Monday, April 30, 2012

Putting the "Anti" in the Antipasto

A whole lot of dinner showed up here yesterday, thanks to three wonderful friends.  Fortunately, it all arrived early in the day, with cooking instructions, so we didn't have to choose among three hot meals.

One meal came complete with antipasto.  I'm not sure how, but "antipasto" is a foreign concept to the males of this household.  The nature of the dish itself is as much a mystery to them as its pronunciation.

I swear, if someone calls it "ant-EYE-pasta" one more time, there might be violence committed.  I would not be convicted by a jury of my foodie peers--or my linguist ones, either.

Little Brother was a little leery of the idea of antipasto until I told him it was a big "ham-alami."  That's what he calls the ham-and-salami rollups that I sometimes make for his lunches.  When he came over to the table and saw the platter, he was sold.

Except for the Swiss cheese.  (How'd that get in there?)

In any event, it was all delicious and we're looking forward to the equally-delicious-looking main course, which is almost hot enough to eat.

The Media-Savvy Catholic Parent

As the mom of three children, ages 20, 16 and 10, I'm right in the thick of parenting digitally-active kids in an ever-more digitally-active age.  We consume media around here.  I'm probably the only one in the house who reads books anymore--and half the time, they're e-books.  The rest of the family stays informed through television, radio, and various new media.

In my house, you'll find computers, iPods, iPhones, iPads and a Kindle. You'll find video games and a Netflix subscription.  We've got satellite radio and satellite TV.  While I'm the only one who blogs, three of us tweet and four of us Facebook.  The ten-year-old wishes he could, but we think he's too young for that.

And in my house, we're Catholics.  The kids go to Catholic schools (and, in one case, a Catholic university.)  We attend Mass weekly and our children serve as musicians and altar servers.  Our reality includes grace before meals--even when friends come over to visit, my own life as a Secular Franciscan, and "prayers upstairs" with the 10-year-old before he goes to bed each night.

Books like Infinite Bandwith:  Encountering Christ in the Media are encouraging to me as a parent.  Author Eugene Gan discusses the digital realities that our children (whether young children or young adults) encounter each day without being heavy-handed.  Media of all sorts are a part of just about everyone's life, and Gan shows parents ways to use these media tools to help others learn about--and grow closer to--God.  Gan's book explains seven "media keys" to help people approach the use of media in a sensible, faith-filled way, so that the media we consume can nourish our faith and that we can use media to inspire the faith of others.
This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information. I received a review copy of this book, but no other compensation, for the purposes of this review.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Communion and Community

Last night I got out of the house for the first time in 8 days. It took me about that long before I was willing to get into a car again! But our once-a-month Saturday-night Mass gig was this weekend at the Big Church, which is only one mile away, so I figured I could do it.

Except for the homily, I stood for the entire Mass. Sitting is difficult. I can't sit gracefully or comfortably. I sit like a cellist who has just had her instrument stolen. And then, of course, there is the Wearing of the Yoga Pants-- just about any other pants are out of the question right now.

But in that church, the musicians are located in a spot where no one sees how you're dressed or that you're pacing around back there during the Creed. So it worked.

I paid for that one-mile car ride, but it was worth it--SO worth it. I paid for the singing, which works the abs more than you might realize. But what I received? Hugs, good wishes, smiles and inquiries about my health from friends, neighbors, fellow musicians, deacon and pastor. The grace of just being there at Mass. The gift of singing at Mass (I was not foolish enough to try to bring my guitar). And the Eucharist, the whole reason I needed to be there.

A friend and fellow Franciscan stopped by last week to bring me Communion. I treasure that. And I treasure yesterday's venture to church as well. These past couple of weeks, I have really been reminded of what it's all about: Communion and community. I am grateful--very grateful--for both.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Power parenting

So Little Brother is in the backyard, playing soccer with two of the Street Urchins (boys his age who live down the block.). I'm listening with half an ear to the goings-on, since twice already this week that soccer ball has scored a direct hit on the pool filter, disconnecting the hose.

And my mom had dinner all ready, so she headed out the back door to call Little Brother in. When he didn't follow, I called him out the window and that's when my mom told me that one of the boys was telling Little Brother to stay outside.

I've found this child ignoring his own mother more than once when she's come to tell him it's time to go. He has flat-out refused to leave with his older sisters one day when they were sent to get him.

In a few short weeks it'll be summertime, and all the Street Urchins will want to swim in my pool. I hate being the Bad Cop all the time, but somebody has to. With a pool in the yard, there are safety issues. You have to supervise and know who's there and who's in the water. You have to make sure they play and swim safely. (And you have to require kids who live on your block to bring their OWN towels.)

I think, before summer, I need to come up with a game plan. Suggestions are welcome.

UPDATE:  Thanks to some GENIUS suggestions in the comments and from a neighbor, I've worked up this template.  Sharing it here for other families in my spot--and I'll amend this as necessary.  But kids will have to leave one with me before they swim here.

From the Department of: At Least He's Honest

Little Brother just wandered through here with his favorite soccer jersey in hand.

"Nannie, thank you for washing this," he told his grandmother.  He'll wear that shirt as often as it's clean, and sometimes when it's not, if he thinks he can get by me.

"Where did you find THAT?" she asked him.

"In the dryer," he answered.

"Wait," I interrupted.  "You tumbled through the dryer to find that?  I hope you didn't tumble any other clothes out onto the floor..."

"I put back the ones that fell on the floor."

To love, honor and obey

Every January, my Secular Franciscan fraternity celebrates with a ritual called Extraction of Saints, in which we are assigned a patron saint for the year, a virtue to develop, a maxim to live by, and another fraternity member to remember in special prayer.

This year, my virtue was Obedience.

I knew I was in for it when that one came along. Ask God for a virtue and He'll generously respond with a challenge to help you get there.

This is not to say that I think God is in any way responsible for the medical condition (endometriosis) that led to my recent surgery. I don't think that's how things work. But that surgery is an opportunity for me to use God's grace to grow in virtue.

It'll be another three weeks, at least, before I'm allowed behind the wheel. I can't be running down the basement stairs, hauling laundry, mopping, vacuuming, and bending over to get heavy pots and pans out of the cabinets.

They sent me a babysitter in the form of Mom for this week, to make sure I don't do anything I shouldn't. Next week, my husband will be working from home with the same end in mind. But I admit, I'm not super-tempted to cheat at this point. Thought about it on Monday, then reconsidered.

The resentment about not being able to do my usual things is evaporating. Offers of help from friends are accepted, tough though it can be for me to let someone do things for me. Grace has been busy, I guess. And I am very blessed, and very grateful.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hello, yes, it's been a while...

Here I am, hanging out on the couch at home. I am recovering well thanks to the insistence of my family that I spend this time resting. They even sent for a babysitter in the form of Mom, because I definitely require that kind of policing.

My house has never been so clean.

Middle Sister held down the fort in the after-school hours quite admirably last week. She cooked, cleaned up, and fussed at the hygiene-averse Little Brother.

Once I recovered from the Evil Epidural from Hell, which kept me semi-anesthetized and completely glazed over for several days before I said no to drugs and kicked the double vision, I was on my feet quickly. My incision is smaller than what I was led to expect, and it's held together by Crazy Glue. (Don't go there. Yes, it's probably appropriate.)

I got very good care at the hospital, but a separate rant about facility design is in order. But the staff? Top notch.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

This Time Tomorrow...

I just keep telling myself, "this time tomorrow, it'll all be over."

I'm called for 11:00 at the hospital, for a 1:30 surgery time.  It's clear liquids only, all day today, and nothing after midnight.  Not even water.

My neighbor kindly offered to feed the rest of my family so that I wouldn't have to cook/clean up/smell/watch them all eat dinner.  I'm sitting here with a mug full of nutritious, yet boring, homemade chicken stock.  Or maybe turkey.  I use those interchangeably.  I have the broth in the mug with the picture of a Hershey Kiss on it, vainly hoping that the placebo effect will kick in and make it taste more like chocolate and less like, well, chicken.

My handy-dandy new pocket rosary will be coming along for the ride and I'm sure it will see plenty of praying action this week.

I'm going to have TheDad update my Facebook and Twitter (@franciscanmom) after surgery, but I probably won't be back in this space until I have access to a computer or iPad.  That may wait until I'm home.

You all have my deepest gratitude for each and every prayer and word of encouragement that you have already offered.  Please keep on praying!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Things To Do Before the Weekend

In a way, this is my personal response to Hilary Rosen's comment last night that stay-at-home moms don't "work."

There are a lot of loose ends to tie up around this house before I walk out of here Monday morning and return Thursday or Friday, only to have to lie around with my feet up for a while and let other people do what I usually do around the house.

TheDad wants me to write down all the stuff that he will need to know.  Even then, I know that I'll have kids calling me at the hospital asking me where stuff is and how to do this or that.

Things I MUST get done:

  • laundry
  • dust and vacuum my bedroom
  • write out logistics concerning:  lunches, school bus
  • make tutorial cookbook for Middle Sister
  • square away the Secular Franciscans for next week's meeting (that's this afternoon's task)
  • get my wedding ring removed (and then repaired, so when I'm out of the hospital I can wear it again)
  • grocery list and shopping

Things I SHOULD get done:

  • make arrangements for Anointing of the Sick
  • get ahead (if possible) on the publicity work I do for Room Two Productions
  • finish the last bit of freelance work
  • check on library books
  • clean the bathrooms

Things I'd love to get done but I'm well aware that they "ain't gonna happen:"

  • take down curtains, launder them, return them to windows
  • launder, starch and iron living-room tablecloths on end tables
  • a really detailed vacuuming of the whole house, including Couch Diving
  • scrub my kitchen floor before my mother shows up here and does it
All this in the next day and a half, because Saturday is busy and Sunday I'll be doing prep, which means I won't want to be doing any heavy work.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

You've Gotta Know the Territory

So I've got the marching orders.  I will be marching into the hospital on Monday, April 16 for surgery and will be in the hospital for 3 or 4 days.  After that, there will be recovery at home.

That means people will be "on my turf."  I'm a very territorial, very independent person.  I don't like other people cooking in my kitchen and taking care of jobs that are supposed to be mine.  (Heck, I don't even like people drinking out of my glass.  My husband completely doesn't get that, but that's how I am.)

The night after I met with my surgeon, I had all these dreams about people being in my way.  I couldn't do anything--even go to sleep--without having people in my path.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what that was about.

The territory thing, and the needing-assistance thing, are a much bigger concern to me than the actual medical reasons behind this surgery.  I hate asking anyone for help.  I hate that I will need help (a good bit of it, most likely).  I hate that someone else is going to have to drive the kids, cook the meals, wash the laundry, sweep the floor.  Sometimes my own kids will be helping with some of those jobs.  Some of them will fall to TheDad.  And my mom has already announced that she'll be here for a week.

The last time she came here to help me after surgery, she scrubbed my floor on her hands and knees.  I hated that.  If she does it again, I will hate it again.  I know that in the scheme of things I am very, very blessed to (a) still have a mom, (b) have a mom healthy enough to help me, (c) have a mom who is currently in her 3rd or 4th retirement (clearly she is Bret Favre's role model in this regard) so she's free to come and help me, (d) have a mom who wants to come and help me, and (e) have a dad who's willing to drive Mom 125 miles each way so she can come and help me.

I'm really not much in the mood, right now, to let perspective get in the way of my pity party.  Except for the cleaning-of-the-house part, I'm going to miss what I do for my family.  I'm going to miss the cooking and the laundry (especially now that I can hang it outside again) and planting my little herb garden since I was partially successful with it last year and even the driving.  I'm going to miss the writing, since I'm taking some time off from my freelance jobs while I recover.  I'm going to miss playing and singing at church, since Easter was the last time I'll get to do that for a while.

I was reminded today that allowing others to help me opens the door for them to receive grace through their practice of the corporal works of mercy.  I guess, right now, that is as good as it'll get.

Meanwhile, you are not allowed in my kitchen until after I walk out of here on Monday.  It is my territory, and I will chase you.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Easter's Musical Gift

Alleluia, He is risen!  We sang all about it yesterday.  And it was wonderful.

Our parish schedules an extra Mass on Easter to accommodate the expected crowds.  The rest of the schedule is shuffled a bit so that the larger of the two church buildings has the majority of Masses, which makes sense, because you need to fit more people.  Our folk group was playing at the little church at 10 AM.  There hasn't been a 10 AM Mass at the little church in almost 4 years.  So I was a little curious about how well-attended it would be.  Would people forget?  After all, my husband would have headed over to the big church if I hadn't reminded him that we were singing at the little church.  He'd have found a Mass there too, because both churches had a 10:00--but he wouldn't have found us.

It was a full house--and more--in the choir area, because it was a full house--and more--in the church.  My husband and mother-in-law couldn't get seats in the pews, so they sat with us.  So did Big Brother, who didn't have a guitar at home to play (and regretted that, at the last minute).  Middle Sister was serving, of course.  The folk group showed up in force, except for one member who was visiting faraway family.  Best problem in the world to have:  not enough seating for all the musicians and singers.  Fortunately, our church has these great "window seats" in the choir area.  At least 10 people had to use them; all 15 chairs were taken.

And we made our joyful noise.  It feels SO GOOD to lift your voice in "Alleluia" and "Glory to God" after all this time.  This group has a long tradition of singing "All Good Gifts" on Easter (the Godspell version) and though you might think of it as better suited to Thanksgiving, it works for Easter so well:  Easter Mass is all about celebrating, and thanking God, for the enormous and extravagant gift of love, shown through Jesus and His sacrifice.

Even better, we were permitted to sing our very favorite piece:  the Lord's Prayer.  It's a hallmark of our group, but one that we were asked to stop singing when the parishes merged.  A couple of times during Lent, the pastor (who asked us not to sing it anymore) allowed us to sing it.  People love it.  It's right up there with "Amazing Grace" in the Raise the Roof and Sing Along Factor.  And our associate pastor loves it, because it eliminates the whole "barrel through the Lord's Prayer" thing that is his personal pet peeve.

Our associate pastor has been stationed here for more than 7 years, and I think I've seen him actually sing maybe twice in all that time.  Yesterday, he sang along with the Lord's Prayer too.

When we finish the Lord's Prayer, we all get the same feeling:  we have Been To Church.  We have PRAISED.

I got a big basket full of chocolate and sugar for Easter, but the music was definitely a better gift, because it helps me remember the greatest gift.


Sunday, April 08, 2012

Some Easter Randomness

Because when you've been up since 4 AM (for no good reason whatsoever), random is as good as it gets.

I haven't slept past 5:15 in a week.  Anxious much?  Why yes, yes I am.  I'll know tomorrow when my surgery is scheduled.  It'll be either the 16 or the 23, the doctor thinks.  If I don't start getting some sleep soon, I'll be pushing for the 16th, just so I can get some rest faster!

I put together the Easter baskets last night, and delegated the Hiding of the Eggs.  There was a little obsessive checking this morning to make sure that the eggs had, indeed, been hidden.

Big Brother and Middle Sister were both awake when I went to bed last night.  I'm pretty sure they didn't inspect the Easter baskets, because Big Brother's basket still contains eggs filled with candy (I checked that too.)  Middle Sister gets annoyed that her brother doesn't want to hunt for eggs anymore, and last year she emptied his basket and hid all the eggs before he woke up.  We were still finding them early this year (M&Ms. Still good.  Finders keepers.)

I took Little Brother to the outdoor portion of the Easter Vigil last night.  In our parish, the Boy Scouts are in charge of the Easter fire.  Who better to ask?  They know how to build fires, and they know how to "leave no trace" later.  Plus, they're happy to stick around when everyone else has processed into church, and tend that fire until it's out.

Is that an awesome Easter bonfire or what?  People were a lot closer when they first gathered around, but they stepped back pretty quickly.  It was a windy night.

Once everyone was in church, the Scouts brought out the marshmallows and the campfire-pie maker.  Last night's flavor of choice:  apple.  The Scout families and a few friends enjoyed Holy S'mores, featuring imported German chocolate with chili and hazelnuts along with marshmallows toasted over the Easter fire.  Not only do our Boy Scouts know how to make a fire, they know how to cook.

I always encourage parents of little children to bring them for the "Easter fire" part.  But this year it was a little disappointing.  It felt like the Reader's Digest Condensed Version of the Easter Fire.  I don't know if it was the new translation (I doubt that) or what, but there was no assembly of the Easter candle with the little pegs representing the wounds of Christ and the inscription of the year.  That's a fascinating thing for kids (and grownups) to see.  Kids can see the candle being assembled.  Then in church they can go look at it more closely after Mass.  It's something they'll see all year.  Last night, though, there were no little pegs on the candle and the outdoor portion was over in 5 minutes.  It took longer for everyone in the assembly to get their candles lighted and get inside.

We're playing at the 10:00 Mass this year.  That'll throw my whole day off...I'll get home and think it's 1:30.  Some people in our folk group are not "morning people" so this could get interesting.

And if my surgery is next Monday, this will be the last Mass I play for a while.  I won't be able to hold a guitar for a few weeks, and the day before surgery I'll be stuck in the house on a clear liquid diet, so I'll have to hit the 8:00 Mass.  So in a way, I'm hoping for the 23rd so I can play one more week before my little hiatus.  I can't help it; I'm just crazy like that.  Playing guitar in church--that's what I do.  It's a huge part of me.  It's a huge part of how I pray.

So today, I am going to relish every song, every "Alleluia," every chance to lift my voice and glorify God.  Even when the songs and settings are not my favorite ones (and many, today, are not); even when the politically-correct lyric revision distracts (and it will); even when we no longer can sing "The Happy Gloria" because, to our knowledge, it hasn't yet been revised to match the New Translation; even with all of that, it's a privilege and a joy and a gift to do what I do, with the talented musicians and singers in our folk group who have become my close friends over the years.

All together now:  "Alleluia!"

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


I just had the following conversation with my daughter.

Middle Sister (out of nowhere):  I can't chaperone a field trip!

Me:  You're not going to chaperone any field trips.

Middle Sister:  That's because I can't.

Me:  No one asked you to chaperone a field trip.

Middle Sister:  I'm pretty sure it's not even legal.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

A Litany of Gratitude

I'm not going to lie; I'm worried about how my appointment with the surgeon is going to go today. I've got a whole bunch of questions to ask.  I wrote them down so I don't forget.  As long as I remember to bring that paper with me, it's all good.

The closer I get to my appointment, the more anxious I get.  The more anxious I get, the more prickly I get.  Right now I'm practically a porcupine.  My poor husband gets the worst of it, and the guy really doesn't need any more stress than he's already got.  I'm pretty sure they should take his blood pressure at the doctor's office today.  Today, I am grateful that he puts up with me when I get like this.

Today, I am grateful that he stayed up half the night working so he can leave the office early and come with me to this appointment.  Even though I act like I want to be all independent and everything, he doesn't take no for an answer when it really counts.

Today, I am grateful for a friend who rearranged the Chess Club Carpool.  It was my turn to drive today, but she's taking that shift.  This way, Little Brother doesn't have to miss his favorite after-school activity.

Today, I am grateful for my neighbor who will be home when Little Brother gets here; if we're not back yet, he can hang out at her house, do his homework and play with her kids until we get home.

Today, I am grateful that my appointment has been moved to 2:00 instead of the original 3:00.  This means we'll have a better chance of beating rush hour on the way home.  Rush hour in Philly can be a bit terrifying.

Today, I am grateful that Middle Sister will be traveling to a track meet after school, even though she's recovering from an injury and can't run yet.  She's got team spirit and she's going to be there to encourage her friends.

Today, I am grateful that Little Brother thinks of everything.

Today, I am grateful for a doctor who listens and who takes my concerns and observations seriously enough to send me to a specialist she considers the best in the business.

Today, I am grateful for the prayers of my parents, family members, cousins, and friends near and far.

Monday, April 02, 2012


It's time to get ready for the first track meet of the 2012 season. I'm the recorder, or Scribe as I like to call it. I write down every runner's time in every race. It gets hectic but I enjoy it.

This is my third season, so I'm pretty good at knowing what to bring along. I just packed my tote bag with:

collapsible camp stool
8 pencils
2 pens
binder clips
directions to the meet
cell phone
granola bar
small "essentials" bag from my purse, containing Advil, inhaler, lip balm, Swiss Army knife and band-aids. Covers just about every emergency.

It's going to be cold this evening, so it's time to eat up, layer up and get out of here!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Silver Lining

This weekend was the semi-annual Cub Scout Babka Sale.  It's a LOT of work, especially for Mr. Cubmaster, who drives all the way to Elizabeth (about 90 miles each way) to get the babka, then shuttles it between 2 churches to cover the 4 Masses for the weekend.

It was a whole lot of EXTRA work this weekend because of all the no-shows.  At two of the four Masses, Little Brother was the only Scout there.  Only one other Scout leader was there all weekend.  The pack didn't make much money this year, because we had 26 babka left over (usually we sell out, but people don't want to wait in line, so the key is to have lots of little salespeople to keep things moving.)

I got a distress call from TheDad (Mr. Cubmaster) at 8:30, telling me that no one else had shown up at the 8:00 Mass and that I needed to get over there to staff the tables.  After that, I headed over to the other church to help set up for the 10:00 Mass and sale.  On the way, I heard a new-to-me singer-songwriter on the radio, and he played what has become my New Favorite Song:

I just love it, and I hope you do too. This song says what music means to me. This is why I do what I do, regardless of the way things go in church-music politics. This Palm Sunday, I was reminded of why I am thankful to God--every day--for the gift of music in my life.

And if I hadn't been in the car shuttling between churches to get to a babka sale I wasn't supposed to staff, I would never have heard my New Favorite Song.

So I am thankful for that silver lining today!