Monday, March 31, 2008

Monday's 2-fer

I volunteer in the school library for 2 hours every Monday, and then today I have a 30-minute break before I have to be at my tutoring job for 2 hours. None of this is physically strenuous, but 2 hours with first- and second-graders, and then 2 hours working with 2 learning-disabled high school students in a foreign language, makes my brain pretty fried by the time I am done!

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy my volunteer work and my tutoring job. The little kids at school are a lot of fun. Sometimes I get to be the Story Lady and read to them. Other times I help them find books, and I always check their books out for them. And there's the usual Quieting Them Down, and Separating Two Boys Who Are THISCLOSE To Hitting Each Other, and Telling Them For The Gazillionth Time Where The Bookmarks Are. Then I'll move on to my students' house. They don't do a lot of study (who am I kidding--they don't do any study) in between sessions. And with two students, it's twice the chance that they'll want to spend more time giggling over the dorky pictures in their textbook, and making up sentences like "[Name of boy they both know] es feo." So whose bright idea was it to stack up both of those things in one day?

Oh yeah. That was me. Next time I think this is a good idea, smack me in the head, OK?

This sure rings true

Click the image to see it in a "readable" size.
This is my house, every Advent. So the cartoon isn't timely, but it's definitely true.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Serenity NOW!

Over on the left sidebar you will see that the virtue chosen for me this year by our Secular Franciscan Fraternity is: serenity.

I laughed my head off when this was announced. Anyone who knows me is well aware that I am usually anything but serene. So, OK, something to work on.

And I do feel that this year I have been given the gift, the strength of this virtue. I haven't obsessed and felt anxious to the degree that I usually do over small things. I think that this is the first time in the 8 years or so that I have participated in the Extraction of Saints, and been given a virtue to work on, that I have felt that I've improved in practicing this virtue.

Which leads me to today. Tonight is the first night that I will preside over our SFO meeting as Minister of our fraternity. YIKES! I do not feel that leading fraternity meetings is one of my strengths. I'm hesitant to reel people back in when they veer off track (and we have some wonderful members who can veer way off track). Surely I'll get better at it with a little more experience, but I don't want to treat my fraternity members like my children or my students. For one thing, these are "more than" my peers--they are my elders; in some cases they are old enough to be my grandmother, and I don't want to step on their toes.

I also have this dread feeling that I am being "watched" and my performance tonight will be "evaluated." The last thing I need or want tonight is someone whose purpose there is to give me a report card.

Finally, tonight is our first meeting in our new meeting space, and that means the entire fraternity will be feeling a little unsettled.

So there is no serenity now.

Overheard: Little Boy Logic

Little Brother has two friends playing here: Adventure Boy and another little boy from down the street, who will turn 5 this summer.

"Who wants to play (garbled long, drawn-out name of some complicated game)?"

"I do!"

"Not me. I'm playing tag by myself."

They all ran out the back door, carrying Nerf dart guns, foam swords, and other implements of boy destruction.

This is one of those moments when I wish I knew how to work TheDad's video camera.

Bad Hair Day

Not MY hair (well, yes, my hair too, but that's not the real problem here).

Little Brother needs a haircut. He usually gets a buzz cut and I love to rub his hair after he's had it cut, or anytime, really.

Today Middle Sister took out the Party Hard Hair Gel (yes, that's an actual brand name!) and "spiked" his hair.

I can't rub his head! If I try, I get a handful of icky jell and spiky hair.

It's just not the same.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Get Ready for Prolife T-Shirt Day!

There's still time to get your shirt. Prolife T-Shirt Day is Tuesday, April 29. So wherever you go on that day, be a visible witness.

And when you put that prolife T-shirt on, say a prayer for the vulnerable unborn and for their equally vulnerable mothers who may feel pressured to take the lives of their precious little ones.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

It's NOT About the Eggs

...or even the Peeps.

Those are all fun, and we enjoy them, but they're really not the reason we celebrate this day.

They're not the reason we all gathered last evening and watched Big Brother light the Easter fire. How cool is THAT? Big Brother's Boy Scout troop is charged with building the Easter fire this year for the parish. Let me tell you, Boy Scouts know how to build fires. This was no wimpy little flame. People had to back up when this fire got going.

One thing I missed this year at Easter Mass was the empty tomb. Above is last year's tomb. We've had one like it in our parish as long as I've been there, and probably for much longer than that. But there was no tomb this year; no place to pause after Mass and reflect on the wonderful gift we remember today.

Father Tom, OFM's, homily for the day is here.

Father Martin Fox's homily for the day is here.

Father Daren Zehnle's Easter Vigil homily is here.

Father J.C. Maximilian's homily is here.

The Danger of Being Last Awake

Two of the kids are already awake. They have searched for their Easter eggs and located most of Big Brother's, complaining the whole time that it's not fair that they find Big Brother's eggs and not their own. (Eggs are color-coded here, so they know to look for the eggs that match their Peeps.)

While Middle Sister wandered around looking for her own eggs, she commented on the good hiding places she'd found that the Easter Bunny hadn't utilized.

And now she's wandering around relocating all of Big Brother's eggs into "better" hiding places.

I guess that's what he gets for sleeping late today.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Now that the eggs are dyed

How long will it be before I find the Bunny Tongs that I bought this year to help Little Brother hold the eggs while he colors them?

It's really risky to turn him loose on cups full of food coloring and vinegar with relatively fragile eggs and no tool to hold them. He still thinks it's OK to drop the egg from a 6-inch (or more) height above the cup.

Newspaper on the table is a must. I should have carpeted the floor with it as well.

So anyway, I bought the cute tongs at the supermarket, let Little Brother inspect them, and put them away in a safe place. Apparently it's a really safe place. I've cleaned out 4 cabinets today and inspected most of the pantry in my quest to find these things, and they are just nowhere.

So how long before they turn up?

But did you ever put one in the microwave?


by Elayne Boosler

from the Showtime Special: Elayne Boosler © 1991 Brooklyn Productions

...I'm still going through Peeps withdrawal. Peeps, peeps. Marshmallow chickies and bunnies. Pink sugar, yellow sugar.

Oh, I love them so much I can taste the difference between the pink sugar and the yellow sugar.

I can taste the eye, and it's only painted on.

You don't love Peeps? Maybe you haven't had them properly aged yet. They're only good stale. You buy them. You slit open the package. You go away for a few days. Come back, when you can knock on the counter you got some Peeps there.

Oh, Peeps are good. They're seasonal. We can't just go get them now. We probably want them now. Gotta wait. Peeps molt in spring like soft-shell crab.

Then they come out and they're 49 cents a box, not too bad. Day after Easter- ten cents a box!!!

Eat em 'til you faint. Think- "I'll never want these things again." A week later, you're looking for drug dealers. "Hey, Hey, I got $100, you got Peeps?"

1991 prices, 49 cents a box. They're at least $1 a box now. I have it on good authority that there will be a box for me tomorrow. I'll take the plastic off and let them sit about a week. THEN they'll be ready to eat, or nuke.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why the Boys Always Play at My House

Adventure Boy is here to play with Little Brother, and he brought a picture he drew on a large sheet of paper. It's got a big cutout of an alligator in the middle, two little boys playing video games, two houses, a pumpkin, and a few other things. He told me that one of the houses is his, and that in his house "the red thing is a real gun. 'Cause my dad hung up a real gun."

Oh boy. I hope his dad locked up the bullets someplace else.

Stay safe, Adventure Boy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Extreme Laundry Makeover

I've found some interesting stuff in the laundry over the years, including
ID cards for work, school, and activities
library cards
a good deal of money (I do try to find owners of bills, but any CHANGE is mine!)
Game Boy cartridges, which still work even after going through a wash and a dry
the inevitable crayons

But this morning I knew I was in trouble when I opened the dryer where a load full of white things awaited me. There on top of the lint filter was a little pot of hot-pink lip gloss. It's not my color, and Middle Sister's white hoodie was in this load of wash, so I know where it came from.

I also know where it went. Her hoodie has a few giant splotches of pink, as does one pair of underwear. There are a few small spots and streaks on socks--no big deal. Little Brother's white sheets are a bit marked up. I'm rather impressed that the most-ruined item belongs to the person who left the lip gloss in her pocket. In my experience, it almost never happens that way.

Unfortunately, these stains have been through the dryer. For all I know, they happened in the dryer. So I may not be able to get this stuff back out.

I guess when I go to the library for tutoring in a little while, I'll be taking a few minutes to see if there are any book on how to remove makeup from laundry. And if I find any ideas, Middle Sister will be helping me undo the laundry makeover.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Expanding My Vocabulary

When I was in high school I had to take a weekly "vocabulary" class for 3 1/2 years. It was designed to help students improve their verbal SAT scores. I learned many words during those years, some of which have stuck with me.

I did not learn the word "sheroes."

Evidently it's a word now. I first saw it on a sign in front of the local Montessori school, honoring our "heroes and sheroes" serving in the military. And this morning, the all-news radio station aired a story about local "sheroes" and how they will be honored at the National Liberty Museum. Then I googled it and discovered that it's a very commonly-used term, at least among a certain crowd (probably the same people who push for Inclusive Language at church).

And all this time, I thought there already was a feminine form of "hero"--heroine. Silly me!

Question for Miss Manners

What is the proper response when a relative who is visiting your home to celebrate a birthday asks if there's a driving range nearby (implying that if there is, let's go there!)

TheDad handled it by ranting about how ShopRite took out the area driving range when it relocated to a bigger, better store with a smaller, worse parking lot.

I kept my mouth shut and stewed about it while squelching the temptation to ask, "Why do you want to know? Are we boring you?"

And the next question is, why can't I let go of it when people insult my family's hospitality in this way?

Background Music

I have a hard time praying when there's noise in the background--especially music. It's very easy for me to get drawn into the music I'm hearing. With our home's rather open floor plan, there's no way to escape the sound of the television and still remain in a nearby room.

This morning my little early bird, Little Brother, is having his breakfast and watching Veggie Tales. I was about to settle down with Morning Prayer when the music started.

How am I supposed to pray when "Barbara Manatee" and "The Dance of the Cucumber" are serenading me from the other room?

"Silly Songs" and Liturgy of the Hours are NOT perfect together.

UPDATE: I went and sat in Little Brother's room so I wouldn't wake TheDad by turning on the light in our room. Wouldn't you know, Little Brother followed me in there. I told him I couldn't say my prayers with "The Yodeling Veterinarian of the Alps" playing, and he said, "But that's over! Now it's the Cebu!"

As if the Song of the Cebu is any less distracting.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Farewell to the Sisters

Yesterday I received a phone call from one of the Bernardine Sisters who lives and ministers at our parish.

She wanted to know if the Secular Franciscans would like the books from the Sisters' library at the convent. We do have a small library maintained by our fraternity, and many of the resources in it are out of date and in bad repair (in fact, SFO Girl and her daughters just culled many books from the library for that reason).

"We have to get rid of the books," she told me. I accepted her offer, and she said that she would let me know when the books were in boxes and ready to be moved.

After our phone conversation was over, it occurred to me that the Sisters were giving away their library because they must be moving. I confirmed this with the parish secretary, who said, "Didn't you know that?"

No, I didn't know. I'd heard a rumor, but I have been being careful not to pay too much attention to those. Rumors run wild during mergers and changes of administration, and all the drama wears me out.

Five Sisters live in our parish convent. They are a wonderful gift to our parish in their ministry and in their very presence. The sisters teach religious education as well as ministering to the sick and bereaved.

Later in the afternoon, I was speaking to another member of my fraternity. She was also surprised that I didn't know that the Sisters were leaving. And she suggested that our fraternity sponsor a farewell for the Sisters before their departure. A great idea, I thought. The Sisters are, after all, members of our Franciscan family.

Our parish will be a great deal poorer without these five Sisters in our midst. Please pray for them as they prepare for their moves, and pray for the ministries they leave behind. May God bless them.

Friday, March 14, 2008

I Can't Smell the Onions...

...but they still made me cry.

For the past few days my allergies have been in high gear. I don't know if it's what's growing on the trees, or the 4 dogs at the house where I tutor (one Basset, one beagle, one yellow Lab and one Golden) but I have been sneezing and sniffing like crazy.

I did learn that it's very important for me to take my allergy/asthma medicine every day. I normally don't forget, but when I discovered last night that I had neglected to take my meds on Wednesday evening, it explained the true misery I suffered all day yesterday. Today I'm feeling somewhat better, though I still have no sense of smell or taste. If I ever needed convincing that it's important for me to take this medicine, now I know for sure.

So I was wondering, as I chopped the onions for tomorrow's sausage and pepper sandwiches (we're having family over to celebrate Little Brother's birthday), "If you can't smell the onions as you chop them, will they still make you cry?"

Big Brother predicted that yes, they will still make you cry. He was right.

I couldn't find the swim goggles, so I had to just go for it and chop the things. I never smelled them. But I cried.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How Does He DO That?

Little Brother was sitting at the breakfast table finishing his bowl of cereal.

"What time is it, Mom?"

"Ten minutes to seven."

He looked over at the digital clock on the stove and said, "No it isn't! It's nine! It's six-five-one!"

I am tutoring two high-school students who haven't grasped that concept. And I have no idea how he knows how to do that.

This Made Me Smile Today

(click the picture to make it bigger)

I've been following this comic forever--for so long that the characters are real to me! And this one was really sweet.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


My name is Barb and I'm a homebody. I can leave anytime I want to, but I don't usually want to.

I like being home. Is that so wrong?

Today I was away from home for 7 straight hours but never more than 5 miles away. I tutored one student from 10 to 11:45, ran to McDonald's for a quick burger and fries, tutored another student from 12:15 to 1:15, drove over to Little Brother's classroom to help celebrate his teacher's birthday, then went to the supermarket for some rolls, grapes and pepperoni (lunchbox essentials) and from there went to a clothing outlet where I found a few fantastic bargains on short-sleeved shirts for Middle Sister. Then it was back to school to get the younger 2 kids and bring them to their dentist appointment. I got home just before 5.

I am paid quite nicely for all that tutoring, but there was just too much going on in this day. I'll have to make sure that future sessions aren't stacked up quite so closely.

And let's not forget all the housework that SHOULD have gotten done during the day. There's no energy left to do that now. I'll get dinner on the table and the dishes cleaned up--then I have to make up a test for tomorrow's tutoring session!

Only 13 weeks until the end of the semester, and only 5 weeks in which I'll have to work 8 hours instead of 4. I can do it....I can do it....but I seriously wish my students could come here for their tutoring. Because I just like being in my house.

Who's Visiting the Bird Feeder?


This week I've seen a huge increase in the number and variety of birds visiting the feeder outside my front window. Since I moved it away from the lilac bush, the squirrel hasn't been able to jump onto the feeder and empty it. But there have been plenty of birds:
blue jay
purple finch
mourning dove (they eat what drops on the ground)
robin (not at the feeder, but in the yard)

And I've heard the mockingbird singing, but I haven't caught sight of him yet.

Monday, March 10, 2008

I Watched It

Last night Middle Sister and I watched The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom. I wanted to give it a fair chance by watching it.

I stand by what I said before I saw the show, for the most part. I discovered that the soccer moms do have one day when others "fill in for them" at home, after they take the children to school or child care. After that, Mom tells the family that she is at a spa, and Dad has to watch the kids. I also learned that not all these moms have children who are school-age. On the episode I watched last night, the youngest child was not quite walking yet.

Not only is the whole family lied to by Mom, they are secretly taped by the cameras in the "spy truck." Mom knows about that but no one else does. At one point Mom is shown footage of some tough moments in the house and how Dad's dealing with those. I guess that's the part where they try to see if she feels guilty about pursuing her career dream.

One lovely moment (NOT) came when the tween-age daughter said that "men can't do anything right." I sure hope that Middle Sister doesn't believe that. But if she watches this show, or even Jon & Kate Plus Eight, she won't get a different impression.

I still believe that this kind of secret has no place in a family. I think "deserve" is a word that's way overused in our society, but it fits here. Families deserve better than this.

Answers Wanted

Middle Sister is home sick--again--from school. This is the 20th school day she's missed this year. She's had 102* fever both days this weekend.

We just don't know what's up with this. Every 3 weeks or so she gets sick. When I call the doctor's office, they know which child I'm bringing even before I tell them.

Today the doctor sent her for some blood work to see if we can get any answers. Lyme? Mono? Something else?

We just want to know how to get her healthy again and keep her that way.

Prayers appreciated. For now, my daughter and I are camped on my bed, watching "What Not to Wear" and "Clean House," with all the Gatorade she can drink.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Table Manners

Somehow Little Brother's water cup wound up in the middle of the dinner table, and he couldn't reach it.

"Please hand Little Brother his cup," I requested.

The cup was picked up, and waved around high above Little Brother's head.

"Hey! If there's a spill, you're cleaning it up," I threatened.

"ME?" Little Brother asked.

"No, not you. The one who's playing Keep-Away with your cup."

Daylight Saving Time

My internal clock is always a little messed up whenever we "spring forward" or "fall back."

Right now I should be cooking dinner, but nobody's hungry yet. We all had our lunches after 2 PM EDT.

Getting Little Brother up and ready for school tomorrow should be quite a challenge.

Whose bright idea was this, anyway?

Cheese Ingredient?

I don't generally purchase foods that are too "processed" but I make an exception when it comes to shredded cheese. I've been able to get it cheaply, and I figure the extra expense is more than made up on the band-aids I'm not using when I shred my knuckles.

Yesterday my More-Health-Conscious-Than-Me Neighbor asked if I knew anything about an ingredient they're putting in shredded cheeses: natamycin. According to the package of cheese in my refrigerator, it's a mold inhibitor.

I didn't mind when they tossed a little cornstarch in the bag of cheese to prevent the shreds from clumping, but I'm not feeling too good about this.

Guess it's time to re-stock that kitchen band-aid box.

Bible Scholar

We have a children's Bible that was given to Big Brother on his christening day. It's been passed down to Little Brother, who is able to read almost every word of it all by himself.

We've gone through most of the Old Testament together (we started at Moses because that was the story he wanted to read the day he took the Bible off his bookshelf) and just today we reached "The Jesus Part."

He's very excited to reach this section of the Bible and is looking forward to "The Lent Part" which he tells me is at the end of "The Jesus Part" and after the prophets.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Overheard at the Chinese Buffet

"When you go to the Chinese Buffet, you have to eat fast and keep eating. Don't slow down, or it's all over. You'll be too full to keep going."

Normal Teenage Boy or Future Glutton of America? Good thing spring track is starting up, so he can run off all that General Tso's Chicken he put away last night.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Wait 'til Middle Sister Gets Home!

No, she's not going to get punished for something.

I got my Netflix selection today: the first disk of the TV series Newhart.

She's going to get a kick out of the bad '80s fashions. And I have a feeling that both my Big Kids will enjoy Larry, Darryl and Darryl.

But the best part of the show is the star, Bob Newhart. He reminds me a lot of my dad (who dresses like him, looks a bit like him, and has the same dry sense of humor)--and my dad is also a big fan. I wonder if any of my kids will see the resemblance to Grandpa. He'd be flattered, though probably not as much as he was when Little Brother thought that the picture of Lance Armstrong in the newspaper was really a picture of Grandpa.

Nevertheless, it's a funny show, and very family-friendly. So settle down with your twelve-year-old and laugh at the clothes, hair, and antics of Larry, Darryl and Darryl.

It's Peculiar, All Right

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Milady the Most Honourable Barb the Unlikely of Tempting St Mary
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Via Empress Christine the Unique of Tempting St Mary at Domestic Vocation. (Hey, we both come from the same place. Is that a fancy name for New Jersey?)

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Favorite Parable Meme

This one is fun, and easy.

List your 5 favorite Gospel parables, and tag 5 people.

In no particular order:

1. The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37)
2. The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:10-14)
3. The Lost Sheep (Luke 15:4-7)
4. Ask and you Shall Receive (Luke 11:5-13)
5. The Sower and the Seed (Luke 8:4-15)

I was tagged by Father Daren. Tag, you're it: Christine, Jennifer, ukok, Barbara, and Lisa, sfo.

An Open Letter to Martin Sheen

(since I don't have his home address)

Dear Mr. Sheen,

I recently learned that my alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, has chosen to award you its prestigious Laetare Medal.

I really wish they hadn't done that.

This award is designed for Catholics “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity.”

That's right--Catholics who have illustrated the ideals of the Church. The Curt Jester provides just a few examples of how well you've done that--bashing conservatives, backing pro-abortion candidates and giving the weak excuse that you would never deny someone the "right" to choose, particularly a woman of color. (HUH? What makes them different from white women in this regard? Perhaps you agree with Planned Parenthood that these women should be specifically targeted for the grisly procedures that kill their babies.) Yes, you have worked on behalf of the poor, of immigrants, and against the death penalty--but you failed to protect some of the most vulnerable, as well as their mothers.

Remember, Mr. Sheen, you're not the President. You just played one on TV.

The medal you will receive from Notre Dame carries with it a responsibility to do good work for others and to live by Church teachings. Please learn what your Church teaches about certain matters before you use your bully pulpit to speak about them, because as the winner of this award, you are representing your Church.

UPDATE: Life Decisions International lists Martin Sheen among celebrities who support Planned Parenthood and/or legalized abortion.

Grammatically (In)correct

Middle Sister is working on a school report for music class--a biography of Billie Holiday.

Since my degree is in English, my children take advantage of Mom's Editing Service before turning in their reports. I show them where they need to fix spelling, punctuation or sentence fragments, and sometimes point out spots where something seems to be missing.

Last night she left a draft of her report at my desk, and this morning she looked at it and complained.

"Why can't I say it this way?"

"It's a sentence fragment if you say it that way. Read it out loud."

"....Oh, yeah. It is. But I don't like it the way you fixed it. It's more boring that way!"

Apparently sentence fragments give sixth-grade papers that little extra something. I hope her literature teacher doesn't introduce e. e. cummings to the class anytime soon, or she'll stop using capital letters too.