Saturday, September 30, 2006
This morning I warmed the bleachers at Big Brother's high school, with Middle Sister and Little Brother in tow, as we watched a cross-country meet. It was Big Brother's first home meet. We haven't gotten to any "away" meets, so this was a new experience for all of us. We accidentally found our way to seats right by the finish line, so we saw Big Brother finish the race, limping on his sore knee.
Basketball games are much more exciting. For that matter, baseball games are more exciting, and people who know me know that I find baseball as thrilling as watching paint dry. There's not a lot of action in a cross-country meet. Once in a great while, a bunch of runners zips by. Then they reach the finish line and you scream for them. Then you wait a long time until another bunch of runners zips by. (Note to self: along with the snacks for the kids and the coffee for me, remember to bring the Game Boy for Little Brother next time).
By the end of the meet, both of the younger kids, though bored, were talking about how when they are in high school, they will be on the cross-country team. They will run in this race, just like Big Brother.
He didn't get a medal for placing in the race, but his siblings think he's great all the same. And they want to do what he does. Great race, Big Brother!
Friday, September 29, 2006
Apprehension and Intercession
My grandmother was one of eight children. Of the eight, three passed away during the same calendar week, though not in the same year. Her younger brother died around October 4, before I was even born, so I am not certain of the exact date. My grandmother died 4 years ago on October 1, and her younger sister, R., died three years ago today (September 29). The other two died during winter months (one on December 8). Of my grandmother's 7 siblings, only two are alive today.
Besides noting that they all died on significant feasts of the church (for my great-uncle, Feast of St. Francis; for my grandmother, the Little Flower--and she was buried on the Feast of St. Francis which was also First Friday that year; for my great-aunt, the Feast of the 3 Archangels--and she was buried on the Feast of the Guardian Angels, and another sister on the Immaculate Conception), I get a little apprehensive at this time of year. The two remaining siblings are both over 75. Last year, my last great-aunt, A., had a stroke sometime around now. While she was DRIVING HER CAR. Somehow she got herself home without hurting herself or anyone else. Weeks of rehabilitation and therapy later, she was back home by herself in her big house. (Can you tell that this is a family with a very strong independent streak? And my husband wonders where I get it...)
And then I find out that on Wednesday, October 4, she is going in for a much-needed knee replacement.
I don't want to borrow trouble or anything, but couldn't she have picked a DIFFERENT WEEK?
A. has a great devotion to Saint Anthony, so I will be praying hard to ask him to intercede on her behalf. I'd appreciate it if anyone who reads this would do the same.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Autumn Haiku; or a Reminder to My Husband to Weed the Garden
Lacy yellow autumn buds--
Pass the Benadryl.
Disciplining Kids Who Aren't Your Kids
Hart's main point is that "though many of us grew up in neighborhoods where essentially the mom down the street could be just as threatening to us as our own, though we talk today about the notion that “it takes a village to raise a child,” we’re offended at having our own kids reprimanded by others and we’re really reticent to correct other’s kids."
I really saw myself in this one. Not so much with the "offended at my own kids reprimanded by others" but the part about being reluctant to correct other's kids.
My sister and I have always had this agreement: if one of our kids acts up/does something unsafe/smarts off, whichever grownup is present takes care of it. But I don't feel so free to deal with my brother's children, or my brother-in-law's. In fact, I feel more free to discipline the Kids Next Door than my brother or brother-in-law's kids. The Mom Next Door and I have the same agreement that my sister and I have. She knows that I have no qualms about telling her child, who strays off the sidewalk while awaiting the schoolbus, to "Get back on the pavement!" (And I'll never get used to calling a sidewalk "pavement" but that's what they do here. Must be a Philly thing.)
I will say that most of the time when I step in with someone else's child, it's a safety issue. It's running in the street. It's an untied shoe (I'm the Lunchroom Mommy with the "tie-your-shoes" obsession--I can't help it).
And when I do that kind of thing for someone else's child, I can't help but hope that some other day, some other mom would do the same for mine.
Where did he learn THAT word?
He gave me that look that I can't believe he has cultivated at the age of 4 1/2, that look that says, "Mom, are you really that clueless?" and said, "Mom, I was SNOTTY last night."
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
I was not nice to anyone.
I think it's time to go to bed, wake up in a nice mood, apologize to everyone, and get a better start on tomorrow.
I'll be back here when I can act more like a grownup.
A Whole New Schedule
With the new school year comes the novelty of Big Kids in 2 different schools. First time ever--and I won't have kids in only one school again until Middle Sister finishes college. 11 years from now. Or more. It was novel for a while but now it has just settled into the dreaded Hectic Afternoon. I'm dealing with the morning rush just fine, and the rest of the day with just me and Little Brother (our last year together) is going well, though he misses the Big Kids and their friends. It's the afternoons that may kill me.
Thank God that Big Brother's high school is only 1 mile away, or I'd never get a meal on the table. He needs a ride home after Cross-Country practice....and yes, I fully see the irony in driving to pick up a child who is able to run 4 miles. They practice every day. Today he has a meet--an hour away from home. Also today, Middle Sister's school has Back-to-School Night, at 7. My husband has not called yet to give me the "I'm on the way home from work" (1 hour away) alert so I can get dinner on the table.
I have dinner as prepped as it can be. The chicken chunks are floured and ready to be sauteed. The sauce is mixed so I can pour it on the chicken once it's browned. Cucumbers are sliced. The rice cooker is all set--just have to push the button. So dinner will be done in the time it takes to cook the rice. I doubt I'll get to eat any tonight, but it'll be done fast.
So now, it's the Waiting Game. I have to leave at 6:45 no matter what state dinner is in, unless neither my husband nor Big Brother are home. I guess then, I'll just be Late for School tonight.
Good thing there's going to be cake at Back-to-School Night. I know this, because I baked and delivered one earlier today. On the news this morning, I heard that chocolate is healthy for you. Good--chocolate cake might be dinner tonight.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
I Give Up
One time their Fashion Victim had a dress that I almost recognized. A comfortable, out-of-style, floral print, drop-waist dress. The Style Nazis on the show threw it in the trash, calling it an "I Give Up Dress."
I have a dress a lot like that. I got it at an Eddie Bauer outlet. It's a very simple, comfortable, out-of-style, floral print, drop-waist dress. Bonus: it's loose, so it hides my motherhood-induced figure flaws. I don't wear it often, primarily because the basic color of the flowers on the dress is red. If there were more blue and less red on the dress, I'd probably live in it.
It's got short sleeves and is very cool to wear, so with today's warmth and humidity it was a perfect choice for church. As I took it out of the closet I thought, "This is my I Give Up Dress."
I almost hung it back up, but then I had a change of heart. What better thing to wear to church? That's what it's all about--giving up. To God.
Giving up is not a Bad Thing--for a Catholic. On the contrary, it's the only way we can get anyplace.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Last night my SFO fraternity welcomed a new candidate to the SFO, with great joy, a beautiful ceremony, laughter, sharing on how we came to the SFO, and a good deal of encouragement from the pastor.
Thanks be to God!
Friday, September 22, 2006
"Mom, did you ever notice that in the Old Testament, they all had these really hard names? Hard to spell, hard to pronounce. But in the New Testament, they are all really easy. Matt, Mark, Luke, John. Once Jesus was born, everything was simpler!"
Soon the two bigger ones looked in to investigate what the younger ones were up to. Back-Door Neighbor Girl informed them, "We're playing school. I teach first grade!"
Boy Next Door replied: "You're IN first grade!"
Thursday, September 21, 2006
I just read this post about the Pope and a board game.
I actually HAVE this board game! It's called "Mensch aergere Dich Nicht" and when I first learned to play the game, the title was translated as "Don't Growl."
When I was growing up, our neighbors were an elderly couple of German ancestry. The Wagners were like "bonus grandparents" for us. We'd visit them, looking for homemade cookies, and enjoy much more: the company of two retired people who patiently let us peek in the pigeonholes of their fascinating desk, who watched and fed birds and identified them for us, who showed us their old wringer-washing mashine, who made toys for us and kept them at their home for us to play with, who let us watch them play pinochle with their friends, and who had this wonderful board game.
Basically, it's "Trouble" with a reversible board (one side for 3 or 6 players, one side for 2 or 4) and without the Pop-O-Matic. You rolled dice instead. But the rules were the same.
When the Wagners passed away, I was fortunate enough to receive the game that had so many happy memories attached to it. I'd love to figure out a way to somehow display the antique game board (I think the box is beyond saving) because it was such a special piece of my childhood.
And right about now, I think I need to keep the title of that game in mind. It's one of the few German phrases I know--and a good reminder for someone like me, with a tendency to fly off the handle too quickly.
The 5 Things Meme
5 things in my freezer:
1. Rocky Road ice cream
3. "Everything" bagels
4. A lot of homemade spaghetti sauce, with and without meatballs
5. 4 of those "freezie mugs"
5 things in my closet:
1. My cowboy boots that need the soles glued back on, but which I can't give up even though I only wear them about twice a year
2. A basket of clothes waiting for me to iron them
3. My camp trunk, full of out-of-season clothes, like turtlenecks, which I can't wait to get out because I love turtlenecks!
4. An empty tennis ball can (that's on my husband's side of the closet)
5. My new "Franciscans in Providence" sweatshirt (love the play on words there!)
5 things in my car:
1. Little Brother's favorite fighter plane
2. Folder of directions from anyplace we've ever visited & had to get directions
3. Little Brother's "ring tube" shaped like a fish, from the last time we went swimming
4. An old sheet AKA "drop cloth" in the trunk
5. A Game Boy game that apparently no one has missed yet
5 things in my purse:
(What? Only 5? My purse weighs 8 pounds. I could go on Let's Make a Deal with this thing. Actually, if you had asked me last week, before I cleaned it out, it would have been MUCH funnier!)
1. Swiss Army knife
2. 2 kinds of Excedrin (migraine and sinus)
3. My asthma inhaler (don't leave home without it!)
4. pack of post-it notes
5. pack of several "store loyalty cards" including cards that will ultimately earn me a free cup of coffee (Panera Bread) or chicken sandwich (Chick-Fil-A), as well as gift cards to Panera and Borders from my birthday--for my Coffee Breaks.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
I'm a certified Spanish teacher with almost 4 years in the classroom and at least that many of tutoring. He took German despite my offer of Free At-Home Tutoring Anytime He Needed It. German, I can't help him. But he had his heart set on it, and I figured that if he was motivated to study German, he'd do well.
Today the principal and guidance counselors visited his German class to inform them that the German teacher has gone on a Leave of Absence and the students would have to pick a different language. This means that he will have to start in Spanish beginning Friday, 2 weeks behind everyone else. His whole schedule may change, so the teachers I meet tonight at Back to School Night might not be the teachers he has on Friday--but he won't get the new schedule until first thing Friday morning.
This school is managing to make a bad impression on me on SO many levels. My mom (who worked hard to send all of us to Catholic school) immediately told me today, "Pull him out. Put him in the public school."
That's NOT what I want to do, even if I could forgive and forget the required $76 shoes....what would be worse? Taking him out of his "language of choice" and dumping him into a class he DOESN'T want (read: he'll do poorly & have a bad attitude) plus change his whole schedule and teachers that he has just gotten to know, or put him in a whole new environment?
Sometimes My Function in Life is to Burst His Bubble
"What's that big round blue thing with legs?" he wanted to know.
"That's a water tower. It's pretty big, huh?"
"What's in it?"
"It's full of clean water."
"For SWIMMING?" he asked hopefully.
Works-For-Me Wednesday: School Lunch
I'm starting my sixth year as a lunchroom volunteer in one of my kids' schools. We're better known as Lunch Mommies. In between setting out cartons of milk and juice, selling pretzels, handing out straws, and wiping up spills, we help little ones tie their shoes and put the straws into their juice boxes. I consider it part of my job to greet every child who comes my way with a smile.
We do wash the tables and chairs in between each feeding, with hot soapy water. But I still cringe when I see the little kids setting their sandwiches right on the tables. They haven't quite gotten the hang of putting the sandwich on top of the empty bag. And napkins? Moms pack them. Kids ignore them.
I like to include a cake-size paper plate in Little Brother's lunchbag, since he carries a lunch to school and eats with the kids. Plates left over from the most recent party work great, but plain ones are fine too--and you can write a little note to your child on the bottom of the plate. The kids are always looking to see what kind of plate Little Brother has brought in his lunch each time.
So with your early-elementary child's lunch, don't forget to pack a plate!
BONUS: On my fridge, you'll find a recipe for Gingerbread Cake that's great for packing in lunches!
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Talk Like a Pirate
No? Didn't think so. Well, anyway, it's "Talk Like a Pirate Day." And you KNOW that has to be fun!
Little Brother, like most red-blooded 4-year-old boys, is quite excited about pirates.
So, in celebration of the day, and the fact that it's raining so he can't go play outside, we just watched "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything" in their VeggieTales classic, "The Ultimate Silly Song Countdown." I'll take my Veggies WITH Bible quotes, thanks--we'll stick to the video version. We already browsed the stores looking for the ONE item we need to complete his Halloween costume--a pirate hat. No luck. But we pirates don't give up that easily, do we?
H/T to Christine for giving us the heads-up on the pirate fun for the day.
I Am Prepared to do Battle
It has come to my attention that my Big Kids' bedrooms are in serious violation of the "reasonably neat and sanitary" standard. They're not even merely messy. They are absolutely disgusting.
Both of these children seem to have much better things to do, such as playing computer games and watching television, than keeping their rooms clean. I can no longer figure out what color the floors are in either room. I can no longer walk across either room. There are too many empty plastic bags, used tissues, pencils, pens, backpacks, articles of clothing (clean? dirty?), books and toys all over the place.
So when the Big Kids get home from school today, an ultimatum WILL be issued.
There will be no TV, no video games, no computer use except for homework, until the rooms are cleaned up.
A deadline will also be issued. If the deadline is not met, I get to go into those rooms with my Hefty bags in hand. I'm not afraid to use them.
I'm fully aware of my part in this problem, as I have a rather "laissez-faire" attitude about bedrooms. I suppose that if I followed up a little better, the rooms wouldn't get to this state. I'll try to do better, and help them do better.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Even the Kids Get It
At dinner tonight, my husband added a special prayer for Pope Benedict to our usual litany at grace.
The kids were curious about why we prayed for the Pope.
I explained, "The Pope mentioned that people in a certain religion were too violent, so now they want to kill him."
When you put it that way, it kind of proves his point, don't you think?
Thanks to Time Immortal for the image.
A Boy with Wings
What you don't see is the Pirate Sword in his other hand. It's one of his most unique "costoons" ever. Yellow rain boots, cargo pants, tie-dye shirt, wizard hat, pink wings and a sword.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
I Support the Pope
And then there are those who say the Pope isn't afraid to speak the truth.
Guess which group I belong to.
H/T to The Curt Jester for this great logo. Thanks, Jeff!
As they straggled down the stairs just now (good thing we go to Noon Mass!) my husband commented, "Look what the cat dragged in."
Middle Sister shot back: "We're dog people."
Saturday, September 16, 2006
We didn't honor Father Christian by planting a tree, dedicating a statue, or taking up a collection for charity.
Today, we took his place, in a place where he stood every Saturday morning after Mass. We stood in front of the local abortion mill and prayed the Rosary.
Taking turns leading the Joyful Mysteries, the irony of remembering the Nativity of Our Lord while praying at an abortion mill was not lost on me.
It was a busy morning at the Women's Center. At least three young women were ushered in by the clinic escorts, who were built like bouncers and probably hired to be intimidating to people like our little group. But we weren't there to confront anyone. We were just there to pray.
A member of our group observed, when we had completed our prayers, that someone (maybe several someones) hadn't made it out of that mill alive today. Another member suggested that we pray again, a special prayer, for those who had come to that mill and others like it, feeling so desperate that they believed that their only course of action was to kill their unborn children.
May God bless those little babies who will never be born. May God console those young women who will have to live with their "choices" and may He have mercy on those who encourage women to make such a choice.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Time is Relative, I Guess
"Her mom told me she had to take a rest now."
"What's her mom doing?"
"Cooking their dinner."
"Early in the MORNING?"
"It's not morning."
"Yes it is! (looking out the front-door window) Look how morning it is!"
How Did I Miss This?
St. Francis of Assisi
This book is fantastic! I devoured about 40 pages of it right off the bat. THIS is what Franciscans-in-formation should be reading. Not "touchy-feely-New-Age-liberal-Communist" propaganda with trite poetry and 70's artwork, like I read in formation. This is the Real Deal.
If you're a Franciscan and you haven't read this book, get your hands on it. If you're not a Franciscan, this book might turn you into one (and that's a Good Thing.)
Thursday, September 14, 2006
From the "Wish I'd Said That" Department
Rock Wren really nails it. The subject: Rosie O'Donnell's comments comparing "Radical Christianity to Radical Islam."
An excerpt from what Rock Wren would like to say to Rosie:
"You are so free in Christian America that you are drowning in freedom.
You are so drunk on freedom that you've come to believe freedom means
nobody can disagree with you... that disagreement with you is the same
as terrorism. I find it hard to believe you're not down on your knees
every night thanking God you live in country willing to stand up
against those who have your lifestyle high on their list of things they
hate about America. I find it hard to believe you support the politics
of appeasement for Islamic Fascists who would kill you and the politics
of hate for Christian Conservative Republicans who would protect you
even if they disagree with you. I find it hard to believe, Rosie, that
you hate President Bush more than you love your own family."
Go read the whole thing. It is a shame that the people who "benefit" most from the freedoms in our country are often the ones least likely to understand that we must defend those very freedoms.
First they had a big argument about the proper sword. Then they started rummaging through the toy box and the outside-toy crate looking for other items. Little Brother found a toy watch.
Big Brother: "Pirates don't use watches."
Little Brother: "Then how do they know what time it is? How do they know when to go to bed?"
Big Brother: "They go to bed when it's DARK, silly."
First Book of Autumn Reading Challenge--DONE!
Buster Midnight's Cafe
by Sandra Dallas was a hoot! What a wonderful story of friendship that covered the lives of three girls from their schooldays to their old age. There is tragedy that can move you to tears. The funny moments will make you laugh out loud. And the bond of friendship that the three characters share is inspiring.
The narrator of this book, Effa Commander, is "helped" to tell the story by her friend "Whippy Bird" (what's up with the names?) and it's like reading a book by Maxine. (Just in case you don't know who Maxine is, here's one of my favorite Maxine cartoons. Visit your nearest Hallmark store and you'll see plenty of Maxine.)
I liked this book a lot, and if I ever finish my other Reading Challenge books, I'll be sure to pick up another one by this author.
Today he asked me how long it would be until he's 5.
"You're birthday's not until March."
"Is that in 6 days?"
"No, more like 180 days."
"A HUNDRED AND EIGHTY! That's TOO MANY!"
I wondered why he was in such a hurry to be 5. I had two theories: he either had some special birthday present in mind, or he wanted to go to kindergarten.
"When I'm 5, I can almost catch up to Back-Door Neighbor Girl." (She's 6).
Poor guy. He's always going to be 20 months younger than Back-Door Neighbor Girl, no matter how much he rushes things. He's in such a hurry to be big....I don't want him to miss out on the fun of being 4 because he wants to catch up to Big Brother, Middle Sister, or our friends' children. Slow down, little guy. You'll be 5 soon enough. (Though it was nice to know that it wasn't "birthday present greed" that caused his big hurry....)
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
The Pope Redefines Saint Francis
Benedict XVI said he wanted to correct the “abuses” and “betrayals” that distort the true character of Saint Francis. And to recall the false view of Saint Francis, Benedict XVI needed just two words: “environmentalist” and “pacifist.” ...The truth of Saint Francis – the pope emphasizes – is his “radical choice of Christ,” the conversion awakened in him by the words of the crucified Jesus: ‘Go, rebuild my house.’
It's not about peace protests. It's not about ecology. It's not about blessing our household pets.
Being Franciscan is about conversion. All the rest is incidental.
In the spiritual travail that the young Francis was living through, he perceived these words of vocation and mission as being in the first place an invitation to carry out completely the conversion that had already begun, making his own the concern and plans of Christ for his Church.
So my priority, as a Franciscan, is to ask myself how I can better turn myself toward God, and serve Him in my daily life. That's what conversion is about--turning TOWARD God.
Via Te Deum laudamus.
I found out this morning when we were getting ready to volunteer in the lunchroom. Last week, when the Big Kids went off to school for their first day, one of the first things Little Brother asked was, "When do we go to lunchroom?"
He loved being in the lunchroom. The kids loved having him there. He was like Everyone's Little Brother. They would share snacks, play little games with him, hi-5 him on their way in the door. The Lunch Ladies, Teachers and Office Staff were very welcoming to him. He received little gifts on his birthday and at Christmas.
This morning I told him that it was our Lunchroom Day. I named a few kids from our old school that he would see there. Then he said, "But I won't see Middle Sister!"
That's when I realized that he thought we'd be back in the lunchroom at our old school. I had to tell him that the lunchroom he knew isn't a lunchroom anymore. That he wouldn't see Miss Rita, and the Office Staff, and the Lunch Mommies.
I thought I was done crying over St. Peter's School. Big Brother has graduated, he's loving high school, and he seems to have been well-prepared. Middle Sister has moved on, and she seems happy in her new school with old and new friends. We have all been warmly welcomed by the parents, faculty and administration at the new school.
I hadn't thought about the impact it would have on Little Brother, who never actually got to attend school there, but made it into the yearbook one year, since he was there so much. Every child and teacher in the school knew his name. I hadn't realized that he would cry when he found out that we'd be helping in a new lunchroom this year.
I cried a little too. And then I held his hand, and we went in to meet the Lunch Mommies and Teachers in the new school. He saw some familiar faces and ate with Middle Sister.
And it was good. Different, but good. It will be OK.
Things that Make You Go "HUH?"
When I peeked into the family room earlier I didn't see any cups or popcorn bowls, so I thought how nice it was that they had remembered to clean up after their snack.
Then I carried a load of laundry to the basement, where I found, ON TOP OF THE DRYER, the empty popcorn bowl, and Little Brother's cup.
I'm not sure who I should ask about this--or whether I really want to hear the answer.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Padre and the Pooch
I even argued with my mom about it this afternoon. We're a little closer to the situation than many, since the college in question is practically in my parents' former backyard, and when I finished college and grad school (elsewhere) and lived back at home for a year, I attended Mass at the Catholic Campus Ministry, since I just wasn't quite ready to transition back into regular parish life. So I am well-acquainted with the priest in question. Apparently he had the dogs during the time I attended Mass and participated in Music Ministry there, but I don't remember seeing them. At that time, there was no separate chapel, just a large living room/meeting room filled with "This End Up" furniture.
Frankly, if Father Lou's dog had wandered into this room during Mass, I don't think I or anyone else would have blinked an eye. It was an extremely informal situation at that point. But now there is a proper chapel next door to the Catholic Campus Ministry Center. And I think the situation calls for more formality.
Animals in the sanctuary are going to be a distraction--at best. Have you ever been in church when a squirrel blunders into the sanctuary? I have. No one is participating properly in Mass at that point. They're all watching the squirrel, and wondering how he'll get out of church, and thinking about what the squirrel will do before he gets out of church. They're giggling and whispering.
I've attended Masses celebrated by a blind priest, and I can tell you that I and many others there probably paid way more attention to his service dog, who was remarkably well-behaved and there to do a job, than we should have. Father Lou's dogs are not there to do a job. They are companion animals--pets. And whether Franciscans are supposed to love animals or not, I don't think that pets have a place in church. The dogs are socializing with the congregation, and that can be done in the other, much less formal situations, that take place as part of Catholic Campus Ministry.
Yes, dogs can teach us about trust, loyalty, and fidelity. There was even a large article in Faith and Family on that subject over the summer.
But Father Lou, you're not celebrating Mass in your living room anymore. Please leave your dogs in the living room until Mass is over. Your young parishioners need your example of reverence, respect, and attention--and if your pets are there, that lesson goes right out the window.
Ironing Things Out
That may be true, but I always wanted him to start out looking good. And the same was true for the kids. I've always been meticulous about ironing their school uniforms.
That is, until I discovered what the kids do with the uniforms when they remove them from the closet.
1. Take the neatly-ironed shirt off the hanger.
2. Take the neatly-ironed pants or skirt (whichever is the gender-appropriate uniform) off the hanger.
3. Roll the top and bottom into a ball.
4. Take the clothing into the bathroom. If you're really doing well, you've remembered your underwear too.
5. Dump everything on the floor.
6. Take your shower.
7. Get dressed. (If you're wearing pants, spend 5 minutes looking for your belt.)
I don't see the point of fussing with spray starch, at considerable risk to my hair, so that my kids can undo what I've done before they even put on the clothes! However, my mother is completely scandalized that I would stop ironing my kids' clothing because of this. She thinks that their teachers will suspect me of Child Neglect. Now, the uniforms I take off the clothesline and hang right in the closet look just as good as, if not better than, what the kids are wearing when they've finished following their Normal Showering Procedure as described above.
So, what do you think? Should I iron anyway? Make them iron their own? Or just hang up, fresh out of the laundry?
Down In Front
He had his "Miniature Stories of the Saints" book with him also, and he was busy for the few minutes before Mass trying to match up the statues in church with the pictures in the book--although in his mind, if they're not completely identical, they're not the same guy. Saint Joseph, in the book, carries a lily as well as Baby Jesus. In church, the Saint Joseph statue only has Baby Jesus.
ANYway, Little Brother usually does not get to sit right up front. Daddy generally stays toward the back of the church, out of long habit developed when Little Brother was under two, and his pew behavior was rather terrible. They spent a lot of time in the vestibule listening to Mass over the speakers.
So Little Brother was enjoying his good view of everything. He could see Father blessing the bread and wine. He could see the hand gestures, and he paid much better attention. And he got excited about how well he could see. So in the middle of the Consecration, he couldn't keep it to himself anymore:
"Mom! I can kneel, and I can STILL SEE FATHER! Nobody's in front!"
Monday, September 11, 2006
How Many States Have I Visited?
create your own visited states map
More than I thought! I did include states I have driven through/ridden through in a car, but not states that I had a "plane change" but nothing else.
Only a few more to go to get that whole 50. Thanks for that road trip in 1976, Dad--it counted for easily half the states on this map!
Update: dagnabbit, I can't get the pic to display properly....the only East Coast state I haven't visited is Maine. I think you can see the rest.
Just before 9 AM EDT, 5 years ago today, I was getting ready for school. I had a part-time job teaching Spanish to first- and second-graders. I was in the kitchen making my Big Cup of Tea, since I was expecting Little Brother at the time, and I was trying not to drink too much coffee. An hour earlier I had put the Big Kids on the school bus. It was a beautiful, clear day; the sky was blue, the breeze was cool. My husband called and told me to turn on the TV, because a plane had just hit the World Trade Center.
I grew up watching those towers get built. In the part of North Jersey where I was raised, you could see the Towers from all over. More than once, Dad took us kids to a place where we could see across the river and look at the towers-under-construction. And one time, my husband took me to New York where we visited the observation deck of one of the Towers and then walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.
I turned on the kitchen radio, which receives local TV signals, and listened to the tragedy beginning....I listened as the second plane hit the other tower. And then, in shock, I had to go to school and meet four classes of little children for the first time.
As a traveling teacher, I had a small office in the library. Of course the library TV was turned on, and teachers were in and out of there all morning. We watched horrified as the Towers burned and then fell. Most of us were crying.
The principal came in and instructed all the teachers not to say anything to the students. He felt that in a K-2 building, news like this didn't belong in school--it was the parents' job to talk to their children about it first. While I completely agreed with that, it was unbelievably hard to put on a happy face and meet 100 children and act like nothing was wrong, when all day long parents were showing up at school to pick up their kids. All day long, I wanted to get my kids. In my last class of the day, at least 7 children had been taken home; when I called roll, the others would say, "He went home sick." None of them thought it was weird that so many children had "gone home sick" that day.
I found my husband already at home when I got there, because his office had decided to close for the day. Together we waited for the Big Kids to come home, and we talked together about what had happened that day. My husband was glued to the news all day. I was trying to escape the news all day. At dinnertime we went out and got pizza, so we could get out of the house for a little while. Then we went over to our church. That's where we wanted to be. Apparently a lot of people did--but not the Pastor-at-the-Time, because there was a notice on the church door that if anyone wanted to attend an evening Mass, they should go to the other church across town. Our parish did not schedule evening Masses, but we thought something might be going on there. As there wasn't, we headed across town and attended Mass in the church that would become our parish for the next 4 years.
My husband still follows the path of airplanes in the sky and startles when he thinks they are on an unusual route. When we get off the New Jersey Turnpike at exit 12 to visit his parents, we still expect to see the Towers in the skyline. The flag still hangs on our front door, as it has since that day.
But I count my family as some of the lucky ones. We lost a building that has some memories attached to it. We lost our sense of security. That's all we lost. So many other people lost lives, spouses, children, friends, neighbors.
For all the victims and heroes of 9/11:
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. May their souls, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Dad in the Pew
I can't figure out why parents of very little ones always seem to sit on the Tabernacle side of our church, which because of its odd design, is the farthest from any doors. Our pastor or deacon announces before every Mass that the priests' sacristy, as well as the vestibule, are available for families who need to remove their children from the sanctuary for a few moments. But the parents of the Runaway Children seem to sit the farthest away from the areas where they could take their children for a little break. (Let's face it, new walkers sometimes just need to get up and walk around a bit, and then they're ready to be back in church.)
Our Tabernacle is on a large platform, 6 inches or so higher than the floor of the rest of the church, on the right of the altar but on a separate platform. There are also a statue of the Blessed Mother, a kneeler in front of the Tabernacle, and usually some flowers. And today there was a toddler, dancing on what she clearly thought was a stage, with her sippy cup, during the Creed and the Prayer of the Faithful.
My husband mentioned later that the child's mother seemed more willing to let the child dance in front of the Tabernacle rather than risking any scenes when she tried to take the little one back to their seat in the pew. (The last Runaway Toddler was finally captured by one of my fellow Secular Franciscans, who's a grandmother and wasn't afraid to block the aisle and grab the child before he made a clean break for the altar....)
He's thinking of asking the pastor if he can write a short piece for the parish bulletin, with some "helpful hints" for parents of toddlers. And he's got lots of practical experience. For most of my children's lives, I've been part of our church's music ministry. People who see my husband in church with the kids, by himself, every week, probably think he's a single dad. He has willingly sat with the children Sunday after Sunday while I sing with the choir. Once in a while he'll go to an early Mass by himself, and THEN go again with the whole family and sit with the kids. It's important to him, and to all of us, that we're in church TOGETHER...even if Middle Sister and I are with the choir and it's just him and The Boys in the pew.
I hope that Father D. will allow my husband to share his expertise with the moms and dads who are bringing their little ones to church and who are so clearly upset when their children act up. Because the last thing any of us wants is that these parents become discouraged and stop bringing their children to Mass. A few words of encouragement, and some tried and true tips, might go a long way in putting them more at ease.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
A Successful Party
The guests (almost 60 of them) seemed to like the food, and ate almost all of it. There are a few lonely watermelon slices, 5 meatballs, 2 dozen rolls, 4 cupcakes, some Rice Krispie Treats and half a loaf of Irish soda bread left (that will be tomorrow's Breakfast of Champions for me!)
For the main meal, I served:
Sausage, peppers and onions
Meatballs with sauce
Roast beef with gravy
Dr. Pepper baked beans
Pasta salad (made by my neighbor)
Raw vegetable platter
For dessert, we enjoyed:
Cupcakes (arranged in the shape of the number 40)
Crumb cake (thanks to my sister-in-law)
2 kinds of cookies including Dutch windmills (thanks to my sister)
Rice Krispie Treats (made by my other neighbor)
Cream Puffs (also made by my neighbor)
Irish Soda Bread (thanks, Mom!)
Chrusciki (brought by Mom)
Beverages included water, soda, juice boxes, coffee, tea, and beer, though not as nice a brand as what was offered us at Big Brother's school last week. My designer-beer budget has gone to pay his tuition, so they can serve me beer at PTA meetings.
The house is thoroughly trashed. There are Legos, root beer cans, cupcake papers, pretzels, and Nintendo games strewed as far as the eye can see.
I still have a sink full of dishes even though I've done the biggest of the pots, pans and Nesco roasters. And I do not want to go out to the back porch to see what that looks like. But I know that if I don't do it now, I'll have to do it tomorrow. I'll wake up to a horrible mess on Sunday morning and really start the day off on the wrong foot.
Oh yeah, and the door of the coat closet is off its bottom hinge. This is the second party at my house where a door has been pulled off a hinge.
So I guess I'd better go see what awaits me on the porch.
Breakfast of Champions II
"Got some pretzels for you," he called, and rushed inside to bring me the bag. He had gone to Philly very early this morning and picked up enough pretzels to share.
There's nothing like a Philly pretzel. I've tried making them at home but I just can't get it right. So I enjoy it when my neighbor makes a run into the city early on a Saturday morning and brings back pretzels for the neighborhood.
With my Giant Mug of Coffee, a Philly pretzel makes a great breakfast.
Later today we will be hosting about 60 people to celebrate my husband's 40th birthday. At some point in the day I intend to see at least SOME of the Notre Dame-Penn State game. It's going to be a busy day. But right now, I'm going to take a few minutes to enjoy my pretzel and coffee, and to hug Little Brother who just made his sleepy way down the stairs. Because Moms cannot live by pretzels alone. We need hugs too.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
More on Summer Reading
(Don't even get me started on how my tuition dollar$ were used to fund the libations for the reception, which included water, soda, wine and beer--not just any beer, not your average Budweiser, but Sam Adams, thankyouverymuch....whatever happened to coffee and sheet cake at these affairs? Obviously they think that plying the parents with alcohol will make us more willing to participate in the Magazine Sale....)
We ran into a few parents from Big Brother's eighth-grade class, one of whom was the librarian at the kids' former school. The conversation turned to the topic of the summer reading assignment, and this mom observed that at our local public high school, the kids were assigned to read The DaVinci Code. Her point was that the public school kids were reading something "current" while our kids had to read Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes--and she thought that our kids were missing out, somehow.
Her complaint didn't go far with me, and I let her know that in my Former Life I was an English teacher. "They can assign my kid all the literature they want."
I think that the kids will rise to the occasion. That's what school is for, right? To challenge the kids? To push them a little? Or have we all given up on the idea of Getting an Education in favor of Getting an Easy A and Getting Into a Better College (where they'd really need the Education they should have gotten in high school)?
If my child is ever assigned The DaVinci Code at school, a Big Stink will be made. Bring on the literature.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Guess What I am Drawing
Middle Sister's friend called 15 minutes ago so they could plan some after-school fun for tomorrow. When that didn't work out, they resorted to playing "Blind Pictionary." One of them draws and describes what she is drawing and the other one guesses.
You know it's getting bad when your daughter says, "You are drawing a seahorse with pimples."
I guess it's time to break out the kitchen timer.
Big Sigh of Relief
He can tell good literature from garbage.
His summer reading assignments ranged from The Hound of the Baskervilles (for Honors English) to Joshua (for Religion)--in other words, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Two novels by Agatha Christie were "in between."
School starts tomorrow. He finished reading the last of his books, Joshua, tonight. (He's got taste, but he's still a procrastinator).
I've been trying to keep a lid on my own opinion of the book and its themes, until he had read the book and done the report (a basic "list the characters, setting, conflict and resolution" paper). And once I found that all of this had been done, I asked him what he thought of the book.
"It was pretty terrible." (YESSSSSSSSSS!)
"So, what makes you think that?"
"Well, you know, compared to Sherlock Holmes, this book just basically stunk."
"Good. You can feel free to share that opinion if your class discusses the book." I know he'll be able to back it up.
Freshmen in high school can and should be expected to read better than Joshua--better theology and better literature.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Educational Table Talk
With the age spread of our kids, lively conversation is to be expected. Subject matter is all over the place. Tonight was no exception, and it was pretty obvious that our discussions were very entertaining to the Grandparent-Generation Couple who couldn't help but eavesdrop.
We started out by brainstorming solutions to the problem of our Party-Hearty Neighbors. For the past few weekends, the "young adults" next door have been taking advantage of their mom's absence to throw loud parties. Last night the party included loud music and liberal use of the "F-Bomb" PLUS a few guys who thought it was way cooler to relieve themselves through the fence into our yard rather than use one of the two bathrooms inside the house. (Yes, I called the police.)
Anyway, at the dinner table tonight we were discussing the relative merits of having Big Brother and his fellow Boy Scouts electrify our fence versus concealing Big Brother in some shrubbery in our yard with a hose or sprinkler, waiting to ambush the guys who think our backyard makes a nice potty. Little Brother offered his watering services as well, but these parties start past his bedtime.
We considered the reasons why root beer doesn't make as much foam if you tilt the glass while pouring, and Big Brother thought that the Mythbusters should work on this, but then he remembered that they really only do stuff that will blow up.
We moved on to Big Brother's need for a new binder for school, which quickly degenerated into a Lecture By Mom on the topic of "Don't Insult Your Sister By Calling Her Favorite Binder 'Fruity' When It's Only 'Fruity' If A Boy Carries One."
We wound up the meal by discussing the difference between implosion and explosion, and how fun it is to watch demolition, especially of Really Big Buildings. (I'm a sucker for a good implosion).
That was a pretty standard conversation for our family. I hope the people at the next table had as good a time as we did at dinner tonight. No doubt they learned something.
Moms for Modesty
The mom-bloggers are starting a movement with the goal of encouraging modest dress for our girls--and encouraging retailers to sell modest, yet fun, comfortable and stylish clothing for girls. Click the picture above for more details. I'm happy to add my efforts and display the logo.
Moms for Modesty Mission Statement
* As a Mom for Modesty I believe in common-sense modesty for girls and young women.
* I believe in refraining from sexualizing our girls and young women.
* I believe that it is unwise and unfair to taunt boys and young men by permitting my daughter(s) to dress in an immodest manner.
* I believe that true beauty comes from within and I strive to teach my daughter(s) this truth.
* I will loyally shop at retailers that provide girls' and young womens clothing that is modest, affordable and stylish.
Via Barbara at MommyLife.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
"I Deserve It"
"I owe it to myself."
How often do we hear phrases like that? If we read magazines, or watch television, or even clip coupons, we see or hear such words quite often.
In today's Target ad, the front page is headlined: "You Deserve Dyson." It's almost as if we take pride in how much we deserve.
All this thinking of what we deserve, what we are worth, what we are owed--all this is the absolute opposite of the kind of thinking Francis warns against in the Rule of 1221:
"Beware of all pride and vainglory. Keep yourselves from the wisdom of this world and the prudence of the flesh. For the spirit of the flesh is desirous and very eager for words but does little to carry them out."
Ultimately, I know that I deserve nothing. Yet Christ had it in His heart to give all of us everything, through His perfect sacrifice. That's a whole lot more important than a latte, hair coloring, or a space-age vacuum cleaner.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
ABC Coverage of ND Game Not Off to a Good Start
I might have to watch the entire game with the sound OFF.
Now, if ANYONE has figured out the trick to Keeping It This Way, please let me know. I don't think it's going to make it to Monday looking this nice. I'd really love if it did, though.
A Dangerous Attitude
There's unpacking, and returning food to the pantry, and laundry, and ironing, and going through the mail, and all kinds of things like that.
There's the kitchen table, which winds up being a "catchall" for anything and everything, and which I'd like to cover with a pretty tablecloth, to dress the room up a little.
There's the Snow Cone Maker for which I really need to find a more convenient home, and a pizzelle maker I want to take for a test drive. And some people cooked themselves breakfast this morning, and left the mess behind.
There's the Honey Wheat Bread to be made for dinner tonight (recipe is hanging on my fridge.)
And my husband just left with the Big Kids to go see a movie, leaving me here with Little Brother and our 6-year-old Neighbor Girl. They're constructing an Army Guy Fort in the family room with Legos, giant cardboard bricks, tiny army guys, a toy tank and ambulance, and I can't figure out what else.
This seriously tempts me to curl up on the couch with some more coffee and a book, and ignore the mess. Why not? Everyone else is.
But tomorrow is Sunday and this is not the kind of work I want to have to do on Sunday. There's only one thing to do.
When I need motivation to complete tasks like this, I haul out the camera and take "before and after" pictures of the worst mess (in this case, my kitchen.) Because the only way I can motivate myself at this point is to shame myself into it. Then I'm putting on some pants with pockets in them, plugging into my MP3 player with "Rescue Me" cranking, and getting to work.
"Show and Tell" for pictures will happen after I get the work done. If I start fiddling with uploading pictures now, I'll never get that kitchen finished. And tonight, I'm watching football. Without multitasking.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Big Brother, We're Watching You
Now, this boy got straight A's all through eighth grade, but still managed to miss more than a few homework assignments. And he knows that if he had turned in those assignments, he might have had a 98 average in math instead of a 93, but to him, an A is an A, and who cares about homework when he already knows how to do that math chapter, and there's something interesting about World War II spies on the Military Channel? (After all, he's got to fill in those blanks in his knowledge of World War II, because it doesn't get covered until the last week of school, and history is his favorite....)
So the school has this special website where parents can go and download their kids' grade reports at any time, as well as notes from teachers. Yes, I'll be checking on him.
I will miss having him in the kind of place where I was on a first-name basis with almost every teacher in the building. Using a "secret password" just won't be the same.
Autumn Reading Challenge
The rules of the game: List 5 fiction and 5 nonfiction books that you have been meaning to read but just never got to. What? Only 5 of each? I could play this game for
I'm listing alphabetically by author, not necessarily the order in which I'll attempt to read these. And yeah, my tastes are all over the place.
Buster Midnight's Cafe by Sandra Dallas
How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
Jewel by Bret Lott
Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
St. Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton
Saint-Watching by Phyllis McGinley
Holiness for Housewives: And Other Working Women by Hubert Van Zeller
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Letters to a Young Catholic: The Art of Mentoring by George Weigel
My husband will be glad to know that I'll be reading my dust-catchers
instead of in addition to buying new ones.
So, it's September 1, so it's not really Autumn yet, is it? Do I get until December 20 to make a dent in this list? Anyone? Anyone?
Last Bit of Quiet
As quiet as it can get with the dryer humming, and the laptop wheezing, and the TV in the background just in case they issue an updated tidal flooding warning. (Currently the warning is for after 2 PM today, and we plan to be well on our way home by then, if not already there).
I've been up since before 5, boxing and bagging and folding and stacking and stuffing. I'm almost done with my coffee already. But none of the kids, nor my husband, is up yet, so I can't start vacuuming and stripping beds and all of that. I bet the upstairs neighbors wouldn't appreciate vacuuming at this hour anyway, even though I swear there was someone ROLLER-SKATING above my head around 10 last night as I tried to go to sleep. And the Weatherdude has just announced that it has started raining here....sigh....it'll be a soggy time packing the cars. I don't have a raincoat with me, either. And yeah, I'm the one who packs the cars, due to my talent (thanks, Dad) for getting maximum "stuff" into minimum "space." The rest of them get to be the Pack Mules and carry me things.
I'd enjoy the quiet time, but it just got quieter. The dryer is done. Time to fold and stack some more. Because as soon as we're all packed, cleaned up, and fed breakfast, SFO Mom's Family is officially BUGGING OUT!