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 lepers...one 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.