Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Visiting Old Relics and Visiting Old Salem

I'm the kind of mom who writes a blog post about actually going to the grocery store with my children, so I could not have foreseen being able to make a day trip with all of them, but today we did it. We did it!

Accompanied by my friend Mari and her mom, we made a pilgrimage to visit the relics of St. Maximilian Kolbe, which are on tour (see here). The children and I had read a biography of the saint over the last two weeks (Pauline Press) and we listened to the Holy Heroes dramatization on CD on the drive up.

Mari and I agreed ahead of time that we could/would not make this trip without a third adult, and that proved absolutely true, so we are very grateful to her mama!

My white board in the kitchen

The 95-mile drive to Winston-Salem went blissfully well, something I tried to remember on the challenging drive home. We made it to Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church by 11:00 a.m.

Running off steam in the school quad

Running off steam in the school quad

After mandatory potty stops all around, we entered the church and directed our group of 11 children ages 10 and under to pray for St. Maximilian Kolbe's intercession (see here). We had each child express an intention for the prayer.

This scene did not always go entirely smoothly. It was at this point that the pastor of the parish discovered us and said, "Hello, I'm Father -----. Are you homeschoolers?" Whether that question was asked for good or bad reasons, I don't know!

The relics were on display in a small side chapel, so I took my children in two at a time, knowing our presence would change the silence in the room. Even my little ones tried their best and spoke in a stage whisper as we prayed before the relics. These were dear moments.

Mama on her knees, baby on her back, with 3- and 4-year-old children

Shepherding my little ones out, Margaret dancing down the aisle
While waiting for Mari and her children, Joseph (3) got too wild for his own good. I love the boy so tenderly, but being three years old is difficult and mothering a three-year-old is difficult. Josey is currently in the phases of (1) throwing tantrums innumerable times per day, (2) running away, and (3) spitting . . . on himself, on objects, on windows, and on other children. (And, yes, there is much, much discipline happening, but the child also has to get past this stage.)

So, I got to endure the humiliation familiar to all mothers of large families: my 3-year-old decided to run away from me in a huge 'church in the round,' and any Catholic who is familiar with such a layout of pews knows that I never, ever would have been able to catch this child if he didn't eventually decide to come back to me.

That was when Joseph got strapped back in the stroller and his 9-year-old brother assigned to wheel him around the hallways until we were done.

Moving on, we ate lunch in the car and made our way the two miles from the church to Old Salem (see here), a living history museum smaller, but very similar to, the more well-known Williamsburg, Virginia.

Some may not know this but mothers of large families live in a special Time Zone. Someone in the regular time zone might see the parking lot at the visitor's center and calculate that to buy tickets with nobody else in line and walk across the street to Old Salem might take five to ten minutes. But in the Large Catholic Family Time Zone, this takes an hour.

It can't be helped, what with unloading, packing up the stroller, mandatory potty checks, filling up of water bottles, babies who need to nurse, toddlers who haven't napped, a sibling who just hit another one, and people who are hungry (again). We experienced many such time warps today, and such is this season of life.

Entering Old Salem

Our Mama energy was starting to flag (a text from one of us moms to the other may just have read 'we're going insane!'), but we fortified ourselves with some treats from the old Fashioned Candy shop and continued on.

We wended our way up the street of Old Salem, pushing our strollers uphill on the jumbly brick sidewalks, visiting the various buildings where we could talk to tradesmen.

Learning how to make rifles

Watching guns being shot off

After the shooting demonstration, Josey folded his arms over his chest and, with polite but determined tone, requested that the man "never, ever shoot that gun again!" He instructed the man for several minutes never to shoot that loud gun again, which means it must have really scared him, even though we warned him, and all the children covered their ears.

I left the house without a baby hat and worried about sunburned baby scalp, so borrowed this hat from Mari's daughter.

'Who cares if it is a girl's hat? I'm still handsome.'

This picture is so classic Mary, I might have to get it framed . . .

And she hadn't even had a drink at the tavern!

This one bed in the tavern was a reproduction, so we were informed that children were allowed to sit on it and even to lie down.

I don't think they meant all 11 children, but they should have thought of that before granting permission.

Testing the bed

Fun Fact: President George Washington, already as president, visited Old Salem to tour its excellent water works, and stayed in this very tavern, although it is unknown in which bedroom.

Learning what food soldiers ate
Chatting with the musician soldier was very popular with our tykes.

Music soothes the savage beast.

Touching the sword

My favorite tradesman was the cobbler: He had wonderful patience, was clever and humorous, and engaged the children respectfully and well.

We took a nursing break in the commons of Old Salem, where my children immediately found a tree to climb before inventing a game of collecting plastic cigarette filters to earn "points" and see who wins. (Ew.)

Our babies were crying with the (wonderfully cooling) breeze blowing on them, the children four and younger kept running toward the road, causing us mothers to shout and thereby disturb the college students trying to lounge on the grass, and one member of our party peed on the ground right smack in the middle of the commons.

In other words, a grand time was had by all.

We then made our way to the bakery as our last stop for final 'fortification' before we had to make our way back to the van. An attempt to visit the various restrooms in Old Salem was met with the terrible realization that they had all closed at 4:30 yet we had children urgently in need of facilities. There was some running on cobblestone and a long haul of 20 minutes back to the car, but Mama came to the rescue and all was well.

I wish I could say the ride home was as blissful as the ride there, but 90 minutes turned into three hours, during most of which the baby was wailing. For the most part, I 'went to my happy place' in my head, doing things like meditating what it would be like to live inside pink sunset clouds rather than go bonkers in that car.

All in all, it was a wonderful day with spring weather and sweet zephyrs, and darling children who make us mothers glad we had them. I will soon forget any unpleasant moments as they are lost in a fog of sweet memories of our delightful, homeschooled children asking so many questions of the living historians at Old Salem.


  1. Glad you already posted about this! I am taking the kids today. (Alone!) God bless us! :)

  2. "I will soon forget any unpleasant moments as they are lost in a fog of sweet memories of our delightful, homeschooled children asking so many questions of the living historians at Old Salem." Beautifully said!

  3. I laughed out loud when I read the comment from a post, "Mommy still can't do some things while I am healing from Thomas" and then saw that you had piled all the kids in the car for a 3 hour round trip to Old Salem without a Daddy's help. That is intense! I don't think I would do that now with my baby being almost 2! :)It sounds delightful though- the first part of the trip! I have great memories of going to Old Salem. We always went at Christmastime and enjoyed their super thin molasses cookies.