Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Santa Claus Goes to Our Church

Santa Claus is an usher at the noon Mass at our parish, except during November and December when he's extra busy.  Kids who attend the noon Mass are used to seeing him there all year 'round, and have been known to tell their friends that Santa Claus goes to our church.

Santa wears red (and sometimes green) regardless of the season, and is always happy to take a break from handing out bulletins after Mass to talk to children.  Last November, before his schedule forced him to switch to an earlier Mass for a couple of months, he gave out little cards to the children with his picture on it and the message, "I saw Santa today, and he said I'm on the Good List."

On the Sunday after Christmas, Santa is back in his usual spot as an usher, sporting his red parka.  You can see that the kids are all watching him:  Santa is here!  After Mass, they like to go and greet him.  Little Brother makes it a point to thank Santa for his Christmas gifts.

I'm grateful this year that the magic of Santa Claus is still alive in my home.  Little Brother and Adventure Boy still believe.  In fact, just before Christmas, there was almost a fistfight in here when one of the other Street Urchins suggested that Santa might not be real.  It was 3 to 1 FOR Santa, I'm happy to report.  I'm sure that our Christmas Eve tradition, as well as Santa's quiet presence in our church, have plenty to do with that.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Santa gave me a new camera for Christmas, which is great because my old camera bit the dust just before Little Brother's First Communion, and the crummy point-and-shoot I bought, in a hurry, so I could get pictures of that special day was, well, crummy.

Little Brother was happy to take it off my hands. For an 8-year-old, it does just fine.

Middle Sister has been enjoying my camera. She's 15 today, so I trust her with it. She has a good eye. I love this picture of some of my favorite Christmas decorations.

Here's a shot of my Christmas tree, which I briefly got to light up again.  The lights went back out sometime yesterday.  Apparently I'm burning through the extension cord.  Guess it's time to use 2 cords for this many lights (about 1600).  I took a break from cookie baking on the 23rd to replace the cord that I had originally used.

Last, two pictures of the results of the snowstorm.  There will be more later but I don't want to go outside yet!  One is of my across-the-street neighbor's house; I thought their Christmas lights looked cool in the snowstorm.  The other is around the edge of my pool, where the 40-mph-winds created a moat, exposing the rocks around the sides.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Not According to Plan

Today was supposed to be Christmas: The Day After. In my family, it's the last of the Great Three Days of Christmas. We spend Christmas Eve with my husband's extended family, Christmas Day at home, and Christmas: The Day After with my side of the family (my parents, brother and sister and their families, one great-aunt and a cousin.)

Mother Nature, however, had other plans. By dinnertime last night we were hearing snow predictions in excess of 10 inches. I was not happy. Snow is nice, when you have no other plans.

Sure, we have plenty of snow shovels, as well as enough milk, bread and eggs (why is it that supermarkets are always emptied of those items at the first flurry?) We have Snow Remover Models 18 and 15 (otherwise known as Big Brother and Middle Sister) and I know where I put the snow boots at the end of last year's very snowy season. So that's all good.

But I've been pretty bummed all day that I didn't get to have that Christmas with my family. It's always a fun time, and I know I missed out. Contrary to those old AT&T commercials, long distance is not necessarily the next best thing to being there.

Welcome to my pity party, and merry Christmas! I hope we get to have Christmas with my family before Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last Thing on the List

There is SO MUCH on the list right now.
Haircuts for me and Little Brother
Wrap gifts
Do Tons o'Laundry
Freelance work here and here
And, of course, all the baking

So when the Christmas tree went dark the other night, I left it for another day. I think it's going to be left for a few more days unless someone else decides they want to troubleshoot the extension-cord situation. The tree's pretty without lights--prettier with lights, but it's loaded with colorful ornaments and that might just have to do.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Grade-School Drama

...of the cutest kind.

The primary grades at Little Brother's school put on their Christmas play tonight. It's always a "play within a play" in which something happens that might prevent the Christmas pageant.

This year Little Brother played the Grinch/Scrooge character--actually a politician more concerned with getting votes than with the Christmas story. He wore a suit--and a "red power tie." And a top hat. My big kids said he was "totally a boss." He had some great one-liners in his part and nailed the comic timing.

The rest of the play was enjoyable because it was a primary-school Christmas play. That means it came complete with:
--can-can dancers that danced in opposite directions and sometimes kicked each other
--battery-operated candles, some of which did not light
--two kids on the top riser that nearly came to blows
--dueling verses of the same Christmas carol (kids were apparently confused about whether to sing verse 2 or verse 3. Both were going at once.)
--hippies, and a "rich couple" named Thurston and Lovey. The kids didn't get that joke.
--two kids who spoke in a strange accent (but who don't in real life.)
--lots of adorable off-key singing
--and a light-up star.

The first, second, and third graders did a great job. The play was lots of fun to watch--and the prelude by the pre-K and kindergarten was nothing short of adorable. Little kids + carols + reindeer headgear = completely cute.

Communication Breakdown

During the past two weekends, I've had occasion to be in the church vestibule during parts of Mass.

Last week, I slipped out during the homily to use the restroom. (I know, it's better to wait, but sometimes you just...can't.) This past weekend, I was over at our other "worship site" helping to set up the Cub Scout Babka sale at a different Mass than the one I actually attended.

But both times, I noticed something strange. Different people, same situation.

There are people who lurk in the vestibule of the church (or even outside the front door) until it's nearly time for Communion. Then they slip in, get in line for Communion, receive, and leave.

I stayed in the vestibule during the entire homily last week rather than be obvious about walking in and out of church--I waited until everyone was starting to stand for the Creed to slip back into my place in the choir area. The whole time, a woman with a son (Little Brother's age) were in and out of the vestibule. Sometimes they were outside the church, other times in the vestibule. During Communion, they were in line to receive and then out the door (they had to pass right by me to do this.)

Yesterday, I arrived around the "Lamb of God" to help set up the babka to be sold after Mass. A woman was hanging around the vestibule. She went in for Communion and then came back out, bought her babka, and left.

We've got a big trend at that particular "worship site" of people leaving just after Communion. It's better than it was, but it's still disconcerting to see 1/4 of the church empty out before the final blessing, week after week after week.

There's a big discussion going on right now at the NCR blog on Communion in the hand. From what I've seen in the past two weeks, it's not whether you receive on the tongue or in the hand that's the issue. It's reverence in general. It's understanding that you don't just show up, get in line, receive, and go home--at the very least!

Friday, December 17, 2010

When Genius...Isn't

I usually love iTunes' "Genius" feature, which lets you select a song, and builds a playlist around it from other songs in your library.

This morning I felt like listening to some Christmas music, so I cued up Taylor Swift's "Silent Night" and hit the Genius button.

Along with "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Rascal Flatts and Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" I also got Toby Keith's "Who's Your Daddy" and Big & Rich's "Comin' to Your City." Scrolling down, I noticed that coming up will be "Rhinestone Cowboy", "A Boy Named Sue" and "Duelin' Banjos."

What a strange mix. Genius has failed the IQ test this time.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


Every year that weather permits, our Secular Franciscan Fraternity hosts a "Live Nativity at Greccio" celebration.

Last time we had it, it was in a new place, indoors, without live animals, but we had 117 people to enjoy the Live Nativity. This year, it's going to be even more different.

It will no longer simply be a Live Nativity, but will be incorporated into our parish's "Catholics Come Home" Christmas Carol Festival. That means that it's going to turn into a Battle of the Bands of sorts, with all 3 parish ensembles (Religious Education Kids' Choir, Adult Choir, and Folk Group) all participating.

A few diehard Greccio participants have bowed out this year--the changes are just too much for them. I kind of want to join them, but I'm bound to hang in there with both the Folk Group and the Secular Franciscans. And I do have to say that I'm relieved for us Seculars, because the membership in general is getting up in age and it's hard for many of them do to much to help with the event. I was getting pretty tired of handling most if it myself. This year, my role is much more limited, and those SFOs who are physically able will bring cookies and help hand out (and collect) costumes.

Tonight I have to go over to the church to represent the Folk Group as we do a walk-through of the whole event to figure out how long it will take. I know it's going to be a bittersweet time. I'm going to have to compromise, as if I haven't done enough of that already with this event and this parish merger.

And in the end I'm going to have to hope that this event touches the hearts of those attending and those participating. After all, "that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Competitive Much?

Little Brother and Adventure Boy are busy playing a game.

Little Brother: "You just moved that so I wouldn't win."

Adventure Boy: "No, I didn't! I moved it so I would."

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Tiber River Review: Motherless

Brian J. Gail's novel Motherless, sequel to Fatherless, is a compelling treatment of business-driven advances in medical science.

Set in the present day, this novel is scary--because all of this could happen. I am left wondering exactly how much of this is happening; it's clear that some of it definitely is.

Building on the story from the first book in what is planned to be a trilogy, Motherless picks up several years after Fatherless leaves off. All the major characters from the first book play main roles in the second as well. While this book can stand alone, I definitely think that the first book is important in that it sets the stage for plot events in this one.

While the first novel takes on the entertainment and birth-control industries, this book focuses on reproductive technology and embryonic stem-cell research. I can see this novel having a more widespread appeal, as its plot is more prophetic of what is soon to come if things continue on their current path, rather than blatantly condemnatory of past events (as the first novel in the series was.) However, it is no less challenging to the reader, who will feel encouraged to examine his choices and his conscience. The struggles of the characters in Gail's novels, including the clergy, make them all the more real to the reader and do not fail to inspire.

The third book, titled Childless, is scheduled to be published in the fall of 2011.

WARNING: Don't start reading this book if you're only going to have a little bit of time here and there to devote to it, because you will be sucked in to the story. This book kept me up past my bedtime--I couldn't stop reading it. Highly recommended!

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review of Motherless for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

A review copy of the book was provided to me. I did not receive other compensation for this review.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Jolly Old St. Nicholas

We're getting used to life as a family of 4 now that Big Brother has been living on campus for 4 months. Not that we don't miss him, but we're just getting used to the different routine.

And then something comes along and smacks you in the head. For me, this week, it was St. Nicholas.

I always get the kids a treat for St. Nicholas Day, and put it in their shoe near their bedroom doors. (Parents get a treat as well. Rumor has it that my treat this year will be a Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt bar. Yum. But I digress.) So when I was in the grocery store the other day, I remembered that I needed to get busy shopping for those little treats.

Then I remembered that one of my kids is not going to be here with his shoe outside his door. It's almost worse than not having him here for family dinner or Sunday Mass.

Dorm security being what it is in his urban university, it's not like I can sneak into the third-floor hallway and leave him some treats outside his room. Instead, I had to depend on the US Postal Service. So the other day I filled up one of those Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes with all kinds of yummy things--enough for him and his roommate and some friends to share--and sent it along, with a big note marked on there that said "Do not open until December 6."

It's not the same, but it will have to do.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ho, Ho, Ho

This morning when the first-graders were finished checking out their library books, they went into the computer room for a lesson on keyboard skills. The librarian/computer teacher had the kids typing letters to Santa. They are still learning how to use the SHIFT key to make capital letters, and they have no clue where to find punctuation marks--so this was the focus of the assignment. They were copying a letter that was up on the "big screen" in front of the room, with a bunch of short sentences to reinforce the skill of using SHIFT.

I was wandering around the room helping kids out: "N is on the bottom row..." but most of the kids were having more trouble with the SHIFT key than anything else.

Except for one little girl who wasn't paying attention as she typed, so her letter began:

Dear Santa,
Ho are you?

Sunday, November 28, 2010


At the restaurant where we had dinner, thus pushing the "who lights the Advent candle" argument back 1 more night:

"Little Brother, don't pick up that ice cube from the table and put it in your mouth!"

"Why not? This table hasn't even been used yet!"

Adventish and More

I was just looking back over the old Advent posts. And it seems that, every Advent, I don't get what I planned for. Maybe it's time to stop planning and just roll with it.
For the third year in a row, I am dealing with health concerns at this very busy, crazy time of year. How about that? Am I so insane that I must be forced to slow down?
It's entirely possible that without Instigator #1, the Advent table manners will improve. At least through December 17. After that, all bets are off, because all 3 kids will be home. But now I've got to rethink the whole "who gets to light and blow out the candle" thing. Maybe I'll delegate that job to Middle Sister and tell her to find a way to make it fair to everyone.
Things are chilly here at Chez SFO Mom; our heater cut out sometime Friday (when we weren't here) and yesterday the repairman came out to give us the bad news. While he was able to pronounce our last name with no difficulty whatsoever and even told us what it means in Polish (pine cone, in case you're wondering), he was not able to fix the furnace. It needs a part. His boss will order it. I wonder how long that will take. I bought a space heater for the family room and some wonderful friends lent us 4 more. When Middle Sister and I plugged those in, we blew a fuse. We are now only heating the family room.
I'll probably be baking a lot today. Yesterday I made Michelle's molasses crinkles, the chocolate-peanut butter cookies from the back of the Reese's peanut butter chips bag, and almond biscotti.

At Mass last night, Father H started his homily as he does most Advents: by asking us to contrast all the decorated, brightly-lit houses we'd passed on the way to church with the minimal decoration (Advent wreath and Jesse tree) in church. He made a good point--he said he was not going to rage against those who get into the Christmas hype early, because so much of our economy and so many people's livelihoods depend on that. BUT he encouraged us to remember the reason for THIS season.

So this morning I headed down to the basement and dug out what I need to get Advent started: the Advent wreath, the candles, the Nativity scene. I need to remember that I don't have any more candles left--a few years ago I was an overachiever and bought 3 sets all at once. I took the last box out today. Everyone's still sleeping. I think that I'll get things ready now, so when they wake up, they'll discover that Advent has come!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Middle Sister's been studying Romeo and Juliet in her English class. Her take: Juliet is desperate, and the guys are stalkers.

I'd love to be a fly on the wall during that class discussion.

Monday, November 22, 2010

It Still Ain't Over

Since I'm still experiencing a fair amount of discomfort after Saturday's horrible backache worked its way to diffuse lower abdominal pain and hung around all of Sunday and today, I went to the doctor today. After waiting 45 minutes to be seen (good thing I had a Kindle to keep myself entertained!) the doctor ordered blood work and a stat CAT scan.

That will be tomorrow's fun (the CAT scan.) Got the blood drawn right then and there. I had an abdominal ultrasound a month ago, following up on this summer's procedure, but I'd never heard the results from the gynecologist (even after I called last week to ask about them). My internist thinks that this very well could be related, and went after those ultrasound results herself. Then she called me at home to tell me she'd gotten them and that, yes, the cyst is back and almost as big as it was late last spring. I'll know more after the CAT scan, I'm guessing.

Meanwhile, my mother is armchair-quarterbacking the doctor who did not remove my ovaries when I had the hysterectomy in January--even though she (a hysterectomy patient herself) knows exactly why they don't routinely do that. I should be working right now, but I'm not in the mood. At the moment, I'm thinking that Haagen-Dasz is a better idea.

Welcome to my pity party. In the scheme of things, I'm lucky that this is all the problems I am having. But I'm asking for your prayers anyway!


Driving up my street on the way home with the kids in the car just now, I complained that the teenager running on the side of the road (ignoring the sidewalks) should dress better for running at night. Dark pants and a gray shirt are not the way to dress when you run after sunset.

"Did you hit him?" wondered Little Brother.

"No, I didn't!" I told him. "If I had, you would have felt the thump."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Spoke Too Soon

My family is enjoying the TransSiberian Orchestra without me. About 2 hours before we were to leave for the concert, I got a screamingly painful backache that was only getting worse. At one point it hurt so much I was nauseous.

They left me on the couch with a phone and cell phone and instructions to text them for help if I needed it.

I haven't needed it; thanks to 3 Advils and one of those stick-in Thermal Care heating pads, I can now walk upright once again, though my shoulders and upper back are feeling a little sore. Maybe just from the tension when my lower back was spazzing. The weird part is, I can't figure out what caused it!

Saturday Miscellaneous--with a bunch of Christmas thrown in

  • I'm thankful that my kids "get" that it's too early for Christmas decorations--and even Christmas music.  Yesterday I had Middle Sister in the car when I stopped at church to hang an announcement on the bulletin board.  She saw the "Giving Tree" in the church lobby.  "It's too early for Christmas trees," she told me.  Sure, I know you have to plan ahead with those Giving Trees, but it just doesn't feel right.  Our tree will go up, as usual, on Pink Candle Sunday.
  • It's not too early, however, to enjoy a Christmas present from Big Brother, who bought tickets for me and TheDad for today's TransSiberian Orchestra concert.  TheDad bought 3 more tickets so the whole family can go together.  We'll all make a collective exception to the "no Christmas music before Advent" rule and enjoy the amazingly talented TSO.
  • Sarah has Seven Advent Tips that are very good.  Listed among them:  wait to decorate!  Count me in as one who decorates gradually, throughout the season.  It works well for me and it brings Christmas gradually into the house instead of one big BANG on Black Friday.  Basically, here's how it goes:  First Sunday of Advent I bring out the Advent wreath, Christmas storybooks and the empty manger scene.  Nothing else.  Second Sunday of Advent I hang a few pine garlands around the house and put up some other decorations.  Pink Candle Sunday is Christmas-tree day.  Fourth Sunday of Advent, anything else--and animals (only) in the manger.  Christmas Eve:  Holy Family in the manger.  Christmas Day:  shepherds in the manger.  Epiphany:  Wise men in the manger.
  • Speaking of Christmas Storybooks, this may be the first year I don't bring those out.  They're all picture books and no one in this house is still reading those.  I guess it's time to put them in a nice safe container and save them for when we have grandchildren.  And unlike Denise, I'm not ready for that to happen anytime soon.
  • I've really got to get down to business and figure out the timing for the Thanksgiving Morning Cook-a-Thon.  I've done all of the "nonperishable" shopping and secured a promise from TheDad that he will get the kids off to school on Monday or Tuesday morning so I can go to ShopRite the second they open (7 AM) and avoid all the Amateur Shoppers who are in search of unusual Thanksgiving ingredients, but who have no clue how to even find the canned gravy and Red Delicious apples.  I'm banking on the hope that most of the Amateurs don't wake up that early.
  • Too Good Not To Share:  Heidi's prayer for the Adventure Boys in her neighborhood.  Pray this one for Adventure Boys everywhere:  Heavenly Father, watch over all the children in my community whose parents aren’t there to influence their daily choices and habits. Give these children wisdom beyond their years, to protect their hearts from the evil one and his schemes. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's a Helicopter World

Ever since I have had children in school, I've refused to do their homework. My theory is, I've been to school. I did my homework. Now it's their turn.

My role is limited (by me) to purchasing necessary supplies, motivational nagging, withholding of video-game privileges and enforcement of deadlines, as well as occasional Typesetting Tech Support for kids old enough to use computers for projects. Oh yeah--no one without "teen" in their age is allowed to touch the hot-glue gun.

It was disheartening, but not surprising, to see the near-professional-quality "book reports in a box" that Little Brother's 3rd-grade class produced last week. This was some snazzy work that those 8-year-olds did, let me tell you.

Fortunately, Little Brother's teacher is also a parent. She wasn't swayed by flawless gluing and other superficials. A project by a third-grade boy is necessarily going to be less than gorgeous in quality. A couple of decorative bits might even fall off on the school bus on the way to school. Little Brother got a 100 on his obviously-homemade-by-a-3rd-grader project.

Those same parents who do their grade-school kids' book reports and science fair presentation boards move on to high school, where they are overheard saying things like this at report-card conferences: "I've seen all my kid's teachers. I think I'll go stand in line for the 4 teachers he'll have next semester and get to know them." (I'd love to see the face of the teachers when this guy tries that. It's what Back-to-School Night is all about, after all. Not report-card conferences for parents of current students.)

Friday, November 12, 2010


Sometimes you can go along for years believing that a certain person is right about certain things. Whether that's because you truly agree with them or because they exert an unhealthy influence over your opinion is not what I'm here to discuss (though it's definitely worth examining.)

And then you find out that this person is wrong--very, very wrong--about something.

Suddenly all those other things you accepted because this person said so, and you trusted them, are suspect as well.

It happens to all of us at some point--someone we'd put on a pedestal falls flat on the ground. Along with them falls all those so-called "truths" that they'd espoused, and of which they'd tried to convince you.

The disillusionment can be tough to take. And it can take a long time to go away. But when it does, a gift is left in its place. Yes, a gift. You are now given the gift of starting over, of looking to form a new opinion, your own opinion. You can have this gift as soon as you are willing to accept it. That means, sometimes, swallowing a little pride. It requires humility and an open mind. But in the end you will be better for the experience. And you get to look at so many things in a whole new way.

(Just for the record, the person I am discussing here is not my husband or any other family member. But beyond that, it doesn't matter who it is. What matters is that I'm letting go--and it's long past time for that.)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


You just can't make this stuff up.

Last night I drove Little Brother and Adventure Boy home from basketball practice. We were in TheDad's car, and he had tossed an old copy of the Wall Street Journal in the back seat.

The boys picked up the newspaper.

"There's no sports section in that one, guys," I told them.

"Yes, there is!" Then they read the headline: "First Baseman Aubrey Huff Wears Glitter-Flecked Red Underwear for Luck."

I did not need to know that. I imagine that within an hour or so, this story will be all over both boys' school buses.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Well Worth It

It's All Saints Day, and although the "Holy day of Obligation" was commuted in our diocese to Sunday, Middle Sister's school celebrated the feast day with a Mass this morning.

Little Brother's school celebrated with a prayer service this afternoon. They're having Mass later this week as well, in remembrance of the school's patron saint on Thursday.

So I'm a good bit off-schedule today. I attended both the Mass and the prayer service, which I would have skipped, but Little Brother's class was in charge of it and he had a big chunk of the Litany of Saints to read.

I'm glad I went to that prayer service, because I was very impressed by the deacon's reminders to the children that all of us are "saints in training." The kids were asked to think about ways they could be better family members, students, friends and teammates--all in the name of "what would the saints do?"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Little Brotherisms

Because there's only just so much longer that he'll be doing this.

--This morning at the bus stop: "Look! There's an airplane! You don't see that every day."

--After school, I asked him to stop tap-dancing while he ate his pop-tart. "Do you do this in school?" I wanted to know.
"No," he replied. "I hold the hyper in."

--On Halloween decorations: "Mom, we have no Halloween decorations!"
"So?" (We never do. Actually, this year we have 2 carved pumpkins, 4 uncarved pumpkins and 1 ceramic pumpkin. That's a big step up for us.)
"So no one will trick-or-treat at our house!"
"Sure they will. And if they don't, that's more candy for me."
"You mean more Milky Ways for you, Mom." (He knows me.)

Family-Friendly Service

Little Brother wants to be an altar server. Just in time, too, I thought--since Middle Sister really wants to be done with that. She's served faithfully, every single Sunday, for more than four years now. On the weekends once a month when we play at the Saturday night Mass, there is no server on Sunday at noon because Middle Sister isn't there to do it.

Little Brother and I approached Father about serving, but Father says he has to wait until next year when he's in fourth grade. So it's back to the folk group for Little Brother. Yes, he sits and sings with us most weeks. He's in the choir at school and he knows all the music. TheDad says that when we practice each Wednesday night in our living room, Little Brother is here in the family room singing along. We're family-friendly in the folk group.

Little Brother is not the only child who sits with the folk group. We have five kids among us, ranging in age from 10 down to 4. During the homily, one of the four-year-olds loudly asked his mom, "Is that God?"

Being a generally "blurry because he's always in motion" kind of kid, Little Brother can get a little wiggly at Mass sometimes. So on Sunday morning I was warning him ahead of time that he really should practice being more still and reverent, in preparation for the time when he becomes an altar server.

Then during the homily I let him sit in my lap. He's still my little boy, even if I can hardly get my chin over the top of his head and his heels bang on my shins.

And I felt kind of guilty shushing him after we said our final response and the deacon and Extraordinary ministers received Communion, and he whispered to me, "I can't wait until Communion, so I can be healed."

Clearly, he gets it. I think he's ready to serve, Father.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Prayer Before a Meeting

God, grant me the eloquence to say what is necessary,
the charity to speak the truth in love,
and the wisdom to know when to shut up.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Learning from My Mistakes

Someone famous once said that if we don't remember history, we are doomed to repeat it.

With that in mind, I declined Cubmaster Dad's generous invitation to stay at the Cub Scout Pack meeting tonight. 32 little boys with 16 basketballs in 1 gym is not my idea of a good time. And only the new kids are getting any awards, since all 13 of our new Scouts (yes, 13!) earned their Bobcat badge. So it's not like I need to be there to clap for Little Brother.

But most of all, I declined this invitation because of something I saw in the Shopping Bag of Cub Scout Meeting Supplies. Along with ropes for knot-tying practice, "Hello my name is" stickers for parents, and lots of pens, Cubmaster Dad had put several rolls of toilet paper.

I have very vivid memories of what happened last time someone brought toilet paper to a pack meeting. And someone still owes me Milky Ways for that time.

He now owes me some toilet paper, too--since he took all the extra rolls from both bathrooms.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I tried. Really, I did. For several years now, I have put up with dim-and-getting-dimmer lighting in the family room and dining room. If I didn't turn on the dining-room light when I started cooking dinner, we wouldn't be able to see our food during the meal. And you couldn't read in the family room.

So this week, I kicked them out: all those compact-fluorescent lights we'd installed in those fixtures. At $7 per bulb, it was going to take a while to realize the energy savings when we had to turn them on earlier than we needed them in order for them to get halfway bright enough to use. Now I'm supposed to find a special disposal site for them, because apparently they're toxic waste, too.

Fortunately, I've been hoarding those good old incandescent bulbs (thank you, Thomas Edison!) I can switch on that dining-room light just as I switch off the kitchen stove, and it's nice and bright in there. (You could land a plane on my dining-room table if you had to.) I'll save the mood lighting for dates with TheDad at fancy restaurants. Although the dim lights were good for one thing: it was harder to see whatever Little Brother had spilled during the meal.

CFLs just do NOT work for me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So On Target

I love the Zits comic. Even though my teenage son is away at college, I can relate to so much of this.

Like today's installment.  I AM THAT MOM.  And it's wearing me down.

You might have to click on the picture to view a larger version.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Yesterday, Little Brother's friend invited him to go to a local farmer's market; his family was going to get some pumpkins and Halloween decorations.

An hour later, the two boys came to the front door a huge pumpkin. This pumpkin has about the same diameter as a basketball, but it's half again as tall. That's a big, heavy pumpkin to carry up the hill.

For a minute, I wondered how they got it here. Then I saw the skateboard as the boys off-loaded the pumpkin and rolled it into place next to my front door.

I admired their creativity, ingenuity and resourcefulness. Now if I could only make sure that they use their powers for good, we'll be all set.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

One Came Back

This is worth posting in its entirety. It's Father H's reflections on today's Gospel and the basis for his homily. Father H, our assistant pastor, publishes these reflections in each week's bulletin--which means he has them ready by 9 AM on Monday (impressive!)

The Word of God in the Life & Mission of Our Church
He was passing through Samaria and Galilee....He was met by of them saw that he was healed...he turned back...he was a Samaritan. (Luke 17: 10-11;16)
Jesus is along the borders of two areas in the country. The Samaritans lived in one area. They were a despised and hated people by the rest of the country. Yet, it is the Samaritan, the despised one, who emerges as the ‘hero’ of the story. This is a complex story. Is Jesus speaking to a community’s deepest hatreds and painfully exposing them?
Certainly. This is also a story about two contrasting ‘faith traditions.’ The ‘nine’ in the story belonged to what they said was the ‘true faith.’ The Samaritan was regarded as affiliated to an ‘inferior-faith-tradition.’
The story follows in the heels of what we heard last week. The apostles ask Jesus to ‘increase their faith.’ Is the story about Jesus’ on-going discussion of the nature of ‘true-faith?’ Certainly.
Beyond faith and prejudice, the story is also about ways in which communities stigmatize and marginalize certain people. This aspect of the story hovers over the incident it describes. A clarification is in order. The more accurate description of the ‘ten’ in the story is ‘leprous persons.’ Leprosy, as we know it today, was first identified by Dr. Hansen in 1871. In the world of the Bible, a ‘leprous person’ could be any person afflicted with an unsightly skin condition such as ulcers, eczema, psoriasis, or ringworm.
One aspect of the story. It is about ten people in a deplorable human condition. They were stigmatized simply for who they were. Nine were of one ethnic, national, racial, and religious background. The Samaritan was of another background.
Did the nine, in some way, ostracize the Samaritan? Were they, sharing a common condition, able to overcome centuries of social animosity? Jesus thinks that they were not able to do so. He speaks of the Samaritan as a ‘foreigner.’
The Samaritan as ‘victim of victims?’ Maybe, in the story, when Jesus speaks of ‘wellness,’ He is speaking of deep-seated human divisions that are far more serious than being a ‘leprous person.’ The soul can be far more sick than the body. They did nothing to heal the breach.
Another aspect of the story. Jesus speaks of the ten as being ‘cleansed.’ The Gospels use three different words to describe Jesus’ healing work. The word used here gives us the English word ‘catharsis.’ Healing as a ‘cathartic experience?’ Perhaps a kind of healing of the soul or a healing of the spirit.
Another aspect of the story. Jesus instructs them to go to their priests. He is talking about a social system that insisted on the sole right to declare, sometimes arbitrarily, someone as ‘clean.’ Here is where the story can get a little subtle. Is Jesus challenging that system’s standards of ‘cleanliness?’ Is he saying: Go show yourself to them and they will see a new standard of judging these things is in place? Entrenched systems do not like to be challenged. Jesus is surely throwing
down the gauntlet.
Another aspect of the story. Where did the other nine go? Did they make a beeline back to the social system that once rejected them? Did they fail to see what really happened to them? They disappear from the pages of the Gospel. Is the reader/listener being asked to identify with the nine or the Samaritan?
Another aspect of the story. The Gospel is very careful to describe the Samaritan’s ‘return.’ Does his return imply that he was the only one who rejected one standard of ‘cleanliness-determination’ and accept the standards of Jesus?
Certainly. That word for ‘return’ in the Gospels suggests a person who has undergone a deep transformation in life, a change of mind and heart, and an approach to life from a new point of view. He is described as ‘praising God in a loud voice.’ That expression is used in the Gospels in stories where ‘demons’ are
driven out of a person. Without getting into ‘demonology’ in the Bible, suffice it to say that we are asked to imagine one ‘spirit’ leaving a person and another ‘spirit’ taking its place. He fell at the feet of Jesus. This is meant to impress the reader/listener with the depth of his self-renewal. His ‘worship’ of Jesus as the bearer of a unique revelation of God.
Jesus speaks of giving ‘thanks to God.’ The word for this in the Gospel gives us our English word ‘Eucharist.’ Thus, a ‘eucharistic’ thanks to God is everything that is implied or expressed in the response of the Samaritan to his ‘cleansing.’
The apostles asked for an ‘increase of faith.’ Jesus holds up a despised person as a model of faith thus offering still another aspect of an ‘increased faith.’

All of this got me wondering about something else, too. It is mentioned in the story that Jesus directed the ten newly-cleansed to go to their priests (for verification of their cleansed state.) Is it possible that the Samaritan who came back to Jesus did so because he considered Jesus his priest? Might that be the reason Jesus praised him and said that his faith is what had saved him.

The Alphabet Game

Little Brother is a big fan of the "alphabet game" where you look for a word beginning with A, then one beginning with B, and so on. We usually play it in the car, but one time when I had him at the mall (which I usually try to avoid) we played it there. The mall's a good place for the "alphabet game." Then we expanded to playing it at the diner, where their placemats advertise local businesses. You can't get past X at the diner, though.

A few minutes ago I picked up our church bulletin because I wanted to check the time of something. He practically grabbed it out of my hands: "I need that!" I made him wait the two minutes until I was finished, then left him to it. That was 10 minutes ago. I had no idea why he wanted the bulletin, until he just came over here and told me that he had gotten up to X.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Tiber River Review: Fatherless

Fatherless by Brian Gail is one of those compelling novels that you won't be able to put down. The novel challenges conventional thinking on several issues that our society faces today.

Set in the 1980s and '90s, this novel takes place in the Philadelphia, PA area. It chronicles the story of several families within a parish, as well as one of the parish priests ministering there.

Any particular era faces its own spiritual battles, and this one is no exception. The families that Father John encounters are enduring some of the typical temptations that all families face--and then some. The fathers in two of these families must make choices about earning their livelihood by working in an industry they find immoral. It was interesting to follow the very different paths each of these men took in their struggle with this issue. Another family struggles with a child whose problems are so deeply-rooted that they wonder whether she is mentally ill or even demonically possessed.

Meanwhile, the parish priest notices that some of the most faithful families within the parish are walking away and finding spiritual nourishment at a different (also Catholic) parish. This, along with the difficulties that the families above have asked him for guidance with, leads him to his own crisis of faith. He is an idealistic young priest (yet orthodox, unlike many "young priests" in novels) and struggles with questions of how he can best minister to the many different needs of the people in his congregation. He makes mistakes, but not out of malice--rather, those mistakes come more from inexperience.

I relish the chance to read a good novel, and Brian Gail did not disappoint with Fatherless. But my guess is that the target audience of this novel is rather narrow. This is the sort of book that "preaches to the choir," so to speak. If you're not ready to accept certain practices as immoral, you won't relate to the characters in this book. I wouldn't recommend this novel to someone with a different level of belief, hoping to change their hearts. For a faithful Catholic reader who would like a novel who speaks to their faith, this book is an excellent choice.

I wrote this review of Fatherless for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

A review copy of the book was provided to me. I did not receive other compensation for this review

Friday, October 08, 2010

He's On To Me

Little Brother has made some new friends. They are brothers who live down the street; one is a third-grader like Little Brother, and the younger one is in first grade.

I don't know these kids very well yet, so my M.O. is to allow everyone to play here, where I can keep an eye on things.

One recent day the whole neighborhood gang (5 third-graders and one first-grader) were in here fighting over a video game. I loudly declared a time limit on the game and let them know that they could play with other toys inside after that time, or go outside to play. They had fair warning, and then a five-minute warning, but when the game was over they were disappointed. So First-Grader wheedled, "You can come to my house...Resident Eeeevil!"

I'm not one to keep up on video games. So I checked in with Big Brother, who's proved to be a good judge of what games, movies and songs are appropriate for someone Little Brother's age. He told me that the game is so violent, TheDad wouldn't let him buy it at all. (Normally, the rule for our 18-year-old is: you can buy the game or movie, but you can't use it when Little Brother is awake.) So this one's got to be pretty bad.

I figured, at that point, that Little Brother won't be at that house playing games. If they're going to ride bikes and kick soccer balls outside, that's fine. So today, First-Grader came up the street looking for Little Brother (who was still in his school uniform.) While Little Brother changed his clothes, I asked First-Grader what they planned to do. "We're going to my house to play video games," he replied, and before I could say any more, he continued, "my violent games are all for PlayStation, and that's broken. But I have one game for my DS. It's rated M. We can play my DS. All my other games are rated T."

"Little Brother isn't allowed to play games that are rated T or M," I told him. "You guys are going to have to find something else to do."

How scary--this child knows that he has violent video games. And he tried to play me by telling me that those aren't available. Scarier still, he tried to get me to let Little Brother play at his house where the adults permit six-year-olds to play games rated M.

Like that'll happen.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Thanks for Clearing That Up

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Sarah at Snoring Scholar has a ton of Rosary posts this month--her own, as well as some wonderful guest authors'--so don't miss it!

Little Brother's school is celebrating the day as it should be: beginning with a Mass, then a schoolwide Living Rosary. Little Brother carefully packed the Rosary he received for his First Communion (a blue one--how appropriate!) into his schoolbag this morning, as he is one of the beads.

"Remember, Mom--9:00," he reminded me as we headed to the bus stop.

"I'll be there," I promised. Then, noticing the chill in the air, "Is the Living Rosary inside or outside?"

"It's outside. Or inside. It's either in the church, or the cafeteria, or on the playground."

Good to know. I guess I'll bring a jacket, just in case.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Knock, and the Door Might Be Opened to You. Eventually.

Little Brother asked me if I had a couple of large cardboard boxes that he could take to school. His class is working on a skit and they need the boxes for props. Or costumes. I'm not sure which.

I found a couple of boxes for him, and I told him that when I go to library today, I'd bring the boxes with me and drop them off in the hallway near his classroom door.

"Just bring them in," he told me.

"No, I'll leave them by the door. I don't want to interrupt your teacher."

We went around and around like that for a while and then he thought about what time I'd be arriving at school, and realized that he won't even be in the classroom at that point--he'll be in Spanish.

"So my teacher won't be busy! You can knock on the door and bring the boxes in."

"What if she's not there? What if she went down to the office?"

"Well, then, you can wait."

(Or I can leave the boxes in the hallway, like I originally planned to do.)

Monday, October 04, 2010


Two eight-year-olds, walking up the driveway on a cloudy day, their heads deep in their hoodie sweatshirts.

On This Feast

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. And while he's well-known for the "Peace Prayer," my favorite Franciscan prayer is the Prayer Before the Cross:

Most high, all-glorious, good God,
Bring light to the darkness of my heart.
Give me right faith, firm hope, and perfect charity,
With wisdom and insight, O Lord,
That I might always discern
Your holy and true will.

And my favorite Franciscan motto:  While we have time, let us do good.

Blessings to you on this feast of Francis!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

What's Not to Know?

I've been browsing around on some hardware-store websites, trying to find some light bulbs for the lights in the family room. (They're high-hats, and incandescent bulbs heat up too fast and blow out in 10 minutes. But the CFLs never get bright enough to read by.)

One of the websites had a place to enter my zip code so I could check store availability. When I clicked on the link for that, a little box popped up with a place to enter my zip code--or I could check another link: "I don't know my zip code."

Really? Are there people who can access a website and search for a product without knowing their zip code? I'd like to meet them.

Then again, maybe I wouldn't like to meet them. Yikes!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Catholic Company Revew: Grace Before Meals

This book is definitely a keeper!

I used to own an earlier edition of Grace Before Meals. Before I had the chance to try many of the recipes in it, I did something I almost never do: I gave it away. That's because I thought that the advice on building family life was so important and so useful, I wanted to share it with someone I felt could benefit from it.

But after I enjoyed Father Leo Patalinghug's appearance on Bobby Flay's Throwdown,  I was wishing I had his book so I could try more of his recipes.  And when I found out that his winning fajita recipe would be featured in the new edition of Grace Before Meals, I figured I'd wait until this edition came out before I replaced that book I gave away.

This book is worth the purchase price for the fajita recipe alone.  They are seriously delicious and seriously easy to make.  Best of all, they don't call for any exotic ingredients that can't be found at your regular grocery store.  I've got a Post-It flag on the page for the fajita recipe, because I make it every few weeks.

But I don't consider the recipes the star of the show in this cookbook.  Subtitled "Recipes & Inspiration for Family Meals & Family Life," I think that Father Leo's reflections on family life and how it can be strengthened around the dinner (and breakfast) table are really what makes this book a standout.

This would be a great gift for any family!
This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Grace Before Meals.  Also be sure to check out their selection of baptism gifts.
I received a review copy of this book, but no other compensation, for the purposes of this review.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Geographically Challenged

Little Brother saw a commercial for the Baseball Hall of Fame, and he begged me to take him there. Middle Sister saw that the Hall of Fame is located in New York, so she figured we could piggyback the trip to Cooperstown with a visit to a friend of hers.

"Is Cooperstown in, like, upstate?"

"Everything but New York City and Long Island is upstate," I told her. "I'll show you where Cooperstown is."

Google maps pinpointed the location, and I showed Middle Sister where the Hall of Fame is in relation to New York City. Then I asked her where her friend lives. "Oh, somewhere around here," she said, pointing to a random spot near Cooperstown. On the map, the words "NEW YORK" were spread across the center of the state.

"I can't remember the city," she mused, "but I know he's only, like, two letters away."

"That's why I want you to take that geography class before you graduate high school," I informed her.