Monday, January 30, 2006

Where Were You...

....when the Challenger disaster occurred?

I think this was my first "Where Were You" moment. And until 9/11, this was the defining "Where Were You" moment for my age group.

I was in college, halfway through my junior year. Being a student without a television and with limited interest in or access to newspapers, I had very little grasp on current events at that time. However, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend daily Mass. My friends and I made up the choir on that weekday, and I nearly dropped my guitar when Father Pace announced that we would be praying for the astronauts who had just perished aboard the space shuttle.

After Mass we all rushed to the student center where we could see a TV. People were crowded around televisions that normally only attracted a few diehard soap-operaholics. Nobody was talking. We all just stared. We couldn't believe that such a thing could happen. The plume of smoke was shown, again and again.

On August 10, 2001, my family was fortunate enough to be present at Kennedy Space Center for the launching of Discovery (STS 105). What an amazing sight--and what a great relief when we learned that the shuttle had safely been launched into space.

May God grant eternal rest to those astronauts lost on the Challenger and on the Columbia, comfort to the families and friends who still grieve for them, and safety to all who are involved in space travel.

Book Review Time!

It's Book #3 of 2006....

A Big Storm Knocked It Over by Laurie Colwin.

I don't get to browse in libraries much; most of my reading choices come through recommendations. But last week during Library Storytime, Little Brother had worked his way into the middle of the circle. It was a big crowd and I was standing on the edges, as Little Brother had made it clear that he didn't want to sit on my lap for story. I nosed around the shelves directly surrounding me and came up with this one.

I was quite surprised to discover that Colwin was an American author, because her style just seemed to scream "British" at me. Her writing was very formal--British without the different spelling. I kept expecting the place names in the novel to be places in Britain, not New York and New England.

This was an interesting novel because the focus was less on the plot and more on the characters. And then, all of a sudden, it was over! I turned the page expecting the next chapter, but there was nothing else.

When I did a google search on the author I discovered that she has written several food books also; I'm interested in finding some of those. Cookbooks are almost as good as novels to me!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

This Quiz Pretty Much Nailed It

You Are an Old Soul

You are an experienced soul who appreciates tradition.
Mellow and wise, you like to be with others but also to be alone.
Down to earth, you are sensible and impatient.
A creature of habit, it takes you a while to warm up to new people.

You hate injustice, and you're very protective of family and friends
A bit demanding, you expect proper behavior from others.
Extremely independent you don't mind living or being alone.
But when you find love, you tend to want marriage right away.

Souls you are most compatible with: Warrior Soul and Visionary Soul

These quizzes don't always get it very that sports car one! But this quiz, though I had a lot of trouble narrowing down answers to the questions, is unbelievably on the mark.
Via Catholic Fire.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Worst Kids' TV I've Ever Overheard

This morning Little Brother turned on Noggin. We get lots of new channels now that we have satellite TV, and it's been quite educational for me. I've discovered just how much boys of all ages like "The Army Guy Channel," for example. But I digress.

I was having my breakfast listening to the following dialogue, spoken in a low, slow, comforting female voice (the teacher, I guess.)
"Children, I have something very special to show you! First, let's turn out all the lights!"

At that point, there was nothing to stop me from shouting, "What are you watching?"


Tell me that your mind is no farther from the gutter than mine is....but I was eavesdropping really carefully during the rest of this program.

Just in case you're wondering, the teacher showed them all how to make "shadow puppets" with a big flashlight.


I've just finished reading The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Connor. I got interested in this because it's one of the Loyola Classics books: a series of reprints of great Catholic literature. Many of the titles are intriguing, and I'd like to read several of these.

While the book was hardly upbeat (hence the title) it was a wonderful read. O'Connor is an excellent writer and, while the book was fiction, it did not fail to present good food for thought. Maybe that's what makes it such a good book.

Originally published in 1961, the story and characters still have parallels today--to the point where I didn't feel I was reading some old, outdated novel. I didn't have to think about the time in which this book was written; I was just carried along by the story line, the fantastic descriptions, and the characters.

I think somewhere I have another book by the same author: The Last Hurrah. I haven't ever read it, but O'Connor's writing inspires me to read more.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


I'm a Ferrari 360 Modena!

You've got it all. Power, passion, precision, and style. You're sensuous, exotic, and temperamental. Sure, you're expensive and high-maintenance, but you're worth it.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

Except for the temperamental part, and maybe the high-maintenance thing (though I prefer to think of myself as "medium-maintenance") I just don't see it.
Plus, I'm not too fond of red. It gets you noticed too much. Sometimes I like to fly under the radar.


That virtue I am supposed to be working on this year is Gentleness.
Good thing I have all year, because I have really blown it this morning--and it's still early.
The biggest problem is, I think, that my first answer is always "no." If I could just short-circuit that process, things would go much more smoothly. But noooooooo, I have to jump right in with that, and then wind up fighting with the child (or husband) who has asked or suggested something.
I also don't deal well with interruptions. Put it all together, and I blow up at Little Brother, who wants me to get him some strawberries when I am trying to put a load of dirty laundry in the washer.
I calmed down. I apologized, and I got him a nice big bowl of strawberries. Then I prepared the rest of them, so that when he wants a refill, it will be easier for me to get it done. None of this was hard. So why can't I do it right in the first place?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

God Is Love

The first encyclical of Benedict XVI has been released!

(God is Love)

The encyclical is free to download and print at the site above. Get yours--and read it!

I'm going to make a special effort to read and understand the teachings in this document. From the looks of things, many other blog authors plan to do the same. I'm looking forward to some great discussions in the future.

Breaking Stuff

In the past few days some important dishes have gotten broken in my house.
NO, I am not throwing things around in a fit of anger.
It's more like general clumsiness--you know, like the way your kids are when they are growing, and they get awkward because their hands and elbows and knees and feet no longer fit the rest of them properly.
I was unloading the dishwasher, and stacking the plates back in the cabinet, and despite the fact that I know how to juggle, I dropped this really cute plastic plate that ALL my kids had used.
Melamine plates, contrary to popular belief, ARE breakable.
After a bit of comic relief a la Veggie Tales ("My plate! My Art Bogady limited edition collectors plate! What happened to it?"..."I did it...I BROKE THE PLATE") Big Daddy moved on to feeling sentimental over this plate, since all the kids had eaten from it as toddlers. Now, this plate has to be about 13 years old, and it's been in nearly continuous use, so it doesn't owe us ANYTHING, but still, it was a big thing to him, and he reminded me of it yesterday when I told him that Little Brother had broken my favorite travel mug (AKA the SFO Mom Sippy Cup).
That mug has been everywhere with me, for the past 2 years or so. I got it at Borders in the cafe: one of those $5 travel mugs that comes with a Free Coffee Beverage Of Your Choice and 10% off every coffee thereafter. I used it for my occasional Mommy Breaks at Borders, where I'd get a coffee and browse for an hour or so, usually coming home with books for the kids....but Little Brother knocked it off a table yesterday in the school lunchroom, and that was the end of that.
I'm using Big Daddy's coffee mug today and it's Just Not The Same. But I hadn't thrown out the SFO Mom Sippy Cup yet--couldn't bear to do it--and I did discover that fortunately the lid fits on Big Daddy's coffee mug. That will do the trick for a bit until I can get a new Sippy Cup.
I'm sure that if we weren't in the middle of a breakdown of Big Stuff (namely, parish and school), this Little Stuff wouldn't seem so big. But I know that it's hanging on to those little comforts and memories and traditions that is getting us through as we deal with the Big Stuff.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Americans On Call

Today I read about an interesting new organization called Americans On Call.

This group wants to put an image out there--an image that will become a symbol of help to anyone in a crisis pregnancy or who feels she cannot support her children.
Image hosting by Photobucket

Like the Red Cross symbol which is instantly recognizable to so many, Americans on Call hopes to make this purple cross symbol a way for women to find help in such a situation. The image is free to download at the site and use in any way you wish, in order to further this goal.

Please visit the site and learn more about this VERY worthwhile project.

H/T to Holy Fool for bringing this to my attention.

Monday, January 23, 2006

March for Life

Today is the March for Life.
I was only able to attend one March for Life: in 1991, right after we returned from our honeymoon. We spent the day being encouraged and getting good advice from the many good people who traveled with us from North Jersey to Washington, D.C.
By this time in 1992, I had a newborn: Big Brother, only a few days old.
Next year Big Brother will attend high school, and I know that the school sponsors a bus to the March for Life. I pray that he will be on that bus.
Today is a day when I will try to put aside my own little troubles and remember the very big trouble that abortion has been for our society and our world.
I will pray for the women who are contemplating an abortion, that their hearts will be changed.
I will pray for those who have already had abortions, that their hearts will be healed.
I will pray for strength for all who fight against abortion and the idea that any human life is "expendable."
I will pray for those who work in the abortion industry in any capacity, that they may see the evil that abortion truly is.
And of course, I will pray for the little souls who have been lost to this evil, though I am certain that already God is holding all of them in His arms.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Reality sets in

It's "down in the dumps" time as reality sets in.
I didn't spend my early morning today at the organ for a last-minute practice of the responsorial psalm. That's because I turned in my copy of "Respond and Complain" and the guitar accompaniment book to "Music Issue" on Friday. We will not be worshipping in that parish any longer. Today was the Bishop's-Annual-Appeal-for-Money-on-Wide-Screen-TV and there was no way we could sit in that church and watch that video. Much as I really don't like "Respond and Complain," I sure did miss singing and playing with the kids' choir.

Today my family returned to our old parish for Mass. It was nice to be back there and see all the familiar faces--so many people sitting in the same seats, even after our four-year absence. We were warmly welcomed by the new pastor there, and by our friend the deacon. The pastor invited the Big Kids to become altar servers for that parish, and he recognized the difficulties we and the other families from the school will be having in the coming weeks. Being there was nice, but it brought back some sad memories of our departure from that parish after some difficulties with "choir politics" and, ultimately, the school there.

Later we attended Middle Sister's basketball game. It was a home game, so there were plenty of people there that we knew. Father (the one Little Brother thinks is Jesus) arrived to watch the game. He sat on the bench with the team. Middle Sister's coach from last season also was in the audience and after the game he complimented her on her improvement. She made 3 baskets today, her first ever in a game! Of course the thing on everyone's mind was that there will only be a few more such games in that gym; everyone was asking each other where their kids would be going to school next year. There will be much more of that as the year goes on.

More disturbing news regarding our parish finances has been coming to light; it now seems that the school may have been a sacrificial lamb in an attempt to cover up years of accounting irregularities.

It's been a rather exhausting day, and I look forward to the end of it. Tomorrow will be better. But I think that Sundays will be tough for us, for a little while.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Names of the Missing

Steve at A Song of November has asked all his fellow bloggers to join him in posting this information.
There's a chance it could help someone--or even several someones. How could I say no?

The Louisiana Department of Health and Human Services Web site still lists more than 3,200 people missing from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Just by posting a link to the list, polimom helped identify one of the missing as a survivor.

The latest list of the missing was posted on 1/17/2006.

The telephone number for the Find Family National Call Center is 1-866-326-9393.

Via A Song of November and People Get Ready.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Seeing Jesus

Little Brother has come to the conclusion that one of the priests at our church is Jesus.
He also thinks that Father lives in the church, but that's another story--and a completely normal thing for a three-year-old.
Father has always greeted Little Brother wherever he sees him, with a smile and a handshake. He has welcomed him in church, given him a quick blessing in the Communion line, and laughed when he escaped the pew one weekday, made a break for the altar and sat down quietly next to Big Brother, who was an altar server during that Mass. He has praised Little Brother for "helping" the altar servers by following them to the Sacristy after Mass on Sundays, and carrying the finger towels for them.
Father thinks it's funny that Little Brother considers him to be Jesus, and he has asked for his "little disciple" when he's seen me without my small companion.
I think Little Brother has a wonderful gift--the kind of gift that we lose as we get older, and more cynical, and have been let down a time or three. But it's a gift that we all can have, if we let ourselves have it: the gift of seeing Jesus in others.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Take the SCRABBLE Challenge!

Der Tomissar got me thinking about SCRABBLE today.

My last name is worth 51 points. That's without a Triple Word Score, BABY!

So, who's for a challenge? Go to this site and find out how YOUR name adds up!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Just in case you were wondering kids' school will close in June.
I haven't "lost it" yet but that doesn't mean I won't. This is like mourning a death.
Please pray for my family as we chart our spiritual and educational course in a different parish. It's not going to be easy.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Pray for Us

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Image hosted by
0 Mother of Perpetual Help, grant that I may ever invoke thy most powerful name, which is the safeguard of the living and the salvation of the dying. 0 purest Mary, 0 sweetest Mary, let thy name henceforth be ever on my lips. Delay not, 0 Blessed Lady, to help me, whenever I call on thee; for, in all my temptations, in all my needs, I shall never cease to call on thee, ever repeating thy sacred name, Mary, Mary.

0 what consolation, what sweetness, what confidence, what emotion, fill my soul when I utter thy sacred name, or even only think of thee. I thank the Lord for having given thee, for my good so sweet, so powerful, so lovely a name. But I will not be content with merely uttering thy name. Let my love for thee prompt me ever to hail thee, Mother of Perpetual Help.---3 Hail Marys.

My grandmother had a particular devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The picture you see above is identical to one that she always kept hanging in her kitchen. (thanks to Moneybags) "My" chair faced that picture--it's something I will always remember from that house. There was never any doubt that my grandmother was Catholic; all you had to do was look at the wall art to see that!

I guess it's the Irish in me that makes me look for "God-coincidences" a lot of the time. I'm sure it's no accident that today, on the Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, we will find out what the Bishop has decided about the fate of our school. And it's hard to lay this whole thing in the hands of God, but that is what I am trying to do. Today I will pray that the Blessed Mother will help all of us in our school community to have the grace to handle whatever comes.

Thanks to A Catholic Life, my source for the prayer AND the picture.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Meme Meme Meme Me(me)

The GOP Soccer Mom has tagged me with the Quartet Meme:

Four Jobs I've Had in My Life
(I picked the "oddest" ones among the many)
1. Electronic-parts packer for a defense contractor
2. Warehouse "picker-packer" (order filler) for a famous mail-order clothing company--I packed MEN'S SOCKS
3. Food-Service Training Assistant for Handicapped Adults
4. Software Tester for an educational software company

Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over, and Have
1. The Blues Brothers
2. The Sound of Music
3. Sister Act
4. The Wizard of Oz

Four Places I Have Lived
(not including the one I live in now!)
1. Haledon, New Jersey
2. Scranton, Pennsylvania
3. South Bend, Indiana
4. Carteret, New Jersey

Four TV Shows I Love To Watch
1. The West Wing (NOT for the politics, but because it's one of the few shows out there where the characters are SMART!)
2. Early Edition reruns (thank God for satellite TV!)
3. Notre Dame football games
4. Mythbusters (but only if Big Brother is watching along with me)

Four Places I Have Been On Vacation
1. Florida
2. Ocean City, NJ
3. Ireland
4. Niagara Falls

Four Websites I Visit Daily
1. Family Corner
2. Anything in my blogroll that has been updated
3. Google
4. My local library

Four Favorite Foods
1. Chocolate
2. Pizza
3. Spaghetti
4. Cracker Barrel's Hashbrown Casserole

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now
1. A coffee shop, with a coffee and pastry in front of me (dinner of champions!)
2. On the set of Jeopardy!, on my way to a decisive victory
3. In Notre Dame stadium watching a football game
4. Anyplace where the temperature is over 60 degrees Fahrenheit! I am a winter wimp!

Four People Whom I Tag Next
1. Steve
2. Amy
3. Epiphany
4. Elena

Being Prolife, Right in Your Own Home

With the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision coming up in less than a week, and the Church dedicating January 23--the day of the March for Life--as a day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person, I have been mulling over my own efforts to be prolife and what I am teaching my children by my words and my example.

For almost 14 years my husband and I have participated in the boycott of companies that support the work of Planned Parenthood. This has meant that we choose everything from shampoo to cheese to vacation sites with this boycott in mind. Our Big Kids know that we don't buy certain things, because the companies donate to the nation's largest abortion provider. (At 3, Little Brother is too young to notice.) Boycotts are inconvenient but, we believe, worth the trouble.

Today I read about a website called Counterclick. It's a shopping portal; if you start your internet shopping there, a portion of your purchase price will be donated to prolife organizations such as National Right to Life and CareNet. What an ingenious idea, and what an easy way to support prolife causes! A tip of the hat to Jean at Catholic Fire for leading me to this site.

What are some other things families can do together to support prolife efforts?
1. Say a prayer for the unborn during your family prayer time or Grace at dinner.
2. Contact a local pregnancy-crisis center and ask what supplies they regularly need. Budget a little each week to help purchase these supplies, and make a monthly or bimonthly delivery.
3. Join a Life-Chain event.
4. Show your children that you consider candidates' voting records on life issues when you choose which candidate to elect.
5. Pro-life is not JUST "anti-abortion!" Give your children plenty of contact with the elderly or handicapped. Let them know that people deserve to live regardless of their physical challenges.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Science Experiment du jour

...or, yet another way to know that the Long Weekend has gone on, well, a little too long.

My Big Kids are currently in the kitchen equipped with a large tub of Utz Cheese Balls, a paper napkin, and a meat tenderizer.

The object of the game appears to be: see whether the flat side of the meat mallet or the "bumpy" side is more effective at pulverizing the cheese balls. Read: how many hits does it take to reduce the cheese ball to a fine orange powder?

Only 13 more hours until the school bus comes. Will I make it?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

My Patron Saint for the Year, and a Virtue--and More!

I received from our Secular Franciscan Fraternity my patron saint for the year, a virtue to practice, a line from the Franciscan Rule to practice, and a person from our local Franciscan community to keep in prayer.

This year my patron saint will be Saint Mary Frances of the Five Wounds. She was a Secular Franciscan, a stigmatist, very charitable toward the needy, and her mother's name was Barbara. October 6 is her feast.

The virtue I am to practice is Gentleness. ZING! I could use some help in that department, especially in the mornings.

From the Rule of 1221, Chapter XXII comes the line I am to take to heart this year: Let us adore God with pure hearts because we need to pray continually and never lose heart.

Finally this year I am to keep in special prayer a special Franciscan Sister named Sister Irmaline. Due to poor health she had to move from the parish convent to the Infirmary for the Bernardine Franciscans. I know that she misses the community here, and rumor has it that she loves to receive mail--so along with my prayers I will be sure to send her plenty of mail this year.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

It's All About the Name

My cousin-in-law, Thomas, has a rebuttal to a blog in which the writer complains about the travails of having a long, complicated, full-of-consonants Polish surname.

The gist of Thomas' post: We Szyszkiewicz's have this guy beat. And he's right. I'm not just saying that because he's my cousin-in-law either! Even though I have been a part of the Szyszkiewicz family for almost 15 years, I hadn't had the chance to meet Thomas before this summer. Yet it's pretty funny how similar MY response would have been. We even spell our name over the phone the same way...S as in Sam, Z as in Zebra....When Big Daddy and I were planning the wedding, the running joke was that he would take my name! Just like Thomas's father-in-law suggested! Must be an Irish thing...though I might dispute that part about being prone to exaggeration.

One big difference is the default nickname that has seemed to come our way. It started with my father-in-law, who as an ironworker was known as "Tony Alphabet." Big Brother didn't know about that the day he came home from a Boy Scout event telling us that his new nickname was "Alphabet Junior" because the Scouts were calling Big Daddy "Alphabet."

We're proud of our name, even the Zs, and we don't see the need to change it. I find that people who hear it before they see it don't have too much trouble, which may be why children can handle it just fine, unless they're at that "missing a front tooth or two" stage.

One year I had a job teaching Spanish at a middle school. The principal had a lot of trouble pronouncing my last name. As she introduced me to the rest of the staff on our first day of school, she made the assumption that my name would be shortened in some way when I worked with the kids. "And this is Barbara (last name unbelievably bungled)....and the children will be calling her...."

I cut in: "Senora Szyszkiewicz."

The fifth-graders managed it quite well, thanks. We even had a classroom game involving spelling my name using the Spanish alphabet letters.

We just think of our name as a really great ice-breaker, and keep a sense of humor about the whole thing. We will NOT be changing it. A name is a precious thing, even if we laugh about it. A few generations back, a member of my father's family changed his Irish surname by subtracting the O' so that he'd be able to get a job in the anti-Irish climate of the day. We have no such need, no such excuse. It's a good name, and besides, it's really convenient just to tell people who need your phone number that you're "the last S in the phone book."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Well worth reading

Check out this post on housework. I especially like the part about angels dusting under the beds.

This one is so good, you might even want to read it TWICE! Via Rocks in My Dryer.

Words to Live By

This morning I bought Little Brother a treat--a drive-through lunch at Chick-Fil-A on our way to work in the school lunchroom. After I paid for the meal, I was asked if I wanted a free newspaper (I guess they had leftovers from breakfast, when they have a deal that you get a free local paper with your breakfast combo).
I answered, "No, thank you." Then I collected Little Brother's lunch and we were on our way.
Little Brother asked me, "Hey Mommy, why didn't you get the paper?"
Me: "I already read the paper this morning, so I don't need another one."
Little Brother: "Then you would have a LOT of papers."
Me: "That's right, and I don't need any more papers."
Little Brother: "If you have a lot, you should share."
How right you are, Little Brother!
Anyone want a paper?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Keeping the Faith

Steven at Flos Carmeli writes:

...the most useful, most effective, most reliable means of defending one's faith is to live it as it is meant to be lived, without stint, without quibble, without making a point of it.

It also occurred to me that this is by far the most difficult means of defending one's faith--one that, while not reserved to Saints, certainly most effectively demonstrated by them. Some of these Saints also defended their faith in other ways--in physical battle, in intellectual battle, in protracted debate. But others did not so engage, and yet they still won the hearts and minds and souls of a great many. I guess I would say that living your faith in its entirety is a precursor to being able to defend it in any intellectual capacity.

This pretty much describes what I feel St. Francis was calling his followers to do when he said, "Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." In other words, JUST DO IT.

Friday, January 06, 2006

More on the Windmills...

We can safely conclude that the presentation went well. It was positive. It was respectful. It demonstrated very clearly that some information that the Diocese had been given in the past was misinterpreted. In light of that, some conclusions may need to be revisited.
We're just happy that we've been given the chance to continue dreaming our "impossible dream." Don Quijote? Dorothy? David? We've compared ourselves to all of these underdogs and we hope that we too are able to be victorious; absent that, we pray that we will be able to be gracious.

Here's something I really needed to hear today

Hope based on a particular outcome is a fragile thing; it can be smashed by events. Hope based in a particular Person can endure. Whether a miracle occurs or doesn't, we are never alone. "Thou who hast made me see many sore troubles wilt revive me again; from the depths of the earth Thou wilt bring me up again" (Psalm 71:20).

H/T to MamaT at SummaMamas. MamaT was referencing the West Virginia mine tragedy, but this piece of wisdom has applications far beyond that situation.

And today I am reminded that while it is fine to have hope, I should be careful where I place that hope.

It's Epiphany! Get Your Holy Water Ready!

In honor of the day the Magi came to adore the Christ Child, Catholics are encouraged to bless their homes. It used to be that the parish priest would conduct these blessings, and at one time we were privileged to have our pastor bless our home. Today it will be done by Big Daddy.

Tilting at Windmills

I haven't mentioned this topic too much on this blog, but it's something that is absolutely consuming my family at this time.

Our Diocese has proposed that the wonderful parochial school that our Big Kids attend should close in June, and the students sent to a newly-assigned "regional" school out of town.

We know that this is all about finances and to some extent "politics" and we also know that we have a slim chance at best of reversing this decision.

Nonetheless, we did submit a proposal in December enumerating several strategies that either are currently in place or could easily be implemented, that would help our school stay open and financially healthy. We asked at that time if a presentation by members of the school community coud be scheduled.

Two days ago the Diocese graciously invited our committee members to make such a presentation. It's scheduled for 1:15 this afternoon. Big Daddy and another School Dad have worked very hard on this presentation.

Throughout the past two months since the Diocese's conclusions were released to the press, we in our school community have been very careful. Yes, we disagree with the conclusions; but we do not want to be defiant about this. All of us are parents, and we are well aware that our children are watching and asking questions. Some of us have been interviewed by the press; during Christmas vacation my own family appeared on the local television news in a story about this issue.

But this has become more than just an issue with the school. It has been an opportunity, for all the families who are working to keep our school open, to show our children that standing up for what you believe is important WILL involve sacrifice, MUST be done respectfully, and DOES require careful and thorough research and planning, not to mention prayer. It has also been an opportunity for us to become better acquainted with our school community--not only other families, but the faculty and staff who work so hard and care so much about the children in the school. Getting to know many of these people better has been a blessing to us at this difficult time for our school--and for the whole parish.

It's comforting to know that during this presentation, our school children will be in the middle of celebrating First Friday Mass in our parish church. If I didn't have a sick child at home today, I'd be joining them there. I will have to join them in spirit, and you can bet I will be praying the following prayer to Saint John Neumann, who founded our parish:


O my God, I adore Your infinite Majesty with all the powers of my soul. I thank you for the graces and gifts which You bestowed upon Your faithful Servant, Saint John Neumann. I ask You to glorify him also on earth. For this end I beseech You to grant me the favor which I humbly ask from Your Fatherly mercy. Amen.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

It's Cool Watching Kids Learn Stuff

Little Kids think in funny ways.
When they're babies, they don't understand the concept of "object permanence" so they think that every person or thing that leave their sight is gone forever.
Thankfully, they outgrow that pretty quickly.
But preschoolers are famous for, while on the phone with someone, pointing out something they made or built or drew or colored that day, or something they see out their own window.
It's always good for a chuckle from the person (normally a grandparent) on the other end of the line--and from the parent who overhears only one end of the conversation.
Today, though, Little Brother showed that he's gone past that stage now. I was on the phone with my mom, and he wandered into the room to show me that he had helped himself to a handful of Goldfish crackers.
Nannie: "Let me talk to him....Hi! How are you? What are you eating?"
Little Brother: "Goldfish."
Nannie: "Can I have one?"
Little Brother: "But you're not HERE!"
Cool! He gets it!
He later demonstrated just how much he gets it--as he wandered around, informing me that the video he had chosen to watch after dinner is "good for boys, and girls, and you can watch it too, but Nannie can't, because she's not here...."

...And More Tags!

Elena at My Domestic Church, apparently unspooked by my previous attempts to explain my weirdnesses, has tagged me for the 5 Weird Things Meme.

So I figure I'll stop talking about the little idiosyncracies and go for the Big Stuff. In other words, why do many of my neighbors (and some of my family members) think I'm weird?

1. Big Daddy and I send our children to Catholic school, which is a sacrifice in more ways than just financial ones. Add to that the fact that we live in a town where the public schools are considered "better than adequate." How dare we not send our children there? The horror!

2. I'm a Secular Franciscan. It's been implied that some people interpret that to mean: "I'm a religious fanatic."

3. My family attends Mass every week, and the Big Kids and I participate in liturgical ministries. Church is not negotiable. It's just "what we do."

4. I don't believe in signing up my three-year-old for 17 activities. He attends an occasional 75-minute "playschool" session at the local high school, and we try to get to Story Time at the library. He does not participate in Tee Ball, Travel Soccer, Gymboree, Suzuki violin or any of that. He's quite social, thank you, since he's with me when I volunteer at the Big Kids' school twice a week. And being 3, he's active enough!

5. We still have our Christmas tree up, and (gasp!) it's after the New Year!

I've Been Tagged!

Year End / New Year Meme, via A Catholic Life

The Year End/New Year meme consists in conducting a brief evaluation of 2005 and then moving on to making plans for 2006. It involves answering ten simple questions.

What was your favorite movie in 2005?
I rarely get to watch movies that aren't for children! The best kids' movie I saw this year is Robots. The animation was amazing, the soundtrack was catchy (especially the "Underground" number) and I liked the theme: "You Can Shine No Matter What You're Made Of."

What was your favorite book in 2005?
NOT FAIR! I love to read! How can I pick? I can narrow it down to a couple:
Fiction: My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Nonfiction: My Cup of Tea by Danielle Bean

Richer or poorer? Thinner or fatter?

What kept you sane this past year?
Working on this blog; keeping a sense of humor; prayer

Which personal accomplishment in 2005 are you most pleased with?
I'm proud to have gotten this blog started; I have encountered many people who have enriched my own life and challenged me, either through my combox or their own blogs.
And in other news, I successfully made gravy--a cooking skill which had, until Christmas, eluded me.

What resolutions have you made for '06?
I'll take care of that after my SFO Fraternity conducts its Extraction of Saints next week. We each will receive a randomly chosen saint's name (usually a Franciscan saint) as well as a virtue to develop during the coming year, a verse from the Bible or a line from Francis' writings, and the name of a member of our Fraternity to keep in special prayer.

Which bad habit are most motivated to break?
Speaking before thinking.

What are you most looking forward to in 2006?
Watching Big Brother make his Confirmation and then graduate from elementary school. I'll be the one beaming with pride!

Book #1 of 2006 Finished

I just finished reading Crossing Brooklyn Ferry by Jennie Fields. I found it last week on the bargain table at Barnes & Noble. I keep a list of book recommendations that friends make, or books I've seen reviewed that I want to read; this wasn't on the list but the title sounded so familiar that I figured I had heard about it somewhere. As I read, it became clear to me that what was so familiar about this title was that it is also the title of a Walt Whitman poem.

In a way, reading this book was like watching a train wreck. Things were falling apart for the characters all over the place; of the 2 marriages among main characters, 2 among minor characters and 2 referred to in the family history of the main characters, only ONE was a strong and healthy relationship. Infidelity was rife. In addition, there were plot elements involving Holocaust survivors, major (to the point of incapacitation) depression, child death, and kleptomania. There was SO much suffering, and it's never redemptive in any way. The author writes well; by this I mean that she can string together beautiful images and sentences--BUT the only character for whom I felt any sympathy was the 6-year-old child of the depressed father and kleptomaniac, adulterous mother. The ending didn't seem to fit with the rest of the story; it was almost as if the author got tired of the whole thing and just tied it all up neatly. I stuck it out to the end (370 pages) because I wanted to find out what happened to the little girl, but this is not a book I'll be keeping.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Today's Miscellaneous

First and foremost, please continue in the Novena for the Unborn. Via A Catholic Life. Since this novena is not related to any specific feast in the Church, you can start it ANYTIME! Or you can just keep it going forever. And what better cause than the defenseless unborn, who cannot pray for themselves?

On to other matters which, while certainly less critically important, nonetheless occupy my mind...

Moneybags, I will get to your meme soon! That is, just as soon as I THINK of some New Year's Resolutions to make! Actually, in the past few years I have put off making New Year's Resolutions until my SFO Fraternity meets to conduct our own Extraction of Saints (like the Patron Saint Project but specifically Franciscan saints). At the Extraction we receive not only the name of a saint to study and even emulate during the year, but also a virtue which we should try to cultivate. So I've been making that my New Year's Resolution since becoming a Franciscan.

I'm feeling pretty down about the beating the Irish took at the hands of the Buckeyes--and the referrees--yesterday. I had a little chat to this effect with our kids' school principal, an OSU alum and former football player. Of course, he saw things differently. Our major disagreement concerned a certain FUMBLE RECOVERY FOR A TOUCHDOWN that was later (and quite wrongly, I might add, in my absolutely not-objective-in-the-least opinion) ruled an "incomplete pass." Things weren't pretty in the SFO Mom household last night. But today I'm over it. Really. As long as none of my kids wears anything red for a while, things should be fine.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Nuts and Bolts of It All

Here are some of my favorite spots on the Internet. I'll try to keep this as organized as possible.

Email me

Philadelphia Weather

The Secular Franciscan Rule
National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order
The Little Flowers of St. Francis
Franciscan Cards (free e-cards)
Portiuncula: The Little Portion. Mostly quotes from St. Francis' writings.

Family Corner forums
Moms Menu forums

Photobucket Homecroft Holler soaps, candles and crafts! You can't beat Anna's natural soaps. Proudly made in the USA.

Family Centered planner Family-Centered Planners. The best planner I've ever found.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Catholic Mom
Catholic Moms
Faith and Family Live!
St. Blogs Parish List of Blogs
Inside Catholic
Catholic Culture
My Catholic
Catholic Everything

Catholic Media Review


Image hosting by Photobucket

Americans On Call
Life Decisions International

My local newspaper blog
Consumer Reports Electronics Blog
RSS Feed of sporting events at Big Brother's high school
Simple Cake Decorating (feed does not appear to work)
For Better or For Worse Strip Fix
Moms Who Blog: Hacks, Advice, Tips
Living on a Dime blog by cookbook/frugal lifestyle author Tawra Kellam
Right as Usual
Father Martin Fox blogging at Bonfire of the Vanities
Sheila Wray Gregoire blogging at To Love, Honor and Vacuum



Notre Dame Athletics--Go Irish!



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