Thursday, June 29, 2006

Pointless Questions

I guess my kids are onto my habit of asking what Daddy terms "pointless questions"--those that have a very obvious answer OR those that have absolutely no answer at all.

Just now, I wondered aloud, "Why is the Army Guy Pez stuck behind the couch cushion here?" (His little face was peeking out the top)

Middle Sister was right on the ball with her reply: "He's spying on us. Leave him there."

I was so amazed that I actually put the thing back! Then as I walked away, Big Brother wanted to know, "Is the microphone turned on?"

(Microphone? HELLO! It's a PEZ!!!!)

2 for the Price of 1

This afternoon we set out to do a good deed. Our parish regularly supplies a local food pantry, housed at the Moravian church in town. One of the volunteers mentioned that supplies were getting low, and that food was needed.

There was a special need of food that children will eat, such as breakfast cereal, peanut butter and jelly, crackers, juice and the like. Something we may not think about is that in the summer when school's out, those children who receive free or low-cost breakfast and lunch at school are now on their own. So in the summer, food pantries have more demand and are feeding more children.

"Not-so-coincidentally" the next day, my neighbor asked if I knew where she could donate 14 packages of breakfast cereal that she had gotten free with the intention of donating them. I told her I'd bring them along with my own donations.

When the kids and I got to the food pantry, there was a sign on the door that they were closed today. So we headed over to church to leave the food in the foyer. Someone will bring it over after the weekend.

Middle Sister and I brought the food into the collection area, but we had to go through the back door of the church, where we saw a little sparrow hiding among the table legs and potted plants in the small vestibule. We couldn't chase him out so we rang the bell of the friary to ask the secretary what we should do about the bird. Her daughter came over and ultimately coaxed the frightened sparrow onto a pile of bulletins, and gently carried it outside, and the bird quickly flew away.

On the way home, the kids were speculating on what the bird might have been doing in the foyer: building a nest in the plants, having a "bird bath" in the holy water font....I preferred to think about how God cares for all the helpless ones, in all kinds of ways.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Super Sauerkraut

I am a sauerkraut junkie. When I used to work in the Bingo Kitchen, during Big Brother's early school days, they served homemade sauerkraut with the hot dogs. One of the callers used to buy a sauerkraut sandwich. My curiosity got the better of me, and I had to try it too.


Now, this is just not as good with sauerkraut right out of the can. You have to prepare it right. And right now I've got a roaster oven full of sauerkraut happily simmering and waiting for dinnertime. It smells great in here, if you ask me. Just don't ask my kids.

Easy Polish-Style Sauerkraut
2 2-lb bags of sauerkraut, with most of the liquid squeezed out of them (do not wash)
2 onions, chopped (not too small)
1/4 lb cooked bacon, crumbled

Place all in roaster oven or slow cooker (6 qt holds this with room to spare). Cook for at least 2 hours on 200 (for roaster) or LOW (for slow cooker). Stir occasionally, and taste every time, because you won't be able to help yourself.

Goes great with kielbasa, hot dogs, Reuben sandwiches, or all by itself on a roll. Anyone want to come over and help me eat it? Nobody else in my house likes it. Good thing it freezes well....

Prayers for the Crazy Bikers

I am freaking out over these flood reports I've watched on the news, and now I'm glued to the Web with my giant RandMcNally map in my lap.

Tomorrow my dad's bike route takes him across a portion of the Susquehanna River that is expected to be about 4 feet above flood stage by late afternoon tomorrow. I just called my mom so that she can let him know when he calls her tonight, that I'm willing to drive to "wherever" in Pennsylvania and get him and his crazy friends to someplace dry where they can bike. I've got a map and a full tank of gas, and I don't mind using them. There's a good chance he won't be able to cross the Delaware on Friday if they don't reopen the Frenchtown bridge (it's closed now).

Patron Saints of Travelers include St. Anthony of Padua, St. Joseph, St. Nicholas, and the Archangel Raphael. Please pray for a safe trip for them, and that they don't let their pride get in the way of their safety.

UPDATE: So far so good on Thursday. They crossed the Susquehanna with no problem and reached their expected destination for tonight. There's still a good shot that the Delaware River bridge he wanted to cross will be closed--but it's a short (1 hour) drive for me if they need a ride tomorrow. Thank you very much....I'm breathing a BIG sigh of relief.

Works-for-Me Wednesday: Waiting Games

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In the past week I've had to take my kids on several errands that involve Waiting (haircuts, doctor apppointments, oil change for the Momobile). Since the Big Kids can read, they're pretty good about waiting for reasonable spans of time. But Little Brother is only 4 and he can get itchy pretty fast.

So, without further ado, here are SFO Mom's Top Three Waiting Games:
1. "I Spy" is a hit with all ages and can be played anywhere.
2. "I Spy in a Magazine" can keep Little Brother busy for quite a while. I like to use a parenting magazine for this, since there are plenty of pictures of animals, toys, children, food and cars in those. Then I sit there with Little Brother and ask him to find the fish, or the soccer ball, or the red car.
3. At a doctor's office, bring a small pack of crayons. My pediatricians don't mind when the kids draw on the paper on the examining table. It's put in the trash after we leave the room anyway. BONUS: it gives the pediatrician something to chat with the child about during the examination.

I hope these Waiting Games work for you--they work for me!

One for Good Luck

This morning Little Brother gave me a Big Hug. He told me, "I'm giving you a HUG! For good luck!"

Good luck in what, I don't know. But I'll take it!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Apparently now the latest trend in "teenwear" is an expensive item of clothing that looks like it's destined either for the washing machine or the rag pile--but no, you buy it that way!

I'm not letting my kids see this article. As it is, I have to pry away their torn/stained clothing from their clutching little fingers, and HIDE it in the trash. I have to HIDE their outgrown things so I can pass them along/save them for the next younger child. I have to fight with them to put on a clean, non-ripped shirt before we leave the house. And now people are buying clothes with purposely-set-in underarm stains?

(It's satire, but the idea still grosses me out.)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Wisdom from Today's Saint

The Saint we celebrate today is St. Josemaria Escriva. In a quick Internet search, I found a great many wonderful, thought-provoking quotes attributed to him. Here's one that reaches to the heart of what I aim toward as a Franciscan striving to live that life in the world of my home, family and community:
I assure you, my children, that when a Christian carries out with love the most insignificant everyday action, that action overflows with the transcendence of God. That is why I have told you so often, and hammered away at it, that the Christian vocation consists in making heroic verse out of the prose of each day. Heaven and earth seem to merge, my children, on the horizon. But where they really meet is in your hearts, when you sanctify your everyday lives.

And another: ‘Great’ holiness consists in carrying out the ‘little’ duties of each moment.

As Jean at Catholic Fire points out in her chronology of his life, he viewed his mission as opening "a new path to holiness through sanctification of work in the midst of the world."

Learn more about him through his writings at this site.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

How to Tell When the Choir is Doing a Good Job

I've been playing with a folk choir these past couple of months, and because of the style of the church, I can see nearly everyone in the assembly from where the choir stands. The people in this parish really make an effort to sing, which is a good thing--I even saw the altar servers singing the psalm response and the acclamations.

But you really know that the choir is doing its job of Leading the Assembly in Praising the Lord when you look at the people during the "Alleluia"--and many of them are singing their hearts out, with smiles on their faces.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Book Bleg

I found out today that Big Brother has a Summer Reading List for 3 classes: English (which I expected), History and Religion. The last one is quite problematic for me. Not that he has to read something, but what he has to read.

For Religion, all freshmen are expected to read do a basic book report (characters, setting, conflict, resolution) on the novel Joshua by Joseph Girzone. (The other books he has to read are Agatha Christie novels and The Hound of the Baskervilles--no problems there).

My husband and I are more than a little concerned about the fact that a Catholic high school is requiring this novel, which, if I remember correctly (and I just started rereading it to make sure I have my opinions straight here) makes out Church authorities to be overly concerned with rules and laws, and basically puts down the need for rules altogether.

Maybe I should purchase Big Brother a copy of The Screwtape Letters when I buy those other books on his reading list, just to balance out this one.

If anyone has any good information I can use when discussing this book with my child--and whether or not I should make an issue of it with the school--I'd appreciate it. My inclination right now is to see what they do with it. It may be that the book is read, assignment done, and the teacher never talks about it again. And then again...

I will be paying attention, make no mistake about it.

Three Crazy Guys on Bicycles

Today my dad and two of his friends will be driving from northern New Jersey to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the start of their vacation.

They'll spend the rest of the week coming back--on bicycles.

Here's a rough outline of their route:
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Unfortunately, their route takes them far enough north of my home that I won't be able to host them for dinner, like we did last year.

But if you see three crazy men on bicycles along the southern tier of Pennsylvania, share the road, give them a wave, and pray for their safety. And remind my dad to keep that water bottle full, OK?


Friday, June 23, 2006

A Little Nugget from my SFO Fraternity Meeting

My SFO Fraternity met tonight. It was a productive evening; we got together our slate for next month's elections (if you're so inclined, please pray that we will all let the Lord guide us in the right direction as we cast our votes for our Council), and our Ongoing Formation was on the topic of Humility.

After that, our Spiritual Assistant led a lively discussion that covered quite a few topics, including but not limited to Humility, Service, pastoral leadership, sacrifice, The DaVinci Code, and stories from the life of St. Francis.

The Spiritual Assistant of a SFO fraternity is traditionally a Franciscan priest, and we are blessed to have one in our midst. And one thing I have noticed before, but that really came out in the discussion tonight, is that Father is not afraid to talk about the Devil. Some priests tiptoe around the subject. Not this priest, and I'm glad of that. He wants us to know that the Evil One is real, he is out there, and he is trying very hard to stop us from doing what is right and good.

He also wants us to know that we do not have power over the Devil, all by ourselves. Because the Devil is a preternatural being with the wisdom of the ages, we must recognize that his power does exist and that we must enlist the help of those More Powerful Than The Devil:
The Blessed Mother
Saint Michael the Archangel
Our Guardian Angels
and, of course, God.

Because God doesn't expect us to do it alone. We have been given the gift of these others to help us on our path. So, to use the favorite closing line of our Spiritual Assistant: "While we have time, let us do good."

Let's Go Live

...because that's where the love is.

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Today is the Feast of the Sacred Heart. If you scroll down on this Catholic Culture page, you will see that devotion to the Sacred Heart was important to the early Franciscans, in the beautiful passage from Saint Bonaventure's writings.

Thanks again to Dan at Faithmouse for a beautiful toon expressing the spirit of this day.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Worth the Read

Father Jim at Dappled Things has an essay on what to do when you "don't feel spiritual." He suggests that you don't have to feel spiritual to be spiritual. But whether you "feel spiritual" or not, these are good reminders.

And over at Summa Mamas there's a terrific short piece on procrastination. Read it now!

The Latest in Home Decor

Dilemma: You have a lovely pair of crystal candlesticks but no candles to put in them.

Solution (provided by my children just before dinnertime last night):
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As you can see, Martha Stewart doesn't live here.
Big Brother says, "That's a Good Thing."


My neighbor has a landscaper. These guys are pros. They come in with their 3 giant mowers, miscellaneous blowers, weed wackers and other noisy power equipment before 8 AM. (These are not big yards, so 3 giant mowers seems a bit excessive.)

We have Big Brother. He doesn't willingly get up that early anyway, and he is not yet cleared by Daddy to use the weed wacker or edger. He just mows.

He's not a pro. A lot of times he misses spots, he forgets to sweep the sidewalk after he's done, and the edge by the fence is always a mess.

Last week I was ranting and raving because my neighbor's landscaper was using noisy power equipment before 8 AM. I know they work in the heat and want to be done early. But it's kind of early to be that noisy.

Today I'm not going to complain, because just now when I was at the kitchen sink filling the coffeepot, I noticed that the neighbor's landscaper had hopped the fence and was edging along the fence in our yard.

Middle Sister was wondering how he got in the yard. I said, "I guess he climbed the fence. Kind of dangerous with a weed wacker, though!"

Middle Sister answered, "He did climb the fence! He just went back. He turned off the weed wacker first."

That's a good thing. Wouldn't want him to hurt himself, especially since he was doing Big Brother a BIG favor.


Middle Sister just wandered over to show off her "manicure." (She's enjoying the reprieve from the no-nail-polish-per-the-school-dress-code rule).

She didn't do a bad job, but you could use those nails to land planes, the color is so bright. I will have to speak to my cousin, who donated the nail polish to Middle Sister's cause.

Middle Sister: "Like my naaaaaaaails?"

Me: "You did a nice job on the polish. It's not my favorite color, though."

MS: "Why not?"

Me: "It's too bright. I like colors a little paler on nails."

MS, as she sweeps out of the room as only a 10-year-old in a robe can: "I like it. It makes me stand OUT."

That's the big difference between me and my daughter. She loves to stand out. She's not shy. She likes to be noticed. (With nails like hers, there's little chance she won't get noticed.)

My challenge is to make sure that she stands out for the right reasons.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Works-For-Me Wednesday: Vinegar Rinse

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Today's tip is one I've been using for almost a year now: the Vinegar Rinse.

No, not for my hair (though I've heard it's good for that purpose too)--for my LAUNDRY.

Instead of adding some Downy or Snuggle to the handy-dandy little fabric-softener dispenser in my washing mashine, I put in about 1/4 cup white vinegar and fill the dispenser the rest of the way with cold water.

The vinegar works really well at getting the extra soap out of the clothes and even softens them. BONUS: unlike fabric softener, the Vinegar Rinse doesn't cause your towels to be less absorbent. BIGGER BONUS: Vinegar costs less than $2 a gallon. Fabric softener costs more than $5 a gallon. A gallon of vinegar lasts twice as long as a gallon of fabric softener, so I save $8 with each gallon of vinegar I use.

I hang a good deal of laundry on my outdoor clothesline when the weather permits, and the clothes are soft enough to satisfy everyone in the family. When I do put something in the dryer, I add about 1/3 of a dryer sheet, because static cling is not something the vinegar takes care of well.

With only 1/4 cup vinegar per load, my clothing does not smell like salad. Since I'm fragrance-sensitive, it doesn't bother me that they don't smell "April Fresh." I like the scent of air-dried clothing without the extra perfume anyway.

Last week some readers asked me to post a pic on my blog. I know you were really after what SFO Mom looks like in goggles, but you're not going to get that one. Sorry. (No, I'm not, actually...) This will have to suffice. Here I am in my Outdoor Laundry Room.
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Vinegar Rinse in the laundry works for me.

Monday, June 19, 2006

What My Bumper Sticker SHOULD Say?

Your Bumper Sticker Should Be

Give me ambiguity - or give me something else

AllRIGHTY then!

Via Mrs_Who.

All This Time, I Thought It Was Just a Parent Thing

"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

Portiuncula has this quote from Saint Francis:
And all the brothers are to guard against speaking falsely of anyone
and are to avoid verbal disputes. Rather, let them seek to keep silent
whenever God gives them the grace to do so. And they are not to argue
among themselves, nor with others, but they are to strive to respond
with humility, saying, "We are useless servants." (Luke 17:10)

Rule of 1221, Chapter XI

Who knew that this bit of wise counsel came from Saint Francis? I thought it was just something parents said to keep their kids from squabbling!

A 4-Year-Old's Compassion

Little Brother is turning out to be just as sweet as Middle Sister when someone is sick. When she was 3 or 4, and someone wasn't feeling good, she'd practically bury them beneath all her special stuffed animals and blankets. As she got older she appointed herself Chief Temperature Taker and Drink Fetcher. Everyone always says that she'd make a good nurse when she grows up.

Yesterday and today Little Brother has been very solicitous about my health. He'll come over and announce,
"I'm gonna give you a hug and a kiss!" After that, he'd ask, "Did that feel you better?"

This morning he rediscovered his Very First Stuffed Animal: a dragon that has a music box in it, that plays "London Bridge." I told him how he used to like listening to that music when he was a very little baby. Then he pulled the string to start the music, put the dragon in my lap, hugged me and told me that it would "feel me better." And, of course, it did.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

An Open Letter to Woman's Day Magazine

I wanted to write and let you know why I have decided to let my subscription, which ends this August, run out rather than renewing your magazine, to which I have been a longtime subscriber and reader. In fact, I've read the magazine since I was about 10 years old, because my mother is also a longtime subscriber and reader. Now I have a daughter who is 10 years old, but I do not feel that I can leave your magazine on my coffee table for her to browse through.

Recently I have noticed some changes in the tone and substance of Woman's Day, changes that, in my opinion, are not for the better. I don't appreciate the "celebrity" articles, for example. If I wanted to read about how Nicole Kidman decorates her kitchen or raises her children, I'll read People or Good Housekeeping or Redbook. I always respected your magazine for steering clear of the celebrity subject and focusing more on people whose lives are lived farther away from the red-carpet lifestyle.

Your May 9, 2006 issue contained a section on "Your Reproductive Health." I found the information contained in the article to be both biased and incomplete. For example, for 2 of the 4 cancers profiled (uterine and ovarian) you recommend that a woman use Birth Control Pills as a preventative measure. You do not mention that the use of Birth Control Pills has been implicated in the increase in breast cancer that has been recorded in the past 30 years. You also fail to mention the abortion-breast cancer connection, which has been the subject of many studies lately.

Worse, you have a quote by Dr. Douglas Laube, chair of the ACOG, in large type and circled in pink at the top of a page, expressing his wish that women "had an increased awareness of and access to emergency contraception (EC). EC is one of the best-kept secrets in medicine today; it's sad that more women either don't know about it or can't get it." Highlighting an opinion such as this in the way that you have indicates to me that your magazine is taking a direction that I choose not to follow.

As a Roman Catholic wife and mother, I do not believe that women should be fed Birth Control Pills as a means of fighting off cancer. Birth Control Pills have an abortifacient effect, changing the uterine lining so that it will not accept the implantation of an already-fertilized egg. In this respect, they act in the same way that EC does. They kill an innocent baby.

I will not subscribe to a magazine that highlights the use of artificial hormones for the purposes of taking innocent life. The celebrity-lifestyle articles are something I could flip past and ignore, but your pieces on "reproductive health" are actually more along the lines of "reproductive selfishness" and I do not wish to bring such articles into my home. I deserve better and so does my daughter.

It's Father's Day

and instead of having a nice big breakfast made for him by his loving family, Daddy is making me a cup of tea. By all appearances, I have strep throat. So I am not allowed near the stove to make him some pancakes and sausage. The poor guy has to do that himself. He's not complaining, though; he's nagging me about what medicine I have already taken and what I should take some more of if I can manage to swallow another pill.

This was supposed to be his day to sit in the recliner (if we had a recliner, which we don't) and read his paper and relax.

But he's a great dad a great husband and he's letting me relax instead, and even making me some tea.

Christine has a great roundup on posts for Father's Day; check them out. Also, look at what Barbara Curtis has to say. Whatever I had to say is going to have to wait.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Passing the Time

Daddy's plane landed 1 1/2 hours ago, so he should be home by now. Everyone is waiting anxiously to show him his surprise. Each time a car passes the house, someone in here is peeking out the window.

Middle Sister has decided to use the time more productively: "Might as well practice The Worm while I wait."

Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures

I think today I'll be needing some chocolate for breakfast.

I've been up for no longer than 1 hour and 15 minutes.

When I took my shower, the water kept changing temperature because the powder room toilet decided to run on and off, on and off, the entire time. (I can't figure out how to fix it)

When I went to make the coffee, the little spring that tells the coffeemaker whether there is a coffeepot under the filter pan to pour coffee into, fell off and rolled under the refrigerator. (I did manage to retrieve, wash, and repair it; coffee's brewing now).

Little Brother wet his bed.

After I washed and dressed him and stripped his bed I brought the wet things to the laundry. Middle Sister had put something large on the dryer last night. When I moved it, I knocked the dryer-vent tube loose. (I'm not sure I have it on quite tight enough).

Definitely, chocolate for breakfast. What would be more nutritious--Snickers or Almond Joy?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Why is it

that when my husband is away, I get this uncontrollable urge to move furniture?

Luckily for me (and my back) the kids enjoy the adventure of rearranging a room (or several) and will even help. Couldn't have done it without them. And won't Daddy be surprised when he gets home?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

How Far Will the Food Police Go?

Yesterday it was all over the local news that Kentucky Fried Chicken food has a lot of fat in it--way more than what's good for you, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Somebody paid good money (probably my money and your money) to conduct a study to figure this out. I could have told them that just based on the number of napkins one must use when consuming a 3-Piece Extra Crispy Value Meal with Biscuit, Potatoes and Gravy.

So, yeah. Fast food has a lot of fat in it. (It has a lot of salt too, but they didn't study that. They'll probably wait and waste my money and your money on that another time.) It has more fat than what's good for you.

But nobody is forcing that fast food down your throat. People who eat fast food make the choice to eat fast food. They could get a salad but they don't. They could cook at home but they don't. (And yes, sometimes I eat fast food. And sometimes I get fast food for my family. I don't think that occasional fast-food consumption is going to kill us.)

This all makes me wonder, though--how far is the government going to take this? There are lawsuits pending against companies for putting too much fat in their foods. And I agree with Yum! Brands (parent company of Kentucky Fried Chicken) that such lawsuits are frivolous. They make the food. They sell the food. They do not put a gun to their customers' heads and make them eat the food. Unless they blatantly lie in their advertising, saying that food with more fat in a single meal than an adult needs in a week is Good For You, or unless their kitchens are filthy and therefore unsafe, then they can prepare their food in whatever manner they want. It's their ingredients, their recipe, their product.

What I fear is that with the thinking that one can sue over, and legislate, menus in restaurants over the amount of a certain ingredient that is put in a food that people CHOOSE TO BUY AND EAT, will come decisions by the health-care industry that they will deny care to people who CHOOSE to do things that are bad for them. Patients will be screened before treatment. Heavy drinker? Smoker? Eater-of-stuff-that's-bad-for-you? Sorry. It was wrong, you knew it was wrong, but you did it anyway. Can't help you out. Pregnant, and in need of prenatal care? Too should have used birth control. You're on your own. Injured in a motorcycle accident? Can't operate on you; you chose not to wear a helmet. You're too stupid to deserve our care.

Is that where we're going with this? Will parents of Downs Syndrome babies be denied proper care for those children, because they didn't choose to abort?

A future in which decisions for a person's health care are directly related to that person's choices (good, bad or otherwise) does not seem that far away to me. It does, however, seem very scary.

Works-For-Me Wednesday: Onions

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I'm a Complete And Total Wimp when it comes to chopping onions. I cook with them at least three times a week, but it's always been a struggle to chop them. I wind up in tears and unable to see the onions or the knife--never a good thing.

Last week in preparation for our very large party, I had about 7 pounds of onions to slice, dice and chop for various dishes. I looked around on the Web for some ideas on "no-more-tears" onion slicing.

I couldn't envision myself managing to slice onions underwater (one suggestion) but I did find a tip I could use: Wear swim goggles when slicing onions.

I'm a glasses wearer, but I found I could see well enough to use the knife. Certainly I could see better than when tears are running out of my eyes and pooling up behind my glasses.

It looked pretty weird, but wearing swim goggles when slicing onions works for me!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Two Images for Today

I found some great images of Saint Anthony of Padua on different blogs today. Very different images, but both very special in their own way.

At A Peek into Insanity, we see:
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I love the devotion you can see in the eyes of both figures in this image.

Faithmouse has a very clever tribute to Saint Anthony today also:
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Cool pun on the "Doctor of the Church" title! But it's not done in a mocking way, but rather in a way that honors Saint Anthony's concern for the health of the Church.

Hat tip to both these bloggers for the images.

A New Twist

I can't begin to count how many times I've told the kids not to play ball in the house.

"Mom always said, don't play ball in the house."

But until today, the indoor ballplaying had been restricted to throwing balls. Little Brother, who marches to the beat of a different drummer, put a new spin on the forbidden activity. He was caught at the top of the kitchen stairs, wiffle-ball bat and Talking Phillies Kind-of-Soft Baseball in hand, ready for the first pitch.

A Postmortem of a Very Weird Sort

Big Brother has returned to school nearly every day since graduation. He was asked by the staff to help the teachers box up, clean out, take down and throw out the contents of the classrooms, along with a few other graduates.

So there's a big dumpster right outside the front door, next to the flagpole. Apparently the boys have been (with adult permission) tossing stuff out second-floor windows into the dumpster. The teachers on the third floor refused to let them throw things from that height, however. Definitely a wise move on their part.

Basically it's been a kind of macabre garage sale. The kids helping out the teachers have found all sorts of interesting things in the storage areas, and they're told that they can keep some of it, or throw it out. He's gotten a radio, a small disco ball, a fox puppet, a set of Bible videos, some sport bottles, an old but functioning labelmaker, a volleyball and a package of math manipulatives.

It occurred to me this morning another way in which the loss of the school will be a loss to the parish. The school has provided a steady supply of Altar Servers to the church. The children served at daily Mass during summer vacation as well as during the school year. They were well-trained and reverent. The adults who attended daily Mass appreciated the presence of the young servers, and I believe that the servers benefited not only from attending daily Mass--even if it was only for a week at a time, here and there--but from the example and dedication of the adults who attended. The blessing of that contact between young and older Catholics will, I think, be missed by all of them.

And the sight of the dumpster in front of the school, next to the flagpole where the children used to line up each morning...that is something I hoped I would never see. I hate to drive up to the school and be confronted by it. All that tradition, all that dedication, all that hard work--into the dumpster.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Saint Anthony, pray for us

Tomorrow, June 13, is the Feast of Saint Anthony of Padua. He's probably one of The Most Famous and Popular saints out there, and what's really interesting is that even though so many people know of him, I'd bet that very few know too much about him.

First of all, Saint Anthony wasn't from Padua. He wasn't even Italian--he was Portuguese! And his whole life story, which is fascinating, involves one situation after another when he set out with a goal in mind and wound up doing something, or being somewhere, completely different. He set out to become an Augustinian friar, but became a Franciscan after encountering some at his monastery. He hoped to become a martyr after preaching the Word of God to the Moors, in the manner of the first Franciscans he met. Always he was willing to listen for the will of God in his life; he was always ready to change his course to follow where the Lord was leading. Saint Anthony was a model of obedience; the word obey comes from the root "to hear" and this is exactly what he did. He heard the voice of God and followed it.

He was famous for preaching, and for his scholarship in Scripture and theology. There is a story that when Anthony discovered once that he was preaching to people who refused to accept God's truth, he turned around, faced the water and preached to the fish instead. Because the Child Jesus miraculously appeared to Anthony, he is often pictured in art holding the Baby Jesus, as well as a Bible and a lily (for purity).

Growing up, I was surrounded by family members who held great devotion to Saint Anthony. Because I was nurtured in a Franciscan environment (school, parish and an uncle who's a Franciscan priest) there were lots of opportunities to participate in this devotion through the Tuesday novenas to Saint Anthony. As a child I looked forward to the little breads that were given to novena attendees, in commemoration of Saint Anthony's practice of feeding the poor. One of the prayers that is part of the novena ritual is taken from Saint Anthony's sermons:

Bind us to you and to our neighbor with love.
May our hearts not be turned away from you.
May our souls not be deceived, nor our talents or minds enticed by allurements of error, so that we may never distance ourselves from your love.
Thus may we love our neighbor as ourselves with strength, wisdom and gentleness.
With your help, you who are blessed throughout all ages. Amen.

There's a lot more to Saint Anthony than the whole "finder of all lost things" title that has been conferred upon him by centuries of tradition. A few years ago I read a book called "A Rich Young Man" by John Beahn (which apparently is out of print); it was excellent. The most important thing that I took away from this book was that when presented with the choice: "My Way or God's Way?", Saint Anthony chose God's Way.

Pray for us, Saint Anthony, that we too will be willing and courageous enough to listen for and follow God's will in our lives.

Obviously, he has the wrong skill set for this job

Little Brother just asked Big Brother, "Can you help me get my army guys out?"

Big Brother answered, "You can do it!"

Little Brother's response was, "No I can't! With all my skills, I can't. You can."

Since when did a 4-year-old start throwing around H-R terms? I'm noticing that he did manage to marshal the skills necessary to get his tank, fort and army guys and begin setting up a battle.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sleep! Who Needs It?

Me, that's who! But I'm not getting any sleep tonight.

I fell asleep just fine, thank you, after cleaning up from Big Brother's Big Honkin' Graduation Party and Moon Bounce Jamboree. A good time was had by all. A good meal was had by all, too. At least I hope so! I cooked so much food; if you left here hungry it was not my fault.

The Boy Scouts are camping at a local lake this weekend, and they called Big Brother to ask if he'd come to camp after the party, so he could play Laser Tag with them. He'll never say no to that. They're probably all still up playing Laser Tag.

Little Brother was a Super Cranky, Whiny Boy all day yesterday. He didn't even feel like singing his new favorite song for my mom, and he loves to sing for her. In case you wanted to know, the title is "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, Have You Any More?" Around midnight we found out why he was so cranky--he's got a fever. Poor guy.

And Middle Sister was disappointed that after the party was over I did not feel like watching a movie until all hours of the night. I may as well have, for all the sleep I'm getting now.

In less than 3 hours I have to wake up Daddy so he can fly to Boston to participate in Tech-Ed (what I refer to as "The Geek Convention.") He'll get to spend 6 days talking about programming with people who actually understand him! That almost never happens at home. Wonder what I should ask him to bring back--besides the usual bag full of freebie pens with computer-company logos and the occasional T-shirt. One year it was in New Orleans and he got me some Cafe du Monde coffee. But Boston--hmmm....baked beans don't travel well and neither does clam chowder.

I had a Father's Day gift all wrapped ready to give my dad, but I forgot, while he was here. Sorry, Dad. You'll just have to wait. And it's a Really Cool Gift, too!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Waiting in Line at the Bank Drive-Thru

We've all done that. I do it at least once a week.

But yesterday I did something I've never done before.

I waited in line at the bank drive-thru...behind a pedestrian.

Friday, June 09, 2006

What to do when a storm approaches

1. Ask Mom to check the radar on Weatherbug and see how far away the storm is.

2. Notice how hard the wind is blowing.

3. Run outside to see exactly how hard the wind is blowing.

4. Run back inside and find a piece of paper.

5. Make a paper airplane.

6. Go back out and fly the airplane in the next big wind gust.

7. Repeat until the rain starts and the plane gets wet.

Brought to you by the Big and Little Brother Department of Fun and Amusement

Another APB

Little Brother has been playing "Hide from Mommy" today. He thinks it's funny. I do not. After the first episode this morning, he received his first lecture about "answer me when I call you."

Just as Big Brother finished mowing the lawn, I noticed that the sound of Little Brother's chatter was not part of the background noise. Middle Sister was watching TV, and we both started looking for Little Brother. She checked outside; I checked all the rooms of the house. She was dialing the phone to ask the neighbors if he'd left the building without "checking out" and gone to visit their puppy when I found him. Under a very heavy afghan, with a contraband Game Boy.

Video games are reserved for after dinner around here. But Little Brother's privileges have been suspended until further notice. I'm in the kitchen chopping vegetables, so I assigned Middle Sister to take Little Brother outside to play, and keep an eye on him.

So she started a game of Hide and Seek.

At my age, it can't be an Amber Alert

But I think we should put out an APB anyway.

Screaming Meemie Nutty Party Mom is missing.

Tomorrow we are having a whole lot of party--almost 100 family members and friends--to celebrate Big Brother's graduation. This is what happens when you have a large extended family!

Normally by this stage of the game I am a complete wreck. I go around, spinning my wheels, micromanaging everyone else and, well, you get the idea. It's like a cross between the White Tornado and a drill sergeant. It's not pleasant. By the time the party comes around, nobody wants to.

This year, I think my husband is wondering if we've got one of those "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" things going. The poor guy is probably waiting for the other shoe to drop. Eventually I'm going to have to lose it.

I certainly can't figure out why it is that this time I am keeping it together. I'm cooking for more people than I've ever cooked for--with some help from my terrific neighbors. But I just keep looking around, checking my list, and thinking, "I'm OK."

On the other hand, let's cancel that Amber Alert. I don't want Screaming Meemie Nutty Party Mom back, and I'm sure my family doesn't either. I prefer the gift I've been given, thank you. Because it has to be a gift. There's just no other explanation.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Culture of Life Quote of the Day

Jean at Catholic Fire has this posted and I hope she doesn't mind that I post it here as well--because we all need to pay attention to this one:

Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world.

~ Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Works-for-Me Wednesday: Bread Box

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I don't own a breadbox. And with a 10X11 kitchen that contains a table for 4 (obviously we don't eat our meals there anymore) plus the usual cabinets and appliances, I don't have space for a breadbox.

What I do own is a Nesco roaster. OK, I own several, but only one big enoug for this job. It's so big that the only place I can store it is on top of the dry sink in my dining room--but it looks kind of "retro" so I can go with it. When I'm not using it as a mini-oven or very large soup tureen, I have a black wire basket inside it, full of bread, English muffins, and burger buns. When I need to use the roaster it's easy to just take out the basket of bread and relocate it for a short while. The bread stays just as fresh as it would in a breadbox, I'm using what would otherwise be "dead space" and I don't lose my precious countertop inches.

Works for me!

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I Like Wednesdays

...because it means I get to stock up on great tips from the Works for Me Wednesday crew.

Tune in tomorrow for mine. When I think of one.

But I wanted to link to The Most Super Tip that I happened upon last week: the Dinner Dice.

Basically you use a cube (cardboard, wood, whatever) and write a chore on each side. Mine read:
Say Grace
Set Table
Wipe Table
Fridge Filler (put away butter, grated cheese, whatever!)
Dish Helper
Floor Sweeper

All of these chores can in some way be done by my children at the ages they are. Of course, Little Brother needs more help in some departments, but he's very good at helping out. And I think it's good for the kids to learn that the butter does not magically leave the table, jump to the kitchen and hide itself in the butter compartment of the fridge when they are not looking.

So, before dinner they all get to roll the dice. Tonight Little Brother got Daddy to roll the dice too. Guess what! Daddy got "Dish Helper!" Was I lucky or what?!

Capillary Action in Action

Big Brother was given a carnation at graduation last night; all the students got one, to give to their mothers. I couldn't find a bud vase too readily so I put it in a tall iced tea glass.

After dinner Middle Sister announced that she knew how to make the flower turn color. I let her put several drops of food coloring in the water. She instructed us to wait overnight and we'd see the change.

Little Brother was intrigued by the tall glass containing bright green water and a white flower.

LB: "Why is the water green?"
Me: "Middle Sister wants the flower to drink the green water and turn green."

This fascinated Little Brother, so much so that I needed to add, "You may NOT drink the green water."

SFO Mom Gets to Brag

Last night Big Brother graduated from 8th grade. And he did us proud.
He received several awards:
The Altar Rosary Society Service Award (given to all graduating Altar Servers)
The American Legion Award for courage, scholarship, almost sounded like a recitation of Boy Scout qualities--but he is a Boy Scout, so it fits.
The award for the highest grade in History (his favorite subject)
The award for the highest grade in Religion, given by the Catholic Daughters
The General Excellence Award (given to the two students with the highest grade-point averages in the class)

All this, despite the fact that almost every day, when asked if he had homework, the answer was, "I did it in Science."
Great job, Big Brother!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I'm Charging Up My Camera Battery

Tomorrow Big Brother graduates from 8th grade.

I received an email this morning from the Music Director asking me if I'd like to help accompany and sing at the Graduation Mass. Middle Sister will be an Altar Server. We will be a busy bunch but that makes the occasion more special, I think.

I haven't played in that church since it was announced that the school would close. It's going to be hard--because I think the pastor is going to be there, and I have not come to terms with our differences regarding the way the school closing was handled, and my feelings of betrayal over it. So I guess I'd better pick a dress with pockets, because along with my camera I'm going to need to carry some tissues.

I'll be smiling too, though, because I am very proud of Big Brother (despite his apparent lack of table manners) and all he has achieved. I'm looking forward to his entering high school in the fall, where he will study German--because he wants to--and where he will be challenged in some Honors classes.

So I will pour that pride into every chord I play, every lyric I sing. I will try to forget about the bad stuff, even when a physical reminder is right there in front of me. I will try to just celebrate the moment, and send off the 8th grade on a happy note. The Recessional Hymn is "Lead Me, Lord." Amen to that.

More Things I Never Thought I'd Need to Say

At Middle Sister's keyboard recital tonight: "Don't braid your earrings."

The mom across the table just stared at me for a second--and then we both lost it.

A Sentence that Strikes Fear in a Mother's Heart

"Betcha I can do 21," Big Brother bragged through a mouthful of 14 grapes.

Would you like a side of Heimlich with your grapes?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

A Model for All of Us

I remember that when I was recently out of college, I participated in a focus group to critique a draft of the US Bishops' Pastoral Letter on Women. My "liberal" arts education just completed, I was not in much of a position to be receptive to much of the content of the letter. I think I was more receptive to the Gevalia coffee served by the hostess of the meetings than anything else!

What I remember most about the content of the draft I viewed was the position that could be distilled as follows: "Men can follow Jesus, but women can be like Mary." Oh no no no! Be the "handmaid" of the Lord? I don't think so. I was raised and educated in the 1970's and 80's. We're nobody's "handmaids" any more.

Both my grandmothers had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother. Both of them prayed the Rosary daily. One of my grandmothers had a picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in her kitchen. And I think they knew something that I didn't understand until much later.

There is no disgrace in being like Mary. Actually, it's a high goal to stive for. And since my vocation now is "wife, mother and Secular Franciscan," how can I strive for anything else?

This morning I read a fascinating treatment of this idea. Here's one part (but do read the rest!):
the idea of identifying ourselves with Mary, modeling ourselves on her,
is an old one. Christ Himself invites all of us – male or female - to
be His mother. He says “My mother and my brothers are those who hear
the word of God and keep it,”(Luke 8:21) and no one heard the Word of
God and kept it in quite the way she did.

Via Ramblings of a GOP Soccer Mom.

Friday, June 02, 2006


I took this "Find Your Mothering Style" quiz just now. Here are the results:

Your type is: istj —The “Responsibility” Mother

“I have a serious love affair with to-do lists. I could sit for hours reading, organizing, and rearranging my weekly calendar.”

* The ISTJ mother has a highly developed sense of responsibility: for work, home, family ... particularly her children. Whether she’s overseeing daily baths or insisting on a 10 p.m. curfew, her efforts are largely focused on providing her children with order and routine. She wants them, regardless of age, to be able to count on her and the structure she provides.
* In carrying out her commitment to her responsibilities, the ISTJ mother is organized, industrious, and detail-oriented. Because her focus is the day-to-day realities of life, her children are likely to feel secure and well provided for.
* The ISTJ mother also sets a good example and provides her children with practical guidance on being a productive, responsible individual. Still, with all her seriousness, she may delight family members with her quick wit and observations about the details of life.

The spooky part is the quote--since right here on my desk next to me is my planner and monthly menu--which I'm rearranging.

H/T to Happy Catholic for the link to the quiz.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Milestone Approaches

Doing the laundry today brought it home to me: in just two more school days, Big Brother will no longer be an elementary-school student.

There won't be any more light-blue "St. Peter's School" golf shirts on my clothesline; no more blue chinos in the wash. After nine straight years of wearing blue chinos to school every day, he'll be trading them in for gray at high school next year. I've washed my last blue uniform for my son.

The last time he graduated was from kindergarten. Middle Sister was just over 2, and she "crashed" the ceremony--lining up in the middle of the kindergarten children for her chance at a mimeographed diploma, and holding up the works when the principal wouldn't give her a piece of paper. Big Brother's friends let her in line, because she had kind of been adopted as "younger sister to the whole class."

Kindergarten diplomas are nice; from here on in, it starts to count for real.

Where does he pick these things up?

This morning while Little Brother and I were on our way to the store, a car making an illegal turn cut me off at an intersection.

Little Brother's comment: "That was cheap."

And in totally unrelated matters, can anyone tell me why I found a tennis ball in the bathroom just now?

Tommie of the Year

Faithmouse has a great cartoon today on the graduation speech issue.

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He's also got more links to blogs addressing the subject. Click on the link above OR on the cartoon to get there.