Thursday, September 11, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday: Mother Of The Year, Books, and Birthdays

1. Story Time!!!

Last Friday evening, Christopher came into the house with swollen eyes.  He muttered something about Mary hitting him, which invited a rollicking and "effective" lecture from me about the Importance Of Keeping Our Hands To Ourselves. There was  a lot of hand waving and my voice may have been raised and I was sure everyone understood my message because only a few of them nodded off.

But funny thing, the next morning, Christopher's eyes were even more swollen and he looked as if
he'd been in a bar room brawl.

It was then I realized no one actually hit him (thereby rendering my lecture completely unnecessary), but that he actually was having an allergic reaction.

Yet another parenting win for the books, folks. 

There were many cell phone picks to family members asking if they had a clue why he looked so puffy.
When he woke up Sunday morning with slits where his brown eyes used to be, I hightailed it to the After Hours clinic.  We made it there by 8 am and when the doctor walked into the room, her first question was,

"Did you put your face in the poison sumac?"

I looked at her blankly.

"What's poison sumac?" I said.

"It's worse than poison ivy and as bad as poison oak.  And he needs a round of steroids."

She dosed him up and we were on our happy way.

2.  But It Gets Better!

We eked into the 10:30 Mass after waiting at the clinic for over two hours and we made it through Mass, though Toph was still very puffy and even a bit groggy from the mega dose of Benadryl the doc gave him. 

When Mass was over, we exited the pew and I don't know what happened, but as I was gabbing with a few of my lady friends off to the side, when I heard Christopher scream and then there was a delayed pause and then on cue...loud, very loud crying.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw John walk past me quickly, hissing for me to follow him and then I noticed the trail of blood down Topher's face and all over John's white shirt.

He's always taking one for the team, that John Duggan.

Appartently, Toph ran out of the pew, tripped and cut open his very swollen eyes.

The gash was large enough to warrant some stitches but I was not going back to sit in a waiting room.

So I did what all pushy mothers do, I bulldozed my way over to our doctor friend and asked him his medical opinion.

He gave me very specific, complicated instructions involving super gluing the wound shut, which I totally jumped on, and Boom. 

We escaped a trip to the ER.

Thank you, Doctor Woo.  You're my new best friend.

A few hours after the 'roids and with his new busted eye.  I'm a big fan of drugs.  He's gonna have a scar from that cut, though.
 3.  But wait, there's still more!  

A few days later, I asked Topher to run outside and water my mums.  This has been a chore I'd been having him complete on the daily for the last week.

"I can't" he said.

I stopped washing dishes, turned around,  put my hands on my hips, and in my best mother voice said,

"You go outside right now and water those mums!"

"I can't," he said again.

Now I was getting mad, reved up, as they say.  
This kid doesn't know who he's messing with, I thought.

But then he started crying.  A Lot.  He was hiccuping and trying to talk and the water works were in overdrive.

"What is the problem, Christopher?" I said, when I realized he was seriously upset.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

On Having Eyes To See

View from my front porch on Sunday evening
Every January, we use an online Saint Generator to randomly select individual patrons for each member of the Duggan clan.  Last year, the Holy Spirit sent me a powerhouse, Teresa of Avila--a mystic and a Doctor of the Church.  

Like me, St. Teresa was a word girl and she authored several books, including of The Way Of Perfection, Interior Castle, and The Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila.  I own all of her works and have read each one over the years.  As a Spiritual Master, her reflections pack a powerful punch to the reader's soul and she has been helpful to me in my own spiritual journey.

When the Holy Spirit assigned me St. Teresa for the year, it was like being buddied up with a best friend on the first day of school.  I called on her frequently and she helped me out.  When January rolled around again, and it was time to select someone new,  I'm not going to lie, I was worried my new saint might not be as robust.

So I straight up asked the Holy Spirit for another powerhouse. 

And I got St. Lucy.

I was a little disappointed.

I don't know much about St. Lucy other than she was a young teenage martyr (very cool) and that she is the patron saint of eyes.  Throughout the year, I've thought about her, read about her (a little) and I've prayed to her when the need arises, like when Patrick had an important eye appointment this Summer or when an acquaintance's baby was born blind, but...

I haven't felt a personal connection to her.

Until recently.

A few weeks ago, I forced myself away from managing the usual racket of life with six kids and willed myself outside.  I strapped Edward into the stroller and although I had fifteen million items left on my to-do list, I knew I needed to take fifteen minutes to get a grip on What's Really Important.

The four older kids were engaged in a game of chess at the picnic table and the five year old and the four year old were playing a wicked game of cat and mouse.  While my children were otherwise occupied,  I began to stroll around the perimeter of our property.

Within minutes, I experienced a deep peace and was even able to contemplate the goodness which surrounds me on the daily.

The afternoon was warm, but not hot, and the sun beat down on my skin and the lush green fields.   I noticed how the weeds looked as if their heads were bent in prayer and I was grateful I remembered to grab my real camera (not my always handy IPhone camera) to take a few pictures of the scene.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My Pre-Writing Writing Process

Taken by a manic four year old photographer
Cristina tagged me to write about my pre-writing process, which is funny because few would willingly desire to emulate any of my processes, but especially those that pertain to writing.  Still, she asked some questions so I'm playing along.  Don't say I didn't warn you, Cristina.

I apologize in advance.

(As an aside, I've learned a lot from Cristina about social media in the short time I've known her.  She is someone who really gets social media in general and marketing and promotion and I highly recommend following both her blog and her Twitter feed so you can reading all the articles and tips she posts.  Her information stream has been very helpful to me.  Plus, she's a really kind person.  Who doesn't need kindness in their life?)

What are your working on?

I think this question should read, what would you like to be working on...

Just kidding...

Kind of.

I'm always working on something, but it doesn't always look like the traditional sit and type pose.

I have a monthly writing commitment at Integrated Catholic Life and I am also always thinking about potential blog posts, other article ideas, and book ideas.  I jot those thoughts down in a folder on my phone.

You'd laugh if you saw the list.

It's a bunch of random words with enough information so I don't forget the point about which I'd like to expand.

I have half a book written and a few more ideas I'd love to pursue.  Randy Hain, my editor at ICL, has been encouraging me to get serious and put my writerly game face on.  I very much desire to "Do the work" as Steven Pressfield so aptly suggests, but  I also know that this particular moment is not the right time.

That time will come.

Until then, I write when I can and at odd times and in unusual places and I'm always very grateful for the super nice laptop my dad gave me as a gift a few years ago.  It's enabled me to keep writing.

I'm also a quality over quantity type of girl.  I'd rather produce one thoughtful blog post/article than a bunch of daily vapid navel gazing (though that still happens here sometimes). 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Parents Of Large Families: Ours Is A Public Ministry

 I went to the dentist last week and when it was my turn to have my teeth cleaned, the energetic
23-year old hygienist made small talk as she prepped the room for x-rays.

“Your husband was just in here and he told me you guys have six kids?" the young woman said.

"Yes, we do," I answered. 

I braced myself for a potential battery of inappropriate questions or statements or both. Anytime I go anywhere these days, someone somewhere has an opinion about my family size.  I've learned responding to these opinionated strangers is an art form and almost always requires a prayer.   

I sent up a silent, “Come, Holy Spirit” and waited for the woman to continue. 

"Whew," she said.  "Better you than me."

"Why do you say that?"

"I'm the oldest of six kids and I'm never having that many," she answered.

 I giggled because yeah, I know.  Six kids can be a lot.

 "No, seriously, I mean it,” she said again.  “I'm never having six children.”

Read the rest at ICL.   

Friday, August 22, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday: Catholic Swag and Some Linkage

At the Catholic Writer's Live Conference, a few of the vendors slipped me some cool Catholic kid swag.  I wanted to write about the cute things I brought home that have already become staples in our Catholic collection of children's items.

1.  Sacred Heart Toys:  I met Laurel MacKinnon, the owner of this fine group of toys, when her toddler spotted baby Edward and darted over to say hi to him.  While the babies communicated about important things, Laurel, her husband and I chatted about family life and toddlers.  She eventually told me about her goods and the next day, when I had a free moment, I ventured over to her booth to check them out.

Her toys are the most darling plush Catholic toys around! 

The crosses and the rosaries are the perfect Baptism or baby shower of first birthday gift.  Laurel gifted a cross to Edward, which he promptly gnawed.  That toy kept him busy the entire plane ride home!  I even felt like we were evangelizing when we met a three year old little boy, Mason, at the airport who seemed intrigued both with baby Edward and his fancy toy cross. 

If you need a sweet, Catholic little something for a little baby in your life, consider these!

(Sidenote:  I especially like the baby teething rosary.  The wooden children's rosaries always leave me worrying the wooden bead rosaries will fall apart and choke my kid! But loose beads on these plush toys are an impossibility!)

images from

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On Doubting The Decision To Homeschool

Editor's note:  I rarely write about homeschooling because I find I'm always struggling with and discerning our decision. 

This post is not an appeal to others to home educate.  I recognize all to well the pitfalls and weaknesses of home education and I don't think this particular educational choice is for everyone. 

This post is a reflection on how homeschooling has refined me as a parent.  I guess there is some good to all this after all.  :)


I spent the morning compiling last year's homeschool papers in order to prepare for my review for the 2013-2014 academic school year.  I'm really late in getting this necessary work completed but with the move this summer, my timing was thrown off and this was the first time I had to work on it. 

I hate preparing for my yearly review.

I spend the entire time doubting myself.

Why are we homeschooling again?

Is this academic work good enough?

What if the kids are not getting all they need?

I'm such a broken teacher.  My kids deserve better. 

Where do I fit in all of this?  How do I maintain my own emotional, mental, physical stability while educating and meeting the physical and emotional needs of my family?

And so went the internal dialogue while I sorted and filed papers into some kind of order so as to explain what we do to the Homeschool Supervisor.

This morning, after I was finished all the paperwork, I felt exhausted.

I wanted to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head.

School starts in just two short weeks and I felt overwhelmed and awash in doubt.

I couldn't shake the nagging feeling, the wondering if this is the best way.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Reflection On The Desire To Feel Superior

On a rainy afternoon not too long ago, I took the kids to grab a bit to eat at the large food warehouse near our house.  We were all a bit stir crazy from being cooped up, so the seven of us braved the hellish weather with nary a yellow slicker or umbrella.

(In our family, slickers, rain boots, and umbrellas are for wimps.  Just kidding, slickers, rain boots and umbrellas are for those people who can find them.)

After our nutritious meal of hot dogs and pizza followed by PowerAide chasers, I corralled my small herd of children toward the exit, but we were stopped by the intense monsoon still busy maiming the parking lot.  We stood in the store's doorway for a few minutes watching people get doused while dashing to their cars when we saw a woman--maybe in her early sixties-- pushing a cart and struggling to breathe.  She had a nasal cannula pumping oxygen into her nose and it was attached to a tank she had strapped to her waist. 

I watched as she took deep breaths, but still struggled for air--even with the assistance from the oxygen.  Her shoulders sagged when she saw the rain pelting and I could almost hear her think:

 "How am I going to make it to the car?" 

She took another deep breath and used her weight to push her buggy full of groceries, but before she got away from me, I tapped her on the shoulder.

"Why don't you go get your car and my kids and I will load your groceries for you?" I said.  "I have lots of helpers." 

The woman took another gasp of breath and the corners of her mouth crept upward--hitting the plastic wire sitting right above her upper lip.

"Thank you," she said, heaving deeply, and she hobbled off to get her vehicle.

I returned to my own grocery cart full of kids and my son said, "That was really nice, Mom."

I nodded a thank you but I have to confess, I was feeling pretty good about myself.  I was patting myself on the back for being the Good Samaritan of the day and I was thinking all kinds of righteous thoughts about the importance of going out of our way to help those in need. 

The rain was still showering sheets when the woman pulled her vehicle up to us.

"Come on, kids," I yelled.  "We have to work quickly if we don't want to get soaked."

I darted to the car, with a few kids following behind me, and when I pulled open the door, I was almost knocked over by the smell of cigarette smoke.

So that's why she can't breathe," I thought as I threw frozen food into her trunk.  She probably has emphysema or COPD from years of smoking.  She did this to herself.

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