouldn't break. Slowly, gently, delicately, with great love: they were swaddling their little angels to take them home.

I'll see you at Home, little one.  Someday.  Finally.  It was always meant to be.


"Your grief will be turned into joy." John 16:20

Linked to Sunday Stillness, The Beauty in His Grip, and This, That, and the Other Thing

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How I Met Your Father

Here's what I posted on my Facebook wall yesterday:

Put kids to bed mid show when we realized what time it was, recording it for tomorrow. Husband then grabs the remote and continues playing Sofia the First. I was like ??? And he was like, "But I want to know how it ends." Way #48 that you know you have all girls....

And this was true.  But my husband posted the following on his FB wall yesterday:

18 years ago yesterday, two somewhat confused kids sat down in a classroom underneath the Commons to have a clear-the-air talk...which resulted in unexpected confessions of admiration and desire...which led to dating and a courtship that may someday be chronicled in multiple volumes (but I hope not)...Happy Little Anniversary to my beloved Katie! I am so blessed to have found you!


And this is also true... made me blush after I realized about 40 people had "liked" this before I realized this post had been shared with the world.  The things you can do with Facebook, man!  :) So I decided to respond in kind and over-over share because... I have a blog.  Welcome to Volume One.  :D

I realized with some awe yesterday that I've now spent half my life with my parents, and half my life "with" Dan.  We celebrate the day we first started "going out" every year as our "petite anniversaire."  (It's a term I made up to get more flowers.)

This date got another layer of meaning when I had my first miscarriage five years ago on the same date; thus, I always ask our little Gabriel to pray for our relationship, and am very thankful for his intercession.

I've decided to elaborate on the original November 17th here, in a (very) loose "Top Ten" Style.

1.  The year was 1996, the fall thereof.  After years of agonizing about which college to attend, I had selected the tiny, beautiful, and (in the end) perfect (for me) institution of learning: Christendom College.  Having turned out a full scholarship to Providence College (which was pretty idiotic, but anyway), I was now set on my chosen career track: becoming a nun.

2.  Not that I didn't have some mixed feelings about the plan.  I was actually very smitten with a gentleman I'd left in Rhode Island.  But I didn't believe my feelings were reciprocated, and I virtuously thought I should separate myself from this distraction to my "calling."  Terribly homesick for my family and this friend at first, I would pray several tearful rosaries for them all while walking the fields and avoiding the nests of killdeers (yep, there's a link for that too, tee hee) while the following song ran through my head (cuz it was the 90's, y'all):



I wanted you to have all that sappiness, complete with random nature scene.  This will now stick in your brain for the next two days.  You're welcome.

Anyway, I figured that four years of theology amongst a couple hundred young Catholics would help me figure things out.  I also thought it would be healthy to live a more normal life (i.e. a non-homeschooled existence) prior to my religious life.

3.  I moved on campus, and after a week of a set schedule of early rising, daily Mass, praying the Office, going to bed by nine PM, and doing laundry every afternoon at 2:15 PM, I figured I was ready to partake a bit in college life.  Thus I embarked upon the terrifying mission of attending the first dance of the year: the luau, on the sand of the volleyball court.  Which with the surrounding field, could pretty much accommodate the entire student body of 200 student bodies.

4.  First things first: I ask my roommate: "What's a luau?"  My poor roommate received a lot of such questions that first year.  "And what do we wear?"

"Hawaiian, Katie.  Something colorful.  Gotta go..."

With all the confident fashion sense of a homeschooler of the 90's, I selected my outfit:  I had a felt-like jacket of dark blue, green, and maroon (oh, I'm suffering just typing this) and stretchy pants.  Yep, I think that's what I wore.  And black shoes.  Oh.  Oh dear.  Oh.

5.  I wandered off across the dark campus to the blazing lights and sounds of the volleyball court turned dance hall, staring at the happy couples doing the lindy-hop version of swing dancing the college was known for.  Just sorta timidly stood on the sidelines till I caught the attention of a "shark," or one of the bachelors who'd graduated long ago but kinda hung around college events.

He asked me to dance.  I said, "Okayyy I guess... I really have no idea how to, though."

6.  I don't think he believed me, but I was quite serious.  I couldn't dance.  I was too scared to actually move to music, too stiff with decorum and shyness to have any sense of how this all worked.

Quickly tiring of helping this particular damsel in distress, my bored partner decided to introduce me to my future husband.  "Hey wait, this guy can teach ya...."

7.  It was definitely "huh" at first sight.  We matched at least.  Dan was wearing a large black t-shirt with an oriole prominently displayed over his chest.  It was this, but on a black background.

Dan could dance, well.  He'd been dancing with pretty much every upper class gal on the court already.  But I'm not 100% sure he ever looked at me, at any point during the dance.

"Oh, teach her?  Okay, sure sure.  Here we go."

Some song was starting.  I was being moved very quickly, my arms pulled in various directions.  I couldn't breathe.  I was stepping all over my own tied black shoes and his high-top sneakers.

"Loosen up, just loosen up, follow my lead."  I obediently stumbled my response.

Dan jived.  I tried.  "Man you're stiff!" he chuckled.  I mumbled an apology.  I kept looking up at this guy's face, all sweaty and excited, with eyes that kept sweeping the crowd, looking for his friends.  I was all like "???!!"  And he was like "...and chachacha... Hi!  Wait, I'll be right there...  Just teaching a freshman..."

His current response to my teasing on this important life moment is, "Well if I knew I was dancing with my future wife, I would have paid a lot more attention."

We were both relieved when the song ended.  Dan disappeared into the crowd, and I disappeared into my dorm to catch my breath, and feel the peaceful conviction of my chosen celibate vocation. Ah yes.  Home sweet silence.  Evening prayer...

8.  Over the next weeks, I focused on doing things I thought God would like me to do.  I joined the pro-life group, the rosary and altar society, the Legion of Mary, the choir... pretty much every group that would let me in.  And I was on the lookout to people to be Christ-like to.  And Dan readily presented himself as one of these people, as he was pretty much always on the girls' side of campus.  You see, Christendom is neatly divided into the girls' side and boys' side of campus, with a chapel in the middle.  But until curfew at midnight, we could all wander about as we pleased.

One afternoon while ironing one of my many ankle-length skirts, I heard sharp taps on my dorm window. This was particularly surprising since I was on the second floor.  My roommate jumped up with glee to look at the window:

"Hey look, that Dancause guy is rocking our window!"

"What does that mean?"  My poor roommate... I was exasperatingly clueless.  She was already hollering down for the message.

"KATIE!  HE WANTS TO TALK TO YOU!!"

I blanched.  I blushed.  I was all ???!!!!  My roommate chortled "Oooooo Katie, you should have told me..."  I mumbled that I had no idea what this was about...  "Oh just go down!"

"Uh, okay.  I'll finish ironing later, I guess."

I descended the stairs, opened the door, and in my most casual voice said, "What can I do for you?"

He grinned.  "Wanna take a walk?"

"A walk?"

"Yup.  A walk.  Have you seen the trails?"

"What trails?"

"Trails.  In the woods.  I'll show you.  C'mon."

"Uh.  Okay."

All I could think of as I followed this guy out into the woods was that despite the fact that I was in a select Catholic college, my mother would be absolutely horrified that I was about to walk with a young man, alone, in the woods.  Even on trails that led to "Our Lady's Overlook" and "Visio Pacis."  I puzzled as to why he was here, since it wasn't as if I had made any impression on him but "shy, awkward dancer."

Turns out, the two other gals Dan had originally come to see were not in their dorms, and the man figured he'd see who else was in.  And I was "in."  So I got invited on a walk.

Nobly swinging a stick to reduce the chance of us walking into spider webs, Dan offered excessive help in making sure I got over fallen logs, sticks, and twigs, so I took his hand a lot that day.  I loosened up enough to talk about such avant-garde topics as professors, classes, the quality of cafeteria food, the comparative beauty of various languages, and so on.

9.  In following weeks, he came to intentionally rock my window for trail walks, and rosary walks down the long path in front of the campus.  And all these mild pleasantries continued until one day, a good girl friend of mine before (and after) this event informed me that "That nice guy Dan is taking me on a long road trip.  So I guess I'll see you later!"

And I had the strangest reaction to this news.  I was... jealous.  And, darn it, I realized I liked this guy, which was not the plan.  Like at all.  And I couldn't shake the feeling.  Darn it.  With a college as small as this one, you saw everyone everyday, so there was no avoiding him.  Even his workstudy was in the very center of campus: the mailroom, where he could handily chat with everyone as they collected their letters.  (As you can tell, my husband is the introvert of the family.)

So, I did what any shy homeschooled gal would have done: I wrote him a letter about it.  Then I tore that one up and wrote another one.  And repeated this process.  When I read the final draft, I realized I would be extremely uncomfortable simply handing this dumb "I like you and I don't know what to do about that" letter to him... I'd just have to tell him and get it over with.  Gulp.

10.  So on November 17th, shortly after he returned from taking my friend on the road trip to see her family, I told Dan I needed to talk to him about something.  Naturally, he thought this was very (very) interesting.

Only trouble was, I just couldn't bring myself to say it.  I hemmed and hawed and changed the topic till curfew, when we found ourselves sitting in a classroom, with me out of excuses to talk about "it."

Finally, Dan made it easy.  He sighed and said, "Well, I do have something to tell you while I'm waiting for what you're going to say: For the past few weeks, I've been trying my darndest not to fall in love with you."

So I said, "Oh.  I've been doing the same thing."

No, no, you don't need to look away friends... Here's what happened next: I just sat there. Wringing my hands.  Smiling back at Dan.  And I asked, "So... what changes now?"

"Nothing!"  Dan was chuckling.  "Nothing has to change.  This is just fine."

And he walked me back to my dorm.  And that was how we started "dating," and the beginning of our life as a couple.  Didn't kiss the guy till St. Patrick's Day.  But that's a whole other story... ;)

"Truly, O God of Israel, our Savior, you work in mysterious ways."  Isaiah 45:15


Friday, November 15, 2013

Bless me Blogger, For I Am Human

(And you, Blogger, are incooperative.  At least in your app form.)  Here's seven "quick takes" on life as a single mom, with spouse on a business trip...

1.  Ever got cut off on a phone conversation and not realize it?  And you keep talking?  Yeah, that's kind of how it works when you are blogging on an I-Phone app but it's not really publishing the posts.  It's just sending them into the ether.  Groan...

2.  I've been sloppier than that this past week though: while my husband was in sunny L.A. on a conference, touring about in an electric blue Mustang convertible, I held my own in our mud green Sienna mini van... I'm not going to tell you how many fast food dinners were held in there this week.  :D  The important thing is that everyone got fed, right?  Even when your four year-old actually starts offering to clean the van with you... even then?  Yeah.  Still a parenting win, for sure...


3.  Not that I didn't cook too, of course, I did... and I discovered the brilliance of what I'll call "tub feeding."  It's getting late, you need to get your toddler fed, bathed, and ready for bed, and you're playing single mom for the week... guess what?  You can do it all at once!  Yep, spoon feed your kid while she plays in the tub, shampoo and rinse said kid, brush her teeth, and towel dry.  I felt very productive until it took her three hours to settle down and get to bed after the excitement of it all.

4.  So yes, I'm tired, which doesn't help me get my necessary alone time with the laptop... that and the fact that my oldest now uses this device all the time for homeschooling.  So I'm forced to do other things--like dishes--while she does schoolwork... 

5.  When I can do something as athletic as dishes, that is.  My over-enthusiastic attempt to return to kickboxing resulted in me wobbling very non-defensively through the house for days, popping Advil like candy.  I'm better now, finally, I think.  But yeah.  It's been a long week.  

6.  The highlight has definitely been that we're full swing into Christmas Carol rehearsals.  I've been earmarked as the goofball.  And this is (really) fun.   Haven't been in theatre since college and... oh, such a treat.  So far, we've "worked" on a Christmas party scene which opens up the traditional play.  And I'm the hostess.  Tee hee...:D

7.  More writing when I'm not the only adult around here.... only got this far because I pressed my 11 year-old into service settling little ones to sleep.  And all but she and I are finally out.

God bless 'em, every one.

Love when they sleep like this... :)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Seven Quick Takes: Red walkers and purple shadows

1.  "Mommy, you have such a pretty purple color under your eyes."  I received this compliment while wincing my way out of bed, right after trying to plant a kiss on the top of a toddler's head right as she decided to jump (this must happen at least five time per kid).  "Yep, and red's my favorite color!  This is a good day!" I mused out loud while feeling my bloodied lip.  As hoped, my toddler did not pick up on the sarcasm and beamed happily at her colorful mama.   It's all in the perspective I guess.  The shadows under my eyes are a pretty purple color today.  It could be an ugly yellow, but it's purple.  That's a plus. :)

2.  A minus is that I'm in pain.  Back pain.  Part of it's my fault.  Part of it is the fault of my body, outside of my direct control, as much as I will it to be otherwise...

It should be a known fact that individuals with moderate to severe RA in their hip should never, ever, no matter how good they are feeling or how great their hubris-filled amnesia, attempt kickboxing.  Which, as you might know, is a highly esteemed form of self-defense.  Case in point:


Alas, I did not follow this well-known, basic principle about not kickboxing when you have a bad hip.  I had a great time punching and kicking at imaginary enemies in my living room as my kids alternately roared approval and demanded snacks, pushed myself too much (as usual), and was fine till I wasn't anymore.

So now, I'm wanting my walker back.  The one I lent to my 97 year old grandmother: shiny red, with hand brakes, a basket, and a seat that folds down.  First got it while pregnant with Cecilia and was diagnosed with "mild back pain" and given Tylenol.  Since I was mysteriously couldn't walk with "mild back pain," I was also given an walker.  Gosh, I loved/hated that thing.



After delivery, the MRI found the deterioration that served as validation that I actually (no, really) had an issue.  Which was a good thing.

3.  Days like these are how I earned this my handicapped parking permit.  :D  It's one of the small, bright perks of having a chronic condition.  I try not to abuse having it... though it can be hard not to when you're trying to find parking while running late.  I always try to remember how it feels not to be able to walk well, and on the days I'm fine... I don't tend to use it.  But today... it's out, baby.

4.  How's that song go?  "I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 82...."

Yes, I let my daughters listen to some Taylor Swift songs.  Even if I didn't allow them to, the neighborhood kids are playing them (and far more questionable things) loudly from their i-pods in the playground.

Despite being a homeschooler, I don't wish to overshelter my kids: my theory is that they need to build up an immune system in more ways than one.  Since normal living will have them encountering all kinds of pop songs, I find it best to listen to some of it in the car with them, discussing themes, lyrics, interpretations, what we would change about the song, what's moral, and what's not so much.  Of course, then I find that my two year old tries to sing "Wrecking Ball," and my four year old is pretty adept at "Trouble."

video

5.  And "trouble" aptly describes their current state: both of my little ones have lingering coughs which have disturbed their sleep, and want me to carry them around.  Fliss looks up at me pitifully saying, "I want your hug!" (Hug = to be carried everywhere you go and never put down.)  But since I can barely walk, this is not possible.  Nor is it possible for me to reach past my knees to pick up ANYthing.  That is what the older girls are doing today.  Just wait till they get home from co-op/school.   heh heh  Like the produce bowling game that was going on while I took a long hot shower...

Want a rare handy tip from me?  Next time you want to get the skin off an onion, just roll it across the floor.  Seems to work pretty well...


6.  I'm breaking out the steroids, so am planning to be on the mend soon.  If only I had been doing yoga more consistently, right?  Kick-boxing seemed a better way to get into shape, but prednisone is sure going to be a set-back for that, sigh.  Some peaceful stretching would have been much better, in hindsight... speaking of which, I got drawn into an online discussion where yoga was equated to ouiji boards and pagan worship.  I disagreed, in long paragraphs.  Should have put my body where my words were.... :S

7.  I wouldn't say God has given me more than I can handle this round of trials anyway, despite the fact that my husband is leaving shortly for a business trip the other side of the continent.  I guess I'd chalk up the current state of affairs to Him challenging me to grow and trust His grace.  That's very difficult when the walk from the couch to the bathroom seems like an incredible journey, but I know He'll provide help, and meds, and grace.  Thank you Lord, in advance.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Top 10 Challenges to Homeschooling (so far)

(Prologue: I didn't have pics.  So I drew.  This was mostly a mistake. :)

10.  Not everyone does it.  No, for real, have you noticed?  Being a minority can be tough.  So you have to not only explain that you are doing it, but often what it is, and how it works.  And then...

9.  Not everyone likes it.  Or approves of it.  As in, not everyone agrees that you should be selfishly sheltering your child(ren), keeping them away from their peers and stunting their social growth. And many like to tell you that.


8.  Somedays, neither you nor your child will like it, either.  Somedays, you wish there was a "Mrs. So and So" who could do the cajoling and the encouraging.  Because you and your child have know each other for AGES, and, well...

7.  You know each other's weaknesses.  This is a plus and a minus.  A plus, because you can help your child through challenges a teacher of a class of 26 would probably not even notice.  A minus, because--on their weak days--your child knows you get soooo easily distracted and so "forgets" to do the work you thought they were doing the past hour...



6.  You can feel isolated, or overwhelmed, and often both.  Days spent at home can tempt you to think, "Here I am, alone on this planet, solely responsible for my child's future well-being; I better do more research!!"


and days you go out can be all like, "IN THE CAR KIDS, NOW or we'll be late for activity number FIVE!"  You do such activities with others of your kind because you want your kids to be socialized (duh) but you find

5.  There are many, many significant differences among those who homeschool.  Like some are doing it so their kids only eat organic, raw, vegan food, or so their kid never, ever hears about God. Some homeschool in the hopes that their child will never be bullied, or unhappy, or get sick. Others chose this life because their child has special needs, or because their child is especially... special. Sometimes it feels that no two have the same reasons.

What the average homeschool mom looks like
You will find yourself both wayyyy too religious, and not nearly religious enough for the crowd you're in.  I found myself arguing extensively on a homeschooling forum that people could do yoga stretches without becoming inadvertently Hindu (yes, I actually had this discussion, and it was heated!)  The result of the discussion?  You really (REALLY) can't please everybody.  Really.

4. The lack of backup.  You have no substitute teacher.  You have no principal down the hall. You have no school nurse in an office.  You are still mom, queen of all things domestic, and now... you're doing even more full-time mommying than before.

3.  Babies.  No, I love babies.  But babies don't homeschool well.  They just don't.  They add a certain element of unpredictability to the mix that a classroom would never allow.  Just writing this, I put ketchup over a plate of food I shan't describe, which promptly spilled, and now am typing besides wads of red-stained paper towels where they "cleaned up."  That's a small example of what babies can accomplish in the space of 43 seconds.


2.  The fear of getting behind.  It doesn't have to make sense.  It doesn't matter how many times you tell yourself that one-on-one instruction is going to make up for untold hours of mass class work. You still worry that your kid may not be on par with something their schooled peers are doing, like... gym or something.  Like a fellow homeschooler related, "Homeschooling is a daily trust walk through your insecurities."


1.  That it's so awesome, to be your child's teacher, to relearn so many things along with them, and to do that outside because it's a nice day.  Somedays, you could actually mourn any time your child spent in school, or even that there are schools at all, because sometimes, homeschooling feels just perfect. And then you take a deep breath, smile at the day's blessings, and head off to co-op, realizing last minute what your forgot: it was your turn to bring snacks.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Inside this present darkness

Welcome to the darkness, my friends.  In my spot on the planet, it's dark around 5:30 now.  5:30. Makes me want to bury my head in the sand, but then that would be even more dark.  So no.  I will sit here, looking out at the darkness.  Can be pretty...


No, I'm in a fab mood, no sweat.  This is how my face looks right now :D  Just like this. :D 

:D 

I won't deny that there's a beauty to the changing seasons that I would miss if I lived in, say, San Diego.  The blue of hot summer seashores to the orange of chilling leaves to the quiet white of winter to the swelling green of spring.  It's awesome.  And I love color.  I just don't favor the cold and dark part. :P

Thankfully, we live in a century of indoor heat and light.  So, my family is finding more time for music and dancing, riotously practicing lines to the total four plays we're in, already cuddling up to extra stories and home movies.  And more dancing.  They are currently putting on shows for each other.  Note exquisite playroom organization...


Been a tiring few days.  Halloween, followed by All Saints' Day, completed by All Souls' Day.  

Yes, my husband is "Floating Head" :)

This was pre-party games, MORE candy, followed by church filled with loud, tired, sugared kids :D
I love how "Holy Mother Church" guides us into the physical darkness of these shorter days, gently reminding us that we are mortal, that we need to pray for each other--those here and those gone before--and calling to mind the glories that await us.  Amen.  Alleluia!

Linking up to a new "Blog hop" called "What I wore Sunday."  I mean, why not?  Fortunately for you, my girls wanted a shot of me here (of course we visited the cemetery for All Souls'), so I have (most of) a wardrobe pic just for you.  Since you need to know what I wore today. 

Cecilia is modeling my coat
Lots of good luck is wished to my fellow parents, as our kids all wake up at 5 AM this week.  Have a gentle transition into the night, dear friends, and strong coffee in the morning. 

"But darkness shall not be dark to you, and night shall be light as day." Psalm 139:12