Monday, April 29, 2013

Otown: The Beginning of a Prolonged Goodbye

Beyond all reason, other than the plenteous and undeserved grace of God, our rental application was accepted and the lease is in our hands for the tiny little cottage that will be the backdrop for Family Happiness Es style. 

I guess Obi was right when he had second thoughts about submitting photographic evidence of our well brought up children along with our background check:

So as to that news we are feeling "happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time," as The One I Love to Hate, Taylor Swift would put it.

Which means, amidst all the excitement, we are beginning a prolonged goodbye to all our old haunts. 

Yesterday, it was Obi's pick for our Out to Lunch Pact, and he chose the Jimmy John's just down Orange Avenue from our downtown church: home of the financial district, the bar scene, and the Family Es Sunday noontime.   So much fun.

Surroundings take on a nostalgic flavor when you realize it is your last experience of them.  A great gift to our family is has been to travel so far from our home (about 45 minutes, mostly highway) for Mass each week, each time a pilgrimage of sorts.  It has given us the incentive to really enjoy some unusual experiences for a rowdy, untamed large family. 

We absolutely stick out all Amish-like walking down Orange Avenue, with our toddlers and teenagers, mixing with the street artists, homeless, businessmen and hipsters.

We have no hopefully misconceived notions that we are a beautiful parade-like commercial for the Culture of Life, as I think our Catholic Conscience would like us to believe.  But we have so much enjoyed walking city streets with our motley crew, pretending we are part of the scenery ourselves, enjoying the seedy parts (Jude) and the couture equally (AnneMarie).

We wanted for our counter-culture kids, part homeschooled, part catholic schooled, part public schooled, 100% God's children, to know that this is their world, all of it. 

And all street people, who all walk a different life, these are their brothers, and these glorious cities and places, this is their home, and wherever they go, they belong just as they are...

...with the world's most annoying mom.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Seven Sorta Super Quick Takes: The Move


Remember geography-gate from yesterday wherein I announced that Obi was taking a new job, but I wasn't able to reveal details on where we would be moving, but posted a beautiful teaser pic, and everyone thought I was this mean little teaser-girl?


Well I honestly wasn't actually trying to provoke curiosity. The above scene is just so familiar to me in my self-centered world that I assumed the world at large would say, "Oh! Florida Gulf Coast!" Because that picture just screams it. 


So I can say with absolute clarity that we are moving back to the Gulf Coast (we spent 4 glorious years there before moving to Central Florida 4 years ago.) 

Before we lived in the entire world's most perfectly wonderful little town, Venice, just south of Sarasota, and loved every minute of our time there. In fact, when we moved it felt like the worst break up anyone has ever had, like Venice was saying to our family, "It's been really fun getting to know you, but, it's not you, it's me, and I need to move on without you." And I was heartbroken.  

Well, the Gulf is giving us another shot at romance, and Obi is taking a job in the Fort Myers, Naples general area.


But this is where is gets crazy. A looong bloggy time ago, I did one of those Leibster posts where you answer questions from another blogger, and the prophetic Cari asked, and I answered: 

5. If money were no object, what kind of house would you have: tiny cottage on either Gulf of Mexico or Lake Michigan.


...and over the weekend, while mulling this opportunity around in our tuned-to-the-gypsy channel brains, we found exactly that, just waiting for us: a tiny beach cottage on the Gulf of Mexico. The above shot of the sunset was taken from the front yard, and this was taken on the beach looking back:

And it is absolutely perfect. Not fancy, not big. Romantic and Bohemian, just like me and Obi.

Me after looking at the beach house, completely interiorly freaking out while remaining calm in front of the realtor.  Finally, my hair will make sense.


But it is not etched in stone, we don't have the keys yet, all the paperwork has been filled out, we have been given verbal approval, but these things go if you have any desire for our happiness or for your's through visiting us (because I hereby invite you all if we get this house) PLEASE PRAY FOR A SPEEDY DENOUEMENT!


Bitter in every sweet, we say goodbye to this:

the home where Isaac Augustine came into our lives. This town we live in here in Central Florida is a planned city called, let the embarrassment rain down, Harmony. And he was born in a hospital in a neighboring planned city, the one designed by Mickey Mouse himself, Celebration. 

So although we leave this place behind, Isaac will have the forever distinction of quite literally being conceived in Harmony, born in Celebration. 

Yes, that is true, even without the capitalization.

So thank you, Jen, thanks be to God home from the hospital with your baby of wonder and goodness, for hosting these Quick Takes!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Theme Thursday: Sky and an Announcement

This is my contribution for Theme Thursday with Clan Donaldson,  this week, Sky.  It is supposed to look largely ominous, foreboding, but with signs of hope waiting to break through violently, with the clouds breaking and the oleander blooming. I wish I had some kind of symbolism wrapped up in the Orange County Courthouse, but really it just means downtown Orlando to me, as it is the building that denotes where we exit the highway to get to Mass.

Hopeful sky?

Yes, once again, the Family Es is picking up the flip flops and the futons and starting over again, Somewhere Else. Huge apologies to, well, actually everyone I know, that this serves as an unlooked for announcement, but it has been a week filled with huge emotions, lots of cheek biting, thumb picking, and not hair brushing to reach this decision. 

My man obi was approached with an unsolicited incredible opportunity to do what he loves to do best: Something New. And like the gypsy troopers we have trained the kids to be, we will all follow with happy and hopeful hearts, and many, many tears for all that we will leave behind.

I can't get into details yet, as all the i's have not been crossed, t's not dotted, but let me just say we are moving here (my pics):

How is that for sky?

Thanks for your prayers in advance, as the trials ahead will need to be slain like dragons, furiously and one by one. 

OH!  And one more thing:

Momo in front of Saint James Cathedral, Downtown Orlando.

You didn't really think you would get out of here without a kid shot, did you?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Merrell Barefoot Running Review and Other Running Run-Ons

Let me tell you how Christopher McDougall's foundational work, Born to Run, deepened my love affair with running beyond my wildest expectations(as people enjoy saying when they are too lazy to come up with a more apropos phrase).

But first let me tell you that I have never half finished that beautiful tome. Actually never read a sentence. Actually, I have never held its precious contents in my greedy hands. It changed my life by just existing. Maybe I happened upon an article detailing McDougall's conclusions, maybe a running friend mentioned it in passing, I don't really remember. 

I just remember simply hearing that a guy wrote a book detailing how he studied an isolated, indigenous community that runs long distances on a regular basis, barefooted, without injury, and combined with scientific research, concluded that all humans were designed to live in a similar manner. 

And I said, "YES!"

Having run a couple of marathons at that point in incredibly "supportive," heavy, and expensive Mizunos, it was easy for me to conclude that YES!: running for extended periods of time is a beautiful and therapeutic part of the human experience as God intended, and if so, then the Good God would have also designed our bodies to function just fine without $120 shoes. If not better than fine, considering I finished both marathons with the hips of a 90 year old, and at least three black toes on each foot.

But what's a girl to do? I'm not going out there barefoot on Florida in July asphalt, or worse, getting a half-eaten acorn lodged between my toes or broken glass in my heel!   

And I'm certainly not wearing anything that would require my feet to enslave themselves, glove-like fashion, into the fashion controversy known as Five Fingers

Enter Merrell Barefoot.

I'm sold.

These shoes have a footbed developed by the same company that has manufactured the soles for all shoe companies that offer a "barefoot" division, (as far as this runner/writer knows) : Vibram. They don't single out your toes from the rest of your feet like ugly step children that have all earned a special time-out room to call their own. Instead, the sole has what Merrell calls a 0 mm drop, heal to toe, and a generous area up front for your toes to live in happy running participation with the rest of  your feet without the embarrassment of literally being singled out. 

I bought my first pair:

a Mary Jane style Merrell calls Pure Glove, that I figured would be cute enough to wear as walk about shoes if I really couldn't run in them.

I could run in them.

In fact, I trained for two half marathons (only could run in one), and ran a total of about 1440 miles in (that is 18 months, multiplied by about 80 miles a month, or 20 per week,) before they developed that beautiful hole pictured above. 

I had completely fallen in love anew with the gift to the human form that we call Running. The beloved Mizunos I held so close could carry me about 400 miles before replacement was necessary due to injury caused by completely deflated footbed:

After a few hundred miles, the outer side of the heel, obviously the side I depended upon, had become completely dilapidated, resulting in painful hips and lost toenails (one of the little known consequences many long distance runners face).

The only reason the Merrell shoes needed to be replaced was the hole, and my fear of half-eaten acorns. After nearly 1500 miles.

The Transition

I believe all proponents of barefoot or minimalist running caution that a  slow transition is necessary in order to adequately allow time for muscle development of little before used muscle groups. Fortunately, I bought my first pair of barefoot shoes shortly after the cesaerian birth of my sixth child, Gargantua, aka Isaac Augustine. Due to varicose veins, I was not able to run,or even walk much during this pregnancy, and combined with the necessary healing period after surgery, I was beginng my running at literally mile zero. 

Still, along with the usual muscle soreness associated with beginning a new workout regime,I noticed soreness in my ankle and lower leg regions, but not the injury-type sensations, more like happy-feeling muscle growing soreness. 

I adjusted easily to this new way of running, an earthier feeling, (dare I say it?), with the way the toes in the sole are designed to grip the ground, and the body of the shoe is airy and light, actually designed to be even worn without socks (although I choose to wear them anyway, for smell sake). I started upping the mileage of my long runs, slowly. I noticed my gait was changing ever so slightly, especially the fact that I seemed to be utilizing the balls of my feet far more than my heels (that was causing so much trauma to the above Mizunos). After hitting the distance of seven mile runs, no more pain. No more pain. NO MORE PAIN. 

The shoes, honestly, feel akin to a good quality water shoe. And after I got over the initial apprehension of getting into a serious stride in these things, have been nothing but a dream. 


  • No more injuries or black toes. I have been in these, my first pair and then Merrel Dash Gloves to replace them, now for about two years, and have trained for two half marathons (only able to complete one due to unrelated circumstances) without a single discomfort. 
  • Almost immediately I began to notice that my feet felt stronger. Even typing that sounds strange, but I felt like the muscles in my feet have become stronger and more supportive of my frame in general.
  • Shoes last longer, more for your money. (As demonstrated above.)
  • My feet have shrunk. What?  Yes. I have worn a size 8 since probably eighth grade. Since about a year ago I have been buying shoes no larger than a 7.5, or more regularly, a 7. What in the world? Maybe my feet were just fat? I don't know, but to me it is simply indicative that my feet themselves have experienced a transformational journey to fitness. While  there is technically not a benefit to having smaller feet, it nevertheless shows that I have changed.
  • I am more beautiful, smarter, richer, and younger. 
  • Just kidding. Come on.

The End (finally)

So am I just dying to read Born to Run? NO. I don't have time for that and I truly enjoy dark Russian fiction second only to a good long run. But I am so thankful, so very thankful, that others have read it.


Shoes: Merrel Dash Glove (now retired, I believe the Vapor is the replacement.)

Shorts: Nike  (this embarrassingly revealing bodacious looking booty photo, and a very fun discussion with running enthusiast and my blogger hero, Cari, have renewed my interest in finding the perfect running skirt.) (More to come on that.)

Watch: Garmin Forerunner GPS (wait for future posts, my second best running friend next to my shoes.)

Sunglasses: Fossil tortoiseshell aviators via Plato and his Magnificent albeit lice infested Closet

Ponytail: Hair Extensions by Mr. Ed

Soft Dragon-Like Underbelly, impervious to both diet and exercise: courtesy Peter,Jude,Joseph,AnneMarie,NaomiandIsaac, and Ben and Jerry (just kidding, I can't afford that. Publix Premium, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, thankya very much.)

Great Big Grin: courtesy endorphins produced logging 20 miles a week

The Obvious

Merrell, Vibram or Mizuno had absolutely no interest in me and my blathering on and on, but if for some reason, any of the above feel the urge, Size 7.5 please.

*Sorry! Had to remove "comments" option due to high quantity of spam. If you would like to ask a question, email me using the info under contact above. Thanks!*

Friday, April 19, 2013

Seven Quick Takes: Adventures in Babysitting

Linking up with Grace for Seven Quick Takes:


me and not my kids

A Prayer

Admittedly, often my prayer life majorly consists of whining. This fall left me for the first time in nine years not falling under the title "Homeschool Mom." And while the bags under my eyes and my unbrushed hair (actually, that is its usual state of things) attest, I am just as busy.

But I am terribly lazy. And a procrastinator, and disorganized. So the life of family ease I had envisaged for this year was trumped by my inability to shower before nine and learn to make a complete grocery shopping list. 

So I turned to God with my whines about having too little strength to tame my own wild self and organize a day properly. And He answered with... 


A Baby 

NO, not my own baby. A teacher at the school where my children go, and that is just down the street, was looking for a family-type sitter situation for her nine month old. The little guy had not been thriving in the day care setting, and was for the present being shuffled between grandmothers while Mom taught. And another teacher, in inexplicable misinterpretation of character, thought I might do a wonderful job. So out of the blue, just before the last nine weeks of school was to start, she gave me a call, and I heard on the other end of the line the voice of God, saying, "Yes or Yes?," all Matthew Kelly style. 

But when the Lord gives, He gives in great abundance, and that same week, another mom-teacher called...duh-duh-duh-dun...


A Brother and Sister

...And asked if I would watch her two little ones for half the day, before Momo goes to pre-k at noon. The other half of the day they stay home with grandma and nap.  So I answered, why the heck not? Don't ask if you don't want to be given!


Book Club

Being the resourceful and brilliant baby-master that I am, I now spend my mornings encouraging such activities as "Book Club." An excellent game that consists of pulling the coach away from the wall, filling it with books and pillows, ushering the little ones in, sitting myself down on the coach part, and I don't


Backyard Nature: Find it and Glue it to a Box

Another favorite activity, all Charlotte Mason and whatnot, is called "Find it and Glue it to a Box." Guess what you do? You go outside, find stuff, and glue it to a box. It is a huge hit with the toddler crowd, if you don't mind combing Elmers out of many heads of blond locks for days to come.


The Payoff (Other than Spiritual)

But guess what the crazy part is? No, none of the above is the crazy part. The money I am earning from this (yes, in an insane twist of fate, I am actually being paid to learn to run a successful and productive day) is exactly equal to what a ticket costs from here to Rome this summer. And guess who is going to Rome?   


True story!   

One of my oldest and absolute dearest friends, my little sister of the spirit, is actually the newly minted editor of L'Osservatore Romano, weekly English edition. She has been living in Rome for, I don't know, nine years or so? Ten? And I, a card carrying amante de Italia, has visited her a total of never. Mary Nolan, sto venendo!


Unrelated Fascinating Story and Call for Prayer

used without permission, oops! source at their blog listed below

Enough of babytalk. Kinda.

A friend from way back in middle school, Dave Fantz, and his astoundingly brave wife Kristy, are currently in China to pick up their two adopted two year olds, Jia and Jude (a a name so, so, so close to my heart) to add to their family of six. They have brought two of their children with them, and the story and the hardships they are experiencing is just so enthralling, and they are generous to blog about it on their site: Born Anew in our Hearts. They could certainly use all the well wishes, encouragement, and prayer on this amazing journey. Here is just a snippet from yesterday:
 I have been praying for wisdom for our little Jia. Her behavior has been very much overwhelming and I have been questioning whether I was even capable of handling it. She is still so much on edge. For example, last night in the middle of night, Caroline woke me up and said, "Mom Jia thinks I am you". I look over and there was Caroline sitting up in the bed, Jia had her legs wrapped around Caroline's waist and her arms around Caroline neck for dear life like a little Koala bear. I tried to talk to Jia to come to me and pull her away....remember Caroline was the sick one. Jia starting screaming uncontrollably when I picked up her. Caroline reacted and said, "Mom, she is fine, so Jia reattached herself to Caroline and Caroline fell asleep with Jia on top of her. She was once again clinging for dear life.

St. Thomas More, St. Clotilde and St. William, patron of adopted children, pray for Jia and Jude and all the Fantzes.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Theme Thursday: Boys

Always grateful for courageous Cari at Clan Donaldson for another round of Theme Thursday, this week: Boys!

Yeah, sorry, had to go with a muscle pic. And this quote from my good buddy Anisthenes:

"When brothers agree,

no fortress is so strong

as their common life."

No extraneous Rebekah Es commentary necessary.

Don't worry, Daddy and brothers, I got your back

Now get on over to Cari's and check out the rest of the boys!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Weekends with Peter

Dear Web Log, I'm well aware it is minutes to Wednesday and this post is about the weekend, but I have been pecking at this thing since Sunday afternoon, and I WILL HIT PUBLISH!!

Peter spent the weekend with some pretty cool kids. All a little older than him, I am always wary when he goes off with new people with long surfer hair and bikinis. 

But these kids are all good students, good athletes, and good looking. They don't drink, or smoke, or swear; they don't even drink coffee or watch rated R movies. In fact, they are Mormon. 

Saturday morning their car pulled up blaring Taylor Swift (a teen car not blasting obscenity laden rap music is rare indeed),and headed east to where our highway dead ends into the Atlantic.
They spent most of the daylight hours hopping from beach to beach, surfing and drinking Mountain Dew. 

At one point one of the young gentleman asked a girl to prom by standing up four surf boards in the sand, each with a letter in wax: P R O M. 


As their skin finally begged  for relief from the salt and the sun, they headed off in carfuls to the Mormon owned ranch near their high school. Peter said it was like walking into some unknown Shangri-La, with a chlorinated swimming hole boasting water slides, rope swings, and rafts. Surrounded by live oaks and the palpable absence of the rest of the world, it was a Central Florida Mormon paradise.
  When a boy spotted the gator, pictured above, about five feet long, they all gathered around to watch him pounce on it and put it to sleep by rubbing its belly (not a myth, but still). Peter was absolutely mystified by this boldness, and by the apparent everydayness of it to these kids, none of them thinking anything of it aside from him.

They spent the rest of the night around a bonfire, being teenagers, enjoying themselves so much that his ride decided he was just going to camp out there for the night along with a bunch of others. Peter called us to bring him and another friend home, and as Obi and I pulled up, old, gross, eavesdropping parents into a teenage bonfire party, we were greeted politely by hands being waved like friendly shadows over the flames of the campfire. 

Peter was patted on the back by half a dozen kids, and half a dozen more called out to him, "See ya on Monday, Pete!" All friendly, unsullen voices. Rare. Sadly rare.  I will make absolutely no statement at this point about what in the world Mormons must be doing so well (other than Taylor Swift, gag. Sorry, after the whole Harry Styles thing...). 

Peter came home elated, and with a new pet, Sebastian. We have caught a dozen ghost crabs at the beach, but it took Group Teenage Think to bring one home as a pet. Apparently they dragged this poor thing all over the place, including Steak and Shake, where I am sure, Sebastian was greatly appreciated.

After staring at the crab for what must have been a crab-eternity, marveling over its alien-like resemblance to the District 9 creatures, Peter and Joseph hiked down to the volleyball pit at about midnight (are you kidding? Jude is far too lazy for that sort of thing) and filled a Rubbermaid container full of stolen sand for their stolen new roommate. I am the best mom. 

Now we have the neighborhood's latest attraction, and the kids toddler to teen keep hustling lines of schoolfellows through our house to get a glimpse of the sad prisoner, gasping as he eagerly devours my sea food cooking. Sadly, I appreciate Sebastian as the only member of the household to have full appreciation for my overcooked garlic lemon shrimp. He can stay until he stinks. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Theme Thursday: Grow

My favorite time of the blog week! Theme Thursday with Clan Donaldson, this week: Grow!

I'm sure I'm not the only one this prompt had feeling nostalgic. But I have been feeling especially more so lately, because my big guys just keep getting bigger...and my littlest guy, he just doesn't seem like such a little guy.


In that best image I have of myself, that happy, complete, Me Who is Me image, I see myself as a mom of babies. Messy hair, standing cockeyed with a baby on one hip and a toddler on one hand, and most likely pregnant to boot. 

Now, all that is left is the messy hair and suddenly I have become the mother of Sasquatch and Little Big Foot, and everybody in between.

And God asks so much redefinition, so much growth of us, asks us to leave behind these images of ourselves when they no longer serve us. The temptation is constant to fall victim of stagnation, locking ourselves in a place whose purpose and welcome have passed on. I pray daily that the Me who is Me is never left behind. 

And we become something new. And these boys, with their big ugly feet, they are so, so beautiful with Peter's still boyish face, and Isaac's round toddler tummy. 

These pictures embody the overflowing thanks I have that the Good Father lent these little souls into my keeping, His own immortal children, for just a very little bit.