Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Reason # 5,287 why I hate Dress-Down Day at school

Actual conversation that I had with Middle Sister this morning:

"Mom, can I borrow a pair of pajama pants to wear to school today?"


"But you're not using them today..."

Saqué una nota buena en el examen

My parents will be relieved that my college degree in Spanish is still serving me well.

You Passed 8th Grade Spanish

Congratulations, you got 8/8 correct!

Via Amy Caroline.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

When instant isn't fast enough

I was clipping coupons this morning when I came across one for Minute Rice Ready to Serve Rice. It comes in little tubs for your microwave.

Now I am aware that you could use this for lunches if you work outside the home.

But it strikes me as really pathetic that people could be too busy to cook Minute rice.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Field Trip--the Aftermath

We all survived the field trip, even with the rain. It turned out that it was lucky I got on the early train and sat around outside the aquarium for 20 minutes before the bus arrived--because the next train that would have come along actually caught fire a few stops north of where I boarded. At least one parent was late to the field trip while NJ Transit came up with a substitute train.

The teacher sent a note home that every child was expected to bring a grownup to the trip. There were only 2 children out of 28 who did not--and they're twins. The teacher and aide took those children around with them.

Since Little Brother is very familiar with the Aquarium, a couple of parents who were first-time visitors trailed along with us; they were happy to be with someone who knew how to find the favorite exhibits. We actually navigated the place backward, so we were in the Shark Tunnel all by ourselves--just 3 parents and 3 fascinated little boys. It was really cool having a whole section of the aquarium all to ourselves, though that didn't last long as more and more buses spewed out more and more kids of all ages and sizes. We enjoyed the seal-feeding show and the divers' show (even though we've seen that one at least 5 times before). Our lunches were not hopelessly smashed.

And best of all, I didn't have to spend any time with anyone who spent the entire field trip "bribing" their child to behave until the end of the trip. That's happened before, and I was ready to explode by the end of that day. We did have to call out to our boys, "Stay together" or "Slow down" from time to time but that was really not too bad.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Field Trip

I am not one of those parents who loves school field trips.

In fact, I can't stand school field trips.

When I was in school (I can hear my kids now: Oh, here she goes, when she was in school...)...when I was in school and we went on field trips, we went as a class. Enough grownups came along to make sure no one got lost. The whole class stayed together the whole time.

Not anymore.

Now, parents are expected to accompany their children on the field trips. They are expected to entertain/amuse/feed/shop for/supervise/take to the bathroom/put up with their own child on the trip. The teachers walk around and enjoy the field trip, occasionally waving hi to a parent who is chasing their child from exhibit to exhibit. At that point, I don't know why they don't just give the kids the day off and say "Go do something with your parents." If I want to take my child to a museum, I certainly know how to do that. I don't need the school to force it upon me.

Tomorrow Little Brother's class is going to the aquarium. It's a pretty good aquarium. We've been there several times as a family. (Yes, I'm packing Goldfish crackers and Swedish fish for snack. I just have to.) Little Brother can run through the aquarium in less than an hour and 15 minutes. Needless to say, I'm choosing my shoes with that in mind tomorrow. I don't care if my other ones are cuter. I have to be able to run.

I also have to keep this kid busy for 3 hours at the aquarium. We never stay that long. You can cover the whole place in under 2 hours, even if you walk at a reasonable pace.

So, in the hopes that I'll be able to avoid spending 1 hour in the aquarium and 2 hours in the gift shop telling Little Brother that we are not spending $30 on a 6-inch-long stuffed shark, I've printed out the list of fish you can catch in the Animal Crossing video game. Little Brother discovered on a previous visit that this aquarium has an Arowana. Let's see how many others he can find.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mr. Malaprop

Little Brother's teacher sent a note home today that he had not yet mastered the "Hail Mary." I had never heard him "solo" on that prayer before, so I didn't know there was a problem.

Well, she's right. He hasn't mastered it. But I'm having trouble helping him relearn the line that he thinks is:

"...and blessed is the food in your room, Jesus."

Mostly because I'm trying to keep from laughing every time he says that. And I'm sure he thinks Mary is one lucky girl, because he's well aware of the "no food in your room" rule around here.

Cast Your Cares Upon Him

"Cast your cares upon Him."

That was one of the messages in today's first reading.

"Cast your cares upon Him."

This was the first time all week that I've been able to get to Mass, and the reading was just what I needed to hear.

"Cast your cares upon Him."

I was in my usual Worry Over What Might Happen Even If It's Really Unlikely mode, all day long today.

"Cast your cares upon Him."

Tonight at our Secular Franciscans meeting, our ongoing formation centered on Mary. A theme that kept coming up in the discussion was her great trust, and the example she sets for us with the trust she displayed.

"Cast your cares upon Him."

If I'm worrying over what might happen, I'm not doing too much trusting, am I?

"Cast your cares upon Him....and He will lift you up."

Finally as the meeting closed and we chatted while we cleaned up the room, I was lifted up. I laid down my cares and some wonderful friends reassured me. I wonder if my sisters in Francis know that their words and kindness meant so much.

"Cast your cares upon Him."

We were truly not meant to carry our cares all alone.

"Cast your cares upon Him."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hooked on Phonics Worked For Me!

Little Brother has been having a great time with a jigsaw puzzle he got for his birthday. It has all the U.S. states and shows the capitols.

Even though he's still in kindergarten, he's quite a good reader. But sometimes his pronunciation leaves a little bit to be desired.

Tonight he's been asking me the capitols of different states as he puts the puzzle together. He's impressed that I know all of them (I learned them from a jigsaw puzzle I had as a kid!)

He was doing fairly well, even pronouncing things, until he got to:
"What's the capitol of Arizona?"

I told him I'd answer that one after dinner, trying to get him to hurry to the table instead of going through the entire 50 states before his meal. But he had to finish the one we were working on:

"Phonics, Mom!"

Earth Day According to One Secular Franciscan

Saint Francis of Assisi has apparently come to be considered the Patron Saint of Earth Day, ecology, and all things "green."

But the green movement does Francis no justice when insistence is placed on "green for green's sake."

The only thing the Francis was interested in for its own sake was God.

Yes, he had a great reverence for Creation--the earth, nature, the sun and moon and all the animals, plants and trees. But his reverence was born from his awe of the power and creativity and genius of God. To Francis, every bit of God's creation reflected God's glory--and that is what made creation something to be revered. Francis saw God's glory, power, creativity and genius in everything and everyone, and strove to act accordingly.

So when we toss statistics around like these (which I did not make up, but which were sent to me in an email from the National Youth Commission of the Secular Franciscan Order):
One soft drink can recycled by each elementary school student in America would save 24.8 million cans! That would be enough aluminum to create 21 Boeing 737 airplanes!

One out of every 3 pounds of the waste that Americans generate is just for packaging, which each year adds up to 77 million tons--enough to fill the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans 37 times!

If every newspaper reader in the USA recycled just one typical Sunday paper, he or she would help create 212 million pounds of cellulose insulation--enough to insulate 118,767 Habitat for Humanity houses! That's nearly twice as many houses as all the Habitat homes built in America so far!

let us remember that while it's great to reduce waste, recycle or reuse what we have, and try to create less garbage, the reason we do this is to treat God's creation with care--to be good stewards of what we have been given.

It's not enough to be "green." We should also be grateful.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Not-So-Sweet Sounds of Spring

It's spring. The windows are open. The birds are waking up at 4:30 in the morning. The ducks are quacking outside my front door for their food. Kids are riding bikes, shooting baskets, calling to friends. Sweet sounds.

It's spring. The neighbor across the street just mowed his lawn. Now he's blowing every last little shred of mulched grass into the street with his infernally noisy leaf blower. It's taking him longer to do this than it did to mow the lawn! I can't hear any more sweet sounds.

Brooms are much quieter and just as effective.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Statistics: Green, Natural and Organic

I confess. I'm not a huge fan of the whole "go green" fad. I truly think it's a fad, and that it's only going to be popular as long as someone profits from it. And I don't believe all that hype about global warming and how it causes tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes.

That said, we do recycle, and I try not to waste things. I love to hang my clothes on the clothesline. But I consider that more "frugal" than "green" per se. I'm just trying to use resources wisely.

But I'm amused at all these statistics that are being rolled out on TV and in newspapers and magazines to encourage people to go green.

"If every American used just one less square of toilet paper per day, in a year that would be enough to save 60,000 acres of forest."

OK, I made that one up. You know what I mean, though.

Sometimes I think those statistics in the media are just made-up, too. Who figures this stuff out? And do all those stats really motivate anyone? Or could someone be using resources more wisely in that regard?

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Forgiving Spirit

I guess opposites attract, at least in the case of TheDad and me.

He's pretty much a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. I do not go with the flow. I fight it every step of the way.

Yesterday I was cleaning the bathroom, and I used a cleaner with bleach in it. Normally, I bring in a laundry basket for my cleaning rags, but I had forgotten that, and was feeling lazy, so I just tossed the rags into the clothes hamper. Right on top of a pair of TheDad's dress pants. Navy blue dress pants.

I guess you can figure out what happened.

This morning when I went to do the laundry I found the ruined pants. I went and showed him what had happened. "I feel so stupid," I confessed. "It's all because I was too lazy to get a basket for those rags."

"Don't worry about it," he comforted me. "It's no big deal."

"It's at least a $30 big deal!" I just could not let it go.

A few minutes later I noticed that the pants he is wearing today have a tiny hole next to the side seam, partway down the leg. We both wondered how that had happened.

I made a mental note to order him a couple of new pairs of dress pants.

Then he called from the car (hey, this is New Jersey, that's illegal, buddy!) to tell me that he had figured out where the hole came from. I'm sure that he promptly forgot about the two ruined pairs of pants and is just going about his day.

Things I can learn from my husband: worry less. Let it go. Go with the flow.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy? Let's hope not.

And from the Department of What Were They Thinking comes this:

Why on earth would someone name their child "Felonee?"

Yes, this is a real name. There was a story in my local paper today about a child being honored for an heroic act. His mom's first name is Felonee.

What does that say about her parents' hopes and dreams for their child? Wouldn't you think that a child growing up with such a name would be upset when she found out what it meant?

And on top of that, they couldn't even spell it right.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Welcome to the USA, Holy Father!

A big thank you to Esther for creating and sharing this beautiful graphic.

Passing the Buck

Little Brother was coming downstairs just now and asked me, "What day is today?"

"Tuesday," I told him.

"Why does it have to be Tuesday?" he whined. I'm not sure what there is to whine about on Tuesday, but whatever.

"Because yesterday was Monday," I answered. (Ask a silly question...)

"Why did yesterday have to be Monday?" Mr. Contrary wanted to know.

"Because God made it that way. Ask Him," I answered. It's way too early in the morning to go around and around like this. I haven't even had my decaffeinated coffee yet!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Reading Right Along

I am a reader. If I'm eating a meal alone, I'm reading. If I get a spare minute, I'm reading. I've even figured out a way to read while I cook, if I have to stand around just stirring a pot of something for a while.

Big Brother is the same way. But Middle Sister is really not a reader. If she gets a gift card for Barnes & Noble, she uses it to buy CDs. I've tried buying her books that were my favorites when I was her age. She's not interested. Her beautiful new box set of the "Little House" series is still in the box. (My set is falling apart, and sitting on top of a bookshelf with my other treasured books from childhood).

So last week she came home from school with a book a friend had lent her: The Clique by Lisa Harrison. She left it here when she went to a sleepover at BFF's house, and I was curious about what she's reading, so I read it. It didn't take long.

While there was nothing in there that's inappropriate for a girl her age, it wasn't my favorite kind of book. Mostly that's because the characters weren't my favorite kind of people. The girls in this book are 7th-Grade Snobs. They are rude, catty, and mean. They are materialistic and selfish. Every once in a while one of them has a vulnerable moment, but those are few and far between.

This is not my world, and it's not my daughter's world. Until Christmas Eve last year, I had never heard of Hollister. A relative at the party told me that she had given Middle Sister a Hollister t-shirt. I just stared at her with a blank look on my face and said, "What's a Hollister?" I think she was amazed that a parent of an almost-12-year-old had never heard of it. Well, I won't shop there. They're part of Abercrombie, and their website (and the outside of the store) is no better than Abercrombie. Plus--$25 for a t-shirt that's thinner than my antiviral Kleenex? As my mom would say, you could spit through those shirts.

Anyway, I guess I don't mind if Middle Sister is entertained by these books, but I certainly hope she doesn't ever act like any of the people in them. One of the things I love best about her is her loving and caring nature. That's not something displayed by any of the girls in these books.

I'm reading the whole stack, in case she wants to discuss them. I wonder what she thinks of these girls. I wonder if she is tormented at school by anyone like them.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Neighborhood Olympics

Right now there are several children in my backyard conducting what appear to be the Olympic Games.

Rumor has it that there's a triathlon in progress.

First they had the hurdles. One by one, the 6-and-unders jumped over little lacrosse sticks, soccer balls, light sabres, and for the grand finale, a small wagon. Adventure Boy scored a 7. Little Brother scored a 6. Adventure Boy cheered: "You did it! You got it in 6 weapons!"

Then they moved on to the front sidewalk for the bicycle portion of the race.

As to the swimming, maybe they plan to wait until after the rain comes and hold that one tomorrow.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Suspicious Minds

It's my neighbor's turn to get a new roof.

The birds at my feeder are not going to like this.

I'm not entirely sure I do, either. But in my case it's not about the noise or even the mess. After all, we do need to keep our families warm and dry in our homes.

My problem is that there are 3 white vans with out-of-state tags parked in front of my house and in the neighbor's driveway. There's also a pickup truck with ladders on top. No vehicle has a logo or company name on it, and there's no "picket" sign in the lawn, so I have no idea who's next door.

And that makes me a little uneasy.

UPDATE: To my relief, the roofers have planted a sign in the front lawn. So now I know who's in the neighborhood. That makes me feel a lot better.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Things I Can't Do For My Children

I can't take away the pain of an injury, whether it's a skinned knee from falling off a tricycle, or a pulled hamstring from running the 400m hurdles.

I can't take away the heartbreak of betrayal by a friend.

I can't make them get any older any faster.

I can't undo a bad haircut (but I can secretly feel relieved that I'm not the one who cut the hair). I also can't make it grow out any faster.

I can't make them the star of the show or the team.

I can't make them straight-A students.

I can't make them like spinach or Brussels sprouts.

I can't make them wait to outgrow their clothes until the season to wear those clothes has ended.

I can't make their teachers stop assigning homework.

I can't make someone else like them.

Do I wish I could do these things? In some cases, I think it would be nice. But if I want my children to grow up healthy, responsible, faithful and trustworthy, I have to let them take the bad with the good. Even when it breaks my heart to do that.

Monday, April 07, 2008

A Career Announcement

Little Brother: "When I grow up, I'm going to be a finger painter! I mean, an artist."

(Can you tell he's still in kindergarten?)

Me: "Then you'll have to work on your coloring."

Little Brother: "Not now. I can wait until high school."

Intentionally Messy

Little Brother and Middle Sister were playing with Play-Doh in the kitchen while I made some tuna-macaroni salad for Middle Sister's lunch tomorrow (it's got to be made a day ahead).

Since Little Brother is no longer contagious, I suggested that after I was done cooking we could go to the library and look for some books. Everyone liked the idea, and they started picking up their Play-Doh accessories. (I hate Play-Doh, but that's a subject for another day).

Naturally there were multicolored crumbs all over the floor. Little Brother reached for the broom but I told him to put it away for now. "Don't sweep that! Play-Doh needs to dry out before you sweep it up. Let's leave the mess for after the library."

How often do kids get to hear their moms tell them not to clean up a mess?

Want Some Motivation?

Stop over at Barbara's and read what she has to say.

Sometimes I get lazy; sometimes I get sloppy; sometimes I need a reminder that what I do matters. My husband is the first one to support me in what I do here, and I'm really thankful for that.

Red Robin Corollary to Murphy's Law for Parents

On a day when only one of your children has to attend school, the child who will wake up even before the regular "get up and go" time is the one who not only has the day off today, but also is recovering from scarlet fever and could use a little extra rest.

Friday, April 04, 2008

New Twist on a Classic Song

Yesterday Big Brother was telling me about this great song he heard by one of his favorite bands. He said it was different from their usual sound, with only a few instruments as accompaniment, and a song about World War I and a cemetery.

I immediately knew he was talking about the song my dad always called "Willy MacBride" -- the real title is "The Green Fields of France." I don't remember who sang the one Dad always listened to, but the Dropkick Murphys have really nailed this one. And the video is an incredible tribute.

Big Brother was suprised to hear that this wasn't a new song. I'd ask him to download this for my mp3 player, but I can't listen without crying, so maybe it's better that I don't.

Francis of Assisi and the Conversion of the Muslims

Fascinating! This article is an interview with the author of a book on Francis' efforts to convert the Muslims in his time. One review of the book comments:
"If you're tired of portraits of St. Francis as little more than a Birkenstock-clad hippie, a Peace Corps social worker, or an effeminate tofu-eating Green Party activist, read this book," wrote Dr. Philip Blosser on his blog.

That's recommendation enough for me.

Hat tip to Lisa, sfo at Franciscan Focus.

The Royal Family

In my family, it's not a board game. It's war.

It's been that way ever since TheDad and I met, and I beat him in a game of Trivial Pursuit--on our first date.

Actually, some of the board games are wars, since the guys around here play Risk, Axis & Allies, and Stratego.

And Little Brother is just as competitive as the rest of us. He doesn't want to let the age gap between him and his siblings stand in the way of his winning a game. When he plays Trouble, it's cutthroat. He will take every opportunity to send someone else's guy back to Start. And he'll whine and cry if someone sends him back there.

Sometimes I'm nice when I play against him, and I cut him a break. But nice guys finish last in Trouble, and I wasn't in the mood to be nice after he cleaned my clock in the first game, so in the second game I took his guy out whenever I could. I told him that if it was OK for him to play that way, I could do it too. I beat him by a lot. In the third game, I cut him a break and told him I was being nice. Then I counted up how many times I was being nice. "Look at this, I've been nice to you 5 times already in this game. How many times are YOU going to be nice?"

He thought about that. "3."

Gee, what a guy.

Now when he wins a game, he claims his title. "I am King of Trouble," he announced when he won. "I'm royaler than you."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Few Great Links

In no particular order.

The Curt Jester on Chesterton and church architecture. My favorite line:
with older forms of sacred architecture a church proudly proclaimed itself as a church directed towards the glory of God while some forms of modern style meekly proclaims I am a church, but I might be a bank or an auditorium.

Sadly true! Who declared, sometime after 1965, that churches had to be made as cheaply and ugly as possible? I thought that particular combination was reserved for auditoriums (or worse, cafegymatoriums!)

Maureen Martin is back with some fabulous parody. This is funny stuff. Scroll down to the part titled: Catholics Already Incensed at the Church Being in Their Bedrooms Discover Church in Additional Rooms.

Barbara at Praying for Grace shares the Five-Finger Prayer.

The Weekly Column Roundup at

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Eternal Optimist

Middle Sister is having a good afternoon. There were Apple Puffs waiting on the table for after-school snack. She's going to her best friend's house after her homework is finished.

The homework is going well, too. "Look at my handwriting," she bragged to me, waving a notebook filled with an assignment written in purple cursive.

"Very neat," I complimented her.

"Yeah! And it's purple too."

It just doesn't get any better than that, I guess.