Off we go!
Why does everything in the house break at the same time?
It’s because of that thing you did. You know what I mean.
Your take on Lino Rulli and the Catholic Guy Show. Would you consider appearing as a guest if asked?
I would consider appearing on anything, including a five dollar bill, an ass tattoo, and a special story hour designed to reassure children that even though they’ve been told repeatedly to listen to their gut and stay away from tricky people, they should make an exception for things with hashtags because we’re building bridges or something. How dare you. Jesus died for people like you, and you won’t even show the new girl where the terlet is!
What is the strangest game your toddlers have played?
I’m torn between Puppy Sacrifice and Scissor Toss.
What is a mother of littles and no bigs supposed to do when she’s sick? What did you do?
Just suffered. I remember crawling on my hands and knees to the bathroom to violent throw up while three kids watched, impressed. I’m sorry. I think it’s possible I could have called people for help, but it didn’t occur to me; so if there’s anyone you can call, do so.
Have you considered coming to the Catholic Press Association convention? I ask because then I could meet you and fanboy out about it.
It literally never occurs to me to leave the house when I don’t absolutely have to. How press do you have to be to go to the convention? Do you get disqualified for doing AMAs and talking about throwing up when you’re completely out of stuff to write about?
Did you always feel like you were going to have a big family and be a writer or is this completely different than what you thought your life would look like when you were younger?
I definitely always wanted a big family. We were thinking eight kids, but I honestly can’t remember when we decided that number was adjustable. I did toy with the idea of being an author after I won an award for my first book, The Day It Rained Piano Keys, and was given a certificate and a kiss by Tomie DePaolo (I was seven). When I started having kids and I thought we’d homeschool forever and be desperately poor forever, I assumed with dread that I would eventually end up cleaning homes or driving a school bus to make ends meet. So I am immensely grateful that it’s turned out this way.
What is the greatest city in the world?
The greatest city I’ve ever been to is Rome. Although the whole thing smells like poop, both dog and human. The cobblestones are worn to a kind of luminous pewter which fills the air with a light I’ve never seen anywhere else, and the Roman pines hang over the sky like giant fans. You feel like you’re in a palace all the time, even with the poop smell.
What’s for breakfast and who made/is making it?
I don’t eat breakfast. Corrie has whatever the hell she wants. The kids have cereal or make themselves eggs or french toast. My job, as I see it, is to bring home food and walk away.
I’ve been looking for a certain charging cable for two days now. Where is it?
Once I found a missing charging table in the giant toy bucket. One end was tied around a stuffed penguin’s neck, and it had been cut in half. I never found the other end. Here’s hoping the people in your house are less monstrous.
How does life with kids in the summer look different for you than life with kids during the school year?
It doesn’t look like the inside of a car, which is how it looks during the school year.
Why does that one eyebrow hair always grow longer than the other eyebrow hairs?
I don’t know, but I have often envied unwanted facial hair for all its wonderful qualities. It’s so vigorous, so glossy, so well-rooted, so bold. Why can’t anything else in my life or on my body function that way? Had I the ambition and singleminded purposefulness of that one hair that thrusts itself so confidently out of the side of my chin, I could rule the world.
Tom Servo captured my heart forever when he hit that high note in the very beautiful “Patrick Swayze Christmas”
How did you manage to cook food when you had only little kids? I’m pretty sure 90% of our caloric intake at this point is crackers, fruit, and ice cream. And cooking ahead doesn’t work because the kids still live here on weekends.
When we had only little kids, we also had far, far less money to cook with
, so I don’t know if it would have been different if we had had a bigger budget. That’s how I started the habit of planning out a weekly menu and buying exactly what I needed ahead of time: I would realize, “I have $23 for food this week. What’s my plan?” So we had a lot of hot dogs, pasta, English muffin pizza with cheese from WIC, eggs, and noodle-heavy casseroles, and occasionally things like oat soup
, which costs about 4 cents per serving, and then I supplemented with vitamins and apples.
My nutritional goal was the same as it was for our homeschool day: Three things, and one of them not brown. But having a bunch of little kids is just plain exhausting, and trying to make a nice meal while shaking weeping people off your leg is no way to live. Sometimes you just have to put your head down and settle for keeping people alive, and believe that this very intense season is truly just a season, and thing loosen up later. They really do.
What’s your favorite movie?
Roadhouse. It’s my regular Saturday night thing.
Is this Simcha’s kids posting on her behalf?
No, but Corrie did manage to unlock my phone this morning. It has a six-figure lock code. I am alarmed.
We just came from a school Mass where the visiting priest took questions at the end. One kid asked, “have you ever sneezed during prayer?”
If he hasn’t, he’s not praying enough! I’m always baffled when people think it’s somehow not appropriate to pray while doing . . . anything. Like, is God going to be grossed out or offended that you’re using the body and mind he made for you? It’s just weird. Who are you trying to impress, and why do you think it will work?
How do you deal with, ahem, highly selective eaters?
I just let them be. I make reasonably tasty and nutritious meals, and I try to offer meals that you can pick and choose, whenever possible; but I don’t go out of my way to cater to fussy people, and I definitely don’t engage in battles over food. Cereal and milk is always available.
What are you doing this summer, big plans, small plans, day to day, I wanna know everything!
I want to replace the kitchen floor, and if there’s any money left over, I want to hire someone to replace the subfloor in the laundry room so we can have [heavenly choirs] a second toilet again.
I want to watch some good movies with the kids and read Narnia with the little kids and Frank Sheed with the older ones. We may or may not do Totus Tuus this year, but I didn’t sign anyone up for any other camp (and three kids, and I hope soon four, are working, so they have their own schedules). I think one kid wants to continue gymnastics, and another takes violin through the summer. We want to hit some Free Fun Fridays in Boston, including at least one art museum, this year, now that Damien works from home and we can actually make it happen. I want to start learning to play the piano.
I want people to turn off their screens and go outside, including me. I want to hit the town beach at least twice a week. I want the kids to play Dungeons and Dragons, and I want to drive out to the old section of town, with no streetlights, and go stargazing a least a few times. One of the kids has vowed to get me into Hamilton this summer.
MOST EXCITINGLY, back in January, with great terror, I pulled the trigger on something I’ve been wanting to do my entire married life, which is I rented a house by the ocean for a week! We got a wonderful deal on an AirBNB within walking distance of the beach, and I have literally dreamt about it, one way or another, every single week since then. I know it’s a terrible idea to pin all your hopes and dreams on a single week, but I can’t help it.
Is this 3?
If you jump from an airplane and have a very long Slinky, can throwing one end of it upward while holding the other slow your fall so that you can hit the ground unharmed?
Trick question! I forgot to get a Real ID, so I’m not allowed on airplanes.
What do you think will be different about the Catholic Church in the US in fifty years?
Ever read Walker Percy’s Love In the Ruins? Like that.
Who sleeps where? How do you arrange the bedrooms with many kids in a small house?
Inequitably. We have the two boys in one room, the oldest kid in one room, the second and third in another room, and two sets of bunkbeds in the middle room, and one kid currently camped out on cushions in the hall with a sheet tacked across the corner. If they don’t like it, they’re welcome to figure out something better, because I sure can’t.
Love her. She helped and encouraged me so generously and enthusiastically when I was first starting out. I haven’t been following her lately, but I know she works hard and tells the truth, which is all I ever ask of anyone (except my husband, who also needs to bring me a drink).
What books do you recommend for talking to kids about the birds & the bees? Non-icky books that middle school age can read on their own (and then discuss with parents)
Will you feel better if I confess that I have completely dropped the ball on this in various ways with each of my kids? Damien has conversations with the boys. For the girls, I like The Care and Keeping of You, and then we just have conversations.
Okay, that’s it! It’s the last day of school, and one kid took this final chance to forget her lunch at home, and guess what? I didn’t care. (It’s a half day. She can wait. We’re going to the beach.)