Life’s A Chore

The first lesson my children learn from the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the answer to the question, “Why did God make us?” The answer is simply “God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in Heaven.” What does this have to do with life and chores? Well, we are told that “To gain the happiness of heaven we must know, love and serve God in this world.”(St Joseph Baltimore Catechism No. 2) We have to live in this world before we can be happy with Him in the next. And living in this world requires that we have food, water and shelter. These are the basic requirements to sustain human life on earth and they are not just handed to us by the angels. If you are handed food, water or shelter it is another human being who served it to you. Living in the United States, even in our depressed economic times, it is easy to take for granted our source of life, God; but also the basic needs that are met by service of others for God. In our home August is the time of year where we call our children’s attention to those basic needs and just who is meeting them. In short, it is time for our annual family meeting where we divide out the chores and responsibilities required to sustain our family lifestyle. My kids actually look forward to it. As a matter of fact they have asked me when we are having the meeting because they look forward to the change of responsibilities it brings, new chores for the new year.

Running any household requires a lot of work. Someone has to pay the bills, wash the dishes, clean the house, make the meals, maintain the yard, maintain the house and vehicles, etc., etc. You know the drill. It is not possible for the mom and the dad to do all that work alone. And it is not practical for everyone’s budget to pay for that work to be done. In the end some human person has to do the work. I make a list in Excel of all the chores that need to be done on weekly basis that are within the children’s ability. At the meeting the children take turns picking their chores until all the chores are covered. I go back to the Excel spreadsheet and fill in their names, print it out and highlight their chores with their “color” (Yes, my children each have an assigned color. I will explain later). This makes it easy to identify who belongs to any particular chore. Simple. Now all the kids happily get up every day, look at the chart and merrily complete the task without any reminders from the parents and we all live happily ever after. The End.

If only . . . The reality is that we have to continue to teach our children self-discipline while weeding out our own selfish traits and working on knowing, loving and serving God in this world. So, I will share with you our time-tested system that has worked wonders in our home with need of very little punishment-based-discipline. I think we have used this system for five years now, maybe longer. In the main gathering place of our home, the dining room/school room we have a large magnetic dry erase board (a refrigerator would work well) with each the child’s name at the top. image My sister got us these really cute key chains that were easily converted to magnets. image Then we use simple square magnets as “marks” (these came from a Melissa & Doug Chore Chart that was too small for our family, but the markers proved useful). Every morning begins a new chart, a clean slate to start the day. Every time a child completes a chore or does an action that benefits the family he/she is rewarded with a mark. It is up to the child to place his mark on the chart and keep up with it. We don’t typically go back and recount marks as should’ve, could’ve, would’ve. You mark it as you get it or you lose it. This is just me, feel free to adapt it to your personality and style. The important thing is praising your child for doing good. Recognize the service that your child is giving and thank them for their efforts. At the end of the day the marks are converted into stars. We typically give 1 star for each 5 marks earned, but the younger children only need 2 marks for a star.

Now, we convert the “stars” into rewards. If you notice there are dots above each child’s name. These are stars. I used to draw actually stars, but for the sake of space we just put a dot to keep track. In our home 3 stars equals $1 to be used at the Dollar Store. We go about every 6 weeks to trade in our stars for toys and prizes. My kids love this trip! Each child’s stars max out at $5. I mean 8 x 5 = 40 and $40 each month adds up. (Which is another reason I take them every 6 weeks instead of monthly). In addition, we put $1 per star earned over 15 into a college account for that child. It could be a jar or piggy bank; but we have an account set up and just add it into that account. This way the child is still being rewarded, but is learning long-term goal setting as well. On occasions where money has been tight and $40 at the Dollar Store isn’t an option, I have watched for bargains or bought items that the kids will need for school and let them pick treats from the bag: things like pencils, markers or erasers and the occasional candy treat. They also use their stars to buy gifts for sibling’s birthdays or Christmas gifts for family. This is teaching them the sacrifice of using their earned rewards for the benefit of others. We have taken stars in trade for items that they have lost or broken, but we do not take stars as punishment. They cannot lose the stars they have earned.

The point of this exercise is to teach service and discipline and to help weed out selfishness and sloth; but to do it in a way that lifts up the child. After all when we do God’s will he sends down grace in abundance and we can hear in scripture his reply, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Shouldn’t we be doing the same with our own children?


I Did It

He stacked his bananas!

He stacked his bananas!

That is my toddler’s favorite exclamation, “I did it!” He is so proud of the smallest achievement and wants to make sure that I was witness to it. “I did it, Mom. I did it”. It just makes a mother’s heart melt and then overfill with love and pride, even when the achievement was to stack his cut banana slices into a tower. Well, that is how I feel today: like a toddler who has just achieved a task that was daunting to him, but simple in the eyes of those with lots more experience. My success? I wrote seven blogs in seven days. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but I will let you in on a few secrets.

1. My brain doesn’t work as well as it used to. I have trouble putting my thoughts into coherent sentences and my husband often says, “Can you finish a sentence so that I can understand you?” So, writing one post in a week is really an achievement for me these days.

2. I have seven kids at home, most under the age of nine. Finding the uninterrupted time to write was a real challenge, especially since I don’t function before 9 am or after 9 pm.

3. I am terribly self-conscious and concerned with what others will think, if I will offend someone, or if I just sound totally stupid. I love to make other people laugh, but not necessarily at me. This is much more easily accomplished face-to-face than in the printed word. Kudos to Simcha Fisher, Jen Fulwiler, and Rebecca Frech! They are my favorite reads and inspiration and make me laugh, cry and sometimes do both simultaneously. A special thank you to Jen for putting the challenge out on her own blog, Conversion Diary.

So, you may be wondering why I blog at all. Maybe not, but I’ll tell you anyway. The reason I do it is for myself. Not for you, not for my husband and not for my kids. For the first time in nearly twenty years, I am doing something just for myself. Don’t get me wrong. I love being a stay-at-home mom. I really enjoy my kids and watching them grow into confident, independent young adults, and I love every aspect of homeschooling: the lesson plans, the teaching, and the school supplies. But, everything else that I do is motivated out of service to my husband or children and this is just something that I enjoy, just because. Of course, I hope you enjoy my writing as well. I pray that it inspires or lifts up my readers, or at a minimum makes you smile. But, at the very core I am doing it for me. It helps me to be grounded and self-aware. It is challenging me to step out of my comfort zone and the little bubble of a world that I live in. It makes me think about my thoughts and about how others perceive experiences. It gives me a way to share my Catholic faith and my little way of life in this great big world. So, I will definitely keep on writing; but, not at the record rate of one blog per day. Once school starts back full force, I’ll be lucky to type a post each week! I hope you enjoyed my marathon blogging and I would love to hear which post has been your favorite so far. The reason I started the blog was for me. The reason that I will continue to do so is because it is making some small difference for someone else. Thank you to all of you who have encouraged me and for those who have chimed in with comments, especially on Facebook. I’m open to suggestions for future posts as well.

And, Oh! Mom, I did it! Look! I really did it.

Bullied Into Silence

Bullying is a hot topic these days. Anti-bullying campaigns are found in almost every school; teachers, parents and kids are all fed anti-bullying pamphlets and information; and it seems as though the nightly news carries at least one story about a child being bullied at school. This is not a new phenomenon. I imagine that there have been bullies for as long as there have been people–think Cane and Abel. I am skeptical, however, that the strategies being used to curb bullying these days will have any effect. As a parent it did not take me long to realize that if I wanted my child to behave a certain way I needed to model that behavior myself. Any bad habits that I display are mimicked and mirrored back to me by my children. It is a great lesson in humility if we choose to learn from it.

No, the problem with bullying today is that it is not limited to the school yard and the adults of the world are not being very good role models. As much as I enjoy Facebook and other digital media resources, the ability for anyone and everyone to give their opinion on any and all topics has not really improved human relationships. It takes only a few moments of scanning the comments of any hot-button issue before being assaulted by personal attacks and slander uttered by people with differing opinions. Witnessing this vitriol has made me much more hesitant about expressing my opinions in circles where I am uncertain how the majority feels. I don’t like confrontation of any kind and I am a pleaser by nature. However, we are in the midst of a culture that challenges everything. Relativism is rampant and logic has been replaced by emotion. No matter the trend of the times, truth is still truth and Natural Law cannot be changed to fit our whims. But I digress.

The bullying extends even farther beyond comment boxes. Anyone who followed the happenings in Austin, TX over the abortion law vote and the proceedings leading up to it, witnessed mob mentality and bullying tactics. I am all for freedom of speech, but spreading out across the Capitol grounds and raising a raucous in an effort to disrupt the vote (after the filibuster failed) is not democracy in action; it is anarchy. Chaining yourself to the railings in a Senate hearing, trying to sneak in jars of feces, urine and used tampons to throw at those who oppose you is not freedom of speech; it is disrespect for the democratic process and bullying to try to get your way because you know the vote is against you. Many don’t even realize that the Capitol was on lockdown the night of the final vote and that Prolifers were whisked into Senate offices guarded by DPS because of threats to their lives. This is bullying, people.

But let’s not stop there. The current Administration of our federal government has implemented bullying tactics of their own. The main stream media does nothing to help stand for the people. It did not report the extreme circumstances in Austin and it will not report the whole truth on the Obama Administration either. We cannot have civil discussions about the Martin-Zimmerman case because it has been so exploited by the media and the President for political gain and distraction. We have hundreds if not thousands of cases similar to Martin’s death, but the President did not comment on those cases; nor should he. It is not his place to comment on case under investigation. We have a judicial system in place to handle it. And again President Obama commented on the vote in Texas when he tweeted that he stands with Texas women. Not his place. It was a vote at the state level for Texans to decide and the majority of Texans think that a baby that feels pain should not be ripped apart and forced from its mother’s womb with forceps crushing its tiny skull. Sorry to be so blunt here, but I’m really tired of being silenced by the bullies. Silenced by the media when 600,000 people march for life at Washington, DC and not one television station reports it with any accuracy. But, wait there’s more. What happened in Benghazi and why is there silence about it? Why were we lied to during the elections and then the topic avoided to this day? What is happening with the NSA recording our emails and phone calls and we hear nothing? How about the fact that IRS was specifically targeting conservatives and Tea Party people? This is all bullying. It is wrong and it needs to stop. I could go on, but I’ll stop here.

I’m not trying to pick a fight here. Really. I like it when everyone gets along and plays nice. But, just like dealing with the bullies in the school yard, I’m not going to just sit back and keep taking it. I’m not going to sit idly by and watch them bully people into silence. I’m going to stand up and speak up. Marriage is for one man and one woman. Sex is for marriage and within that bond, unity and procreation. Once created, babies have a right to live. Pregnant women have the right to medical care and to be treated with dignity, their birth choices respected and honored. Children have a right to a mother and a father who take active roles in their upbringing. I know that there are thousands of situations that are not ideal out in the world. I get that. We are humans and terribly flawed, but we have to aim high to achieve greatness. We can do so much better than we are doing if we could start by having logical and honest discussions about the issues at hand. Quit with the personal attacks. Quit with the emotional arguments. Let’s talk through it one logical step at a time and work towards rebuilding trust and respect in our country.

I’m an idealist, I know–an Illusioned Perfectionist, I admit it. I don’t want to be bullied into not trusting my fellow countrymen. I don’t want to think differently about the woman next to me because she is wearing orange, or the person who posts on Facebook with an equal sign as their profile picture. I don’t want to feel nervous that someone might target me because I have a sticker of my family of 10 on the back window of my Suburban, or because I am wearing a blue shirt, or am holding a rosary in my hand. But, if we can’t discuss things logically and in a civil manner, if we fail to respect Natural Law, and if we stop following the Constitutional Law of our country then the bullying will turn our country into chaos and all the anti-bullying, feel-good, zero-tolerance without common sense policies still won’t be worth a darn thing to our kids.

An Open Letter to My Daughters

My Knight and I

My Knight and I

To My Daughters:

Many years have passed since the days of chivalry—the days of handsome, brave, young knights of honor and pure, sweet, fair young maidens; But, in our hearts there still lies a yearning for the seemingly lost ideals of that time in history.

As you grow into young ladies in our present world, you have the power within you to bring back to life the sweetness and purity that is so desired. In doing so, you must expect no less than a chivalrous “knight” to take your hand. Of course, there is but one man who meets perfectly all expectations of love and honor—Our Lord, Jesus Christ. He longs for pure and sweet young ladies to dedicate their lives for His Kingdom’s sake! Alas, if He should not ask you to become His bride and you hear God’s call to marriage, then you must face the task of patiently waiting for your knight to show forth his bravery, integrity and honor that you so greatly deserve.

How do you recognize a knight in modern times? Surely, he won’t be wearing a suit of armor! No, my daughters, it will not be easy to recognize a knight in the 21st century. In fact, without God’s wisdom and guidance, it is impossible. Guard yourself well! There are enemies among us pretending to be knights—only waiting to steal your honor and rob you of your purity and sweetness. Below is written a guideline of characteristics that every knight will bear. Of course, no man other than Christ has ever met these perfectly, but they will be consistently found in a knight’s actions.

1. He will be a man of God. It will be in his heart and not out of coercion by his parents or friends, and most definitely, not by you. His first desire will be to please God.
2. He will be your friend first and foremost. Someone whom you can trust with your innermost desires, dreams and secrets—and you will be his friend in like manner.
3. He will open doors and pull out chairs for you, knowing full well of your strength and ability to do it for yourself; but, desiring to ease your burdens.
4. He will be honest in small matters, especially those times when he thinks no one is watching.
5. He will find your beauty captivating, but will practice self-control, putting your well being above his own desires.
6. He will provide for all occasions where he accompanies you, demonstrating his worthiness and dedication to providing for his future family.
7. He will expect from you encouragement, support, and demonstration of kindness and respect to all those you know and who know him—for one day you may carry his good name.
8. He will show great love and respect for all human life: from conception and birth to natural death.
9. Finally, he will not be perfect, but will be forthcoming in asking for forgiveness and open to resolving conflicts or indifferences.

Follow my advice, dear girls, and you will find the same happiness and joy as I have found in being your father’s wife.

All My Love,
Written by Jill Mach 2007

Our oldest with her Knight

Our oldest with her Knight

Mach Moccasin

In my glory days when I had more energy than sense, my friend Karen and I would frequently work on projects together. We would send the kids off to play outside or in the other room and we would get to work talking constantly and laughing nearly as much. It was good for the body and the soul. Everyone should have a friend like this!

Anyway, on this particular day in October we were making costumes for the All Saints Party. Now you have to know Karen–she is incapable of doing anything ordinary. She has pattern drafting experience and inventor genes in every cell of her body, so these were not just any costumes. We had a Knights of Columbus complete with purple flumed hat,

Knights of Columbus

Knights of Columbus

St Elizabeth Ann Seton with black bonnet,
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

and St Elizabeth of Hungary with a red cape and basket of bread. So, when it came to making Kateri Tekiwitha for my 5-year-old, the cheap store-bought Pocahontas costume would simply not do. “Oh! You should make moccasins.” She said. “What?” I exclaimed, ” How do I make shoes?” Karen was surprised by my lack of experience in shoe making. “Didn’t you make shoes when you were little?” she asked. To which I replied,”Uh, no!” We both laughed and then she went on to explain that she and her 9 siblings all made shoes for fun. Apparently you just need scraps of wood, strips of fabric, a little bit of cardboard and a good stapler. Who knew? So, Karen quickly whips up a pattern without a second thought or the need to measure Alli’s foot. She eyeballs it and tells me to cut it out of the faux leather vinyl and sew it up. Simple. 3 pieces, 3 seams and Presto!! A pair of moccasins. Except that it was me sewing them and not her. Four hours later and several practice moccasins I finally completed my first moccasin. For the record, I CAN sew. It is just that vinyl is not the easiest fabric to work with. It necessitated that I use the commercial machine which sews at the speed of sound and doesn’t discriminate between fabric or finger. It pulls anything under the needle faster than my preschooler can snatch the cookie from the toddler’s hand! So, while the machine pulls the fabric through, it slides around leaving holes in the seams and a very crooked finished product. I wish I had pictures, but this was before smart phones or digital cameras so you will have to take my word for it. Rarely have I ever laughed so much. But, alas, I finally had a finished moccasin! Look! I exclaimed I did it! The kids were laughing. I was laughing. Karen was laughing as she tried to encourage me in her sweet and humble way. “No. That’s good. You did a good job. Now just make another one.” Never one to pass up a good laugh, I said “We should go into business together. Mach Moccasins. How much would I need to charge if I can whip one out every four hours?” It is always fun to get Karen laughing because she can’t stop and she tries to talk and laugh at the same time. “Mach Moccasin,” she corrected, “You don’t even have a pair yet!” And I’ve never lived it down. Every time I come up with a great idea, she says “from the makers of Mach Moccasin . . .” Yes, everyone needs a friend like this. She keeps me humble and laughing and she taught me how to make my own shoes–apparently a skill every child should learn.
Blessed Kateri Tekawitha. sorry no pics of the moccasins

Blessed Kateri Tekawitha. sorry no pics of the moccasins

7 Plagues

Contracting an illness in a large family can often mean weeks or months of dealing with that illness as it spreads from one person to another and, occasionally, back around again. I often become frustrated when I get comments that we get sick a lot because I take it personally. I feel judged that it is somehow my fault that I’m not clean enough, or feed my kids right, or something. Overall, these trials have strengthened my faith in God as most should do if we allow God to work through them. I will warn you that the following is not for the faint of heart. Read at your own risk.

1. The Stomach Bug of 2004. Actually, it was a series of stomach bugs. It started in August. I remember the date well. Karen and I decided to travel to Wichita, KS for the Catholic Family Conference with her 6 children and 3 of my children. It wasn’t God’s will for us to go, but we *wanted* to go and nothing was going to get in our my way. So, we drove six hours, paid for two hotel rooms for two nights and walked across the street to hear John Michael Talbot sing. Not 30 minutes into the concert, Mary came down with a headache and Joshua, just a baby at the time, was fussy. I left to take them back to the hotel room. By midnight Mary was running fever and vomiting, so I crossed the hallway to alert Karen. I had the girls and Joshua with me and she had the boys with her. She opened the door and I discovered that Brandon was in the same boat. We decided to head out first thing before more kids succumbed to it. The car ride home was miserable for those two kids. Not only did we have to stop frequently to find a bathroom, but the situation forced Lauren and Allison to be seated together in the car. They fought incessantly! We made it home and the bug spread through both households. Worse yet, I had somebody sick every week from that point on until March of the following year.

2. Lice. In the summer of 2009 we came home from camping and I discovered these pesky critters in the hair of my almost four-year old daughter. Thankfully, my friend Fifi was over helping to clean the house. She stayed all day to help me pick the critters out of hair and collect all the bedding and clothing to be washed. 80 loads of laundry! I am not exaggerating, people. We did 80 loads of laundry and spent countless hours picking bugs and their nits out of 5 heads of hair. Thankfully, the baby was bald and my husband has baby fine hair; so they did not even need to be treated. The older girls only had a few nits and I escaped untouched. The boys were an easy fix with clippers and a good summer hair cut. Poor Angela! Her head was infested and that baby girl lay on the counter and had her head combed through for hours. She was indeed an Angel about it. The process had to be repeated daily for 10 days and we were glad when it was over. On New Year’s 2010 the little bugs reappeared. I had taken the kids to Open Gym at the local gymnastics club and it was cool enough to wear jackets. Their jackets had been placed in the cubbies with other jackets and we brought the little boogers home once again. This time was way worse! All the kids had picked it up and now the baby had hair. Patrick was the only one to escape untouched. It took 3 weeks and 8 hours a day of picking heads to rid ourselves of these pests. It was humiliating and embarrassing to no end. I have never cried so much as when I found yet another live bug on a head! My husband would leave for work and I would envy that he got to leave while I was stuck picking nits and learning so much about lice that I became known as the “lice expert” among my friends and family. The poison did not affect the lice this time. My pediatrician proved completely useless in giving advice. So, the internet became my only resource. Lice MD became the solution. A natural product, it basically makes the hair too greasy for the bugs to move and too slick for the nits to attach. Once we were bug free, we loaded the clan up in the Travel Trailer and went camping for three days. This served two purposes: 1. We got to leave the house and 2. The bugs cannot live off of a human head for more than 24 hours, so if there were any critters in the carpets or clothing they would be dead before our return. It worked!

3. Lice. Again! My husband and I took a trip to Mexico for our anniversary, our last fling before baby nine would arrive in the Spring. Our oldest daughter came and stayed at our home with her husband and four children. unbeknownst to them, their daughter had picked up lice from a cousin at Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t discovered until we returned from our trip. Our house was infested as were all the kids! I cried and then got creative. I knew the drill this time and was quick to carry out it. Allison checked my head and we added flat ironing our hair into the picking routine. If a nit was overlooked, it was fried in the heat of the iron and we had great hairstyles when we were done. We took a 3 day camping trip at the end of 10 days this time as well. Lice is a word that is never spoken in our home. I will not talk about this again.

4. Spring of 2012. We had a horrible case of strep go through 3 of the kids. By the time it finished, two of them got it a second time. Both cases included vomiting and fever and horrible sore throats. Allison got it a third time but recovered under the threat of having her tonsils removed. At the same time, Benjamin was turning one and had back-to-back double ear infections, a third infection and we would be sent to a specialist to have tubes inserted. This same spring is when I was diagnosed with severe adrenal fatigue, low thyroid and food allergies to the tune of wheat, soy, corn, potatoes, yeast, and dairy. I had to learn a whole new way to cook and eat while caring for sick kids and barely functioning myself. Thank God for my teen daughters who willingly stepped in to cook, clean and care for their siblings. Once we were all healthy, my daughter and grandkids came over for a visit. Daniel came in crying and I knew at first glance that we were dealing with a broken bone. It turned out to be a complete fracture right above his elbow and surgery with 3 pins was required to fix it.

On our way home

On our way home

Patrick and I arrived home at 2 am, got a little bit of rest and then dressed all the kids to head up to church for our family picture in the church directory. That bright orange cast in the picture always makes me smile. We survived the spring and Lauren graduated albeit July instead of May.

5. Summer brought with it the wonderful new experience of pinworms. Yes, pinworms. If lice hadn’t been disgusting enough, pinworms challenged my tolerance for all things gross and disgusting at a whole new level. Although if I had to choose one plague over the other, pinworms are much easier to treat. Other than doing a whole lotta laundry EVERY day, the fix is taking a chewable pill one time and then repeating the dose two weeks later. Bedding, towels, and clothing had to be washed every day and every person had to bathe every morning. That is a whole lot of baths for a family of ten. The bigger challenge proved to be getting the prescription for the magic pills. My regular doctor was out of the office and his partner wanted everyone to be seen. At $80 per person per visit, this would have cost $800 just to see the doctor, not to mention the hassle of ten appointments! I opted to take Sophia into the night clinic and prayed for a doctor with mercy, sympathy and common sense. My prayers were answered. I only had to describe what I saw and within minutes the kind man wrote a script for everyone in the house, except the baby who had to take an over the counter remedy due to his young age. Of course, we were treated like we had the plague for two weeks and felt very lonely without friends or visitors during our outcast. Somehow the mere mention of lice or pinworms makes people head for the hills.

6. Fall 2012 brought new challenges of its own. Lauren was off to college and Allison and I were on our own most days with the “gang of six.” In October Allison came down with a cough that was diagnosed as bronchitis. It got so bad that she would vomit and lose her breath. We returned to the doctor, got a new script and some steroids. It had no affect on the cough. Mother’s intuition kicked in and I suspected Pertussis. A third trip to the doctor for Allison and one other coughing sibling gave me the courage to insist on a test for Whooping Cough. Since I had done my research before hand, I was more familiar than the doctor about the testing and my insistence paid off. This was a Friday afternoon. I took the baby into the Emergency Room to get the test and called both Saturday and Sunday until they finally gave me the test results. By this time two more children were coughing and I was prepared with a positive test result when speaking with the on-call doctor. They were all on antibiotics by Sunday evening and Patrick and I were taking shifts staying up with sick kids.

Preparing the sick room

Preparing the sick room

The cough gets significantly worse at night, so there would be no sleep for about five consecutive days. A follow-up call from the health department proved to be a shock to the unsuspecting caller. She thought that she had one case and ended up with nine. Only four of the children showed symptoms, but the whole household went on antibiotics as a precaution. We had to alert our church and volleyball team. Again the humiliation set in as we alerted family and friends to our contagious ailment. For the record, all of my children were vaccinated against Whooping Cough. I would recommend you to do some research as my research revealed a greater susceptibility to contracting it among those who were vaccinated. Interesting stuff.

7. Finally, in January of 2013 Allison came down with the flu. She spent 7 days in bed and missed her trip to Washington DC for the March For Life. Just when she was coming back to life, I succumbed to the nasty virus and spent 8 days in bed with fever and aches like never before. I don’t think it went through the household, but I honestly don’t remember much of that time. I spent most of the days sleeping and it took weeks before my strength came back. It wasn’t so much of a plague as it was just a lengthy recovery for two of the main cogs who were responsible for keeping the household functioning. My poor husband! In the end we survived and our health was restored. We have been thankful for six months of health and for the lessons learned in humility, patience and perseverance.

Every family faces its own plagues and challenges. I just hope that by sharing mine you feel empowered to overcome whatever difficulties you face. I’ll pray for you. You pray for me. Someday, God willing, we’ll meet on the other side.

On Friendship

“A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure.” Sirach 6:14

The largest obstacle I had to overcome in the process of becoming a stay-at-home mom was, well, staying at home. I am very social by nature and the isolation was extremely depressing and lonely. As a young newlywed it completely took me by surprise that I was doing exactly what I wanted to do and yet felt so terribly sad while doing it. Looking back with 20 years of hindsight I can see that it was a setup for failure if it had not been for the grace of God. I didn’t enjoy cooking or cleaning. Laundry was an unbelievably boring and sometimes nasty job as well. The baby was adorable, but she slept a lot and wasn’t much of a conversationalist–although I spoke to her constantly and about everything in our world. I came to realize that I needed friends, girl friends that were in the same place in life as myself so that we could encourage and support each other and “use up our words” as my husband would say. I had a neighbor with a little boy the same age as Lauren and we spent countless hours together going to the park and playing with the kids. A move across town would prove that friendship weak and the distance soon ended the relationship.

I prayed for God to send me a friend so that I wouldn’t be as lonely. At the time, I had three young children and had lost two others to miscarriage. We desperately wanted more children, but it did not seem to be part of God’s plans, at least for the five years in the desert of infertility. Little did I know that God would give me children during that time through my friends. On any given day I had no less than a dozen children in my home or yard. Even before I had 6 more of my own, I could be seen going to church or the store with 6 or 8 kids in tow. It made my heart happy. My friends and I had formed a babysitting network within our circle that allowed us to go to doctor’s appointments, the store or on a date without taking kids along. I have even had the luxury of sick days where I could rest and recover while my children played safely at a friend’s home for the day.

But, these friendships go beyond meeting the physical needs of one another. These friendships feed me spiritually in a way that I have never been fed before. I have been privileged to walk with friends through personal, intimate and painful life events. Words cannot express the blessings of being trusted in such moments of vulnerability. I have been to funerals for babies whose lives were too short by human standards. I have cried with friends while their marriages tumbled on sharp and rocky ground. And I have helplessly listened while a friend wept as her child lay in the hospital in critical condition. I have praised God when that child miraculously recovered, when the marriages were healed, and for the little saints in heaven that are now our intercessors. The living children are growing up and a few have gone off to college, others are beginning High School or getting their driver’s licenses. I have been to their Baptisms, First Communions and Confirmations. It has amazed me to be a part of so many lives, especially to watch the children through all stages. I have newer friendships and older ones. I have friends that I still see weekly and those that are once a year visits. Some I keep up with on Facebook and others through the annual Christmas card. One friend recently bought the house across the street! Our lives ebb and flow, but the true friendships just pick up right where you left off.

If a faithful friend is a treasure, then I am rich beyond belief. Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates ain’t got nothing on me! Thank you, God for answering my small plea for a friend with such abundance.