Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Theologically Incorrect

Yesterday Kelly posted a story that she heard a priest telling about a baby dreaming of the angel friends who were watching over him before his birth. She interpreted that to mean that the baby's soul was in Heaven before he was given his earthly body...and that brought to my mind the times when Middle Sister, at age 4 or 5, used to tell me that she could remember Mary rocking her, and singing to her, and putting her down in her little bed, when she was in Heaven before she was born. In Middle Sister's view of Heaven, all the little babies who were waiting for mommies were well cared for by Jesus' Mommy herself.

Now, we never said anything to Middle Sister about being in Heaven before she came to our family here on earth--it's just something that a little child came up with on her own. But it's a wonderful idea regardless. And let's face it--if someone got to hold and rock my child before I did, I'm sure glad it was Mary!

As it turns out, the angels the priest was mentioning were watching over the baby while he was in his mother's womb.

Theologically correct or not, I really like Middle Sister's view of it. She has an interesting way of thinking about the world, and even at the age of 4 or 5 she had a grasp that Catholics do have a special regard for Mary. She's not called the Blessed Mother for nothing, after all.

Musical Musings

This music is so good I might have to give it up for Lent!

I've been listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (accompanied by the Philadelphia Orchestra) do the Best of Bach and Handel. The CD is titled "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring."

Great stuff! The last track is "Hallelujah Chorus." How can your heart not be lifted when you hear that glorious music?

The kids appreciate it less than I do, unfortunately. I guess I'll have to play it even more, and louder. I told them last night that these are some of the world's best musicians playing the world's best music.

And this morning, Middle Sister, who is not known for her tact especially in musical matters, wanted to know if I was alive when Bach was alive. Maybe I should try some of that wrinkle cream Danielle invested in. Or at least replay the "Hallelujah Chorus" and forget about it for a while. They say the mind's the first thing to go anyway--but I can still hear the music.

Monday, February 27, 2006

I Picked a Winner

By the time Big Daddy got home tonight I was pretty wrung out. It had been a busy day, with grocery shopping, volunteering in the lunchroom, taking the car to Walmart for an oil change and doing the Walmart shopping, then trying to keep Little Brother occupied in a tiny waiting room while the car was being serviced, putting away groceries, picking up Middle Sister at her keyboard lesson....you get the idea--just a regular "Mom's never home" kind of a day.

After we ate our dinner, without being asked, Big Daddy decided I needed a break and he would take all the kids to Friendly's for an ice cream treat. And before they left, he made sure Middle Sister knew what I'd want them to bring back for me.

So now the dinner dishes are washed and I'm getting ready to iron the school uniforms and Big Daddy's shirts for work. I'll work on that until I'm distracted with some delicious ice cream.

I am a Very Lucky Wife.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Great Wedding Homily

Yesterday Big Daddy and I attended the wedding of one of his younger cousins. The first time I met her she was about 7--I can't believe she is old enough to be married already!

At the wedding, the homily centered on God's love. Some of the highlights (although Father did a great job of weaving all these points together, I can't duplicate it):
  • God created everything out of nothing, because of love.
  • God came to earth as a baby, into a human family--which demonstrates how important the relationship of the married man and woman is.
  • Since "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him..." and being in Heaven is being in the presence of God, then Heaven is all about love. And since marriage is about love, then it gives us a preview of what Heaven can be, if we keep in mind what love is ("Love is patient and kind....")
I think this is the first time I have attended a wedding and actually remembered the homily--and the first time that the homily hasn't been directed only toward the couple or particularly about them.

Today I will keep in prayer the newly married couple, that they have a long, happy life of love together.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

What's Your 80's Theme Song?

Your 80s Theme Song:

Your 80s Theme Song is Walk Like an Egyptian by the Bangles

I love this song! It's a great theme song for me.
H/T to Jennifer at A Peek into Insanity.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

It's Good to be the Mom

This morning, Little Brother gave me a Very Big Hug, for no reason at all, and said, "Mom, I love you a hundred."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I Just Can't Resist these Quizzes

Especially when I get a great score!

The Stupid Quiz said I am "Totally Smart!" How stupid are you? Click here to find out!

H/T to Christine at Rambling GOP Soccer Mom.

Book Review #5 of 2006

This week I finished reading Sometimes I Dream in Italian by Rita Ciresi. From the title and the jacket blurb I thought I was going to be reading a funny book. It's fiction but reads like a memoir. Unlike a certain recently-published "memoir," however, this book does not claim to be true. Actually it is a "novelization" of various previously-published short stories.

I should have read the back cover of the jacket, where Ciresi is compared to Nora Ephron. Like Ephron, Ciresi is funny, but with an angry edge. Sometimes she's just plain angry. The inner jacket calls the book "lovingly written" but I didn't see much love here.

The story centers on a pair of sisters, daughters of Italian immigrants. They spend their lives trying to escape their heritage and the "embarrassment" their parents are to them. They never succeed, and instead seek into various states of anger, depression, despair, jealousy--they live in a poisoned emotional world.

This book failed to measure up to the hopes I had for it--much as the characters' lives failed to measure up to their own hopes.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Pardon my rant....

I was watching a little Food Network TV while I did some cleaning in my room just now, and I saw a commercial for Kraft macaroni and cheese. The jingle went something like this, "When Mom wants to please me, she knows she has to CHEESE ME!"

It really toasts my marshmallows that these manufacturers are teaching children to be little dietary dictators.

Let's bring back "Choosy mothers choose Jif." If Mom's doing the shopping (and the paying) then Mom gets to do the choosing.

Trusting in God

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end, nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
"But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you, and I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.
"Therefore, will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear for you are ever with me, and you will not leave me to face my perils alone."
Thomas Merton

A friend of mine shared this prayer with me today, and I thought it was too good to keep to myself.

If you would, please keep in prayer a friend of mine who is on an uncertain and difficult road, but who is there out of love. She's having a tough time right now, and it will probably only get tougher. May the Lord give her the strength and courage she will need--and the wisdom to ask for help from those around her who are very willing to give it.

And I'd like to pass along a prayer request from Amy's blog, for a little girl with kidney cancer. May God's healing hand be upon her.

Tact? What Tact?

Middle Sister belongs to the Theatre Club at school. They are practicing a play called "Song and Dance Man: George M. Cohan."

She had her copy of the score out last night, and she wanted me to help her practice the songs. I discovered that my great-grandfather was a big Cohan fan--quite a few of those songs were ones he used to sing to me when I was little, so I remembered a good bit of them. But sight-reading on organ is not my forte...and in the middle of one song (which I completely didn't know) she commented, "You know, Mom, Music Teacher plays the piano WAY better than you do."

She's right. And at least she's honest. She's not diplomatic, but she's honest.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Snowball Effect

I seriously underestimated my ability to do a small project and keep it small.

I walked into the kitchen with the intention of moving things that do not classify as Things You Can Drink a Beverage From into a different cabinet. All the cups, mugs, sport bottles and glasses were being crowded out by vitamins, tea bags, and packets of cocoa mix, not to mention one of Big Daddy's outdated prescriptions, a bottle of fiber supplements and a large packet of lactose-intolerant Little Brother's calcium supplements.

Before I knew what was happening, I found myself wiping up some grimy shelves in another cabinet, tossing out half-packets of Ramen noodles and some other things that I think we moved in here with in 1998--and completely forgetting that I needed to get things started on dinner, or we'd be eating past Middle Sister's bedtime.

So I managed to rein myself in, fetched a needed ingredient from the basement, started preheating the Nesco and finished up two of the cabinets, promising myself that I'd tackle the other two tomorrow. Bonus: all my Coffee Stuff is in one place, for Easy Caffeine-Addict Access.

I am now left to wonder exactly what recipe required the unopened bottle of Adobo seasoning that I found way back in there, and how long ago I bought it.

It's all about attitude

Today's Philadelphia Inquirer has a piece about the Olympics and how they have been a failure for the U.S.

Well, that depends on how you think about it.

I admit that I haven't watched too much of the Olympics, because they don't show enough of what I like. The other day they were scheduled to cover luge from 4 to 5 PM. I tuned in at 4:15. I saw 5 minutes of luge, 6 of commercials, and then they began to air an interview with Dick Button, who surely was not going to be talking about luge. I didn't think they'd get back to luge anytime soon, so I found other things to do--like making dinner.

What the Inquirer seems to be forgetting, in this article, is that it's not all about medals or TV ratings. It's about people having the privilege of competing in an area where they excel. It's about doing their best under tough circumstances. It's about having fun, seeing another part of the world, and competing against the best of the best. It's about being a Good Sport. It's about skiing hurt, even when you know you don't have a chance to win and might even get hurt more, because you love what you do and you're thrilled to be a part of the Olympic Games.

Whenever it's Winter Olympics time, people come out of the woodwork to try skiing or snowboarding or skating, and children are mesmerized by possibility.

That's what it's all about--attitude. And inspiration.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Family Game Night

Tonight we attended a Family Game Night at our church. The admission price was a snack and drink and board game to share. There were some prizes, and lots of friends and fun.

When we pulled up to the Parish Center, Middle Sister wanted to know, "Is Game Night going to be inside or outside?" (Um, it's 17 degrees...Fahrenheit...it had BETTER be inside...)

An important lesson was learned at Family Game Night: how to keep a very active almost-4-year-old boy busy.
  • Give him one of those "paddle ball" toys--you know the kind, with the tiny ball attached to a wooden paddle by a four-foot elastic string.
  • Put him in the center of the gym, far away from everyone who is occupied with the ongoing Bingo game, and let him go for it.
  • It's good for 20 minutes of quietly-occupied busy Little Brother, and plenty of laughter for the adults who are neglecting their Bingo cards to watch him tangle himself up in the game.
I know it sounds a little cruel, but when he bent over and put his head between his knees and tried to paddle the ball that had gotten behind him somehow, we all nearly fell out of our seats.

If the success of Family Game Night is measured in smiles and laughter, then this one deserves an A.

Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies

Tonight for dinner we enjoyed bacon, French Toast (expertly prepared by Middle Sister) and sliced strawberries.
I sprinkled some confectioners' sugar on the French Toast, for that Jersey Diner touch.
Little Brother asked if I would put some sugar on his strawberries too, so I did. Of course it melted into the strawberries.
A few bites into the dinner, he said, "Hey Mommy, did you put sugar on my strawberries?"
Me: "Yes, I did."
Little Brother: "WHY?"
Me: (HUH?) "Because you asked me to."

This, that and the other thing

I'm not feeling particularly brilliant or witty or insightful this morning.

Good thing there are plenty others in the Blog World who are!

Catholic Ragemonkey has this: "the hardest message that the Second Vatican Council has and had for the world is this: Everyone is called to holiness of life and to evangelize the culture in which they live. No one gets a free pass."

I followed a link to a new-to-me-blog, Days to Come, where I found this quote from Rich Mullins: "I am a Christian because I have seen the love of God lived out in the lives of people who know Him...not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity to me, but because there were people who were willing to be nuts and bolts.”

And in the same vein, Darren at My Catholic Life has a must-see reflection on seeing Christ in others.

While you check out all these worthwhile links, I'll be making a tuna sandwich, with fish-cookie-cutter shaped bread, for Little Brother, who is fascinated by all kinds of fishy things since our trip to the aquarium the other day. We've already inspected the pictures in our library books called "Under the Microscope: Sea Life" and "Jellyfish" and I'm sure the shark book is to be next. Yes, Little Brother likes tuna for breakfast. It's all part of his charm, and he has plenty of that.

Friday, February 17, 2006

On to Plan B

This weekend Big Brother and Big Daddy will be on a Boy Scout camping trip in the "lap of luxury" (read: cabin camping with 2--count 'em, 2--fireplaces and a Real Bathroom with Indoor Plumbing, not to mention a full kitchen).
What's that, you say? That's not roughing it! Bring on the latrines and the outdoor showers! It's February, after all.
Of course, to these boys (and dads), "roughing it" means "no internet connection."
I was planning to take Middle Sister out for a "Girls' Lunch" today before everyone leaves. She'll be at the mercy of Little Brother all weekend long, with no Big Brother to share the playtime. Little Brother misses them both all week when they're at school, so on days off and weekends he wants to play with them all the time. So I thought we could have a little Girl Time.
When she got up this morning and came downstairs, I asked her if she wanted to go to lunch with me today.
"No thanks."
What? I was shocked. Usually she jumps at the chance for something like this.
As she got closer to me, I noticed that her face was a little flushed and she has those Sick Eyes, and then I did the Never-Fail Mommy Fever Test (put my cheek against her forehead). Yup. I followed it up with the Real Thermometer and she's at 98.9--at 7 AM. We'll only be going up from there.
So we won't be going out to lunch today. She'll be feasting on soup and crackers, and I'll be fetching a comfy blanket and her favorite stuffed animal, because even if you are a Big Girl of 10, you still like a warm blanket and a stuffed animal when you don't feel good.
Later, maybe Big Daddy will get her a Slurpee.
We can lunch another day, when she feels better. Today, she gets Full Remote Control Privileges and all the juice she wants.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Step Right Up...

and check out the newest Catholic Carnival! Lots of great stuff for your reading pleasure.

The Smile

A couple I know from church popped into my mind quite a bit yesterday. And appropriately so, because it was Valentine's Day, after all.

When they attended Mass together, they always sat in the very front pew. She has Alzheimer's. No one told me this, but from the few conversations I have had with her over the four years I'd been at that parish, and from observing how her husband and others behaved around her, that was my conclusion. A friend of theirs did confirm this to me right before Christmas.

They often attended the Mass with the children's choir. The "Gloria" that we used at that Mass has hand-clapping during the refrain, and they would stand there, and he would sing, and she would clap.

He is a Secular Franciscan and an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist. When he would leave the front pew to assist with the Sacrament, someone from a neighboring pew would quietly sit down with his wife, guide her through the Communion line and back to the pew, and wait with her until he returned after the purification of the vessels.

When he sat down again with her, her eyes would light up and she would smile the most beautiful, happy smile I have ever seen. And he had a smile just as big to return to her.

That's love.

They're both in a nursing home now; his health has been affected due to the burden of her care. But even though I no longer see them at church, I will never forget the look on her face every single time he sat down next to her.

And strangely enough, I'm not the only one thinking in this vein just now.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Little Brother's First Valentine

Little Brother's playschool class made Valentines to take home to Mom and Dad today.

Always one to march to the beat of a different drummer, he decorated his with brown and blue crayon.

There are several L's, a few miscellaneous scribbles and two happy people. Inside are more L's and two glued die-cut cupids. Little Brother likes to glue. He's a very enthusiastic gluer. In fact, the card won't open all the way because of how enthusiastic he was, with the glue.

It's a keeper.

That would mean I'm more than halfway there.

I am going to die at 76. When are you? Click here to find out!

Via Happy Catholic.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Overheard in my kitchen

"It's really not very smart to cut a box while you're in it."

L is for Little Brother

Little Brother will be 4 soon. Since he won't be going to formal pre-K next year (just the "playschool" program which is basically arts and crafts, and sometimes gym) I have started spending a little time with him each day, just going over letters and stuff like that.

Today we did L, the first initial of his name. He's happy to know how to write it, since it's HIS letter, after all!

I gave him some paper to write on in case he wanted to come back and write more.

Then I found him scribbling all over a valentine he got from his grandparents. And then, "Look, Mom! I made an L! (long pause) On the TABLE!"

Me: "Hey, I like your L! But on paper, not the table."

Little Brother: "I like L's on the table."

We then proceeded with a lesson in "removing marker stains from the table."

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Olympics by the Numbers, So Far

THE most important numbers you could want.

Coverage of Women's Hockey: 16 hours
Coverage of Luge: a measly, piddling 10 MINUTES

Who do they think is watching all this hockey? Give me some LUGE! Because it's all about the sled. Luge, Skeleton or Bobsled: that's what I'm watching. If they'd ever televise it, that is.

More on Quirks

The Rambling GOP Soccer Mom has tagged me for the Quirky Meme.

I have done so many of these that it must be fairly obvious to all that I am WAY beyond quirky and working my way to Complete Nutcase. But I'll let you judge for yourself.

I need to brush my teeth before leaving the house.
I like to have the books in my bookcase organized. I have a religion shelf, a household shelf, a whole section for cookbooks, and the fiction section is sorted by size, for maximum packing-into-the-shelf purposes. If I had unlimited shelf space, I could sort them library-style. Well, a girl can dream....
I need to be ready for an emergency, so I always have a backpack of clothes for me and the kids in the back of my van. Those have come in handy more times than I can count!

There is only one right way to load the dishwasher. (According to Big Daddy, this is a Bad Quirk, and I'd never be a good computer programmer because of this. I, however, have no problem with it.)
When I meet people and like them, I believe they can do no wrong. Then I am let down--hard.
My sense of humor runs toward the sarcastic. It's not always a good thing.
I am very territorial about my desk. And I know it's messy.
I find it very hard to get rid of a book, even one I don't like. I'll lend them out, though!

If I am eating at home, I must have milk at dinner--a big glass, and it must be whole milk. But if I'm eating out, I have soda. I never order milk when eating out. (It's never cold enough).
Any candy like M or jelly beans that come in different colors, must be eaten as same-color twins.
I like to eat French fries with good brown gravy.
The best way to make a tuna sandwich is with Miracle Whip, and Wonder Bread with plenty of soft butter.
I like Reuben sandwiches without the meat. Just sauerkraut, Swiss, and a good mustard (I recommend Koszkiusko Beer Mustard) on rye or pumpernickel, toasted until the cheese melts.
I buy many cookbooks but unless I'm baking, I never follow a recipe exactly. When I cook, I always improvise. Cookbooks are entertaining reading and good inspiration for me.

MY SLEEP QUIRKS (these are easiest!)
I cannot get into an unmade bed and go to sleep. If the bed was not made all day, I'll make it right before getting in.
I like to have a lot of blankets when I sleep. The weight of the blankets is comforting.
I have to cover my ears completely. I think this dates back to when Middle Sister was a colicky newborn. Big Daddy would take over after I put Big Brother to bed, so I could get a few hours' sleep. I'd cover up so I couldn't hear her scream, and he'd put on headphones, listen to Amy Grant on his walkman, and walk the hall with her for hours each night.

If you're reading this, and you're quirky, feel free! Let me know in the combox.

Sleeping with the Silverware

One of my Big Kids went around the house last night putting spoons under each pillow. Apparently a few years ago, a rumor went around on the school bus that if you put a spoon under your pillow, the next school day would be a Snow Day.
I found two spoons under my pillow last night--possibly because we'll have to get through Sunday first?
There is no end to the techniques children will employ in the hopes that they'll make a Snow Day happen.
One morning when, despite full silverware deployment, school had not been canceled by 7:20, Big Brother (dressed in his uniform, fed, and ready to go) ran to his room saying, "I need something!" He returned with the directions for the Divine Mercy Chaplet and got down on his knees. "My teacher said last year that this has never been known to fail."
I told him that the Divine Mercy Chaplet is a prayer, not a lucky charm, and handed him his coat, lunch, and backpack as the school bus pulled up outside. However, I was impressed that (1) his teacher had introduced the children to the Chaplet; (2) he had kept the directions; and (3) he could locate them really quickly.

The spoons must have done some good, because there is a Two Hour Delay tomorrow. Yes, the Big Kids are happy about this. (Me, not so much--there's a good chance that the bus might not show up. That means I become the Substitute Bus.)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Baking My Way Through It

One of my neighbors teases me about my "stress baking." When I feel upset or overwhelmed, I often head to the kitchen.

Baking forces me to slow down and concentrate as I measure, pour and follow directions. A lot of my cooking is done improvisationally, but when I bake I carefully follow the recipe.

My stand mixer (AKA the Mighty Mixer) is really loud, and drowns out all other background noise. It could probably wake napping children in the next block if I turned it up all the way.

And there's nothing more therapeutic than getting your hands in some dough and beating up on it.

Yesterday I headed to the kitchen for several hours of nostalgia baking, punctuated by a visit from the 2-year-old Cutie Pie who lives over the back fence, and a quick run to take Middle Sister to a sleepover party. I made lots of comfort food.

I started my Baking Frenzy with a batch of Black and White Cookies (yes, the ones that Seinfeld rhapsodized about.) I've been trying recipe after recipe and I finally think I found the one I'm after--but I'll dial down the amount of lemon juice in the frosting next time, just a bit.

After that I put in two pans of Salt Sticks. I remember eating these at my Granma's house on Sunday mornings. They're a delicious soft breadstick with salt and caraway seeds.

For dinner, I made a pie crust and then filled it for a shrimp quiche (got this recipe from my mom).

1 pie crust, unbaked
3/4 cup cooked salad shrimp, peeled
1/4 cup scallion, chopped
1 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 egg
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon dill weed

Put shrimp, cheese, scallions into bottom of pie shell. Mix remaining ingredients. Pour into pie shell.
Bake at 400 for 40 minutes, then at 350 for 10 minutes.
Quiche will be VERY brown on top.
Serves 6 as an appetizer or 3 as an entree.

Finally, I had seen this irresistible-looking recipe for Cinnamon-Raisin Rolls in Rachael Ray's new magazine. The recipe's not on that site yet, and we haven't tried the rolls since they're a rise-in-the-refrigerator-overnight thing. But I heard Big Brother bragging to his friends about how I'm baking him some homemade cinnamon rolls.

When the rolls were underway I frosted those Black and Whites and had a taste-test. Yummy!

Baking is definitely good for the soul.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

My very own pity party

Tonight I had to attend a meeting to prepare for Big Brother's Confirmation next month. The meeting was run by the CCD Director and the way things are in this parish, the school kids are treated as an afterthought. For example, only the CCD kids were invited to the Generation Life program that's scheduled later this spring. (Amy, if you're reading, I'm not saying that this is everywhere, but in this parish it's always like this.)

So I sat there at a poorly-attended meeting, with no school parents I knew in the room, watching a video aimed at teenagers about what would happen at Confirmation Mass. And I had plenty of time to sulk and stew about the way things have happened.

It's been nice to be so welcomed in our "old" parish, but there's a big hole in my Sunday morning when I'm not in the choir. I miss singing, I miss playing, I miss the children in the choir, and the choir director, and seeing my Big Kids participate in Mass as choir members and altar servers.

There's infighting in the PTA, and people are quitting all over the place. I just want the kids to end their time in this school on a positive note, and I don't think that's going to happen. All the feelings of hurt and anger that I thought I had moved past came back at me tonight and nearly knocked me over.

I guess all the milestones, like Confirmation, are going to be downers this year.

In some ways, I can't wait to get out of there. I wish it was over now.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

"Real corn makes it special."

For dinner tonight we had beef stew. When I was a kid, Mom always served corn muffins with beef stew. So it's sort of a requirement that I do the same. Otherwise, the stew will just not be as good.

I got a few free pouches of Betty Crocker corn muffin mix with my coupons a while ago (Big Daddy is waiting for the day that Shop Rite kicks me out for having too many coupons....) and we've tried this muffin mix already, and concluded that it's "missing something."

I figured an experiment wouldn't hurt, so I mixed the batter as directed and added a couple of tablespoons of real maple syrup. Amazingly, no one else was in the vicinity of the kitchen, so no one saw what I added.

At the table I announced that we'd be having a contest to see who could figure out the Secret Ingredient in the corn muffins. Of course, this led to the immediate answer, "CORN!" So I had to review what the Normal Ingredients for Corn Muffins would be, and tell the Studio Audience that the Secret Ingredient is something else besides those.

Ultimately, the Big Kids were seen ignoring their dinners as they rummaged through all my cabinets, naming every herb, spice or possible ingredient (parsley? cayenne? baking powder?) that they could see in the front. Big Brother was heard to observe that the muffins kind of tasted like pancake mix: he came the closest.

Obviously, next time I will have to stress that the Contest Rules require that no contestant leaves his or her chair in pursuit of the Secret Ingredient.

The verdict: all the muffins got eaten. It was good!

Book #4 in 2006

Louisiana native Tim Gautreaux is well known for his short stories. He's no slouch as a novelist either. I really enjoyed The Next Step in the Dance.

It was pretty weird that I was in the middle of reading this book when I saw the movie Sweet Home Alabama. There were similarities: the main female character left her small-town Southern home to make a success of herself, and in the process alienated her parents, relatives, friends and husband. In both cases, divorces were in the works. The movie disappointed me because (as in Grease, which annoyed me for the same reason) only one person had to change in the end to make the relationship work. In the movie, the husband works like crazy to better himself in order to get his wife back--and it works.

In the novel, the husband knows that no matter what he does, he can't make his wife come back. He lets her know he loves her; he sticks around; but ultimately he waits for her to come around, since she is the one who left. A chain of events that she sets in motion causes him to suffer incredibly, and she learns what love really means. Ultimately his suffering is not in vain.

Gaultreaux is a master of description and dialogue. The scenes of the story are wonderfully depicted. This book transports the reader to the world of L.A. as well as rural Louisiana, and does it well. Definitely, this is one I'll want to read again.

It's Going Around....and Now It's Here! (No, not the stomach virus!)

St. Peter's Helpers got me with this one! (Notice I stuck with your #1 answer to Favorite Snacks!)

Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom slot, like so.

1) LutherPunk
2) Jonathan (AFCM)
3) Irish and Dangerous
4) St. Peter's Helpers
5) SFO Mom

Next select five people to tag
1) Song of November
2) Minivan Mom
3) My Domestic Church
4) Rocks in My Dryer
5) Martha Martha
(Note: If you've already done this, that counts, lol)

What were you doing 10 years ago?
I had 2 of my 3 children by this time; Big Brother had just turned 4 and the Middle Sister was 6 weeks old. I was doing some "homebound" tutoring for a high school student who was out of school while she endured daily dialysis and awaited a kidney transplant.

What were you doing 1 year ago?
A lot of planning, because Big Daddy was preparing for his MBA Class Field Trip to China. Otherwise, pretty much the same as I'm doing now, with the addition of toilet-training Little Brother.

Five snacks you enjoy:
1) Funions
2) Chocolate
3) Chinese Rice Cracker mix
4) Doritos
5) Coffee ice cream

Five songs you know all the words to:
You have GOT to be kidding! I have been involved in church choirs for over
25 years and I have a head for lyrics. If it's in the hymnal I probably know the words.

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:
A. Buy the World's Coolest Victorian House with a Big Wraparound Porch
B. Endow a great Catholic school so tuition could be nearly free and teachers could be paid what they're worth (PLENTY!)
C. Save for my kids' education
D. Help my extended family with house debt and kids' educations
E. Help some deserving charities such as abortion-alternative apostolates, Retirement for Religious, to name just 2...

Five bad habits:
A. I buy more books than I can possibly read
B. I look at the negative side of things first
C. I don't exercise
D. I'm a pack rat
E. I have terrible eating habits

Five things you enjoy doing:
A. Reading
B. Cooking
C. Baking
D. Singing
E. Laughing with my kids

Five things you would never wear again:
A. Anything with giant shoulder pads
B. Toe socks
C. Short skirt
D. Stretch pants
E. High heels (OUCH!)
Fortunately I'm no slave to fashion.

Five favorite toys:
A. Legos
B. Blocks
C. Crayons
D. Skip-It
E. Roller skates

And a note to the GOP Soccer Mom: I haven't forgotten yours. But it requires more thought than this one. I'll get to it! Promise!

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Music in my Head

Steve at Song of November has just given away his secret soundtrack for housecleaning motivation.

I figure it's the least I can do to chime in here. However, my taste is a little less exotic than Steve's. But whatever works, right? At least the dishes get done.

When I need a good energy boost to get a housework chore done, I turn up my "Sister Act" CD. I like to use the Program feature, so I can pick and choose the music I want to hear. That means that in a single half hour, Whoopi will belt out "Rescue Me" at least 3 times. Love those Girl Group tunes! They must be played loudly, and I'm compelled to sing along, equally loudly.

Of course, this is unbelievably embarrassing to my Big Kids. But embarrassing my Big Kids is, after all, part of my job--maybe not as important as getting the floor mopped, but I'm sure it's in the job description somewhere.

I'd like to look for a "real" Girl Group CD with some upbeat tunes, so if you have any recommendations, please use the combox.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Heard in Church This Morning

Father's homily today was on Jesus healing those who were afflicted with evil spirits, and on how Satan can still affect us today--that demons still have power, and that God ultimately has power over the demons. He reminded us that several times a year we renew our baptismal promises as a community, and that the very first question in the rite of renewal is: "Do you reject Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises?"

Just at that moment, a toddler in the front row called out, "YEAH!"

And for a more intensive treatment of this subject, I direct you to a must-read at Catholic Fire.

How Can This Possibly Be Too Offensive for a Newspaper to Run?

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This ad, with its beautiful ultrasound image of a developing baby, has been deemed "too offensive" to print in a newspaper.

The only thing I find offensive here is that someone has to be shown the DIFFERENCE between "tissue" and "baby." This is a great ad. I hope it is shown far and wide.

Via Not So Quiet Catholic Corner and The Curt Jester, who led me to the original source: Jill Stanek: a great prolife resource blog.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

New Prolife Search Engine

Next time you do a content search on the Internet, why not use a search engine that donates its revenue to prolife causes?
You can do this by searching through prolifesearch.com.
The charities receiving donations through this site include Priests for Life, Project Rachel and American Life League, among other worthy groups. It's powered by Google, so the searches are effective, AND it's equipped with the Safe Search filter, so it's family friendly.
Whenever you click on a sponsored link, the search engine receives over 50% of the ad revenue paid to Google. Since October 7, when the site was launched, over $8800 has been donated to prolife charities. Every little bit helps!
And even cooler--they have a regularly-updated Featured Article. The current topic is encouraging family prayer.
Via National Catholic Register (print only).

Friday, February 03, 2006

A Joke from my Inbox

This one's for the Daring Young Mom, who has never had to resort to such drastic measures in order to get a good spot in front of her supermarket of choice!

Paddy was driving down the street in a sweat because he had an important meeting and couldn't find a parking place.

Looking up to heaven he said, "Lord take pity on me. If you find me a parking place I will go to Mass every Sunday for the rest of me life and give up me Irish Whiskey".

Miraculously, a parking place appeared. Paddy looked up again and said, "Never mind, I found one."

H/T to my dad for this one!

Working in the Bathroom

Today's Wall Street Journal contains an article about the trend toward technology in bathrooms. Evidently, the Electronically-Connected do a good deal of work in there.

All I could say upon reading this was, "WHY?"

I don't get it. All this wireless communication technology has made it possible for people to work 24/7--and for their bosses or clients to expect them to work 24/7! Now you can even conduct business while shaving or in the shower.

I'm a mom, so technically I do work 24/7, and I'd venture to say that many moms would share my opinion that Bathroom Time is Officially Mom's Time Off. Even if it's only for 45 seconds, it's still Time Off. Besides the fact that I won't even use the bathroom while I'm on the phone, for fear that the person on the other end will (rightly, in my opinion) find it rude that I'm multitasking like this, there's a big reason why I'd like my bathroom to stay free of communications technology: that's the only room in the house where I can reasonably demand any privacy or solitude. I don't let my kids follow me in there, and unless someone is bleeding to death or something equally catastrophic, I won't carry on conversations either. (I am given to shouting, "I'm IN THE POTTY!" repeatedly during my time in there to make this point, but I am going to make this point!) The bathroom is the only place in the house where my "work" can't follow me--except that I'm the one who keeps it clean.

However, I will take the technology, mentioned in the article, that warms up towel bars, floors and toilet seats. I'm all about heated seats.

In My Prayers Today

I am keeping a friend's brother (and the whole family) in prayers today.

Pete is a history teacher at a Catholic high school in the Philadelphia area. A couple of years ago he got married. Last year he was diagnosed with leukemia.

Despite many treatments, including an out-of-state bone marrow transplant, Pete has been unable to beat the disease. Now he and his wife are across the country, in a hospital, with no family around, and Pete has pneumonia.

His mom is on her way to be with him, and other family members are working on travel arrangements as well.

Please pray for Pete and his family at this time.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

We have met the enemy, and it is an appliance!

Today's Household Mission was to Banish All Toys from the Living Room. It had reached critical mass in there, and I'd had enough. And it's not like there's no place else to play with toys.

You'd think that with only one child home during the day, that this would be an easily-achievable goal. Well, actually, if you're a parent, you probably wouldn't think that. You'd know better. And you'd understand why I was hardly surprised to discover that Little Brother had imported some toys back into the room when I moved along to put something away in the basement.

I came back upstairs to find that there is now a line of Big Army Guys (about 5 inches tall, but the kind molded in place just like the Little Army Guys), in formation, set up along the threshold between the living room and kitchen. Weapons are aimed at the dishwasher.

I have news for these Army Guys: if they mess with my Maytag, there's going to be trouble.

Little Brother has invented and constructed a "bow and arrow" out of Tinker Toys. It's a quite clever device, that actually "shoots"--and he's mowed down the entire army that were threatening my labor-saving device.

My hero!

Kudos are in order

I'd like to give a big shoutout to Dan at Faithmouse for making the decision to become a "100% Kid-Friendly Site." If you haven't visited this prolife political cartoon blog, you're missing out.

Here's the reason for the change:
"I've decided, following my trip to Washington, that I have a
responsibility not to link to material which isn't child friendly. Most
of the links were to sites critical of the cartoon and which routinely
employ adult language and pictures and/or are outright hostile to
Christianity, and some were to faithmouse fans who's sites aren't
necessarily geared towards children. I've removed these links so that
younger people won't mistakenly come across material to which they
really shouldn't be exposed. In my quest to create dialogue and to
welcome those who might not agree with my point of view I've forgotten
that it's the job of adults to protect children; as a card carrying
adult I need to accept that responsibility and do a better job of it."

Dan has generously offered his cartoons free of charge to readers of Faithmouse. I'm proud to display one in my sidebar.

As a "Card Carrying Parent of a Teenager And 2 Younger Kids" I appreciate Dan's going the many extra miles to make good political commentary--and good example of standing up for your beliefs--available to people of all ages. I'll be directing Big Brother to this site to see the treasure of good stuff that's there. At 14, he can appreciate what he'll find, both for its cleverness and its conviction. And he'll be supported in his beliefs.

Great work, Dan! And thank you.