Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Some Things are Better Left Un-spokeo-n

Denise has an important Public Service Announcement regarding online privacy and the people-search website Spokeo.

You'll probably want to get your listing taken out of there. I know I did. The amount of information that was provided was kind of scary--and in some cases, appallingly inaccurate.

For example, my profile reported that I live in a $1 million+ home. Yeah, RIGHT! I'm not even sure there are homes valued at that much in this three-town zip code!

The website is exceedingly slow to use, but it's worth the time to get your private information out of there. Yes, someone could find it all in other places, but it wouldn't be as easy as typing in ONE search term.

Scrupulous Much?

This morning as I fixed Little Brother's hair, I sprayed some water on his head and said, "It's raining!" Then I began singing the refrain from "It's Raining Men."

"Mom, it's Lent! You're not supposed to say that word!" he scolded me.

Guess that means George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" is also out for the next 5 days. At least when Little Brother is around.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Prayer Request

...for my dad! He had a fainting spell in church today. He was taken to the hospital and has had a few tests, as he's had a pacemaker since 1983. So far, everything shows that he's fine. It might be a touch of Whatever Virus is Going Around. The doctor says if all the rest of the tests come up negative (which really is a positive thing) then he can be discharged in the morning.

I can't get there today: I'm over 2 hours away from there and flying solo this afternoon, so no one to chauffeur my kids who aren't at home at the moment. So I'm kind of feeling helpless.

UPDATE: they finally got him set up with a phone so I got to chat with my dad for a few minutes this evening. All indications at this point are that he has some kind of stomach-flu thing. He's on IV fluids and is not feeling well, but he's angry that he has to miss his class tomorrow (he's a college prof) and cranky because he can't be home. I made the strategic error of opining that if he's got a stomach flu, he's better where he is so he can stay on the IV and stay hydrated. He was not happy to hear my thoughts on that matter. My guess is, since he's moved from freaked out to cranky, it's not serious. Thank God!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Recovery Is Slow!

My surgery was ten weeks ago, and while I was back in the kitchen after two weeks or so and doing light housework after three, I'm not ready to say that I've completely returned to normal activities.

Today I spent a chunk of time in the kitchen giving some extra attention to the work table and countertops in there. What a mess. Standards have slipped, folks. I guess that's how it goes.

Then I moved over to the dining room, because the windows were absolutely disgusting. I'm not exaggerating. They were gross. I could see how dirty they were from twenty paces (the other end of the living room). But those tilt-in-for-easy-cleaning windows are heavy, and I really wanted to be "done" after I did the first one. It would have made a nice before-and-after visual, if I wanted to show my family just how awful the mess can get, but I sucked it up and got it done.

And now I'm done. Well, except for dinner, which is slow cooking, so that's all good.

I'm having a hard time being patient with my own level of fatigue. Hopefully that will improve soon! I know it's better than it was, but I'm not where I want to be.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I Have to Think of These Things Now

Two of my kids have "well-child visits" scheduled with their doctor this afternoon. Middle Sister's visit will include the doctor's signing of athletic participation forms for the spring track season. Since she has already received medical forms for high-school sports, I called the school nurse to ask if the doctor could fill those out today as well.

My sister said that the sports physical for next year has to be after July 1, but our school nurse said that today's physical will take her right through the end of next school year (that's right, including spring sports in 2011!)

That's great news as far as I'm concerned, not only because I save the fee our doctor charges for filling out these forms outside of an appointment, but because, well, I'm just not certain that at this time next year, health care will be as accessible as it is today.

Middle Sister glanced at the newspaper headlines today and asked me what the health-care reform bill meant. I explained a little bit about what rationed care means. I told her that if someone got sick, the decision about whether that person should receive certain treatments, medications, or surgeries would become less and less the decision of that person's doctor and more and more the decision of the health-care system (ultimately, the U.S. government.) I gave the example of a woman we know who recently passed away after her third bout of cancer in ten years--all after the age of 75. Would she have received chemo that second and third time around?

She thought about that for a minute and decided that it's in her best interests to stay healthy.

I have friends in Canada who can't call their primary-care doctor or child's pediatrician and get a "sick visit" on the same day. And I am grateful to live here in the U.S. where I can schedule a same-day "sick visit" if one is needed. Access to health care is not something I take for granted. And now that the government is going to be in charge of it, I'm not sure it's even something I can count on.

Bumper sticker pictured above available at zazzle.com.

Dear Congressman Stupak,

Looking out for the greater good never involves giving in to a provision that will lead to the death of millions of innocent unborn babies. That executive order is worthless.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Committed and Challenged to Serve

Big Brother has been offered a "jackpot" scholarship package by LaSalle University, which was my top pick for him even before scholarship offers were on the table. I was impressed with the university for many reasons, not the least of which was the interest in the prospective students that was displayed by professors, department chairs, deans, and others at the Open House we attended last fall.

One of the three scholarships Big Brother was offered at LaSalle was academic: a half-tuition award. The second was the Community Service Scholarship, requiring a separate application, special recommendations, and a personal interview. This one offers money toward tuition and a perk: he'd be guaranteed a spot in a certain (air-conditioned) dorm. All the Community Service Scholars live in this desirable location and participate in certain activities as a small community. In return, he would commit to 10 hours per week of community service.

Finally, he just learned yesterday that he is also offered a Liturgical Music Scholarship. He's been playing the guitar and mandolin at Mass for just under a year (the first time was last Easter) and he's scored a scholarship for this! Clearly I went to the wrong college, because I was never offered a scholarship for doing something that I willingly did for free, twice every weekend. In return for this scholarship, he will have to commit to playing at a certain number of campus Masses.

I won't have to worry that he isn't making time for Sunday Mass now.

What impresses me about these two (non-academic) scholarships is that they are offered at all. Clearly the University wants to make a point: by rewarding service such as community service and music ministry, the University shows how important and valuable such service is. I know that my son, given the opportunity, would find a way to continue working with Habitat for Humanity or other service organizations, and I'm quite confident that he's going to want to keep participating in music ministry (something he does twice every weekend, at two different churches, just because he enjoys it so much). He would do that without any financial compensation. But he is being challenged now, by these awards. His challenge is to make time in his student's schedule for serving others, to balance his commitment to schoolwork with his commitment to the community, to give up some of his free time that might otherwise be spent playing video games and instead use it to help others.

So I'm proud that he has received these offers and excited about the opportunity he has been given. What a gift!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,...
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.
--from Saint Patrick's Breastplate, popularly attributed to the saint

Friday, March 12, 2010

A New One on Me

Adventure Boy is here, and he and Little Brother are playing Nerf basketball, as it's too rainy to play basketball outside. It's getting dark in the family room.

"Why don't you guys turn on the light?" I suggested.

"We don't need to," Little Brother told me.

Adventure Boy chimed in, "We're blind mice!"

If the Suit Fits

I have the feeling that clothing manufacturers are fooling with sizes.

Little Brother inherited all of Big Brother's old stuff that was still in wearable condition.  This included the Communion Suit. I think Big Brother wore it twice.

But Little Brother fit in that suit last August, when he wore it to Pop's funeral. He wore it again on Christmas, and I realized that there was no way it would still fit in May for Little Brother's First Communion.

Big Brother's old suit was a size 7, so I ordered a new suit in size 8. Despite the fact that Little Brother has grown since Christmas and Big Brother's suit is definitely too small for him now, this size 8 is absolutely huge. Well, the jacket is fine--but the pants are quite big.

With a good belt and a hemming job (I can do that!) we can make this suit work. The good news is, Little Brother will have this suit to wear for a good long time to come.

But I just don't get how the jump from a 10-year-old size 7 to a present-day size 8 involves FOUR inches in the waist and three in the length.

I guess they are growing kids bigger these days. However, that doesn't mean I am in favor of anything as silly as taxes on sugary beverages.

But it would make organizing the hand-me-downs a lot easier if manufacturers kept their size standards, well, standard.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Archbishop's Book

I am a big fan of Archbishop Timothy Dolan; when I can, I listen to his weekly program on the Catholic Channel on Sirius/XM radio. So I enjoyed his book, Doers of the Word: Putting Your Faith into Practice.

This is not a complicated, heavy book.  At only 125 pages, it's great to slip into your handbag or briefcase to read when you have a few free moments.  While the book has seven chapters, each of these is divided into segments about a page in length.  These contain a short discussion on a topic as well as either a prayer or a section with more information (historical or cultural) on that topic.

Archbishop Dolan's writing style is clear, direct and easy to understand.  The book is written almost in a conversational style; you can picture the Archbishop sitting with you at a table and saying those words.  The topics vary from the everyday (ordinary time, seasons in nature, April Fool's Day) to the timely (respect for life, prison ministry) to reflections on the saints and the Blessed Mother.

This book is inspiring and accessible, and does challenge the reader to really live out what we believe.
This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Doers of the Word. I received a review copy of this book, but no other compensation, for the purposes of this review.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Enforcer

Middle Sister decided today that she is giving up her hair straightener for the rest of Lent.

Good for her hair, although not for her mood. She hates that she has wavy hair that doesn't always behave as she wants it to.

But she handed me her straightener just now with the instructions that I am to hide it from her and not tell her where it is no matter how much she begs.

In other words, I have to be The Enforcer for her Lenten penance. I'm less than thrilled over this, because it's not teaching her much self-control if I have to be the one to keep saying she can't have what she wants. Plus, I have to be the Bad Guy, which I do enough of already, enforcing my own rules--never mind the ones she inflicts upon herself.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A Nice Custom

...and not just because there's coffee involved. (Coffee always helps, though.)

I was just reading Hugh McNichol's column at CatholicMom.com. (I found out recently that he is a former faculty member at Big Brother's school--how cool is that!) McNichol describes a custom at his daughter's school--Donuts with Dad.

It's a good idea. Even though more and more moms are joining the dads in the workforce, it's mainly the moms who are seen around school--unless there are sports involved. Donuts with Dad, and other events like it, give dads an opportunity to see the world where their children spend six or seven hours a day, five days a week. And such events give dads a chance to meet other dads and encourage each other in the very important work dads do, supporting their families in immeasurable ways, not just financial ones.

My kids are fortunate to have a dad who would gladly attend a Donuts with Dad on some school morning, who works very hard so that they can attend Catholic schools and live in a neighborhood where they can play basketball in the street and leave their bicycle out in the driveway all night (and still find it there in the morning), who makes sure that they attend Mass each Sunday, and who cares enough to "friend" them on Facebook. They are blessed to have a dad who sees to it that his mom isn't spending every weekend alone, who encourages them to do their very best, and who grew a Cub Scout Pack from 2 to 22 in 2 short years so that Little Brother would have the same opportunities in Scouting that Big Brother had.

I wish my kids' school had a Donuts with Dad. Their dad sure deserves it!

It's the Little Things

On a day when I've been up since 3:30 AM (to take Big Brother to school at 4 for departure for his senior trip), it's the little things that will keep me sane, awake and reasonably happy until bedtime.

My whole family knows to stay away from me (far away) when I'm sleep-deprived and cranky. I tried to go back to sleep after I dropped my son off, but no such luck. So I figured I'd do my best to make the most of the rest of the day, in the hopes that I won't be sending the rest of my family running for the hills.

First of all, I said yes when TheDad asked if I wanted to hit the diner for breakfast. We had a nice time, too, just relaxing. I think we both needed that. And the poached eggs hit the spot. So did the (caffeinated) coffee.

I was home just in time to leave again for daily Mass. That's always a good thing.

Then I took myself for a long-overdue haircut. Last time I got a haircut it was December! I had the stylist try something new and so far I like it.

After that, I stopped at Panera for my favorite lunch of an asiago-cheese bagel with veggie cream cheese, and a caramel latte.

Maybe, if I can manage to get my work done early today, I'll squeeze in a nap before the school bus gets here.

But if I can't, and I'm so sleepy I can't be trusted around the stove at dinnertime, there's no fear. I found a pack of pre-seasoned taco meat in the freezer, so all I have to do is heat that up and add some tortillas, lettuce, salsa, and some boxed mac & cheese.

And if you want to hear what I sound like when I'm not sleep-deprived, I'm guesting on this week's Among Women podcast. Pat Gohn does a fabulous job hosting this podcast, and it was great talking with her.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Safety Before Fashion

Little Brother has gone outside to shoot hoops at the neighbor's basketball net. This involves playing in the street.

I'm not thrilled over that, but it's early enough in the day that there aren't too many cars around. Plus, he made sure that he'll be very easily seen. He's wearing sweat pants, a bright yellow long-sleeved t-shirt, and a red adult-size 76ers basketball jersey that comes past his knees.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Sometimes It Doesn't Pay to be Frugal

I have a bin near the computer printer where I keep scrap paper that has printing on only one side of it, whether these are "rejects" from our own print jobs, school notices, or whatever. This paper is good to use for scrap printing (like untried recipes), printable coupons that are at most 3 to a page and huge paper-wasters, and drawing paper for Little Brother and his friends. It keeps them out of the "good" paper, which I reserve for the most special of projects.

So last night I attended the monthly cantors' meeting at our church. The music director prepared us to lead the singing through Palm Sunday and we went over the troublesome spots in the sung penitential rite that we use for Lent. And that was all fine.

She also distributes a list of reminders each month. With the exception of the list of the new music and the date of next month's meeting, these lists are identical month to month. Today, as I got my music ready for tonight's folk group practice, I came upon last month's reminders. I was going to put the paper into the scrap-paper bin when I came upon the little gem she's got under Dress Code.

"Not too low, not too high, not too tight, no beachwear, no jeans, NO CRACKS."

(Yes, it's necessary that she spell it out to this degree, and unfortunately, some people still don't get it.)

Anyway, there's no way that this paper's going into the reusable-paper bin. Little Brother and his friends can all read now, and I do NOT need to be explaining what "NO CRACKS" means.

Good News

This morning, we heard some good news about someone who, for various reasons, we've fallen out of touch with in the past several months.

Details don't really matter just now.

What matters is that there was good news. That's really all that matters. So I shared the good news with my kids, and they were happy about it too.

I'm relieved to note that none of the kids brought up our broken relationship with this person when we discussed the good news. I'm happy that they can rejoice in the good news and the blessing that it represents.

Whether our other differences will ever be resolved is another issue, but it's good to know that good news is more important than bad blood.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

With Apologies to the Song of Songs

For lo, the winter is past,
The snows are over and done
The cooing of the mourning dove is heard in my backyard,
And I've already been outside to hang laundry on the clothesline!

Father H. has been telling us these past two weeks that "Lent" comes from an old word meaning "springtime." And this week, finally, it's starting to feel--and look--like spring. I can see grass in my front yard, and I slogged through the mud pit that is my backyard so I could get to the clothesline to hang laundry. This morning, for the first time this year, I heard the birds outside when I was waking up.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Calling All Patrons of Parents!

And I thought toilet-training was difficult. What the first three or four years of a child's life demands, physically, from a parent, is not so different from the mental, emotional and spiritual challenges that come with parenting teenagers.

I have two teenagers now--one at each end of the teenager spectrum, and one of each gender. It's been different each time, and always challenging.

Right now TheDad and I are dealing with some of the particular issues that face parents with cyber-connected teenagers. The Internet is a whole new, strange, scary world--to us, who see the dangers. To kids, it's a huge playground, seemingly without consequences. And the question of "online privacy" is a huge battleground. Why do teens not understand that when you put something online, it is no longer private?

So, for all of us parents of teens and tweens who are struggling with how to teach our children to manage social media in a way that will not harm themselves or their friends, I call upon the patrons of parents--and saints who were parents.
Saints Joachim and Ann, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saint Monica, pray for us.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us.
Blessed Zelie and Louis Martin, pray for us.
Saint Gianna, pray for us.
And Saint Jerome, patron of the Internet, pray for us.