Thursday, December 31, 2009

Winter Cleaning

I guess Big Brother has resolved to take to heart the Boy Scout virtue: "A Scout is clean" because I just discovered that he cleaned out "his" car. I know this because when I walked into the kitchen, I found not one but TWO lunchboxes that had been hiding out in his car for the past few weeks.

But the icy packs inside were still cold.


I wish!

Sometimes I think it would be really great if I could just crawl into a cave and hide and sleep until spring. I wouldn't miss the cold of winter, that's for sure.

I know that all the "holiday socializing" is getting to me, and there will be 4 days of that starting today. I'm just hanging on until Monday! I am not one of those people who gets all energized from being around others. Instead, I like to hibernate. Being around others can really drain my battery. Even if they're people I love!

I wish I didn't feel like socializing is such a chore--but I do, and I fear that it's just in my nature to think that way.

Tomorrow's agenda will also include attending the wake of my second cousin, who passed away Tuesday. The wake is being held on his birthday, of all things. The kindness of your prayers is appreciated for a big man who died too young. He would have turned 49 tomorrow.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

We had a lovely day. A little sleep-deprived, but lovely. Little Brother woke up at 2 and saw that Santa had been here. It took some doing to talk him out of opening his gifts right then.

We attended early Mass because it was for my father-in-law. But the later Mass was the one that the folk group was going to play. Big Brother offered to attend two Masses if I would, so we both went back for "round two." The doubleheader was definitely worth it. It was wonderful to sing all the Christmas carols with the other musicians in the folk group, and a couple of other friends who joined us for the day. Afterwards, Father H. (the parochial vicar) told us that the music was wonderful and that it had filled the church. So we did what we were there to do. I love Christmas carols!

Tomorrow I will drink my coffee in the "My mom is great" coffee mug that Little Brother got me at Santa's Secret Shop. Then we'll head up to my parents' house for "Christmas: The Day After." But now, I'm off to sleep. Hopefully it'll be a calmer night tonight!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Little Elf on Christmas Eve

Little Brother was up early this morning, of course. Now he's sitting at the computer in his warm fleece pajamas and too-big slippers, wearing the computer headphones and Big Brother's Santa hat on top of them.

He looks like a little elf. He's happy because his two front teeth haven't grown in yet, and he intends to make the most of that this evening when he gets his chance to sit on Santa's lap. "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" is his theme song, and he knows how to work it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow Day

It's a snow day today--and that's a big understatement.

It's been snowing for more than 12 hours now and we have several inches of snow. No signs of it stopping anytime soon. In fact, a storm that was supposed to give us 6 inches as of yesterday and 12 inches as of this morning is now up to 14 inches PLUS, up to TWO FEET in areas. It's hard to tell with all the blowing and drifting--my husband's car is nearly clean because of the way the wind is blowing. But everything blowing off his car is piling up on (and in front of) MY van. Huh.

It's so snowy that Father cancelled all Masses this weekend. Therefore, the Secular Franciscans will not be hosting our "Living Nativity at Greccio" this year.

TheDad thought that this would be a perfect day for me to bake cookies, but I'm parked on the couch with cramps, Advil and a heating pad. No cookies today--I'm not up for standing in the kitchen for several hours rolling out dough. Not gonna happen. Sorry, cookie eaters. Maybe later in the week.

I should be working out the rest of my pre-surgery meal plans, etc. But I'm not getting much done. That's OK, I guess. I'll need to learn to accept that kind of reality 3 weeks from now, so I'll just consider this practice.

Friday, December 18, 2009


I like driving around town looking at people's displays of outdoor Christmas decorations. There are lots of pretty lights, fresh green wreaths with red bows, vintage sleds, stars and more. There are reindeer on the lawn, or the occasional wooden cutout Nativity scene.

Of course, some houses have all of the above.

And then there are the inflatable decorations. There's a house that I pass on the way to Big Brother's school that has no fewer than eight inflatables: Frosty, Santa, a huge snow globe, and others that I can't remember just now. Problem is, most people don't inflate their decorations until it gets dark, so all day long people drive by and see Frosty doing a face-plant on someone's lawn.

That's not a pretty sight.

The only inflatable I was ever tempted to consider displaying was a Snoopy-as-World-War-I-Flying-Ace, complete with doghouse. Now that was cool.

The saddest thing, though, was what I saw today. The house had an inflatable Nativity scene--but it wasn't turned on. So the Holy Family lay flat and crumpled on the dead winter grass.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Allrighty Then

Haloscan has decided that if I want to keep comments I'll need to pay for them. I'm not THAT pleased with their product, so I'm switching back to Blogger comments. But it looks like that means that all my Haloscan comments are gone. Poof!

Such is life, I guess.

Please know that I didn't delete the comments for any other reason.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gloria FTW!

I defy anyone to listen to Michael W. Smith's "Angels We Have Heard on High" and not have their spirits lifted.


So far, it's been a disappointing day. The high point was singing at Mass with the folk group; my schedule hasn't permitted that during the first 2 weeks of Advent and won't next weekend either. I'd much rather play than sit in a pew. (So would Big Brother, who is volunteering to attend Mass twice on Christmas Day--once because the 9 AM Mass is for his grandfather, so we're all going to that one, and then back for the 11 to play with the folk group.)

Otherwise, my mood is matching the rainy, cold, crummy weather.

I'd rather be watching Middle Sister's basketball game. But I am supposed to be stringing lights on the Christmas tree so that later we can decorate.

I'm not in a stringing-lights kind of mood. Not even with the Michael W. Smith "Christmas" album to motivate me.

I need to find a way to rejoice today, despite a rather difficult houseguest situation that is going to resolve itself in a "not a happy ending" kind of way very soon; despite the weather; despite all of it.

I can't let the Devil get the better of my Gaudete Sunday.

Friday, December 11, 2009


...from the laundry room:

"Little Brother, were you chewing on your sweater?"


"Don't do that?"


"If you want to chew something, get food!"

"Sorry. It was almost dinnertime..."


Today I chaperoned an eighth-grade trip.

My daughter's class went on a pre-Confirmation retreat. We drove 1 1/2 hours to the retreat house (at the beach), where the students listened to a short talk by the priest who was coordinating the day. After that, they saw a prolife video that showed how babies develop in the womb--and just how soon after conception the heartbeat, brain waves and other functions have already gotten started. Mass was next, followed by lunch, a short activity on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and then cleanup for departure.

The students were lucky to have as their retreat director Monsignor Michael Mannion, who has not only worked with Mother Theresa and been a campus minister at several universities but also has worked with Project Rachel, a group that ministers to post-abortive mothers and fathers. Msgr. Mannion and my daughter's teacher strongly believe that it is never too early to teach children about the sanctity of life and the value of each person.

In his opening remarks to the students and later during his homily, Msgr. Mannion explained the difference between "idols" and "heroes." Idols, he said, are people who may work very hard at what they do--but it is for their own gain. Heroes, on the other hand, work very hard so that others, rather than themselves, will benefit. He challenged this group of 30+ teenagers to strive to be heroes, rather than idols; to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit in ways that will help other people. The day closed with the famous reading about love from St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians.

The day was definitely worth the long ride on an unheated school bus. I hope that the eighth-graders were inspired by Msgr. Mannion's presentation and Mass today.


That Notre Dame's reputation as a "sports school" reaches even to second-graders.

Little Brother was showing off how he can do the math skill of "regrouping" (when you have more than 10 ones, so you add 1 to the tens and subtract 10 from the ones.) I asked him if he knew what to do when you had more than 20 ones.

"You can't do that, Mom. You can only have 10 extra ones when you're regrouping."

Clearly, I am ignorant in the ways of second-grade math. "I guess I'm not smarter than a second-grader," I joked.

"Go back to college, Mom," he shot back.

Those are fighting words.

Putting on my best Dick Vitale imitation, I reminded him, "I finished college, pal, and I also have an Advanced Degree. I went to Notre Dame on a full scholarship, babyyyy."

"What did you play?"

Notre Dame, you've got some work to do. It's time to reclaim your reputation as more than a football factory.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A Different Kind of Advent

I'm preparing. But I'm not using this Advent as well as I should. I'm doing what's got to be done to make Christmas as it should be for my family. But I'm more focused on what's coming after Christmas.

Two weeks after Christmas, I will be having a hysterectomy. I'm looking forward to this--more so than I am to Christmas this year. I am looking forward to relief of symptoms that have been worsening for several years.

So I'm shopping, and wrapping, and ignoring the fact that we haven't even thought about Christmas cards yet, and making a list and checking it twice. But the list that I'm really dealing with is the one that includes the meals I can get prepared ahead of time, and the commitments I'll need to bail on for a while, and the household chores that someone else will have to do.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

It's Snowing!

...and raining. And it's just warm enough that all the snow melts as soon as it hits anything. But it's pretty outside. Pretty wet, too.

Once Little Brother and Adventure Boy discovered it was snowing, they had to go right out. They're trying to play basketball out there in the snow and rain.

Of course, if it weren't snowing, they wouldn't be outside. You couldn't pay them to be outside.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


in my driveway:

"Last one in the house is a rotten egg!"

(I'm really amazed that it has taken 3 children--almost 8 years in for that third child--for someone to hook onto that whole "last one ____ is a rotten egg" thing. My other two kids were never into it at all. I think this is the first I've heard the phrase as a parent!)

Cue the disinterested teenager:

"I don't care."

And that was answered with:

"Last one in the house is a rotten egg!" (Clearly, there's an echo in here here here...)

And followed up with:

"I'm first in the house! I'm a regular egg!"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A stroke of genius

If I do say so myself.

I hated not to make the Advent paper chain this year, but I was really behind on brainstorming a special thing per day.

And I was dreading the whole "who gets custody of the Advent wreath" argument that we have EVERY SINGLE DAY for the entire season (in my book, that's part of the reason for the penitential purple).

So...I made the chain. But instead of writing in an activity for the day, I wrote in ONE name of a family member. That person gets to light the Advent candle before we say grace at dinner. That person also gets to blow the candle out. If that person is not home for dinner that night, Mom and Dad get candle duty. There will be no do-overs, trades or other alterations to the schedule. (The Great Oz has spoken. That would be me.)

I can't believe it took me this long to figure out an easy way to end all those candle arguments.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I don't want to fail Advent this year

There's been a lot of other stuff going on. I'm getting over the pre-Black-Friday craziness that goes along with my writing job, and I'm hoping that things stay calm as Christmas approaches. (OK, I can hope!)

We've got another year of "every piece of music until the Communion Song is new or almost-new" (things that were new last year in Advent count as almost-new, as singing them for only 4 weeks and then not all the rest of the year does not get you familiar with a song). That's frustrating and discouraging. And people can't sing along.

I've had some health concerns, which will be resolved soon. Gotta get through Christmas first, though. Nothing to get too worried about, unless you're me, because I'm a professional worrier.

So I did dig through the Christmas Closet in the basement. I have a weird closet in there. It's about 3 feet wide and 18 inches deep. I keep all the Rubbermaid tubs full of Christmas decorations in there, as well as Christmas wrapping paper. Nothing else would fit in there anyway, and this works well for me. Anyway, I found the Advent wreath, candles, and Nativity. That's all I need for tomorrow.

But usually I overachieve a little more during Advent. Usually I make the Advent paper chain, although looking back at last year, I didn't get that done then either. I think the kids missed it. I don't know if I have any purple paper. If not, maybe I'll just have to write with pink and purple marker on white paper and call it a day.

It's going to be a weird Advent. I'll only be singing one Sunday out of 4; this week we are "off" due to other folk-group members' vacation and work schedules. Next week is Big Brother's Eagle Scout ceremony, and I won't be able to sing at noon Mass and prepare for a 2:00 ceremony. So early Mass it is next week. Same for the last Sunday of Advent, which is our Greccio celebration with the Secular Franciscans. I'm going to need to be there earlier than a noon Mass would let me get there.

Now if only my kids would behave themselves around the candles, it'll be all good. I'm not betting on that, though. And I'm not looking forward to the fights over who gets to light (and blow out) the candles. Maybe I'll let the kids have a week at a time.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks, a Little Early

Big Brother traveled to Mississippi with a cold and came back with airplane ear. So today I made a doctor appointment for him; this way he won't have to suffer through the weekend. The plan was, I'd pick him up at school to sign him out at 11:30. He wouldn't miss much class time that way.

The phone rang at 10:45; it was one of Big Brother's former teachers. She wanted to let me know that Big Brother had fainted during Mass, and that an ambulance had been called.


We only live 5 minutes away from the school, and I explained that I was taking Big Brother to the doctor today anyway. Did he have to go to the ER? The teacher passed the phone to the principal, who promised to hold the ambulance until I got there.

Let me tell you, it's pretty freaky to run out your front door and hear sirens that you know are responding to your child's medical emergency--and that will get there before you do. Naturally, I hit both red lights on the way to the school, but once I was in the school's long, narrow, windy back driveway, I set a new land-speed record (42 MPH in a 15-MPH zone, in the van. Usually my top speed is 37 in TheDad's zippy little sedan.) Let's just say it was a good thing that the police officers were already inside the school and not following me up that back driveway.

Running into the building, I was met by the principal, vice principal, several teachers and other staff members, some police officers and a paramedic--and a very pale Big Brother in a wheelchair. His worried-looking girlfriend was also in the hallway. I explained to the paramedic that Big Brother had a medical appointment in an hour, and signed the release form. Big Brother's girlfriend headed to his locker to get the books he needed for the weekend. His English teacher teased him about going to great lengths to avoid the vocabulary test scheduled in her class later that morning. The priest exited the auditorium and spoke with Big Brother, making sure that he hadn't scared him when he anointed him after his fainting spell.

I'm thankful that the doctor thinks Big Brother will be just fine; he was a bit dehydrated and has bronchitis. A Z-pack and plenty of fluids will get him past that. I'm thankful for the priest who took the time to anoint Big Brother and to stop by and see him after Mass. I'm thankful for the vice-principal who walked us to the van, just to make sure Big Brother was steady on his feet. I'm thankful for the teacher who called the house just after we got home, because students in her homeroom were worried, and for the teacher who told me to send her a text message after the doctor visit, because she was worried. I'm thankful for all the kids who texted Big Brother throughout the afternoon, checking up on him.

He's feeling fine now, and I'm just feeling grateful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Purple Cement Mixer

On my dining room table right now: salt and pepper shakers, basket of napkins, and a purple cement mixer.

That last item arrived on the table last night, when a cute and charming visiting 3-year-old brought it into the dining room, but was distracted by the tin of cookies for dessert and forgot to take it back out.

I'm not worried that said visiting 3-year-old left here without his favorite truck, because the cement mixer actually belongs to Little Brother, who hasn't played with his cars and trucks in a good long time, but seemed to have plenty of fun with them last night when his younger buddies were here.

I am wondering how long that truck will stay on the dining room table. We're not hosting Thanksgiving dinner, so there's no need to get formal. It might hang here a while.

After all, there's still an Army Guy in my bathroom. There's also a plastic Easter egg on the dining room hutch.

It's just part of the charm around here. And I kind of like it that way.

Pardon Me, Your OCD is Showing

Little Brother likes to help me unload the dishwasher. While most of its contents have to be put away in cabinets beyond his reach, he's more than capable of taking care of the silverware, especially since the little basket that holds them in the dishwasher is removable. He actually gets mad at me if I do "his" job.

Letting him help in this way, though, is a lesson in letting go. He (usually) gets the knives, forks, and spoons into the right compartments. But pointing in the right direction? Not so much.

This is one of those times when I need to remind myself that it really doesn't matter if the spoons are all facing the same way. He's 7, and he willingly helped me to a household job. I don't have to go back into that drawer and turn all the forks around so the tines point toward the wall.

I really want to, but I don't have to. And it's going to take all I have today to leave those forks alone.

By the time dinner rolls around, most of the forks will be back out of the drawer and on the table anyway. There's always a chance that tomorrow when Little Brother empties the clean-silverware basket, he'll face the forks the right way. (I can talk to myself like this all day, but I'm still going to struggle to stay away from that drawer.)

I've got to learn to save my perfectionism for situations when it's really needed, like editing. The sorting of silverware is something I'll need to let go. It might drive me crazy today (if I'm not crazy already) but it's way better for my kids.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Correct me if I'm wrong

One of my freelance jobs involves editing and posting articles to the website at Ultimate Coupons. (I highly recommend starting here if you're doing any online shopping, by the way. There are great deals to be had!)

And today I am working on one about the hard-to-find toys that are unavailable this year. One of them is the Zhu Zhu pet.

Personally, I don't see the attraction. It looks like a stuffed-toy hamster with a crop circle shaved into its back. Don't you think so?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday Miscellaneous

It's been busy around here, that's for sure.

Sometime around dinnertime tonight, Big Brother will return home with a duffel bag full of dirty laundry and lots of stories to tell. We're looking forward to that. I'm planning on making an apple pie to go with those stories.

I've barely started my Christmas shopping (for that matter, I've barely started making a list, never mind checking it twice.) But at one of my freelance writing jobs, it's been all-Black Friday, all the time. It's creeping over to the other site where I write as well.

There's a bunch to get done before Big Brother's Eagle Scout ceremony in two weeks. Looks like there will be quite a crowd attending.

Four weeks from now, the Secular Franciscans will once again host our "Living Nativity at Greccio." If you're local, why not join us? We're getting things all set--so far we've arranged for the animals, the hay, the music, and Baby Jesus. Gifts for each family attending are in progress, and there will be cookies and hot chocolate to top off the day.

But today, before much else goes on, my house is going to be invaded by Cub Scouts--20 or so Cub Scouts--and their parents. It's Scouting for Food day. They'll be collecting canned goods in my neighborhood, then sorting them and delivering them to the local food pantry. Last year we had 10 Cub Scouts and the back porch was buried in food. We're hoping to top that this year, as we have double the Scouts!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Taste of Things to Come

I miss Big Brother. He's spending the week in Mississippi, participating in Project Hope and Compassion with 15 other students and 3 teachers/staff members from his school.

Being that he's very busy and cell-phone reception is spotty, we don't hear much from him. He did text me yesterday to say that he's recovering from the cold he's had for the past week and working very hard.

I miss having him around, though. Tonight's folk group practice will be a little less lively. Meal planning was tough--there was a lot of "Big Brother likes this. I should save this for when he's back from his trip." And I don't get to share a laugh with him over Zits comics and

I guess this is what it will be like next year when he goes to college.

I'm proud of him and what he's doing. I'm glad he's having a good time and getting this invaluable experience, helping others and building houses.

I still miss him, though.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mr. Malaprop, Redux

I don't know where he learned the term, since it's not a phrase we say around here (in fact, some people in this house didn't know what it meant until I explained it) but tonight Little Brother put on a white thermal-underwear shirt with his Guitar Hero pajama pants, and then danced around the house shouting, "I'm wearing a tighty-whitie!"

Order Up!

I've been reading about Lisa Hendey's upcoming book, The Handbook for Catholic Moms, and today it is available for pre-order at the Catholic Company! The book is expected to be published in January. I pre-ordered mine; the contributors include Sharmane Adams, Susan Bailey, Rachel Balducci, Mary Ellen Barrett, Danielle Bean, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, Maria de Lourdes Ruiz Scaperlanda, Lisa Duffy, Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, Fr. Jay A. Finelli, Reverend Mr. Tom Fox, Pat Gohn, Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Mary Ann Kuharski, Phil Lenahan, James Martin, SJ, Laurie Manhardt, Arwen Mosher, Holly Pierlot, Sarah Reinhard, Paula Rutherford, Rebecca Ryskind Teti, Sue Stanton, Kate Wicker, Melissa Wiley--an all-star list to be sure. I recognize many of these names and look forward to seeing what they have to say. Moms can never get too much encouragement!


I was stalked earlier this morning--in my very own bathroom!

There I was, in the shower, when suddenly I realized I wasn't alone. A mosquito was hovering near the shower curtains. Let me just say that if you're alone in a small room with a mosquito, you don't want to be in the shower at the time. 100% of you is a target at that point.

Not wanting to wake up everyone else in the house, I did manage to stay quiet even as I finished my shower, grabbed a tissue and chased the predatory insect around the tiny space. My attempts to capture it were unsuccessful, not to mention ridiculous-looking. I'm sure the mosquito had a good laugh at my expense.

After everyone left for their day at work or school, I looked around the bathroom again, checking all the folds of the shower curtain and behind the medicine-cabinet door. No mosquito. This can only mean one thing: he's moved on to my bedroom. This is not going to be good.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What's in a Name?

I am a member of a musical ensemble at my church. It's been around for more than 25 years, and has a name that has been around that long: the Folk Group.

That's not a very dignified or pretentious name, but that's OK. We're not dignified or pretentious. I'm not saying we're irreverent, just that we're not full of ourselves.

We have no illusions about what we're there to do. We're on a mission, and I believe that as humble as our instruments may be (we've got 5 guitars), we fulfill our mission well. Our mission is to help the assembly at church pray through song. Our mission is to lead them in sung prayer. We don't do solos; we rarely do echoes or descants; there's nothing fancy going on. And I think it works. We see people opening their hymnals. We hear them singing along. Even if the song is new to them, they make an effort.

But now that we are under the leadership of the Musical Powers That Be in our parish, we've had to change our repertoire. We had to cast out of the Mass one of our very favorite acclamations--and one that the assembly absolutely loved. A year and a half later, that wound is still raw. We miss singing "our" version of The Lord's Prayer, and so do the people in the pews, who used to raise the rafters on that one week after week after week for more than 25 years.

We had to learn some new songs. Sometimes that's good. But some of them have not been such great songs, and we cringe--because we don't get to pick, anymore.

Last Sunday there was an interfaith music service hosted at our church. All the choirs from the area churches were invited to participate. Our Folk Group attended, and we were amused to see that we were not labeled "Folk Group" as we call ourselves. We were not labeled "Guitar Group" as the Music Director calls us. We were listed in the program as "Contemporary Group"--even though most of our music is less "contemporary" than what the regular choir sings. Go figure.

I guess "Contemporary Group" sounds classier than "Folk Group." But we're not in it to be classy. We're just folks who sing and play guitars and try to get people to sing along with us, because we're doing this for the glory of God.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Kid Logic: Non Sequitur

Little Brother got dressed before breakfast today, so I made him put his bathrobe over his uniform. That way, he wouldn't have a sweater full of toast crumbs.

After eating, he took off the robe and headed to the couch where I'd set down the newspaper. "Put that robe in your room and put your shoes on," I told him. "Then you can come back and read the paper until bus time."

"You're MEAN," he complained. "Because the Eagles LOST!"

Sunday, November 08, 2009


"You are going to wash that temporary tattoo off the back of your hand before altar serving, right?"

No Tacky Bridezillas Here

Last night when I was getting ready to go to sleep, I brushed my teeth and reached for my "days of the week" container to get my asthma medication. I almost opened the box marked "SUNDAY."

Then I realized that this was because of how I spent the day. TheDad and I attended the wedding of one of his younger cousins. The ceremony was beautiful, with carefully-chosen readings and wonderful, reverent music. And the reception, full of family and friends who all noticed how very happy the newly-married couple, along with their parents, were on this very happy day.

I felt like it was Sunday, because I had been to church. This was no "well, we want a church wedding, but we don't really want it to feel like church" kind of wedding. There was no grand-entrance dance down the aisle, like the Youtube video that's been going around. There was a lot of prayer. Make no mistake about it, a sacrament took place yesterday.

Thank you, Mary and Christopher, for your witness at your wedding yesterday. May God richly bless you both.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Flu = Plague, says the principal

Yesterday the following newsletter came home from my younger kids' school:

Today we celebrate and honor St. Charles Borromeo, who lived in Italy during the time of the Protestant Reformation. St. Charles was very instrumental in bringing reform to the church. St. Charles, although born to affluence, became a role model for all. St. Charles was willing to serve others in many ways. One was by administering to those afflicted with the plague in Milan.
The local public school district has invited all students in our school, whether they reside in the district or not, to be included in the distribution of the H1N1 vaccination.

Hello? Did the principal of the school just equate the Swine Flu with the Plague? Way to give in to the panic! Let's scare the parents into making sure our kids get the vaccine. Yeah, that'll work.

There is one good thing about the "pandemic" Swine Flu right now. Many parents are keeping sick kids home (where sick kids belong). At the school library today, some kids announced that a certain child was sick with the Swine Flu. The librarian informed them that yes, the boy was home sick, but we don't know if it's the Swine Flu or not. I decided to seize the moment and informed the first-graders that whatever this child has, he's right to stay home, and that he should eat some chicken soup and have some orange juice so he can get healthy faster. That derailed them into a discussion about healthy things to eat and got them off the topic of who's got what disease.

Speaking of getting derailed...I was saying that parents are keeping kids home who are sick, whether it's the flu or not. And that's the best way to keep everyone else healthy, including your sick child, who's vulnerable to other sick children's different germs if he's in school. That's why Middle Sister was home the past 2 days, though she hasn't had a fever--she's clearly sick, and I don't want her spreading whatever that is to others, or catching what others are spreading around.

And now I have until Monday to decide if I want my children vaccinated for H1N1. Thoughts?

Tie Story

It's all about ties around here, all of a sudden.

TheDad works in a rather casual environment. He's more dressed-up than most when he wears chinos and a golf shirt to work. But today he came downstairs wearing a dress shirt with his chinos and asking if I'd seen his tie. He has several ties, but he really only wears one--so I knew which one he meant.

I told him where it was, then added, "That tie doesn't match with those pants."

"I'll change my pants, then," he replied, and went back upstairs. He really likes that tie!

Meanwhile, Big Brother is getting ready for this weekend's Homecoming Dance. Apparently, if you take a date to the dance, you have to make sure your tie matches her dress. (He already did this once, for Prom.) So his date took a picture of her dress with her cell phone, and he went to Burlington Coat Factory to look for a tie. From there, he took pictures of ties with his cell phone until they found one that would work. And here I thought that guys had it easy when it was time for a school dance. Wear a suit, buy flowers, and you're done. Not anymore! Now you have to have a Matching Tie. I hope he really likes this tie, because it's kind of a waste to buy a tie and wear it once. I haven't seen him put on that prom tie again.

Monday, November 02, 2009

What is Virtue?

Sometimes you just never know where some wisdom is going to pop up.

I've been reading this book, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress. Overall, this book is rather anti-religious, and certainly the author is opposed to many things that I believe in and hold dear. But the book is funny, and I'm inclined to read it until I get to the end--just for the laughs.

Who knew that today I'd run into this bit of truth:

"virtue isn't a condition of character. It's an elected action. It's a choice we keep making, over and over, hoping that someday we'll create a habit so strong it will carry us through our bouts of pettiness and meanness."
(Rhoda Janzen, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress. New York: Henry Holt, 2009, p. 175)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween: the Aftermath

Halloween was a real bust this year. Between the drizzly, rainy weather and the World Series, we had fewer than 40 trick-or-treaters. On a Saturday, no less!

Little Brother got a ton of candy, though. He came home, spilled out his pillowcase and immediately started divvying it up. No one was here to trade with him, so he went straight into donation mode. "Mom, do you like this? Does Big Brother like this? What about Middle Sister?"

I left a bowl on the coffee table labeled "Donations Gratefully Accepted." It's full.

Big Brother is happy that not too many kids came here, because his friends all bailed on the plan to come and trick-or-treat in this neighborhood. He's claiming the leftovers. (Note to Big Brother: the Milky Ways are MINE.)

There were two parents who came to my door in costume and bearing bags of candy. Really? Parents--trick-or-treating? Come on! (Yes, I gave them candy.)

I was not so kind to the three "repeaters" who showed up here. Maybe if they'd left more than a 5-minute interval between visits, I'd have forgotten them and given them a second handful of candy.

And in the middle of the day I ran out to Petsmart to load up on birdseed--it was the last day of a really good sale on the 40-lb bags. Remind me never again to go to Petsmart on Saturday. It was nuts in there. All kinds of pets, and people milling around the deeply-discounted "dog costume" display. Spare me. On my way out of the parking lot, I passed the Halloween store, where a kid walking out of the store with his mom was wearing a t-shirt that said "This IS my costume." I hate that kind of thing; it seems so rude. Guess who showed up at my house a few hours later wanting candy?

Middle Sister went out with friends in a different neighborhood. I think she learned her lesson: many people were clearly home but didn't open the door when they knocked. Next time, her friends can all come here.

Big relief: not too many "out-of-line" costumes this year. Even most of the older girls were dressed "cute" rather than "hooker." I saw a lot of pirates, Star Wars characters and insect (butterfly, ladybug, caterpillar) and The Wizard of Oz was big this year too. In fact, my dentist and her entire office was dressed up in Wizard of Oz costumes. Let me tell you, it's hard to take a dentist seriously when she's dressed as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bishops Urge Catholics to Write to Congress Re: Health-Care Plan

There's no time to lose!

The Bishops have urged Catholics in the USA to email their Congress members this weekend.

Pat Gohn has the scoop:

When you attend Sunday Mass this weekend, you may see a bulletin insert from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.... you can read the insert in this pdf file.

The Bishops are calling on all Americans to contact Congress to oppose health care reform that does not respect the dignity of human life, and which support abortion with tax dollars.

The bishops have made an easy-to-use one-stop fill-in-the-blank form to send your comments to Congress. Pass this link on to others!

The main page from the Bishops about healthcare is here. There is lots of good information there.

Image credit

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Happy Happenings

So far so good today.

Only 2 cavities at the dentist--not bad for skipping out on appointments for 18 months. And she was too busy showing off her "Glinda, Good Witch of the North" costume (yeah, my dentist wore a costume to work today!) to bother me about much.

There's a Wawa right across the street from the dentist, so I got a good cup of coffee after I left.

I got home pretty quickly and got some of my work done before it was time to watch the kids' Halloween Parade at school.

The parade was cute, as always. I'm glad I went. Clever, last-minute "costume" from one boy who didn't bring one to school: a coin taped to the back of his t-shirt. He was a "quarterback." (Would have been more effective if he had a giant-sized fake quarter on his back, but oh well. It's the thought that counts.)

I stopped at the library to pick up the 2 books that were on reserve for me--only to find out that I had 9 waiting there! Guess the notices are backed up in the system. Good thing I had an empty tote bag in the car.

Then it was off to Sam's to stock up on "Gummy" vitamins, iron supplements, and plastic cups for Middle Sister's party today. She's having some friends over. I'd rather they hang out here on Mischief Night, so I can confine them to my own family room and not worry about whose neighborhood they are wandering. BONUS: Sam's had big bags of ice, so I didn't have to make another stop at a convenience store to get that.

All I have to do for this party is supervise a tidy-up (and vacuuming) of the family room, do a swish through the bathrooms, and make some pizza roll-ups and pepperoni bread. Maybe I'll get really motivated and get the recipe for that pepperoni bread posted to my recipe blog.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday Miscellaneous Vents

I'm really glad the Cub Scout meeting is over for tonight. Just a note to the Cubmaster: Halloween parties are great, but moms (including, and maybe especially me) do freak out when our little boys get chocolate cupcake icing all over their WHITE Halloween costumes that they need for tomorrow's parade at school and Saturday's trick-or-treat. It is a mom's prerogative to freak out, considering that she will have to come home from the Cub Scout meeting and do laundry. Moms do not like to have to do laundry AND herd Cub Scouts into the shower all at the same time.

I'm really glad that I wasn't the one who had to vacuum the meeting room after the Cub Scouts and their little brothers and sisters ate cupcakes, pretzels and potato chips in there.

I'm not looking forward to my dentist appointment tomorrow. Not only will it cut into my writing time, but it's a dentist appointment, which is something I dread. Last time I was there, she made a snarky comment about the wide age-spacing of my children. And my husband thinks I don't go back to the dentist because I can't stand getting cavities filled. There is SO much more to it than that.

I'm also not up for the school Halloween parade, though it's always cute and I'll probably change my mind when I get there, provided the dentist is all done with me and I'm not too hot under the collar because of any snarky remarks she makes during that appointment.

And I've pretty much got no voice at this point, though I can't figure out why, since I wasn't screaming today during the school's "Phillies Pep Rally" OR during the Cub Scout meeting. I'm hoping my cup of Celestial Seasonings Mandarin Orange Zinger tea will help. (It certainly can't hurt.) And if I don't have a voice tomorrow, I won't be able to do more than glare at the dentist if she has anything more to say that ticks me off.

Maybe I should just go to one of those dentists that knocks you out and does all the work at once while you snooze. I could probably live with that.

Speaking of snoozing, I should go do that too.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Book Review: Dressing with Dignity by Colleen Hammond

Dressing with Dignity by Colleen Hammond is a challenge to women to dress modestly and in a feminine manner.

Hammond's basic premise is that modest yet attractive dress is not an impossibility. Furthermore, our culture encourages women to dress in immodest ways. And as any parent and teacher knows, we act according to our dress--and others respond to us according to our dress. My experience certainly bears that out. Just go to any school where uniforms are normally worn on two different days: a uniform day, and a day on which students are allowed to wear "regular" clothes. Note the difference in behavior. It will be dramatic.

Just as students behave according to their dress (and do better in school when they are dressed for the job) so do the rest of us. Hammond asserts that dressing in attractive and dignified ways will help women feel better about themselves and help them be treated better. In addition, it also shows a greater respect for God.

I agree with all of these points. I do not like to dress in skimpy clothes that don't provide enough coverage, or clothes that are too tight. And my kids have learned that, just as they have "school clothes," they also have "church clothes." In our family, we don't wear jeans to church. We don't wear our Phillies T-shirts, and we don't wear shorts. For church, we make the effort to dress at least as nicely as we would if we were going to work (for the grownups).

However, I can't buy into Hammond's idea that pants or trousers are inappropriate for women. I do not agree that all pants or trousers are automatically immodest. While Hammond's book is well-written and thoroughly researched, she hasn't convinced this reader to move beyond what I already feel is a very conservative manner of dress.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Dressing With Dignity. I received a review copy of this book, but no other compensation, for the purposes of this review.

Young Cynic

"Have a good day," I told Middle Sister as she gathered up her school things and headed out to catch the bus.

"No chance," she shot back.

Nothing like a little optimism with your morning coffee.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Not-so-Humble Musical Opinion

The musicians at church have received our copies of the new Breaking Bread for 2010.

It's a rare occasion when I get to pick the music for a Sunday Mass. But that doesn't mean that I don't have an opinion. Having volunteered as a church musician since 1981 (except for my 3 "maternity breaks"), I've had plenty of time to cultivate my opinion about the music.

  • Some of my opinions are theological. I'm not a fan of the songs that make us "sing the words of Jesus" even though they may be musically beautiful and Biblically-based. However, I think those songs definitely have a place, but not for congregational or even choral singing. And many of them are beautiful, as I've said--musically and lyrically.
  • Some of my opinions are musical. I don't care for the kinds of songs that sound more like show tunes than hymns.
  • Some of my opinions are editorial--there are songs out there that are just plain bad poetry.
  • Some of my opinions are nostalgic. It drives me nuts when the lyrics to a perfectly good song get changed because they are no longer "PC"--for example, the masculine pronouns are used for God. (Oh, the horror!)
  • And some of my opinions are based upon exhaustion, because there are songs that have been so overused that I simply cannot stand to have to hear them again, let alone sing and play them.
So here's my list, based on the 2010 Breaking Bread, of songs I'd rather not have to sing during the coming liturgical year. I've only included songs I know. If I don't know the song, no matter how bad it may be, it's not going to be on my list.

Let the Valleys Be Raised (Schutte)--this one was wonderful before they changed the words to be PC.
Ashes (Conry)--ick.
Beyond the Days (Manalo)--belongs on Broadway, not in church.
In These Days of Lenten Journey (Manalo)--could we get any more self-congratulatory than these lyrics?
Resucito (Arguello)--fortunately, the music director who had us singing this has moved on. We're not a Spanish-speaking parish, so there's no need to sing in that language. And the translation is terrible. The English and Spanish verses have little to do with each other, and neither one is good poetry.
Gather Us In (Haugen)--this one is bad on so many levels.
Gather The People (Schutte)--it's not very original; many of his songs have the same theme. He's been very big on "inclusion" lately. And that last line of each verse: "Here we become what we eat"--I get what he means, but there has to be a better way to say that.
Song of the Body of Christ (Haas)--whiny melody, and bad poetry. Not a good combo.
I Am the Bread of Life (Toolan)--if I never have to sing this one again, it'll be too soon. Every time I'm told that we'll be singing it, my response is "Kill me now."
Pan de Vida (Hurd)--again, we don't speak Spanish here (but I do, and the translation is horrible). I don't switch well between languages, so it drives me crazy that the refrain is half English, half Spanish.
That There May Be Bread (Weston Priory)--along with just about all the Weston Priory songs, the lyrics are bizarre. Nice words that really say nothing.
The Summons (Bell)--first-person singular.
Servant Song (McCargill)--I like the sentiment, but not the lyrics, and not the melody.
Here I Am, Lord (Schutte)--first-person singular.
All Are Welcome (Haugen)--this is not a bad song in itself, but it has a bad association for me. It was sung at a special Mass where we said goodbye to the Sisters who had been told by the pastor that they needed to relocate because we could no longer afford to keep the convent open. All are Welcome--but don't let the door hit you on your way out.
Sing a New Church (Dufner)--don't get me started.
Endless is Your Love (Kendzia)--sounds like something the leading lady sings when she's alone on the stage. To her boyfriend.
You Are Near (Schutte)--this was fine until they took out the "Yahweh." I understand that we want to be sensitive to other faiths...but it's hard to rethink lyrics I've known since the '70s.
The Spirit is a-Movin' (Landry)
Come to Me (Weston Priory)--first-person singular.
You Are Mine (Haas)--first-person singular.
The Lord Is My Hope (Ridge)--more Broadway stuff.
We Have Been Told (Haas)--first-person singular.
Anthem (Conry)--FUN to play. I love playing it. But the lyrics are STRANGE!
We Are the Light of the World (Greif)--kill me now.
Sing to the Mountains (Dufford)--it was great before they made it PC.
Lift Up Your Hearts (O'Connor)--same thing.
Sing a New Song (Schutte)--this is no longer a new song. Let it go.
Speak, Lord (Uszler)--the refrain is great but the verses are a little off. You can tell that some of the verses were by a different lyricist.
They'll Know We Are Christians (Scholtes)--overdone.
Join in the Dance (Schutte)--I especially can't stand verse 2.
Isaiah 49 (Landry)--first-person singular.
Seek the Lord (O'Connor)--they've got the PC and the original versions here. How are you supposed to announce to the assembly that you'll be singing one version or the other? "We'll do the ORIGINAL verses, you know--the ones that offend a certain population because a masculine pronoun is used in reference to God." Yeah. That'll work.
Turn to Me (Foley)--first-person singular.

So there you go.

N.J. Ink

Little Brother just got home from a friend's birthday party. In his treat bag were some temporary tattoos.

"I got nine tattoos, Mom!"

"That's cool. Doesn't your school have a policy against ink, though?"

"Yeah. I'm going to have to save them until the end of the school year."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Worth Reading

Catholic novelist Katherine Valentine is sharing her newest novel, one chapter at a time, over at!

I've read her whole Dorsetville series and they're really good! The characters are very real, the writing is good, and the situations are believable. Best of all, the characters' faith comes shining through.

The only drawback to the whole "share a novel in serial format" is that I'll have to wait a whole week to read the next installment! I kind of feel like the people in the 19th century who eagerly awaited the next Dickens chapter when his novels were published in newspapers. It worked out well for him; I hope the same for Katherine Valentine.

Stop by and give her new novel a try! You don't have to have read her other books first--but I'll bet you'll want to, once you read this.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where does the time go?

Collages of family pictures hang in my stairway, dining room and family room. I'm a few years behind on compiling these, because I've run out of walls to hang them on!

Every night when we have dinner in the dining room, I look around at the pictures on that wall. In those, Big Brother was between the ages of 5 and 9; Middle Sister was a toddler, then a preschooler; Little Brother wasn't even born yet. I look at those pictures, and then I look at my kids. Big Brother is a high-school senior and I've spent the past four weekends touring colleges with him. Middle Sister and TheDad have gone off to an Open House at Big Brother's high school today. Next month she takes the placement test. And Little Brother, not to be left out in everyone else's Year of Big Steps, will receive two sacraments this school year.

Watching my kids grow up doesn't make me mourn for those baby-and-toddler days, though I do miss the funny mispronunciations and toothless grins. (Good thing I still have Little Brother around for that!) They're growing up, and I can't do a thing about it except worry a little, pray a lot, and try to enjoy the ride.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I Confess

There are an awful lot of books I start but don't finish.

In fact, there are an awful lot of books I start, never intending to finish them!

This may sound like heresy coming from this English major, but in my defense, the books that I check out of the library and only intend to taste, rather than devour, are all of the non-fiction persuasion. Never one to specialize, I've started books on all kinds of subjects from architecture to marketing to parenting to education to cooking to homemaking and more. I like to know a little about a lot of things--and when a title inspires a little curiosity in me, I pick up the book and read a bit, here and there. When I find out what I want to know (or when I find out that the book isn't going to tell me what I want to know) then I'm done with the book.

Books I don't finish don't make it onto my Book List, but that certainly doesn't mean I didn't get anything out of them.

Bad Connection

Every Thursday afternoon I volunteer in the school library. I help out with the first grade, then the kindergarten, and then I do some other library tasks such as entering new books into the computer catalog, straightening books on the shelves, or whatever the librarian needs done. I enjoy it, and I like seeing the kids.

Yesterday the librarian needed to speak to another teacher between the first-grade class and the kindergarten class. So I greeted the incoming kindergartners, got them settled down in the story area, and we waited for the librarian to return.

While we waited, the kids asked lots of questions, because after all, that's what little kids do best.

"Mrs. (mumbled, mangled version of my last name), do you know Little Brother?"

"Yes," I smiled. I was kind of amazed that they knew Little Brother's last name and that they'd made the connection.

"Are you his grandmother?"

Way to make me feel old, kid!