Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Xander Turns Nine (and Into A Top Secret Spy)

Alexander's birthday lists never disappoint.  This year, he asked for spy equipment, and boy oh boy did he receive it!  We have all been under constant surveillance since.

First up, handcuffs.  Brendan, age 3, said, "Oh good thing you get handcuffs so when the bad guys come you can lock them up!"  Considering these handcuffs can be easily opened by the person locked up, I hope no bad guys ever come.

Declan playing the role of bad guy.

We pulled out the nice plates and Maggie created name tags, and we had a lovely dinner.  The flowers are from Phil to me (I get flowers on each kid's birthday because, you know, labor.  And he spoils me.)

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Experience of Catholic Familyland: A Fun, Faith-filled, Family Retreat (Part Two)

Part One is here (or how a non-camping mom of seven decided the world had turned just craaaaaazy enough for her to pack up and head to Ohio for a family retreat).

This is Part Two.

{Side note: Man, I am on FIRE while typing this.  Since we've come back we have been shamed via Instagram and in real life by people who don't agree with us traveling to Ohio which *gasps* did not require masks while we were there.  We follow all the rules when we live in Maskachusetts (pun intended) and we followed all the rules when we went to Ohio.  And boy did it feel GOOD to communicate/play/pray/be with other human beings!  Not only did it feel great to be back to "normal" but to be with like-minded people who think the same way.  So yeah, I don't want COVID, but I also believe that flattening the curve doesn't mean nobody should ever get this virus, and I also believe that herd immunity is the best immunity (you can thank my family full of doctors for that one), and if going to Ohio to Catholic Familyland means we get COVID...I am totally ok with that.  We already think we had it back in February anyway.  I've never shied away from living during flu season, and according to all the studies I've seen, this should only affect us like the flu.  We are doing our part to make sure we don't potentially affect anyone else's health by self quarantining since we've been back at home.  A lot of people are traveling right now, so if you're scared of people who have traveled, best not come out of your house at all.  By the way, I am also ok if we get COVID from receiving Jesus in the Eucharist at Mass.  I literally would die for Christ on my bravest days :)  End side note.}

Anyways, onward and upward.  We had the best time at Catholic Familyland.  If you can get over your fear of camping (like me) and can make the long trek to Ohio (like we did) I promise you, God will bless your whole family.  Guys, we are not a sheltered family.  We are normal.  Our kids all go to school.  Phil and I both work.  Our kids play sports and instruments and are around all sorts of people all the time.  I was nervous that we were going to "stick out" at Catholic Familyland as the "worldly ones".   That was not what it felt like at alllllllll.  Everyone was so friendly and nice, and because we shared a faith (and usually a political stance as well), it was easy to get along.  There were families there that homeschooled, private schooled, public schooled, worked outside the home, stayed at home, had one child, had ten children, were grandparents, just got married...you get the idea!

Here are some scenes from the place, and I'll give you a sample schedule of a day later...

Beach Volleyball Courts - probably the most competitive tournament was beach volleyball.

Cousins in front of Mama C's Snack Shack.  We gave the kids money for the week and they had the freedom to spend it here as they liked.  But no additional funds!  I gotta teach them finances somehow!

My niece Jo-jo buying an ice cream that's bigger than her head!

My nephew, Liam, up in a tree

The littles with their Snack Shack purchase of the day - we literally bribed them to nap after lunch and then took them here.

A priest, currently assigned at Franciscan University, waiting for his next confession victim :)  There were multiple priests available all afternoons to hear confessions - so beautiful!

Gaga Ball - I had never heard of it!

Bouncy fun for the little ones every day!

We went to the pool every afternoon.

Monday, July 20, 2020

The Journey to Catholic Familyland: A Fun, Faith-filled, Family Retreat (Part One)

We just drove back from our family retreat to Catholic Familyland in Ohio, and boy are we tired!  But we have also been spiritually fed, bonded together as a family, and made memories to last a lifetime.  I have so many photos and stories to share, that I'm going to break this up into two parts.  Tonight I will focus on the journey that led our family to Catholic Familyland.

We first heard about this magical place from Phil's brother, Bob, and his wife Larisa, who have been going there for years with their eight children.  It always sounded a little corny (I mean, can a marketing team help them out with a new name?) and involved camping - not bare necessity camping, but also not glamping, which is the only way I would have considered camping in the past.  My idea of a nice family vacation is a big house on a beach.  Not the mountains, not the woods, not in nature.  And most definitely not in a cabin with no running water, toilet, or shower.

But then the pandemic hit.

And we were all stuck inside our house for months on end.

And all our normal summer events got canceled.

And we suddenly had all the time in the world but were so sick of the world, that we wanted an escape.

We were talking to Bob and Larisa, who mentioned what week they were going to Catholic Familyland (or "Church Camp" as they refer to it) and the Holy Spirit opened my heart just enough to actually entertain the passing thought of "I wonder if we could ever do that?"

I started researching their Holy Family Fests, looked at a couple blogger's reviews, casually mentioned it to Phil, and began envisioning the idea of a week roughing it in Ohio.

Guys, when I tell you that it took a literal PANDEMIC to ever let me consider doing something like this, I am not kidding.  I felt so depressed about the events going on in the world, so disheartened at seeing people violently debate politics, mask-wearing, and BLM, that I just wanted to go somewhere to deepen my faith and show my kids that not all people are crazy.  Well, some may say that Catholics are crazy, but I will be happy to be in that crazy camp anytime.

I had to talk Phil into going, which was ironic because he is the theology teacher who would normally love to go camping and/or on a retreat.  But to his credit, he knows me best and was worried that all of my anxieties about the trip might get the best of me as it got closer.  I assured him that I felt STRONGLY called to do this with our family, and he happily went along with it.  We planned to drive from Massachusetts to Maryland to visit his parents for a couple days before heading to Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio to show the kids our alma mater.

Inside the Port - 24/7 Adoration

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Summah Time So Fah

We are packing up to leave on a family "vacation" but I wanted to make sure to post some photos of our summer so far.  I say vacation in quotes because we are visiting family and then staying at Catholic Familyland for a week.  We will be staying in a tiny cabin with no bathroom or sink, but there is air conditioning and a fridge.  Since I am allergic to camping, I hope I don't die, but the kids are excited!  We are all ready to finally leave home after months and months, and I am looking forward to meeting some great families and being fed spiritually as a family.  Mostly I'm excited to hang out with my brother and sister-in-law every day and have my kids around those 8 cousins that they rarely see.

Anyway, here's what Phil and I have been up to - sweating together - every day whether we want to or not.  You'd think we would be in tip-top shape, but our other favorite past time is eating together, so we balance it out! 

The little boys were overjoyed when Phil pulled out an old kiddie pool from the basement.  I love that they don't need much to be so happy.  Of course, they needed goggles for one foot of water ;)

Friday, July 3, 2020

7QT: End of the Weirdest School Year

I've been meaning to write a little snippet about each of my kids, and now that the school year is over, it's a good time to reflect on how far they have each come this year.  Let me just say...kids are resilient.  This pandemic and all of the changes it brought with it didn't seem to affect my kids too much at all.  I think it helped that Phil and I were working from home, as I assume kids who had parents working out in the real world during this time would have been much more stressed.  We were very lucky to have us all at home working, schooling, and truly bonding as a family.

JOHN-PAUL, age 17 

Firstborns just have a way with their mother's hearts, don't they?  JP finished his Junior year with ease and is looking forward to Senior year.  How do I have a high school senior when I just graduated high school a few years back ;)  JP is suuuuuch a good kid, easy going, academically strong, hard working, with a nice group of friends.  His biggest flaw is that he would sleep in until noon everyday if we let him.  He has been working at the grocery store as a cashier and was recently approached by a manager, asking him if he would be interested in becoming an Assistant Manager.  He asked what it entailed, and then politely declined because he thought the hours would interfere with his school work and sports next year.  I was proud of him for being respected at work, and smart enough to not let it come before his academics (he's taking 4 AP classes next year).  At the end of the year, his awesome geeky friends were receiving emails telling them that they were in the Top Ten of the class, and JP didn't get an email.  He asked his guidance counselor what his ranking was, and found out he is 13th in the class, with a 3.96 GPA.  He has made it his goal to break into the top ten next year, but we shall see, as his class is crazy smart.  He has picked up a second job for the summer at an ice cream shop, and is loving eating the mistakes each night.  He just started morning workouts at the high school which will hopefully combat the ice cream pounds gained!  Due to the pandemic, he hasn't yet taken the SATs, so he has to take one in August and then again in October.  He still has his heart set on medicine and attending Franciscan University.  

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Social Distancing Kindergarten Graduation for Declan

A pandemic can't stop a Kindergarten Graduation...but it can make it look a lot different!  We decorated the new van (her official name is Vanna White) and drove to the school for some photos and a drive-by.

The theme was Red, White and Blue, so Declan wanted to wear his Captain Abearica shirt :)