Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Blessing the wee ones

As a part of the season of Lent, we follow a schedule of "Pray, Fast, Give", where for each week we focus on a particular practice.  This week's has been active concern for those weaker  (in a family, this translates into someone younger), so our family prayers, fasting, and giving of ourselves has been along this vein.

Yesterday, Rees and John played with Legos for hours, sometimes without the younger kids they'd supposedly been "giving of themselves to bless".  Not sure it was much of a sacrifice!

Today, they led all the younger ones to the far end of our property to a frozen swamp to slide around.  Well.  We've had some days of above freezing temps and it's melted a bit.  Do you see where this is going?   Three small people waddled stiffly home dripping with icy, muddy snow pants, saturated boot liners, and frozen swamp stuff stuck to their chilly faces and hands, thrilled with the grossness of it all.  Was the trek a blessing to the wee ones  (as John calls anyone younger than he)?  Absolutely.  To me?  Absolutely!  A sentence that has revolutionized my motherly mood is ~

It will wash.

Looking forward to see how they show active concern for those weaker tomorrow  (I do hope it's not as messy, though!).

As we focus on pleasing Christ these 40 days with an eye toward life-changing habits,
Happy Half-way through Lent,

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday visitor

Before Christmas, Clare set up a bird watching station in the woods at the other end of the property from the barn  (And the Barn Cat, who catches birds with as much vigor as he catches mice).  She shoveled away the snow, painstakingly positioned lawn chairs  (comical at 20 below zero),  rolled logs to her spot  (From our wood pile but we pretended not to notice!), and sprinkled bird seed over them.  She has sat out there many an afternoon, drawing what she saw, then later, breathlessly regaling those of us unfortunate enough to have missed the avian festivities.

Today, though, it was John who disappeared for an hour, then burst into the house, warning me not to look at the computer, as he had some surprise photos that he was sure I would be very happy about.  Oh, yes.

                                       Cheerful black capped chickadee ; I do love these!

                                          Common red poll ; unafraid of John.

Clare swears this was not a chickadee, but as drawn, is not recognizable in our Backyard Birds pamphlet!

Although we still have several feet of snow ~

Happy flutterings of Spring,


Weekend Recipe : New England Clam Chowder

Since my husband and I both grew up in southeastern New England  (Him in East Providence, RI ; me in Somerset, MA), we're chowda snobs.  No flour.  Lots of milk, butter, potatoes, and clams  (One might think that last one is a "duh" item, but you'd be surprised at what we've seen called clam chowder!).  Here's what I make :

1/2 C diced onion
1/2 C diced celery
1/4 C butter
2 cans chopped clams  (or 1 C chopped, boiled quahogs if you're in MA or RI)
3 C chicken broth
1 C clam juice
1 C diced, unpeeled potatoes
2 C whole milk
Dash each ~ salt, pepper, thyme

Saute onion and celery in butter until soft.  Add broth, juice, and potatoes and simmer about 20 minutes.  Add clams, milk, and spices and simmer until hot  (not boiling).  Serve with oyster crackers or corn bread.

Clams have tons of minerals, including sodium, which foks with CF need extra amounts of.  And you can't beat milk and butter for calories, fat, and protein  (Well, peanut butter and cheese, but not in soup!).

Again, this is another acceptable meal for Lenten abstinence that does not seem like a sacrifice at all. . .

6 year old Ambrose catching up on his spiritual reading!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


This weekend, cleaning lost and hiking won.

                                                Rees, w/CF, waiting for sister Clare...   

This weekend, I read in my Magnificat Lenten Companion, "This goodness  (at being with Jesus Transfigured)  does not depend on the circumstances improving.  It depends on Jesus revealing Himself right here.  Right now.

One of my husband's favorite places to hike with the kids.

This weekend, we beheld the hand of the Creator and thanked God for blue skies, above zero temperatures, perfect snow, and light hearted children.  We walked, ran, slid, trudged.  We cleared, built, huddled, warmed.  We ate, drank, teased, laughed.

                                              John, the cameraman, is missing!

This weekend, our house remained cluttered but our hearts became strong and full of God.  Of love.  Of each other.  "Give us this day our daily bread," we pray.  Thank You for this day.  We are full.

                                                Teenaged boys who build shelters rock!

Warmly (ha ha!),

Monday, March 21, 2011

Down Syndrome Awareness Day

Third chromosome, 21st pair  (3-21 ~ today's date) : a day to learn about and love our brothers and sisters with Down Syndrome.  No better way to do this than to visit my internet friend, Kelle.

I've heard from people who question our hoping for more children before the loss of fertility, about Down Syndrome fears.  To which I reply, Pschhh!  People are people are blessings are life.  We all have issues.  I guess that's why some folks speak of the "gift of cancer."  And some folks sing "live like you were dying".  It is a mentality that those of us who have made peace with those issues embrace.  We suck the marrow out of life. 

Life is like music ; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.
~G.K. Chesterton


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Northern March

How pleasant it is

Doing barn chores by daylight.

We've missed you, O sun!

A sunny Saturday, friends!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


My internet friends Kelle and Emily  (Welll, they don't exactly know we're friends!)  have recently written about delayed development here and here in their daughters with Down Syndrome, who are so darling, my daughter asks for a sister who looks like Nella and Mirabel!

The reason many CFers deal with delayed development is different than the reason of Down Syndrome, of course, but feels much the same for us parents. 

Rees was "late"  (I hate those charts!)  in all skills because he was busy breathing.  Or not.  CF was not diagnosed until he was 9 months old, so for 9 months, we figured that he was just sickly, slow, and miserable.  My chest tightens a bit even now to think of those months when the little guy struggled so.  After The Diagnosis and a week hospitalized with the big gun antibiotics doing their jobs, Rees was bright and merry.  The doctor remarked one morning, "Well, you've got your baby back."  And we, wide-eyed with wonder, answered, "We don't know this child!"

Numerous hospitalizations throughout the years do stymie some developments that "experts" like to point out with their charts, but boast some developments, too ~ the ones that are more complex to quantify but are the stuff of a real, good life.

And, he did figure out how to walk!  Who cares when he had the strength to do it?  He fought on and was strong.  I must admit that those of us with chronically ill children possess a certain arrogance at their accomplishments.  They're sweeter.  More meaningful.  More costly.  More valuable.

So when Rees achieved a black belt in Shoshindo last weekend, when kids he'd begun with made it over a year ago, I swirled with the seemingly contradictory sentiments of haughtiness and humility.  Afterwards, when people dutifully applauded and good-naturedly slapped shoulders, I wanted to shout,  Do you know about CF?  Do you know about the hospital?  Do you know about pseudomonas and aspergillis?  But I didn't.  This victory was his own, without his Mommy  (How did that happen?).  It took him longer than the others, but he prevailed.  He played well the cards dealt him, as we all must. 

Accomplishments, I think, should be measured by depth, not height.

Family, hanging out at the hospital, a second home sometimes.

Last Saturday evening, when it was all over.  R is drained.  But triumphant.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weekend Recipe : Bolivian Black Beans

This being the season of Lent, the weekend recipe is warm, comforting bean soup.  Although I understand the benefits of the spiritual practice of fasting, this is so delicious, it does not seem like we're saying "no"!  As we keep expensive meat off the table, may we remember  (in the giving of prayers and possessions)  our brothers and sisters who barely even have a bowl of beans.  Lord, have mercy ; what would You have us do?


1 lb.  (2 1/2 cups)  dry black beans
10 cups water
2 large green peppers : 1 chopped, 1 whole
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup cooking oil
1 bay leaf
1/4 t oregano
2 T sugar
1 1/2 t salt
dash black pepper
1/4 cup vinegar

Cook beans according to basic directions with water and whole green pepper until tender ; discard pepper and set beans aside.  Saute onion, garlic, and chopped green pepper in oil until tender.  Add 1 cup cooked beans and squash them into vegetables.  Add remaining ingredients, except vinegar and transfer to pot containing remaining beans.  Simmer, covered, 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Add vinegar and simmer, covered, 1 more hour, again stirring occasionally.

May God bless and keep all of us,

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Funny Farm

Two new milking goats joined the homestead last week and watching the children bustle about, getting them settled, has reminded me of how glad I am we've fallen into the backyard hobby farm lifestyle.  And "fallen" it has been!  Although I grew up without pets and my husband had just one dog, our yard now boasts a mouse-catching cat (Great entertainment!), a pig for just 6 months (not a Wilbur!), 6 chickens, 6 ducks, a guard-goose, 5 goats, and 2 rabbits.  Since the goats and rabbits give us babies, their numbers fluctuate.  It all began 5 years ago after spending the day with new friends and their multitude of backyard birds that inevitably led to "Can we get some chickens?".  I immediately recognized the potential for not needing a science curriculum for years with a project of such proportions and required little convincing!  So it began.

Our outbuildings have all been constructed with cast-off cages and doghouses and free pallets found behind home improvement stores, which means they're all cool, cadet blue-painted shacks!  And it is so good for the big kids to problem solve and plan and observe and mend both the shelters and the animals.  Good for the little ones to watch and "help", as well.  My farmy kids may not ace the SATs but they've researched and repaired, planned and pet, built and butchered, milked and midwived.  And it's difficult to find anything as darling as a 4 year old gathering eggs and chirping, "Fank you, chrickens!".  Well, perhaps bottle feeding newborn goats.  Or peeking at tiny rabbit heads.

We have fresh eggs, milk, and meat and we know from whence they came.  We have constant entertainment right outside the windows.  We have responsible kids (Usually.  Ahem.).  I highly recommend the backyard farm!

This doghouse is about to become a chicken coop.

Clare's dog, Nala, with a chick that had fallen from the rubbermaid on the windowseat just above her.

One of my favorite shots of Ian.

A barely-dried-off newborn goat ~ see his blue eyes?

Same goat, next day, with baby Joseph.

Goat looks like a toy!

John and Frannie.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Family Funnies

Me :  Ian, clothe those naked GI Joes.
Ian :  They're not naked.  They have boots on.

Me :  Come here Luke, I haven't hugged you all day.
Luke :  If you let me sleep in your bed, you can hug me all night long.

Me :  Clare, it's time for a bath.
Clare :  No thanks.
Me :  OK, then a shower.
Clare :  No thanks.
Me :  A sponge bath, then.
Clare :  (sigh) No interactions with water at all.

The four year old was very crabby one evening at bedtime ~ his behavior alternating between hysteria and whimpering.  I'd been in four times for the hug and kiss he'd been screaming/whining for and was cautiously tiptoeing around downstairs, hoping... Finally silence.  Then, lo and behold, a giggle.  Then a chuckle.  Then a genuine belly laugh.  I really wanted to head upstairs and investigate, but resisted, knowing that my presence would likely bring back the hysteria.  Not until the next morning would I know :  the 11 year old had new underwear that was too tight  (I already knew that.)  and he'd popped one on his head to stretch out the waistband.  He did not do this to help his little brother, but it sure did the trick.  None of my Mommy hugs and kisses worked ; it took an ingenious underwear-stretcher!

*Note : his idea worked and he says that the unders are now much more comfortable.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Mardi Gras Party

Here is Rees before our youth group's Mardi Gras party :

And here he is after :

Think he had fun?

I never thought the day would come to say to him, "The party goes from 8-11pm ; be walking in the door by 11:30."  But I did.  And he did.  And we stayed up much too late again, talking and laughing.  We're all getting older ; it feels pretty good!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

No Chariot Yet

Rees has had an increased cough the past few days and I've had to nag remind him to breathe in his flutter valve more often, to drink more water, and to run his dog instead of walk him.  These are the times when CF weighs a little heavier (And there are crushing times, too, but that's for another post.) and when I'm not all "que sera, sera" about life, death, suffering, joy, and spirituality.  Because it's not just a cough ; it's a reminder of the constant battle raging in his lungs among viruses, bacteria, mucus, white blood cells, and medications.  Our doctor and medical books soberly tell us that one day the bugs will win and I know it is true.  But.  But.  That time has not yet arrived and we plan to remind and push and encourage him to do what CFers have to do to keep healthy.  That's right ~ healthy.   No need to lie around, waiting for that sweet chariot to swing low.  Take care of yourself, dear, because there's a special birthday party on Saturday, you're altar serving on Sunday, we're hiking next weekend, and you've got a black belt test to prepare for!  It's different, now that he is older and so much more in charge of his health.  I miss the little boy and am proud of the young man.

Sometimes we "catch" flare-ups before a hospitalization becomes necessary ; sometimes we don't.  When he's angry, hopeless, and disappointed over missing things due to his health, my heart hurts so much, I weep.   I swear, too.  I think all parents do.  I think all parents plan, push, encourage, aid, hold, ache, and love so much it hurts.  Weep and swear, too.

I am optimistic that our home ministrations will thwart the course of this infection  (If not, I'll be posting from Providence Hospital, our other home!).  But as I look at my clock, it's time ; where's that boy to nag?