Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Blame Game

This was the first year EVER that one of my kids was an altar server on Christmas, despite their collective 8+ years of service. Little Brother was so excited to be serving in a special day.

So excited, in fact, that he fainted in the middle of the Our Father. TheDad and Middle Sister ran right over to him (she's a sprinter and is not afraid to use her abilities in church when her brother is passed out on the floor.)

From where I was standing in the musicians' area (not a choir loft by any stretch of the imagination--more like a choir prison) I couldn't see him at all, so by the time someone got my attention, there were two other people plus my husband and daughter helping him out.

Our neighbor, a middle-schooler also in the choir, was sitting behind me, so I sent her down to Little Brother with my water bottle.

As it turns out, he was fine--just overheated and dehydrated. Those robes are not made with breathable fabric.

Tonight, he tried to blame his fainting spell on our friend Mr. H, who had teased him before Mass about the hairstyle he's trying to grow into and pressed down on his head to make the hair stop sticking straight up. The kid looks like Spaceman Spiff.

Big Brother and I were having none of it. His defense: "Abraham Lincoln was shot in the head and he DIED 24 hours later. So I could faint from this."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Incorruptible...or Just Incorrigible?

Because sometimes you just need to laugh in the midst of it all.

I know I can use a laugh today. Maybe you could, too. So here's the latest Little-Brotherism.

On Friday night, I was trying to convince him to be an altar-server for Saturday's funeral. There wouldn't be a coffin, I told him (in case that was spooking him about the whole thing) because Mary had been cremated.

Apparently he didn't know what cremation is, so I had to explain that. The concept horrified him.

"When I die, I want to be all together, with my bones and everything," he informed me. "And you know what I want? One of those glass coffins, you know, like the saints have...with the little air conditioners inside to keep them fresh."

Someone's been studying St. John Neumann at school, I see.

But I had to burst the kid's bubble and let him know that those things don't come with air conditioning.

In all seriousness, it's good to know that he's aiming high. He speaks very matter-of-factly about possibilities for sainthood. I can't take credit for putting that idea into his head, but I'm certainly glad that it's there.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Making Sense of It All

Yesterday was an extraordinarily difficult day.

I already knew I'd be spending the evening attending a wake service for one of the Secular Franciscans who'd passed away after a long illness. Much as we are relieved that her suffering has ended, we mourn her loss and grieve with her family.

When I stopped at the parish office for a Mass card, the secretary was mourning for one of her own family members who'd passed away. All I could do was squeeze her hand across the counter as she wept...I've been praying for her since then.

One of the other Secular Franciscans has a birthday today. She will spend it at a funeral for her longtime friend and neighbor.

Little Brother had a half day, so he got home around 1, and in the middle of arguing with him about what constitutes a "clean" family room, I started seeing news reports about the horrible events in Newtown, CT. People on social media were saying, "hug your kids" and my 10-year-old is accusing me of not loving him because I wouldn't let him play a video game before he'd finished his chore.

28 people died in Connecticut yesterday. The story just kept getting worse and worse. The media interviewed traumatized little kids and mis-identified the shooter.

And the parents of 20 little children will have to get through Christmas without those children. They will be wishing for the opportunity to tell their child to clean up his toys.

After dinner I went to the funeral home for the wake, where the deacon wisely began the prayer service with a prayer for the New England community that had suffered such a tragedy. And we all agreed that Mary M, a mom of 6 and grandmother of 9, was probably welcoming those little children to Heaven yesterday.

I was glad, last night, to have all my kids under the same roof when I went to sleep. I hope that they know every day that I love them. Even when I take away their video games, make them clean up their own messes, and enforce curfews. Someday they will realize that I do these things BECAUSE I love them, that I wouldn't be loving them very much at all if I didn't.

Today, when they wake up, I will hug them all just a little harder. There is just no way to understand this. All I can do is try to be better at loving my family. And I pray for Mary, for the people of Newtown, CT, and for our parish secretary, Mary's family, our Franciscan community and all others who grieve.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

And may the Lord comfort those who mourn.

Updated to add:  I was asked in the comments how to get to the point of praying for the shooter. I don't know. I just don't. But Friar Charles has a good starting point here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I Confess

I fail at Confession.

Sometimes I feel like Confession fails me.

I definitely have to stop attending those "communal Penance services." It's like drive-by Confession, and it's never a good experience--which is why I let two or three years go by between Confessions, until I feel absolutely driven to seek absolution, and I drag myself there.

For me, "communal Penance services" are a near occasion of sin. (So why do I go? Because they're not on Saturday afternoons, which are always so nutty that I can never manage to get to Confession for the 45 minutes our parish offers it at that time.)

If it were up to me, these services would be simple affairs consisting of a hymn or two, a Scripture reading or two, and a short homily from Father explaining how to make a good examination of conscience. After that, everyone lines up for Confession.

Here's how it went last night:

  • Arrive and find a pew. Listen to announcement by cantor that if you forgot a "worship aid" you should raise your hand and a "team member" would bring one to you.
  • Hymn, Liturgy of the Word, prayer.
  • A combination skit/prayer/examination of conscience in which 6 costumed actors represented Isaiah, John the Baptist, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary and Jesus and lectors read prayers relating the examination of conscience to each of these Biblical figures.
  • Lineup for Confession. After the initial scramble to get in line for your favorite priest, I waited 40 minutes, only to end up with the hard-of-hearing priest who was older than Moses and looked like he might not survive the night. (Good thing the church has its own defibrillator. I was afraid we might have to use it.)
  • Parting gift. After absolution, Father handed me a handy-dandy refrigerator magnet "to remember this evening by."

I don't need "worship aids," "team members," costumed actors with props, and refrigerator magnets. And frankly, I don't want them. For me, they get in the way.

I know I shouldn't be snarky, and I'll need to go to Confession again over that. To be fair, the service was well-done. Good music, well-prepared readers, good flow. But it felt like a performance, not a prelude to a sacrament.

In the end, the grace of the sacrament is enough--which brings to mind this prayer by St. Ignatius of Loyola:
Take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my will; all that I have and possess. You have given them to me; to you, O Lord, I restore them. All things are yours: Dispose of them according to your will. Give me your love and your grace; for this is enough for me.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Question du Jour

...or, more accurately, del día.

I sent Little Brother off to scrub toilets after he finished his homework. He's always been a fan of that job.

While he was busy creating toilets full of bubbles, he noticed the bilingual label on the Comet. "It says '20% más'. What does 'más' mean?"

"In Spanish? It means 'more'," I replied.

More scrubbing, then:  "Do people in Spain have toilets?"

Sunday, December 02, 2012

A Holiday By Any Other Name

It's that time of year again, and this year I'm just tired of it. This morning's paper carried the announcement that my township will be lighting its "Holiday Tree" later this week.

At least they waited until December, but that's a rant for another day.

Yes, they called it a "Holiday Tree" in the announcement. But honestly, whom do they think they're fooling? Santa's going to arrive (via fire truck, not reindeer sleigh) and there will probably be candy canes. That, plus the decorated tree and musical entertainment by the middle-school chorus gives everyone the first clue:  this is not Labor Day.

Call it what you want; we all know what the holiday in question is. And I don't think that ranting about the problem is going to fix it.

This Advent and Christmas season, I encourage you to remember the reason for the season, cheesy though that expression may be.

Take time to listen to some sacred music. My Advent soundtrack this year, in addition to the rehearsal music for the Festival of Lessons and Carols in which I'm participating, is Advent at Ephesus. I got my copy a week ago; today I'll listen to it for the first time. If a church or school near you is hosting a Festival of Lessons and Carols, don't miss it!

Light the Advent wreath.

Study the Gospel of Luke.

Make a Jesse Tree.

Decorate gradually, and keep those decorations up past December 26. We don't "undecorate" around here until after Epiphany.

Pray.

And have some fun. Watch the Christmas specials on TV or DVD. Don't miss Charlie Brown or the Grinch.

I wish you a blessed Advent and Christmas season!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Tiber River Review: Style, Sex and Substance


Don't let your pride get in the way of your reading this encouraging book. I'll admit that mine did, for a while; I'm pretty sure that most of the 10 contributors are a good bit younger than I am. But after reading several excerpts of Style, Sex and Substance online, I was convinced that while the women whose essays are featured in this book may be younger than me, they've got plenty of wisdom to share. The writing is honest and real, and by the end of each chapter you'll feel that its author is a new, trusted friend.

Don't let the title fool you; I found that this book is a whole lot more about "substance" than sex. Yes, there are humorous, real-life stories (and I loved those!) There are also reflection questions at the end of each chapter that would work as well for small-group study as they do for individual reflection and journaling. A small sampling of these include:
  • sins vs. quirks
  • nurturing yourself
  • putting your schedule in order
  • fostering intimacy in marriage
  • personal holiness for single women
  • making rash judgements
  • healthy friendship
  • building your marriage
  • goals for motherhood
  • the Christian life and popular culture
Not all chapters are for every woman at every time, but this book doesn't need to be read start-to-finish to be appreciated. Start with the introduction and chapter 1, then pick and choose as the Spirit moves you. You'll be hooked, and you'll want to keep this book around for encouragement in the various seasons of your life as a Catholic woman.

Style, Sex and Substance would be a great gift for a young woman just starting out on her own, a bride-to-be, a new mom or even a "woman of a certain age" like myself who's in need of a new perspective.

After all, there's always something new to be learned--even from women who are younger than you.

My compliments to editor Hallie Lord and all the contributors to this excellent book.

You can purchase this book here.
I wrote this review of Style, Sex and Substance for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.
A review copy of the book was provided to me. I did not receive other compensation for this review.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

If You Bake It, They Will Eat It

This year, Little Brother is a member of his school's chapter of the National Junior Beta Club. They have frequent service projects and fund-raisers, the proceeds of which are donated to charity.

This morning he let me know that next week, the Beta Club will be having a lunchtime bake sale. "There's a paper in my classroom, Mom. It's on the 6th and the 7th and we're supposed to bring in baked goods....Will you bake a good?"

Monday, November 19, 2012

Talking Football

This afternoon I went to parent-teacher conferences at Little Brother's school.

He's earned all A's, so I wasn't worried too much about his grades. But I figured it was my parental duty to put in an appearance, and it would be a good time to touch base with his teacher about his emotional health, given the disruptions of the past few weeks. She's aware of most of them, and assured me that he's been fine at school.

She also let me know that "he's been talking A LOT about Notre Dame." No surprise there. I've been talking a lot about Notre Dame myself. Frankly, I think I've done my job right if I've passed along the proper fan allegiance to the next generation. And I worked hard for the right to be an Irish fan.

My parents are staunch members of the "Fighting Irish Subway Alumni." Both devout fans of Notre Dame (but alums of Seton Hall), they were pleased when I applied to graduate school there.

I was accepted at ND, Purdue and SUNY Binghamton. Clearly I was not basing my choice of university on "balmy winter climate." (What WAS I thinking back in 1986?)

Once the acceptance letters came in, my dad informed me that I would be going to Notre Dame. That was that. I'd gotten in at his dream school, apparently.

I showed up on the campus of Notre Dame in August of 1987, never having seen a football game--ANY football game--in my life. One of my roommates was a band assistant. All three of my roommates were horrified that here I was at Notre Dame and I knew nothing of football and didn't even care. I do like bands, though, so they insisted that I watch the games on our tiny TV so I could see the band.

I attended one game (ND vs Navy on Halloween of 1987.) The Irish won, 56-13. No, I didn't remember the score--I just looked it up. I remember that they won; that one of my non-band roommates was at the game too, very patiently explaining what a "first down" was; that in the student section, no one sat during the game. We all stood on the bleachers the whole time.

It was great.

25 years later, I still prefer basketball and there are still football rules I don't get, though I do understand "first down" now. But I taught my kids early (and often) that in my football world, it's Notre Dame vs. "The Bad Guys." I never actually said that, but that's what Big Brother took away from it when he was four or five. Let's just say I never bothered to correct that assumption.

Until Little Brother started moonlighting as Mr. SportsCenter, I never even paid attention to other schools' teams. But this kid is a walking, talking sports encyclopedia who inhales football (and soccer) trivia like it's oxygen. He knows who's ranked where, what teams have injured QBs and who's favored to win next week's matchups. I, on the other hand, know that Notre Dame home games are on NBC.

I've enjoyed this football season immensely so far and look forward to this weekend's game. I might even stay up late to watch the whole thing.

After all, I have earned the right to be a fan. I've stuck with my team during the bad years, and I'm going to relish this one.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Keeping Score

I keep tallying up, in my head, the ways in which I believe I am "doing my best" in my current situation.

It is comforting, I admit, to note that little by little, my "best" includes yet another thing I wouldn't have thought I'd be able to do. (Willing is a whole other matter, still.)

But to be perfectly honest, I won't be "doing my best" until I stop keeping score.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pondering in my Heart

The phrase "pondered it in her heart" struck me twice today. The first time was at Mass this morning. I'm not sure whether it was something Father said during the reflection on the Gospel or if it just popped into my head; the second time was just now when I was listening to episode 2 of The Catholics Next Door's "rebooted" podcast and Jennifer spoke those words.

I stopped listening midsentence (the great thing about podcasts is that you can hit that PAUSE button and then come back to it later) because I needed to think about this.

In Luke's Gospel, Mary is described as "pondering these things in her heart" (Luke 2:19). When that phrase first caught my attention this morning, I started thinking about the things I ponder in my heart.

For the most part, they're not the good things. They're not the happy things. Is it because I am a glass-half-empty kind of girl? The things I ponder, the things I dwell upon in my heart, are the troubles big and small that I allow to consume my attention, steal my focus and determine my mood.

Right now, there's a whole lot on my plate. Some are things I can't fix, like my husband's health. Some are things I find myself blaming others for, and we won't get into those in this space. I'm carrying a lot of resentment around right now, and that's sucking the life out of my ability to be a good wife, mom, family member and friend. My plate is full, and my heart is full--and for the most part, my heart is not filled with good things.

I was sweeping and washing the floor this afternoon; it was so easy to clean up the dirt that had gathered in the corners and under the chairs. If only it were that easy to clean the corners of my heart, where I have allowed resentment and anger to fill up the space that should be full of good thoughts.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Electioneering

It's all politics, all the time around here tonight. TheDad lives for this stuff and is even ignoring an upcoming nor'easter in favor of election returns. Little Brother's school had a mock election today among grades 4 and up, so he's interested in watching the elections as well (though I suspect he wants to stay up late so he can play Minecraft with the news in the background.

And Middle Sister asked what channel would have the elections (pretty much everything but ESPN, kid) because she's taking US History 2 this year and her teacher expects the class to pay attention to this. Along with a real-life civics lesson, she's also getting a geography challenge; her teacher gave the kids unmarked outline maps and wants them to label the states according to the results.

He'll get no argument from me, but my older two kids missed the geography boat in their early educations. I insisted that Big Brother sign up for a geography class in high school and he later conceded that he'd learned a lot of important information.

When Middle Sister complained that she didn't know which states were which, I informed her that she'd be selecting Geography as her first-choice elective next year, and if she didn't, I wouldn't sign her course-selection card. There was loud protesting, but I'm not giving in, even though Grandma stuck up for Middle Sister and said that it's not important to know where the states are. (Thanks for that.)

Big Brother said he'd pass on watching election returns at college, because he figured that watching these in a public place could get tense. Besides, he's got stage crew.

And I've got a couple of interesting books and a bowl of Halloween candy to occupy my attention. I voted, and there's nothing I can do about this now.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Catholic Company Book Review: Holiness for Everyone

It's the eve of All Saints, so what better day to review a book about a saint?

Some of the most intriguing saints, I think, are the relatively-contemporary ones. While St. Josemaria Escriva has garnered more than his share of notoriety due to a famous work of fiction, there's much less popular factual knowledge about this modern-day saint. Eric Sammons sets out to correct this imbalance with Holiness for Everyone: The Practical Spirituality of St. Josemaria Escriva.

The book is less a biography of the saint (although an early chapter in the book does cover those details) than an introduction to the saint's writings and philosophy. In fact, this book is not meant as a stand-alone text, but as a companion to the primary sources--the saint's actual writings--all of which are freely available online. Suggested readings, including web addresses, are included at the end of each chapter, along with meditations, suggestions for prayer, and concepts to contemplate.

I found this book challenging to read but not ridiculously academic. It's not meant to be "downed" in one sitting, but instead to be a tool for reflection and prayer. St. Josemaria Escriva's writings were intended the same way; many of them are in "nugget" form, so that a reader could take a single sentence as a gateway to action and meditation.

Chapters are organized by theme and include topics such as freedom, work, contemplation, evangelization and holiness, among others. The idea of "holiness for everyone" is not unfamiliar to me as a Secular Franciscan; after all, the idea of this life is to dedicate my particular state in life, and all that I do, toward living according to the Gospel in the spirit of St. Francis. St. Josemaria Escriva's teachings reinforce the same ideas, though without the particularly Franciscan bent that I am used to seeing.

This book achieves its purpose: it's an appetizer, not the main course. It introduces the teachings and writing of a contemporary saint and leaves the reader hungry to learn more. Holiness for Everyone is an excellent introduction to the spirituality of a saint who has been misrepresented by popular culture.

You can purchase this book here.
I wrote this review of Holiness for Everyone for theCatholic Company Blogger Review program, created by The Catholic Company. The Catholic Company is a great resource for tools to help you participate in the Year of Faith, including Year of Faith bible studies and exclusive Year of Faith personalized gifts. The Catholic Company also has all your Advent needs in stock, such as Advent calendars and Advent wreaths. A review copy of the book was provided to me. I did not receive other compensation for this review.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

By the Light of the Silvery Moon

Little Brother is getting ready to go on his very first camping trip with the Boy Scouts. The troop has invited the Webelo 2 den along on this weekend's camping trip so that the Webelos can begin to learn the camping skills they'll need as Boy Scouts.

There has been much packing and preparing. Last night he began gathering his stuff and stuffing it into an old backpack. We had gotten him a multi-tool-utensil (Swiss Army silverware?) and it was still in the plastic clamshell package. He spent more than 10 minutes with his Scout knife, stabbing that clamshell in random places.

I could have taken care of the situation with one swipe of my kitchen shears, but I let him struggle with it himself, even when that struggle proved potentially dangerous to his fingers and my coffee table.

That's a lot of trouble to go to, especially when you consider that this kid still doesn't use utensils on a regular basis.

This morning I tripped over his fully-packed backpack with the flashlight sticking out of the front pocket. I asked him if he'd packed extra batteries for the flashlight.

"I won't need those," he informed me. "I'll have the moon and the stars to be my light."

Good luck with that.

(He packed the batteries.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Relief

Did you hear that deep, deep sigh yesterday around 11:30 AM Eastern? That was me and TheDad after we met with the very personable surgeon at the cancer center. Under the circumstances, we got the best possible news.

The tumor (what's left of it) is in a place that is easy to access. It is not in, on or near any organs and it has not spread anywhere. Next Friday he will have it removed in a same-day surgery.

After he recovers from the surgery he will begin radiation treatment. There will not be chemo because chemo doesn't work on this type of tumor. Beyond that he will just need regular imaging to see if anything has returned but with this type of tumor the chances of it returning are pretty slim.

I am ever grateful for your prayers and support. I feel like the really hard part is over now. We have a game plan, and we have assurance that the tumor is contained.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Little Brother's not going to be little forever, and that means all those Little Brotherisms are going to come to an end someday. I'm savoring them while they last. Here's today's:

We were in the car after soccer, discussing that we were both surprised to see the soccer coach smoking.

Little Brother:  "He should try to stop smoking. Maybe he could get some of those patties that you pat on your arm that help you stop smoking."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Limbo, Limbo, Limbo

Just trying to keep things normal here in my house, for my kids, and for my husband and myself, as we sit here in Oncology Limbo getting through a few more days until we have a better idea of what he's fighting and how the hospital plans to fight it.

For the record, he will be treated at one of the best cancer hospitals in the country; I was there for my non-cancer surgery 6 months ago and we are comforted by the first-hand knowledge of the wonderful care I received as a patient in that hospital.

I am comforted by relatives and friends alike who have showed us so much care and concern (and made offers to help that I know enough to accept--and will do so soon). Some of these people are fighting their own battles with cancer right now. But they have reached out anyway--that means so much. Other friends have beaten cancer in the past.

Today I received a lot of encouragement from Pat Gohn. We were supposed to be recording a conversation to be used in her Among Women podcast, "Midlife Madres" series. I don't know if Pat got anything she can use or not, but she knows how to listen and she knows what it's like to go through this kind of scary time. I am grateful for each and every minute we spent on the phone today.

As I told Pat at one point, I am wrestling right now. There will be many decisions to be made. There will be things I'll have to "outsource" to others, kids' games I'll miss, plans I'll need to lay aside. It's not so much a "why me?" kind of wrestling as it is a "how do I handle all of what we've got going on and keep our collective sanity relatively intact?"

I might look calm on the outside, but my unscientific research is showing that hot flashes increase exponentially along with one's stress levels. Every so often it reaches its peak and the hot flashes bring along impatience, anger and, yes, tears. Even when I try my hardest to keep that from happening. So yes, calm on the outside, but my stomach is in knots and I think those knots are extending to the rest of me, because my pain level is off the charts today.

But there's a rosary in my pocket, ever ready for a prayer or ten. I'm getting to daily Mass as much as possible. I'm thankful for the encouragement and advice I have received. And when this after-dinner cup of (decaffeinated) Irish tea doesn't cut it, like now, I'm glad there's a carton of chocolate-peanut-butter-cup ice cream in the freezer.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pray Your Way Through It: A Rosary, A Giveaway and a Twitter-Style Interview with Author Sarah Reinhard


It's my honor to be among the reviewers, promoters and pray-ers in the Rosary Blog Tour for author Sarah Reinhard's new book--the first in the Catholicmom.com series from Ave Maria Press. The book is called A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism.

This is no ordinary "What to Expect" type of book, although it does include some information on the physical changes that mom and baby experience during pregnancy. It is more of a spiritual guide through pregnancy, touching on areas that most pregnancy "instruction manuals" won't give more than a passing mention. It's the book I wish I had back before each of my kids was born. (It's not just for first-time mamas!)

Sarah is all about Twitter--I guess because as a mom of 3 kids under 8, it's hard to think in more than 140 characters at a time. So when she offered to do an interview, I decided to borrow one of her own techniques and ask her to reply to the question in the form of tweets. You'll have to follow her on Twitter, however, to appreciate her amazing use of the hashtag.

You have 3 young children. How did you manage to find the time to write this book?
It was made possible mostly by 3 people: my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, & best friend. I also squeezed writing in during fits & starts.

Besides the Blessed Mother, is there any other saint who particularly inspires you as a parent?
A whole host of them! St Joseph in a special way, as well as Monica, Therese the Little Flower, Elizabeth Ann Seton, & Francis deSales.

What's the best advice you can give to an expectant mom who's not having an easy time of it?
Look to the prize at the end and grip Mary's hand as hard as you need to (she can take it).

Are you afraid of being considered a pessimist because your book focuses on difficulties moms can experience during pregnancy?
If pregnancy is a walk in the park, we need to acknowledge the weeds & thorns too, right? But there's hope & that's not pessimistic at all.

In each chapter, you list "One Small Step," in the form of a prayer activity. What's the one that made the most difference to you during your pregnancies?
Eucharistic Adoration, hands-down, no competition. Laying my head in Jesus' lap, letting him carry me & the rest, transformed & blessed me.

To celebrate the launch of her new book, A CatholicMother's Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism, Sarah Reinhard invites all of us to spend her blog book tour praying the rosary together. Today, she shares this reflection on the Scourging at the Pillar:

There’s no doubt it was painful to be scourged. Jesus’s flesh was torn by the shards on the end of the whips.
Picture the people observing. There’s no reason to suspect the Romans would have had any fondness for him, but in the crowd of leering, goading people, there had to be people who had listened to Jesus’s preaching. There must have been people who were close to him, who had even cheered him on in his ministry and encouraged his miracles. It’s possible that his mother was there, too, seeing her son ripped to shreds.
What must it have felt like to see those people laughing and even enjoying the scourging? How must Jesus have felt in their betrayal? How much more did it hurt, knowing his mother—who had also done no wrong—was suffering as she watched (or would suffer later while seeing him)?
We’ve all experienced betrayal. There’s a special sting when we find out that someone who seemed to be our number-one fan maybe isn’t so much or seems to have changed his or her mind. There’s also a prick I often give myself, thinking that I know what someone else thinks of me. I’ll get myself all worked up, thinking that Susie believes I’m a total idiot about the decision I made (and am standing by).
Is it worse to be betrayed or to be flogged for something we didn’t do? I change my mind on this, depending on the day.
The lesson in this mystery is one that I need: Jesus understands. Oh boy, does he understand. Maybe he wasn’t ever pregnant with his fourth kid and up to his ears in housework and feeling the pressure of a distant family member to come visit as soon as the baby’s born. Having gone through the exact scenario isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for being able to understand though. Can’t you picture his pain and torture in this mystery? Can’t you imagine, to some extent, the horror and weight of it?
Turn to Jesus, in this mystery, and tell him about what scourges you. Give him the heaviest burden you have, the one you think he will least understand. Use this mystery as your common ground, as the place where you meet him. Let him guide you to the place of blessing, where the pain might make sense or have a purpose, perhaps even eternally.
As we pray this decade of the rosary, let's hold all those brave women who have said yes to difficult and challenging motherhood in our intentions in a special way. Don't forget, too, that we are praying for an increase in all respect life intentions as part of our rosary together this month. (If you’re not familiar with how to pray the rosary, you can find great resources at Rosary Army.)
Our Father . . . 
10 - Hail Mary . . .
Glory Be . . . 
O My Jesus . . . 


Now for the fun part: you can WIN STUFF!


And I have TWO copies of this book to give away to lucky readers of this blog. If you'd like to win a copy of the book, just leave a comment below. I will keep the giveaway open through 11:59 PM EDT on October 26, the last day of the Rosary Blog Tour.

UPDATE:  Giveaway closed! Comments #1 and #4 are the winners and will be contacted so I can arrange delivery of their prizes.

Monday, October 15, 2012

An Open Letter to the High-School Principal

As the principal, I'm sure you get plenty of emails from parents that concern complaints and problems. I would like to take this opportunity to let you know of the very positive experience I had today with a group of students from your school.

My daughter had asked if we could host a pasta party for the JV girls' soccer team. When the girls arrived after practice today, they immediately began thanking us for hosting and asking if they could help in any way. I'm sure I heard the words "thank you" at least three times per student:  when they came in, when they got their dinner, and when they departed. Everyone was respectful of me and my home. They enjoyed each other's company and were a pleasure to have as our guests. The girls on this team were a credit to their families and to the school.

This is my seventh straight year as the parent of a student in your school, and I have come to expect nothing less of the young people you help to educate.


I emailed this letter to the principal after this evening's pasta party. I know this was a small matter, but it was wonderful to have such a positive experience--it really made my day.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Upside Down

I spent the morning yesterday in a hospital waiting room. My husband was there for same-day, minor surgery. I drank a lot of coffee, prayed the Rosary, and tried to ignore the overly-loud, overly-large TVs. I was nervous, of course, but not very worried, because we'd been told so many times that it was " probably nothing."

I should have known that my uncharacteristic optimism was misplaced.

I kept thinking to myself that it would be No Big Deal, all the while in denial of just how easily No Big Deal can turn into a Very Big Deal Indeed. Minor can go to major in less time than it takes to spell my last name. And your whole world turns upside down as the surgeon says those 3 words nobody wants to hear.

As we try to let it all sink in, as we think of how to find the words to make the kids understand, we simultaneously scribble down specialists' phone numbers on Post-It notes and assemble folders full of referrals, test results and form after form after form after form.

It is all these details, I think, that will make me crazy and at the same time keep me from going crazy. If I concentrate on the details, I won't have to think about the big picture. I don't want to see the forest for the trees.

We will have to wait more than a week before the next step can be taken, before all the results are in and appointments can be made with just the right doctors. And all those other minor-league problems we've been dealing with? We're not feeling the need to deal with those just now. Can we please just put that stuff on the back burner for a while?

One thing at a time, Lord. It's hard to turn this over when I want to take the ball myself and run with it. I'm a ball-hog in that regard, just as much as some of the hotshots on Little Brother's soccer team. It's hard to turn it over because if I abandon it, if I relinquish the control I try to hard to maintain, I might just go to pieces when it is least convenient.

Mom doesn't get to fall apart, you know. That's a rule. And if nothing else, I'm a rule-follower.

Even--perhaps especially--when our world has just been turned upside down.

Pray for my husband, if you would; for his doctors; for the kids and for me as we negotiate this new and scary road.

And thank you to Barbara for the beautiful Rosary!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

In Honor of the Feast

Today is the Feast of St. Francis. I didn't get to Mass this morning, because I was substitute-teaching at Little Brother's school.

But I told them that I could only do half a day today, because this afternoon, the Secular Franciscans were getting together for a little retreat led by our very own Secular Franciscan Deacon! Together we reflected on being Franciscan, on minority, poverty, commitment and renewal. We closed the retreat with Adoration and Benediction.

So what does it mean to be a Franciscan in today's world? Among other things, it means that we decide to serve rather than to be served; to "rebuild the Church" person by person, and to witness that people are more important than things.

And it means that we seek to surround ourselves with other who are striving for the same goal.

Today I am thankful for my Franciscan family! May this feast, and all days, be blessed.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Tuesdays with Martha

That's SAINT Martha, not Martha Stewart.

The ladies at Suscipio have learned that Tuesday is the day traditionally associated with the devotion to St. Martha, patroness of stressed-out homemakers everywhere.

I've got a soft spot for her myself. And I think it's neat that Tuesday is "her" day, because in my house, Tuesday always seems to be that tough day in Homemaking World. (On Monday, everyone is off to work and school and the house is quiet and I quietly putter around here getting all sorts of things done. On Tuesday...well, Tuesday is always another story with its special brand of crazy, especially during soccer season and even more especially when you have failed to plan ahead because you got caught up reading Catholic sci-fi...but I digress. Time to hide the Kindle until after dinner.)

Click on over to Suscipio if you, too, have a soft spot for St. Martha. Pray the novena for your intentions and for those of all the other women who seek strength, encouragement, and support.

image credit

Saturday, September 29, 2012

This, That and The Other Thing: Freelance Edition

You know what's cool? When they pay you to rant about stuff that you'd probably rant about anyway. At least, that's what I get to do over at one of my shopping blogs. As long as I can segue over to a coupon at the end, it's all good. Over there today, I tell the story of what happened last night when Middle Sister was getting ready for her friend's birthday party.

You know what's not cool? Learning a real-life lesson about intellectual property...the hard way. I was hired to write some articles for websites that focus on building a personal brand and developing an "online portfolio." I was asked to provide a biography and a photo. About two weeks after completing those articles, more were requested. I visited the websites to get an idea of other content on the topics I was assigned, and I found one of my articles from the first batch, attributed to someone else who (according to the person who hired me) is a fictional persona. Let it be known that in the future I will be a lot more protective of the copyright on any of my writing, because clearly I cannot claim authorship of those articles for my own online portfolio. Notice the irony there?

That led to a whole big dilemma for me last weekend, culminating in my decision not to do any more work for that group of websites. I was very afraid that I would burn a bridge, because I do have a very good working relationship with the person who hired me to do that and several other projects. Fortunately she was understanding (and as surprised as I was about what happened) and she asked me if I'd like to continue working on future projects with her (yay!)

It was a tough couple of days, but my husband and kids stood behind me and encouraged me not to work for someone who would put a different person's name on my articles even if it meant a loss of business. And once I sent out that email explaining why I would not do more work for that website group, I felt so good. I knew I had made the right decision and was so happy to learn that I have not burned a bridge when it comes to other projects.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Book Review: WorkShift

It's a book that came along at just the right time for me: the beginning of a new school year is always a great time to put things into perspective and get a handle on a new routine. Add to that a HUGE increase in the writing projects I've got going, and there's potential for a just-as-huge increase in unscheduled craziness, fatigue and resentment.

(As background, because I don't talk about this here much: I do social-media work for a local video-production company, am a shopping content editor for Internet Brands, and do other freelance writing and SEO projects as well as my commitment to Catholicmom.com's Tech Talk column and 4 hours per week volunteer service in Little Brother's school library. The writing work is part-time, on my schedule, and the money's not huge but it works for my family's situation at this time.)

On the day I started reading WorkShift, I was elbow-deep in a to-do list with no energy (or motivation) to get any of it done. I figured that time spent with this book would be time well-spent. The many, many real-life examples inspired me. There were moms with infants, moms with kids in grade school, moms in many lines of work.

Of course, no situation completely matched mine, but that's not really the point. It's good to know that there are plenty of families out there who are making it work--finding ways to keep moms at home for their families yet enabling them to contribute to the family budget, stay active professionally, and work creatively.

Five years ago today I wouldn't have dreamed that I'd actually be earning money by writing--without even having to leave my own home to do it. Of course, there are some projects that are more fun than others, but as my husband always says, "They call it work for a reason."

What I need to remember is that no work project is worth resenting a twice-a-week soccer-practice schedule (though I do reserve the right to be exasperated when Coach keeps the kids on the field after it's too dark to see each other, the ball, the goal or the coach).

As I read this book, I found myself grabbing Post-It notes and index cards so I could scribble down ideas for how to set up a work schedule this year that leaves room for family, flexibility, and even a little fun. And then I reached the final chapter, where author Anne Bogel has listed plenty of resources (both print and online) to help do just that. The additional structure that I'm going to try to plug into my workday should benefit me, my family and my employers.

Are you interested in reading WorkShift? You can purchase it through ejunkie or Amazon. It's available in ebook format for Kindle or as a PDF you can read at your computer (or even print out). It sells for $8.

The fine print: I received an ebook copy of WorkShift and if you purchase the book through ejunkie I will receive a small commission. I did not receive any other compensation for this review, and the opinions are mine alone.



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Whole New Meaning

One thing I love about our church is the cross. A Franciscan parish from the time it was founded in 1913, our church has a huge San Damiano Cross on the wall behind the altar. It's more than a cross--it's an icon, and every little detail has meaning. Read all about it, then gaze upon a large San Damiano Cross if you can find one. It's a wonderful meditation.

It's such a wonderful road to prayer, in fact, that I hesitate a bit to share this story. But I thought it was funny, so I'm going to tell it anyway.

The altar servers at our parish often wear a little cross over their albs. But the crosses aren't all the same. Some have the words "Altar Server" inscribed on them. Others are San Damiano crosses. On Sunday, Little Brother got himself vested for altar serving, then came out to wait by me in the choir area. After I fixed his collar (an every-Sunday occurrence) I told him that I was glad he was wearing the San Damiano cross because it's my favorite one.

He wanted to know why, and I showed him that it matched the cross on the wall in the church. He'd never noticed it before (possibly because he usually sits with the musicians who don't have a good view of it) and I pointed out some of the figures on the cross.

Then I mentioned the "angels with halos" at the very top. Suddenly he got interested. "Halo people?" he asked. "I thought those were only in video games!"

Friday, September 14, 2012

Signs of Affection

Last night I entered into complicated negotiations with Little Brother. I'll be seeing him at school today (and every Friday) and there is that delicate matter of parental affection to be dealt with.

For the past year, he hasn't wanted me to wait for the bus with him in the mornings. I do miss that; he's the only kid at the bus stop at that time, and we used to have some nice little chats.

And while I used to get a hug (maybe two) from him on those school days when I volunteered in the library, last night it was made pretty clear that I'm not to expect that this year. At 10, Little Brother thinks he's too big to hug his mom in public. He grudgingly suggested that I could muss his hair a little bit.

Usually the librarian schedules me to volunteer on the day when Little Brother's class will be in the library. I appreciate this and so does he (and I think she does too, as this is a big and, well, loud group. They're good kids--but they are noisy.) When he was in second grade, she needed me on a different day, but when his class was on the way into the art room next to the library, his teacher would let him run into the library and give me a hug.

Those were the good old days.

I mourned this on Twitter last night: "Sign your "baby" is getting old: you have to negotiate an acceptable sign of affection in advance of seeing him at school tomorrow."

The prevailing opinion on Twitter was that I should tackle and hug (and/or kiss) the kid anyway; after all, "real men kiss their moms" and I am the one who pays his bills. The truth is, Twitter, I don't tend to be boisterous like that.

At least he still hugged me when he said goodnight, after all those negotiations.

At least he still wants me to help at his school--with his class.

And at least he has library in the mornings, before the hair that he is so graciously allowing me to touch gets too sweaty from the playground football game at recess.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Tiber River Review: The Truth About Therese

A saint who died when she was only about half my age? Who spent 1/3 of her life behind convent walls? How could such a saint possibly inspire anyone whose path in life had taken a very different turn?

While the title and subtitle of this book, The Truth about Therese: An Unflinching Look at Lisieux, the Little Flower, and the Little Way suggest a more "unauthorized biography" feel, that's not what author Henri Gheon achieves in this short biography of St. Therese of Lisieux. Instead, he writes of the many difficulties she endured, even after she achieved her dream of becoming a Carmelite at a very young age.

My favorite chapter of this book was the first one, "My Initial Resistance to St. Therese," because I have felt the same resistance. I was more captivated by this saint as a teenager; the older I have become, the more distant I have felt from her. But this book, especially in the later chapters, does much to bring out the spiritual battles that St. Therese fought throughout her life. While my battles are surely different, there is much that I can learn from St. Therese's actions and attitudes about how to endure such spiritual warfare.

Through this book, I learned that St. Therese was more than a spoiled child, more than a goody-goody; I learned of her Little Way and how it can be put into practice. Most importantly, I learned that sainthood doesn't come easy to anyone--but that's no reason to stop striving for it.

The foreward by Philippe Maxence is short but not to be missed.

Perhaps because it was translated from the French, and surely because it was originally written in 1934, this book is not an easy read. Vocabulary, sentence structure and turn of phrase are challenging to the reader.

The fine print:  I wrote this review of The Truth About Therese for the free Catholic book review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.
Aquinas and More is the largest on-line Catholic bookstore.
I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River. 

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Works in Progress

Things my kids have learned this summer: How to make Jambalaya. Algebra. Acting. Making tuna salad and muffin pizza.

Things my kids have not learned this summer: Turning lights and tv off when they leave a room. Closing drawers and doors to cabinets and closets. Eating with silverware (still to be mastered by one child)

So they can cook, compute and emote, but they still act like they were raised by wolves.

There is much work yet to be done.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fat Police

This morning, Little Brother and I went grocery shopping. Everything went well for the first 3/4 of the trip. We got nectarines, cucumbers, melon, bananas, celery, Cheerios, peanut butter, cookies (I had a coupon) and EVOO. Then we got to the dairy aisle, and that's where things got ugly.

I reached for a gallon of milk, the kind with the red top that screams, "Full fat!" at the casual observer, and my skinny 10-year-old took me to task.

It's got to be the propaganda that's behind it. First of all, the kid doesn't even drink milk--hasn't in more than 8 years. I am the main consumer of that weekly gallon of milk, and I like my milk whole, thankyouverymuch. But boy, was I in trouble. "Why don't you buy 2%, Mom?"

"Because I don't like 2%. I like Real Milk." We went along this way for a while, as I wheeled the cart along and picked up a pound of Real Butter and 18 Real Eggs and then headed toward the Coffee Nirvana section, where I once again bemoaned the fact that ShopRite never has quarts of light cream anymore.

"Half-and-half is just as good, Mom," said my young Food Policeman.

"No, believe me, half-and-half is not just as good," I sighed as I placed a quart of half-and-half in the cart sadly.

"Mom, I agree with that governor of New York about this," he commented. (I think he meant "mayor," but whatever. I was arguing for my Real Milk, not accuracy regarding government officials.)

Kid, I'm all for healthy, which is why I bought nectarines, cucumbers, melon, bananas, celery, Cheerios and peanut butter, and also the EVOO. But when it comes to dairy, I'm a full-fat kind of girl. And no one, not any governor or mayor or president or surgeon general or doctor on TV is going to tell me not to have my nice big glass of milk with dinner every night.

Real milk. With the red top. Ice cold. It's the only way. I'm willing to sit down with the Fat Police over a cold one and discuss this, and I will not back down.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Of Goodbyes, Long and Short, and Birthdays

Yesterday was my husband's birthday. Three years ago it stopped being a happy occasion.

On his birthday three years ago, we stood next to each other, all lined up in fancy clothes, alongside his father's casket. Pop had passed away two days before after a short and unexpected illness. Some of the people at the wake remembered that it was my husband's birthday and awkwardly wished him a happy birthday along with offering their condolences.

It was weird, and a pretty crummy way to have to spend a birthday.

The other day we gathered with my mother-in-law, as well as my husband's sister-in-law and 3 nieces, to attend a Mass for Pop. After that we got some pizza. No one made sure there was a cake, or candles. No one even sang or suggested the idea of it. You don't commemorate the anniversary of a death with a birthday cake and a rousing chorus of "Sto Lat*."

My mother-in-law did not call her son yesterday to wish him a happy birthday. I don't know if she remembers that his birthday was Sunday; during the past couple of years it has become apparent that she is suffering from Alzheimer's. On Friday evening, after we got home, my husband confided that it's really hard for him to see his mom like this.

Hard as it was to lose Pop, his illness was mercifully short. In early August of that year, we were arguing with him that he should see a doctor because of a few symptoms he was having. By the 24th he was gone. In between those two points were a horrible couple of weeks in which my husband spent his time shuttling between his job and his parents so that his mom could get to see Pop in the hospital. There was no time to think about what might happen, what it would be like with Pop gone. There was no time to think about anything.

Now, all he has is time. He knows that he is losing a little bit of his mom with each passing day. It's just a question of how many days will pass before a family agreement must be made, because the time will come (sooner rather than later) when she cannot continue to live on her own. In many ways, already, she is no longer "on her own," depending on my husband and his sister-in-law for things like errands, food shopping, paying the bills, doctor visits and filling her medication organizer.

This is an awful way to lose someone.

Right now, what is lost is the short-term memory stuff: the "where did I put my keys" and the taking medicine as scheduled and the writing out of checks to pay bills. But we know what's coming. And the hardest loss of all, I think, will be the loss of the relationship: the time when she no longer remembers her son, when she cannot recognize her grandchildren.

One way (out of many) in which my husband and I are opposite is that he is a relationship person and I am a logistics person. It's something that I admire and am frustrated by, sometimes in the same minute. But while I worry about his mom largely in terms of the logistics, he is grieving, in advance, the loss of the relationship with his mother, even as he must deal with the logistics of her physical needs.

And that is a pretty crummy way to spend a bithday.

*"Sto Lat" is a Polish happy-occasion song. The lyrics, loosely translated, mean "May you live 100 years." In my husband's family, it is always sung at birthdays.

 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Like a Ninja

Ever since he was a very Little Brother, his nickname has been "Monkey." If it was there, the kid would climb it.

Just now, he woke up and came downstairs.

"What's up, Monk?" I greeted him.

"I'm not a monk," he informed me. "Monks do this all the time," bowing his head and folding his hands in prayer.

"I'll bet some of them altar serve," I commented.

He brightened (I thought the mention of altar-serving did it) and then zipped out of praying-hands mode into full-on Ninja warrior moves--kind of like Tai Chi but speedier.

"Some of them do this," he told me. "Ninja Monks!"

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Rose by Any Other Name

So I was sitting at Little Brother's soccer practice last night when the leaves of the tree next to me caught my eye. Because of the heavy underbrush, I couldn't see the tree trunk, but the leaves were interesting. I have an app for my phone called Leafsnap that lets you take a photo of a leaf and then it analyzes it, offering a few possibilities for leafy identification.

My kids found the leaf on the kitchen table tonight (I had to set the leaf on a white surface or the app doesn't work) and they think they don't need an app to know that the leaf is probably marijuana.

NOT.

It looks quite a bit like it, but according to the app and several websites, what we've got here is a sweetgum tree.

I had no idea those grew north of the Mason-Dixon Line; something about the name "sweetgum tree" just screams "Deep South" to me. Must have been mentioned in a book once.

My kids, however, are standing by their story and offering me assistance with recovery of a whole other sort than I've been working on for the past few months.

Monday, August 20, 2012

I Do Not Like This, Uncle-Sam-I-Am

There was a blood-donation drive at our parish today, and Middle Sister wanted to donate. She's 16, and that's old enough if she brings along a parent to sign a permission slip. So I took her over there, filled out the form, and sat with her while she read the packet of information and disclaimers that she was handed.

Finally her name was called and we went over to the desk where the nurse was taking medical histories. First Middle Sister had to produce an ID with her date of birth. A school ID wasn't going to do it, and I reminded her that she had her driver's permit in her handbag. Then the nurse told me that I wasn't allowed to be there. Citing "privacy issues," she said that while my daughter gave her medical history, I couldn't be present. I could, however, stand next to the table where they would take the blood out of her arm. That is, if I weren't so squeamish about things like that. (I'll drive you to the ER if you don't make me look at the wound.)

So I had to go sit on the other side of the room while my underage daughter gave her medical history. She is not old enough to get an Advil from the school nurse if she has a migraine without parental permission, let alone donate blood or get her ears pierced (or any other body part). I accompany her to medical appointments. But I AM NOT ALLOWED to listen to my minor child give her medical history.

Can you tell I'm not a fan of this policy? My daughter wasn't asking me to please go away. She didn't seem to care one way or the other, which is comforting to me. If the patient doesn't care that a parent is there during the medical history, why is it a problem for the nurse?

I was only able to find a small amount of information regarding confidentiality on the Red Cross website:
The Red Cross maintains the confidentiality of information we obtain about a donor and will release a donor’s confidential information to his or her parents only with the donor’s consent.
Is this all part of HIPAA, or is this something new? Regardless, I don't like it. Not one bit. If she is young enough to require my signature before she can give blood, she is young enough that I can still listen to her medical history.

And after all that, her iron was JUST shy of the benchmark required for blood donation. So this was all for nothing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Explanation FAIL

Little Brother and I attended Mass together this morning. He paid attention to the readings and even to Father's homily, which linked the "Magnificat" from the Gospel to both the Visitation and the life of St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein).

That might seem like a stretch, but the gist of it was that "My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord" was central to the Blessed Mother's life as well as to the martyrdom of St. Teresa.

After Mass was over, Little Brother asked me what the name of today's feast was, again. He didn't seem to be too familiar with the concept of the Assumption--especially after listening to a Gospel that told the story of the Visitation.

I told him that when most people die, only their soul goes to Heaven. But the Blessed Mother's soul and body went to heaven upon her death.

It's complicated. I can't wrap my head around this mystery either.

Apparently neither can Little Brother, who then commented: "Mary could FLY? Wow, that's COOL! I want to fly..."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

If You Take a Street Urchin to the Diner

If you take a Street Urchin to the diner, it is not advisable to order the Mexican Omelet.  (It's my favorite. Green peppers, onions and Monterey Jack cheese, so says the menu, although in real life it's more likely to be Cheddar.  Either way, it's all good.)

So we went to the diner with Little Brother and Adventure Boy. And I ordered the Mexican Omelet, not knowing any better, because it's my favorite, and it's never been a problem before.

Then again, we don't usually take Street Urchins to the diner.

My omelet was delicious, as usual. And then Adventure Boy, Master of All That Is Tactful, looked at it, made a face and said, "EWWWWWWWWWWWWW! That looks like big green BOOGERS!"

Thanks for that.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Everybody: In the Pool!

I don't know where the Street Urchins summer, but most of them haven't been around here too much (with the exception of Adventure Boy.)  And despite sending my request for contact information home with each of them, I'd only wound up with home phone numbers for two of the four boys on the block.

One of the other boys showed up here today, when Little Brother and two friends were already in the pool.  I handed him a fresh contact sheet and told him to go get it filled out (and to get a towel), and then he could swim.  He told me that he'd lost the other one, but that his mom thought it was a good idea.  He went back home, but 5 minutes later there he was, jumping into my pool without handing me a paper.

I made him get out of the water and sent him home to get it.

I felt bad about that for about 5 seconds.  I have to protect these kids when they are here, and part of that is knowing how to reach their families in case of emergencies.

He came back with the paper filled out, and without a towel.  Adventure Boy doesn't have a towel either.  (I told him to go home and change and get a towel, but he decided to just swim in his clothes.)  And while Mean Mom might provide a few chocolate-chip cookies apres-swim, they're on their own when it comes to towels.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Quick and Random

Thank you for the birthday wishes I received here after TheDad "hacked" my blog on Saturday.  I received some nice presents:  a doughnut pan and extra-large dark chocolate bar from Middle Sister, a Pullman bread pan from Big Brother (yes, I asked for kitchen stuff for my birthday!) and on Sunday, TheDad is taking me into New York City so we can see "Sister Act" on Broadway.  That's going to be fun!

Little Brother and the Street Urchins are making me crazy here.  Two are taking turns with "Bop It" and the third is playing a "Paper Jamz" guitar.  Let it be known that I am not responsible for bringing either of those nefarious, noisy toys into my house.  It's almost at the point where I'm willing to let them play a video game just to shut them up, except that I suspect that this is their evil plan, so I'm holding out as best I can.

I spent 6 hours of my birthday in the car (with my family) so we could go to my sister's and celebrate my niece's graduation.  It was worth the trip.  This is the longest car trip I've taken since right before I had surgery in April, and I'm not gonna lie:  it took its toll.  I had a backache until Monday.  But it was great fun to spend time with my family, and one of my other nieces made me a birthday cake from scratch, featuring the new nickname she and her sister have bestowed upon me.

I am coming to terms with the fact that while my weight has not changed since surgery, things have rearranged a bit, so some of my clothes no longer fit.  Actually, I had to break down and buy a couple of pairs of (gasp!) Mom Jeans, since those are the only ones with a high enough waist to work.  Waistbands and incision scars don't mix well.  Middle Sister is going to be horrified.  But I'm looking at it this way:  most people who have surgery at a cancer center cannot say that they're relatively healthy--I can.  I came out of the whole thing with a large scar, hot flashes every hour, and a fashion challenge.  There is every reason to be grateful, even for the Mom Jeans.

It's about time for a battery-ectomy on a couple of electronic toys...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Elsewhere

I've got a few things to say about a few things in these places:


  • at Catholicmom.com:  Tech Talk:  5 Reasons to Use Springpad.  This is probably the most useful app I have on my phone (and computer).
  • at Tjoos.com:  Tuesday Release, in which I express my gratitude for my Big Kids' good taste in music
  • also at Tjoos:  Athletic Immunity, this Notre Dame football fan's short take on the NCAA's sanctions of Penn State
  • and finally, did you know that hot flashes can be so powerful that they can melt moisturizer right off your face?  I found this out last week:  Midlife Madness
Go ahead and click through!


Monday, July 23, 2012

No Killer Instinct Here

In which I reveal myself as a less-than-committed sports parent.


For the past three weeks, Middle Sister has been attending twice-weekly summer soccer "camp," which runs from 6 to 8 PM, or right during the time in which I'm cooking and serving dinner.  It's also right during prime thunderstorm hours, especially in the heat of July.

Last week, on that very hot day, the team parents got an email:

Coach [name withheld to protect the guilty] is going to try to still have training tonight from 6-8 PM. Hopefully the storms will pass through either before or after the session.

It is suggested that parents stick around or arrange for another parent (or an upperclassman with a car) to account for your daughter in case the storms roll in while we are on the field and we would need to get all of the girls into cars in a hurry.
So we parents are supposed to stick around in our cars in an open parking lot when it's 100 degrees outside during a longer-than-two-hour practice just in case it rains?  That's your genius plan for keeping my kid safe from a possibly dangerous weather situation?

Five minutes later we got another email:  "On second thought, practice is cancelled."

Good.

But tonight, while it's 10 degrees cooler, we've got thunderstorms threatening.  I'm consoling myself with the fact that we live so close to the school that I could probably drive to the parking lot faster than the soccer kids could get there from the field.  And I'm going to keep the phone handy during dinner, because if it gets any darker out there, I want to be ready to zip right over there.

Really, coach, when there's any yellow and red in the radar, it's time to call it a day.

And the thunder rumbles...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Summer Reading

Boy, it would be cool to have nothing at all to do all summer long but read.  I'd go for that in a heartbeat.  I have been reading (every chance I get) and I've jumped back on the Goodreads bandwagon to track my books.

Two of my kids have summer-reading assignments.  Middle Sister's school has a "One Book, One School" policy where students, faculty and staff all read the same book for the summer.  This year it's The Hunger Games.  While at first I thought the school was selling out by choosing a popular book like that, I've changed my tune; I read the book (and the rest of the series) and there is a LOT in there that high-school students can discuss and analyze--and not just in English class.

Little Brother is required to read two books.  One, A Dog's Life, is required, and he has a generous list of others from which he must choose one more.  He's worked his way through most of that list (Encyclopedia Brown, anything from Dan Gutman's "Baseball Card" series, and a few others) but he steadfastly refuses to touch one of the books:  Charlotte's Web.

I'd almost let him take a pass on that if he'd said that it's a girls' book.  But he has not used that as an excuse.  "It's too big" doesn't fly with me, since last summer he read all the Harry Potter books.  Then he tried, "It's a children's book!"

"Yes, and you're a children," I retorted, using grammatical incorrectness to make a point.

Since he's in the middle of A Dog's Life, I asked him how that one was going.  He said that so far it's a sad story, and launched into a long tale about dogs being left by the side of the road by "one of the wives in the couple," which led Big Brother to muse that this is really a book about Mormons.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Agony and the Dentistry

Want to really see me go over the edge? Send me to the dentist. It's definitely a Near Occasion of Anxiety for me.

I have cried at the dentist's before, when I was told just how much work had to be done. I think this was either shortly before or shortly after Little Brother was born. I remember being so upset that day that the dentist decided not to start the work then, because I was just barely keeping it together.

The past couple of years, I have avoided the dentist. I have neglected my own dental health as well as my children's, because none of us liked the dentist we were seeing (what did it for me: she asked if all my children were "from the same marriage.") And then Middle Sister chipped a tooth and I had a loose crown, so we went to a new-to-us dentist on Wednesday.

I was holding it together well, I thought, even though Middle Sister took every opportunity to light into me for not keeping up on her dental care. I listened to him explain that I would need a mouth guard because I grind my teeth, and that he didn't like the looks of the crown; it would come out again, he said, if I didn't take care of the grinding. I stayed calm. I took the news like an adult and figured I'd just deal with it.

I did not expect to lose that crown 3 days later while eating fajitas. I'm just glad it happened in my own home. But now I look like a hockey player (it's a canine tooth), and I can't get an appointment until Thursday to fix this.

Lovely.

I have 3 more days to wig out, and I'm doing just that, thankyouverymuch. I really wish that I had just insisted on getting all my teeth pulled out on that day years ago when I broke down in the dentist's office and had to be sent home.

Is there Novocaine that works on the emotions? Because I need some.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Hoarders, the Digital Edition

I'm a digital packrat of the most incurable kind.  That whole "I might need this someday" thing rears its ugly head; I still have 5 1/4" floppy disks with my college senior thesis on them.  Not that I have any software that can access the files, and it's been at least 5 years since there was a computer in this house that accommodated ANY floppy disks, but I've got those disks...

I use gmail for most of my email, but I have it forwarded through some complicated electronic system or other so I can read it in Outlook on my computer.  Therefore, I never go to gmail's site unless I need to check the spam folder for something that was misfiled.

I had 67,000 messages in my gmail inbox yesterday.  Years and years and years of messages.  And I deleted them all.

And it didn't kill me or cause bad things to happen to my family. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

But I'm still not ready to dump those floppy disks.