Resi auditions for “North by Northwest”

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When the steering wheel came out, she vocalized a fake scream: “EEEEEEEEEEE!” How did she learn to do that? She’s never seen a steering wheel come loose. We swear we’ve never shown her a *minute* of Alfred Hitchcock.

“North by Northwest” has always struck me as a collection of nightmares. You can tell that Resi was really drawing on the archetypal nightmare: she’s also not wearing any pants.

Thing of beauty joy for many long time

A week or so ago our most used appliance broke after several years of faithful service.wpid-wp-image-1819703450jpg.jpg

After I attempted to “make do” with a duct tape fix, John told me to order a new one.

I tried to resist this one. I did. But I couldn’t resist.


Even though it was almost twice as expensive as our trusty kitchen workhorse, and even though it is CERAMIC and therefore more subject to the corruption of this fallen world, I was swept off my feet by its beauty.

Why can’t Americans make sturdy functional appliances that are this lovely?


Although we suspected it was made in China, we didn’t realize that it would come with an instruction booklet that would have us rolling on the floor with laughter. I had to read the entire booklet aloud, and if I didn’t have time’s winged chariot breathing down my neck right now, I would type it out for you here. It’s too rich.

Suffice it to say that our new electric kettle is
-elegant and environment friendly appearance, it is elegant and generous
-maximum 100% well boiled
-the light turn to be off when boils
-can’t fill water beyond maximum level to avoid water spillout

Four lines on the cardboard box sum it up:

“Pottery highlights the onble quality
An elegant Chinese Blue flower design stand out omanticmood.
The stainless steel element can last for longer.
Allow each family enjoy their high quality modern life.”

While the beauty of this pot delights my eyes every time I look at it, and the instructions booklet fills me with merriment, this last line on the packaging breaks my heart. “Allow each family their high quality modern life.”

Those poor Chinese people. The Chinese don’t allow each family much of anything good. The “high quality modern life” is a phrase that resonates with emptiness. I’m going to say a prayer for the Chinese and the oppressed Church in China whenever I use this new electric kettle. Maybe Francis Xavier and Augustine Zhao Rong will extend its fragile life a little longer to keep it on my counter reminding me.

And when it inevitably meets its end, we’ll go back to the inexpensive stainless steel American one that lasts forever.

Friends take Time

# 2, Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, 7-4-16 (2)Well, we’ve been in Green Bay a little over a month now, and we’ve met lots of great families. Some of them have kids the ages or genders of our kids. Some of them turn up at all the Masses that we go to. Some of them share our love of Star Wars and the A-team. But so far, they’re all just friendly acquaintances, not friends.

A couple of weeks ago we were at a teacher training for the Catholic Schoolhouse co-op at which I will be teaching the middle school level in the fall. All the other moms had brought their kids and the house was full of fun activity. Afterward I told the kids to tell me about the friends they’d made. Joseph said, “I played with a lot of kids, but I didn’t make any friends.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“That takes a long time,” was his rueful response.

Alas, it’s true. Making friends takes a long time. It shouldn’t surprise us that in four weeks in Green Bay, we don’t have any friends to fill the hole in our hearts left by the amazing friends we had after nine years in Lander. But four weeks is a long time to live without friends.

Marietta’s friend Bernadette Holmes has tried to soothe her homesickness a little with a sweet digital photo collage.wpid-wp-image-259456329jpg.jpg

Then last week Marietta opened a package that had arrived from Bernadette. It held a box of letters, each one labeled for a different occasion: “Open this one when bored,” “Open this one when lonely,” “Open this one when you need a good book.” It will be an on-going comfort to Marietta as she makes her way through the box of letters.wpid-wp-image-1948783868jpg.jpg wpid-wp-image-1389594376jpg.jpg

But in another way friends are like Narnia with respect to time.
Marietta began to worry that she would never have a friend of the caliber that she had in Lander, since she’ll only be in Green Bay for a maximum of four years, while she was in Lander for nine years. But I reminded her that I’d had several friends much longer than John, but none as close as John. It is possible to become a very close friend quickly with someone whom you have known a relatively short time.

I’m also making plans to see my friend Mary Beth, who was my friend through grade school, high school, and college, but whom I haven’t seen since my wedding sixteen years ago. With very good friends, you can pick up where you left off, even after a long time apart.

It may be that part of God’s plan in moving us to a city where we don’t have any friends yet, is that he wants us to learn to be our own friends. It’s another way that a big family is a great blessing–ready-made set of friends, who know all the same references you do and share most of your preferences.

We got a taste of providing our own social life on the Fourth of July.wpid-wp-image-298902723jpg.jpg

Independence Day is the high point of the Lander year. It’s difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced the decibel of Lander’s patriotic celebration, but the best description I’ve heard was that “It’s like being in a city under siege.” Every person lets off his own city-grade fireworks. You go out into your front yard and look around–there’s no need to attend the city’s show.  The morning parade involves the whole town–literally. We know everyone who is marching, and at the very end we would join the parade to head to the heart of town for a huge water battle between the town fire truck and the town concrete truck. Hardest of all to replace, we spent the evening with all our friends at a huge potluck, hosted in recent years by the Washuts.

We did our best to provide our own celebrations:wpid-wp-image-635427716jpg.jpg wpid-wp-image-2009008059jpg.jpg wpid-wp-image-1180332702jpg.jpg wpid-wp-image-511186465jpg.jpg wpid-wp-image-2043284406jpg.jpg wpid-wp-image-1727815684jpg.jpg

We went downtown in the evening for some quite lovely fireworks along the river, where it  was not too crowded at all.

But the kids were saying all day, “Right now we’d be getting soaked at the parade.” “Right now we’d be eating fried chicken on main street.” “Right now we’d be at the Washuts, setting off explosives.”

Still, we made it through the quietest Independence Day we’ve had since 2006. We’re learning to be our own friends.

“It’s a poor family that can’t afford at least one princess.”

These were the wise words of a Benedictine sister at St. Walburga’s Abbey in Colorado. She was admiring our Miriam Therese, and I was apologetically explaining that our seventh baby is, ahem, a little spoiled. This sister, who was one of eight, quoted her mother’s maxim:

“It’s a poor family that can’t afford at least one princess.”

I love it so much that I’m going to have it framed in calligraphy to hang on the baby girl’s wall (that means you, Sarah S!). It just sums up so succinctly the riches and richness that Resi has brought us.wpid-20160626_182728.jpg

Well, June 24 marked a full year of the princess’s reign. The USCCB had transferred Resi’s birthday to Sunday, so her Daddy would have returned from teaching a course in Denver, and her Marietta would have returned from Living and Design camp. But the other kids and I were all aware all day that it was the anniversary of Resi’s birth. It started with the eerie Mass readings for the feast of the birth of John the Baptist:

“The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me a name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made of me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me.” (Is 49:1-6)wpid-20160624_073317.jpg

and “I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.”

and, “All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, ‘What then, will this child be?'”

What will you be Miriam Therese?


We celebrated her birthday as a family Sunday night with an apple cake and a taper for a candle, since we shed all our number candles during the move. Sunday also happened to be the anniversary of her baptism, which made it an especially fitting day to celebrate. It’s hard to remember what our life was like before this little girl entered it with all the joy she brings to each member of the family.

Right now she’s working on walking; she’s getting into cabinets (we’re going to have to reorganize our new kitchen–how soon I forget!); she’s enjoying the great volume and curl that the humid climate of Green Bay has bestowed on her hair, as you can see; and the day after her birthday she learned how to point to what she wants.


A more important skill for a princess I can’t imagine!

Happy anniversary, and welcome home

Today is our 16th anniversary. Our 7th anniversary was our first day of having our first house to ourselves. It was our beautiful home in Lander. Nine years later, we are winding up our first two weeks in our new house in Green Bay. Little bwpid-20160607_081537.jpgy little, it’s becoming a home.

ur two moving trucks showed up the Tuesday after we arrived. We had them for three days and were dumbfounded about how we would unload them without seven strong WCC gentlemen, and two WCC girls walking by to “inspire” them. Two strangers showed up at random times, sent by our dear Liz Verges, and that helped a little bit. But then we spent Wednesday unable to do anything because the boxes were blocked by such heavy pieces of furniture. I used the day to freak out, and then went shopping. John used the day to build shelves in the garage to put the boxes on.wpid-20160609_174533.jpg


Then, by a providential turn of events, I met someone at Mass who had heard of John, and who had a lot of menfolk in his family who were available and very generous.  Thursday we had seven strong college boys (and two agreeable dads) who unloaded both trucks over the course of three hours. Some of the pieces of furniture were so heavy that I felt sure we were about to lose our new friends. But they stayed cheerful until the end.

But nothing makes a house a home like welcoming old friends as well. Three days later we had the great joy of hosting Glenn and Ginny Arbery. It was a delight to see them and take an evening to relax together as they toil away for Wyoming Catholic College (Glenn is now the president). They also gave us the great gift of a motivation to bring our house to a functional level. Their arrival spurred us to unpack the major living areas and make them liveable. Since they are such dear friends, they will forgive me for posting a truly lousy picture of them. Truly, lousy is the only kind of photo that I take.

Ginny joked that they would return next week to give us the impetus to unpack the rest of the boxes. Utinam! wpid-20160613_080521.jpg wpid-20160613_080514.jpg

This week we’ve had the four older kids doing Totus Tuus at the Cathedral. It gives them a full day and they are meeting lots of kids. However, it has turned me into a soccer mom: driving them to the Cathedral in the morning, returning at 11 for Mass, and finally returning to pick them up at 2:30 each day. We are about a 10 minute drive, but it adds up to a lot of driving. In between trips to the Cathedral, I’ve been taking the little boys to the library and playgrounds.

Our driving life has led to my stocking the car with even more granola bars, beef jerky, and other snacks to extend our patience when we can’t be home at regular meal times.

Meanwhile, John spent this week preparing for the course he’s teaching in Denver next week. And this:



wpid-20160616_162443.jpg wpid-20160616_202442.jpg wpid-20160616_202443.jpgThe photos don’t do it justice. It’s the most amazing playfort I have ever seen.


Green Bay Un-packing

wpid-20160526_135030.jpgwpid-20160602_200620.jpgwpid-20160603_202558.jpgJune 3, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was our first day in our new home.

Here are just a few impressions:

Not only did we beat our truck here, but we are still waiting for our trucks to arrive. But that’s okay; It gave us the time to do some minor home improvements and painting.

-we saw a deer just outside our fence the first morning; that made us feel right at home (sicut cervus)

-Marietta can’t get used to how frizzy her hair is in this climate.

-Resi took her first steps . . . for the sake of “Puffs,” an unnatural junk food for babies that she just can’t get enough of

-On the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we went to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help . . . and turned around to see our dear Liz Verges.

-Liz and Kathleen brought us dinnerwpid-20160604_185410.jpg wpid-20160604_171945.jpg

-Liz stayed to help us paint and we got three rooms painted before bed that night







Otherwise we would have been left with only these extremely zealous helpers:

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-That’s not a lightsaber this padowan is weilding: it’s a paint roller. You decide which is more dangerous.









We’ve got a fabulous park and playground around the corner, which is **shaded**. Yay!  It also had a zillion *bugs* that landed on us constantly. Boo!

Our nearest grocery store is *ALDI*. Yay!  It took me back to life in Austria. Save money and get taken back to Europe, that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Up next: the saga of the two trucks . . .

Green Bay Packing

Today, June 3, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was our first day in our new home in Green Bay, WI. We’ve had many tokens of affection from the Sacred Heart today, but first let’s take a trip back in time to the period leading up to the move . . .


May 20: We are in a frenzy of packing for our upcoming move to Green Bay, slated for June 1.wpid-20160526_135037.jpg

Because we are Mortensens and like our burgers with a side of crazy, we just

1) conquered double pneumonia

2) threw a birthday party today for Joseph involving 13 little boys, 13 nerf guns (and eye protection!), and a pinata shaped like an antelopewpid-20160517_112556.jpgwpid-20160520_112104.jpg

wpid-20160520_105820.jpg3) plan to have a garage sale tomorrow morning and make a turkey dinner for twelve tomorrow night as part of our last Teams of Our Lady.

It takes pneumonia in three lobes of his lungs to sideline John. But now that he’s back in the game, he has returned as the packing machine that I have always known him to be. I’m a little afraid to leave the house (as I did this Wednesday for a dentist appointment) because when I return, there’s no telling what will have disappeared. A friend told me a story about professional packers who were so efficient that when she arrived at her new home she unpacked a box that contained a trash can full of trash. I laughed at the time, but since those last three trash wpid-20160516_113909.jpgcans disappeared, I stopped laughing.

May 23: I took Marietta and Mags to Riverton to say goodbye to their first grade teacher, the great Miss Petro. Miss Petro promises all her first graders $5 if they can save the paper mache globes they made until fifth grade. Both girls received notes and cash for “saving their world.”

May 24: We spent the morning with the Adams family–almost every member of the Mortensen family has an Adams to play with–including Mama. It was hard to say goodbye!wpid-20160524_133112.jpg

May 25: We took a quick trip to Casper to say goodbye to the Gaddises. They were our first Wyoming friends and their home has always been our favorite “Retreat/Resort.” Mary cured a cough John was starting with a concoction of Hildegarde von Bingen’s. We got to see the amazing renovations that Kris put in, and we got to meet Ava and Kristian and hug their mama. And as a special delight, Hannah was home for a wedding and we got to go out to breakfast with our beloved Hannah.

May 26: We arrived home just as our truck did. Our friends Kent Lasnoski and Scott Olsson (also recovering from pneumonia) and their oldest boys raced over to help us load the truck. After Kent’s keen appraisal, John ordered a second truck. Fr. Bob Frederick showed up and lent his legendary strength and energy to the operation. Fr. Bob and Scott astounded Beth by complimenting her on the organization of the move.

May 27: John finished loading the first truck with the help of four WCC boys.wpid-20160527_155041.jpg

We went to dinner at the Susankas. There was quite the poetic justice in this–the Susankas were the first family we got to know when we moved here. They stayed with us when they arrived in Lander, a few weeks after our own arrival. Recently the Susankas bought the “College House,” where Fr. Bob Cook lived and WCC had its offices for the first six or seven years of the College. On the morning of our first day in Lander, the College House was the first place we went, for Mass. It was fitting that we should spend some of our last nights in Lander there with the Susankas.

While at the Susankas, Sarah invited us to sing along with the choir this Sunday. They were going to perform Byrd’s “Ave Verum Corpus” and “Sicut Cervus.” Sarah became choir director for our parish because we volunteered ourselves and her nine years ago. For the first year or so that we were here, Sarah’s choir was called “The Mortensen Group” on the music schedule!

May 28: We packed all day and went back to the Susankas for dinner again. The Olssons joined us and brought great cocktails.

May 29: After the great joy of singing “Ave Verum” and “Sicut Cervus,” at Mass, we went home to celebrate another great joy: our Paul’s third birthday! Our neighbor Dolores Langerman had made him a chocolate cake and we brought out some little presents for our hilarious little charmer in the midst of the boxes.wpid-20160529_125931.jpg

That evening the Lasnoskis hosted a barbecue where we got to see and say goodbye to more great friends.

May 30: More packing. John closed the second truck. Our house still looked surprisingly messy, given that everything left was supposed to fit in our cars. The Susankas hosted a big goodbye barbecue where we marveled at being blessed with so many wonderful friends.

May 31: Sarah and Lorine Sheehan came over for some desperately needed cleaning and Zack Carlstrom drove a trailer of our trash to the dump for us. At about 11 am we said goodbye and drove away from wonderful Lander, Wyoming and WCC.

June 1: We got to spend a night at the Daly’s idyllic home.wpid-20160601_214310.jpg Mary picked fresh asparagus for us and Mike took our Joseph for a walk in the woods. wpid-20160602_090956.jpgWe had a delicious dinner and delicious conversation. Breakfast was light flaky biscuits with raw honey and more delicious conversation. Mary sent us with a rhubarb plant for Joseph to start his garden with.

June 2: On our way to Green Bay we stopped at the huge and beautiful shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in LaCrosse, WI. We arrived at our new home at about 8pm.

To be continued . . . .

Rock, paper . . . sword

Since we are packing to move, a lot of the kids’ usual toys are no longer accessible. (Don’t get me started on the love-hate-hate-hate relationship I have with Legos.)

This has driven my children to find new and creative ways to entertain themselves. The latest craze is making swords and sheaths out of paper and scotch tape.wpid-20160429_084904.jpg

Friends, if you ever wondered why paper swords never caught on in the Middle Ages, or the Renaissance, or King Arthur’s day, or ancient Rome, Alexander the Great’s campaigns, or even China or Egypt in their heyday, I’ll tell you.

They mean a world of frustration for the swordsmith, the swordsman, and the mother of the swordsmith and the swordsman. If you think steel blades have been the causes of too many mothers’ tears, let me tell you: paper swords make mothers AND warriors cry. They never fit into their scabbards, they’re difficult to draw, and they rip at the first sign of combat.

They do have one advantage, though. No mother’s son has ever perished from a paper cut. wpid-20160429_084829.jpg