When Toaster Strudel was the voice of God

The inanimate image of a soft flaky crust, strawberry filling, and sweet sugary icing took on a life of its own and lured my desire more fervently each and every time I allowed myself to walk by. As I gazed at it for the third time, I found myself stuck in that Giant Eagle aisle for several minutes just staring at it. It wasn’t that I had never had a craving for Toaster Strudel before. It’s just that the last time it happened I was a Sophomore in college and Diet Mountain Dew was the way I helped it or my Strawberry PopTart digest during finals week. That particular Wednesday morning, my nutritionally conscience identity was being thwarted by a strange craving for a food I haven’t eaten in years, and I wanted it soooo bad. I resisted based on the fact that a PopTart would indeed be a nutritional upgrade. Next, I found myself smiling uncontrollably in the aisle that sells a particular type of test. I splurged for the kind that has words instead of pink lines.

I waited until Rita went down for her nap. As the James and Josie practiced dunking each other in the bathtub, the suspicious craving for the Toaster Studel was confirmed on a silent stick that spoke loud and clear.

For the second time on the afternoon of January 22nd, the day we March for Life and stand for innocence, I was once again entrusted with a tiny little heart beat, a new and unique set of fingerprints, a particular mission in which I get to participate, teach, witness.

The feeling of surprise was surpassed by the type of joy that only comes as a gift from God, the kind that makes my stomach shake, puts shiver in my limbs and a quiver in my voice.

I let the kids play until the fingers were way past soggy and I jumped up and down for a solid twenty minutes while tears continued to come and confirm once again: definitely pregnant, and also pretty crazy with a considerable amount of uncontrollable emotion with which to grace my husband and children for the next several months.

I had been on this exact winter’s day two years prior and I had so not been ready to hear this news. I said “yes,” then, but it hurt, in a way that a really big sacrifice hurts. Through that experience I think maybe I began to scrape at the surface of what it really means to love, and to receive love from a God who has plans and ideas that I don’t always understand, or appreciate due to a hot summer and too many unwanted pounds slowing me down and hurting my feet. Its also the kind of pain from which true beauty and joy is born, the kind that pierces the heart and makes me long for God.

And this time, while my life and circumstances are probably even crazier, more chaotic, less socially acceptable than they were last time, I have all those feelings of excitement and longing and wanting every single part of this tiny little one at all moments, even the ones when my head is in the toilet or when I the think about all of the waddling. The gratitude I have for God’s generosity in bringing that moment of difficulty full circle is immense and I really hope I can let it edify me.

So on this special day on which the Church remembers Gabriel whispering the will of God to a young girl named Mary, I remember the time Toaster Strudel whispered God’s message to me. And I really wish I had some in my pantry.

Happy Feast Day!

Why a Mom can’t Pee Alone/ The day a pull-up saved my sweater and maybe my life (exaggerating).

The pink, loosely knit v-neck seemed like a good choice when I had .3 seconds to get dressed for morning Mass. It was heavy enough to keep me warm during the winter that will never end, but its spring color gave me hope for bulbs and flowers before June. It suited me well for most of the day, including the battle for the teddy bear socks between Josie and Rita during the Consecration of the Eucharist as well as the family of five trip to Sam’s Club during which Josie managed to make an avocado explode. 

Following dinner, a Sunday night meal of sweet spring flavors: risotto with honey glazed carrots, sweet peas, and balsamic chicken, JIm took the “big” kids to watch their big cousins championship hockey game. “Take an easy night playing with just Rita,” he said. I happily obliged and began to finish the dinner clean up while Rita played the game that seems to never end: peeling an onion in the middle of floor. Before I sound like a worse mom, I didn’t give her the onion, she found it on the floor after it fell and I didn’t take it away mainly because everyone was happy. As I saw her concentration in removing each layer of the onions skin, I thought maybe I could use the facilities with the door closed before she began the ugly onion cry. I’m not sure why I choose this time to close the door, but I guess its something I sort of miss about a life of privacy before kids and she had at least 5 more layers to peel through. Seconds later, as I washed my hands, I heard the pitter patter of my baby following me. Happy to have had the entire half minute to myself I went to open the door only to find it stuck. Like a full blown idiot, I tried nothing skillful or smart and just twisted it as hard as I possibly could. Then, just like in the sitcoms, there I stood with a door knob in my hand but not attached to a door and a now crying baby on the other side. My hands frantically felt my back pocket for my cell phone. “Its still sitting on the kitchen table playing James Taylor dinner music. Expletive,” I thought. “Swear words,” my interior thoughts continued. 

A few Hail Mary’s later I realized my only way out was through the window. I peered out my head to the sound of Rita’s cries. “Daddy!” she called out to me because he is her favorite and all she asks for even when I’m the only option. Maybe when she grows up and learns that her mother jumped out of a window to reunite and calm her tears she will like me more.

I calculated the risk. If I stayed and waited for someone to come home Rita might eat poison or my makeup or give herself a bath in the sink and drown. If I started screaming Child Services might take the kids away. Even though Rita may have also just stayed there and cried while trying to jiggle the doorknob while her mom sillily requested her assistance to open a door she can’t even reach, that’s not what a mom thinks about in a moment of very low risk and overly dramatized crisis. Instead, she uses all sense of crazy to determine that the window is the only way. 

“I can do this!” I said not at all confident in anything other than at least a mild ankle sprain. Since its a first story I knew I probably wouldn’t die or anything unless I choose the head first approach. But, since its a high first story window and I’m a total of 60 inches tall, its still a fall for a girl like me. So, I took a deep breath, and pretended I was Josie escaping from her crib for the first time. As I hung from the window pane, I encountered a problem of fashionable proportions. The pink sweater. The perfect for a winter’s day during spring, $7.99 Forever 21 find. “This is why there is an age limit on that store!” I grunted. There its knit hung caught on the shudder’s nail, perfectly deterring me from a pretty safe, but still very scary for a big fat wimp like me, jump. With a significant amount of all of my might, I performed a belly-button- to-window- pane strict pull up and broke free from the confines of cheap material that snags when jumping out of a window vowing to have some strong words upon its return to the store. The brief moment of free fall contained 5 billion dramatic thoughts including “thank God for CrossFit and all those pullups I always complain about.” Seriously, thanks for those. My sweater would be seriously ruined without them. Also, I think I would have had a really difficult time explaining why I was hanging by a sweater when the fire department came to rescue me. 

I then scared sweet Rita nearly to shock when I returned to her unneeded rescue through a different door than she last found me, muddy and hysterically laughing. She sat picking apart dryer lint from the filter, happy as a baby with free reign to dryer lint. 

And the biggest mistake in all of this, in my experience, is not shutting the door or forgetting my cellphone or any of that. Rather, it was telling this story to my husband while neglecting to notice of my being on speaker phone. So with two small children obsessed with the non perilous tale of “mommy jumping out of the window,” I beg for your prayers that neither of them try and recreate it. 

Happy Sunday. 

7QT: The Bright Side. Memories of a Family Weekend Getaway and the worst kind of Two Hour Delay

1. Managing to make it out of the door, into the car, without forgetting a single essential item or suitcase and thereby finding no reason to turn around the overstuffed vehicle should have provided my anxiety more comfort. Yet, the suspicion only welled, leaving me to wonder when, where, and how the difficulty of traveling in a crowded airport with three kids, a nervous mom, and a super calm dad would occur. With barely a hiccup at the check in counter, and strangely obedient children agreeing to hold my hand and carry their own things, I began to prepare myself for what had to be the worst security line experience of my life. Yet, we were “family of small children profiled” and put into the line that no longer demands the removal of shoes, laptops, breast milk, or requires a rather intimate feel up. Even if I was unwillingly participating in a TSA research experiment, only one of my kids ran around the metal detector and it caused more laughter than tasing, so again, seamless.  Personal experience then led me to discover that a fearless toddler, overly cautious and rather clumsy 4 year old, and a jumpily anxious mom in the middle is perhaps the worst combination for a ride on an escalator. We still had several minutes before boarding and enjoyed a happy and considerably quiet family airport meal during which the kids ate the cheese and chewed the turkey before they managed to spit it back out almost undetected. Then, the difficulty came. The evening flight, scheduled perfectly for a bedtime arrival, delayed by twenty minute increments for a total of two hours. The first delay was spent setting up and refereeing relay races in empty gates leading me to finally experience a bright side of my city’s airport losing major airline hubs. Next, we ruined an entire restaurants meal at TGIFridays and ordered the most dissipointing $7 ice cream dessert I have ever seen. With chocolate on my pants and ice cream in my hair, I begged the good Lord to get us on a plane, as the kids jumped along empty gate seats chasing planes taking off saying, “WE MISSED OUR CHANCE AGAIN!” indicating zero understanding of the process of airline travel or plane destination. At two hours past beditme we boarded and were asked to seek refuge in the last two rows of the airplane, also known as the baby ghettos, where all children under three who could potentially throw a tantrum or freak out when they can’t figure out how to pop their ears are forced to sit and repeatedly smell the altitudes effects on bathroom users. The bright side of landing 5 hours past bedtime? No matter how poorly behaved and bitey a baby is, several passengers will comment “she did so well!” And when we finally rent a car and make it to our destination slightly past 1:00 am, the kids sleeping in the back will be so knocked out that they wake up the next morning positive that it was magic that put them in their Florida beds.




Rita tampering with a stranger’s luggage.


And in hour 2, the parents just take pictures when their baby grabs a knife on the table of an airport restaurant.

2. No matter how exhausting a travel experience is, even when a trip is only three days long, after 7-12 minutes spent in the sun, playing in sand, together as a family, while Rita and the birds run away from the waves with almost the exact same scamper, every delay, cold weather day, and recent annoying experience, will be forgotten and feelings of rejuvination will overwhelm. Even if the kids begin purposefully throwing sand in each other’s eyes at minute 13.

3. The Brightest Side: Without a doubt my favorite memory is the flawlessly planned night away given to me as a birthday present by my husband, and favorite dinner partner. As I nervously explained needless details to the kid’s babysitter, their big cousin, he whisked me away and gave me so much quality time my love tank almost exploded. First, a stop at a coffee shop where even the ice is made from coffee making every sip better than the last. Then, all my dreams came true as he pulled over at Nordstrom Rack and gave me free reign. One pair of Kate Spade heels coming in at pennies later, we arrived at our hotel and stuffed our faces with delicious food, more food, and more food, because, apparently, what parents do with a night away is eat like there will never be a tomorrow. There was a tomorrow, and we ate again. It was our first night away from the children in a few years and it was truly wonderful. I thought for sure I would be welcomed home with an open armed hugged from the baby I’ve never spent a night from. But, instead, she gave me an open palmed push to the face and ran to Daddy with excitement and cheering.

4. With a promise of a boat ride and conditions much too windy and wavy for a sane dad to take toddlers on a boat, we went anyway. The pontoon boat, made for smooth seas and low speed, met knew limits and high pitched screams. As the children begged, “daddy why are you doing this to us??!! Please daddy save us all!! Go back, daddy, go back!!,” and the raging rapids of the ocean drenched us all over and over again, I do not believe either parent has laughed harder in months. It wasn’t so much that we found the paralyzing fear of our children to be that funny, but more the fact that we realized how dumb we are and were so soaking wet with a continuous flooding of sea water on a boat designed for turtle speed.  We turned around and survived with a few family member beach onlookers wondering why God ever decided to entrust us with children.

5. 3 days of sun later, it was time to return to the frozen tundra of Pittsburgh on the 28th anniversary of my birth. With several birthday treats already had, Josie was the first to greet me in the morning with “mommy, its my birthday, where is the cake?” and soon after James said,”did you get me toys today for the birthday?” A card signed by each with the ever special message of “thank you for feeding me lunch and wiping my bum when I poop,” made a mom feel extra noticed. While driving late to the airport amidst a baby/toddler/little boy brawl of the century carried on nice and loud, my patience was lost and out I blurted, “ALL I WANT FOR MY BIRTHDAY IS FOR YOU TO STOP FIGHTING!!!” Silence ensued and as soon as my guilt cued the internal soundtrack of, “Its my party and I’ll cry if I want to,” James broke it up with “Sorry mom, but we were already planning on getting you a flower so….I think we can keep fighting.” And when the return flight is delayed just as much as the departure in a much too crowded airport followed a much too turbulent flight for a crazy person like me to handle, the mile high diaper bomb was generously disarmed by my husband. 13 decades of the rosary later we safely landed and I began to breath again. Then some lady named Sophia Loren accidentally stole our luggage mistaking it for her own. Maybe a diaper fell out along the way to indicate it was not hers but just as we were finished filing a missing luggage form, she brought it back. Also upon her arrival, the continuous cries of James regarding his “favorite football underpants being gone forever and stolen by a mean person,” were quieted. It was the GREATEST birthday and the BEST trip. Back to snow.

6. On Wednesday, sweet Josephine celebrated her “beast day,” also known as the Feast of St. Joseph. To mark the occasion we froze them with ice cream and played for two hours outside at a park. Her excitement for simplicity and fashion sense flare will forever make a mom smile. To Josie: May you always find a reason to dump out an entire bag of tortilla chips to “celebrate the morning.” May your humor keep your worries light, and may your big brown eyes always continue to look to God with the very same wonder and delight. Thank you for teaching me how to have fun and open things.


7. This week I learned to never let a baby near freshly squeezed orange juice, a container of strawberries and that no marriage has truly been tested until the sink breaks. A very special thanks to my husband Jim for his dedication to solving the problem with the Walmart special bathroom faucet. While the kitchen has never looked better, I hope the only plumbing issue we attempt to ever again fix together is playing Super Mario Brothers.


Happy Snowy Spring. 

A few Confessions to end my 27th year

1. On Monday, I’ll officially enter my late twenties and turn 28. Remembering the new number to indicate my actual age will surely require concentration considering I already often forget my age as it has little consequence on my day-to-day life. Often, when I do reveal my age, its telling is met with concern for my child spacing, a reminder that I have at least 15 more years of potential child rearing, or the ever confusing comment, “at least you are getting the baby stage out of the way why you are still young so that you still have the energy to return to your career.” 27 for me marked my first complete year of being a mom to three kids, and was indubitably, the year I laughed the most. I probably also cried the most, but such is young motherhood. And this weekend, the Guinness will be flowing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, in mom moderation, of course.

2. Sweet Josie revealed career aspirations of her own. It was a public display met with the unrivaled enthusiasm of an innocent toddler. At noonish on Tuesday, our Target trip ended with a rather exhausted mom and hungry cart full of three children. The Starbucks inside of the Target seemed to have all of the overpriced treats for my needs and a picnic at the park. As I ordered my drink and their snacks I began to notice her acute attention to detail, eyes widening, breath stalling, amazement in every sense of the word. She began to speak. “When, when, when…” The studder increased in volume with every repeated word. Confined by sitting, she decided to stand and wave her arms with a few claps in between more studdering. Several more “whens” were spoken, each one growing closer to a piercing shout. She managed to unbuckle her seat and its broken chains seemed to give her the freedom she needed to finish her shouting sentence. Most, if not all, of the store had her full attention, which sounds like a mom exaggeration, but the girl was LOUD and people notice loud. Finally, she announced, “WHEN I GROW UP, I’M GONNA MAKE SOMETHIN IN DHERE!.” Her announcement was met with thorough enjoyment from several adults most especially me, and it was abundantly clear that the girl meant what she said and won’t be forgetting it. So, it is with my full parental approval that I say, although I prefer my coffee black, I’ll let you make me a vanilla latte, extra shot 1/4 syrup, anytime you like, sweet baby barista Josephine.

3. Today for the first time in months, all three of my children are napping. We are traveling later and I threatened each of them with the “we cannot go unless you nap,” and somehow, my joke of a disciplinarian voice worked. Though I felt that I appreciated nap time when it was almost guaranteed to me, I wish I would have taken Billy Madison’s advice to “cherish it,” just a bit more seriously. And since vacation threatening seems to work, there may very well be a few pretend safaris planned around here in the future.

4. In an effort to encourage a Lenten spirit of sacrifice, even among the youngest in the household, I did my best to put on the ever rare in this household craft spirit. First we baked expired pie crust and as it was baking I explained that we would be making a “crown of thorns,” for Jesus out of dough and toothpicks and everytime we do something nice we can pull out a toothpick and “make his head feel better.” As Josie tried stabbing James and James tried stabbing Josie, I did my best to explain the rules again. “We undertand” they said and stopped stabbing for the moment. With high hopes I took the crust out of the oven and we began putting in the toothpicks. Next year, I will remember to explain “this is not for eating,” a bit more clearly.


5. Thinking we were well and done with the flu, Jim and I gave a talk on “Rules for Fair Fighting and Conflict Resolution,” to engaged couples in our diocese over the weekend. With Rita’s snot on the back of my pants, we arrived with a relatively solid message about dialogue and the importance of expressing in I statements and echoing with empathy. Yet, minutes into the talk, distraction and sickness began to take over once again and though I think we sort of made it through, we basically taught them nothing about good communication and I shared a lot of gross stories about cleaning vomit and the perils of momdom. When I made it back to the car we looked at each other and said, “what did we just say to those poor people?” My apologies to all of you, and I promise, though similar to a frat house in some ways (puke, no sleep, lots of bottles) marriage and parenthood is wonderful and not nearly as gross as I made it out to sound.

6. But actually, sometimes parenthood is really gross. Like when your naked baby runs away from you as you are taking care of another child’s bathroom business and also trying to talk to your sister-in- law on the phone and she climbs on the table, steals the fruit smoothie, spills it and then does the deed that fruit smoothies make babies do at record digesting speed. But this little detail in no way belongs in a marital communication talk, so again, I’m sorry.

We are off to enjoy a few days as a family, recharge, and maybe mom will find a few minutes to catch up on blogging too. The happiest of days to all of you.

Sundays are for Resurrections

…Mondays are for making up lost time on this blog…

After 8 straight days of someone expelling stomach acids, one day off, and two days back to all family illness hell, it seems like finally, maybe, just maybe, the highly contagious sickness has moved from this house to the one next door, so say a few prayers for my sister.

After two bouts each person, we woke up yesterday feeling strangely better, and extremely grateful for an opportunity to spend time with my family that did not involve sickness, crying, or sleeping. Following Church, we got crazy and seized the heck out of the Spring ahead.  With 15 minutes before showtime the attempt to make it across town to catch Disney On Ice without tickets was in full “pile them into carseats!” as fast as we could buckle.

Questions on the way included, “where are we going?” and “why are we going so fast?” I dodged the first with “its a surprise!” after learning the very important parent lesson of never revealing the fun location unless absolutely positive it will work out. With no tickets, 12 minutes to spare and poorer than poor planning, I was less than convinced. I suffered the consequences of then being asked if every house/building/tractor/large truck that we past was the “surpwise??” but I’m positive it was better than the time we promised riding roller coasters only to find the amusement park was too crowded and I blamed it on the police.

As we pulled up and illegally parked, James shrieked in excitement about seeing the “Penguins!” and the “guy that looks like Daddy.” I let him down by building up the parts with Buzz Light Year. Still confused, he decided to hold my hand anyway. Hands down, we looked like the worst parents in the building when only one child had a coat and the others loudly cried about being freezing. In we walked to a bombardment of $30-45 pieces of plastic worth a maximum of pennies and thousands of children dressed like princesses. In an effort to evade a future money pit vacation, I hinted at “being in Disney world,” and somehow managed to escape the well placed marketing of spinning-light up pieces of junk with, “I’m so sorry, but someone would probably lose an eye at our house. Let’s admire the dresses!”

While walking past the concessions to our cheapest seats, Jim and I began to experience the natural consequences of skipping lunch to make a show with only 15 minutes to spare, and only had ourselves to blame and a few almonds in my pocket. Peanuts are sort of healthy? And also highly choke-able. Nasty popcorn for the lunch hold-over.

We made it to the seats only 9 minutes late. The memory of the squeals as they witnessed the Beast skate onto the same ice as the Penguins are gold to me. And the skit included all of my favorite Beauty and the Beast banter, so it was a win all around. Since my children, for the most part, only have a general understanding of “princess,” and tend to think that all of them have guns like their favorite Leia, there were many questions as the several Disney princesses skated in the scantily clad ice outfits. And James, in his most polite voice, wondered, “these pritty girls are nice, but when do the race cars come out of that castle?” As well, “will anybody be using a hockey stick?” It then took a whole family effort to keep Rita from jumping out of her seat and onto the ice as dozens of “Its a Small World” singing skaters were released from the castle and brought onto the ice in sparkling ice vehicles. Our cue to exit was 30 minutes past nap time when Rita began pulling hair and stealing other people’s slushies. Not only did we beat traffic, but also, a parking ticket.

The rest of the day was spent outside in legitimate sunshine. They wore costumes and begged to go trick or treating. They played “Ring around the Josie, let’s all fall on Rita,” and she hardly minded at all. Jim gave them blueberry pie and they all cried because “there is jelly on my ice cream.” Darth Vador and Superman found unity in stealing M&Ms. Rita learned to say, “what’s that?” and “give me banana.”

Thank you Jesus, for the break from Lent, and for such a wonderful day.

“…how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man, Jesus, overflow for the many.” 


The ticket seller was super nice when he said, “please sign this,” to which James began to write his name explaining “I thought that man would like to see my J’s,” and after the repeated screaming into the microphone because “I still don’t think he can hear me!”






Hopefully big sister can fill little sister in on the proper way to approach a selfie.




Instagram repeats.



This picture accurately depicts several reasons why I chose Jim as my husband. Abides he does.


Happy week’s beginning.

The Flu.

It began with the sound heard and most feared by every mom around the world in precisely the wrong place: the newishly carpeted hallway, far away from a toilet, bucket, garbage can, or any other surface or container that could be easily cleaned or appropriately discarded. This week, that’s what I’ve learned about the flu. Itprefers to lash out on things that can be ruined once every twenty minutes for 24-48 hours per child and husband.

The flu also has particular time proclivities. While it can strike at whatever inconvenient time it likes, its initial attack is best initiated between the hours of 12am-3am, approximately 10-15 minutes after the matriarch and patriarch fall asleep. This leaves Dad pretty much impossible to wake up, and Mom solely responsible, at no fault of his own naturally deep, and deeply envied, sleeping state.

Even if it is begged, the flu does not spread quickly so as to get it over with. No, it lingers in a way that just when it appears dormant, the baby releases its virus all over the dinner table. This occurs approximately 20 minutes before the parents made dinner plans with friends. Its ability to make the warning, “eat your vegetables!” meaningless, fully covered in bacteria, yet not entirely unwelcome by those seated at the table under the age of 4 is most impressive. And 20 minutes before a fun thing is about to occur seems to be its second most preferred time strike.

Ruined plans, full-blown isolation from the exterior world, and various pieces of furniture and carpets ruined is annoying. Yet, there are few things harder, in my experience at least, than refusing a baby water or a bottle, words she has just learned to use politely with ‘please’ attached, when she desperately wants one and has absolutely zero understanding as to the reason for her mean mommy’s refusal.

As the others are slowly nursed back from pale, the last remaining child appears impervious to the flu’s peril. She runs, plays, all while laughing at the flu in the face of her older brother and younger sister for so long that it really does seem impossible that she will catch it, too. “What an immune system she has,” her mother brags. “It’s almost stronger than her personality,” she continues to her husband as she is about to fall asleep. The sound strikes again just as her eyelids close. This time, it’s from sweet Josephine’s bed. Favorite attachment objects and long blond curls are involved and very dirty. Somehow she still laughs when it’s over and immediately asks for a popsicle and milk. It’s a long night filled with a lot of “no’s.”

The next morning that proceeds zero sleep from either parents is welcomed fully by the recovered older brother with energy and a whole lot of Carpe Diem. “Could you go visit your (thought to also be recovered) baby sister for a few minutes?” the parents beg. “Sure!” he scampers. Approximately 30 seconds later he returns confused, bewildered, and apparently unfamiliar with the contents of vomit. “Um Mom? Rita did something in there. I’m pretty sure its paint or something. Like red paint, with some pink, a little bit of owange and some green. There is no blue. And she painted her whole bed. And it smells weal weal bad.” The description, though possibly concerning for his context clue reasoning, is clear. It’s never leaving us.

The flu is the worst and it comes to ruin at least 7 days and maybe the washing machine, too.

If the flu were a body part, I think it would be a raised middle finger.

Also, if money is promised for making it to an appropriate puking place, the kids count, and it adds up pretty fast. FYI.

May the Fat Tuesday Revelry be fun and stomach flu free.

Prayers all around for a Holy start to Lent mañana.