Sunday, May 31, 2009

In which I rant again about music

It's not about the parish merger. It's about the homogenization of music within our parish.

I can understand that the music director wants to grow--and combine--everyone's repertoire. We're mixing people and musicians from two parishes, with different styles and repertoires. So it's good to learn new music, and have everyone learn it, so we have music in common. And I can understand the "everyone learns a new song every month" and I can go with that. If that was all it was, we'd be golden.

If the intent was to frustrate our folk group so we'd give up and quit, they've failed. We are meeting weekly to practice the new (and old) music, and if anything, this has served to bring members of the group closer together.

But what gets me is this whole "everyone has to sing the same thing at every Mass" rule. Basically this means that the music director gives two choices for each singing opportunity (except acclamations, which must all be the same.) So it may very well be that none of the four chosen by our folk group is done by the choir, or the organ+cantor at the other Masses. We attend cantor meetings (one's coming up this week) and are told that we must sing all the verses of the responsorial psalm--so we learn the whole thing and sing the whole thing, and then at the next meeting find out that we're the only ones doing the whole thing. We're told that we must do a certain Gloria--but everyone else does a different one. In which case, why require anything?

The music director tells us--not in so many words--that we should shut up and take it, because apparently we are lucky we still have a Mass at which to play. Father's not a fan of guitar music, or so we hear. But I'm not sure who's doing the micromanaging--the music director or the pastor. Sometimes he tells us one thing, exactly the opposite of what the music director tells us.

Yesterday I spent an hour preparing Alleluia verses through the end of Ordinary Time. We are required to do the Alleluia from the Mass of Redemption (from June through November...snooze...) and the verses are chanted. Without an organ to back the cantor up, we really have to be on our toes to pull these verses off. And the music director--the paid music director--doesn't come through with this for us. I gave a copy to the folk group leader since we cantor together. But I'm not sure I'm passing it along to the music director. And that seems selfish--and I'm going to justify that by saying that she really doesn't seem concerned with our issues of repertoire, different instruments, and different training (we're all self-taught). I wonder if we threaten her in some way. I don't want her job. The folk group leader doesn't want her job. We just want to be allowed to choose the music that we feel is appropriate for the Sunday and for our instruments and voices. We want to be trusted to make good choices. We want to be left alone to lead the assembly in praising God through music.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Books for Teens at the Catholic Company

One of those responsibilities we parents of teens MUST accept is teaching them about the facts of life--and the morality beyond the facts of life. For some reason, I found this easier to do 20 years ago when I was teaching a Morality class to sophomores at a Catholic high school. But it's got to be done.

Good resource material is essential when teens want to know the "why" behind the morals. One such resource, which parents can read ahead of time and then share with their teens, is Jason Evert's Theology of Her Body/Theology of His Body. Yes, both genders in one book--and Evert does expect that teens will "peek" at the other side of the book. It's a "flipped" book, so in order to read the other side, you have to flip the book over and open from the back. I found that a bit of a nuisance, but I'm not a teen; maybe they wouldn't care about that so much.

Other than that, this book is full of straight talk and wisdom. I'd recommend it for teens beginning high school.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Theology of Her Body/Theology of His Body.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Whistler

My mom calls Little Brother "The Whistler." He's very proud of having learned to whistle. I know he's happy when I hear him whistling away (tunelessly, but happily.)

He was walking around here like a sleepy little zombie a few minutes ago, so I sent him to wash his hands and face and brush his teeth. I could hear the water running, and then he started to whistle.

It takes a special kind of talent to whistle while you brush your teeth.

Homemaker's Lament

Boy, have I gotten behind on certain household chores: namely, mopping the floors. It's not like there is a huge amount of floor to mop, but for some reason I dread this job. It's a bath and a half, a very small foyer and a small kitchen, so probably we are talking about less than 200 square feet that need mopping.

But it was time. I couldn't sweep under the kitchen table because of some mysterious and unreported spill. Another unreported spill took place by the one-foot-length of counter space between the stove and fridge. I have my suspicion on what that was, but whatever was spilled under the table remains a mystery--and it took a long time to scrub up, too.

Now what I want to know is: why are there whole sunflower seeds in that unreachable space behind the toilet in the powder room? If I know whom to blame, I know who gets to scrub that spot by hand after school, since the mop just can't quite get it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Every Little Thing

It seems like I'm just busy with who knows what.

Today we're hangin' at home; TheDad and Big Brother are trying to repair the computer Grandpop built for the kids 4 years ago. Looks like the power $upply is toasted. Much frustration, vacuuming of dust bunnies at the computer desk, and use of teeny tiny screwdrivers.

Little Brother and two friends are watching Spongebob and making projects with perler beads.

Middle Sister is trying to earn cash for an unknown purchase. She knows what she wants to buy, but will not say, because she thinks I will say no. Whatever it is costs $50. She is washing and vacuuming TheDad's car for $10.

I've been enjoying the Top 500 Classic Rock Songs of all time (listener-voted). You can listen online if you're not in the Philly area. It's not to be missed!

Our choir sang at the 5:00 Mass yesterday--it was our "switch week" for the month. Although the music director insists that the people at the church where we have 5:00 Mass are more "traditional" in their musical tastes, we get an awful lot of people complimenting us on their way out after Mass. We may not be a "technically perfect" choir but we make up for that in enthusiasm. When we sing "Glory to God" we mean it.

Middle Sister was sent for blood work and a CAT scan because the doctor is mystified by her headaches, which she's complained of almost daily for at least 6 weeks. For the most part they're not debilitating but they do cramp her style. Prayers would be appreciated!

Mary Moments Carnival--coming Monday!

Monday is not only Memorial Day: it's the Mary Moments Carnival over at Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering.

Now I've got nothing to add to a discussion just now--not an original thought in my head. But I'm sure the bloggers who've contributed to this Carnival have plenty to say. Make some time to stop by on Monday and check it out.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Last ND Roundup

There are many links I want to follow, articles and speeches I want to read in their entirety. Here are the most important of those:

National Catholic Register Online links to Obama's speech as well as Father Jenkins' speech.

From Our Sunday Visitor: Obama at ND: Three Lessons

From National Catholic Register: Epiphany at Notre Dame

Archbishop Chaput's comments on Obama at Notre Dame

In the Wall Street Journal: Obama Scored Big at Notre Dame

Yesterday on Lino Rulli's radio show ("The Catholic Guy") he observed that the real losers here are the Catholics.

To expand on that point a little, this is because this whole issue has served to widen the divide between Catholics. As Lincoln said (paraphrasing Matthew's gospel), "A house divided against itself cannot stand." We lose when we forget that the Church is not a democracy.

We lose when we fail to respect those in authority, when we believe that our agendas are more important than the larger picture.

We lose when we consider it our Church--it's Jesus' Church, and we are blessed to be part of it.

We lose when we expect that everyone in Church, especially those in authority, will be perfect. The Church on earth is made up of humans, and none of us is perfect. In truth, we are all hypocrites, and that's true no matter what church we belong to. If we abandon a church because there is hypocrisy within, then we will never find the perfect replacement.

Finally, we lose when we think that this is all about us. Because it's not. We're here to know, love, and serve the Lord, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we truly do that, we won't need to worry about the rest of this.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Make Monday Count

We've done enough ranting and raving about the President speaking at Notre Dame this weekend. Despite all that has been written, all that has been said, that invitation was not rescinded and the speech and honors will go on as planned. Now it's time to capture the energy that has been generated by the pro-life Americans who oppose this honor. The message below is from the Monday Project website.

President Obama will speak at Notre Dame on Sunday.

What will happen on Monday?

Don't let Obama win this battle. Let's turn the Notre Dame scandal into the largest pro-life fundraiser this country has ever seen.

Donate now. Donate $1. Donate $5. Donate $10.

1) Donate to the Women's Help Center, a frontline, Catholic crisis pregnacy center. Or, donate to your local crisis pregnancy center (on the receipt page, click on "Contact Women's Help Center" to designate organization and location).

2) For every donation, we will send a pink or blue postcard to Fr. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, in honor of LIFE.

3) Send an email to 1, 5 or 10 friends with a link to this page.

We can win this battle. Let's do it for LIFE.

Hat tip to Denise for posting about this project. I'm in! Are you?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

On the Feast of St. Matthias: Make a Splash!

At Mass today our pastor's homily centered on St. Matthias.

He observed that the apostles wanted to choose a good man to replace Judas, and that the 12 apostles paralleled the 12 Tribes of Israel from the Old Testament.

He also observed that we know very little about St. Matthias, the man who was chosen to replace Judas after Jesus' death and Judas' suicide. All we know about him is that he was picked. He's not famous like Peter and Paul. But he was picked to carry on the ministry, to "go out to all the world and tell the Good News."

Our pastor commented that we are very much like St. Matthias. We're ordinary people. We'll probably not make a big splash in the world. But we can--and should--make a little splash in our own little corner of the world. We can--and should--live our lives with the intention of doing good for others, doing good in the name of God. We can--and should--take the opportunity to perform works of mercy--both spiritual and corporal.

Corporal Works of Mercy

Feed the Hungry
Give Drink to the Thirsty
Clothe the Naked
Welcome the Stranger
Visit the Sick and Imprisoned
Bury the Dead

Spiritual Works of Mercy

Counsel the Doubtful
Instruct the Ignorant
Admonish the Sinner
Comfort the Sorrowful
Bear Wrongs Patiently
Pray for the Living and the Dead

While we have time, let us do good!

Win a Rosetta Stone Latin program!

***Rosetta Stone is the fastest way to learn a language and has been the #1 foreign language curriculum among homeschoolers for a while — and you can WIN the *all new* version 3 Rosetta Stone Homeschool LATIN program… FOR FREE! This is the first year you can get Latin in the brand new Version III update.

This is a $259 program (and believe me it’s worth every penny!)This is a computer based curriculum and Rosetta Stone will also include a headset with microphone, and a supplementary “Audio Companion” CD so you can practice lessons in the car, on the go, or where-ever! Students participate in life-like conversations and actually produce language to advance through the program. Rosetta Stone incorporates listening, reading, grammar, vocabulary and writing along with speaking and pronunciation lessons. For parents, the new Parent Administrative Tools are integrated into the program to allow parents to easily enroll up to ten students in any of 12 predetermined lesson plans, monitor student progress, grade completed work (the program grades the work automatically as the students progress- I love that!), and you can view and print reports for transcripts. Homeschooling a lot of kids at your house? This program is designed to enroll and track up to ten students (five users on two computers) and will work for nearly all ages — from beginning readers up to college students.

To win this most excellent Latin program copy these paragraphs and post them in (or as) your next blog post, and/OR link to the contest from your facebook page and/OR email the information to your homeschool support group – Then go to the original page and leave a comment saying that you’ve posted about, or have linked to, the contest. Please make sure the link works to get back to the original contest page when you post.

And good luck!

I've always wanted to learn Latin and this would give my kids the opportunity to learn it as well.

Monday, May 11, 2009


as I emptied lunchboxes:

"Why is there a golf ball in your lunchbox?"

(It's not the kid you think it is, either.)

At least I haven't ever found anything alive in a lunchbox.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

In honor of Mother's Day all the kids are cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast.

I'm listening to them as they figure out where to put the clean dishes and cooking items.

Little Brother: "Why are all the kids working in the kitchen and the parents get to relax?"

Big Brother: "It's Mother's Day."

Little Brother: "It's not Father's Day."

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Contest alert!

Michele is hosting a Mother's Day giveaway! The prize is one of her Catholic Woman's Planners--any size, with choice of any add-ons (you can add menu planning and lesson planning pages.)

I purchased one of these planners this year and I think it's excellent. It's nicely laid out on good sturdy paper. There's no ink showing through from the other side--and I use a Sharpie pen, not a delicate little ballpoint. The smaller-size planner fits great in most handbags, and it goes with me everywhere.

So enter for your chance to win!

Graciousness and Generosity

Those two go hand-in-hand. And I fail at both of them regularly. My first response is usually "no." That's 99 44/100% of the time. No.

It is my own selfishness, my own refusal to be inconvenienced, that prevents me from saying "yes." And when I finally do say yes, I'm not gracious with my generosity--or generous with my graciousness. That kind of attitude is no good for my family.

Today's Gospel (John 13:16-20) challenges us:
When Jesus had washed the disciples' feet, he said to them:
"Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master
nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.
If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it."

Jesus had washed his disciples' feet. What a model of graciousness and generosity! Not even the lowest slave or household servant would be expected to do such a thing, Father H. explained to us this morning at Mass. In fact, he said, it was scandalous that Jesus would have dressed as a slave and done a thing like this.

And Jesus wants us to do the same. Not literally washing someone's feet, but acting generously and graciously when the need is presented.

I need to, at the very least, stop using things I cannot control as my excuse, and learn to stop saying "no" so much. If I cannot immediately get to "yes," maybe I can at least get to "wait and let me think about it."

That's way better than "no."

Today, may God give us all gracious and generous hearts.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

They're Coming to Take Me Away!

Because my kids are driving me crazy.

We were all sitting there at dinner enjoying some baked buttermilk chicken and potato wedges and I needed to remind Little Brother of his manners.

"Potatoes are not finger food, Little Brother. And use a napkin--not your sweatpants!"

"Wow, he just got all of your pet peeves in one go," Big Brother observed. Then he caught Middle Sister's eye and the two of them started running around, pushing back curtains so they won't be "even" in the windows, threatening to open windows so the panes won't line up evenly, and pushing up one window screen for a more subtle yet still maddening effect. They know this makes me nuts.

If you don't hear from me, you'll know where I am. Sing that old camp song with me: "I'm going craaaaaazy, would you like to come along? I'm going crazy..."

Worthwhile Culture-of-Life Links

All found via Twitter (follow me @sfomom)

--A Wolf in Pink Clothing: excellent explanation of the whole "why I don't support ACS and Susan G Komen" thing. Long, and worth every minute!

--Interesting take on the anti-Obama backlash provided by the ND invitation

--And our favorite author of adolescent-in-the-'80s books, Judy Blume, wants us to donate to Planned Parenthood to honor our mothers. Amy Welborn explains why this is not a great way to honor Mom!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Homemakers R Us

I have this refrigerator magnet that says "Dull Women Have Immaculate Homes."

No, it's not a Mother's Day gift-gone-wrong. I bought that thing for myself more than ten years ago. It makes me feel better, because my home is not immaculate. I like watching Clean House because I know that I am not that far gone.

Today I followed this chain of links: Ebeth posted about Erin's post about Jen's post about Totally Together Journal, which is a fairly new homemaking website, and which I actually do follow.

Following all the principles is another ball game. There are only 7:
Number 1: Make Beds Right Away
Number 2: Do One Complete Load of Laundry
Number 3: Empty All Garbage Cans
Number 4: Keep Your Kitchen Sink Empty
Number 5: Clean Up After Yourself and Help Children Do the Same
Number 6: Bathroom Wipe-Down
Number 7: Before Bed 10-Minute Clean Up

but somehow those can get away from me. And the worse, of course, is the second half of number 5. Sometimes even the first half of number 5.

I don't do too badly about cleaning up, but I do tend to leave signs around that I've been through. When I vacuum, the chairs I've picked up stay on top of the table until they're needed again. When I mop the bathroom, the wastebasket stays in the hall until two days later when I get tired of walking out into the hall to toss a tissue. Unfortunately, my kids have inherited this behavior--in triplicate.

Granted, Little Brother is big enough to do some vacuuming (with a handheld vac) but he isn't coordinated enough to be able to "tangle up the cord" when he's done. Actually, he tangles it up just fine. He leaves the whole mess in the middle of the room where everyone else trips over it until I come along and wind up the cord neatly and put away the vacuum.

I love reading about home organization and systems for keeping a clean house. But the road to a clean house is not paved with good intentions. If it were, I'd have an immaculate home.

At least I can console myself with the fact that I must not be dull.

Open Mouth, Insert Foot?

On Monday mornings I volunteer in the library at Middle Sister and Little Brother's school. It's a lot of fun. The best part is when I get to read stories, but that doesn't always happen.

Today there were a lot of books to be returned to the shelves so I was pretty busy with that. We have two basic sections: "Primary Fiction and Nonfiction" and "Everybody Else." That's where we sometimes get into problems. Third-graders are really too big for the Primary section, but they can't read everything in the other section yet. And it's not always a vocabulary issue. Sometimes it's a content issue.

While shelving the books, I needed to do a little shifting with the older kids' paperback books. There were some shelves that were packed so tight that kids couldn't get books out, never mind put books back in. So I was lurking around that area when the third grade came in to choose their books.

"Can I read this?" one girl asked me. I nearly dropped the whole pile of books I was holding when I turned around to see her with a copy of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

"No, I've read that one. That book is not for third-graders," I told her as I held out my hand for her to give the book to me.

Her friend, who was exploring the books on a lower shelf, piped up: "I saw the movie of that one!"

I just stared at her and said, "That movie wasn't for third-graders either."

Ooops. Probably shouldn't have gone there. But honestly, that movie is not for third-graders. I won't let my seventh-grader see it, and she's not reading the book yet either. In my opinion, that book is for high-schoolers and older. Common Sense Media agrees with my assessment on the book and only recommends the movie for ages 11+.

So I hope that the librarian and the aide don't have to deal with a parent complaining that I shouldn't have said what I did about the movie. But I'm going to stick by it. People need to be careful and aware of what their children read and see.

I'll be reading a lot more teen-oriented books in the next weeks, because Middle Sister is reading more (hooray!) but not always stuff I'm acquainted with. We need to be able to talk about these books.