Catholic Mom Book Spotlight

Campin' in Chicago
by Hilary McRee Flanery
Paperback: 170 pages
Publisher: Electric eBook Publishing; (March 2004)

About the Book
Maureen and Michael Flanigan are Irish Catholics who live in St Louis with their ten children. They have six boys and four girls. For summer vacation Maureen and Michael decide to take the children, all but the oldest two, camping in Chicago. The story is filled with the hilarious events that take place while camping with eight of their children.


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LH: A big thanks to Hilary McRee Flanery, author of Campin' in Chicago, for your participation in this interview! Hilary, could you please start off by telling our readers about yourself and your family?

HMF: I am a Catholic mother of 10 children, six boys, no lamps (the boys break them all) and four girls. My husband and I are known to be certified insane. We know this to be a fact as he is a family Clinical Psychologist, with a Ph. D., or "sheep-skin"; I have a Br. A., or "sheep-dog"; it rounds them up and gathers them in.

LH: Do you consider
Campin' in Chicago to be a work of fiction? Some of the stories sound like they hit close to home! Please briefly summarize the plot of the book for our readers.

Campin' in Chicago is a book of humorous, picaresque, fiction loosely based on our family. In the book the "Fighting-Flanigans" go on a hilarious weekend camping trip with their children to Chicago. Flanigan has only one "n" in the first syllable because someone dropped the other "n" in the ocean on the way over from the Sod.

Maureen, mother of the 10 Flanigan children, is the happy warrior fighting "the world, the flesh, the devil" and them Ph. D.'s.

Always trying to shape the world better she believes that the world is Irish or would like to be...Catholic or should be.

This Irish/American family's camping trip is a lot like life for in the campgrounds of life you will find campers with virtues and faults. Maureen Flanigan, the heroine, is a virtuous mother who is keenly alive to her own faults and the actualities of life surrounding her. "He is lifeless that is faultless," and Maureen is full of life!

LH: How does a mom of ten find time to write a book? Did you enjoy the experience?

HMF: Well, as Phyllis Diller says, "Housework won't kill you...why take a chance?" So I have lots of time to write!

Actually, raising a large family and writing means that I set up strict priorities. I start at 5:00 a.m. (up with the sparrow's fart) and pray a prayer that has been in my family since God was a boy - "Come Holy Ghost...give me the faith of your Saints, the courage of your martyrs, and the money and success of your atheists."

I enjoy writing very much as it gives me a chance to bare my soul because, after 10 children, God KNOWS I can't bare my body!

LH: What part has your Catholic faith played in your family life?

HMF: The Catholic faith teaches us to believe in creation of all kinds, hence, our marriage is opened to children. Our children are the personification of our love and, simply, we have to trust God completely.

LH: As an experienced mom of many, what tips can you share with mothers of large families (or even small families that feel crazy?).

HMF: All mothers, whether they have many children or just one, sometimes feel overwhelmed. It seems, today, that many parents try to be perfect or constantly in control of things. Only God is perfect AND in control. Start each morning with prayer and if you can, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. When I can't get to daily Mass, before I start my morning prayers, I send my guardian angel to pray before the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle and adore His presence while I pray at home.

In life there will always be days when we run out of toilet paper but, hey, that's why God made coffee filters!

LH: What role has humor played in your parenting style?

HMF: Humor has given me immortal joy.

I live by St. Ignatius Loyola's philosophy, "Laugh and grow strong." G.K. Chesterton wrote, "The carpe diem religion is not the religion of happy people, but of very unhappy people. Great joy does not gather the rose buds while it may; its eyes are fixed on the immortal rose which Dante saw. Great joy has in it the sense of immortality;"

LH: I'm 41 (I hate to admit that!) and I still need to talk to my "mommy" by phone at least once per day or I begin to go a little astray. Do you find that you've remained actively involved in "parenting" your older children?

HMF:  "When children are young they break your back, when older, they break your heart." Yes, I am always the first to hear from our older children when they have done something wrong. A mother, often, can buffer the shock for Dad and Dad, being a family Clinical Psychologist, always wants me to "affirm" the children after correcting and dialoging with them. So I usually tell them to go to Confession, do penance and then I "affirm" them with "A FIRM" crack upside their heads. That's being pretty actively involved in parenting older children, I'd say!

LH: Thanks again for your time and for sharing this wonderful book with us Hilary. Are there any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share with our readers?

HMF: "Don't smoke, eat right, die anyway..." but hopefully in the state of grace wearing your scapular. God bless!

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