Leftover Cupcakes

I’m sitting here at my kitchen table the morning after a birthday celebration for my daughter…. There are crumbs stuck to the bottoms of my feet which are freezing cold (couldn’t find my slippers.) The floor is sticky and dirty from spilled beer and pink lemonade, sugar sprinkles from vanilla cupcakes and crushed corn chips. The baby is sitting on the kitchen-couch in a blanket, eating yogurt and chia seeds and nibbling on a leftover stale cupcake. He’s smearing yogurt all over his face and head… so glad I have a leather couch to wipe down!

Ok, 10 minutes later: I’m standing at my counter and giving my baby a bath in the sink… my other son has emerged from his cocoon of blankets upstairs and is now eating a leftover cupcake too… and my baby is splashing and basically giving me the incentive for a newly-wiped down kitchen floor later on…

I have to be at a baptism mass in an hour, so it is very imprudent of me to be typing right now… but when I see a kitchen that is quiet in the morning as children sleeping in, I think of one thing: hot coffee, an open window for fresh air & morning birdsong, and my computer. I read two articles and replied to an email! Incredible!

Gotta run now, to get five children dressed and out the door in 30 minutes. Cheers from my busy life to yours…

Sunday Entry

Daytime: paper, paper everywhere. (Times five.) An ant party in the pantry. Old blankets and feather-beds, for the first time all winter, airing out on the clothesline in the sunshine. The sounds of rustling winter plants, lawn mowers, wind moving through firs. Warm kiss of sunshine on my face. Wind, rustling through the dry winter plants and stirring the heart & soul. Keeping warm with down vest and flannel shirt. In hand: cleaning rags and mugs of tea. In my sight: children, filling my heart with love, a newspaper, my rest- and a dusty, cramped house- my cross.

Evening: Drive East to Camas :: a sky ablaze with orange clouds in my rear view mirror. Ahead, Mt. Hood a bright pink… sunset in winter. Then Oscars, a celebration of film and fashion and a glass of wine and some chicken pot pie.

nikki mcclure: spring!

 

 

 

 

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(On Sunday while outside I jotted this note down on my iPhone…)

Tomorrow, Enter Lent

What? Today is Mardi Gras? Fat Tuesday? Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday? It’s really crept up on me this year! Living in a hospital for the past week has made time seem like a blur… the days and nights and hours with sick children just seem to get all muddled up. But here we go, into Lent! A good friend sent me a link today encouraging Catholics and non Catholics to simply take baby-steps and to make some small efforts of bettering-yourself during this season leading up to Easter. No matter what our faith, it’s good to take a 40 day challenge to improve, to grow, to nourish your soul and to put God first. 

Lent doesn’t have to be this big, awful, dark, depressing, overwhelming season fighting sin. If one simply focuses on the importance of Good, of Heaven, of Love in our lives, and we set our hearts on that in a new way, it can be a restful time, beautiful in it’s simplicity, it’s quiet… in the intention of each day we embark on, in the prayerful spirit we enter into each day upon rising. Lent actually is my favorite liturgical time of year because, as the season changes around me and the wind changes direction, so too is it a time of changes in my soul, in my spirit- a time of extra efforts, of staring at reality right in the face. It’s an opportunity to start anew, to work on vices and problems and Spring-cleaning-of-the-soul. It’s also a beautiful time to accept challenges, suffering and difficulties as a way of uniting ourselves to the cross. I surrender, Lord. I am yours. Take me and mold me. Oh Jesus, make your home in me!  Isn’t it amazing that, by humbling ourselves & maI am yoursking ourselves incredibly little, we become fully alive?? We can change our life by letting love flood into our beings, permeating our lives.

 

I gleaned some good things from the post my friend shared- especially a different way of looking at “Prayer, Fasting and Alms-giving”; here’s my take on baby steps in growth these 40 days:
Prayer: Making God more central: through deeper prayer, more spiritual reading, lessening the “noise” around us- perhaps by making a more prayerful approach to the news/media/entertainment choices we make. Making the effort to put into our minds and hearts edifying food, not junk food. Rather than “entertainment”, we can focus on education and inspiration…
-“Alms-giving”: A time of GIVING more to those around us(time with each of my children, to each other, working on a particular bad habit) and basically putting others first before ourselves.
-Fasting: A time to simply practice discipline/more self control- putting new health motives into practice, not eating that chocolate whenever we feel like it, refraining from indulgences like cream noodles or french fries. To each his own. Whatever it is for each of us.
And finally : my favorite part: choosing one particular sin/fault and working on it...  we all have that one thing that we’re weakest in! For me it’s my irritability, my temper, my short fuse. My youngest sister mentioned that she thought the most effective way to really get someone’s attention is to whisper. So instead of yelling at my children and barking orders, I’m going to be focusing on whispering and talking more calmly. I try to work on my mean-ness/anger every year…. and I still am the loudest bad-mouth ever. I’m so human. But there’s always hope, and Mary is there to help me.
Bring on Lent! I know I need it.

 

Pneumonia Re-Set

imageWell, nothing like a severe case of Pneumonia in our household to throw things off! And nothing like spending every single weekday in a hospital to take a step back, do some reflection and re-set the buttons.

THAT is my explanation of what went down this past week when I said I’d be blogging, daily, about our new schedule, our crazy homeschooling days, our home life. That lasted long; haha! So, now that I’m “back”, I’ll write & think for a quick five before I go back to being full-time nurse.

Something I noticed this week as I cared for my daughter was that without homeschooling, washing dishes, folding laundry, sweeping floors, preparing meals, cooking, disciplining the children, caring for a baby, I was still busy. I was incredibly occupied by little things all day long that make up the life of a mother. Granted, my daughter was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and couldn’t breathe, so there were nurses doing all the hardest work! But I was still completely consumed with mothering, nursing.  I used a notebook to take notes on everything the doctors were telling me about my daughter. A couple of times a day, all the little updates were scribbled down as I tried to make sense of all-things-medical. I then transcribed the notes into a long text message on my iPhone, which I then would copy and paste for different sets of people inquiring after her. There were countless family members and close friends who deserved to know: “how is she doing? Is she off that machine yet? Is she playing with the toy I gave her? has she smiled yet?How are her oxygen levels?” and so on.

I took care of myself so that I could take care of her. I drank lots of water, I fed myself healthy snacks and delicious bowls of soup and cups of herbal tea from friends who provided these things. I worked the day shift, my husband worked the night shift. For the first few days, at night I went home to my baby and nursed him, sleeping not-too-soundly with him as he burned with fever. For the final two days of our hospital duration I had him with me the entire time. In the room I bathed him, kept his fever down. I helped my daughter to the bathroom, I combed her hair, I talked to her, I read to her. We watched Brave. We slept a little. Towards the end I tried to get her to eat and drink, helped her to regain her strength to walk and play and take care of her own needs a little more. Using my phone, I made a follow-up appointment for next week. Throughout the entire time, I held her hand, I sang to her. I cleaned her and gave her little sponge baths. I watched her numbers. I rubbed her sore body with Arnica lotion. I rubbed her feet with oils. I greeted and conversed with visitors. I worked out every single complicated logistic of how to ensure that we would have someone with our daughter at all times. The list goes on.

I never once got out my computer until the very last day. I brought books for myself to read. They weren’t touched. My plate was completely full!

I am, as a friend of my mother’s pointed out to me, completely and utterly indispensable merely by my pure existence as Mother. No one can take my place. No one can fill my role, no matter how maternal or productive or orderly they are. A mother, just by being a presence and living out that title: mother, is tremendous in and of itself.

Messy Kitchen, with Music

imageHomeschooling Journal: 2

Well first off, I must go back to yesterday evening when a series of events caused a cancellation of our stop by the river. I closed my little laptop and hopped down the stairs to the main part of my house, assuming the keys would be right where they should have been- the key hook. But they were not. So the next 20 minutes was spent trying to find my keys. (My keys even have a leaf on them that a blacksmith friend made for me back in my heavier craftsmanship days- so they are quite heavy and you can’t miss them.) They finally turned up in my extra bag that I use sometimes for little things I forget to bring until the last minute: an extra carrot or scarf or baby hat, or a protein bar. Onward to the car- only to find that no, the boys had not completed what I had asked them to do: to clean up their little store they’d made from fence-boards & sawhorses topped with dear little “shops”: yogurt containers and little jars filled with various items “for sale”: chalk, bubbles, scratch art squares, to name a few. Walking across the driveway I had to beckon the kids out of the car (where they were all sitting proudly, grinning, waiting for me to come and see their wonderful work of buckling their younger siblings in- so sweet!)  to clean up the modeling clay which had not been picked up. Garage door closes, off we go… rush-hour en route to Camas, as usual, but this time a bit heavier. At that moment I knew my chance for having even 10 minutes on the riverside before I had to be at St. Thomas was gone. But I helped to lead the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd class (alongside the wonderful Carrie Mitchell who recently moved back here from Steubenville, OH… ) made up of a bunch of darling, tired little munchkins who are so dear to my heart.

I fell asleep early last night, sleeping hard until 7:30AM which is when my sweet little 5 year old son pops his blonde head above the green dresser dividing our large room and looks to see if I am awake. He always comes over to me and jumps onto the bed with sweet kisses and cuddles for me and my one-year-old baby. It’s one of the best parts of my day, and I always find myself thinking that I wish I could stay there for a whole hour just loving my cuddle-bugs…. if only someone bring me a pot of my Irish Breakfast tea with a side of milk? (Guess I’ll wait till mother’s day…!)

I am in bed again now, though, religiously typing up an entry before hitting the sack. I just finished ironing three of my husband’s work shirts (which I did because it was on my list, but I’ll admit it is a highly therapeutic and favorite chore of mine to do- something about the singe-ey smell of steam on cotton…) and am now trying to be relaxed and cozy with my honey vanilla chamomile tea on my bedside table. It’s cold upstairs, though, so I am still waiting to feel warm.

Report: I’ll be honest, today was an utterly exhausting day. Because last night I chose to leave all of the dishes from yesterdays’ housework hiatus, they were all over my counters most of today as I attended to the more important things like managing chore lists and working out the “he took my…” or “he did this!” -all the normal hubaloo- and my 3 year old daughter’s little runny nose had turned into a full fledged fever overnight so I spent a lot of today tucking her in, rubbing oils on her feet and chest, doing hydrotherapy… offering her sips of water, sips of tea with honey and plates of food that never were touched. Poor dear. (You never know when a fever is going to hit… so scrub those dishes while you can!) I think I’ll resume the paper-plates/bowls thing I did 2 years ago….

Academics: No official “lessons” (aka “homeschooling”) were done this morning, at all. Breakfast fixings and cooler-lunch-for-my-husband-fixings were strewn all over the counter, a very clear indication that people were in a hurry this morning. It wasn’t until 11AM that I actually had a cup of something hot. Later on I was, however, between doing computer “chores” (scheduling appointments, making payments, doing health care practitioner research, etc) and emails and making herbal tea for the children, able to get out some workbooks AND even get to some geography: I read them a story that took place in the deserts of Africa. (They learned, too, that camels most likely have such long long eyelashes because of the dusty climate- they protect their eyes!) They (my 7 and 9 year olds)  learned what an Oasis was, where the Mediterranean Sea was, and they had to sketch, in their Main Lesson  Books, the general shape of the continent. I also had my oldest read picture books to his feverish sister on the couch, one of which was The Twelve Dancing Princesses” in lieu of his own reading time, given the circumstances. He loves to do this, as long as his sister acts grateful. ;)

Music: score! One of the best parts of Thursdays is when my sister comes to give my boys (ages 5, 7, 9) piano lessons. I can play, and I could very well teach my children how to play…. but there is something about the accountability being held when it’s someone other than your mother teaching you. Not to speak of not having the time! (Yes, I dream of having tutors for many different subjects…. it’s definitely in the thinking cap!) That, and she’s a marvelously warm-yet-strict- teacher who’s piano studio and love of music is her life. I am so blessed.

After a long, long afternoon of dishes, dishes, dishes, folding laundry, sorting through 2 “junk heaps” (random places where misc. piles form from everyone dumping stuff as they move throughout the house, such as: a tiny dinosaur, stray baby socks, a rosary, scraps of paper) and then making & sharing a family  dinner, I drove my boys downtown to their choir practice where they, for an hour, in the lit-up choir loft, go to rehearse hymns, learn to read Gregorian chant notation and experience the unified sound of individual voices coming together in the darkness of their beautiful church, St. James ( oldest church in Washington state, founded by the French Canadian Jesuits.) It’s a highlight of their week! My boys were picked up by their Aunt Sadie (my sister) and driven home… I am so pleased that I get to pass on this love of singing to them… I sang in various choirs: a youth choir, chorale or a liturgical schola, from the ages of 7 all the way through till I was 18. Offering up our voices to God becomes a second prayer. My 9-year-old comes in just bouncing and cheerful and full of joy each week. And he is my grumpola, hard to please and always seemingly un-satisfied! He said to me, “Mama, we are lifting our voices to Him and laying the songs at his feet!” 

On that note, I’ll go to sleep now. But I’ll leave you with my favorite little glimpse of our day… the sweetness (and danger) of my baby standing up on the couch being a total delight in his home. ‘Till tomorrow, here’s to the sound of gentle rain pattering on rooftops and trickling down gutters…

+ pax christi +

 

Mama blogger, whaa?

imageHomeschooling Journal: 1

I’m going to be a cliche mama-blogger for a bit. Why? 1. I just can’t seem to ever catch a moment to share snippets of my life or to ramble about little dumb things like eating a delicious burrito from Chipotle or raving about the poetry being recited in our household or finding a new and wonderfully-delicious medium-roasted coffee bean. These things are important, and our big lives are, after all, made up of these little things.

2: For the first time since before Lester’s birth I’m getting back on a schedule. It’ll be good to watch/write about how it goes! We’ve done schedules before, but they are constantly changing, moving, evolving, due to children growing and changing in sleep patterns…. we always have some sort of routine but it’s so flexible that I couldn’t honestly call it consistency. I’ve also added some new fitness endeavors to my plate, including Bikram yoga at 105 degrees for 90 minutes 3x a week; 90 minutes of cycling 2 x a week… and, swimming too…?That’s the goal, anyway. (Let’s see how that goes after a couple of weeks.) I have completed about 5 days of these endeavors… wish me luck!

3: I love my life, I am passionate about the choices I’ve made and I must give it all I’ve got, but I am nearly ready to throw in the towel with this homeschooling thing. It’s insane. These days are crazy. The baby opens cupboards, throws everyone’s paperwork on the floor, unpacks the hat basket by the door about 5 times a day and plays with toys… toys that he can’t put away all by himself. So here we go, I’m re-committing to it in knowing it’s overall GOOD, but would like to watch the days unfold on “paper” -er, the screen. 

Before the homeschooling-journaling begins, here’s a note of calm, of the now: Right now there are robins- (yes, robins!) high up in the leafless gray aspen tree. They are hearkening in the Spring though that beautiful season is still a good 6 weeks away…. There are also frogs croaking down in the watery refuge about a half-mile away. My one-year-old is nursing as I type and he adores me. My skin feels amazing from all the sweating I’m doing but my muscles. are.killing me. I am exhausted but happy.

After abandoning my poor, snotty orphan children (jk of course) for the last hour to get food put away and the garage organized for the latest influx of groceries from Costco, posting to Facebook and then going to WordPress (only to find that I didn’t know my password and had to reset it) to post THIS, we are now headed to the river. My sink is full of dishes and the work shirts still need ironing and the laundry still needs to be put away because I chose to spend this last hour doing all of the above. BUT the river calls me, as it always does, because there I can see the sky, I can hear the birds and the movement of water over river-stones and I can, best of all, let my children connect with the created world using their senses.

That’s it for now- today it was 15 minutes- tomorrow I’d better make it shorter! Till then…. here’s to toast.

Death With Dignity

“My life is only mine to give, not to keep.My life is give to me to love until the end. Love is dignity. I am facing death with dignity.”

Meet Lizz , fellow pilgrim & friend of mine, presently also 32, who is living with stage-four cancer. She used to be in the military. She is convert to Catholicism from Orthodox Buddhism. A pillar of strength and hope, she faces her future of unknowing and physical crosses with courage. Contrary to our culture’s acceptance of euthanasia as an option for ending suffering when staring death in the face, Lizz is confident that good can come from one’s suffering. She collaborated with Catholic filmmaker Chris Stephanick  to reach out and witness to this belief. It’s only a few minutes long!

little ones + the Rose of Mary

Today is a feast of our Lady. She has many, but this one celebrates and honors her conception without the stain of original sin- a great mystery to contemplate. It’s a huge feast in the church and we are all obligated to attend Mass if we are physically able. To honor her and to guide my little ones to God I lit a candle, picked some fresh sprigs of rosemary from our barren winter garden and placed them into a vase. (Rosemary, ros marinus, translates as “dew of the sea”. It is said that Mary spread her blue cloak over the plant and the little blossoming white flowers turned blue.) Rosemary is also known as “Rose of Mary”. We passed it around and each took a little whiff of the pungent herb. The children had sugar with their breakfasts. We all sang a hymn to Mary after our grace. That’s about all I can muster up these days, these exhausting mothering days when the days are flying by the children are pulling me a million different ways all the time. But  whenever I set out a white tablecloth and light candles for feast days I think to myself how blessed my children are to have inherited such a wealth of traditions, a rich faith and so much beauty in celebrations. Hazel June just today was playing with her play-mobiles and the words that flowed from her mouth came straight from the word-storage bank from readings and songs she has grown up with. “And then she came… over the hills, down from the the North country…” (part of the Visitation, possibly part of Bob Dylan’s song, girl from the North Country…?) Another time I overheard one of the boys saying, “he is hungry, and he eats crickets and locusts! But we want him to get to Heaven, where there are roses, and milk, and honey!” (St. John the Baptist & the Heavenly Jerusalem….) Oh, the sweet words that come from the mouths of babes.

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Our Lady, pray for us! Prepare our Hearts for the Christ Child! 

Begin Again, a new film by John Carney

This movie. (!!) It totally knocked my music-loving socks off. In Begin Again, a depressed and worn-out Mark Ruffalo is an ex-record executive who is losing. it. Like, having a mental breakdown. But while drinking at a bar he hears living music. And the rest is history…. they go on to make an album together, pulling other musicians out of classrooms and studios. They record all over NY- under bridges, in alleyways, on rooftops. Just as John Carney‘s film Once celebrated the electricity and living-ness of real music, so too does his second film, Begin Again. In both films, he celebrates music, plain and simple. He shows the power of simple compositions in ordinary everyday settings; how raw brave voices can become powerful with some backup and motivation…. A real hit in my entertainment books, though surely not for everyone. What can I say, I love Indie films that aren’t just cool but that feature music and tell a good story. One of the best parts of the film? Craig Ferguson, who plays Keira’s best friend.. Such a cool dude.

Here is a song from Begin Again:

In case you never noticed the folks who won best original song at the Oscars the year that John Carney’s film Once came out,  here it is:

and another song from Begin Again….

Cheers!

Good Homilies

Sometimes, when I have a quiet moment around here, I will listen to Catholic talks or homilies while I am chopping vegetables, ironing shirts or whatnot. Father Lappe, a former pastor of ours, has a particular gift for delivering very good, clear homilies. There are dozens of them recorded from masses at Our Lady Star of the Sea parish where he serves now in Bremerton: a working-class naval shipyard town in the Puget Sound area of Washington state.  Our Lady, Star of the Sea, pray for us!

Father Derek Lappe’s homilies

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