Tuesday, August 31, 2010

High School, Round Two

In only 7 more days, Middle Sister will begin her high-school career.

She is different from her older brother in so many ways, and she fiercely wants to be independent. There is nothing she wants less than to hear someone tell her that Teacher X doesn't like athletes who leave her class early to go to games, even though she has Teacher X last period every day. To her, these are intrusions, not helpful hints. She wants to find things out on her own.

That's hard for parents, older brothers, and even friends of older brothers to handle. What we might consider helpful advice is, to her, some kind of hint that she can't handle things on her own.

For the record, I watched her play goalie on the freshman field-hockey team on Saturday. She's new to the sport. She managed 7 saves on 9 attempts, so only 2 goals got through. Middle Sister has a lot of energy and a lot of heart. She's going to do well through sheer determination.

It's going to be hard not to handle Middle Sister's high-school years the same way I handled her older brother's. While she's happy to hijack his old high-school sweatshirts, she's not interested in hand-me-down advice.

This might be Round Two for us in this high school, but it's a whole new era for Middle Sister.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Bigger Responsibility

This week I was reminded of what I am expected to be as a Secular Franciscan. Someone asked a church-related question and I was expected to be the one with the answer.

"I don't have any corner on this market," I protested.

"You're the one with the cross (meaning the Tau). We depend on you for this. You're the closest thing to Grammy that we have," her daughter-in-law replied.

Sometimes we might think that being a Secular Franciscan is all for ourselves. But it's not--in the same way as being a Catholic is not all for ourselves either. "Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words" was the guidance Francis gave the early Friars.

We wear our Tau as a sign of our faith. But wearing that sign means that we are expected to LIVE our faith, to KNOW our faith and to SHARE our faith. We're not meant to grow just for our own personal benefit, but to reach out to others as well. It's part of being "salt for the earth and light for the world," as we are all called to be.

Francis certainly took time for solitude, but he was no hermit. He lived in community, but he was no monk. Instead, he reached out to those around him. That is what we, too, are called to do--even when we are "out of uniform." Those who know who we are expect it of us.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Countdown is Over

Tomorrow Big Brother is off to school.

The weather promises rain--and it's been raining all day. Go figure, the first rain we've really gotten this summer. I won't be able to strap a footlocker to the top of the van in the rain. So it looks like we'll be taking 2 cars to move him in to the dorm, since his electric bass and lots of other things take up a lot of room.

The favorite dinner has been cooked and eaten, and right now about 15 teenagers are noisily hanging around my living room, so nobody's going to get much sleep tonight.

People are telling me to have lots of tissues handy. That's not how I roll. I'll just keep busy. Busy, busy. Then I won't have to think about anything or worry. Busy, busy.

It's going to be very different around here. Last time I bought chicken for the freezer, I packed it in meals for 4 instead of meals for 5. That's going to be our reality. Not sure I'm ready for that reality, but it's here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Teach Your Children Well

I try to teach my children to do the right thing.

Little Brother is doing pretty well. He'll hold the door for lines of people--sometimes it seems we may never get inside where we're going because he's too busy holding the door for the people behind us.

So today he and I were at the store, and there were two cash registers right next to each other. While I was paying, I happened to look down and saw that the customer who had just been beside me had dropped some money on the floor. She was almost out the door with her purchases at that point.

"Wait!" I called after her. Then I instructed my son, "Little Brother, please pick up that money and give it to the lady who dropped it. She's by the door."

The lady made some joke to the cashier who had helped her about being so rich that she could afford to leave her money on the floor in the store. But she didn't even bother to thank Little Brother for helping her out.

But the man with an empty shopping cart who was on his way to return the cart to the store, who stopped to hold the door for me and Little Brother, was more than polite when Little Brother took the door handle and told him to go in first with his cart. I think Little Brother was thanked five times.

Oh well. Part of teaching your children to do the right thing is teaching them to do the right thing without expecting a thank-you in return. After all, in the Gospel story, only one came back.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Maybe It's Time to DIY

Money doesn't grow on trees, kids.

There's an article in my local paper today in which a teenager and his dad lament the closure of a skateboard park in a nearby town. They imply unfair treatment of skateboarders by local police and whine that people don't accept the skaters because they look/dress/act different. And because the skateboard park was closed (due to unsafe conditions) in December, this teen seems to believe that the police shouldn't bother skaters who want to take their tricks to Main Street, which is crowded with shops, pedestrians, and car traffic.

It's nice to have a park where you can practice your skating and enjoy your friends' company. But it's not your right to have that park--and if the park is no longer available to you, it's not your right to break the law and skate in the middle of a crowded downtown area.

Money's tight. It's time that towns (and school districts, states, and the nation) learn to live within their means. It's time that the people entrusted with public funds be more careful about how they choose to spend those funds. And it's time that we stop expecting our towns (and school districts, states, and nation) to provide facilities for us to practice every single niche sport that exists.

The teenager in the article I read today is 17. He's old enough to respectfully approach the township officials and find out what needs to be done before his favorite park can reopen. He's old enough to organize a fund-raiser or get his friends together to work on cleanup or construction, and even to make a commitment to the kind of ongoing maintenance a skate park requires.

Instead of whining about the lack of a place to play, and taking his games to Main Street, this young man could be channeling his energy into finding solutions to the problem. If that happened, chances are good that people wouldn't continue to misjudge him and his fellow skaters, but rather admire their initiative and civic spirit.

I'll end with a quote from the movie Robots: "See a need, fill a need."

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sharing New Media

In an effort to get the word out as to what's out there for Catholics who use computers, I have volunteered to supply one link per week for my parish bulletin, along with a short description. I'll be linking to podcasts, websites and apps. All of them will be previewed before I recommend them and I'm looking for a good sampling so that there's something for everyone.

Here are the first ones I have submitted.

8/22 Among Women Podcast

Features conversations with Catholic women from all walks of life; faith-sharing and faith-building. Each weekly podcast also includes information about a saint who brings inspiration to our lives. Podcasts are downloadable audio files; you can listen to them on your computer or mp3 player.

8/29 In Between Sundays Podcast

A podcast for young-adult Catholics, discussing how to live as a Catholic in the world outside of church. Their Facebook page allows listeners to connect with and support each other.

9/5 The Deacon's Bench

A permanent deacon in the diocese of Brooklyn, NY includes homilies, interviews, Catholic news items and inspirational stories along with some fun stuff in this blog. Updated often and always interesting.

9/12 Catholic Mom

Catholic author Lisa Hendey hosts this site, which includes a podcast, book reviews, Sunday gospel activities for children, and articles by a host of columnists and contributors. You'll also find reflections on the daily Mass readings, weekly fiction features, and giveaways of Catholic books and CDs.

9/19 Divine Office

Want to learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours without the confusion of a big prayer book? This free website provides the daily prayers in both written and audio versions. The Liturgy of the Hours is the daily prayer of the Church and is not just for priests and deacons; everyone can participate in these prayers. There's also a free app for your iPhone or iPod.

9/26 Faith & Family Live
This group blog is more than just a collection of essays; it's open for comments so it becomes a discussion. Topics include parenting, education, homemaking, working, book reviews, a weekly podcast and more. There's also a print magazine: Faith and Family.

Rosary Army
Learn how to make all-twine knotted Rosaries; download free mp3 files of the Rosary, Stations of the Cross and other topics. Hosted by a young family of seven.

10/10 Grace Before Meals
Join Father Leo as he presents recipes for delicious food and ideas on strengthening family life. Sign up for his free weekly newsletter or watch online videos of his program.

10/17 QuoteCatholic
"A collection of the best, coolest, inspiring, most thought-provoking and wise Catholic quotes on the world wide web," according to founder Matt Warner. Organized by topic. Sign up for a daily quote via email or Twitter.

Catholic Tech Tips
Catholic Tech Tips was created to help teens use new media technologies to share their faith and love of Christ with others — and to maybe learn some life skills at the same time. It's not just for kids; parents can learn too!

10/31 Saint of the Day
This site, hosted by the Franciscans and St. Anthony Messenger Press, features a daily mini-biography of the saint whose feast we celebrate on that date. There's also an iPhone app, including audio and a searchable calendar.

NOV. 7

Podcast, a blog and more by a priest in the Diocese of Providence, RI.  This priest even has his own iPhone app!

NOV. 14
Summa This, Summa That

A group blog on Catholicism, culture, politics and more.  There's plenty to learn and plenty to consider.

NOV. 21
Catholic Foodie

“Where food meets faith”—this site includes recipes and highlights how good food can be a sign of God’s love for us and our families.  There’s a podcast you can download as well.

Father JC Maximilian

Father "JC Maximilian" is a priest of the Diocese of Trenton.  He posts his Sunday homilies on his blog as well as "Liturgical Footnotes" that cover different aspects of the Mass.  Updated about twice a week.

O Night Divine

Crafts, foods, and activities for parents and children to share during the season of Advent.

Advent and Christmas resources at Catholicmom.com

Prayers, projects, coloring pages, recipes, website links, and suggestions for books and music families can enjoy together during Advent and Christmas.

Catholic Culture

Gives faithful Catholics the information, encouragement, and perspective they need as they work to shape an authentically Christian culture in a secular world.

Catholic TV

This online TV site presents diocesan television programs from throughout the USA, including the Diocese of Trenton. Watch videos online or on your iPod--no cable TV required.

Pray as You Go

Daily downloadable prayer podcasts, with music, for your MP3 player. You can also listen from your computer. Lasting 10 to 13 minutes, each podcast contains music, questions for reflection and Scripture.

Exceptional Marriages

Features resources religiously-committed Catholics need to live more faithful and abundant marriage, family, and personal lives. Links to radio programs, blogs, book suggestions, quizzes and more.

Daily With DeSales

Visit this site at the beginning of each day! Consider how St. Francis de Sales can help you to pursue a practical path to holiness precisely in the state and stage of life in which you find yourself.

Catholic News Agency

On the web, facebook, and twitter, reporting news from the Vatican as well as news of interest to Catholics in the USA and abroad. Links to daily Mass readings, saint of the day, and more.

Digital Resources for Lent

Free printable Stations of the Cross, examination of conscience, guides to understanding the Mass readings, and devotional materials.

If you have ideas for others that I can recommend to my parish, I'd appreciate your input.

Because She Can

I've got no other explanation.

I left the house for an hour to attend Little Brother's Vacation Bible School closing performance. When we returned, I found some onion peels on the floor, and the kitchen smelled like onion. Busy with lunch, I didn't ask about it.

But Middle Sister told me anyway. "I cut up an onion before," she declared. "I wanted to see if I would cry."

"Oh...so what did you do with it after you cut it up?"

"Well, some of it fell on the floor, so I threw it away."

"That's too bad. I could have used it in tonight's dinner. Later, you can cut up another one for me."

She agreed, announcing proudly, "It made me cry, too!"

So she can cry again later. Saves me from having to do it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Strangest Bible-School Snack EVER II

Because last year's edible rendition of the plagues wasn't bad enough.

This year's Vacation Bible School featured a story about a leper (I'm not sure which leper story, but that doesn't matter). In keeping with VBS tradition, the snacks are an edible craft that represents the story du jour.

On the day they learned about the leper, the kids had cookies with icing for their snack. Each child got two cookies. One cookie just had icing. The other cookie had icing and sprinkles.

Guess what the sprinkles were supposed to represent?


Little Brother may never look at sprinkles the same way again.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Book Review: Our Jewish Roots

If you're a Catholic woman who wonders where many of our Catholic practices and customs came from, you'll be interested in reading Cheryl Dickow's book, Our Jewish Roots.

This book traces many things that we take for granted as uniquely Catholic back to their Jewish origins. We learn about the beliefs, practices and customs of the Jewish faith and see how many of these were incorporated into our own Catholic lives--always remembering that Jesus, after all, didn't come to make people abandon the Jewish faith but to fulfill its promises.

Part 2 of the book is a fascinating study of women of the Bible, relating their struggles, challenges and achievements to those we face in our own lives and showing us how these women of faith can inspire us today.

Our Jewish Roots ends with a section of questions for reflection, which would work for a group study or individual journaling.

If the mark of a good book is that it leaves you wanting more, then this is a very good book. The book is a fine mixture of information to be learned and ideas to be reflected upon. After reading it, you will know more--and you'll be inspired to keep learning more; you'll want to reread those sections of Scripture that are mentioned in the book to increase your knowledge and deepen your faith.

I have already recommended this book to several of my fellow Secular Franciscans who are interested in faith and history, as well as to a friend with similar interests.

A review copy of this book was provided to me. I was not financially compensated for this review.

Friday, August 06, 2010


There are 5 kids in my family room playing with Perler beads. They're helping each other find the colors they want.

"I need a white one. White goes with every color."

"So does black, for color-blind people."

Tiber River Review: The Rosary Workout

Me?  Read a book about exercise?

Anyone who knows me is well aware that this is a laughable concept.  I'm not much for exercise--and my waistline shows it.  So I figured it was time to look into ways to make exercise more tolerable.

The Rosary Workout encourages the reader to make the most of multitasking in a good way--by combining exercise such as walking with praying the Rosary.  Yes, it can be done--I've tried it.  But I hadn't even considered it before reading this book.

Where it works:  there's a good explanation of both healthy habits and the prayers of the Rosary.  Author Peggy Bowes encourages the reader to just get started, wherever they are in their fitness and/or spiritual journeys, and gives a reasonable timetable for progress.  There is plenty of information on how to enhance your prayer life through the Rosary and on incorporating the Rosary into different types of exercise routines.

Where it doesn't:  the whole 9-choirs-of-angels thing, in which Bowes tried to apply these levels to both expertise in prayer and physical fitness, fell flat for me.  I think there was too much going on in there.

Putting it into practice:  I can pray a Rosary on a 1-mile walk to the convenience store to buy my Sunday paper.  If only I could manage to do that without winding up with shin splints!  My personal hint:  use a finger rosary; it's much easier to manage when you're moving around, and you've got the other hand free for your water bottle (important in the summer, especially!)  Save the full set of Rosary beads for Adoration.
I wrote this review of The Rosary Workout 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.

This is a non-compensated review. A review copy of the book was provided to me.

Promises, Promises

This morning Little Brother was a little more than rude to me, so I told him that he was not allowed to play any Wii games for the rest of the day. He and TheDad just rented a new game, so this was hitting where it hurt.

Now he is whining because TheDad had promised to play this new game with him after dinner tonight.

Would someone care to explain to Little Brother that I am not breaking a promise by refusing to let him play this game with TheDad?