Wednesday, February 13, 2013


On December 31st, 2012, I was speeding to my friend’s house whose son had passed away that morning. I was already asking him for favors. I asked him for a baby. Every month I would ask Roy if he thinks God is finished blessing me with children. One time he said, “Maybe God has something he wants to do with you first.” Maybe so. Or, maybe He is finished. After all, I am 40 and my clock is ticking or has clicked its last tock.

Roy was right. I was busier than I had ever been in January. Had I been pregnant, I would have been useless with vomiting and crawling around like a college student’s hangover….(not that I would know ANYTHING about that…..just sayin’). On the weekend that the homeschoolers were having an extreme makeover done on Nolan’s family’s house, I took a pregnancy test. It was positive. I thought it would be a fitting time to see if Nolan’s prayers had been answered with a yes.

For my non-Catholic friends, Catholics do not believe in a separation between us and those in Heaven. We do not believe that they have become incapable of praying on our behalf the way our friends on Earth do. We do not believe that they cannot see or hear us anymore. They are our brothers and sister’s who are now close to God and can intercede for us the same way we ask our friends, family and neighbors to intercede for us in prayer. I asked Nolan to intercede.

I know that there are many people reading this and confused as hell as to why a mother of 8 is begging for more. The answer is simple. It’s because I’m the mother of 8. I have a front row seat into the life of a big family. I see the benefits that other people with “2 kids are all I can handle” cannot see. They see loss of money, buying food in bulk, crying, screaming, fighting, losing one kid unnoticed, keeping up with toddlers, 20 years of poopy diapers, etc. I better stop. I’m already talking myself out of wanting more.

Focus!! What I see is a constant party, always having a friend, always having something to do, never hearing “I’m bored”, no one sitting in front of the TV or video games, defending and loving each other, giggling, laughing, long talks with a teenager at night, lots of wrestling, always having a cuddle buddy in bed, making any small event into a party just by showing up, scaring off wanna be bad guys from messing with our house, breastfeeding, pictures, stares in the restaurant, having your own cheering section for a sibling’s ball game, people looking at me like a super hero, 6 kids whispering and giggling every night in one room,  etc. etc. I wish I had the time, energy and creativity to put into words the joys of having a large family. I am forever seeing the benefits. Parents of many kids seem to enjoy every pleasure of life so much more. A shower can feel as good for me as a shower for someone who has been stranded in the desert for a month. A night out with my husband can feel as good as a first date with your first major crush. Everything just feels better. So……

When someone asks me if I’m going to have any more kids, my answer is always the same.     

“I never want to stop.”

Monday, February 4, 2013

Extreme Makeover Part 4 - Mission Complete

"Do you think Jill will like her new kitchen?”

“Do you think they will love their new mattress?”

“………their new bathroom?”

“………their walls……bookshelves……table…….refrigerator……etc. etc. etc.”

I didn’t want to poo-poo on everyone’s enthusiasm so I will just do it here:/

 If Jill & Patrick were given 10 BILLION dollars, they would still be unhappy. Nolan’s death can really be a painful reminder on how valuable a human life is. I like what my Bible study teacher says, “Even Coco the signing bear is worthless next to the lame human being.” Oh, that is so true. Their son was priceless. Our kids, parents, the homeless man on the corner, the lame woman in the nursing home….they are all worth more than all the money in the world and all the material goods that this world can offer. Do you see why I am pro-life? Do you see why taking the life of a stranger in a vegetative state is something worth fighting against? This IS our business!!

Sunday, January 27th, at 6:15pm, everyone was running around and finishing up last minute fix-up’s and repairs. A few women were clearing out all the evidence that anyone had been there. Tools were thrown in the garage, cleaning supplies thrown in tubs, cardboard and old blankets are pulled from the new rugs, cars and vans and trailers are pulled back into the street. Some of us were giggling at the anticipation of the Connors homecoming. Some were a little more edgy and panicky….not going to mention namesJ One of the teenage girls found a cardboard box and wrote “Welcome Home Connor Family!!” She used my flashlight app on my phone to illuminate the sign. People thought of everything. It was wonderful. This was an unforgettable experience.

6:30 arrives and the Connors pull in. Shouts everywhere…..”Their home! Their home!”  I am standing in the far corner of the living room with my camera and smiling.

Logan walks in first. He walks slowly around, looking and touching everything around him. He is too cute!! Jill walks in next and makes a bee line to me. ME!! I got a hug from Jill first thing! I wasn’t even expecting it. I am smiling from ear to ear now as the Connors are taken from one room to another. Of course they loved everything.

Although they have a new and spacious house, we really created more work for them. Now, she has some purging to do. Their basement is an organized chaos. One by one, friends and family will be visiting and helping Jill rummage through her belongings and give each book and toy a home. Hopefully, this process will last for a while….long enough for her to get through the initial grieving process where she can even begin to function.

They want their little boy back. Every kind gesture is another reminder of this tragedy. Every meal, gift card, dollar in the bank, sympathy card….they are all reminders that their son is gone. No, I did not think a new home would make Jill & Patrick happy. I did, however, believe that we could gift them a safe, healthy and comfortable place to grieve. This is what we accomplished. This is how to comfort the sorrow…to the extreme.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Extreme Makeover Part 3 - Homeschool Style

“What started out as a simple burglary, ended up being an extreme makeover.” ~John Harrison (homeschool Dad & super hard worker)

 This part of the story is difficult to write about. I want to pick the right words to bring you into the story and feel….really feel the graces and blessings that went on that weekend in January.

 I walked into the house at 2:00pm on Thursday. I was SO excited about the weekend and couldn’t WAIT to arrive. The first thing on the agenda is to pack up everything that looks like it could fit into a washing machine. Altogether, I think there were about 40 bags to fill. Step 2 was to put everything that wasn’t heavy furniture into tubs. Step 3, take out the furniture and put it where my post-it-note said. Each post-it-note said “Basement”, “CK” (for Christ the King…Fr. Lockwood graciously volunteered his garage for storage) or “Dump” (which meant that it needs to go on the dumping trailer). Step 4 was to prepare the walls for painting the next day.

 Ok, those were MY plans. Here is what really happened. My first volunteer, Siobhan & her daughter Lucy, arrives and begins packing up. This is very impressive given the fact that Siobhan is about 13 months pregnant with baby #10. The graces are already coming! I don’t know how she was able to help me for as long as she did but she persevered and even took home about 10 bags of laundry to do on Friday and Saturday.

 The next thing I remember is blinking and having a packed house full of people packing and working diligently for hours. Mike Cucar arrived to scope out the bathroom with the intention of just putting new tile on the floor. He decided that having a whole new shower, floor board, sink, vanity, lights and plumbing would be a good idea too. Ok? I’ll take it!!

 As everyone is packing and packing and carrying objects from place to place, I walked into the dining room only to see a kitchen floor being ripped out! My jaw dropped. What the heck? We only have 2 more days!!! After an hour or so, Roy calls me into the kitchen so I can listen to Paul Hermes with his bright idea….”We can tear out all of these cabinets and sink & get them new ones. No big deal. It’s easy.” WHAT??!! Easy?!  Again….2 days people!! 2 days!! No one seemed to care.

 At this point, I started to really see all the puzzle pieces coming together. A friend of mine had offered to donate her refrigerator and kitchen sink. What a coincidence! Or was it? A group of Facebook friends got together & donated money to buy a small kitchen island. One of my Theology of the Body students offered to get a group together to sand and paint the upper remaining kitchen cabinets at my house. Out of the kindness of my heart, I surprised them with a kitchen table and chairs to sand and glossJ They were more than happy to oblige.

There are several incidents that can only be described as miraculous. They might be better understood when put in a list:

·       We were never absent a tool and they were never misplaced

·       Every time people came to the house with donations, it was just what we were looking for

·       No one argued about how things were to be done

·       There was a job for everyone that was perfect for them. No one was bored

·       I didn’t yell at my husband or son at all. Seriously.

·       Ginette & Laura used a power too with a “criss-cross thingy on the end”…aka….a phillips head drill bit

·       The money envelope was always full

·       Every time a tool was needed, somehow, it was always right there. If I was asked where the putty knife was, it was like the sky opened up and heaven shined down on the perfect putty knife.

·       Everyone wanted to be there and no one wanted to leave.

·       A family came that didn’t know the Connors or anyone else there. They just stood in the yard and said they wanted to be a part of this.

·       No one bumped into the wet paint….except John Harrison. He grabbed a wet hand rail but that was funny

·       My kids never called me

·       It never felt too crowded even when we had 50 people pacing around

·       Food & water appeared out of no where

·       When we were running low on water, someone brought more without knowing we needed it

·       People were cancelling plans to stay longer or come back the next day

·       I was NEVER overwhelmed or anxious or impatient

·       The same super pregnant woman stayed on her feet for hours on end on Sunday to put the house back together.

·       The weather was warm every day and only rained a little after the night was over.

·       A husband and wife team came, scoped out what was missing and bought it. They bought every room new light fixtures, new light switches and outlets throughout the house.

·       We didn’t kill the sensitive Chameleon

·       There were more jobs done than there were people there

·       A kitchen and bathroom were built in 3 days

·       There was a huge box of wash cloths that never disappeared

This was an amazing event that no one has ever been a part of before and an event that, hopefully, will never have to happen again. It was surreal.  It really was like a dream. Imagine all of your friends and family arriving in heaven at the same time. Every one of you are walking slowly and trying to take in all of the majesty. This was a parallel experience at the Connor’s house. In my own personal life, when I had baby #8, I walked around the maternity room very slowly, staring and sniffing everything around because I never wanted this feeling and experience to escape my memory. This is how we all felt. No one wanted this experience to end even if it meant paying the price of hard work and time.

 Here is my attempted list at what was really done and I’m quite certain that the list is much longer. No one was out to point and say “Look what I did!!” The people were humble. These were not the friends that appear out of the woodwork if the Connor’s would have won the lottery. These are real & true stewards of God. It wasn’t just the experience, it was the people. We are all so blessed to have been with each other.

  God’s To-Do List….

·       Put everything that can fit into a washing machine in bags to be taken home by 4 families that not only wash them but fold, sort and come back to put them all away & stay for hours to help with other chores

·       Remove all vent covers and vacuum them out

·       Redo the entire bathroom & make it more beautiful than any other bathroom you’ve ever stepped into

·       Sort all of Patricks CD’s into a tub

·       Put all bookshelves in the basement and bring new matching bookshelves into the house

·       Put a beautiful wreath on the front door

·       Put a vase of beautiful flowers on the end table

·       Put an extender thing on the gutter to make the water flow further away from the house

·       Bring in a smaller and space saving entertainment center

·       New couch & love seat

·       New area rug

·       Remove carpet in every room in the house

·       New therapeutic King size mattress for the parents

·       New box springs

·       Electric blanket

·       New sheets & comforter for every family member

·       Trundle bed for Ciara & Ella

·       New dressers and cubbies for the kids

·       Paint every room on the upper floor

·       Paint all the trim and window frames in the house

·       Paint the closets

·       Paint both bathrooms

·       Spend countless hours on making the bathroom vanity more beautiful than anything you can find in the store

·       Move refrigerator to the garage which will now be their back-up refrigerator

·       Trim down or remove every bush in the front and back yard

·       Turn a slab of wood into a functioning and working back door

·       Paint the front door (twice)

·       Paint the back door

·       Take the hanging hooks from the living room and mount them in the closet

·       Organize the winter hats and gloves

·       Match all the shoes and pitch the one’s with no matches

·       Put up new curtains and rods on every window

·       Take down and pitch all the blinds (they harbor lead!)

·       Paint the walls that lead to the basement

·       Find and fix every leak in the bathrooms & kitchen

·       Fix the wire that Roy accidently sawed throughJ

·       Tear out the kitchen floor

·       Put down a new tile floor in the kitchen

·       Take all the cabinet doors down to be sanded and painted

·       Put in a new refrigerator

·       Take all the garage refrigerator shelves home to be soaked, cleaned and returned

·       Build the new dressers for boys and girls

·       Sand, gloss and replace all the handles on the parents dresser

·       Area rugs for the kids rooms

·       Runner rug for the hallway

·       Test the smoke detectors

·       Clean out the dryer vent system

·       Clean out the back yard & pitch the broken toys

·       Take off the basement door and paint it with chalkboard paint

·       Fix hole by the back door

·       Sort all the books by categories in moving boxes

·       Clean the house numbers

·       Scrub all the hardwood floors

·       Put in new kitchen cabinets and sink

·       Take down all of the dishes from the top of the cabinets and have the neighbor clean them

·       Scrub the hell out of the bathtub

·       Door discs in every room to cover the holes from the door knobs

·       Make a small play area for the kids downstairs

·       Bring in a 2nd island in the kitchen for the microwave and more storage

·       Hang up Ciara’s toy thing from the ceiling

·       Scrape off all the old and new paint from the windows

·       Pull bunk beds apart

·       Put all of Nolan’s collection stuff together

·       Make 5 shadow boxes with the kids art work in each one

·       Make a sewing machine area for Jill downstairs

·       Bring everything back from Christ the King

·       Make Liam a loft bed and a new place for his nook

·       3 new mattresses for the kids

·       Under the bed storage units for everyone

·       New screen door

·       Clean off sidewalk and steps

·       Vacuum basement stairs

·       Make a chore list organizer for  Jill & the kids to help keep up with cleaning

·       Get a new high tech stove/oven combo

·       Clean out Patricks car

·       Fix door handle and other odds & ends in Patricks car

·       Organize the medicine/linen closet with little baskets and labeled containers

·       Pull out carpet tracks in all the bedrooms and hallway

·       Replace every light switch and electrical sockets

·       Replace all light switch and electrical socket covers

·       Find every light or electrical socket that doesn’t work and fix it

·       Replace every bulb that is out

·       Make 3 trips to the dump

·       Put away all the clothes that fit into the dresser and leave the rest in marked bags for Jill to go through later

·       Clean the piano & scrub clean the bench

·       Clean, sand, gloss and polyurethane up the kitchen table and all the chairs

·       New knob on the bathroom vanity

·       New door knob & lock on the front door

·       Power wash out the gutters

·       Rake all the leaves around the house

·       Give Patrick about 20 Lighthouse CD’s to listen to.

·       Organize the basement & label every container

·       Clean the TV

·       Take out the old oven and make it into a food storage/pantry

·       Throw out 5 old appliances that didn’t work (3 dryers, 1 refrigerator & 1 dishwasher)

·       Scrub clean the inside of the garage refrigerator

·       Replace the items that had to be thrown away….(kitty litter box, hairbrushes, etc)

·       4 new trash cans for the bedrooms

·       3 new laundry bins

 This list isn’t meant for you just to read through. It is to bring you into the story of what God’s plan was. I was thanked quite a bit for putting this together but did I really put this together? NO! I can’t take credit for anything! This was a work of God and whatever favors Nolan asked for from Him. This was a group of people who spiritually have their arms wide open for God to work through them. Everything good that was accomplished was from God.

Believe it or not, this is STILL to be continued!!!!!! Part 4 is yet to comeJ