Sunday, December 31, 2006

Wishing We Didn't Have to Have These Conversations...

Middle Sister to TheDad, as she walked up behind him as he sat at the computer: "Can I come over there, or is that something about Saddam Hussein that I'm not allowed to see?"

Really. Do we need all these pictures of the Swinging Dead Dictator? I had to read the newspaper very carefully this morning--I'm thankful for the warning they put on Page One that on Page Eleven there would be "graphic photos." Then I made sure TheDad folded the paper back up after he read it, so there would be no chance that squeamish ME or impressionable children would have to see that.

Father Martin has a good link in his post about the reasons behind the execution, though I don't think killing anyone is ever a good idea. There are also very important points made in Song of November, especially the part about Saddam now becoming a martyr for his twisted causes.

I have to just give up. I'll never understand all this or even begin to. May God have mercy on Saddam's soul; may the families of all who were hurt by his actions and policies be comforted; and may all who work toward evil come to a change of heart.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Pajama Day

Can you hear the sigh of relief?

I got up, had some "prayers & coffee," got a shower and put on a fresh pair of pajamas.

Little Brother thinks it's cool, though he can't understand why I made HIM get dressed if I am not (he doesn't realize that these are not the pajamas I slept in). Plus, he's fairly likely to spend time outside this afternoon.

The Big Kids think I'm nuts. I know that this is going to keep me sane.

Scientific? Not quite. Poetic? Definitely.

Little Brother was mourning the lack of wintry whiteness last night as we drove under a cloudy sky to a party. It's too warm for snow, but the sky did have that look.

He looked out the window and observed the clouds, lit from below by the city lights and a nearby power plant. And he commented, "Clouds are snow! They fall down. Then you play in them."

He's not too far off--even Dad The Meteorologist would have to agree with that one.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Opposites Attract...and Clash

TheDad is an extrovert. Holidays bring out the best in him. He's always ready to invite guests over, or attend one gathering after another. Even on weekends, it drives him crazy to have to stay home.

I'm an introvert. Holidays bring out the worst in me. By the Third Day of Christmas (that would be the second Road Trip out of at least 3) I am ready to lose it, if I haven't already. And by this point in the year all I want to do is spend a day in my pajamas and Never Leave The House For Any Reason. This morning I was wound up so tight I was ready to burst into tears with no provocation. I had to escape to the supermarket where I could be alone.

TheDad also likes to drop all routine and do something different, whereas I thrive on familiarity--except for furniture arrangement and trying new recipes.

Parties, even family gatherings, can sap my mental strength in a way that even arguing with a four-year-old doesn't. I feel like it costs me a great deal, some days, to put on a smile and socialize, whether it's with family members or near-strangers. And parties become something I dread; I almost never look forward to them. Right about now, I'm just plain exhausted--and I look it.

We've got 2 more parties and one more visit scheduled in the next four days. After that, people in this house will start going back to school and work, and I will stop feeling like I need to go and hide.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Like Christmas Songs? Like Word Games?

Ron's got a fun game you can play with your family.

The first one stumped me for a while, but I did eventually get all of them. Of course, some credit must be given to Sister Anne from my high school, who made it her personal business to ensure that all of us developed our vocabularies to the fullest extent required by the SAT.

And allow me to give a little plug for XM Radio here: they have honored listener requests and kept one of their "All-Christmas-Music" stations playing through New Year's Day. Around here, the Christmas music on regular radio stops at noon on Christmas Day, so this move is MUCH appreciated.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Happy Birthday to Middle Sister!

11 years ago Middle Sister was born, very early in the morning on this day.

Now that she is 11 we know just how sweet, funny, caring, athletic, creative and dramatic she can be, and we love every bit of all that makes her....Middle Sister!

On birthdays, the celebrating one gets to choose what's for dinner and what kind of cake to have. Middle Sister wanted pizza from her favorite place, and an apple pie. And she wanted to invite someone.

In true Middle Sister form, one "someone" has evolved into two whole families of "someones" so we've got 10 people on their way over here to enjoy pizza, apple pie, and brownies (I only had enough apples for one pie).

I hope I have birthday candles!

Happy birthday and much love to Middle Sister!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

O Holy Night

May you and your families be blessed this Christmas--but wait, you already are!
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Middle Sister posted this sign on the basement door this morning after I sequestered myself in there with a large cup of coffee, the phone, and a scary amount of laundry, wrapping paper and tape. My sister and I talked our way through our respective Gift-Wrap Hells. I also did most of the wash.

I didn't have the heart to remind her that the child who most needed to stay away from the basement is also the one who can't read the sign.

As for her inability to spell "warning" and "wrapping" while correctly spelling "consequences," I have been informed that TheDad helped with that one. I was kind of impressed that she knows how to use that word.

The wrapping is done, and I have helpfully left TheDad a nice setup on top of the dryer (yes, I wrap gifts on top of my washer and dryer). There are several kinds of wrapping paper, scissors, tape, and gift tags--all ready for him to use. And I have it on good authority that he did not get me a new mop or anything like that.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Goofy Reindeer Are The Best Reindeer

I don't remember all the places where I saw the idea to make these reindeer cookies. They seem to be everywhere this year.

I used our regular rolled-sugar-cookie recipe for these. I rolled out an interminable number of cookies and Middle Sister gamely decorated most of them. (Not all were reindeer. They're cute, but they take up a lot of cookie-sheet real estate, and as the person who must scrub the cookie sheets between batches, I wasn't willing to do too many of them).

Big Brother made ONE mutant reindeer with two different-colored eyes, and a green nose (ewwww!)

And Little Brother made a few as well. I thought that this googly-eyed one had the most charm of all the reindeer created today.


Middle Sister put together a gift for me a while ago. She put it in a big pink gift bag and warned me not to look in it.

Later she got a different gift bag for the gift and put it under the Christmas tree. The tree is right behind my desk I was warned not to look in it, and so far I've been good. It's been there at least a week now.

Tonight, when Big Brother was wondering if participating in a conspiracy qualified as being bad or good, I told him that being in a conspiracy to get his mother a nice gift and do double chores for the next year would be a good one.

Middle Sister reminded him that she had made me a gift. I told him that I even knew where it was. He wanted to know if I had peeked, and I promised that I had not.

Middle Sister said that Big Brother could look in the bag--but that he probably wouldn't know what the gift was.

Then she laughed hysterically.

But I'll have to wait until Christmas morning to find out if I know what the gift is....

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Advent in My House: They're On Fire

Too much Boy Scout. Not enough reverence.

For example:

...they start the meal by musing, "I wonder if I can sneeze the candles out tonight."

...Big Brother is running out of clever ways to light the match. (Tomorrow we may have to do the Boy Scout flint thing. That could keep him busy for a while).

...they have been picking the wax drippings off the sides of the candles and stacking them around the wick, campfire-style. (Note to self: next year, buy the dripless kind.)

...they are begging to light the fourth candle because "we won't be eating dinner at home on Sunday night, and we need to use it sometime."

Here's where I am seriously glad that Advent is as short as it possibly can be this year!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Catholic Carnival for this week

Visit this week's Catholic Carnival!

There are 17 participants in this week's carnival--something for everyone! Check it out. That should be enough to keep you busy for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I'd Love to See THIS Classroom Moment

Middle Sister just hopped out of bed and ran downstairs to ask, "Mom, can I borrow your sombrero? I need it for school tomorrow."

Me: "You'll have to find it, but if you can find it you can borrow it." (And yeah, I ranted a little about letting that one wait until after bedtime....)

She quickly found and retrieved my giant sombrero and put it with her school things. As she ran back to bed she called, "Thanks! We're acting out the birth of Jesus, and I get to be a Spanish person."

Between that and the scheduled science experiment involving Diet Coke and Mentos, I'm guessing tomorrow will be a day to remember.

At least her teacher got a good laugh

Today Middle Sister brought home a religion test she had taken. The subject of the test was "Baptism."

One of the questions was:

The _________________ is placed on the person being baptized as a sign of new life in Christ.

Her answer: The lighted candle is placed on the person being baptized as a sign of new life in Christ.

The teacher had circled the words "lighted" and "on" and put a big exclamation point there.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Logical Consequences

Logical to me, anyway.

Since the child who typically occupies the "way back seat" in the van has the habit of leaving her clothing, jewelry, books, pencils, and other paraphernalia all over the seat and floor in her general area (not to mention a good deal of trash), and

Since said child insisted that she did not have any clothing in my van as recently as yesterday, and

Since I went out to the van this morning and removed one denim jacket, one hoodie sweatshirt and one pair of pajamas, all belonging to her,

MIDDLE SISTER gets to vacuum the van today!

Who Gives Us Freedom?

Sometimes trying to explain things to a young child in an age-appropriate way can leave them more confused.

Other times, it leaves them expressing a truth that you never thought someone so young could know.

Yesterday in the car, we heard one of those "Christmas greetings from deployed soldiers" that the stations play between songs. When it was over, the announcer said, "That was a Christmas Greeting from one of America's heroes."

Little Brother said, "Why are they heroes?"

I told him, "They are protecting our country so we can have freedom."

He considered this for a minute and then said, "I thought GOD does that."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I Didn't Sing in the Choir Today

Today I sat in the pew with my family. Normally we attend the noon Mass and Middle Sister and I are in the choir. But today at noon, my fellow Franciscans and I (and the kids) will be working to prepare for the Greccio celebration at 1 PM. Noon Mass was out of the question today.

Much as I love singing in the choir (and I know my husband loves that Middle Sister and I do this), it's a rare gift to sit all together. I like watching Little Brother clumsily genuflect, and hearing him say all the responses just a little too late, and being able to share the sign of peace with my family.

I could also see what was happening in the Mass a good bit better than I can from my usual seat in the choir area. I could see our only priest. He is a brilliant, devoted man who is obviously on fire with his faith. He's also beginning to show his age. I imagine that the schedule he must keep, as the only priest in the parish, is exhausting.

He laid it on the line after Communion that when Christmas is on a Monday, he's got 9 Masses to celebrate in a 48-hour period--and that he just can't do it. So next Sunday, there will be no noon Mass.

More and more, we will be seeing this happen as there are fewer priests to go around. More and more, we will see situations like Catholic Mom and Catholic Pillow Fight are discussing right now: the pros and cons of requiring tickets for Christmas and Easter Masses.

Churches in my diocese are closing; they're looking at my local deanery now. Once all that takes place, our Christmas and Easter Masses are going to be even more packed than they are right now.

I will say that it is very hard to be generous to the "C&E" Catholics; it is easy to complain that because of them there is no parking, there are no seats and no hymnals to be had, that we need three Communion songs to handle the procession. It is hard to remember that it's WONDERFUL that there are so many people in church that there is no parking, no seats, no hymnals, and a long Communion line. It's a gift to us all that so many are in church.

And those of us who regularly go to church need to keep our complaints to ourselves. We need to extend our best hospitality to our twice-a-year guests. We in the pews need to put our best face forward. Our parish needs to see to it that these Masses are the best of the best. Get the best lectors, the best cantors. Prepare the best homily. Make the "C&E" Catholics want to come back.

I believe that this would be a wonderful gift that we could give to Baby Jesus this Christmas: our hospitality to all our fellow Catholics, no matter how often or seldom they attend Mass. Shouldn't our goal be to follow the example of the early Christians: "See how they love one another!"

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Is it just me...

Ever since I moved my blog to "the new and improved BETA" yesterday, I've been getting an amazing amount of spam in my comments. Oddly enough, it's all been Italian spam. (Spamoni?) What's up with that? Are these 2 events connected?

Hence the comments moderation has been turned on. Pardon the inconvenience.

And no, I don't read Italian, but I read Spanish well enough to figure out what's going on in these spam comments. At least they're not "adult" spam. Thank God for that.

Any other Beta Bloggers having this problem, or am I just lucky?

And while I'm discussing (dissing) Beta, how afraid (scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being very, very afraid) should I be about clicking that "upgrade my template" button?

I like the "label" feature though....but I'm going to have to really, really resist my obsessive need to label each and every post I've ever posted.

Friday, December 15, 2006

My Saint for the Year

I think Saint Nicholas must have been flattered by Little Brother's mistaking him for God.

How else to explain the fact that he'll be my patron for the year in Moneybags' Patron Saint for 2007 Devotion?

I love this image of Saint Nicholas leading the children to the Christ-child in the manger.

How to Have a Catholic Christmas

According to our new pastor, here's what to celebrate. It's not just one special day--but eight! He's published this information on the front of this week's bulletin.


Christmas is not the only holyday of our Christmas Season. There are seven others that, collectively, comprise our Christmas Celebration.
The birth of Jesus is not the only event we celebrate. It ends with our observance of his Baptism and the beginning of His ministry. Here are the other holydays of our Christmas Season.

Christmas Day, Monday, December 25
The Church began celebrating this day over 1,500 years ago. The day was first kept as a day which proclaimed faith in a Savior born to be the hope of our future fulfillment.

St. Stephen the Martyr, Tuesday, December 26
On the day after Christmas we hear about the death of the first martyr. We are jolted from the “peace” of Christmas to the awareness that faith in the Babe in the manger could involve death.

St. John, Wednesday, December 27
The Gospel takes us to the empty tomb of Jesus.
The mystery of the birth and death of Jesus are intermixed.

Holy Innocents Day, Thursday, December 28
We hear the story of the death of innocent children. The song of the angels is replaced by the weeping of grieving mothers. The reading of the day says: ‘GOD IS LIGHT. IN GOD THERE IS NO DARKNESS!’ We are left to ponder God and the mystery of evil.

Holy Family, Sunday, December 31
On this Sunday after Christmas, we are not shown a holy-card-perfect family.
We see a real family, united in obedience to the Word of God.

Mary, Mother of God, Monday, January 1
The day speaks to us about the full and faithful cooperation of Mary with the plan of God for her life.

Epiphany, Sunday, January 7
We celebrate the first showing of Jesus to the world.
The Gospel contrasts Herod who wishes to kill the child and the Magi who wish to adore Him.

The Baptism of Jesus, Monday, January 8
The last day of our Christmas Season. We focus on the voice from heaven which tells us who Jesus is.
He is the One-Sent-to-Save. He is the Messiah. He is anointed with the Spirit as he begins His ministry.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Great Saints Think Alike

The passage of 400 years does nothing to minimize the wisdom:

Saint John of the Cross, 16th century:
The Lord measures our perfection neither by the multitude nor the magnitude of our deeds, but by the manner in which we perform them.

Mother Theresa, 20th century:
I am not sure exactly what Heaven will be like. But I know that when we die and it comes the time for God to judge us, He will not ask, "How many good things have you done in your life?" Rather He will ask, "How much love did you put into what you did?"

The Ultimate Swiss Army Knife

Image Credit

Kathryn Judson has a link to this article about the new Swiss Army Knife that appears to have everything but the kitchen sink in it.

I have a Swiss Army Knife myself, that's come in quite handy on many occasions, but it doesn't have nearly the tools this one does. I can't remember what the name of the model is, but it does pack a corkscrew and tweezers.

It got me thinking, though--if they were to market a Swiss Army Knife for moms, what tools would they include?

In my hypothetical knife, considerations such as refillability wouldn't be a factor. Hence my list of tools for the Ultimate SFO Mommy Knife:

Nail clippers
Nail file
Flat screwdriver
Phillips screwdriver
Special tool for undoing the diabolical twistie-ties that bind toys to packaging
Wire cutters
Magnifying glass
Candle Snuffer
Sewing needle
Finger Rosary

Did I miss anything?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

If there was ever a prayer to put in your kitchen, THIS IS IT

I'm printing this prayer and hanging it on one of my cabinet doors.

A big Thank You to the Kitchen Madonna for posting this prayer.

All right, that came out quite tiny and I'm not sure how to fix the image without blurring it. Big Brother will have to help later. Here's the text of the prayer:

Lord of all pots and pans and things,
Since I've no time to be a great saint by doing lovely things,
Or watching late with Thee,
Or dreaming in the dawnlight,
Or storming heaven's gates,
Make me a saint by getting meals,
And washing up the plates.

Warm all the kitchen with Thy Love,
And light it with Thy peace;
Forgive me all my worrying,
And make my grumbling cease.

Thou who didst love to give men food,
In room, or by the sea,
Accept the service that I do—I do it unto Thee."

- St. Teresa of Avila

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Up Close

I saw this beautiful image this morning at Blessed Among Men.

I think everyone's seen pictures of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I know I've seen countless ones. But they're always slightly blurry full-body images, so you can't see too much detail anywhere.

This one is different. It's been on my mind all day because of how different it is. You actually get to see the features of the face. You see the beautiful serenity that is displayed there. You see her face and hands--and how young they appear. And you see humility.

Mary was the Mother of God, but she did nothing to glorify herself because of that role. There was nothing like, "Look what my son can do! He can change water into wine! He can heal paralyzed and blind people! He can raise his friends from the dead! I bet your son can't do that!" Instead, she said, "I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to His word."

I think it's partly Mary's humility that leads to her apparitions to very humble people, such as Juan Diego, Bernadette, and the three children in Fatima. They were not going to try to glorify themselves because they had seen the Mother of God. They were only going to try to carry out God's will.

May Our Lady of Guadalupe show us the way to humility.

With a Little Help From Our Friends

Yesterday's Gospel was the story of how Jesus healed the paralyzed man whose friends had to lower him through a hole in the roof to get to Jesus through the crowd.

In his homily, Father H. reflected on the faith of the man's friends, and the lengths they were willing to go on behalf of their friend--carrying a grown man on a mat, climbing up to the roof, making a hole, and lowering the man down to Jesus. They did all this because of their faith.

What do we do for our friends because of our faith? Are we willing to employ our Power Tools--not drills or chain saws, but the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy?

Catholic Carnival

The Catholic Carnival: Eggnog Edition is up!

I'm no fan of eggnog, but I always love the Catholic Carnival. Every week, it's like a new treasure chest of terrific posts. Check it out!

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Little Heart Breaks

I spent some time with a few other Secular Franciscans this afternoon as we fitted children for their costumes in preparation for Sunday's "Greccio" (living Nativity) celebration.

Little groups of primary-school children approached us wanting to be angels and shepherds. They walked away proudly carrying their robes and wings and halos.

And then there was one little girl. She's a beautiful child, and would be a perfect angel in her white robe and gold halo and shiny wings. Except for one little detail.

She said to me, with tears in her eyes, "I don't know if I can be here mommy and daddy are splitting up."

There was no way I was going to do anything to make this little girl any sadder than she already was. I told her that she could try on her costume, and we would hold it here in a special place. If she could come Sunday, the costume would be here for her to wear.

And then the teenagers helping us got this little girl outfitted in our most beautiful angel robe. We put it away in a safe place so we'll be sure to have it for her.

I hope we see this child on Sunday. I hope she gets to wear that robe. She's got enough heartbreak on her plate, at Christmastime. She should at least get to be an angel for an afternoon.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

More on Saint Nick

I just followd a link or two back to this fabulous piece by Paul, the Regular Guy.

It's the result of what happens when you think about the Communion of Saints and the idea of Santa at the same time. What do you get? Not a culture clash--but a wonderful way to view many traditions and customs that are common during this holy season.

Saint Nicholas and the Mitre

Little Brother just asked me what Saint Nicholas looks like.

I have no idea what brought on that question, but I decided to show him the picture of Saint Nicholas that I posted here last week.

I told him, "Nobody took Saint Nicholas's picture so we don't know what he really looked like, but here's a picture somebody drew of what he might look like."

He studied it carefully and then said, "That's not Saint Nicholas. It's GOD! See, he has a cross on his hat."

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Year Without a Santa Claus

My husband's favorite children's Christmas special is "The Year Without a Santa Claus." It's probably because as a meteorologist, he gets a kick out of the Heat Miser and the Cold Miser.

One thing I find myself dreading as the kids get older is our first year without a Santa Claus. A bonus of having children as spread-out in age as ours are is that this sad event is delayed for a while.

My children have been taught to believe in Santa Claus.

I only have one "believer" left and I hope he believes for a good long time. The Christmas Eve tradition we celebrate with my husband's family depends on the kids' belief in Santa.

I've always loved the fact that the Big Kids in the extended family work very hard to make sure that the magical experience of the visit from Santa is preserved for the little ones, year after year. One of my favorite Christmas Eve memories centers on the length some of the teenagers would go to in this regard. A certain Boy Cousin was about 11 or 12, and smugly began to broadcast the fact that it was really Uncle K in that Santa suit. Fortunately Boy Cousin wasn't too close to any of the little ones, and Teen Girl Cousin grabbed him none-too-gently and informed him that he was not going to ruin Christmas for the Little Kids or there would be consequences. He kept it up for a while anyway, despite her warnings, but I was one of the few people who even noticed. Well, Teen Girl Cousin took her place as one of Santa's Helpers that year. Sometimes Santa needs help reaching packages and reading gift tags, and the Teenage Cousins stand by to assist him. Boy Cousin's name was never called to go to Santa's lap and receive his gifts. It is a trademark of this party that every guest, even the ones who show up unexpectedly, and no matter what their age or size, must sit on Santa's lap and receive a gift. Boy Cousin didn't get any gifts. Finally Santa was finished handing out gifts, the last songs were sung, and Santa collected his jingle bells from the littlest child and went on his way. After Santa was gone and dessert had been served, Teen Girl Cousin pulled out a Hefty bag with Boy Cousin's gifts and said to him, "Merry Christmas."

I was so impressed with the way this girl handled the situation. She did not tattle to any adults. She did not let anyone know what she was doing. I'm sure she was aware that if she had done that, the Little Kids would find out. She kept things close to the vest. None of the other adults in the family even remembers this happening--I must have been standing in just the right spot to notice it all.

A couple of years ago it became obvious that the Santa costume was not going to be available to the family. Phone calls were made--it was 2 days before Christmas Eve. Every branch of the family offered to chip in toward the purchase of a new costume, someone found one, and the tradition was able to go on.

The Visit From Santa is a magical part of my husband's family's tradition. Children and adults alike look forward to the event. Once the children are old enough to stop "believing" they are told that they are now Santa's Helpers and they need to make sure they don't ruin things for the little ones. Remembering the fun they have had, they usually don't have a problem graduating to this new role. The Santa tradition brings out the best in all the members of the family.

It looks like ours is not the only family to enjoy this magic: a fire truck has just pulled up across the street, and Santa and several elves are knocking on the door of one of the houses. I'm on my way outside to wave to Santa--I'll see him in 2 more weeks!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Overheard in my house

Little Brother: "I want to be bigger."

Middle Sister: "You only get to get bigger once a month."

Her science teacher has her work cut out for her, that's for sure.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

I love the artistic license employed here, that puts Saints Francis and Anthony in company with the Blessed Mother.

At Mass today, the priest related the story of St. Francis informing one of the brothers that on feasts such as today, "there is no Friday." So HAPPY FEAST to one and all!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

My Mom Would Expect Nothing Less

Your Language Arts Grade: 100%

Way to go! You know not to trust the MS Grammar Check and you know "no" from "know." Now, go forth and spread the good word (or at least, the proper use of apostrophes).

Are You Gooder at Grammar?
Make a Quiz

My mother was my Language Arts teacher from sixth through eighth grades. I was afraid to get less than an A in her class--and it was a challenge in the beginning, because the school I attended before sixth grade never introduced grammar in any form. She taught me well, though; I went on to major in English in college and graduate school. To this day I am unable to keep myself from proofreading the newspaper as I read it.

H/T to Christine for this quiz!

Got Cookies?

Not yet?

Need recipes? No problem. Just visit Danielle's Advent Baking Carnival. There's a wealth of mom-tested recipes for cookies and treats of all kinds. Your only problem will be deciding which ones to bake first.

Time to bring out the pants with the elastic waist, I think...

Twenty-five Thousand

That's how many lights are on the National Christmas Tree this year, according to my local TV news.

I'm impressed--and trying to figure out if I can manage to get 1/10 that amount on my own tree here. I think that would double my current inventory. Unfortunately it would also double the sure would be pretty, though. You could probably see it from another zip code, at that point!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Persona Christi

This morning as I was cleaning up the kitchen, Little Brother wandered in and said, "Remember when Jesus said 'Hi, Buddy'?"

"No, I don't. When did Jesus do that?"

"In church, last time!"

"Did Jesus sing by himself in church last time?" (Father had sung a prayer after the Lamb of God this past Sunday, instead of reciting it).

"Yes, Jesus singed all by himself and then everybody singed a song together."

Obviously Little Brother still thinks that Father is Jesus. It was a different priest this time, but that didn't matter to Little Brother.

We've never explained the concept of persona Christi to our children, but Little Brother apparently gets it. As Pope John Paul the Great said, "The priest is a living and transparent image of Christ the priest."

And Little Brother is his buddy.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Little Saint Nick

Catholic Mom has a few reminders about special December saints. She's got great pictures AND great links, so don't miss it.

On our Advent Paper Chain, today's link reminded the children to place their shoes outside their bedroom doors tonight so St. Nicholas could leave them a surprise.

Little Brother was a little confused about this. Apparently he doesn't remember this tradition from last year. First he wanted to know if he should leave ALL his shoes by his door. Then, after I explained how many shoes should be left, and who St. Nicholas was, he thought about it for a while. He came back and said, "I'm going to put my shoes by my door, and Santa Claus's Brother will give me a surprise tonight!"

UPDATE: Little Brother has everything all ready. He put one rain boot and one sneaker by his door. At least he got a right and a left shoe....
And Middle Sister had put a pair of old church shoes outside her door yesterday because she has outgrown them. I hadn't gotten around to taking them to the basement to box up with her other outgrown things. She decided that since these are Very Nice Looking Shoes, St. Nicholas can leave her surprise there.
Big Brother has put out ONE of his snow boots--the biggest shoes he owns.

I Need a Do-Over

Did you ever have one of those days when you wished you could just start the whole thing over?

I think that so far (and I've only been up 2 hours) the only thing I've gotten RIGHT today was Morning Prayer.

I woke up crabby because Little Brother invaded my side of the bed at about 2 AM. The rest of the night I hung off the edge in odd positions, because that child can hog an entire queen-size bed.

I snapped at just about everyone who got in my way this morning and had no patience for Little Brother who put in an appearance about an hour earlier than normal, even though by that time he had the WHOLE bed to himself.

I came down pretty hard on Big Brother for missing some homework assignments (wait, I did that RIGHT, although maybe next time I won't make him start his day on that note).

I was not looking forward to an errand I had to do today that was made more inconvenient and would now involve a 20-minute sidetrip in the other direction, OR to defrosting my freezer, which is what I have to do today or the food won't ever come out again.

Then Big Brother missed his bus. And it got really ugly. And I went outside to start the van so it wouldn't be SO chilly, and Big Brother and Casanova shepherded Little Brother out the door and shut the door. Did I mention that Little Brother was wearing only his pajamas and rain boots at the time, and it's below 30 degrees?

And it got uglier.

I apologized once I got Little Brother a coat, and got everyone in the van, which did not warm up until I got back into the driveway at home. But I don't think Big Brother wanted to hear it.

Yes, if I had a chance for a do-over today, I hope I'd do better.

The Christmas Meme

I've been tagged by Jennifer at The Catholic Path. I think she's figured out that I'm a sucker for a meme....

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Coffee!! I can't stomach Egg Nog!

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? They are all coordinated and wrapped. Each child has his own wrapping paper and Santa's gifts always have Santa paper on them.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? White on the house, colored on the tree. LOTS of colored lights on the tree. My husband thinks that the amount of lights I insist on putting on the tree borders on the insane--but the result is FABOO!

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No.

5. When do you put your decorations up? Usually we do a little on each Sunday of Advent, doing the tree on the Third Sunday. This year, with such a short Advent, we'll accelerate things a little.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Pierogi and mashed rutabagas (really! But not necessarily together....) I like cranberry sauce too--the canned kind, with the "can marks."

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: Sitting at the top of the staircase with my sister and brother, yelling, "Did Santa come? Can we come down now?"--and listening to my parents tell us that we had to wait until my grandmother got there (AFTER 7 AM MASS)--and then racing down the stairs to see the tree for the first time. "Santa" always decorated the Christmas tree in our house when we were kids.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I don't remember.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Only the ones we receive at the family reunion/Wigilia. Everything else waits until the morning.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Most of our ornaments were given to us or made by the kids. I can remember a lot of the stories behind the ornaments--I should make a little journal about them. No tinsel or garland, just lots of lights and lots of ornaments.

11. Snow? Love it or Dread it? It's great if we don't have to go anywhere!

12. Can you ice skate? I can stay upright, but I can't do any tricks.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? My favorite childhood gift was a pretty doll cradle with a big baby doll inside. My favorite adult gift was my digital camera 2 years ago.

14. What's the most exciting thing about the Holidays for you? Decorating the tree.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Christmas cookies, of course! They're also my favorite Holiday Breakfast.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Watching the kids put the ornaments on the tree, and baking the Christmas cookies.

17. What tops your tree? We have an electric star that lights up--BUT if one of the kids makes a tree top (usually an angel, on a toilet paper tube base) at school, we use that instead.

18. Which do you prefer - giving or receiving? Giving. I especially enjoy wrapping up the presents, and imagining the recipients as they unwrap them. And then it drives me crazy to have to wait until Christmas to give the gift.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? "O Holy Night." I'm unable to sing it or even hear it without tearing up.

20. Candy Canes? Bring 'em on!

Monday, December 04, 2006

He Sees You When You're Sleeping...

That must be because some of kids' cutest moments happen when they're asleep. You really can see their resemblance to angels when they're so quiet and peaceful.

Early this morning when I got up, I stopped in Little Brother's room. As usual, he was out of the blankets, curled up into a tiny fuzzy-pajama ball. I untangled his blankets and covered him back up. A little smile appeared on his face as he stretched out his legs and relaxed.

I'm a sucker for moments like that. And if Christmas gifts were entirely dependent on the look on Little Brother's face at that moment, we'd need a bigger house to hold them all.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Overheard at the Advent Table

In keeping with the theme that around here, it's not all sweetness and light. No, we're a "warts and all" family and more often than not, that means that somebody will be around with a magnifying glass to inspect those warts and comment on the grossness thereof...'s what was said at the dinner table tonight:

Big Brother, upon finding out that it was his turn to light the Advent candle: "Where are the matches? These candle lighters are for WIMPS."

Me, to Little Brother: "Finish chewing your food before blowing out the candle."

Yes, we're definitely pretty rough around the edges in this house.

The Damage Is Done

Little Brother has been enjoying his very own Nativity Scene all morning. He's traded around the capes, crowns and other props (right now the shepherd is wearing a royal purple cape.)

He showed Daddy the shepherd's staff. Daddy observed to Big Brother, "Look--this is just like a bazooka."

That was all Little Brother needed to hear. Now he's showing off all the little tiny weapons to everyone.

I'm going to spend my entire Advent doing damage control.

Prepare Ye

Today is the First Sunday of Advent.

In our family we use the season of Advent to gradually get ready for Christmas. We don't go whole hog and put up our Christmas tree on Black Friday. We like to start slower, and enjoy the Advent season. This year, since Advent is so short, we will be "speeding up" our preparations a bit. We try, though, to emphasize with the kids that this is a liturgical season and link our preparations and customs to that.

When the Big Kids were younger, I used to make an Advent paper chain. On each day there would be an activity or prayer or special treat listed. Then Little Brother got into the act, and would tear up the chain, and I started listing things on a calendar I'd print out. But who knew--the kids missed the paper chain! Middle Sister asked for it last week. So this year, we're back to the chain.

I've also taken Milehimama's suggestion and purchased a toy Nativity scene. Little Brother (and Middle Sister) can arrange and rearrange the figures to their hearts' content. And rumor has it that Little Brother wants to bring all the stuffed animals he can find to round out the selection of animals at the stable. (Is this a Nativity scene, or Noah's ark?) I'll bring that out today, as soon as I get the coffee table cleaned off.

Today's link says, "Put the empty manger on the shelf. Place the Advent wreath on the table. Begin decorating the house." The manger will remain completely empty until we put in the animals, during the week before Christmas.

H/T to Jeff at The Curt Jester for the Advent wreath and countdown that he's generously provided to all bloggers for their sidebars!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Sweet Christmas Read

I just reacquainted myself with a book I hadn't thought of since my childhood:
Story of Holly and Ivy
Story of Holly and Ivy
by Rumer Godden.

What a sweet Christmas story for a young girl to enjoy. Unlike many of Godden's other books, it is not religious in nature, but the spirit of giving, sharing and love that should fill all our hearts at Christmas is abundant in this book. I handed it to Middle Sister after I finished rereading it, and Miss Reluctant Reader Herself devoured and enjoyed it as well.

I am such a fan of this author that I also reread The Kitchen Madonna yesterday. Apparently this one's out of print--but search your library! This is not a Christmas book, but what a lovely story of, again, giving, sharing and love--and how love brings a child to do what is very out of character, so that another person will have happiness.

If these books don't put you in the Christmas spirit, I don't know what will.

Friday, December 01, 2006

I Like This Idea

Michelle's posted her New Month's Resolution for December.

I like it.

So much so, in fact, that I'm trying it too. A little peace in the day is definitely a Good Thing. I've got my MP3 player loaded with appropriate music (today it'll be Beth Nielsen Chapman's Hymns) and the coffee's brewing as I type.

Let me tell you, it sure beats muttering through gritted teeth, "We're going to have a peaceful Christmas if it kills me!" Wouldn't it be nice to get all the way through Christmas without gritting my teeth at all?

Carnival of Cookies

Danielle's hosting an Advent Cookie Carnival! I can hardly wait. We love cookies (who doesn't?)

I'm not going to submit my usual sugar cookie recipe here, because I'm sure everyone has a "roll, cut, decorate and bake" recipe they already like. Plus, I posted it last year, along with the story behind the recipe.

Instead, here's an easy family favorite that looks really nice on a cookie platter, and tastes fabulous. Plus, it's chocolate. What more could you want in a cookie?


1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups chocolate chips and/or nuts (any combination you like)
Powdered sugar

Cream butter and sugars. Add in egg and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients, then stir in chips and nuts.
Roll into balls about the size of a walnut. Roll balls in powdered sugar and place on ungreased pan.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes at 375.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Now is the time for all Mothers of Basketball Players to band together and demand a Schedule from the coaches. Because tomorrow is the last day of November, and I have to start making a new Meal and Transportation Plan for December--but I can't, because I don't know when Middle Sister will have her basketball games. I've already got Big Brother's Fuller-Than-He-Likes-It indoor track schedule (this is a boy who has always valued his free time).

Suffice it to say that Planic has set in. That is the emotion you feel when you need to Make a Plan that will allow you to Keep Your Sanity for the next 31 days, but you can't, because a big piece of the puzzle is missing.


Little Brother has been riding his tricycle up and down in front of our house (and one neighbor's) for a few minutes. Then he came in and asked me to give him a newspaper, so he could play Paper Boy. I found a few ads from this morning's paper, rolled them up, put a rubber band around them, and warned him to stay out of the street. He is happily "delivering" the paper to our neighbor, then picking it up, riding up and down, and delivering it again.

Here's A New One On Me

Today was the day Little Brother and I volunteer in the school lunchroom. There's one little boy in first grade who asks, every day, for a "metal spoon" (come on, Mom, give the kid a spoon for his yogurt!) It's got to be metal, too, not plastic. So we just tell him to bring it back when he's done.

He comes back to return the spoon, wiping it off on a paper towel. Then he says, "If I wipe off the spoon real good, do I have to give it back?"

The Birthday Meme

I was tagged by Jennifer at The Catholic Path.

Here's how you play:
1) Go to Wikipedia
2) In the search box, type your birth month and day but not the year.
3) List three events that happened on your birthday
4) List two important birthdays and one death
5) One holiday or observance (if any)

My birthday is July 28.

3 events:
1821, Peru declares its independence from Spain
1914, World War I Begins when Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia
2002, 9 miners in Quecreek, Pennsylvania are rescued after 77 hours underground

2 important birthdays:
1844, Gerard Manley Hopkins
1945, Jim Davis (creator of the comic Garfield)

1 death:
In 2004, Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA

System Administrator Appreciation Day
Various saints including Pope Innocent I and Saint Ada

Tag! You're it!
Amy at R.C. Mommy
Michelle at Rosetta Stone

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

No Surprise Here

You Belong in Fall

Intelligent, introspective, and quite expressive at times...
You appreciate the changes in color, climate, and mood that fall brings
Whether you're carving wacky pumpkins or taking long drives, autumn is a favorite time of year for you

It's true. I love fall. I'm not much of a pumpkin carver, though.
H/T to Laura and Julie for this quiz.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Pray for the Holy Father This Week!

We should, of course, be praying for him every week. But this week is particularly important due to the threats made against Pope Benedict if he made his trip to Turkey.

Here's a special prayer for the next 4 days, from the Knights of Columbus:
Heavenly Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name, we humbly ask that you sustain, inspire, and protect your servant, Pope Benedict XVI, as he goes on pilgrimage to Turkey – a land to which St. Paul brought the Gospel of your Son; a land where once the Mother of your Son, the Seat of Wisdom, dwelt; a land where faith in your Son’s true divinity was definitively professed. Bless our Holy Father, who comes as a messenger of truth and love to all people of faith and good will dwelling in this land so rich in history. In the power of the Holy Spirit, may this visit of the Holy Father bring about deeper ties of understanding, cooperation, and peace among Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and those who profess Islam. May the prayers and events of these historic days greatly contribute both to greater accord among those who worship you, the living and true God, and also to peace in our world so often torn apart by war and sectarian violence.

We also ask, O Heavenly Father, that you watch over and protect Pope Benedict and entrust him to the loving care of Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Fatima, a title cherished both by Catholics and Muslims. Through her prayers and maternal love, may Pope Benedict be kept safe from all harm as he prays, bears witness to the Gospel, and invites all peoples to a dialogue of faith, reason, and love. We make our prayer through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Thanks to Dan at Faithmouse for the graphic honoring the Pope's new Coat of Arms.

Advent Encouragement

In yesterday's church bulletin, I was delighted to find a "Family Advent Calendar." On it are actions or prayer intentions to do for each day of Advent. These items range from "Pray for those who live in nursing homes" and "Pray for our soldiers all over the world" to "Be a Peace Maker at home today" and "Do an act of kindness for another person" and "Collect some canned goods for the food pantry" and "As a family, say two Hail Marys." None of these take a long time or a lot of money to do, but each of them is another step that can be taken as we Prepare The Way, and family members of almost any age can participate in some way.

I appreciate that someone took the time to put such a calendar together. It is important for families to do a little something together each day of Advent, when possible, to prepare our hearts--and it's nice that our parish is helping us get started.

UPDATE: In this week's National Catholic Register there is a wonderful article called "30 Days, 30 Ways" that speaks about evangelization. I'm not sure what's up with the website as I can only see the first part of the article there--so try to get your hands on the print edition and read all of it.

Can I Get That Coffee in an I.V.?

Little Brother invaded my personal space and hogged my personal pillow at an awfully early hour this morning. He came bouncing into the bedroom announcing, "Mommy! It's three-oh-OH!"

I mumbled that there are TWO "three-oh-ohs" in a day and this is NOT the one I want to see. I made him take a side trip to the bathroom before letting him into the bed, where he spent the rest of the night smacking me in the face and bumping my kidney with his knee.

Good thing none of my errands today take me more than 2 miles from home. I'd probably be a danger on the road on a longer-distance trip. Pass the caffeine.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Little Brother's Soundtrack

Little Brother is sitting on the floor, enjoying the last few minutes of playtime before bed.

As usual, he provides his own musical accompaniment to his games involving Dinosaurs, Knights and Army Guys (plus the odd Rescue Hero.)

I'm enjoying tonight's lyrics, sung quite melodically:

"Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, Lego, Lego, Lego, alle, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia..."


To: My Family
Re: College Football Season

Another season of college football has come to an end for me.

It wasn't a pretty end, either, but the season is over. It was mostly a good season and I'm thankful for that. It's always fun to see your favorite team win. Plus, I know the reputation I've come to have for being impossible to live with slightly disappointed when my favorite team loses. In view of that, I'm sure you are all thankful for Notre Dame's 10-2 record this year.

It would have been better if the season had not begun and ended on ABC. I'm convinced that the ABC announcers have it in for Notre Dame. Last night's "wearing of the Trojan helmet" from the announcers' desk was my first clue that things hadn't changed. So, to Big Brother, who had to listen to my outraged rantings every time the announcers dissed My Team, thank you.

To my husband, Middle Sister, and Little Brother, who went upstairs to watch a game show and play cards so I could watch last night's game without a four-year-old's interference, thank you. (Or was that so Little Brother wouldn't hear Mommy swear?)

To all of you who let me escape for a day when I suddenly had the opportunity to See a Notre Dame Game In Person, thank you. For me, those opportunities come only once a decade, so you're good for several more years.

To Big Brother who makes me great ND sidebars, you rule in Photoshop. Thank you.

To Big Brother's friend (AKA Casanova) who wisely figured out that it's smart to say "Go Irish" around me rather than betray your preference for The Other Team, especially when you sometimes depend on me for early-morning rides to school, smart move. The Irish are the best.

I'm well aware that my fanaticism loyalty to Notre Dame football makes absolutely no sense to any of you. It's what growing up in an Irish Catholic Subway Alumni Family can do to a person. And it got worse when I became a real alum.

So, thanks for putting up with all that. You have Mom back on Saturdays, now. There will be a Bowl Game, but that's subject to our Christmas plans. It's not necessarily Must-See TV.

Besides, basketball season is just getting started.

Friday, November 24, 2006

It's the Catholic Schools

You paid attention during 100% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Create a Quiz

No autodidact here....I had 12 years of Catholic schooling from 6th grade through grad school. Guess the 7 years spent in ugly uniforms were worth it, academically.

H/T to Catholic Pillow Fight.

The Ultimate Compliment?

Middle Sister was snuggling up to me on the couch earlier. "Mmmmm, your clothes smell nice," she commented.

"Just like--DISH SOAP!"

Thursday, November 23, 2006

We Interrupt Dinner Preparations... advise one and all that it is highly inadvisable to taste-test the onion dip and follow it up with a big sip of coffee.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and may your turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes all be ready to eat at The Same Time.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Pulverize the Stuffing

I always use my grandmother's stuffing recipe for my turkeys. I have this recipe in her handwriting, and a friend of mine laminated it for me so I could have it forever.

The recipe does not call for those boxes or bags of prepared "stuffing bread." Instead, it involves spreading out two sandwich loaves all over the kitchen table and letting the bread get good and stale. My kids helpfully wander through every few minutes and inspect the bread for staleness. They also willingly sit around the Very Big Bowl and break up the bread once it's stale enough.

Big Brother just wandered through and asked, "When can I help crush the bread?"

"No, no, no, no, NO! You do not PULVERIZE stuffing, or you will wind up with this really disgusting mush inside the turkey."

He was properly contrite, as he's old enough to appreciate the importance of Following the Family Recipe. Plus, he loves stuffing.

I can't wait until the morning when I get to open my brand-new box of Poultry Seasoning.

I am SUCH a stuffing geek.

Maybe He's Trying To Deflect Blame?

This morning as my husband was putting on his shoes, he took one right back off, fished around inside, and came up with a tiny gray Lego helmet.

I told the kids at breakfast, "This morning Dad found a Lego helmet in his shoe."

The Big Kids both had the same response: "OUCH!"

Little Brother wanted to know, "Did it WALK there?"

Monday, November 20, 2006

I'm Feeling Grateful

...that I have the kind of neighbors I can call at 8:00 on a weeknight when they're in the middle of getting kids off to bed, so I can borrow an ingredient I forgot I needed in order to make this for tomorrow's dinner.


Michelle's story about her daughter's clothing angst reminds me of something that happened a couple of weeks ago.

It's only a matter of time before my daughter stops wanting to be seen with us. I can see it coming.

Little Brother always wants to wear things belonging to the Big Kids, or things that look just like the Big Kids' clothes. (Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all). About a month ago he wanted Big Brother's track jersey. I couldn't let him wear that to play in, so I dug up Middle Sister's old basketball jersey--the one from two seasons ago where the numbers were already starting to peel off--and popped it over his sweatshirt. He was thrilled. He wore it everywhere, even the supermarket. Of course, I didn't let him wear it to church, or where nicer-dress clothes were required, but just for our regular errands, I didn't see the harm in it.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was getting ready to take Middle Sister and Little Brother to Wegmans, which is a rather "upscale" supermarket. How upscale? When it opened last winter, I was practically the only shopper who didn't have a fur coat. I go there weekly to get their fantastic produce and take advantage of their low price on milk. Anyway, Little Brother ran to get his jersey, so I helped him put it on.

Middle Sister was horrified. "Mom, you're not going to let him go to Wegmans in that!

Do you think that was why she kept volunteering to go get some other item from some other aisle, for me? It was an extraordinary level of helpfulness, for sure.

Obviously she doesn't remember the time she went to the supermarket wearing a bathing suit, ballerina tutu skirt, party hat and magic wand, with snow boots on her feet. (No, I didn't get a picture. Wish I had, though!)

Want to Learn a Little about Third Orders?

There's a very well-done article in the Columbus Dispatch on the topic of Third Orders.

I'll admit to having a certain family pride, as it were, about the Secular Franciscan Order, but several others exist as well.

H/T to and also with you for pointing the way to this worthwhile article. I intend to express my thanks to the Columbus Dispatch for such a wonderful piece. It's not often that this happens in a mainstream newspaper, and it's certainly commendable.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Flying High

It's All Airplanes, All The Time at my house right now.

Today I made two trips to a local airport. Big Brother is a member of the Flight Club at his school, and the club was meeting at an airport to take the boys on some short flights. I didn't have the whole day to stay and watch, so I just dropped off and picked up.

Today my kid flew an airplane. He actually took the controls and FLEW THE AIRPLANE. His feet haven't touched the ground since.

This is my cautious child, who 5 years ago would get a stomachache from the prospect of choosing between two fun alternatives. Last night, as Senior Patrol Leader, he conducted his Boy Scout Troop's Court of Honor. Where did all this courage and confidence come from? He is FLYING AIRPLANES.

Little Brother was almost as thrilled as Big Brother. He got to see the traffic helicopter from the local news land. He saw at least 10 small aircraft landing or taking off. He was so close (yet behind the fence) that the pilots were waving at him and he jumped up and down, dressed for the occasion in his "flight commander" sweatshirt and carrying his Hess biplane.

Next Friday we'll be back, because Big Brother won a free 30-minute flying lesson. He can't wait.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Curiosity Will Kill the Mom

Sooner or later my children's eagerness for scientific experimentation is going to be the death of me. Just now, I had to instruct two of them:

"Get that (digital fever) thermometer out of the FREEZER!"

If you're thinking that Little Brother was involved in this escapade, you'd be way wrong.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Accent? What accent?

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Northeast

Judging by how you talk you are probably from north Jersey, New York City, Connecticut or Rhode Island. Chances are, if you are from New York City (and not those other places) people would probably be able to tell if they actually heard you speak.

The Inland North
The Midland
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Wow, this was accurate! I grew up in North Jersey about 15 miles west of New York City. Now I live near Philadelphia.

H/T to Father Martin Fox, who doesn't think he has an accent either.

You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

There's been a lot of talk about various stores that will or will not use the word "Christmas" in what is blatantly Christmas advertising.

I have nothing against "including all holidays." But as I said in the combox at Ian's site where this is being discussed,
I don’t mind so much when the stores say “holidays.” But I think the Dollar Tree commercial I saw yesterday sums up what really burns me. They say “holidays” and they decorate in green and they have red and green elves hamming it up in the ad. I’m fairly sure they’re not talking about EITHER Hannukah or Kwanzaa there. So don’t be so fake as to act like you’re “including” everyone else when it’s obvious that you really mean Christmas. I have other dollar store choices if I need to visit a dollar store.

We all have the power to decide where to spend our money. We vote with our wallets. I intend to vote with mine, AND to take a little time to let the establishments I patronize know that I appreciate their policies. That’s the part that really makes the difference.

What these shortsighted businesses don't realize is that they are profiting from Christmas in a BIG way. Would it kill them to acknowledge it?

Laura has links to the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and to the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, both of which are posting a "Grinch List" of businesses, towns and others who refuse to acknowledge Christmas.

I've already thrown some of my business toward Kohl's, which will be using "Christmas" in its ads. And I've sent them an email thanking them for this, encouraging them to continue, and informing them that I'm a happy customer there.

I realize that sooner or later I might have to shop in one of the "Grinches" but I will do my best to make sure that most of my shopping is done in stores that aren't afraid to say the word "Christmas."

UPDATE: I got a nice reply back from Kohl's.
Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback with us. We are glad that your recent experience with us at was a pleasant one. You can be assured that Kohl's recognizes Christmas as an important holiday. The spirit of Christmas is warmly embraced by Kohl's through "Merry Christmas" greetings from our associates, welcoming Christmas music that is played throughout our stores, and great seasonal gifts like those you will see in our upcoming advertisements. While we cannot share any specifics of our upcoming promotions with you, we are pleased to announce that the word Christmas will be predominantly featured in at least 6 of our sales flyers between mid-November and New Year’s Day.

DO take the time to let the stores you patronize know why you're there. Let them know that it's worth it to them to acknowledge the Reason for the Season!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Say a Prayer

My husband just got word from one of his work buddies--this guy's son S, who is Middle Sister's age, is in the hospital with meningitis. It's still undetermined which variety of meningitis it is. S has a younger sister as well. Please keep him and his family in your prayers, as well as the medical team. Saint Anthony, pray for them.

UPDATE: S. is home and doing better. Thanks for your prayers!

Because He Can

The burning question around here tonight, from Middle Sister:

"Mom, why is Little Brother playing Legos in the bathroom?"

My Hero

My husband has this amazing ability to detect, from his office 50 miles away from our home, that I'm feeling a little extra fried at the end of some days. So he'll call to say he's on his way (that's my cue to start dinner) and sometimes he offers to just get pizza if I haven't yet started dinner.

And sometimes he goes one better. Today he called to let me know that he'd remembered that we're eating early tonight, because Middle Sister has basketball practice. Middle Sister answered the phone. When she hung up, she said, "Dad said to tell you that he wants to take me to basketball tonight and watch me practice."

This is TOTALLY better than pizza. This is saving me from an hour of sitting on the gym floor (even if I do get to read a really good book while I'm there), and then rushing home to be on time to host the SFO Council meeting. Dinner's easy tonight anyway.

Oh yeah. He's a keeper.

Dream a Little Dream

Little Brother just made his sleepy way down the stairs and climbed into my lap.

"Good morning," I said to him. "Did you have a good sleep? Did you have good dreams?"

"I didn't have ANY dreams!" he answered.

"No dreams?"

"No," he said. "You get dreams when you wake up, and then you go back in your room and go back to sleep because you're still sleepy, and then you get a dream."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

If She'd Seen the Movie, This Conversation Would Never Have Happened

Middle Sister just handed Big Brother a Post-It.

Big Brother: "Hey! That's MY Post-It! Stop stealing my Post-Its!"

Me (muttering): "I invented Post-Its."

Middle Sister: "You DID?!"

She's too young for Romy and Michele, though.

They're Gross Around Here, Too

This is for Rachel, who may believe that it's only boys who have the ability to be gross.

Middle Sister, at the dinner table: "Ewwww, there's a booger in my milk!"

Anyone want to do the dishes here tonight? I'm not sure I can stomach it.

From Today's Homily: The Value of a Life

From what I've read around the corner of the blog-world that I frequent, a lot of people heard about whether the gift someone offers is more valuable than the one offered by someone else, simply because the gift is larger. That ultimately leads to the reflection on the worthiness of a gift given "from want" rather than "from excess." And it's a very important point to consider, especially when we think about how we give, how we spend our time, how we give of ourselves.

Our priest had a different take on the matter, however. He asked us to consider, "Is one life more valuable, more special, than another?" We all know where that kind of thinking can lead.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Tag Team Bread Success!

I've been working on this "internet tag team bread project" with The Kitchen Madonna for several days now. We'd both been in search of a good pumpernickel recipe.

My last year of high school, I worked at a bakery which seriously spoiled me and my dad. We both love bread. I got to take home $3 worth of baked goods each workday, and a loaf of rye was only 90 cents! And Dennis The Baker made a wicked raisin pumpernickel. Dad hasn't been able to find anything like it since the bakery closed.

When The Kitchen Madonna mentioned that she was looking for a good onion pumpernickel recipe, I had to get in on the pumpernickel action. Maybe, I figured, if I could get my hands on a good basic pumpernickel recipe, I could add some raisins and let Dad tell me if I got it right.

We decided to work on a Serbian Pumpernickel recipe. It looked pretty easy and the ingredients were easy to find. And it only took me 5 days to get ALL the ingredients into my house.

This made A LOT of bread. I put it in regular loaf pans instead of doing a "free form round" loaf, and wound up with 3 loaves. Won't my neighbors be happy?

Discussing the aftermath of the mixing and kneading with the Kitchen Madonna, I discovered that we'd both made the same mistake in reading the recipe!

I just taste-tested this bread, which smells delicious and tastes even better! No butter needed for mine. This bread is great all on its own. It's a little sweet, thanks to the molasses, and more than a little caraway-tangy.

Future Pumpernickel Tweaks on my end (because I just can't leave a recipe alone):
I want to add some Caramel Color* to the bread. I like my pumpernickel to look darker than this.
I want to reduce the recipe, ultimately to "one loaf at a time." Even two at a time would be better.
Any idea on when I should add in the raisins? And when should The Kitchen Madonna put in the onions? (I'm thinking that raisins can come in after the first rise, but onions should go in right at the start.)

*I purchase Caramel Color at a local Asian supermarket. I can't tell you the brand, or the ingredients, because other than the word "CARAMEL" on the label, nothing's in English.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Prayer: Everyone's Talking About It

In just the past couple of days, both Danielle and Michelle have posted on prayer and the challenges that parents face as they strive to nourish their prayer life while raising busy families. Sarah wrote about it a few weeks ago.

Both Michelle and Sarah focus on the Rosary in their discussions. I am not a regular pray-er of the Rosary, I must admit. I keep my finger Rosary in my pocket, not so much to use as a Rosary, but to call myself to prayer whenever I notice it in there.

As a Secular Franciscan I am expected to use the Liturgy of the Hours (specifically, Morning and Evening Prayer) daily. Did you know that priests are obligated under pain of sin to pray these prayers? The laity are not obligated in this way, but this is a particular form of prayer that Secular Franciscans are encouraged to practice. Certainly it is not the only one that we may use. I've been professed 5 years, and around the SFO longer than that, so I've been using the Liturgy of the Hours more or less faithfully for at least the past 7 years.

Morning Prayer is generally not too much of a problem, though I can find that if I don't get up and get started with prayers, I'll get started doing other things like packing lunches and being the Human Alarm Clock and making sure the kids get on the school bus and defrosting something for dinner and putting laundry into the washer....and before I know it, it's almost lunchtime and I have not yet greeted the Lord in prayer.

It's Evening Prayer that is my personal struggle. I had always done this at night, right before going to bed. Then, just before I was professed, the priest who was the Spiritual Assistant for our SFO fraternity taught us all that "Evening Prayer is not to be prayed at night. That's what Night Prayer is for. Evening Prayer should be prayed around sunset, or the dinner hour." Well, here's where the kind of perfectionism Michelle was talking about has reared its ugly head with me. Try finding a quiet place for 15 minutes in my house anytime between 4 and 8 PM. There's homework, and picking up Big Brother after his cross-country run, and dinner prep, and eating dinner, and cleaning up, and Middle Sister's basketball practice....and before I know it, it's bedtime and I wind up praying Evening Prayer at night.

And then I remember that a priest once mentioned, "If you're too busy to pray, you're too busy."

I know I have the choice here to either: beat myself up over this, find a way to pray Evening Prayer even a little earlier than I do now, or just let it ride and figure that it's better that I am using an opportunity to pray than wasting it. But more and more I'm thinking that it would be best to find a better way to make this happen. I'd like to make the effort to pray Evening Prayer earlier than I do, and maybe stay better awake in the process (for the record, lying in bed with 3 warm blankets and the Liturgy of the Hours is not conducive to alertness in prayer). Maybe after the dinner stuff is done, and everyone is settling in to their evening activities of reading, study, email, or games, I can disappear for 15 minutes. Because frankly, it would do me good to pay the "Magnificat" a bit more attention.

And maybe, if I sit in the nice clean kitchen for my prayer time, someone else in the house might find me there, and want to join in once in a while.

So my mission tonight, after dinner, is to make my kitchen table nice and clear, and dedicate the close of the day to the Lord. There might be background noise, but that's my life. I certainly don't want to wish away my noise-makers.

Lord, Hear Our Prayer

A fellow blogger needs our prayers. She's been battling illness for quite some time. Please pray for Epiphany today. I will be offering my "Pocket Rosary" and also praying to St. Anthony of Padua for her intention.

I'm joining with several other bloggers out there, including UKOK who has linked to a previous post explaining Epiphany's struggles.

The Difference Between Boys and Girls, Again

Cutie-Pie (age 2) is visiting from Over the Back Fence. She came over asking to play "Astronauts" with Little Brother. But soon, I heard Little Brother protesting:

"I'm NOT a baby. I'm an Army Guy."

Monday, November 06, 2006

Really Good Stuff

I've been doing a bit of reading lately that is really challenging me to meditate on my vocation as a wife and mother.

First, there's the Kitchen Madonna's blog and website. At one point, she mentions, "There is value in being a stealth vehicle for the virtues of the Mother of God." Chew on THAT for a while! That sentence sums up the Kitchen Madonna's ministry and challenge.

Then, there is a wonderful writer I discovered through Danielle Bean's blog. Genevieve Kineke has a blog and a new book, Authentic Catholic Woman
Authentic Catholic Woman

I was reading this book tonight as I waited through Middle Sister's basketball practice. (Almost 2 hours a week of reading time, even if there's noise and only a hard gym floor to sit on, is still a bonus of reading time for me!) Kineke uses incarnational theology (trace that one all the way back to St. Anthony of Padua--hey, this stuff is Franciscan!) I love all the examples from the lives of the saints that she provides, and how we are urged to link our actions with the sacraments of the Church, because we mirror the Church in our own domestic churches.

It's a real feast for the soul. Join me, dig in, and enjoy!

Think. Pray. Vote. Pray Again.

Don't forget to use the resources:
U.S. Catholic Bishops, "Faithful Citizenship"
EWTN's Catechism for Catholic Voters (thanks, Danielle!)
Catholics United for the Common Good (UPDATE: I have my doubts about this one and so do my commenters. Use carefully.)

Don't forget to pray for the candidates, for our nation, and for yourself, that you may be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit when you are considering your choices.

And don't forget to vote!

H/T to Mark, S.J. at You Duped Me, Lord for the voter resources.
H/T to Dan at Faithmouse for the "Vote for Life" banner.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

While We Have Time, Let Us Do Good

I'm going to put this graphic into my template someplace, soon. The phrase at the bottom has become a very familiar phrase around my parish in the past year or so. It was the pastor's favorite way to close his homilies and letters in the bulletin. I think it's a wonderful reminder. Don't wait! Do good things NOW!

For a while I had been thinking that since, as the pastor, Father Dan probably got more than his share of complaints, it was about time someone gave him a pat on the back. I'm glad that I did that, while I had time. I mailed him a card with my thanks in it, just a few weeks ago.

Today I found out that due to health problems, Father has resigned as our pastor and the Spiritual Assistant of our Secular Franciscan fraternity. He will be leaving soon. It's a great loss for our parish, since he had been instrumental in many changes, big and small, that were breathing life into the parish again. Right now we're under diocesan scrutiny as it is decided what parishes will close, or merge, or whatever. And now we are without a leader whose dedication, energy, and obvious faith were really necessary attributes in a time like this.

I appreciate Father Dan's advice and encouragement. I appreciate his candor. I appreciate his willingness to acknowledge that sin and evil exist, that we are always in danger of attack from the Devil, and that we can have the strength to overcome that. I appreciate the institution of weekly Evening Prayer, Benediction and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament; the "Beauty of Our Faith" classes that were just beginning; the efforts to get the parish together for fun events as well as faith events. It was Father Dan who first encouraged me to use my pocket rosary.

While Father Dan was here, he did good. May God bless him with a return to good health. Please pray for him, and for our parish as we have no leader at a crucial time. His absence will be deeply felt.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

An Open Letter to the Wal-Mart Corporation

Mr. H. Lee Scott, Jr.
President, Director & CEO
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
702 SW 8th Street
Bentonville, AR 72716-8611

Mr. Lee:

What has happened to the Wal-Mart I once knew? Your company always advertised itself as a “family store.” Everyone thought of Wal-Mart as a place where families could get what they needed and save some money in the process. My family has been shopping at Wal-Mart for years, for household necessities, medications, baby items, toys, stationery and clothing items.

Lately, though, I’ve heard some reports about Wal-Mart that have caused me enough concern that I have not shopped in a Wal-Mart or SAM’S Club since August. I will not shop in one of these stores again until the concerns have been addressed.

I care about where I spend my money. And I choose not to spend my money in stores that aggressively promote a pro-gay agenda, supporting the NGLCC; I choose not to spend my money in stores whose parent company donates to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. This is not what a “family store” does. This is not the action of a company that used to pull CDs off store shelves if they were deemed inappropriate.

Wal-Mart has sacrificed the good of families in favor of its own bottom line. What you have not considered is the loss of goodwill among people who believe that the pro-gay agenda is wrong, that the pro-abortion agenda is wrong, and are willing to vote with their wallets on such matters.

For the good of my family, I will not shop at Wal-Mart anymore, until these policies are changed.

For the good of my friends’ families, I will spread the word.

And I will continue to pray that the hearts of those who make such decisions about Wal-Mart will be changed, so that your company can once again be regarded as a “family store.” When that happens, please let me know, and I’ll be back.

H/T to Jean at Catholic Fire. This is going out in today's mail.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

We Love Halloween

There's nothing like Halloween. We've had lots of laughing, in-good-fun teasing and even a little in-good-fun scaring, dancing, and naturally candy-eating.

At Middle Sister's class party today, I brought the "Snot on a Stick" snack, made of pretzel sticks dipped in Cheese Whiz with a little food coloring mixed in (found the recipe at Family Corner.) Trust me. It looks real. Ewwww. The kids played "Pass the Rat" instead of "Hot Potato" and Little Brother entertained everyone by break-dancing.

The school does not allow the children to come in costume, which eliminates the whole "don't bring a weapon & don't scare the little kids" thing. Instead, they allowed the kids to wear ONE non-uniform item and called it "Clash Day." The kids were very creative in their clashing. Middle Sister wore, with her red & green plaid school skirt, a "Bohemian" style printed top. Yikes. Others had neon soccer socks, or mismatched shoes, or pajama pants.

Daddy and Middle Sister's Friend's Dad took the kids out for the first round, came back for dinner, and just went out to circle another block in our neighborhood. We've got 2 extra kids along this year. I stay home and pass out candy to the kids who come to the door. Daddy's motto is: "We'll trick-or-treat until you can't walk anymore."

At dinnertime, the kids were more interested in candy-trading than eating dinner, though their appetites got the better of them and they quickly downed their meals.

I am traditionally the Repository For Candy Nobody Wants. I take the Whoppers and Almond Joys. I used to get the Milky Ways, too, but then the kids figured out that those are good, so that was all over. 5 kids were tossing candy my way as I was trying to serve dinner. So I got a bowl and attached a sign: "Donations for Feed Mom Candy and Continue to Receive Hot Food and Clean Laundry Fund."

And they have gone back out, leaving me here to rummage through their candy stash wash dishes and answer the door.