Saturday, April 29, 2006

It doesn't make sense to me either

Danielle quotes Father Thomas Euteneuer's article on Catholic Exchange, in which he discusses the mystifying phenomenon of companies such as Johnson & Johnson--a company famous for its baby shampoo, baby powder, baby lotion, and commercials featuring happy babies and blissful parents, and infamous for its support of Planned Parenthood. They are also a large manufacturer of birth control pills and devices.

Do they not realize that they are donating money toward, at best the prevention, and at worst the murder of their future customers? It doesn't make good business sense to me.

Knowing J&J's role in the whole situation, I find it very hard to watch their commercials. Hallmark-card sentiment is merely a veneer for the destructiveness underneath, and I resent their attempts to sugar-coat what they are doing.

Of course J&J is not the only one. But it's a big one, and that's daunting sometimes. Do I think they really notice, or care, if I don't buy Johnson's Baby Shampoo to wash my child's hair? Of course not. I think that what needs to accompany a financial boycott such as the one LDI proposes (and I support) is an effort by those people who participate in the boycott to do three things:
1. Don't buy their stuff.
2. Write to them, and tell them why you don't buy their stuff.
3. Pray for them, that God may change their hearts, and that they ultimately will change their policies.

It's really easy, most of the time, not to buy their stuff. There are plenty of other readily available alternatives to most of the items J&J manufactures. And you get used to it, after a while. It's the two other parts of the boycott that are tough. I like to write (but you knew that) but I don't like to write boycott letters. Why? Yes, I resent that I have to--but I think there might be a little embarrassment in there. That's silly, because those people don't know me, so I have nothing to fear, really.

I am going to make a better effort to be an instrument of change by really following up on the writing and praying parts of the boycott.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us

Today is the feast of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Saint Gianna was a medical doctor and mother, who during her last pregnancy at age 39, refused treatment for a cancerous tumor because the treatment would have been fatal to her unborn child. She died one week after the birth of her youngest daughter.

The Prayer of Saint Gianna:
Jesus, I promise You to submit myself to all that You permit to befall me,
make me only know Your will.
My most sweet Jesus, infinitely merciful God, most tender Father of souls,
and in a particular way of the most weak, most miserable, most infirm
which You carry with special tenderness between Your divine arms,
I come to You to ask You, through the love and merits of Your Sacred Heart,
the grace to comprehend and to do always Your holy will,
the grace to confide in You,
the grace to rest securely through time and eternity in Your loving divine arms.

I encourage you to visit the website in her honor and learn more about this extraordinary modern mother.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

More Prayers Needed for Father T

I wish I had good news to report in the case of a good family friend, concelebrant at my wedding, the first principal under whose leadership I was privileged to teach, and most of all a wonderful priest. (Actually, to be technically correct, it's "Monsignor T" but he'll always be "Father T" to me. I knew him far too long under that name.)

But, (expletive deleted because this is a family-friendly blog) that is not the case.

Tonight my uncle emailed me that Father T has learned that the cancer has returned, and he cannot handle the rigors of more chemo. Instead, he is contacting hospice. The only good news is that Father T is in no pain. He's had enough of that over the course of this long illness.

So I come to you to ask again for prayers for Father T.

But what do I ask? I don't want to pray for a peaceful death for him. I don't want him to have to have a death--not now, anyway. Father T is not someone I see often but he was part of some of the Big Stuff in my life and I don't like the idea of having to let him go, even if it is to a better place.

And what do I say, to those who are closer to Father T than I ever was?

I guess that all I have at this time is the Irish Blessing:
May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And the rain fall soft upon your field
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

SO much better than Cliffs Notes

Why didn't they have this when I was in graduate school? And to think I spent an entire semester learning Anglo-Saxon so I could spend another entire semester translating Beowulf.

Hat tip to Julie D. for this great link!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Music to My Ears

I'm sitting here trying to get through the hugely gigantic piles of papers, books, flyers, coupons, receipts and who-knows-what-else on my desk. Of course, most of it is trash but I must inspect it 43 times first and move it 37 times until it finally comes to rest in the recycle bag.

And the background music is not the television. It's not a video game. It's not the radio. It's Little Brother, singing a little Stream of Consciousness Song while he rummages in the Lego bin. Two kinds of imagination at work at once! It's amazing how four-year-olds can multitask like that.

I could listen to that sound all day.

Pray for the Preemies

Some babies are just in way too big a hurry to get here! Amy has requested prayers for her twin nieces who are only 30 weeks in the womb but want to be born now. Please remember in a special way today these two little girls, that they are born healthy and safe; their parents and other family members, that they may have the comfort of the Lord during this scary time; the medical personnel who will care for these tiny blessings; and all other preemies and their families.

The Need is Great

This weekend at church the Serra Club took a few minutes after Communion to speak about prayers for vocations. They asked parishioners to pledge to attend a Mass once a month, pray a Rosary once a month, or pray daily for vocations.

Please join me in offering the Serra Prayer for Vocations:

O God, Who wills not the death of a sinner
But rather that he be converted and live
Grant, we beseech You,
Through the intercession of the Blessed Mary, ever virgin,
Saint Joseph, her spouse,
Blessed Junipero Serra and all the saints,
An increase in laborers for Your Church,
Fellow laborers with Christ to spend and consume themselves for souls
Through the same Christ Jesus, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God forever and ever. Amen.

In his analysis of God or the Girl, Moneybags observes that without priests, there is no Eucharist. Sister Eva-Maria had the same thoughts during the Triduum. Our pastor said the same on Sunday as he thanked the Serrans for their important prayer ministry. I am encouraged by the fact that each Sunday during the Prayers of the Faithful at our church, an intention is offered for those considering the priesthood or consecrated life.

Let us pray, and encourage, those who are considering priesthood or consecrated life, those who are in formation, and also those priests and religious who are already ministering in the Church.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Kids Continue to Surprise Me

I guess Big Brother isn't the only one of my children who has been listening to the homily in church these days.

Our pastor always ends his homily with these words: My dear brothers and sisters, while we have time, let us do good.

Yesterday Middle Sister brought home an art piece she had done at school. It was a paper plate with a colorful design all over it. In the center of the plate, worked into the design, were the words "Why'll we have time let us do GOOD!"

It's a good motto for anyone to follow. I'm glad she has heard it, not just with her ears, but with her heart.

Monday, April 24, 2006

You Never Know What Kids Will Pick Up On

My children have never, EVER commented on a homily before, unless it is to remark (complain?) at the length of it.

Yesterday on the way home from church, Big Brother observed, "Father really dissed the Apostles in his homily today!" He was clearly impressed that this could be done. And I think it was good for him to notice and hear this message: those Apostles, even though they had been blessed with Jesus' constant presence for three years, still managed to mess up! They fell asleep, denied Him, abandoned Him during the crucifixion, and locked themselves in someone's second floor room, only to disbelieve the first few people (Mary Magdalene and the other women) who saw Jesus resurrected. And Jesus let them have it. But then he still let them lead His Church.

Anyone who says motherhood doesn't steal your brain cells...

...has not spent much time in the company of a preschooler. Their logic can boggle the mind. Older children are often no better, but they do have moments when they can think clearly.

This morning I headed off to Target. My mission: to take advantage of the 90% Off Easter Candy sale that was going on. 16 cents for a bag of Whoppers! How could I miss! $3 later I had a big bag of candy--enough chocolate and sugar to keep me and the kids hyper for quite some time.

While I was there I wanted to pick up some sandals for Little Brother. I gave him the new shoes after he got home from school, and he was thrilled to try them on. Naturally he wanted to go outside and run around in them.

I was making lunch so I told him he could go but he needed to stay In Our Yard. He ran out the door happily and was back way before I expected him.

Me: "Why did you come in? Do your new shoes hurt?"
LB: "They don't hurt. I like them. They're good."
Me: "If they don't hurt, why are you taking them off?"
LB: "Because there are too many bees outside!"

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Start by doing what's necessary...

Over on my sidebar I have a quote from St. Francis of Assisi: "Start by doing what's necessary, then do the possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible."

In a small way, I got a taste of what this means today.

I have been a part of a folk choir in our parish since March, so I'm new to this group but I've been doing music ministry for 25 years. I'm still settling in with the group and it's been going pretty well. The group leader's husband is battling cancer right now, and when I called her today to find out what the musical selections included, someone else answered the phone and informed me that she had taken her husband to the hospital with a fever.

I had an hour and a half before Mass started, and I informed my husband that I had to be ready to take care of music at this Mass. There was no way that I was going to leave the church with no music if I could do anything about it, particularly during Easter time when it's everybody's job to "make a joyful noise unto the Lord."

So I read the readings, and planned some music that I hoped others in the group, if they showed up, would know. And as I started the car for church, I asked the Holy Spirit to give me a little extra help today.

When I got to church one of the deacons told me what I already knew--that Dave had gone to the hospital and his wife would not be there to lead the music. I told him that I had it covered and he needn't worry. The pastor was happy to hear that, when he came in, and I gave him a list of the music I had chosen. Then I got the music stand and the microphone and everything else arranged and ready. Two more adults and two girls who sing in the choir, including Middle Sister, were also ready to sing.

I announced the opening hymn but the microphone had mysteriously stopped working. I just kept singing. Father anounced the number again and we all went on with things. Before the Gloria I checked the mike connections and hoped for the best.

I sang with everything I had and more, hoping that it would be heard in the back of the church, and not knowing if the mike worked or not. I had to cantor the Psalm and accompany myself; again, I was singing with more power than I have ever had before. I do not have a solo quality voice and I do not have the ability to project my voice, "unplugged," through that large a space. But I could tell it was getting there. I could hear it. My voice was doing something that I know it cannot do, on its own. And I was so thankful for that gift, to be able to do what I knew was necessary but thought might be impossible, so there could be the proper music for the day.

We raised the roof on the Psalm (The Easter Verses from Celtic Alleluia) and the Lord's Prayer--mike or no mike.

I know it worked out when Father announced that the reason much of the choir was missing was that Dave was in the hospital, and he thanked me for handling the music today, even with a broken mike, observing that "Barbara has several children, so she's used to raising her voice."

Saturday, April 22, 2006

On the Divine Mercy

All over the Catholic blogworld you can find the novena to the Divine Mercy this week. This was the first time I have ever participated in it in person, as our church prayed the novena before Holy Thursday Mass and the Good Friday service as well as before the Easter Vigil. Amy and K have been posting the Novena daily.

Father J.C. Maximilian has a good explanation of what's behind the Divine Mercy prayers and the image, in case you are as new to it as I am. I appreciated the background information and the relation to Eucharistic Adoration.

Big Brother learned early in his school career that this prayer "has never been known to fail." He had a wise teacher.

I hope, during this Easter season, to pray this chaplet more often and to learn more about the devotion.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Staying up late for trivia quizzes....

...some things never change.

Monkey Challenge Trivia Quiz
I beat the monkey by 18 points.
Monkey Challenge Trivia Quiz

And going along with the "Always go with your first guess" school of thought, I would have had a better score had I not changed a few answers. Dagnabbit!

Via the Rambling GOP Soccer Mom.

Contributing to the World

While I had my lunch today I was reading a "motivational" article in Family Circle magazine (print edition) entitled "I changed my life." It had good stories about women who made the effort to change their lives--finishing their education, losing weight, having a child, leaving the workforce to care for young children.

I had a few issues with the lionizing of the single woman who, in her 40s, underwent fertility treatment including AI and IVF...but I really don't need to go down that road right now. Let's just say that I agree with all the reasons the Church teaches that these are wrong, and that I believe that children are ideally born into a married relationship. Enough said.

But the story that really got me was the one about the "working" mom who gave up her job to stay home with the kids. You'd think I'd be all for it--and of course, I am! But there was that undertone through the whole article, that this woman would somehow be less of a person if she did not have a paying job. Imagine! Her skills would all rot! Her education would be useless! So she got a part-time job selling books at home parties, and even timed the birth of her second child to happen during her "slow season." How convenient.

I think this really touched a nerve with me because when I was pregnant with Big Brother, a very good friend of mine told me flat out that if I stayed home to raise my child, my education would be wasted. Now, granted I haven't had the need or opportunity to share my knowledge of Anglo-Saxon poetry, Beowulf, Shakespeare, or Nathaniel Hawthorne with my children--yet. That's not to say I won't. And my background in education has helped me understand the stages my kids go through at different times in their lives, and to help other parents who have questions about schooling their kids. In college and graduate school I learned valuable time-management, study and research skills which, though they aren't something I was directly tested or graded on, impacted my education greatly and are something I can pass along to my children at the appropriate times in their own educations.

The final line in the article really toasted my marshmallows: "I feel like I'm contributing something to the world...without having to miss my kids' childhoods." This is all wrong. Her kids are her contribution to the world. The way she raises them, teaches them, helps them grow has a ripple effect far beyond them.

A Candle Rescue

Kelly Clark describes some "technical difficulties" experienced in the lighting of the Easter Candle during a daily Mass. She had a bigger point to make, and it's worth the jump over there to check it out, but it put me in mind of a "technical difficulties" story of my own.

Big Brother was privileged to be an Altar Server two years ago at Middle Sister's First Holy Communion. He has never been tall for his age, and that presented a big problem when he stood, snuffer in hand, to light the Paschal candle. There was just No Way he could reach it. Naturally the church was full of people, and before long everyone was whispering about his predicament.

He's a resourceful guy, so when he couldn't reach it from the floor he climbed the pulpit steps and leaned across. Close--but not quite there. More whispers and murmurs from the crowd. I wanted to rescue my kid so badly but I'm not tall either, and that candle was huge.

Finally from out of the crowd came someone we haven't seen in two years--a dad whose son used to be a Cub Scout with Big Brother, and whose daughter used to be in Middle Sister's class. She was making her First Communion that day too! This very tall dad, not a stranger to us, stepped up to the altar, whispered a reassuring word to Big Brother, took the snuffer and lit the candle.

I am quite sure that if a total stranger had rescued Big Brother, he would have wanted to sink right through a hole in the floor. It was a great relief that there was a person we knew sitting in the congregation, willing to step in and help out a kid who was trying very hard to hide his dismay at not being able to reach the candle. And surely it was not an accident that it worked out this way.

Be Not Afraid

I never thought of myself as the "fearful" type. I am a worrier, to be sure. I fret, and stew, and use a lot of time, effort and energy on the "what ifs." And I'll freely admit to being afraid of heights, bridges, tunnels, and certain insects, big ones with mandibles of death, as "Calvin and Hobbes" would say. Surely I'm not alone there.

Then the Holy Fool published this piece on fear. He reminded me that
We fear for what we will lose.
And that fear deprives us of joy. It pillages us of peace. It shatters our confidence in life. It erodes our trust in God--our very Faith.

That was a revelation to me: fear is actually a lack of faith. And I'm not talking about bugs here--but all those "what ifs" that I worry over.

Part of the miracle of Easter is that Jesus showed us that we need not fear so much. How many times in Scripture do we see the words, "Be not afraid"--even when those times seem to be times when fear is a natural response? Even Easter, a joyful event, must have inspired fear in the disciples and others. Yet at Easter Christ won the victory for us! As the Psalmist wrote, "Cast your cares upon the Lord, and He will sustain you" (Ps. 55:22)

Sometimes it's easier to hang onto the fears, even though they are uncomfortable, because they are familiar, than to let go and let the Lord take over. But that is exactly what we are called to do.

Lord, I believe; help my unbelief! (Mark 9:24)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Fashion Emergency!

Middle Sister is wearing a very cute pink and blue shorts outfit, accessorized by one of my grandmother's old necklaces she was given as a dress-up item several years ago. It's brown.

Me: "Interesting choice of necklace with that outfit."
MS: "Thanks! I think I'm going to wear it to church."
Me: "With what?"
MS: "I don't's been getting pretty hot in church. What should I wear?"
Me: "You have 2 spring dresses. You could wear either one of those." (And neither of them goes with the necklace in question....)
MS: "I'd be roasting in those!"
Me: "You'll be fine."
MS: "I could wear some capris."
Me: "Capris are not for church. Capris are for picnics."
MS: "But we never go on picnics!"
Me: "You and your cousins were served picnic food for dinner last night. You could have had a picnic! Where did you eat?"
MS: "In the dining room...."
Me: "It was so nice out. Why didn't you eat outside?"
MS: "Because I have no capris!"

If you happen to know the name of the Patron Saint of Parents of Preteen Drama Queens, I'd love to hear from you. I'm going to find out, and step up my devotions. I think I'll need all the help I can get here.

Meme Times 4

I was tagged by Michelle at Rosetta Stone, who was up impressively early this morning just to do this meme. I've done this one before so I'll try to think up some new answers. Except for the movies. That one will have to stand.

Four places I have worked in my life:

1. Girl Scout Camp, as business manager
2. Library, as a page
3. Bakery, as a sales clerk (YUM)
4. School, as a Spanish teacher

Four movies I could watch over and over:

1. Blues Brothers
2. Sound of Music
3. Sister Act
4. Wizard of Oz

Four places I've lived:

1. New Jersey (Haskell, Haledon, Carteret, Willingboro, Delran)
2. Pennsylvania (Scranton)
3. Indiana (South Bend)
4. New York (for one summer, in Carmel, in a tent at a Girl Scout camp)

Four TV shows I love to watch:

Michelle responded: TV? I'm happy I could come up with 4 movies I'd watch more than once.
I'll stick with her answer. I watch almost no television and that's pretty fine by me.

Four Places I've been on vacation:

1. The Jersey Shore
2. Lancaster, PA
3. New England
4. cross-country drive as far west as Salt Lake City

Four websites I visit daily:

1. anything on my Blogroll marked "updated"
2. Family Corner
3. my local library
4. Prolife Search

Four of my favorite foods (not necessarily in the same meal):

1. Spaghetti
2. Potato Salad
3. Mashed rutabagas
4. Chocolate

Four places I would rather be right now:

1. dining al fresco (I think I'll heat up a slice of leftover pizza, pour myself a Pepsi, and take myself, my lunch and my newspaper to the back porch and MAKE IT HAPPEN!)
2. the library
3. shopping, with a full debit card
4. either one of my grandmothers' kitchen tables, having lunch and a nice chat (all those lilacs blooming right outside the window have me missing my grandmothers right now!)

I already tagged people last time, so I will refrain from tags this time. If you want to do this one, leave me a comment and I'll read yours!

You Know You've Been Browsing Too Many Cookbooks...

...when you are in the grocery store and see a good deal on bone-in chicken breasts (which you normally don't buy), so you buy them because you remember that just last week you saw a Very Appetizing Recipe that called for bone-in chicken breasts, but now that you have the proper ingredient for this recipe, you can't find the recipe or remember which cookbook you saw it in.

Book Review Times Two

I've managed to finish reading two fiction books in the past week.

The first, and my favorite of the two, is Skyward

by Mary Alice Monroe.

This is not a "heavy" book but was an enjoyable read. It's the story of a former ER nurse who, seeking change, accepts a job as a caregiver for a young diabetic child. She has to confront many of her own demons as part of this job, as does the child's father, who runs a wild-bird clinic and is fairly oblivious to human relationships, including the one he has with his own daughter. Predictably, a romance develops; just as predictably, there are complications with that. You can see it all coming. The most original thing here was the backdrop of the bird sanctuary. Learning about the birds was fascinating to me. The story was not compelling but it was pretty good. I'd call it a "beach read" if you're looking for one this summer.

Miracle at St. Anna
Miracle at St. Anna
by James McBride was a tougher go for me. Perhaps it was the material: it centered on some absolutely horrific events of World War II Italy. In that sense there was a good deal that reminded me of Painted Bird
Painted Bird

by Jerzy Kosinski. The location was different, but a story centered on the terrible things an abandoned child must experience during a war nonetheless. I unsuccessfully tried to find on a map where this story must have happened, as the author explains in the preface that this novel was based on real events. I would recommend this book to a friend but I would also give this caveat: this book is not for the "weak of stomach" or anyone expecting the true "happy ending."

Musicianship 101

BusyMom (Better Parenting Through Coffee) has done that Weird Things Meme that keeps going around and around. I've done it about 3 times myself.

I have to say I saw myself in this one:
3. I don't play a band instrument, but, I've always wanted to be in a marching band.

ME TOO! And if I were to play a band instrument, I don't know which one I'd pick. I can't even begin to think of it--I can't picture myself playing any band instrument. I have a banjo, though (can't play that either) so maybe I have a future in a string band, if I could get past the fashion statement those costumes make!

I guess I will just have to confine my musical pursuits to the more boring but definitely more practical. I have a lovely organ in my dining room, courtesy of a good friend who wanted to give it away to a good home. And I am going to learn to play it. The other day I ordered some beginner books, and when they get here I am really going to try.

I definitely can't play it in a marching band, though.

Ah, the logic of a 4-year-old...

Little Brother just came running up to me. "Mom, I finished my Pop-Tart!" He climbed into my lap and I got a big hug. I asked him if he ate all of his Pop-Tart.
"I ate almost all of it. 3 pieces are on the floor."
"Maybe you should go and pick them up and put them on the table."
"No. I don't need to. When it's next today, they will disappear."
Isn't it nice to have that knowledge that things will be taken care of? Little Brother is quite sure that by "next today" the mess will be gone. I wish it were that simple for me to just let go of any mess or worry that is bothering me, and just trust that the Lord will take care of it. Sometimes it's good to be "like a child."
Now, the Pop-Tart mess isn't the kind that the Lord can take care of. Little Brother and I will be heading over with a vacuum soon!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Strange Trivia

Ten Top Trivia Tips about SFO Mom!

  1. Humans have 46 chromosomes, peas have 14, and SFO Mom has 7.
  2. It can take SFO Mom several days to move just through one tree.
  3. SFO Mom can use only about ten percent of her brain.
  4. Ostriches stick their heads in SFO Mom not to hide but to look for water.
  5. The first SFO Mom was made in 1853, and had no pedals.
  6. Lightning strikes SFO Mom over seven times every hour.
  7. SFO Mom is the oldest playable musical instrument in the world!
  8. SFO Mom can usually be found in nests built in the webs of large spiders.
  9. Czar Paul I banished SFO Mom to Siberia for marching out of step.
  10. Bananas don't grow on trees - they grow on SFO Mom.
I am interested in - do tell me about

Odd, and interesting! Love the musical instrument one....but don't tell Middle Sister I was "made in 1853." She already has weird ideas about my age.

H/T to Another Catholic Mom for this quiz.

Granma Would Be Proud

You Belong in Dublin

Friendly and down to earth, you want to enjoy Europe without snobbery or pretensions.
You're the perfect person to go wild on a pub crawl... or enjoy a quiet bike ride through the old part of town.

Finally, I get a good score on an Irish test! (Yes, I'm Irish, and proud of it!!) I wouldn't be drinking in the pubs, but if there's singing, I'm in.

Via Catholic Fire.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Silly Title, OK Premise

During my cleaning frenzy today I watched/listened to 1 1/2 episodes of "God or the Girl" that I had taped last night. I figured I'd give it a chance after all the attention it was given in the National Catholic Register (print edition) last weekend.

I liked what one seminarian had to say about the show. These guys don't have it all together. They don't have it all figured out. There's lots of uncertainty here, seeing the many good options in front of them (priesthood, marriage & family, a productive professional career) and not knowing which way to go. And yes--that's the point of the show--not to depict guys who have made the decision, are set with it, and ready to proceed, but to show some of what goes on when one is discerning more than a career path, but a vocation, a way of life, a sacrament.

That said, I think the title of the show was chosen just to attract attention (good and bad) to the program. Will it draw viewers, and keep them? Who knows. I don't think of the priesthood necessarily as a choice between Priesthood and Marriage. I don't think of marriage that way either. A "no" to Priesthood does not mean an automatic "yes" to Marriage any more than a "no" to Marriage means a "yes" to Priesthood. They are two different and unique decisions and so far this program hasn't made the distinction.

I liked that the young men were not portrayed as silly, stupid or religious fanatics for even thinking of becoming priests. They were real people, and not all of them would grow up to be "Father Whatawaste" either, though they did tend in that direction and I'm sure that's not accidental. I'd like to see and hear more about prayer, since certainly that would be happening during this decision process.

I'm not much of a TV watcher, so I think I'm pretty much done with this show. Something has to be *really* interesting, informative and compelling for me to bother watching it. I'd rather read a book, or a blog, or hang out on my favorite online forum.

Out of Character

I can't figure out what has gotten into me. I'm sure my husband is equally confused.

Last night after dinner I agreed to--and helped plan--a very spontaneous "double sleepover" for Middle Sister and her two cousins. Two nights at my house, one at theirs--and a 50-mile round trip for me, tomorrow, to make it all happen.

Today I spent a good chunk of the morning deep-cleaning the master bedroom, from ceiling fan to curtains to dresser tops to dusting the bookshelf. All I have left to do is vacuum the floor and make the bed, once the linens are finished drying on the line. That, and take an antihistamine to cure me of the sneeze attacks from all the dust I've kicked up.

If this is what happens when I am able to consume chocolate again after seven weeks, I may not give it up next time. All this spontaneity and cleaning may be hazardous to my health!

Pardon me while I go medicate with some Whoppers and M&Ms.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Great Three Days

The Triduum is complete, and we managed to make all 3 days! This is only the second time that we have attended the Triduum as a family (though I have taken part in many of them as a musician, I generally went alone and attended Mass with my family on Easter Sunday). The other time was when Middle Sister was 4 or 5. She wore my First Communion dress (I had figured out by that time that it would never fit her when she was 7 and making her First Communion); I was in the choir; when she fell asleep, Big Daddy laid her on the window seat behind the choir where she slept until after the Communion song.

Little Brother was 3 For 3 in Triduum naps. On Holy Thursday he conked out, and we passed him back and forth for the rest of Mass, and for the walk (1 block) to the Repository and back to the car after the prayers there. On Good Friday he slept through the gospel and homily. Last night we got smart. We brought a small blanket. He was asleep by the third reading, and we put the blanket on the pew and laid him down. We only had one close call, during the blessing of the water, when he felt the water sprinkled on his face and rolled over--but I caught him before he fell off the edge. During Communion I waited until everyone else was back in the pew, and got in line later.

I want my kids to have a chance to see the church again while it is fully decorated. It looks amazing. There is an "empty tomb" with a white cloth and a crown of thorns. Behind it (casting a bit of a shadow over it when the light is right) is the empty cross, also draped with a white cross and a gold crown. Around the tomb are plants and more "wild" looking flowers. Throughout the rest of the altar and tabernacle areas there are flowers everywhere, as well as a water feature with a fountain. (Middle Sister was baptized at that fountain; Big Brother spent most of the ceremony bending over and paddling in the water with both hands. He was "extra holy" that day!)

I used to think that the way the church is decorated was not important. To be honest, I never paid much attention to the decoration in the church. The only thing I noticed was how near the flowers were to me, since certain Easter flowers really aggravate my asthma. Perhaps being "off duty" (not singing in a choir) for two of the three days gave me a chance to really look at what was around me. And surprise, surprise! These decorations were not accidental; God was in the details. Everything was carefully chosen and carefully placed to highlight the Truth that we celebrated and commemorated each day. Our Church allows us to use the five senses to experience what we celebrate: we see the priest, the crucifix, the water, wine and bread changed into the Eucharist, the cross, the empty tomb; we hear the music, the Exultet, the Scripture readings, and the silence; we smell the incense and flowers; we touch the holy water, the candles, the cross; we taste the bread and wine--the Body and Blood of the Risen Christ.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

He is Risen! Alleluia!

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Alleluia, alleluia! Let the holy anthem rise
And the choirs of heaven chant it in the temple of the skies
Let the mountains skip with gladness and the joyful valleys ring
With hosannas in the highest, to our Savior and our King!

Alleluia, alleluia! Like the sun from out the wave,
He has risen up in triumph from the darkness of the grave.
He's the splendor of the nations, He's the lamp of endless day,
He's the very Lord of glory Who is risen up today!

Alleluia, alleluia! Blessed Jesus, make us rise
From the life of this corruption to the life that never dies.
May Your glory be our portion, when the days of time are past,
And the dead shall be awakened by the trumpet's mighty blast!
(Edward Caswall, 1814-1878)

Image from Franciscan Cards.


This morning I attended Morning Prayer at our church. As I listened to the readings, my eyes wandered over to the tabernacle.

It's empty now. The door is wide open and nothing is inside.

The church is empty. There are no flowers, no altar coverings, no Jesus in the tabernacle.

And during this day, we remember the Apostles, and the women, and all who waited at the Tomb. We know the end of the story; they were living it. They had the fear, the uncertainty, the desperation and the emptiness. For them, all that was left was the Tomb, and the promise, and the hope.

The Holy Fool offers a haiku on the subject.

Tomorrow we will celebrate the Empty Tomb. Tomorrow the tabernacle will once again be full, as will our hearts.

Morning Mystery

Little Brother is an early bird, and when I came downstairs with him this morning I noticed some very odd things about the kitchen.
An empty box of brownie mix was on the table.
The container of chocolate syrup was also on the table.
The lid to the vegetable oil was on the table but the open bottle of oil was on the counter.
The measuring cup and mixing bowl were in the sink, as was a good deal of chocolate mess.
The tinfoil was on the counter.
The very clean, VERY EMPTY baking pan was on the table.
I don't see any brownies. I don't smell any brownies. There are no brownies in the oven, or the fridge, or anywhere.
So either my kids ate a whole pan of brownies last night, or they didn't bother baking them and they ate a whole bowl of batter.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

It's Easter Vacation

And you know what that means:

--candy-crazed children (and moms, since I have made sure I have an ample supply of the thing I sacrificed all Lent. Come Sunday morning, my Breakfast of Champions is going to include a lot of Whoppers(tm) because somebody got me hungry for them....)

--late bedtimes and begging for sleepovers with friends

--an ongoing backyard engineering project based on the construction of a waterfall in the sandbox, which is rapidly degenerating into a water fight (shall I intervene? Nah. I'd just get wet.)

--the installation of Big Brother's Orthodontic Appliance, the first step in a multi-year, bill-with-a-comma-in-it program to straighten teeth that don't look that bad

--enough time on my hands to bake Cinnamon Buns from Heaven

and, of course, the Reason for It All: the Triduum (we're going to try!)

An Exercise in Futility

Why do I spend the time each Saturday ironing Big Brother's uniform shirts, and hanging them neatly in his closet, when every morning he removes the shirt from the hanger, ROLLS IT INTO A BALL with the rest of his clothes for the day, and heads for his shower?

Just asking...

Danielle might have the right idea here. I guess that one of the benefits of homeschooling your family is that you can forgo the weekly ironing in favor of something a little less frequent!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Laziness is the mother of invention

Some people have told me that I work efficiently. It's a compliment, but I'm efficient not so that I can get more done in a day, but so I can get done faster. Basically, I'm lazy.

With that in mind I present to you today's Lazy Housework Tip:
When you mop the floor, put your wash water into your kitchen or bathroom trash can. After you're done mopping, rinse the trash can and set it in the sun to dry. You'll end up with clean floors AND a clean trash can. 2 jobs at once, and no extra work! (It's also a water saver).

Monday, April 10, 2006

I Guess It's OK to Name Names, Under the Circumstances

Middle Sister came downstairs announcing rather sadly, "James Bob died."

I asked who James Bob was. "He's the bug that was living in my light. I was trying to keep him alive by not turning the light on."

(And all this time I thought she was just using her desk lamp for the "atmosphere.")

Now that I was aware that it wasn't necessary to dole out generous portions of tea and sympathy, I observed that a bug inside a globe light probably wouldn't have had long to live, with no air or food source.

"But he did live a long time! He was in there since January when my friend slept over! And even before that!" (Ewwww....and you're just now mentioning that there's a bug in there?)

I didn't think it was wise to point out that if she had asked a grownup when she first noticed the bug, someone would have removed the globe and set the poor thing free. I'll wait until she's out of mourning, first.

Generosity, Kid-Style

Little Brother's favorite color is green. I suspect this is because Big Brother's favorite color is green (need I say more?) When we play CandyLand or "Shrek Do-nopoly" he always wants to be the Green Guy.

Just now Little Brother asked if we could play a game. He dangled the carrot of "You can be the Green Guy!"

Of course, I agreed--but I tried to talk him out of sharing, because he just can't remember that he's not the Green Guy, and he'll move the wrong piece, and everything will get all messed up. Once he made up his mind to share, though, he had to stick with it. He was going to be the Red Guy and that was that.

He forgot he wasn't the Green Guy on the very first turn, and a few turns later when a lucky roll of the die would put the Green Guy on the space where you get lots of money that anyone who landed on "Pay $2 for a Happily-After Potion" had to put in. He didn't get to keep the money, and I had to remind him at every turn that he was the Red Guy, but he did still manage to get the equivalents of "Boardwalk and Park Place" as well as another whole side of the board--and cleaned me out of money.

Nice of him to share, though.

What About Sundays?

I have been mulling over the idea that I don't want to treat Sunday as just another day in which I do all the same stuff I do all week, BUT I also go to church. I'm all for getting ready for the week ahead, but maybe Sunday is first on the calendar for a reason--it's the BEGINNING of the week! And what better way to begin the week than to separate a little from the routine and rush of the rest of the week?

I've been trying not to do my grocery shopping on Sundays, and lately I've been working to do the ironing and necessary laundry on Saturdays so I don't have to do them on Sunday. Now there will always be chores that must be done--dishes to be washed, tables to be wiped--but there's not really a good reason that the laundry can't wait another day. This morning I saw that Philothea Rose has also been considering this idea.

It occurred to me today that I'll be making an extra effort all this week to have my tasks done before Sunday, because Sunday is a holiday--the holiest of all Sundays--and it is not to be a day of work. So what's to stop me from doing that every other week of the year?

Dead Wood

We have quite a few Rose of Sharon trees in our yard. They were planted by the original owners of our house and for all I know have been here 44 years! I don't care for them much, and they're quite invasive, but I am gardening-impaired to the point where I can kill plastic plants, so my best option is to leave the things alone. They might be ugly (in my eyes) but they're better than nothing.

One Rose of Sharon in particular has been a bother to all of us. It's more of a tree than a shrub, but the flowers looked the same as all the other ones. It was about the size of a small cherry tree and the branches would hang quite low to the ground. Big Brother could never quite get in there with the lawn mower, and footballs, soccer balls and other Miscellaneous Backyard Balls would roll under there. Invariably the child who had to retrieve the errant ball would come out a little more scratched than he went in.

Last year we noticed that this ugly tree was dying, and we kept saying we'd do something about it soon. Big Brother even offered to help with chopping it down (give that boy a sharp implement or anything to do with fire, and he's all over the task). Finally yesterday Big Daddy went outside and got the tree chopped down in short order and even got the stump out fairly quickly. All the kids piled the sticks into the wagon and dragged them to the curb for removal. And Big Brother took the big shovel to fill in the hole. It was a true Pied Piper situation: Big Brother with his shovel full of dirt, followed by Little Brother, Middle Sister, and Boy Next Door (age 9) who was begging to be allowed to use the big shovel because "I love to bury stuff!"

Now I can look out the back window and have a clear line of sight to the fence. The balls and toys won't get stuck under the tree, and the lawn can be more easily kept in trim.

Sometimes we just need to get that dead wood out of the way. It's a good spiritual lesson as well--what's the dead wood that we need to remove from our spiritual life?

Friday, April 07, 2006

I would appreciate it

...if anyone who reads this would keep a special intention in their prayers.

I am in a big struggle with something, that may not be a big deal at all, but sure feels like one right now (isn't that always the way!)

I need Francis' Prayer Before the Cross:
Most high, all-glorious, all-good God,
bring light to the darkness of my heart.
Give me right faith,
certain hope,
and perfect charity,
with wisdom and insight, O Lord,
that I might always discern Your holy and true will


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Our Easter Egg Tradition

My kids love to dye eggs. Big Daddy loves to dye eggs. I think it's the only craft project he enjoys doing! But this is good, because I am not too big on dying eggs. Now if I knew how to make pysanki, it would be a different story...

Big Daddy organizes the egg-dying with a gajillion coffee mugs filled with egg dye, and 3 dozen boiled eggs (a dozen per kid).

The Easter Bunny does not hide the colored eggs. We're afraid that some of them might not get found, and if they were outside the fridge for hours, that's a lot of food to waste. Instead, the Easter Bunny hides Plastic Eggs filled with treats, which may be stickers, funky band-aids, hair clips, fruit snacks or candy.

Since our children are spaced far apart in age, we have a system. Big Brother gets "speckled" eggs. Middle Sister gets "solid color" eggs, and Little Brother gets eggs with bunnies on them (I was lucky enough to find those in a dollar store. Otherwise I'd have to start assigning colors). This system allows us to customize the treat contents of the eggs, so Big Brother doesn't wind up with any hair clips--and it allows us to customize the HIDING of the eggs. Big Brother is a good hunter and he's getting taller. His eggs must be hidden in very challenging ways. Last year it took him an hour to find his dozen!

Here's a sample of what Big Brother must go through to get all his eggs:
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And when that doesn't work, he gets help:
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The Easter Bunny leaves a note reminding everyone what kind of eggs (and how many) they are looking for. Usually each child gets a small gift as well.

Holy Week Meme

I haven't done a Meme in soooo long--it's like I gave it up for Lent or something! Julie D. tagged me with this one:

Lent is almost over and this Sunday is Palm Sunday already! I thought it would be fun to share what we do special to commemorate the Passion and Resurrection of Our Lord.

1. What do you do with your new blessed palm from Palm Sunday?

I divide it up and stick some behind the crosses in everyone's bedroom.

2. What do you do with your old one from last year?
It's still sitting behind the crosses (we forgot to bring it back to church before Ash Wednesday to be burned! Guess we'll leave it all there and take care of it next year.)

3. What do you do during Holy Week in preparation for Good Friday?
We plan to attend Holy Thursday Mass and Good Friday service as a family. And we're kicking around the idea of attending Easter Vigil this year also. Now here's the Big Question (we're not Saturday Night Mass People): if you attend the Vigil, don't you feel a little uncomfortable the next morning when you're not at church? Though I wouldn't miss the Vast Crowds by any means....

4. How do you commemorate Christ's Passion on Good Friday?
Go to the Good Friday Mass and afterwards attend the parish's Soup and Bread Dinner. (Soup is provided; each family brings bread to share)

5. When do you color Easter eggs?

That's Big Daddy's department. I just buy the dye kits. He makes 3 dozen eggs so each child gets to dye a full dozen. My part in this is to eat Vast Quantities of Egg Salad and Deviled Eggs for the next week or so. Is it sacreligious to eat Deviled Eggs on Easter?

6. When do you buy Easter candy?
I buy a bit here and there during the weeks leading up to Easter. Usually. This year I gave up candy for Lent so I have been avoiding the purchase of any candy so far! Time to get on it.

7. What is the first thing you plan to do Easter morning?
Most likely, groan when I see what time Middle Sister is excitedly dancing into our room to inform us that it's Easter now!

Tag! You're it!
Amy at R.C. Mommy
Michelle at Rosetta Stone
Christine, the Rambling GOP Soccer Mom
and, for a different perspective, Sister Eva-Maria at Starting Afresh From Christ

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I Don't Think My Kids Will Be "Legacies"

Today in my email I received the President of the University of Notre Dame's statement on Academic Freedom and Catholic Character. This statement is a long-awaited response to the debate about the staging of The Vagina Monologues on campus, among other things.

Jay has a post about it here.

As an alumni, I was asked to weigh in on the issue months ago, and did so. I don't support such a performance on a Catholic campus. And the reasoning behind Father Jenkins' allowing it this year and into the future boils down to so-called "academic freedom." We won't know it's wrong until we try it and find out--and then we will "weigh it against Catholic teachings." Does that mean we don't know stealing is wrong until we try it? No! We have very clear directions from God (remember those Ten Commandments, Father?) that tell us that stealing is wrong. I'd bet my N.D. degree that there are plenty of very clear directions in the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church that tell us that a good deal of what is presented in The Vagina Monologues is wrong.

Maybe I'll have to restrict my Fightin' Irish pride to the football season. I think the athletes' behavior is being held to a higher standard. As for encouraging my kids to follow in my footsteps? I'll be holding off on that, perhaps until Father Jenkins is retired from his post as President. Since I was present for the 1987 installation of the last President (Father Malloy), it's not looking good, even for Little Brother.

The Chore Wars

Some people in my house seem to think that the White Board is their personal graffiti space.

I use the board to list important phone numbers, messages, the daily chore and "what's for dinner."

Today I came into the kitchen and found that Big Brother had erased his assignment and written "Big Brother is 2 cool 4 chores."

He was immediately informed that if he erases his chore again before it is completed, to write a joke in its place, he will be assigned Double Chores. Big Brother learned early in life that with me, it's not a Threat--it's a Promise. He suggested a compromise:

"How about if I erase the chore after I finish it and write something else? Then you'll know my chore is done."

Works for me.

And in related matters, Middle Sister has smarted back at me twice today when I asked her to do something. "I didn't use it/put it there."

Don't get me started...."Do I wash your clothes even though I didn't wear them? Do I pack your lunch even though I won't be eating it? Part of being a family is that sometimes we do things For Each Other."

I made a Promise to her, too. If she does this again, she will be required to do some chore that absolutely will not benefit her in any way.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Sunrise Service

Julie D. has a great post today regarding Sunrise Services.

I couldn't bear to clog up her combox with this scary-but-true story, but I had to share it someplace.

One year when I was home from college for Easter break, I attended a Sunrise Service hosted by my family's parish, Our Lady of the Flower Children. It took place at a nearby lake--a very picturesque setting.

There was a priest stationed there who was a talented guitarist, and he was there, guitar in hand, to provide music. Being a guitarist myself (though not as talented as he) I was looking forward to some really inspiring music at the service.


The opening song was "Here Comes the Sun."

No Question About It

I always told my kids that this household is not a democracy. I'm glad they finally got the message, as evidenced by Middle Sister's caption on our new White Board yesterday:

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Memo to All Orthopedic Equipment:

Leave my house! Now!

Here's what the Big Kids have resorted to doing with the walker we borrowed from our neighbor last week:

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It's time for this thing to go before they get any more creative.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

It's been a year

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Last year at this time I was sitting in a friend's living room. We had just come in from a Secular Franciscan workshop, where SFOs from our district had the chance to meet, pray together and share ideas. Of course we were aware all day that Pope John Paul II was most likely in his final moments, and he certainly was remembered in the prayers of all of us that day. It was the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday.

Our Fraternity had hosted the workshop and it fell to us to do all the cleanup, gathering of materials and locking up the building. As my family had gone to visit grandparents that day, I'd be going home to an empty house, and my friend invited me to stop at her house for coffee.

Not long after we came in from the chilly rain and settled down with our hot beverages, her husband came into the room to let us know that it had just been announced that the Pope had passed away.

It was like we had lost a family member, and even though it was expected, and we had been quite sure that it would happen soon, we all were in a state of shock. We flipped from one news channel to the next, waiting for bells to toll and lights to be extinguished. We listened to newscasters and interviewees discussing the events, rites and rituals of the days to come.

I felt like we had lost a person very close to us. I did not feel that the Pope was distant or remote; rather, that he was one who walked our same path and had much wisdom to share.

He always stressed that Secular Franciscans have a mission to be lived:
"You are called," John Paul II affirmed, "to offer your own contribution, inspired by the person and message of St. Francis of Assisi, to hasten the advent of a civilization in which the dignity of the human person, co- responsibility and love are living realities. You must study deeply the true foundations of universal brotherhood and create everywhere a spirit of welcome and an atmosphere of fellowship. Commit yourselves strongly to fighting every form of exploitation, discrimination and marginalization and every attitude of indifference towards others."

H/T to Faithmouse for the beautiful tribute illustration.

Book Review Time! It's a Book About Books!

I thought this novel would be a former-English-major's dream come true. Even though I managed to get through college and graduate school without reading more than one Jane Austen book (I'm more of a Flannery O'Connor fan myself) I was not blind to Austen's influence and popularity. And I love to read about books!

The Jane Austen Book Club
The Jane Austen Book Club

I was less impressed with this novel about a group of people who spend a year reading the collected works of Jane Austen. Chapters were organized by month, but it felt jumpy, not smooth. I found myself flipping backward in the book more than a few times, to see where I had missed something, only to find that it wasn't there in the first place. The narrator was a collective "we" and was very judgmental toward whichever character happened to be the group leader during that month.

Worse yet, I didn't come away from this book wanting to read more Jane Austen! I think this is the first time that a Book About Books has failed to inspire me to read a book mentioned in its pages. And I won't look for more by this author either. She had a wonderful opportunity here and she let it get away.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

I needed to see this today

From today's Liturgy of the Hours:
Guide us in your gentle mercy,
For left to ourselves
We cannot do your will.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever. Amen.

This goes right along with something I've been reading on K's blog, which is discussing the book Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul
Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul

K has related what she's reading in this book to her spiritual reading of St. Francis de Sales. DO check it out. I've been reading this book on and off for a while now. As a Franciscan, I have a Rule to follow, but I've been feeling the need to put a little less "random" and a little more "order" into my day-to-day wife, mom and homemaker stuff. St. Francis didn't give us too much to work with there--but there is plenty of inspiration to be had.

My challenge right now, in creating my own Rule of Life, is putting the following into practice: Whom am I serving? My God, my family or myself?