Tuesday, October 31, 2006

We Love Halloween

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 30, 2006

Question of the Day

Why is there a slimy blue dinosaur in my washing machine?

Little Brother's Report on Visiting Another Parish

Yesterday, the guys in the family attended Mass at a different parish. Big Brother's Boy Scout troop is sponsored there, and they were having a popcorn sale after all Masses. Little Brother loves to do anything with the Boy Scouts, so he went along.

Today, I got the full report. First he happily showed me the treat bag that the Youth Group passed around to all kids. There were a few pieces of candy, a rosary, a pamphlet on how to say the rosary, and a "Holy Trader" card of Blessed Jacinto.

I asked him if he knew whose picture was on the front of the rosary pamphlet. He said, "It's Mary--Father's Mommy." (Wouldn't Father love that?) He wanted to know about the Blessed Jacinto card. I wasn't sure how to put that so a 4-year-old could understand, so I just said that "Mary came to visit him and his friends because they were special, and she told them how to be good." When he's bigger, he can learn more....

Then he told me that at this church, "they speak English!" I don't know what language he thinks they speak at our regular parish.

Finally, he was very excited about "the candles with the buttons on them. Guess what, Mom! When you go up to them, and you press the button, it lights up!" I wonder how many of those candles Daddy had to invest in yesterday.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

All RIGHTY Then...

Apparently I am less boring than I thought I was. So, in answer to your questions from the combox,

I appeared on Jeopardy! on October 31, 1995. I came in third, got a good many correct answers, but got the Final Jeopardy question wrong. To the eternal surprise of everyone who knows me, I answered a couple of sports questions, including one about football coach Mike Ditka that, to this day, I cannot explain why I knew. My "valuable prizes" were a set of really terrible videotapes. Most of them were given away.

When I was 9 years old, I saved someone's life. I was in Wildwood, NJ with my grandmother and her friends. The motel had a pool, and we spent more time poolside than at the beach. The only other child around was a good bit younger than me and we would play in the pool. I was pretty timid about water so I didn't get too far off the steps. He went down the steps and, I guess, kept going down. All I remember is one of my grandmother's friends saying to me, "I didn't know he was in trouble until I heard you say, 'Give me your hand! Give me your hand!'" Apparently no one was really watching us kids in the pool, and the little boy had gone under and wasn't coming up, so I grabbed his hand and pulled him out.

In high school at a school event, I won the costume prize for the cheapest and simplest costume I have ever made: the title deed to Boardwalk from the Monopoly game. I used poster boards to make the back and the front of the card.

So there you go.

Jean, do these count as 3 of the 5 "little known facts" about me? I hope they do. Here are my last 2:

I have been to exactly four football games in my life. All of them were Notre Dame games. 3 of them were against Navy. ONE OF THEM WAS TODAY! Go Irish!

I am very interested in architecture, especially houses, churches, small businesses and schools. I'm fascinated by the exterior details that used to be commonly included on even humble buildings, and I mourn the loss of that art. (Driving around in Camden, NJ and Baltimore, MD today got me thinking about that.)

Friday, October 27, 2006

How Boring Am I?

The object of the game:  highlight the things you have done!

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game (and survived the crush afterwards)
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne (let's say tipsy)
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster (that would be while doing #31!)
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show (OK, not money, but "valuable prizes")
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146.  Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life

Got this from Esther, who got it from UKOK.

The Difference Between Boys and Girls

The Homecoming Dance at Big Brother's school is tomorrow.

Last night, he decided he wanted to go to the dance.

In order to go to the dance, he had to buy a ticket today. He will also have to come shopping with me today, to buy a sport jacket to wear to the dance. I can see how this scenario will play out: we'll go to the store, find the blue jackets, try them on him until we get the right size, pay, and leave. Tomorrow after running in the Homecoming 5K race (probably in the rain) and watching the football game (possibly in the rain) he will come home, shower, put on his khakis, dress shirt, tie, and new jacket, and go to the dance.

4 years from now, Middle Sister will get ready for her first Homecoming dance. Only she'll start preparing in July. Of this year.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I came up from the basement with a big basket of laundry in my arms, to find Little Brother perched on the back of the couch, happily eating a Tootsie Pop that Big Brother had given him this morning with instructions to "save until after lunch."

"What are you doing up there?"

"King Of Couch," he proudly responded.

"And what am I?"

"Queen Of Dishes!"

I think I'll be serving dinner on paper plates tonight, then.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Dining Separately

Because of my kids' sports schedules and my husband's work hours, there are two nights a week when my family won't be able to all eat dinner at the same time.

Everyone has to eat, but we can't eat all at once. This throws me way off, as I'm very attached to the "whole family dinner." I think it messes me up so much because my kids are not "super-involved." In general, they do one sport, one Scouting OR community-service activity, and choir or altar-serving (which doesn't involve time outside of what we'd already be doing at church). Big Brother has a couple of other things at school but they are very occasional things, not regular commitments.

I'm looking for some good dinner ideas that I can have in my "bag of tricks" for those nights. I don't want to rely on take-out as it's expensive AND not always very nutritious.

Two ideas that come to mind are chili and sloppy joes, as I can keep them hot in the slow cooker until everyone has eaten. I want to cook ONE meal per day--not several separate meals. Any other good ideas for days like these?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bus Stop Fashion

Middle Sister stopped to watch the weather report on the local news. "It's Bus Stop Buddy!" she yelled. Bus Stop Buddy is a cute little cartoon guy who is dressed correctly for the weather each day. It's a gimmick, but it's a cute gimmick, and besides, I can let Bus Stop Buddy be the bad guy when she doesn't want to wear a jacket.

Middle Sister informed me that today Bus Stop Buddy is wearing a coat, mittens, and a hat. I said, "Better get yours all ready."

Her answer? "No WAY! I'm wearing a scarf."

Monday, October 23, 2006

Prayer Warriors Needed

Please keep in your prayers little Brenna, who was born Saturday, Oct. 21. She is the granddaughter of one of the Secular Franciscans in my fraternity--one of the ones who helped introduce me to the SFO. Brenna was admitted to the NICU with breathing difficulties. May God hold her in His healing hand, and also be with her parents, sisters and brother as they wait and worry.

UPDATE: (Sunday) Brenna is improving and is out of the NICU! Keep praying! And thanks!
(Monday) Brenna's Grammy says that she is doing fine!

I'm keeping this up top, now that I have figured out HOW, for as long as prayers are needed.

And while you're praying, keep Brenna's Grammy in your prayers, because she's got surgery coming up on Wednesday.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Breast Cancer-Birth Control Link

Moneybags has a link to the Mayo Clinic journal article that clearly finds a link between the use of the birth control pill and breast cancer.

Last week in the newspaper (either the Wall Street Journal or the local rag) I read a feature article about the marketing behind the "Cure Breast Cancer" movement. All those pink ribbons generate a lot of money. Some of that money goes to foundations that in turn give money to Planned Parenthood. (Yeah, I know, I could have chosen a way better link here, but most of the results from the search engine couldn't be displayed on my browser because of my VERY aggressive antivirus. The "sex" filter removes just about anything referring to Planned Parenthood.)

Why would a breast-cancer-research foundation fund an organization that pushes pills that can cause breast cancer, and abortion that can lead to the same disease?

Oh yeah, and the article in the paper also mentioned that there's such attention to breast cancer because unlike heart disease and diabetes, it's not your fault if you get it. That thoroughly contradicts the research that indicates that certain "lifestyle choices" including abortion, use of the birth-control pill, and even delayed childbearing can increase a woman's likelihood of developing breast cancer.

I am very grateful to the researchers who made the medical advances possible so that my mother-in-law has survived her bout with breast cancer, going on 6 years ago. It's not that I'm against breast-cancer research. But I don't think it's productive to funnel money into organizations that ultimately promote some of the very things that are correlated with the risk of developing the disease.

Judging a Bread by its Wrapper

Big Brother and Daddy just got home from a Boy Scout camping trip. As usual, the leftover perishable food was divided among the adult leaders, so there are two loaves of Wonder bread sitting on my kitchen table right now.

"Gee, that's a lot of leftover bread," I commented, wondering if there's room in the freezer for one of those loaves.

Middle Sister answered, "I like Wonder Bread. It has the best polka dots."

Teach Your Children Well

Follow this link to a wonderful homily by Father Martin Fox, in which he compares Jesus' advice to "Take up the cross and follow me" to the encouragement we have heard: "Offer it up!"

Here's just a bit of it--but do go read it all!
I know, you wonder, how can that do any good?
How can my cold, last week,
contribute to the salvation of the world?
That’s not for us to know, is it?

But we do know the Lord said:
you want to share the glory? Share the Cross!

Offer it up!

Notice what a great act of humility this is:
We’re proud to bring an impressive gift;
instead, we have to bring something so insignificant!

Parents, when you teach your children
these small sacrifices,
you are starting them on the path to heroic virtue:
this really is the school of sainthood!

This is how we begin to learn the courage it takes
to be a priest, to be a nun,
to be a faithful spouse and parent;
to be a missionary, to be a police officer or a soldier;
to be a worker for justice in countless ways.

Ironic, isn't it?

I spent part of Saturday morning praying a Rosary outside a local abortion clinic with some other SFOs. Just like the last time, right in the middle of the Third Joyful Mystery (the Nativity), the cars started rolling into the parking lot. It was a busy day at the clinic. And that's heartbreaking.

At Mass, which we attended before heading over to the clinic, Father H. mentioned that Pope Benedict has taught that it is a great sin against the Holy Spirit to call something "right" when it is truly wrong, and to call something "wrong" that is right. He also mentioned that the abortion industry is guilty of this very sin. I don't know if he knew where we were going after church, but he certainly did strengthen our resolve.

That evening I received word that one of our fraternity members has a newborn granddaughter! Little Brenna was born this afternoon. Prayers are needed for her, as she is in the NICU with breathing trouble.

I can't help but think of the contrast here: in the morning, so many babies (at least 5 while we were there) thrown away like garbage. In the afternoon, a little one, a wanted and welcomed little one, fights to breathe and survive. Other friends of mine who grieve over their infertility, or their inability to have more children, or the years of red tape before they can adopt children whom they know they can love and teach and raise as their own.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mr. Independent

It was just before lunchtime, and I told Little Brother that he could choose from a tuna sandwich or leftover pizza for his lunch. He wasn't sure what he wanted, so I said that after I used the bathroom, I'd be back downstairs to serve his lunch.

I'm a mom. I do not linger in the bathroom.

I heard a noise as I came back downstairs. A noise like...the microwave. The one ABOVE THE STOVE.

There was Little Brother, who had pulled up a chair to the stove, unwrapped the leftover pizza from the foil, placed it in the microwave, and turned it on!

Interrogation revealed that Mr. Independent had set the microwave on "1-2" so the pizza barely got warm. Phew!

I think it's time to childproof again--in the High Places this time.

Little Brother's Calendar

Who needs a day planner when you have Little Brother?

Little Brother: "Hey Mom! Guess what! After this day, it's going to snow. And THEN, it's going to be CHRISTMAS!"

Me: "Really?"

Little Brother: "Yes! When I was at Back-Door Neighbor's house, she has a calendar, and first it's spring, and then it's snow, and then it's Christmas, and THEN it's Halloween!"

And he hasn't even BEEN in Target lately, where the Halloween and Christmas decorations are across the aisle from each other.

(I don't remember where I saw this cartoon yesterday....if it was at your blog, please let me know so I can credit you properly!)

How to Scare Your Wife

In the middle of our early-morning conversation hammering out which kid has to be in which place after dinner and which adult will drive said kid to said place and which adult will keep Little Brother out of trouble during all of this, my husband suddenly interrupted me:
"Wanna hear something scary?"
"In ten years...we can get an AARP card."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Need to be Needed

Today's the day Little Brother and I volunteer in the lunchroom at Middle Sister's school.

I've done lunchroom for 5 years and I really do enjoy it. Little Brother enjoys it too. It's a good way to see my own kid in her school environment, meet her friends, meet the teachers, meet other parents, and maybe just be a positive influence in some child's day.

Working in the lunchroom is not something to feed my own ego. Certainly there's no glory in wiping tables and chairs and counting out milk cartons. It's not the sort of thing you get the "PTA MVP Award" for, and that's fine.

But in this school, my help in the lunchroom seems less necessary. Last Wednesday there were the 3 of us Regular Lunch Moms, 3 Pretzel Moms, the janitor, the gym teacher, and at least 3 Hot Lunch Moms. That's 11 people to feed and clean up after 300 kids in 3 feedings. Last year there were 6 of us for 200 kids in 2 feedings, so the same Kids Per Feeding Ratio applies. I spent an awful lot of time hanging around in there with nothing to do. And there's plenty to do here at home. I don't need to leave the house to find something to do.

Granted, I did get the chance to check up on Middle Sister, congratulate her on a good grade on a test she'd gotten back that morning, and get a big hug from my godchild in second grade (which got plenty of raised eyebrows from the other 10 adults in there, until I informed them that yes, I DO have a relationship with this child where hugging is OK). I did get the chance to chat a bit with two other second-grade girls from "the Old School" who are happy to see my face each week, and they come over to tell me some random thing about their day.

I just feel like--if they don't NEED me, why should I go out in the drizzle right now and head over to school?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Collision Course

Today in my car there was a terrible crash.

The lone casualty: My coupon box (a 5X6X8 tub with removable lid), full of coupons, which separated itself from its lid and fell UPSIDE DOWN onto my open coffee cup just as I was about to exit the car with it in my hand. I flipped over the box, and coffee poured into the coupons that fell back in. The other half of the coupons were on the floor of the car.

It appears that they all are salvageable, though damp. They'll have to be re-sorted before I dare enter a supermarket again. But there are worse things they could smell like, I guess. I just have to find a spare 2 hours to deal with the wreckage. I will not just toss the whole thing and start over. Those things save me upwards of $30 a week, which is not small potatoes.

Anyone for a coupon-sorting-and-drying party? I'll provide the coffee...um, maybe not....

Sports, Fun and Competition

Middle Sister is trying out for the basketball team.

This is a whole new experience for her. Not basketball--she's played it for the past two years, and is pretty good, especially after the season gets started and she finds her rhythm in the game. In fact, she learned to dribble before she was toilet trained, when Big Brother was playing "instructional" ball in first grade.

But she's in fifth grade now. And basketball is serious business in fifth grade. There are tryouts. There are kids showing up in shirts advertising their positions on last year's "all-star" team. There are kids playing for their town "rec" team as well as the CYO team. The coaches are all business, and from the looks of things, the parents are too. We are here to WIN.

I could say that a wider playing field is a good thing, and that learning to take your lumps is a good thing. All that is true. But I think there's time enough for that when they get to high school. These kids are ten years old. They are still honing their skills. I think that at this level, kids don't need to be cut from teams. I don't think kids need to be playing on two teams for the same sport in the same season (when do they eat--sleep--study--shower--play?) I don't think the kids need to get in that mindset that if they don't perfect their layup shot by the age of 11, their chances of playing college ball are over.

Big Brother stopped playing basketball at his own request after his fourth-grade season ended, because "it's not fun anymore. All they want to do is win games." We didn't push him. He had a good handle on the situation, and basketball is really not his thing. He had finished the season, so there was no more commitment to be honored.

I see a wide-open opportunity for Middle Sister's fragile ten-year-old ego to be trampled in this sports situation.

UPDATE: Middle Sister did not make the Junior Varsity (5th and 6th grade) team. Next week she has the "opportunity" to try out for the Sophomore (4th and 5th grade) team.
Only 12 kids out of 30+ trying out made the cut. All 8 6th-graders, and only 4 5th-graders.
She looked good today, too. Not great, but she's 10.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Worry, Worry, Worry

Just to make it clear: I don't want to imply that we attend Mass at a different parish each weekend, based on convenience to us. Rather, we "checked things out" in a few parishes and prayerfully considered where our family would choose to worship.

That said, we were treated to a video in place of the homily yesterday. It was a video we'd all rather not have to watch. In the video, our Bishop outlined the "strategic plan" for the local parishes in our area of the diocese.

I participated in the "strategic plan" for the school and was very discouraged to find that despite my Very-Unlike-Me Optimism about the process, it became very clear that there was no real input sought from the People In The Pews--we were just being strung along, being made to feel like our opinions counted for something. I have no reason to believe that things will be any different this time. I'm trying to keep my cynicism to myself, but sometimes, despite my best efforts, it just leaks out all over the place.

Our pastor encouraged all parishioners to attend next weekend's Ministry Fair and participate in at least one parish group, to help along the revitalization of the parish that I have witnessed during the past year.

Please join with me in praying that we will not once again be uprooted from a place where we have really begun to grow.

Weather Report

Little Brother just turned on the television and found the local news on.

First they give a weather report, and then it's on to traffic. Since it's a Philly-based station, traffic reports often include I-95.

My little meteorologist called out, "Mom! It's 95 degrees out there!"


If anyone knows what has happened to all my husband's socks, please come forward. Because I absolutely cannot account for where they have ALL gone. There are a couple of pairs in the laundry and a pair on his feet. There should be a few left in the drawer...but there are not. If it were a low drawer I'd interrogate Little Brother, but there's no way he can get to it.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Hop, Hop, Hop

All over the place for the past few days I have been reading about Rod Dreher and his move from Roman Catholicism to Orthodox.

It's all been critical. I don't need to add to that. I don't need to go down that road. Suffice it to say, on that subject, that I think it's a loss to the Church anytime someone leaves. And some prayers for Mr. Dreher's intention wouldn't hurt.

A little of what's been said has hit home with me, though. I think that with the exception of the first three years of my life, I haven't spent even a year in my "territorial parish."

That's right. I'm a Parish-Hopper. I grew up a Parish-Hopper. And I've taken my husband with me. I don't need to go into all the gory details. All I want to say is that we carefully and prayerfully considered our decision about the place where our family will worship. We are committed to our Church and to our parish.

So all the remarks about Mr. Dreher's "consumerist" approach would apply to us as well, though we haven't changed denominations. But we've landed in a parish that is not ashamed to be Catholic, and we're happy to be there.

Just had to get that off my chest.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Halloween Frustrations

Since Halloween is less than 3 weeks away, my children are engrossed in choosing the perfect costume to wear while they beg chocolate from the neighbors.

For Little Brother, the choice was easy. He, being 4, needs something that includes a weapon. He decided to be a pirate. I'm happy because the only thing I need to purchase to complete that outfit is an eye patch--the rest can be put together from things we already have in the house!

Big Brother is thinking hard. He wants to come up with something very clever and original.

And Middle Sister is in the middle of a big fight with me and my husband, since just about anything marketed to 10-year-old girls is better suited for turning tricks than for trick-or-treat.

Suggestions for non-slutty, non-Goth costumes for Middle Sister, or for sources for such costumes, would be MUCH appreciated!

Thought for Today

Courtesy of Esther:

Overcome Evil with Good. The best way to avoid evil is by doing good. The most beautiful garden is not the one that has no weeds, but one so full of flowers that there is scarcely room for a weed to grow. We frequently struggle to overcome our evil inclinations, but fail to consider that the most effective way of overcoming them lies in cultivating a positive virtue.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Your Midwife Wears a Tool Belt

And the award for the strangest juxtaposition of signs on a single vehicle goes to....

...the SUV I followed out of Philadelphia today.

On the back tailgate, a painted sign for a General Contractor.

On the vanity license plate, the slogan, "I DOULA."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Comic Relief, Courtesy of the Kids

I am glad that my kids' ages are so widely spaced, because it has taken me all these years to learn to appreciate all the unintentionally-funny stuff they think and say. And I am glad to have a blog, because I can usually keep myself from laughing out loud at things like this until I get the chance to write them down.

On the way home from Lunchroom Duty, in the car:
Little Brother: "Mom, we have 4 wheels, right?"
Me: "Yes."
Little Brother: "4 wheels is not enough."
(For the record, he thought 8 would be better, because then we could go faster.)

Looking out the front door at the pouring rain:
Middle Sister: "Mom, does Big Brother have cross-country practice right now?"
Me: "Yes."
Middle Sister: "In these conditions?"

In Memory of My Friend

This morning my husband went into work a little late so I could attend Daily Mass. The 7 AM Mass at our parish was offered today in memory of a friend of mine who passed away two years ago today. She left behind a husband, two children in high school, and many friends who loved her.

I first met Irene when Big Brother was 2 or 3, and we were both helping with Vacation Bible School at our parish. A year or so later she joined the choir I was directing. Her husband bought her a guitar one year, and she worked hard to re-learn how to play it.

Actually, Irene worked hard at everything. She was one of the hardest-working people I have ever met. She helped run Bingo at our parish. She worked at the carnival. She worked in the lunchroom at school and volunteered in many other ways at school as well. She took good care of her husband and children. She was funny, generous and tireless. And she could, in a blind taste test, tell "Philly Coke" from "Atlanta Coke" and bottled Coke from canned. Irene and I fought our Cola Wars in good fun, for many years.

Irene was Cuban-American and grew up in the Miami area. My most vivid memories of Irene are related to her ethnic background. She was longing for Cuban food, especially Cuban bread. Irene was a good cook but baking bread was not something she thought she could do. She lent me her cookbook (I think it was called "Miami Spice") and I occasionally baked her some Cuban bread from the recipe in it. (And couldn't she tell, if I used margarine instead of the lard the recipe called for!) Irene is the reason I learned the song "Lord, You Have Come to the Seashore" but she called it "Pescador." She used to pester me to have the choir sing it in Spanish. That would have been nice, but it's not a Hispanic parish--so I would insist that we do the song in English only. I can't hear or sing that song today without thinking of her.

Just before she died, I spent the day at a SFO event. When I came home, I found myself pacing the floor. I could not sit down and relax. I needed to go to the hospital where she was in the hospice unit. She was semiconscious but did recognize me. At one point I was struggling for what to say or do, and I found a prayer booklet in my purse. I prayed the Memorare while holding her hand. I found out at the funeral that this had always been one of her favorite prayers.

Irene died October 11, 2004 after a 5-year battle with malignant melanoma. It wasn't a pretty battle, but then battles never are pretty. She worked nights during the first year of her treatment and I'm still surprised that it didn't kill her then. But she used her characteristic dedication and drive to keep herself going, because she loved her family.

I have a script from my doctor sitting on my desk; I have been instructed to make my annual visit to the dermatologist for a "mole check." Out of pure laziness, I've been putting that off. But out of love for my family and friends, and because I can almost hear Irene yelling at me right now, today I will make that appointment.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Halloween/All Saints Day Meme

Jean at Catholic Fire has tagged me for this meme. I must admit that I am having a rough time with it, which is why it has taken me a few days to answer these questions.

1. If you were invited to a Halloween/ All Saints Day Costume Party, which saint would you dress up as and why? (The Blessed Virgin Mary,the Mother of God, is not an option.)

I can't say that I have a lot of deep knowledge about the saints. I wanted to dress up as a saint who is a parent, specifically a mother. And then I remembered Saint Anne! Besides the fact that my middle name is Ann, I have another reason by wanting to emulate this saint. As a mother, I become more aware each day that I never know what my children will grow up to become. I'm sure Saint Anne knew that her daughter was special--but did not know just how special! Similarly, none of us mothers know what God has in store for our children. But it is our calling to raise them to be the most loving, kind, generous, faithful people they can be, so they will respond to whatever God calls them to become.

2. Which saint or other person would accompany you to the party?

My husband, Saint Joachim, and my daughter Mary.

3. What famous quote would help others identify you?
I don't know one.

4. Describe your costume.

I would wear a robe similar to the types of robes the Blessed Mother is depicted wearing, in any works of religious art. A veil to cover my hair, and I guess I'd have to leave my glasses behind, which could make driving to the party kind of interesting. Here's a picture of a statue of Saint Anne at the beautiful shrine in her honor in Massachusetts.

When our family visited this shrine over a year ago (my husband's uncle was a member of the parish there, and last July he passed away and was buried there) Little Brother was intrigued by the statues of Saint Anne with the Blessed Mother. He said that Saint Anne was "telling stories" to Mary. I imagine she did a good amount of that during her lifetime!

5. Which movie or film best depicts the life of this saint?
I haven't heard of any.

6. What is your favorite book written about this saint or that he or she has written? There's none that I know of.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Mom Always Said...

“Don’t play ball in the house.”

Just now I was upstairs putting fresh sheets on one of the beds. I could hear a lot of thumping coming from the stairs area. Middle Sister has a friend visiting, and they were playing with Little Brother.

Me: “What are you doing?”

Middle Sister: “Playing catch with Little Brother.”

Me: “Can you please play ball OUTSIDE?”

Middle Sister: “We’re not using a ball. We’re using Little Brother.”

Geography Meme

Better late than never! Christine tagged me for this one.

1. A Place You've Visited and Your Favorite Thing There.
Niagara Falls. My husband and I both feel that we could stand there all day and just watch the waterfall. It is absolutely breathtaking. And I'd love to see it in the winter with the ice, though I'd be scared to death of slipping!

2. A Country You'd Like to Visit and Why. Does a place I've already visited count? Because I want to go BACK there! I'd love to see Ireland again. I was lucky enough to visit with my family when I was 15, and there are so many places I'd love to see there. One of my grandmothers was born there, and some of her relatives still live in that same house, in a little Co. Waterford town called Kilmacthomas.

3. A Place From History You'd Like to Visit and Why.
I'd like to see Assisi during the time of Saint Francis. Why? Because being a Franciscan, that place is my inspiration. In particular I would like to visit the Portiuncula.

4. A Place You Know a Lot About.
My hometown--Haledon, New Jersey. There's a small museum in town that I have visited, and I even wrote a college research paper about Haledon's role in the early 20th century labor movement.

5. A Place You'd Like to Learn More About.
Any of my answers to #1, 2 or 3.

6. A Fictional Place You'd Like to Visit. My taste in literature runs more toward "fictional stories written about real places" so this is a tough one. Probably I'd say Munchkinland from The Wizard of Oz. And not just because I'd be taller than everyone there, though that would rock. I'd choose this place because it seems so happy, so innocent, so cheery and colorful.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

On Marriage

Today at Mass we celebrated the renewal of vows of a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Surely it was no coincidence that today in the readings, we learned about God's plan for marriage. (I am firmly convinced that God does things like that ON PURPOSE.)

Our pastor gave a wonderful homily but his main point was this--and it is nothing I had ever heard before:
It is the calling of a married person to help his/her spouse become a saint.

I am called to help my husband become a saint! That is an awesome responsibility. Why did no one tell me about this 16 years ago? My job is to make sure he gets into heaven--and to do nothing, say nothing, think nothing that would stand in the way of that.

Then I was thinking--and Father didn't say this, but I thought it was a logical conclusion--that if my job is to help my husband become a saint, and his job is to help me become a saint, then it is also my job to let him help me become a saint. (And if I'm right about that last bit, I have a LOT of work to do.)

Better get busy.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Miscellaneous Thoughts from the Drive

Today I drove "up north" to visit my great-aunt who is recuperating from knee surgery. I was happy to find her looking and eating well and in good spirits!

It's a long trip to get up there. As my sister puts it, I live much closer to the equator than the rest of my family, who are in the northwestern end of the state. So the farther north I drove, the more colorful the trees on the roadsides became. As I reached the mountains in northwest Jersey, the colors were beautiful.

On the way home, it was too dark to savor the beauty of the trees, but there was a big full moon. I could see the face of the Man in the Moon, who looked like he was singing. I was singing too--enjoying the opportunity to switch between Contemporary Country, Folk and Bluegrass with no one to nag me to put something "better" on the radio. Where I got my taste for bluegrass is anyone's guess; I grew up on Simon and Garfunkel, the Bee Gees, and Dan Fogelberg. Tonight I heard the bluegrass version of "Cotton Eyed Joe." That's not the one my kids like to dance to, for sure!

Last night we braved the damp, chilly weather to attend our church's Fall Festival. I couldn't get any Polish food, since the line was way too long. But a friend of ours was having a great time as the DJ, and "Chicken Little" visited the Festival to entertain the kids. Little Brother had a wonderful time doing the "Chicken Dance" with "Chicken Little." It was so funny to watch. And the beauty of being 4 is that he dances like no one's watching.

It was nice to have the car radio all to myself, but I did miss having company on the trip. Thanks to my dad's strong Irish tea, I had no trouble staying awake for the drive. But I came home, had something more to eat and a big glass of milk, and I'm ready to just relax and go to sleep, thankful that I am home safe, that I had a chance to have a nice meal with my parents, and most of all that my aunt is doing well.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Prayers and Suffering

I have posted my Prayer Intentions here. I hope to keep it updated.

Part of doing this is because the question of suffering has come up lately. I was asked by a friend who is in great pain right now, about the concept of offering up one's sufferings for others.

But what can I do when someone else is suffering? What can I do to help alleviate their pain, be it physical, spiritual or emotional?

I was hoping to take Little Brother to Mass today, because my great-aunt is in the hospital. She is a daily communicant and never one to miss a First Friday--and I wanted to go in her place. Unfortunately, I had to make an appointment for Middle Sister to see the doctor. It looks like she has exercise-induced asthma and I want to get it checked out. And the only time I could get an appointment--the same time as First Friday Mass.

So what can I do--what can I offer--for the members of my blood family and my Franciscan family who are suffering at this time?

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Here's my try at the Motivational Poster contest.
Slogan credit goes to my pastor.
H/T to Christine for the heads-up on the contest.

Costume Du Jour

Courtesy of Little Brother, of course.

Right now Little Brother is wearing denim cargo pants, a gray T-shirt, a Looney Tunes sweatshirt, a LEPRECHAUN hat, Philadelphia Eagles fleece winter gloves, a "knight sword" (as opposed to a "pirate sword") and a banana sticker on his left sock proclaiming that he was "Grown in Ecuador."

I refuse to take responsibility for his (lack of) fashion sense. He wears it with panache, though.

"Women Deserve Better"

Yes, they do.

Women deserve better than abortion. Of course, so do their unborn children. So do the men in their lives.

We all deserve better.

Amy Pawlak has generated an online petition to be presented to Congress, to counter the Ms. Magazine article about the 5,000 women who are proud to advertise their abortions. Please visit Amy's site, read her article and sign the petition.

(I'm not linking to Ms. They got enough free publicity through the newspaper and TV coverage their story has generated. If you want to read this horrific stuff, do a web search.)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

H/T to Christine at Domestic Vocation for the heads-up on this petition. While you're at it, read what Christine has to say about the article.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


The Transitus is a Franciscan celebration of the passing of Francis from this life to eternal life. Undoubtedly this is the most important Franciscan event of the year.

Franciscan priests, brothers, Sisters, and seculars all gather to commemorate the death of Francis with a special liturgy that includes readings about the Saint's life and death. Sometimes certain events are dramatized. It is a very special vigil, as it is held at the vigil of the Feast of Saint Francis--and the vigil that Francis' followers kept at his deathbed is recalled. The mood is solemn but not mournful, because Francis was moving on to something better.

So many years, like this year, something gets in the way of my participating in this celebration. This time, it was as simple as Big Brother getting home very late from his cross-country meet, and my husband needing to attend a Boy Scout Leaders' meeting. As our parish was not hosting the Transitus this year, but was organizing a carpool to a church in another town for a multi-parish Transitus, the distance suddenly became that last insurmountable obstacle. I'm just glad that this time, it's not a death in the family that has kept me from attending Transitus. And I'm glad that I will be able to sing my heart out tomorrow night as our parish celebrates the Feast.


Middle Sister has been assigned to do a book report on the life of a saint. The one she chose was Saint Therese of Lisieux. At dinner just now she was talking about what she had read so far.

Big Brother thought she was reading about Saint Teresa of Avila, and I informed him that there are several saints named Therese/Teresa. I pulled biographies of both of them off my bookshelf, and showed Middle Sister that the book on the Little Flower had photographs in it. She immediately started paging through the book looking for the pictures.

As I went to replace the other book, Big Brother commented that "all the saints' stories are about the same anyway."

"No, they're not," I answered, holding the life of Teresa of Avila in my hand. "This one levitated."

"COOL!" Middle Sister was interested. "Does that book have pictures too?"

Quiet on the Set!

Middle Sister, Boy Next Door, and Little Brother are in the process of "making a movie." It involves the heavy use of sets built from blocks, Legos, little tiny army men, tiny tanks, and the occasional Millennium Falcon. So everything Little Brother took out earlier is still being used--to his delight, because I can't make him clean it up if they're all playing with it!

Little Brother does not understand the meaning of "quiet on the set." After the third or fourth ruined "take," Boy Next Door told Little Brother, "Zip the lip. HEY! I always wanted to say that to somebody, instead of my teacher saying it to me."

Up for a Challenge

The other day, Danielle posted about the "30 Days to a Clean House" system. I love systems. The problem is the follow-through.

But I figure, what do I have to lose? I clicked on the link and found that the system doesn't even make you work on Sunday if you don't want to--"weekend" jobs are lumped together under that heading. Sounds good so far.

It got even better when I realized that "weekend 1" is all about the attic. We don't use our attic, as it's accessible only through 2 tiny crawl-holes in different closets. Little Brother could probably get in if we wanted him to, but we don't want him to. So I get to check "attic" off the list without having to do a thing! Woohoo!

I have dutifully completed the special jobs for the first 2 days. That means the family room is clean--well, cleaner than it started out today. Little Brother kept himself busy while I washed the windows and the curtains (those jobs were NOT on the list but really needed to be done), by dragging out ninety bazillion tiny battleships, tanks, Star Wars guys, Tinker Toys, and Matchbox cars. I motivated him to stick with his task by putting on the Star Wars soundtrack, and we both worked pretty hard. So if you don't look at the floor, the family room looks great.

If nothing else, I got some of the detail work done in that room that I usually don't, because I'm too busy dealing with Legos, battleships, tanks, Star Wars guys, Tinker Toys, and Matchbox cars. Not to mention matching up the DVDs with their boxes, because Little Brother can't read yet, so he's not too much help with that one.

We'll see what tomorrow brings. But whatever I get done from this list puts me ahead of the game, because it gets me out of the daily pick-up, wipe-up, keep the laundry done and the family fed stuff.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Shooting in an Amish Schoolhouse

I spent a good part of this afternoon with the news on in the background, listening over and over again to the press conference held by Pennsylvania State Police Colonel Jeffrey B. Miller.

Over and over again I silently prayed for the young victims of the shooting in the schoolhouse. I prayed for their families. I prayed for the children and adults that the killer let go--their trauma will cut deep also. I prayed for the killer's wife and family, and even for his eternal soul.

My heart went out to those families in Pennsylvania who sent their kids off to school this morning, much as I had--but who sometime in the middle of the day found out that their child had been wounded or killed.

And my heart went out to Colonel Miller and the other police officers and emergency responders who had to deal with this terrible situation. It was obvious from watching the press conference that this was a difficult crime scene to deal with; I guess no matter how professional you are, no matter how long you have been a police officer or EMT or firefighter, nothing can prepare you for a mass murder--especially one of children. It was quite clear that Colonel Miller did not want to be standing in front of the press at that time, though he said and did nothing disrespectful toward them. But from his answers, it was obvious that he was concerned with his fellow police officers and other responders; he was concerned for the victims and their families. He wanted and needed to be somewhere else, rather than on that stage with that microphone and those cameras and lights and intrusive, curious questions that served no purpose other than to prolong the agony for everyone.

May God bless them all; may the wounded find healing; may the mourning find comfort.