Thursday, July 31, 2008

Best Motivational Tool EVER

...for 6-year-old boys, that is.

The promise of Shark Week after bath.

I never saw Little Brother get clean in the shower so fast in all my life.

If they had a Shark Week Channel I'd be all set.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Great Book Review Website

Thanks to scmom I am having too much fun with Goodreads.

You can put in lists of books you have read or are reading now (or want to read in the future--that's a cool feature!)

You can look at your friends' lists.

You can rate the books you have read.

If you want to link up as my friend in Goodreads, just send me an email.

As if I need to add any more books to my to-read-pile, and any more titles to my to-read-list....Yeah, I'm a bookaholic, and I'll probably never want to stop.

Anyone want to hire Big Brother for a summer job?

He is sitting here on the couch with his big feet up, looking into the family room where Little Brother, Adventure Boy, and a boy from Little Brother's class are all building things with Legos.

"I'm feeling lazy," he remarked. "I think I'll go get a little piece of candy, and then offer it to whoever can go get me a Dr. Pepper from the fridge."

I just stared at him.

"Do YOU want the candy?" he offered.

For the Repose of the Soul of Mary D.

Yesterday evening TheDad and I joined the extended family at a wake for his godfather's mother-in-law. She passed away last weekend after a long illness.

Mary D. was married 61 years--how amazing is that! She leaves behind her husband, children, grandchildren and even a brand-new great-grandchild, and a legacy of family and faith.

Let us pray. Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Guest Blog Entry From SFOMom's Husband

Today is SFOMom's birthday! Birthday's are days to celebrate life. Wish SFOMom a happy birthday, and then, if any of you have a spare shed I can sleep in fro a while...I would appreciate it.

(She is going to kill me...right after she changes her password)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Link-Around

Great stuff for your Sunday morning!

Portiuncula has some thoughts on the Cardinals and Global Warming.

Linda at Right as Usual quotes an article on the subject of desecration of the Eucharist. A very common-sense approach to an awful event.

Elena posts on "Naked Bloggers." Priceless line: He who is silent appears to consent. Those are words I'm trying to live by, and I'm trying to teach my children the same. This is a really hard thing for teenagers to be able to do!

Which leads me to this: The Regular Guy explains to his kids why he's boycotting McDonald's. We're doing the same, as is the Catholic Matriarch.

Now when I went to retrieve that link, I saw so many other articles that Denise has written that I wanted to point out to you, like the one on Humanae Vitae, and the one on "All Christian, All the Time" and the one on...oh, I give up. Just go read Denise's blog.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Where's Uncle Louis when you need him?

Sometimes being the leader has its pitfalls.

I have mentioned before that as the minister of my Secular Franciscan fraternity, it falls to me to be the meeting leader. I find this difficult because of the age difference among our members. It's uncomfortable for me to try to get people who could be my grandmother to stay on topic, when they take a stroll down Memory Lane in the middle of ongoing formation or the business meeting.

In our fraternity we have a lovely older woman who resembles "Aunt Bethany" from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation more and more with each passing minute. We all love her, and we all understand the medical conditions that she suffers with, that cause her to lose track of conversations.

Last night was no exception. We got through formation and the business meeting and then we listened to a report on a wonderful workshop that one of our members attended last month, in Loreto, PA. Then it was time for the closing prayer (that's my job). So I began. "Let us pray." Everyone settled down. Just as I was about to begin the prayer, Aunt Bethany piped up, "What county in Pennsylvania did you say St. Francis University is located in?"

About four people simultaneously corrected her: "Aunt Bethany! We're PRAYING!"

I just sat there trying my hardest not to laugh, or look at anyone, because all I could think of was Uncle Louis with his toupee falling off, yelling, "The BLESSING! They want YOU to say the BLESSING!"

I swear it was only by the grace of God that I was able to get through that prayer with any kind of composure at all. But sometimes, just like when you deal with children, it's more charitable to see the humor than to lose your patience.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Out Into the World

Today both my Big Kids are heading out into the world. Without me. Without TheDad.

Middle Sister is on her way to a fun-filled, four-day vacation to Hershey Park, including a Jonas Brothers concert, with her aunt and uncle and the All-Girl Cousins. It's great of them to bring her along, and I know they will all have a wonderful time. We're going to miss her, though. I'm sad already and she hasn't even left yet.

Big Brother just headed over to school with an overpacked lunch box in his hand and his work boots on. He'll be spending the day with Habitat for Humanity, building in Philadelphia. He's hoping to join a group from school on a trip to Mississippi this fall; they will spend a week rebuilding in a town hit by Hurricane Katrina. Who knew that helping with Stage Crew, building fake houses, would lead to helping build real houses for people in need? (Kudos to his school for encouraging the students to get involved in this great cause!)

They are spreading their wings...may God and the angels and the saints protect them. May they soar.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I'm Tired of Keeping My Mouth Shut

So when I received an email today, sent from a member of the SFO Regional Council, asking me to watch a "compelling" video about the environment by Al Gore, I recycled a few of my blog posts (how "green" of me!), did a little research, and responded. I might have to take some heat for this, but if I'd kept my mouth shut, I couldn't live with myself (or my family. My kids watch and learn from what my husband and I say and do.)

So here's my response.

"This video may be “compelling” but Al Gore’s position as an environmental doomsayer is less scientific than theatric. According to this article, which links to this piece from the London Daily Mail, Pope Benedict XVI has repudiated such fearmongering. In fact, the planet Mars, as well as other planets in our solar system, is also experiencing “global warming” at this time. Climate change is real, but it is not entirely under human control. Climate change happens all the time, on every planet.

Al Gore is not the environmental Messiah that he purports to be. And his voting record and position on life issues, once he reached the U.S. Congress, is abysmal.

Have you visited the website and checked out the committee members? They include Sierra Club, which is a pro-choice organization by its own admission.

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. 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.

We cannot sacrifice Francis’ deep message on the altar of ecology.

Pope Benedict has spoken about who Saint Francis really was. He's not just that guy in the birdbaths. He's not some enviro-hippie.

Benedict XVI said he wanted to correct the “abuses” and “betrayals” that distort the true character of Saint Francis. And to recall the false view of Saint Francis, Benedict XVI needed just two words: “environmentalist” and “pacifist.” ...The truth of Saint Francis – the pope emphasizes – is his “radical choice of Christ,” the conversion awakened in him by the words of the crucified Jesus: ‘Go, rebuild my house.’

It's not about peace protests. It's not about ecology. It's not about blessing our household pets.

Being Franciscan is about conversion. All the rest is incidental.

In the spiritual travail that the young Francis was living through, he perceived these words of vocation and mission as being in the first place an invitation to carry out completely the conversion that had already begun, making his own the concern and plans of Christ for his Church.

So our priority, as Franciscans, is to ask ourselves how we can better turn ourselves toward God, and serve Him in our daily lives. That's what conversion is about--turning TOWARD God."

Wish me luck. I've got that Veggie Tales song, "Stand," running through my head right now.

If I Were President

according to Little Brother.

He told me this morning that he wants to be "President of United States." He leaves out the "The" in front of "United States" because he's hooked on his map of the U.S. puzzle.

I asked what he would do if he were president.

"I would make everything better."


"If people were sick I would help them get medicine."

That's nice. I'm glad you want to help sick people. What else would you do?

"Help old people cross the street."

(Future Boy Scout, that's Little Brother.) Do they need help crossing the street?

"Some of them do."

OK...anything else?

"If someone died, I would go to their funeral. That's it."

I figure he's at least as qualified as some of the other candidates out there. Too bad he's too young for the job.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Little Advice

From one mom to any others who might read this.

Never mention to your teenage son (who's just earned his Shotgun Merit Badge at Boy Scout Camp) that you've found the mockingbird's nest.

"PULL!" was his response, in case you're wondering.

Fortunately, this house is free of non-Nerf firearms.

Back to Normal, or as close as it gets around here

My guys are back from Boy Scout Camp. Big Brother learned to water-ski and got his Water Sport and Shotgun merit badges. His troop came in second in the camp's Iron Chef competition. I hadn't known that camps had such contests, and was impressed that my son & his troop figured out how to make dinner after being handed a pan and a bag of groceries.

Despite TheDad's insinuation that I was insane to do this, I decided that the best way to sort the dreaded "Camp Laundry" was to spread out a tarp in the backyard and dump all the dirty clothes onto it, and then sort it into piles for the wash. This way, any spiders and other, um, wildlife they brought home would have a fighting chance to stay outside rather than on my basement floor (hey, the pantry's in there. All critters KEEP OUT!) My clotheslines are full of laundry, which makes me happy, because it means that everyone is home safe and sound.

TheDad has taken Little Brother to the pool so he can show off his swimming skills. Middle Sister has gone along, as has Adventure Boy (and his 6th-grader sister asked if she could go too.)

So the house is quiet now, and I can look around and see that my desk is even messier than it was when I left the house Sunday. No furniture was rearranged, and I wasn't home much to do the chores. So next week it'll be time to buckle down. I'm going to use a little of my quiet time this afternoon to think about the household schedule that will get us through the rest of the summer. Because, frankly, I've been a little lazy this summer. And now that summer is half over, it's time to be a little less lazy.

So after I take down the camp laundry from the clothesline, and start the Chicken Parmesan so that my family can celebrate the return from camp with a nice dinner, I'm going to sit down with the rest of my latte and figure out a way to get a little more industriousness into next week.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fun in the Sun

OK, I'm a little sunburned.

But it was worth it. Ellen had my family and Christine's over for a fun afternoon including lunch and a swim. And it was so hot today, I even got in the pool! My younger children had a good time with Christine's two. The girls spent a good amount of time in the "Secret Garden;" Ellen should have put them to work weeding back there. Harry was kind enough to show Little Brother how he can play "Freebird" on his really sweet red electric guitar, and he even let Middle Sister try out his treasured 2-wheeled skateboard (I think she wants one).

Little Brother lived in the pool all afternoon and Ellen observed that "he's gone from tadpole to frog." I couldn't believe that he was jumping right into the deep end! He'll be so proud to show TheDad and Big Brother how well he's swimming now.

And we moms enjoyed each other's company and chatted about everything from rowing to ripstiks to school uniforms. Ellen makes a fabulous ice-cream sandwich cake, too. Thanks again, Ellen, and it was great to see you and Christine.

Open House

Just this week a new website for Faith and Family magazine launched. It has the magazine content plus a great blog section. And all the articles allow comments, just like your favorite blogs. I was pleasantly surprised that this site has information for parents with kids of all ages--not just babies and toddlers.

An article that really caught my attention was Open House by Tammy Darling. This article explores the benefits of opening your home as the "hangout" for your teen's friends.

I've experienced these benefits firsthand in the past couple of years. Big Brother's school is walking distance for us (about one mile away) but it attracts students from 25 miles away or more. We wish that all his friends lived in our zip code or even in our area code, but that's not going to happen. So it's been nice to have the "go-to" house when the teens have a couple of hours to kill after school before it's time for stage crew or some other activity. Usually they walk here, eat, hang around (loudly), eat, and then I ride them back to school. We get to know Big Brother's friends and their interests. We feed them pizza and Dr. Pepper. We allow Big Brother to have sleepovers (guys only) and toss the kids pillows, blankets and the air mattresses used at Boy Scout camp so they can get as comfortable as possible on the floor, and we don't grumble when we trip over their huge feet as we pass by.

We're comforted to know that our son has chosen some great kids as his friends. They're loud, but they're funny and smart and usually polite. They've definitely influenced Little Brother's musical tastes (most 6-year-olds don't favor Freebird) but they cheerfully put up with him and even include him in their video games.

So we're happy to allow Big Brother to bring his friends here. We're happy to allow Middle Sister to have friends over too, and that might expand once she gets to high school. Nothing beats having your kids invite their friends into your home, where you can get to know them.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What's that Tau All About?

My nieces notice, and comment upon, my Tau cross often. They consider it just a fashion accessory--but one I'm always wearing.

Today, one of them was complaining about the fact that the Tau has three knots on the cord--one on one side of the cross and two on the other.

"Aunt Bb," she asked, "why can't you put another knot in the other side of that cord? It drives me crazy that you have two on one side but one on the other."

"There are supposed to be three knots on the cord, not four."

I couldn't remember off the top of my head what the three knots are really all about, when she asked me this. I answered, "I think they are to symbolize faith, hope and charity." (A good guess, but wrong...Bad Franciscan!!)

"Well, if you put in one more knot, they could be for faith, hope, charity and me!"

I guess she wants to make sure that I think of her often. I do, even if I don't put an extra knot in my Tau cord in her honor!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

And they're off!

TheDad and Big Brother left early this morning for a fun-filled, bug-filled week at Boy Scout Camp. Big Brother's plans include rifle-shooting and water-skiing. TheDad's plans include finding an electrical outlet to plug in his laptop so he can get some writing done.

After church, I will be taking Middle Sister and Little Brother to my parents' house for a few days. Computer access will be spotty at best, though I'll have the laptop with me so I can burn some CDs for my mom. We'll be back home midweek, just in time for me to do a little furniture-shuffling before the Scouts' return. Or maybe I'll just clean out my desk, which is in the living room, so it's always a challenge to keep it neat and functional. This is "as good as it usually gets" but nowhere near what I'd really like it to be.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Good night, John Boy

Little Brother and Adventure Boy have been playing hard, outside, for about the past hour. They just came in and announced, "We're tired." Adventure Boy flopped down on a beanbag chair.

I teased, "I guess it's naptime then. Goodnight, guys!"

Surprisingly they went along with that idea, bragging about their comfy spots to sleep. Then it was all about the goodnights.

Little Brother has always sleepily said, "You're my buddy" to us when he says goodnight. So when Adventure Boy said goodnight to him, he said, "You're my buddy" back.

"You're my brother," Adventure Boy replied.

"You're my godbrother," Little Brother continued.

Then the two buddies/brothers/godbrothers popped up and got busy playing again.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Mergers Don't Always Run Smoothly

Image credit

Recently I read this on a blog by a local priest (whose parish was not affected by the mergers):
“Over several months, we have known about the restructurings and changes among our neighboring parishes and diocese. It is unfortunate that some of these Catholics have transferred parishes in protest of these changes.

It would seem that they are more loyal and devoted to their sports team than the parish they belonged. It would seem that they are more faithful to their hairdresser and barber than the parish they served.”

I have a lot of respect for this priest, and in some cases, he is correct. But there's a lot more to it than he describes. It seems to me that he is only talking about one group here: the "takers" who show up, receive Sacraments and religious instruction for their children, but never contribute to parish life. I have seen friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, both the “givers” who do much for their parish, and the “takers,” throw up their hands in anger and walk away from their parish. Some of them walk away from the Church entirely. Others find other parishes in which to pray and serve.

In the case of my newly merged parish, I have heard people refuse to go to The Other Church for no other reason than the fact that it is The Other Church (and that’s sad). Now that the Mass schedule has been changed, some would rather change what time they attend Mass rather than change the location. I will admit to harboring a location preference myself, and I rationalize that preference on purely architectural and aesthetic grounds. But in a few months, my preference will mean nothing, as the choir I sing with will take its turn at both locations.

I’m still working my way through Death by Suburb by David L. Goetz. There’s an interesting chapter titled “Lashed Down” which addresses the issue of thinking that “my church is the problem” and the spiritual practice of “staying put in your church.” This is discussed from the Protestant perspective of not only switching parishes, but denominations as well. But Catholics can certainly glean interesting food for thought from this chapter. One highlight:
“Freedom does not always mean going…freedom often means staying. That’s certainly true of the Christian understanding of marriage. Staying with one partner over a lifetime opens me up to the goodness of God in a way that serial monogamy doesn’t. Church is another place where freedom means staying.” (p. 125)

“The maddening frustration that prompts someone to leave one chruch for another, however, may be precisely the experience that triggers spiritual progress if one stays.” (p. 135)

It all comes down to the fact that everyone needs to realize that we are all on the Same Team. It doesn’t matter about which “worship site” you prefer. It doesn’t matter which church is your parish of origin. Right now, it’s time to join together. It’s time to compromise on who gets the naming rights for the various ministries and who gets the coveted 5 PM Mass. It’s time to stop the name-calling and ethnic slurs that have no place in any church, ever. Our church is under enough attack from the outside to let this destroy our parishes from the inside. I hope and pray that our strength will come from staying, and staying together.

Boys vs. Girls

Little Brother is playing with Girl Next Door (she's 8). Right now they are playing the organ. This is a classic case of What Boys Do and What Girls Do.

Girl Next Door is trying out the different stops, changing the tone of the organ and making some lovely-sounding combinations.

Little Brother is hanging off the side of the organ bench, yelling, "Help me! It's a volcano! I'm falling into the lava! Can't you see the lava?"

Comparison Shopping

Middle Sister came home this afternoon after spending Three Whole Days with her All-Girl Cousins. We've missed her!

And now, on to the Deprogramming.

While she's with her All-Girl Cousins, she is treated to all things girly. There are no light sabres around that house. Everything is pretty and feminine and looks like it came out of a Pottery Barn catalog. There are hair accessories and makeup of all kinds, and my sister-in-law knows how to use them.

I should be happy that her aunt and uncle generously invite Middle Sister into their home to spend time with the All-Girl Cousins, and truly I am. But I always wind up feeling insecure. Instead of reveling in the fact that my sister-in-law can pick up the slack in the hair and makeup department, I worry that I am failing my daughter in some way.

I know that I will never be able to be All Things To All Children. There will always be things I cannot do for my kids, things I cannot teach them. I will never be able to turn myself into a decorating, fashion, hair and makeup expert. And I'm being my own worst enemy by worrying about this.

Still, I wind up comparing myself to another mom. And I feel a little guilty that in a few minutes I'll be stepping into my kitchen, putting on my apron, and making Middle Sister's favorite chicken for dinner, in the hope that she will realize how much she missed being at home with her mom who loves her and loves to cook for her.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Call for Family Volunteers

Patjrsmom at Building the Ark is working on an article about families who volunteer together. She's looking for some good ideas on projects the whole family can do.

And she's hosting a contest--the best project (voted by site visitors) wins a Pampered Chef bar-cookie pan.

So if your family has participated in a volunteer effort together, why not describe it over at Building the Ark? You might win a prize--but at the very least, you'll get some other good ideas for ways your family can work together to help others.

And stick around her site--her articles are well worth it.

Friday, July 04, 2008

God Bless America

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

May God bless all of us who defend, protect, and live in this wonderful nation, and may we never take our freedom for granted.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Silence is Golden

Middle Sister: (in the other room, where she thinks I can't hear her) "I have nothing to do for the next five hours."

Me: "Really? How's your room looking?"

(shocked silence)

Big Brother: (whispering) "Never, ever say that."

Things You Don't Want to Hear

when Little Brother is vacuuming the stairs:

"Oh crud!"

I don't want to know.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

How We Pass The Time

on a lazy summer afternoon.

I sit here at my computer with an electric guitar and a hymnal in my lap, writing electric-guitar parts to "Glory and Praise To Our God" in tablature so Big Brother can learn it for Sunday Mass. Last night we received the music list for the entire summer, standardized so that every Mass at the parish has the same music. "Glory and Praise" will be repeated throughout the summer, and I knew a cool coda part for it, so Big Brother was eager to learn it.

Middle Sister brings out her guitar and decorates her strap.

Little Brother takes out his toy guitar and strums away.

Big Brother explores my guitar and comments on how an acoustic-electric 12-string is different from an electric 6-string.

We could go swimming. But this is pretty cool too.

Fun Resource for Kids

Soutenus pointed out the Sunday Stickers program. Basically, it's a little sticker album and each week the child places a sticker in it after they have attended Mass. It was designed to be use parish-wide but it can certainly be fun on a "family level" as well.
In the USA, the price for single copies is $7.50 for the year, which includes the album and the stickers for the year. They are taking pre-orders (pay nothing now) because they need to have orders for 2000 copies before going to print. Pre-orders can be made until September 7, and you won't be able to buy an album if you don't pre-order.

I ordered one for Little Brother and one for Adventure Boy.

And don't forget to check out Who's Behind It, which explains the origin of the idea and where the proceedss from these albums will go. Certainly a worthy cause! In fact, this is a non-profit venture done largely through volunteer labor, because they believe it's an important service.

A Good Laugh for Moms of Teens

Check out White Trash Mom's blog today: The Top Ten Five Lies of Teens.

Any blog with the subtitle "Faking it for the bake sale" is definitely going to be a fun read.

While you're at it, don't miss the one on the teen daughter who needs to clean her room.

And hey, if you're not a mom of a teen, just read it and laugh and be glad it's not you. Because I relate to a few too many of the things in both those posts.

Readers, Open Your Books!!

Summer reading--it's not just fiction anymore.

It's time for Catholic Summer Reading and the votes are in!

Catholic Summer Reading Logo

The winners are:
Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI
St. Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton
Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos

I've already read the Chesterton but it deserves a re-read. The Pope, of course, won by a landslide. And the Bernanos book is new to me but certainly looks intriguing.

Not only are these books wonderful additions to your personal library, but they'd be great for your parish libraries as well.

You can download discussion guides for each book as well as suggested reading for kids and teens at the Catholic Summer Reading main page. Check it out! There are also book lists of the 64 books from which the finalists were chosen and 100 books that should be part of any parish library. Does your parish have them? (My SFO fraternity maintains a library open to the parish, and you can bet I'll be checking this list against our library catalog).

UPDATE: Soutenus is collecting a Blogger's Choice of Catholic Books. Post your favorites in the comments and check out what others suggest.