My Daddy

Friday, November 29, 2013

This morning I was up early to nurse the babies.  Andrew took Elizabeth once she was done, and as I put a reluctant Mary Claire in the swing I heard my sister saying, "Yes." from the guest room. 

I giggled.  She must be talking in her sleep!  This will be a GREAT story to tell when it's not 4:30 AM!

Then she came out of the guest room. 

"That was Mama.  Daddy's not breathing and his heart isn't beating.  She's waiting for the first responders.  I'm going to go over there."

Always wonderful with words in situations like this, I responded, "...Happy Thanksgiving?"

I wasn't convinced it was real.  Clearly they could resuscitate him, right?

He'd been sick for so many many years - almost every illness one can imagine that isn't life-threatening, he seemed to be on a quest to collect just about as many chronic illnesses as he could possibly be diagnosed with in a lifetime.  It had gotten to the point where we imagined he'd live to be 100, moaning and groaning all the way...

The family in 1988
I staggered down the stairs, blinking back tears.  He was 55 years old.  He had been feeling a little worse than usual the day before, which is why he didn't make it for Thanksgiving dinner.  But we had just seen him a couple weeks ago at the twins' birthday party.  And he was always feeling sick - could this possibly be real?

I got back in bed when Elizabeth woke up and lay there praying, not sure whether to pray for his recovery or for the repose of his soul...  Andrew's phone started buzzing and I had a feeling it would be the latter.

My daddy was dead.

Thanksgiving 2012

We used to joke (and will probably continue to joke) about his unwavering loyalty.

His judgment, to us, seemed so ridiculously flawed.  To him, his wife was the most beautiful woman in the world.  His daughters were far and away the most gorgeous girls anyone could ever have laid eyes on.  Any concert my sister or I ever sang in would end with him, possibly crying, telling us we were the best singer on the stage, better than any of those other kids, and they were all probably jealous of how stunning and talented and smart all his children were.

We laughed that it was just because he was crazy.  But maybe somehow his love for us, brimming brimming brimming overflowing, clouded his vision and transformed us into the most perfect of children, the most flawless spouse. 

He and my mom were teenagers when they met.

He an awkward 17-year-old high schooler, her a seasoned 19-year-old college student.  He completely fabricated a story about recorder players and the neck straps they needed in order to play correctly.  Somehow that won her over...

They wrote each other long, long letters for years until finally (although everyone said they were far too young), they were married at the ripe old ages of 21 and 23.  They looked about 15.

He hated to dance.
  I didn't love it either.  I didn't relish the thought of awkwardly slow dancing with my father for an agonizingly long 3.5 minutes during that father-daughter dance at my wedding. 
So we danced to "Everything is Rosie" from Bye Bye Birdie, vamping the whole time.  We did the tango.  He spun me and dipped me.  We were embarrassingly bad, I'm sure, but we were both laughing so hard that tears were streaming down our faces!
He was so very silly, and that was one of my absolute favorite things about him.  I don't think there has ever been another daddy who was as silly with his babies as my daddy.  The made-up songs, all rhyming and scanning perfectly, the ridiculous nicknames, the completely impossible stories (all told with a completely straight face so we never knew whether he was actually joking about that extremely detailed biography he had just told us about a person who never really existed)...
My high school graduation, 2004
My daddy was always the strongest man in the room.
My parents were married young and had babies young, so they were always the youngest parents wherever we were.  When all the other dads had gone soft, my daddy was volunteering to help set up for the elementary school fun fair, muscles bulging through his tiny little tank tops. 
As the years went on and he too, grew soft, he insisted that his stomach was actually solid muscle.  So solid, in fact, that he chose to show it off by wearing underarmour shirts as his regular stay-at-home-dad uniform. 
None of us ever did have the heart to tell him (a licensed medical professional, by the way...) that it was just fat.  Nobody accrues that much muscle solely on their belly.
 My parents moved away from their home of nearly 20 years in order to be out in the country, where they could both get away from the grind of the DC area.  They were so happy out there, but it came at a cost.  My mom had recently changed careers, and quit her wonderful new teaching job in order to find a job in their new town. 

But there were no jobs. 

She eventually took a job teaching something out of her subject area, was stuck with a lot of really tough kids, and her contract wasn't renewed for the following year.  It has been several years, and she still hasn't been able to find a full-time job out there.  She's always been frugal, so savings has taken her quite a ways.  But the cost of the constant medical appointments, prescriptions, specialists...  It's all taken quite a toll.  And it's been many years since Daddy worked, since he has long been too disabled to hold a job (and yet not disabled enough to qualify for Social Security Disability...) If you can help in any way possible, we would all be eternally grateful.

I always want to help in situations like this and never know what I can do... 
Those obscure offers of, "Let me know what I can do to help!" are so well-meaning, but the grieving and overwhelmed are often not in the position to solicit specific errands. 

Here are some specific ideas for what you can do to help my mom (particularly if you're in the Harrisonburg, Virginia area):

Send a meal (home-cooked or not!)
Send a gift card for a local dining establishment
Come by and wash dishes
Clean the bathroom
Help organize books in the various bookshelves in the house
Clean one of the guest rooms
Do laundry
Make the beds with fresh sheets
Offer to let the dogs out and feed them for a day so that she can leave the house
Invite her over for a meal
Invite her over to play with your kids
Invite her over to snuggle your baby
Offer to list some of their enormous stash of action figures on ebay (true story - anyone an ebay guru?)

Access the site here:  and use the following information to sign up to help:

CALENDAR ID:   167453

Or go here to donate to the funeral fund:

Jonathan Hunter-Kilmer died this morning in his sleep, at the age of 55.  He leaves behind his wife and four living children, as well as five grandchildren.  We appreciate any and all help you are able to give.  Above all else, please pray for the repose of his soul.

If you knew him, would you mind sharing a story in the comments?  I'll see what I can do about opening up anonymous comments, just please sign your story so we know who you are.  I can't promise I'll be able to respond to comments, but I do so appreciate all your love and prayers, and I know the rest of the family does as well.

What We're Reading Wednesday!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I've got a few books I'm working on and one I just finished with the kids, so here's what we're reading these days:

I'm Bernadette

The sweet author of this book sent us a copy to review and John Paul and Cecilia loved it.  We read a chapter each night (sometimes two because they really didn't want to stop!) and just finished it.  Bernadette is a first grader at a Catholic school, and the first book in this series involves Bernadette trying to find a saint to dress up as for her school's All Saints Parade. 

This reminded me a lot of the Ramona books I so loved when I was a kid, except without all the ridiculous antics - Bernadette is a pretty typical first grader, and I think this is a book I really would have loved to read when I was that age.  I think it's the type of book that would appeal to homeschooled kids too, because I remember being intrigued by books about kids at public school when I was in private elementary school...  I imagine the same goes for homeschooled kids and Catholic school characters!

John Paul is so excited that soon there will be another book, Christmas with Bernadette!  Cecilia is now saying special prayers to "Saint Mama Mary" and tells me that Saint Mama Mary visited her in her dreams.  And both of the kids sat perfectly still for every single chapter and now Bernadette and Victor are key characters in their make-believe. 

I think this book fills a niche that needs to be filled - I'm not an expert on children's literature but there definitely weren't any books about kids in Catholic school when I was growing up, nor were there fiction books that subtly interjected saint stories and facts throughout the story!

You can purchase I'm Bernadette! on Amazon or through the publisher's link above - Emily Grace Ortega is a Catholic mom of 6, so you're certainly supporting a lovely woman!   Ana has a review of the same book up at her blog, if you're looking for more opinions.

Siblings Without Rivalry

I'm still not very far into this one because I'm really bad at reading nonfiction.  But I went to a talk a couple months ago and the speaker (A renowned discipline expert) recommended this MANY times, and said it was one of the best books she has ever read and helped her understand her childhood and raise her children to have a good relationship with each other.  Soooo since I haven't read a whole lot I can't really say much except that it has a lot of cartoons that John Paul has been reading (and quoting) during naptime, so maybe if you get it, consider hiding it from your precocious 4-year-old because he may or may not tell someone "You're a bad person." Because he may have read it in the book. 

Anyway, I have high hopes for this book!

How to Negotiate with Kids . . . Even if You Think You Shouldn't

This one I'll admit, I haven't even started...  But I wanted to mention it with the other book because the same expert recommended this one when I told her about my somewhat difficult 4-year-old who argues with every. single. thing. that we say to him.  I need to read this, because his behavior just keeps getting worse, no matter what ramifications bad behavior might have. 

We've been trying to use some of the tips from the book, like naming our emotions, and that's really been helping John Paul.  Instead of screaming because he's angry, he's been able to (not always, but sometimes) say, "I'm upset because I wanted [xyz]" or "I'm feeling really frustrated!"  And considering his default is usually just to scream as loudly and as long as possible, this is definitely a plus!

Check out more books over at Housewifespice!

What They Said, Vol. 2

Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Tuesday!  If you've got any funny quotes saved up, link up below!

Here's my contribution for the week (well, the kids' contribution...):

John Paul, eyeing my ginger ale:  When will I drink ginger ale?
Me:  ...  Maybe when you're...  15?
JP:  And I'll wear deodorant!!!  When I'm fifteen-and-a-half!!!

Yeah, that's something to get excited about...

John Paul and Cecilia find an accessory for a glider the babies have outgrown:

JP:  When will we use this?
Me:  When we have our next baby.
JP:  Boy babies!!!
Me:  Well, maybe we'll have more boys.  But probably just one baby at a time from now on...
JP:  No!  Twin babies!
Me:  Well, usually people don't have more than one set of twins...  And twins are hard, so do you really want us to have more twins?
JP:  Maybe...  QUADRUPLETS!!!  So we can have the same number of boys and girls!!!

Glad he's not in charge...

Now imagine six more...

Cecilia, singing:  Shoo fwy, don't bodder me,
shoo fwy, don't bodder me,
shoo fy, don't bodder me...

*pauses to pick her nose, resumes singing*

Ceciwia has a booger in her nose!

Not usually this serious...

Cecilia:  What's a baby gwasshopper called?
Me:  Um...  A baby grasshopper?
Cecilia:  Maybe a spider?
Me:  No.  Grasshoppers and spiders are not the same.
Cecilia:  Oh.  Are gwasshoppers and spiders da same?
Me:  ...No...  Look!  Mary Claire wants to hug you!

Because if I hadn't changed the subject she would have asked the same question 50 more times...


John Paul:  What kind of car does Dad drive?
Me:  A Toyota.
JP:  What type of Toyota?
Me:  A Corolla.
Cecilia:  And what type of car does Jesus dwive?
Me:  ...  Jesus doesn't drive a car...

But for some reason I picture Him in a VW bus?


Cecilia:  Mom, where are da wolves?
Me:  ...In the forest?
Cecilia:  And you pwotect me from dem?
Me:  Yes, sure I will.
Cecilia:  And what will dey do to us?
Me:  Well, maybe eat us?
Cecilia:  And what would happen to us?
Me:  Well, we would die...
Cecilia:  Oh.  'Member?  When Jesus died for us?
Me:  Yup, I remember that...
Cecilia:  And sometimes we wose from da dead!
Me:  Well, no, we have never risen from the dead...
Cecilia:  Wike my Nana!  Da one who died!
Me:  No, she didn't rise from the dead...   Hey, let's go upstairs and play!

There comes a point where the conversation gets a little too heavy for me...

John Paul, listening to bible songs:  Dad, what's "meek?"
Andrew:  Well, it's when you're very humble and obey really well.
Cecilia:  I'm meek!!!
John Paul:  Me too!
Andrew:  Well, you're not really meek, John Paul...  You would have to do a much better job not arguing...
Cecilia:  I'm meek, because I'm...  *pauses for a while to think*  I'm not meek.
Me:  Okay, Cecilia.
Cecilia, running over to tickle John Paul:  Tickle tickle tickle!  Now I'm meat!  I'm meat because I tickled John Paul!!!

Cecilia:  Could we pway Gus da Ghost and I'm Maura and you're Mr. Hardy?
John Paul:  NO!
Cecilia:  Maybe later could we pway Gus da Ghost?
John Paul:  No, it's too expensive...
Cecilia:  How much does it cost?
John Paul:  Oh, one-thirty-nine-ninety-five.

Your turn!

Add your link below:






WIWS: Plaid, plaid, and bedhead

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cecilia woke up this morning with the most incredible bedhead - I couldn't help but laugh when I walked into her room and she pulled the sheet off her head!  So I started combing her hair in the bathroom and we had the following conversation:

Cecilia:  Oh, I don't need my hair to be combed.  You already combed it wast night!
Me:  Well, we still want to comb your hair in the morning so that it looks nice for Jesus at Mass!
Cecilia:  Is Jesus in da bafwoom?
Me:  Well, I guess Jesus could be in the bathroom...
Cecilia:  And he watches over me at night!
Me:  That's right, and so does your guardian angel!
Cecilia:  Um, 'member when a angel comed to Mawwy?
Me:  Yup, I do!
Cecilia:  And den she had baby Jesus!!!

Much better than our usual bathroom conversations, I think...  I've got some other lovely quotes stored up for this Tuesday's link-up, so if your kids (or husband, or dog, or whomever) are hilarious, go ahead and share!  There are some serious gems in this past week's edition, so if you need a laugh check it out!

Moving on, here's what we wore to Mass:

John Paul started out with "praying hands" and then the moment I suggested he hold still he started doing a dance.  This kid...

That plaid blazer and striped bow tie kill me - every time he wears them to Mass all the old men go NUTS because they're so excited about how awesome he looks!  I had to pull him away from an elderly couple outside because he kept telling them all about how "It's the feast of Christ the King!!!"


Cecilia's in last year's Christmas dress, size 18-24 months...  And yes, now it finally fits perfectly!

I know you're shocked to see this scarf again!  And those boots!
Scarf:  Same old Forever 21 standby
Boots:  Again, same old same old...
Skirt:  J.Crew via Twice
Sweater:  Gap from at least college, maybe even high school...
Tights:  No idea
Hat:  Ebay?  Way back in college...
Hair:  Whoops, forgot to do anything about my bedhead...  Thank goodness for the hat!
Posture:  I don't even know why I'm sticking my stomach out...
Mass went about as well as expected - right now the biggest problem is to get the kids to stop picking their noses all. the. time.  Sigh.
Linking up with Fine Linen & Purple for my very favorite link-up - check out more outfits!

7 Quick Takes: Messy faces, book lists, and cupcakes!

Friday, November 22, 2013


Well, as much as I don't like random pictures of babies with messy faces...  The babies had their birthday party and had adorable messy faces!

We weren't even singing to Elizabeth at this point - she just LOVES the birthday song!

Elizabeth preferred the cake part, Mary Claire wasn't quite sure about the icing...

OH YES!!!  CAKE!!!

Um, I ate a little bit of cupcake with my frosting...

It's not supposed to go in my ear?

Now I know why I've never given cake with real icing for first birthdays...  John Paul had half a popsicle (Andrew was studying for the bar, give me a break!) and I made cake pops for Cecilia (uuuuugh so vile!  FAR too sweet!).  So yeah, the babies had baths before they opened presents.


How is it the end(ish) of November already?  Seriously, this month barely even happened...


Today is the feast of St. Cecilia!  So Cecilia gets to choose dinner, except every time I ask her what she wants she just wants whatever we just ate.  So I convinced her eggs were a good idea (I mean, it's Friday so...  Not a lot of options!) and then convinced her that she wants cupcakes for dessert.  With pink icing.


Birthday cupcakes, not feast day cupcakes!

The problem, though, is that I used a recipe that only makes 6 cupcakes (because otherwise I would have used a box mix and who needs 24 cupcakes?  Not us...) which means I can't sneak one as a sample because there are 6 of us!

Luckily they overflowed so I took my cupcake tax that way :P

I mean, it would have messed with the frosting so...  Yeah, had to cut off the tops and eat them.  Delicious :)


John Paul and Cecilia found their bin of winter outerwear and accessories. Which means we play "winter dress-up" for most of the day.  Unfortunately, I'm required to participate because they can't get both mittens on by themselves.  We spend probably 20 minutes getting them in snow pants, coats, mittens, scarves, hats, boots... 

And then they go outside and take it all off.

Even though it's like, 40 degrees.

They get it from their dad.


I jumped on the chevron bandwagon and ohhhhh are those babylegs not the cutest ever?


Outfit pictures that have been sitting on my phone for a while:


And last, some links for you:

I laughed out loud at this one:  A complete curmudgeon's guide to The Sound of Music

Some awesome suggestions for books for Christmas, Advent, and all the feast days that fall in December:

I went through most of those lists Wednesday night and put a bunch on hold at the library - now I get to read through all of them once they start coming in!  Seriously, I had no idea our library had so many religious books...

My posts this week:

Check out more posts at Conversion Diary - Happy Friday!

Musical Toys That Won't Drive You Crazy: A Gift Guide

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I think I'm safe in saying that we all want our kids to experience music to at least some extent as they grow up.  Now, as a music teacher and the parent of small children, I've done rather a lot of research into the types of musical instruments and toys that I actually want to keep around the house for my children to experience. 

Because here's the thing:  There are a lot of really terrible "instrument" toys that are marketed to parents who don't know any better.  These things make horrible non-musical sounds, or are electronic toys where the singer is off-key, demonstrating obnoxious singing styles, or just plain annoying!

And did you know that up until the age of 9, your child's developmental music aptitude is capable of changing?  Yeah, pretty big deal!  I'm talking aptitude, not achievement.  So whatever varied musical experiences you can get in them early on are only going to help!

With all that in mind, and with Christmas fast approaching, here are some of my favorite musical instruments, activities, and toys:

Affiliate links included:

Egg Shakers - One of my all-time favorite baby gifts!

Maracas - Same sound, size, and brand as the egg shakers, but sometimes it's nice to have handles!

Remo Drums - We have a baby drum that the kids have always LOVED, but I'm putting this set on my wish list because I'd really like to have some larger drums around the house.  They're NOT indestructible, but they make a far nicer sound than those awful plastic drums that you find at the big box toy stores...  There's a reason you find this brand in music classrooms all over the country!

Glockenspiel or xylophone

This one has been on my wish list for a while and we still haven't gotten around to buying it...  We have a Fisher-Price Xylophone (you know, the one everyone had growing up?) and it's just fine, but DO NOT buy one online - you must try it out in stores and make sure you get one that's tuned properly.  They aren't always, and it's aaaaawful!

I'm going to buy a nicer one some day, one with more than 8 notes and with chromatic notes too...  There are only so many songs you can play with just those 8 notes!  But it's fabulous for improvisation and playing basic tunes.

Rain Stick - I can't find the exact one we have, and the sound of the plastic ones isn't as nice as the wooden ones buuuut I'm always a little concerned about babies chewing on wooden rain sticks.  Our rain stick is fantastic for all ages - it's particularly wonderful for soothing a fussy newborn, because they're always fascinated by the colorful balls and the sound.

Bathtub Xylophone - I just think this one's so fun!  Sure, only 6 notes...  But you can rearrange the order, stick them to the wall, float them in the water...  A really fun bath toy!

Munchkin Mozart Magic Cube - The ONE electronic toy I'll recommend - the instrument sounds aren't perfect (particularly the violin...), but it's a great way for kids to explore the sounds of the instruments of the orchestra and how they fit together to make one piece.  And there are quite a few Mozart tunes on this one - I've seen adults have a blast with it, too!
The Carnival of the Animals - You can buy a book/CD set or just the CD.  It's an AWESOME piece for kids to listen to, respond to, dance to...  We have this cd , which has Peter and the Wolf, Carnival of the Animals, and The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (we've been listening it for almost 2 weeks straight and I'm still not tired of it!).  You can almost always find this at your local library in some form, so definitely check it out - I've taught this to all ages, and it's awesome for cold weather when you need the kids to get some energy out but it's too cold to go outside!

Peter and the Wolf - Another one you can buy as just a CD or as a set - this one was actually specifically written with a story set to the music and I've never met a kid, big or small, who didn't have fun listening to it! 

I've got some more of my favorite CDs listed here - check them out!
And if you really want an "outside-the-box" gift, consider giving someone (or yourself!) music classes via Kindermusik or Musikgarten - terrific curricula, particularly for early childhood.  I highly recommend trying to do a baby music class or two when you have your first child - you'll learn a lot of great songs to use for all the rest of your children!
So before you get one of those plastic "band-in-a-box" sets, check out some *real* music!  I highly recommend finding your local music store and seeing what you can purchase there - those are usually family-run and I know we all want to support local businesses!
Do you have any recommendations of your own?  I'd love to hear them!

What They Said, A Link-Up!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Well, I knew it was only a matter of time...  We had our first scissors casualty this week:

John Paul, coming into the babies' room while I nurse Mary Claire:  Mom, my hair was getting tangled, so I cut it...
Me:  *shocked gasp*  Where did you cut your hair?
JP, touching the top of his head:  Oh, just here...
I ran to the table where he had been quietly cutting out dotted line shapes from a catalog and found this small amount of hair:

Breathing a sigh of relief, I began cleaning up the paper and found this rather large pile:

And carefully inspected his hair to see that the damage was still fairly minimal, since he has a massive mop of hair and the rest of his hair mostly hides the shorn spots:

He still had to do this, though:


Cecilia, passionately hugging Mary Claire:  *sigh* I'm in wuv!


Cecilia, eating her generic Rice Krispies:  Mom, dey're not cwack packin'!
Me:  What?
Cecilia:  Are dey cwap snackin'?
Me:  Do you mean snap crackle popping?
Cecilia:  Yeah!  Are dey snack packin'?

When the babies are asleep, their birthday presents are fair game...


Cecilia:  Mom, could I pweez have a snack?
Me:  Cecilia, you just had snack AND lunch.  Aren't you very full?
Cecilia:  No, I'm just a couple full!  Could I pweez have a apple?


Cecilia:  What's gwavy, mom?

I know, I'm a failure as a parent....

Me:  It's a sauce that you put on your food, like meat or potatoes.
Cecilia:  And marshmawwows!!!

Gross.  Just gross.


Don't you dress up as a knight and a ballerina and then sit down and read quietly?

John Paul and Cecilia start banging on Mary Claire's bedroom door while she's sleeping and I'm nursing Elizabeth to sleep...  Both babies wake up sobbing, and I run out to get the big kids to stop being so very very crazy:

Me:  John Paul, WHY were you doing that???
JP:  I wanted to fight you.
Me: ...You wanted to fight me?
JP:  With my sword.

Yup.  Worth waking the babies for.  And obviously SO urgent.


Discovering some new artwork on the slats of the babies' cribs...

Me:  John Paul, do you know who drew this?
JP:  Oh, it was me.  And it was not easy!
Me, stifling laughter:  Why did you draw on the crib?
JP:  I was trying to draw a picture of myself, but then I just drew some lines instead.


Cecilia, blowing her nose while on the toilet:  Wook, sometimes Belle bwows her nose just wike DIS!
Me:  ...
Cecilia, swishing the toilet paper in the toilet water:  And sometimes Belle dooes DIS while she's on da potty!

I think I can guarantee with 100% accuracy that Belle doesn't do that...   


I walk into Cecilia's room to see Mary Claire hug-tackling her on the bed...

Me:  Aww, Cecilia, she loves you so much!
Cecilia, turning to me with her finger up her nose:  I'm just pickin' a weally big booger.

Usually my reaction when being hugged, too...


And now, some quotes from me (from What Would I Say?)

"Now THAT is weird! and he used to hug the pope"

"Isn't the only goat cheese, hummus, and celery.  No, she licks you."

"Next year I'm wondering what the heck do you think it's over."

"Also, Pedro Martinez, BeyoncĂ©, and just do NOT IN a BOOK!"

"Nursing in bed.  Sincerely, JUST GO TO MASS on Craigslist or freecycle"

"Curses, Elizabeth just got home from our job to write."

"My hatred is far too cute!"

"Who's the ham to keep the United Arab Emirates?"

"Yeah, I still had to permeate the children."

Not sure how I plan to permeate them...
 Now it's your turn!  There are so many hilarious kids on the internet and lots of bloggers post quotes from theirs - link up an old post, a new post, whatever!  I'm going to make this a regular Tuesday feature so that we can compile all the hilarity in one place.  Link back to this post if you'd like, and happy reading!
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