Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thank You St. Jude

Friday: We make our final offer to the bank. We decide this is where we draw the line. If the bank turns us down, then we walk away from the deal. No compromise.

Monday evening: Still no response from the bank, even though closing is scheduled for the next day. We call our real estate agent to formally pull our offer and arrange to fill out the necessary paperwork.

Today 9:30 AM : Rob calls me on the cell phone as I pull up to the public library with a van full of children. "The deal isn't dead yet." Our agent and the selling agent were working to save the deal.

10:00 AM: The cell phone vibrates and I head to the library lobby. It's my agent. She tries to convince me that this is the house for us and we should go ahead even though the bank won't give into our concessions. "No," I say.

10:15 AM: Back to the library lobby. Our agent and the selling agent are willing to give up part of their commissions to make this deal. "No, I say again, "Rob and I have made concessions, you and the selling agent have made concessions, everyone is making concessions except the bank."

10:30 AM: Back to the library lobby. It's Rob. We talk it out. We love the house, we want the house, we can see our family in that house, but we have a fiscal responsibility to our family.

11:00 AM: Back to the library lobby. It's my agent again. The librarians are beginning to look at me funny. She tells me, "You've really been praying over this. Can you offer up one more prayer to St. Jude?" The bank wasn't budging and we needed a miracle.

11:15 AM: I give up getting anything done at the library. I gather up the children, check out our books, and get into the van. I pray silently, "St. Jude, you're the patron of desperate situations and I've got one for you. Closing is scheduled for 1:00 PM and if it's going to happen, the bank has to make the concession we asked for. Please help me. If this house is meant for us, please help it happen. If the bank doesn't come back in the next half hour, I'll accept it's God's will. No regrets. No looking back."

11:30 AM: I walk into the house and the phone rings. The bank conceded. Closing is on. The agent doesn't know if I accept or not as I'm crying so hard. She asks, "You prayed to St. Jude, didn't you?" I finally blurt out, "Yes!"

Noon: I'm in the car. It's an hour's drive to the title company.

1:00 PM: Closing begins. There were some last minute problems to iron out with all the last minute changes, but we sign everything.

3:03 PM: We are officially home owners.

Thank you St. Jude. You rock!

A Reversion Story

"Hello Maureen, this is Jon"

"Yes," I responded, concerned as his voice sounded full of tearful emotion.

"I hope you don't mind me calling you. I just have to tell you that this has been the most incredible Lent of my life and it's all because of your family."

"I don't understand Jon."

"I'm back in the Church. I've been going to daily Mass since Ash Wednesday. I hadn't been in a church since I was a child."

"This is wonderful news! I'm so happy for you! But I don't understand what my family had to do with it." I was searching my brain. I hadn't been praying for Jon's conversion. It wasn't even on my radar. I hadn't even had a single apologetics debate with him. And, oh, how I love a good apologetics debate.

"Just your example. Living next door to you and seeing how you live your lives. One day, your daughter Patricia told me, 'Jon you're my hero!' But I knew I was no hero and I had to do something about it."

You see, Jon was our next door neighbor. He was a 40-ish single man. An executive for an insurance company. He was very nice and we would exchange friendly waves and polite greetings, but not much more for the first few years we lived there.

Then he quit his job and began his own business. He was an early riser and would sit out on his front porch working on his laptop in the wee hours. Each morning, Patricia, all of 8-years old, would throw up her bedroom window and cheerfully exclaim, "Good morning Jon!"

The children began to invite Jon over for our picnic lunches in the front yard. They would then beg him to play ball afterwards. Jon loved it and looked forward to playing with the children during "recess."

Each Sunday as we loaded into the family van for Mass, the children would see Jon working in his garden and ask if they could invite him to come with us. I would tell them no, he probably already went to Mass the night before. I didn't want to break their little hearts and confess that he probably didn't attend church. Though I didn't really know since the subject never came up and he was very private about such things. But, after many weeks of asking, I finally gave them permission to invite Jon.

He never accepted the children's invitation, so it was a surprise when I picked up the phone that Good Friday to hear Jon tell me of his conversion experience.

He told me that my children saved his life. That he was heading down a destructive path and their example and their unconditional love changed his heart. He commended Rob and me for living out the Christian lessons we were teaching the children in school.

He also asked me to be his confirmation sponsor. Though he attended a Catholic church as a child, he'd never been confirmed. The sacrament would take place in a few months. He closed by saying, "Thank you for the best Easter ever!"

It's been eight years since that conversation and I am still blown away by it. A grown man brought to Christ by little children.

As St. Francis is famous for saying, "Preach the Gospel always and when necessary, use words."

Monday, April 28, 2008

Helping Homeschoolers in the Library

Adrienne Furness has kindly included For the Love of Literature as a must-have book for public libraries. Thank you Adrienne!

If you haven't yet, ask your library to purchase Adrienne's book, Helping Homeschoolers in the Library. I have a review copy here and I'm very happy with Adrienne's portrayal of the homeschooling population. In fact, I gave her a five-star review at Amazon.

On a similar note, I've learned recently that For the Love of Literature is being featured at several library shows and a good number of public libraries have purchased copies for their collections. If you don't yet own For the Love of Literature and would like a peek at it before you spend your hard earned money, then check your library. If they don't have it on the shelf yet, check inter-library loan options or make a purchase request.

Finding Joy in Christ

Yesterday's Gospel reminded me of the importance of being joyful in my faith.

Years ago, I asked my Aunt Kay why she converted to Catholicism. She replied, "Catholics were the happiest people I knew. I wanted to find out why."

Mmm, makes one think. Am I a joyful Catholic? Am I happy to be a child of Christ? Do I allow my joy to shine forth? Do people look at me and wonder, "What's special about her that she is so happy? Could it be her faith that makes her life so worthwhile?"

I think I need to work on that.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Advice From the Inspector Man

Last week during the house inspection the subject of television came up, as the only television option out in the country will be satellite. I told the inspector it didn't matter since we don't do TV.

He responded, "Let me tell you exactly what will happen. Your kids will go to their friends houses to watch TV and you'll never see them again. I know, it happened to a friend of mine. So you better watch out!"

I told him it wasn't a problem as we never let our children out of the house.

I'm not sure if he knew I was kidding.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Gilbert Gets LOL

If you happen to have the March 2008 issue of Gilbert Magazine lying around, then check out page 40. There you'll find a full-page review. Very cool!
For the Love of Literature is one book I believe any parent or teacher would want to own, if for no other reason than it begs to be underlined, highlighted, and filled with margin notes.

If you don't have Gilbert lying around your house, all I can ask is: Why not? Go HERE to subscribe.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mom, the Friz

As I climbed into the van:

Me: Seat belts everyone!
Buster: Please, let this be an ordinary field trip!
The rest of the kids: With the Mom? No way!

Then they all broke out in the Magic School Bus song.

This is my life.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

House Update

We're still haggling over the house.

Let say for the record that I prefer dealing with real people over dealing with banks. When all is said and done, I'll have to write an article on the ups and downs of buying foreclosures. Considering that 75% of the homes we've looked at over the past 18 months have been foreclosures, I imagine that others are going through the same kind of experiences.

We really want the house and are working with the bank to get some final problems ironed out. If all goes well and we get it worked out by tomorrow, we could close by Tuesday. If the bank doesn't come around by tomorrow and at least compromise, we'll be back to house hunting.

Whatever happens, it's in God's hands and we'll trust it's for the best.


Teen Daughter Two has strep yet again. Another round of antibiotics, only stronger this time, is in order. Fun.

I'm praying no one else gets it. The kids are praying I stop asking them every five minutes, "How's your throat feel?"

When we missed Socrates Cafe a couple of weeks ago because of the scarlet fever, one of the teens said, "Leave it to the Wittmanns to get such a literary disease!"

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

First Communion Novena

Princess Rose has decided to do a "First Communion Novena." She got the idea from Neumann Press' First Communion Days. Every day for at least nine days, she'll go to Mass and receive Communion. So, she's already made her first, second, and third Holy Communions!
And then we came home and had leftover cake to celebrate! Though I don't have enough leftover cake for nine days!

Princess Rose Makes Her First Communion

Saturday, April 19, 2008

St. Jude Novena, Day Nine

St. Jude pray for us!

The inspection finally took place yesterday. The date had been put off over and over again due to problems hooking up the propane to the house. You see, the house is a foreclosure and has been vacant for quite some time. It seems that the company who winterized the house did an incompetent job.

When we finally got to inspection, we discovered the pipes had not been properly winterized either. The pipes had burst sometime in the past week and there is considerable water damage to the lower level.

We immediately went to the bank and asked for a reduction in price. The bank told us so sad too bad. We knew it was an "as is" deal and they don't negotiate price after an offer has been accepted.

So, we may be walking away from the Charlotte Mason house. We'll see what happens on Monday.

The Pope Addresses Educators

Pope Benedict's address to educators. If you haven't already, make sure to read it.
To all of you I say: bear witness to hope. Nourish your witness with prayer. Account for the hope that characterizes your lives (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) by living the truth which you propose to your students. Help them to know and love the One you have encountered, whose truth and goodness you have experienced with joy. With Saint Augustine, let us say: "we who speak and you who listen acknowledge ourselves as fellow disciples of a single teacher" (Sermons, 23:2). With these sentiments of communion, I gladly impart to you, your colleagues and students, and to your families, my Apostolic Blessing.

This is one of the very rare times I wish I had cable. All of my information about the pope's visit has been via the print media. I'd sure love to see the television coverage.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Virtual Homeschool Conferences

I got the following email from someone I met at the Home Education Conference in Denver:

I have come across something on the internet and I wanted to make it known to the Catholic online community if they do not already know. The non-Catholics have tapped into an idea that I think is awesome. They are having online virtual homeschooling conferences! The talks are all audio format and can be heard live or downloaded when they are recorded. Here are links to two I have found. I want the Catholics to do this! I wish I had the know-how to attempt it myself. It is such a cool idea.



Maybe you know someone else I could contact. I would love to help with this.

If you're interested in helping set up something like this, email me and I'll get you connected with the writer.

St. Jude Novena, Day Seven

St. Jude pray for us!

Old Vans and Angels, Part Three

We had been sitting in that van for an hour and a half but, even though it was close to zero degrees outside, it had stayed relatively warm. I was only then starting to feel the cold. The children slept through it all.

Two highway patrol men, in separate vehicles, pulled up next to me. I was struck by how young they were. My knights in shining armor. As Rob would say later, "These are the kinds of happenings that make their day -- rescuing a mom and seven kids in the middle of the night."

The patrol men helped me gather the children from the van to their patrol cars. Sparky had slipped off his shoes and they were nowhere to be found. The patrol men told me not to worry about it, as they carried Sparky to the patrol car; they would take care of everything and the important thing now was to get to a warm place. "But, we have to at least find the little cooler," I said, "it has Sparky's medicine. He has to have it." Again, I was reassured, "Don't worry, we'll come back and get everything. Let's get these kids to someplace safe."

Of course, in my feeble mind I was replaying how we just threw everything into the van in our hurry to beat the ice storm. How embarrassing to have my knights deal with that mess. But they were right, we needed to focus on the kids.

The older children went in one patrol car. The baby and younger children went with me in the other. If you've never sat in the back of a police car (and I sure hope you haven't), it's made of molded plastic and there are no seat belts. Buster was concerned we were breaking the law by not having proper car seats and belts. I reassured him that we were with the police and they weren't about to arrest us.

As we drove, the patrol men were talking to one another on their radio, "What hotel should we take them to?" I interjected, "Someplace cheap!" After all, I may have just killed my only source of transportation and was therefore likely broke.

In a few minutes, we were pulling into a newly built Embassy Suites. I thought to myself, "Did he not hear me say cheap!" But I kept quiet, I was grateful for their help and wasn't about to complain.

We must have looked a sight, walking into the hotel lobby. Almost one o'clock in the morning with seven little children, including one without shoes. I asked the hotel clerk as I checked in, "How much is going to cost?" She looked past me and sweetly said, "I just got the nod from the hotel manager. There will be no charge." It took every ounce of energy in my body not to break down crying. I had prayed for help, but I never imagined this much help. And, this was only the beginning.

The clerk loaded me up with chocolate chip cookies and milk for the children (our suite had a kitchenette) and there would be free breakfast in the morning. The patrol men helped me get the children to our room. They left with the reassurance that they'd be back with our belongings.

My first thought was to call Rob, he'd be worried sick. As I dialed his number on the borrowed cell phone, it went dead. The batteries lasted only as long as I needed them. I called him on the hotel phone.

"What in the world was that message you left me? I couldn't understand a single word you said!" Oops, I might have been a little flustered when I left that message. I explained all the events of the evening and assured him that all was well now. We expressed our love for one another and promised to talk in the morning.

I hung up and the patrol men were knocking on the door. They had Sparky's shoes, the medicine cooler, all our luggage, and the baby's portable crib. They gave me the name and number of the auto mechanic where my van was being towed. I thanked them profusely as they went off into the night, sure to save other damsels in distress.

As we nestled down to sleep, Teen Son said, "Mom! We know someone in Fort Wayne! Mr. Erlandson!" He was right. Our Sunday Visitor is in the Fort Wayne area and I knew the publisher from a recent writing project. "It's a little late to call Mr. Erlandson now Sweetheart," I said, "but I'll call him first thing in the morning."

We all slept incredibly well that evening. Perhaps it was the knowledge that everything was in God's hands. I woke up refreshed and started making phone calls. First to tell Rob good morning. Then to the mechanic, who told me that my van was put first in line.

Next, I called OSV. Greg asked the name of the mechanic and it turned out that he knew him from his parish. Greg assured me that the mechanic was a good, honest man. He also said that his wife would be coming out to visit us after she got the kids off to school. Another angel -- she brought treats for the children, crayons and coloring books to keep them busy, and swimming suits if they wanted to take advantage of the pool. I couldn't ask for better friends.

It turned out that the distributor had caught on fire and the entire electrical system was shot. I was relieved that the repair would be relatively fast and reasonably priced -- $800. I called Rob, and he said to go ahead with it. It was a lot of money, but considering the the severity of the damage and the fact that I was 125 miles from home it was okay.

Check out time was at noon, so the kids and I packed up and headed to the lobby. The car would be done by one and we could wait there. I called the mechanic from the hotel courtesy phone at the desk. The van was ready, but they would have to pick me up in the tow truck. The hotel manager overhead me as I responded, "I'll just have to leave my 13-year old to watch the other six in the lobby." The hotel manager spoke up and volunteered to drive the children and me in the hotel van.

This has been a long story and we're almost to the end, but the best par tis yet to come.

I paid the bill at the counter and began to walk out the door when the owner came running after me, "Excuse me, excuse me, I have something to show you." He took me back to his desk and held out his hand. It held a molten blob and he said, "This is your distributor." He held out his other hand, "This is a brand new distributor." You would never know that the two things were related in any way. He continued, "I had to show you this because in all my years in this business I have never send a distributor in this kind of shape where the entire vehicle didn't go completely up in flames. Angels were looking out for you!!!"

At that moment, all I wanted to to get out of there and get home. As I walked out the door, I thought that I should go back and get the molten blob. After all, it would make a cool conversation piece on the mantel. But, I couldn't do it. I couldn't waste even two minutes. I had to get home, to Rob, to my own house, where is was safe and comfy.

When, two hours later, the kids and I walked in the front door, Rob was waiting for us. He hugged me like he never hugged me before. I began to cry, "Oh Rob, I'm so sorry. $800 is so much money. Money we don't have."
"Maureen, I don't care about the money. You and the kids are okay. That's all that matters!"
"Can I buy a new van?"
"Are you kidding, we just spent $800 on this one!"

And, it was just as well because that old, beat-up van went on to provide me with many other opportunities to pray and for God to send me angels.

Oh, BTW, the ice storm never came.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

PSN5: Happy 81st B16!

In honor of Pope Benedict's birthday today, go to your library's website and ask your library to buy more books by and about the pope! Here's two to get you started.

To read past library recommendations, or to join the email list, visit: Pope Saint Nicholas V.

Title: Christ Our Joy: The Theological Vision of Pope Benedict XVI
Author: Msgr. Joseph Murphy
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Date Published: April 2008
ISBN-10: 1586171828
ISBN-13: 978-1586171827
Price: 19.95
Book Description:

Noticing how often the new Pope had the topic of "joy" as the central theme of his many addresses, Murphy delved into the vast writings of the Pope, before and after his election to the papacy, and found that the theme of joy has pervaded all of his theology. Recognizing the Pope's invitation to joy as a key to understanding his basic theological vision, Murphy develops those ideas and writings in a creative way, and helps the reader to engage personally with the original and pastoral mind of Joseph Ratzinger, professor, pastor, and now Pope Benedict XVI.

This joy is nothing other than the joy of the Christian faith. Indeed, the "first word of the New Testament", says Pope Benedict XVI, "is an invitation to joy". The Gospel of Jesus Christ, he insists, is not a burdensome imposition but is truly "glad tidings" for mankind. Christianity is the key to true and lasting joy, the only joy that abides in the midst of life's anxieties and difficulties.

Written in a clear and engaging style, this book argues that joy is central to all of Pope Benedict's thought. All the other great themes of the Christian faith are intimately connected with it and radiate out from it. The world is in need of hearing once again the message of joy which Jesus Christ makes known.

For priests, religious and laity who are concerned with presenting the Christian message in a positive, attractive and convincing way, as well as for all who wish to delve into the rich and exciting thought of Pope Benedict XVI, one of the most inspiring Christian thinkers of recent decades, this timely book will provide insight for personal reflection, preaching and teaching.

Title: Benedict of Bavaria: An Intimate Portrait of the Pope and His Homeland
Author: Brennan Pursell
Publisher: Circle Press
Date Published: March 2008
ISBN-10: 1933271175
ISBN-13: 978-1933271170
Price: 24.95
Book Description:

An Intimate Portrait of the Pope and His Homeland Highlighting a little-known personal side of Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, this book places him in the context of his homeland, Bavaria a place which the author, Brennan Pursell, has come to know well through extensive travel and study over the last twelve years. Explore the extraordinary brilliance of Pope Benedict's mind and the universality of his vocation within the context of his identity as a simple son of his beloved homeland, Bavaria. Includes color photos and a rare look at a day in the life of the Pope.

St. Jude Novena, Day Six

St. Jude pray for us!

Old Vans and Angels, Part Two

I took a deep breath and looked around me to survey the situation. There was about a foot of snow on the ground. It was beautiful clear night, but the temperature was close to zero. The kids were all sleeping soundly and the smoke had stopped poring out from under the hood. I figured now that the engine was dead, it had no reason to smoke.

Teen Son moved about groggily and mumbled, "What's going on?" I told him, "Oh not much. The van is dead and we're stranded on the side of the road." "Oh, okay," he responded and went back to sleep.

What little calm I had was broken when I realized I had no idea where I was and there was no sign of civilization. Just masses of farm fields and an empty commercial building. What do I do?

Then it came to me, "I have a cell phone!" You see, I wasn't a cell phone owner in those days and really had no clue about them. However, just as I was leaving with the kids the previous week for our trip, Rob handed one to me saying, "I just had an employee quit and there's still a few weeks left on the contract. Take the phone in case of emergency." Now, if that isn't a sign that angels watch over me, I don't know what is!

I rummaged through my purse, found it, and actually figured out how to make a call. So, I call Rob. And I get the answering machine! Frantically, I left a rambled message, "Rob! Where are you? Why aren't you answering the phone! The van is dead and I'm in the middle of Nowheresville with a foot of snow with seven kids and its cold! Where are you!"

Now panic was yet again rearing it's ugly head. "What do I do? Triple A! I have Triple A!" Back to my purse rummaging, this time searching for the AAA card. Contents of my purse strewn about the floor of my van, I found it and sighed a huge sigh of relief. I dialed the number, imagining my hero on the other end of the line. Instead, I got, "I'm sorry. This is Michigan AAA; you need to call Indiana AAA. Let me give you the number." I couldn't find a pen, nor anything to write on. Finally, a crayon showed itself and I used my arm as a writing pad.

I call Indiana AAA and get, "All operators are now busy. Please hold the line and someone will be with you shortly." Then the muzak came on.

Now, one would think that AAA would have nice peaceful music since the people calling are often in emergency situations. But, no, not when I call. No, they were playing loud, obnoxious heavy metal. It was too much. I couldn't take it. I reached for the now-empty cappuccino cup and . . . well, I won't describe it for you. Let's just say was feeling sick to my stomach. Just at that moment, the AAA lady picked up the line, "AAA may I help . . . OH MY GOSH! Are you okay!"

"No, I'm not okay. I'm in the middle of nowhere. I have no idea where I am. My van was on fire, but now it's just dead. I've got seven little kids in the car and it's freezing outside. No, I'm not okay!"

God bless this woman, I still pray for her to this day (as well as the other people you'll meet in this story down the road). She was so sweet and calming. She said, "Don't worry. Everything is going to be okay. I'm here to help you and we're going to get you someplace warm and safe. Now, look up and all around you. Tell me if you see any signs at all."

I looked up and right smack in front of my face was a sign: Exit 0. I told her that I thought I was about 10 miles south of Fort Wayne and I described the highway that I had exited onto. Much to my relief, she exclaimed, "I've found you on the map! I know right where you are." Thank you Jesus. Now, prayers of thanksgiving came.

The AAA lady said she would call me back in a little bit with a tow truck and taxi bus. But, I had no idea the cell phone number and I wasn't even sure how to answer a cell phone. (Oh, I was so 20th century in those days!)

I hung up and just at that moment, a semi truck was driving my way. I tried to roll down the electric window to flag him down, but all the power in the van was completely gone. There would be no heat, no radio, no nothing as we sat there waiting. The truck went on pass me.

Then the baby began to fuss. I took him to nurse. A calm began to overtake me. Babies and nursing have a way of doing that. I began to pray, "Dear Jesus, if I have faith in you then I have to know that you're going to take care of me and my children. Everything is going to be okay and you're going to help me out of this situation. Thank you Jesus for loving me. I trust that everything is going to be okay." My panic was gone.

After Baby was finished, but still awake, I felt the urge to, well, go to the bathroom. One of those urges that couldn't be ignored. Perhaps the stress of the situation brought it on. I woke up my 11-year-old daughter to hold the baby while I ran out. There I was -- climbing down a ravine in a foot of snow. What a sight! Then, a car approached. I ran up the ravine, into the street to flag the car down, as I'm zipping up my pants. I'm sure those people were thinking, "Oh joy! There's someone we can help!" Not.

The passenger rolled down her window just a crack. I explained my van broke down and I wanted to make sure that the AAA lady had my location right. The passenger said, "We're not from around here and don't know where we are either." She hurriedly rolled up the window and they took off.

I climbed back into the van and called the AAA lady back. She said, "You're just far enough out of Fort Wayne and it's just enough past eleven that I'm having trouble finding help for you. Hang in there, call me back again in 20 minutes.

This scenario played itself out a couple more times, when finally, around 12:30, I called her and she had good news.

The Highway Patrol was on it's way. The Calvary was coming. I began to wake all the children and explained the situation. They were groggy enough that they had no clue the severity of the situation.

Soon, two Highway Patrol cars pulled up and . . .

To be continued tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Old Vans and Angels, Part One

If you drive old beat up cars like us, you better be a prayerful person. It also helps to have AAA. I have more stories about car troubles and angels sent to help me than you can imagine.

This is my favorite. It's also my longest, so I'll break it up over three posts:

The story begins five and a half years ago, back when I had 7 kids, newborn to thirteen. We were on our way home from St. Louis and had stopped to visit family in Indianapolis. Our plan was to visit for the day, spend the night, and head back to Michigan the next day.

I left the kids with my cousin Sherry while I ran to the mall to visit my cousin Mike, the eye doctor. Hey, I'm not one to pass up on a free eye exam from a family member! So, anyway, Mikey tells me that he was just checking weather.com and they were predicting a big ice storm, set to hit Indy about midnight and I should rethink my travel plans.

Well, Mike loads me up with new contact lenses and supplies and I head back to the house. When I walk in, Sherry exclaims, "Maureen! Your dad just called. He's watching the Weather Channel and they're predicting a big ice storm to start here around midnight. They say it's going to shut the whole city down for at least a day."

So, Sherry and I turn on the local news and get the same scoop. Ice storm. Midnight. City will come to a standstill.

I figured we could just ride it out and spend an extra day visiting, but Teen Son was frantic. He had a Squires meeting the next day and he, as an officer, absolutely couldn't miss it. (Squires, if you don't already know, are like Junior Knights of Columbus.)

Okay, I'm giving you a lot of background here, but bear with me. The good part is coming soon.

It's 9 PM and it's a four hour drive to Lansing. I figured I could pull it off with enough caffeine. I wolfed down a piece of pizza and threw all our stuff in the van. Quite literally. There was no time to pack neatly. I threw in the kids too and we took off, only stopping to fill up the gas tank and purchase a 24-ounce cup of fake cappuccino.

About 11 PM we were approaching Fort Wayne and I was feeling good. I looked around and all the kids were sleeping peacefully. More importantly I was wide awake and figured I'd have no trouble driving until 1 AM. Little did I know what was about to happen.

My car started making a horrible, loud squealing noise. Really loud. I was starting to get frantic, when suddenly the noise stopped and it sounded like something dropped out of the bottom of the van. I thought, "Oh well, whatever it was is gone now and everything is hunky dory." Yeah right.

All the warning lights came on and buzzers were buzzing all around me. Smoke began poring out from under my hood. This is where the prayer part comes in. I was praying a prayer of desperation. "Please don't let my car be on fire. Please don't my car be on fire. Please don't let my car be on fire. Dear Jesus, you put these children in my care don't take them now!"

I looked up and there was an exit right in front of me . I took it, figuring that there would be a gas station right there. Wrong. There was nothing. It was a deserted highway. I took the next exit. And there my car died. With smoke poring out. And with me praying, "Please, please, Jesus, don't let my car be on fire. Please help me."

To be continued . . .

St. Jude Novena, Day Five

St. Jude pray for us!

Monday, April 14, 2008

St. Jude Novena, Day Four

St. Jude pray for us!

PSN5: Joseph and Chico

With the Pope's U.S. visit there is a heightened awareness of all things Benedict and everything Catholic. Now is the time to really get on the ball and make those purchasing requests to your library. Also email them and suggest a special display to commemorate this historic visit.

To read past library recommendations, or to join the email list, visit: Pope Saint Nicholas V.
Check to see if this title is already in your library's catalog. If it is, put a hold on it and check it out. If not, fill out a patron request form right away. This can usually be done online at your library's website.

Title: Joseph and Chico: A Cat Tells the Life of Pope Benedict XVI
Author: Jeanne Perego (Author), Donata Dal Molin Casagrande (Illustrator), Monsignor Georg Ganswein (Introduction)
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Date Published: March 2008
ISBN: 1586172522
Price: $12.21 Hardcover

Book description from the publisher:
In this beautifully illustrated book for children, Chico the cat describes the life of his "best friend", Pope Benedict, in this authorised biography of the Pope for young people approved by the Vatican.

"Dear Children, here you will find a biography that is different than others because it is told by a cat and it is not every day a cat can consider the Holy Father his friend and sit down to write his life story," the Pope's personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Ganswein, says in the foreword.

The Pope is known for his fondness of animals, especially cats, and Joseph and Chico is narrated by Chico, a real cat who took up with the Pope in his native Germany long before he became the Pope. Chico tells the story of the life of "my best friend" from his birth in Germany in 1927, through his days as a young man, priest, bishop and cardinal.

With a colorful and sometimes amusing language, the author makes this funny cat tell us about the life of the young Joseph all the way up to his election as Pontiff on April 19, 2005. It recounts the Nazi era in Germany when the Pope was a teenager, calling the war years "one of the most dramatic and shameful times in the history of man". Later when he became Cardinal Ratzinger, Chico recounts how each time when the Cardinal returned to Germany from Rome for a vacation, the cat would run into his house and sit on his lap as he played the piano.

The lavish color illustrations throughout make this a wonderful gift book and a cherished keepsake for people of all ages!

Friday, April 11, 2008

St. Jude Novena: Day One

St. Jude pray for us.

Thank you EWTN for posting novenas and prayers online!

Sts. Joseph and Jude

Well, it would be crazy of me to expect the purchasing of a new home to go smoothly, but I'm starting to get a little frustrated. I won't bore you all with the details, other than to say that the inspection has been moved. Again! We're looking at another week or two.

My Catholic realtor has suggested a novena to St. Jude. Her Methodist collegue has suggested we bury a statue of St. Joseph in the yard.

I don't know about you, I just can't seem to bring myself to put St. Joseph in the dirt. It doesn't seem right.

St. Joseph has a place of honor in our home. My husband and two of my sons have his name (one as a first name and two as a middle name). My father, brother and two of my nephews have his name. St. Joseph rocks at our house!

So, instead of burying him in the ground, we have him in a prominent place, near the window where he can enjoy the sunshine.

Meanwhile, I'm going to take the advice on the St. Jude novena and begin today. We just finished the novena to St. Joseph and I'm pretty sure that Joseph wouldn't mind a little help from his friend Jude in asking Jesus to help us.

And we'll be praying for all of you too! I know many of you are having your own struggles. Ours are really quite minor compared to the needs of others. So, please join me in this novena and let's lift one another up in prayer.

I'll post the prayers each day for the next nine days. St. Jude pray for us!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

LOL at the PLA

My librarian friend Adrienne just got back from the Public Library Association Conference in Minneapolis. While she was walking the trade show floor one day, she looked up and saw For the Love of Literature! She had her digital camera handy and so took a photo for me. See, it's on the top shelf, a little to the left of the center. How cool is that!

LOL Featured


Sharing Our Strep

We have strep throat and scarlet fever at my house. Again. Six of the seven kids are on antibiotics.

Here's a tip if you don't want strep running through your whole house. Make sure your 5-year old doesn't get into the fridge and drink milk straight from the carton. Not that my five-year old would ever do such a thing. Nope.

Oh, and another tip if you don't want your kid's friends getting strep. Make sure your teens don't share their Mountain Dew fountain drink with one straw with their friends. Just so you know, you can tell them not to do such things for 15 years and they still do it!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Pictures of the Inside

Postage Increases and Online Deal

As of May 12th, postage is going up. If you like to order books and curriculum online, I suggest doing it NOW. Merchants are already starting to raise their postage and handling costs.

If you would like to help me with my 1-month purge AND save money on postage, you can order any of my books today. Just check the sidebar for the Add to Cart buttons.

In fact, I'll offer you an extra deal. If you buy a copy of The Catholic Homeschool Companion, I'll throw in a free audio CD of Catholic Homeschooling 101 while supplies last.

Definition of Stress

stress (noun): Buying a house the same week you're trying to figure out financial aid so your oldest son can go to the college of his choice.

St. Joseph Novena, Day Eight

St. Joseph Novena, Day Eight

Prayer to be said at the end of each day's devotion.

The inspection has been moved to Friday.

Minnesota, Homeschooling, and Blogs

If you plan on going to the Minnesota Catholic homeschooling conference and you love blogs, head on over to Ana's blog. She'll be leading a cool workshop on Catholic homeschool blogs.

BTW, I had the opportunity to speak at the Minnestoa conference some years ago and it is an awesome conference. If you're on the fence about going or not, GO. They do a great job. I hope to go back some day. Partly because my husband absolutely loves Minnesota, partly because they treated me so nicely.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

St. Joseph Novena, Day Six

St. Joseph Novena, Day Six

Prayer to be said at the end of each day's devotion.

Decluttering for a Big Move

With a very possible move, the six-month purge has just become the one-month purge. I need to get on the ball. I think we're going to have to "school light" for the next month so we can focus on getting ready for the new house. (Bureaucrats need not worry. We promise to be schoolish over the summer.)

I'd like to get one of those big dumpsters and just do a massive purge. We had 3 little children and almost no belongings when we moved into this house. Now we're busting out the seams. I don't want to move a bunch of junk. Oh, the seven kids can come but I'm going to be brutal about their belongings. (Famous last words.)

I'm open to your ideas and suggestions here.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Planning: For the Love of Lit Style

Thank you Mrs. T. for your kind words for For the Love of Literature. If you're starting to think about next school year and like to see what other people are doing, then pay a visit to Mrs. T.'s blog: Saint Daniel the Stylite Academy.

I've already sung the praises of Maureen Wittmann's For the Love of Literature, but I have to say again how helpful a resource it's been as I've tried to hash out plans for next year. I'm not a micro-planner, as in, here's what we'll be doing from 9:02-9:07.5 . . . but I am a macro-planner. I have an idea of the broad scope of things, and usually as I'm making big plans for the following year, my mind is filling in the blanks under each subject heading with, " . . . and we'll read some stuff." This year, I actually have an idea what stuff we'll read, and I think I have a shot at keeping us in books for the entire year (other problem: under-buying, and/or under-utilizing the library).

So here are our book lists for next year, so far:

St. Joseph Novena, Day Five

The bank accepted our offer. Now it's time for inspections and the appraisal. In fact, the inspections will take place on Thursday, the day after our novena ends. Because of a weird Michigan property tax law we need to close by May 1st if this is to happen at all. Pray and breathe.

St. Joseph Novena, Day Five

Prayer to be said at the end of each day's devotion.

Friday, April 04, 2008

St. Joseph Novena, Day Four

Prayer for Day Four

Prayer to be said at the end of each day's devotion.

Big Families and College Tuition

Here's your chance to help a nice Catholic family get their kids into college:

Howdy Friends & Family

Our family has entered a $25,000 nationwide UPromise college scholarship contest in which you submit a 30 second video (no more than 5 MB in size) explaining why you'd like $25K towards college. We made a cute parody of "The Brady Bunch" and all nine of our kids fill up the nine squares! You have to watch it a few times, because the kids thought of several creative things that happen as our oldest, Nathan and Matthew, sing about why they need the money for college. You can vote for and view our video, "Our College Fund", at:

A larger version of the video is on YouTube: http://snipurl.com/bradybunchparody

We received a phone call Friday that our video made it into the Top 10 and now the $25K Grand Prize Winner will be chosen by the voting public! YOU can help us win by voting ONCE PER DAY (if possible) April 1 through April 16. We would be so appreciative if you (and any family or friends you think may enjoy the video and vote) could help us win the scholarship!

I'd like to email you a quick reminder to vote each day. Just let me know if you'd rather not be on the list. If you spread the word and someone else would like to be added to the daily vote reminder list, I can add them if they email me at:

Thank you in advance for any help you can give towards this effort! And again, please feel free to forward this email to any friends or familyyou think may enjoy the video and vote. We may never be able to know orthank everyone who voted, so please accept our heartfelt THANKS from our whole family!!

UPromise Contest Voting:
* http://www.upromise.com/tuitiontales*
"Our College Fund" video parody of "The Brady Bunch"
* April 1 - April 16

-- Christopher & Kimberly Kocmoud

Now, go tell all your friends that they need to vote for this family! Feel free to cut and paste this post or link to it. As a mom of seven struggling at this very moment with the college tuition challenge, I'd love to see this family win. Plus, their video clip is way too cute. Thanks Linda B. for sending it to me.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

St. Joseph Novena, Day Three

Prayer for Day Three

Prayer to be said at the end of each day's devotion.

One Step Closer to Home Ownership

We did it. It was scary, but we did it. It's an hour's drive to the real estate agency and I spent that hour reminding myself to pray and breathe. Pray and breathe.

It's a bit disconcerting when you're about to sign a paper promising to spend way more money than you've ever spent. This house costs almost four times the cost of my first home. Pray and breathe.

My stomach was churning but I managed to sign all the papers. Rob, of course, went right into the "maybe we should've" mode. You know, "Maybe we should've bid less," "Maybe we should've bid more," Maybe we should've kept looking," etc.

Afterward, we drove to the house to walk around the property and peek in the windows before heading back to Lansing. Driving up to it was almost surreal knowing that it may someday actually be ours. I envisioned the children driving their dune buggy in the field, and skating on the pond, and climbing the trees and searching for tadpoles.

But first things first. The bank has to accept our offer. Pray and breathe.

St. Joseph pray for us!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Chestertonians Unite

The logo for the upcoming Chesterton conference is way too cool! It is designed by Ted Schluenderfritz who also did the illustrations for Nancy Brown's Father Brown Reader.

A full schedule and registration information have been posted. Go register now if you want to hang out with all the cool Chesterton people!

St. Joseph Novena: Day Two

Prayer for Day Two

Prayer to be said at the end of each day's devotion.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

St. Joseph Novena, Day One

If you'd like to join us in our novena, I'll provide links each day for the next nine days. EWTN has very nice novenas at their website.

Prayer for Day One

Prayer to be said at the end of each day's devotion.

Our Charlotte Mason House

Rob and I have been house hunting forever. We've actually put bids on a few, only to have someone else outbid us. Houses that were on the market 6 to 21 months suddenly have tons of interest when we look at them! I told our real estate agent that if she has any houses that are hard to move, she should have us put a bid on it so everyone else will suddenly want that house too.

Plus, it's not easy finding a house that fits our needs and wants. We do have seven children so space is an issue. We need to be closer to Rob's work but not too far from our friends. And we'd like some acreage. I'd like to have a chicken coop and maybe a family cow, as well as some woods for the kids to hunt.

I think we found just the right house last night. All I could think was, "This is the perfect house for a Charlotte Mason education!" It has a meadow, a fen, some woods, 2 large ponds, and a creek. There is wildlife everywhere. The house has been vacant for quite sometime and we saw evidence of deer all the way up to the back door.

If we do get the house, the first thing I'll have to do is find a naturalist to come and help us identify all the cool plant life. We could spend years doing nothing but nature studies!

Oh, the house is neat too. It looks very much like a Frank Lloyd Wright house. It blends right into the surrounding nature. It was built in 1968 and is pretty much stuck in 1968. But, hey, retro is in! Plus, they really built things well in 1968. Though some new carpet and wallpaper will be in order (orange and avocado green just rub me the wrong way).

We'll probably put a bid in tomorrow. Please pray that all goes well and no one else suddenly decides that they want it too.

We'll be starting our novena to St. Joseph today!