Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas Pictures

My kids, my baby in her Christmas dress and my son and nephew.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Buyer's Remorse

Tonite my daughter went to Build a Bear and spent way too much money--something she realized on the way home. She was there with her best friend and they were having a ball picking out all that trash but when the reality that all her Christmas money was gone hit her, she was in tears. I explained that much of it could be returned and so hopefully she learned a lesson at not too much cost.

While we were at the mall I treated myself to one of my yearly indulgences--a half-price box of Godiva chocolate. After Christmas the boxes with the Christmas ribbon are 50% off so if I'm in the store after Christmas, I buy a box and generally enjoy it very much. The ribbon doesn't matter to me. I enjoyed the candy tonite, but not near so much as I remember doing in the past. It was good, but it wasn't worth the money I paid (which was a lot less than the price of a B-A-B). Live and learn.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Feast of St. Stephen

I had the day off and decided to go to mass this morning. I love Christmas carols and figured that church is about the only place we'll hear them any more this year. As Father walked out of the sacristy, he was wearing red, and I remembered that today is the Feast of St. Stephen. Instead of a carol, we started with "Were You There?"--so much for a good time. Anyway I got to thinking about why the Church placed the feast of a martyr right after Christmas--can't we bask in the glow of the cute little baby? I guess not. Christianity, lived right, isn't a matter of enjoying what was but facing what is--and what is, often isn't friendly to Christians, at least those who take it seriously. On the other hand you can also say that because God was so generous to come to earth, to be born in a stable that stank, we call can have the crown that Stephen wears--the crown of those in heaven.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Perfect Timing?

My baby is my late life surprise gift from God. She showed up due to His planning, not ours. There are times I wonder what in the world He was thinking--its not easy having such a wide gap in the ages of your kids, having a toddler and a teenager; not to mention that all the moms at daycare are 15-20 years younger than I am. Today I found myself telling folks at our office party that having the baby has made dealing with my mom's death so much easier.

I remember four years ago this coming spring. I was kneeling in the daily mass chapel of a local parish praying/crying. I was having heart palipitations and my doctor had found a strange-looking cyst on my ovary. At the same time my mom was getting weaker and weaker and yet no one knew what was wrong. Fr. announced the opening hymn as "Be Not Afraid" and headed out. I don't remember if I managed to stand or not, but I know the tears flowed. I was afraid I had something really bad wrong with me and afraid I was losing my mom--and here we were singing "Be Not Afraid". A couple of months later they finally found out what was wrong with my mom, and that while treatments were available, the long-term prognosis wasn't good. A few months after that I found that I was pregnant.

Well, Mom had three more Christmases with us before her death last March. Two of them included my darling baby. Its not the way I would have planned it, but I'm glad He did. My husband wanted to stop at two kids; I always wanted another, but defered to him. By the time she showed up, I had kind of gotten babies out of my system--my kids were older, I was enjoying doing things like scouts and teaching CCD and enjoying not having to take the kids everywhere with me. I always got kind of a longing when people brought babies to the office to show off, but I knew that part of my life was done and had pretty much accepted that--to the point where I wasn't exactly thrilled when I found out I was pregnant. After a rather physically uncomfortable pregnancy I could truly say that I knew I didn't want to do that again. However, having that baby gave me a life to focus on, rather than an impending death.

This Christmas will be the first without Mom. The baby isn't quite old enough to know that Santa is coming, but she knows that what's in those packages is usually good. It will be fun to watch her open presents and love everything. That excitement just isn't there in older kids, even when they get what they want. I think having her there will help me concentrate more on the "magic" and less on the missing. God's timing is perfect.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Separation Anxiety

What I hate most about my kids getting older is the separation from me. Now, some of you know that I have worked since my kids were three months old, so you may wonder what the separation I'm complaining of is. Well, when they were in daycare I could pick up the phone at any time, call the daycare and ask how they were doing. I saw the sitter or primary teacher every morning and could tell her if they were having a bad time with something. I dropped off and picked up where they spent most of their day. When they started elementary school, I lost that ability. Now, phone calls to the teacher were returned, not taken, and often not until the end of the day. However, they just had a few teachers, teachers I was able to meet at open house and see on field trips or at school parties. Most of them came to know me by name, especially by the time my second child had them. Now the big kids are in two different schools; she is at a magnet middle school and he is at a Catholic high school. They each have a lot of teachers--teachers who are supposedly available via email or phone, but who experience has shown are somewhat less than quick to respond. I know part of growing up is moving away from your parents and out on your own, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Deck the Halls--and all that stuff

I open the magazine at the grocery store and see yet another beautifully decorated house, where the decorations on the tree coordinate, yet aren't a matched set from the box at K-Mart. I see collections of figurines that were collected over the years, yet seem to go together so well. I don't see spots on the carpet or chalk on the door. No homework lays covering the coffee table. Then I move on to the baking section where the cookies are works of art (and taste good too). There aren't any pictures of kids asking "what's in that?". Then I come home where, just like in the magazine, the tree doesn't drop needles (but only because, as much as I love real trees, something had to give, so the tree is artificial). The holiday figurines are arranged so as to have the breakable ones out of "TTR" (tippy-toe reach). The tree ornaments are a collection of whatever has struck my or the kids' fancy over the years, and no they don't match or even coordinate. Even though I cleaned the rug in the den last night, its still not REALLY clean. We cut out and decorate sugar cookies every year, and they look like the kids did them--even if I do. I make sure there are plenty of chocolate chip cookies and brownies to go with the fancier cookies, so my poor kids won't starve. I'll never win any contests for package wrapping. Oh well, I have some beautiful Christmas decorations and here is one I'll share with you:

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

All I Want for Christmas Is.....

Well, I did want a digital camera, but I bought one of those. I want a new computer so I can get rid of the old big ugly one--but our "new" computer is new enough to do what I want done, so I'm not as excited about getting a new one as I am about getting rid of the old one--and my daughter recently said the school was giving them all laptops next semester, so there goes my need for the second working computer. Dh will get me a gift certificate and say "do you really want me buying your clothes???", and since the answer to that question is obvious, I'll take the gift certificate. The reason I'm pondering this question is that one of my bosses asked me for a list. Christmas is a big deal in my office and the attorneys usually get nice gifts for their staff. Most of my bosses are men, who are very practical about the process--they give me gift certs and I go have fun after Christmas. This boss is a woman and she wants to buy something. The trouble is that I'm not a "stuff" person. I don't collect anything. My spending weakness is books, but I like to pick my own. I dont' wear jewelry. Perfume gives me a headache. I don't like a lot of dust collectors in my house. I have plenty of kitchen toys. I'm not a music fan. What can I ask for? Maybe I'll go shop and see if anything strikes my fancy.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Who dey say gonna beat dem Saints? Who DAT!!!! For those of you not from New Orleans, that roughly translates into "Who do they say is going to beat those Saints? Who?" Last night the answer was most definitely not "The Cowboys". This town is going football crazy and it seems that everyone is in a good mood. We play the Redskins here next week and can clinch a playoff berth. It sure is nice for this town to have something to smile about.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Celebrate the Season?

My parish used to have several Nativity pageants each year. The preschoolers had one on Sunday morning, after the mass that took place at the same time as their classes. Now, due to lack of participation, the preschool classes are no more. The elementary religion program had one on their last class before Christmas, which was followed by a Christmas party. The program was a basic retelling of the story, accompanied by carols, with the addition of the Little Drummer Boy and, at the end, Santa entering and kneeling before the manger. There was one at the parish children's mass on Christmas Eve. Cookie Monster and Elmo puppets told the story while kids in costume came down the aisle to the sanctuary did the manger scene. I thought the puppets were a bit over the top, but the play itself was simple--the kids just walked down the aisle and took their places. Carols were sung. I'm sure the school kids did something, and finally, the teens did a Living Nativity on the front lawn of the church, right by a major street on either the Sunday before or Sunday after Christmas. This year, from what I understand, there will be only one--the teens are doing one on the Tuesday night after Christmas.

What has changed? In short, the pastor and the DRE. Our old DRE put a lot of work into those productions, as well as into similar productions at Easter. Our new DRE does not seem inclined to do so. However, the real reason is that our pastor has insisted that during Advent we celebrate Advent, not Christmas. I understand his point, but I'm afraid that what people are going to see is not that we celebrate Advent, but rather, that our parish doesn't celebrate Christmas--at least not with anything for the kids. By the time school and CCD resume after Christmas, the Christmas season will be over. The one Christmas party that most of these kids attended that focused on the reason for the season was cancelled because it happened during Advent.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Health Insurance Woes

What seems like not too many years ago, my firm had health insurance that would allow us to see any doctor any time. Then we moved to a PPO, but that was fine, since my doctors were on "the list" and as I sought new doctors, I used "the list" to pick them. A few years ago we switched insurance companies, and with that switch came a new list, which did not include the first doctor to get really good results with my son. Since he only sees the doctor a few times a year now, we just decided to go out of network. Today I discovered that we are changing, again--and the new list doesn't include the doctor that the kids and I see. What's more, it is an HMO where to get the best benefits, you not only have to see a doctor on the list, you have to have that doctor refer you to specialists. I'm not happy. I like our doctor--I like the way she deals with my kids, I like the fact that she doesn't keep us waiting, its very convenient that she is within walking distance and while there are other doctors in the office to cover for her if she is out, generally speaking when I call and want to see her that day, I can. Its not like my old ped.'s office where you ended up seeing someone different everytime you stepped in the door.

I really wish we could get health insurance out of the workplace. Because of the employer subsidy, there is nowhere I could get the health coverage the firm gives me for the price I pay there, but why should the mananging partners get to decide what kind of health insurance I have? Unfortunately, given the pre-existing conditions in my family, an individual policy would be prohibitively expensive, if I could get someone to cover the condition at all. I'n not a fan of big government, but the system we have now has way too many holes in it, and gives too much control to people other than those using the system.

Equal Time

Here ia a picture of my son--I wouldn't want to be accused of favoring the girls!

I Got a New Toy

Actually I got two new toys. I got a new digital camera, a Kodak C875, and I got DSL. The camera is great. I liked the Fuji FinePix I bought last year, except that the shutter lag was terrible, so that I had way too many pictures of the back of my toddler's head. I started reading reviews and wanted a camera with a short shutter lag. Of the cameras I could find information stating that they had short shutter lag, this was one of the few I could find (by the time you find the review, the camera has been replaced by an "improved" version--which may or may not be the same in the way you like). I really like it. Now that I have DLS uploading pictures is easier, so I'll show you my two girls.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Children's Book Meme

I'm still not a pro at this so I'm not sure if this is how I was supposed to do this, but I just copied what Elena wrote, and I'll * the ones I've read--and will add comments about a few. By the way, besides being a bookworm as a kid and a library lover as a mom, I was an elementary ed major and had to read a bunch of kids books when I was in college.

Children's Book Meme
How many have you read?

* 1. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White Really liked this one, re-read it several times.
2. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
* 3. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss + Anything by Seuss is great for read outloud
* 4. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss + Same as above
* 5. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak My son liked this.
* 6. Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch If this is the one where mom rocks the son, who then rocks the mom, its a real tear jerker
* 7. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein I like his poems, fun to read aloud
* 8. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle Great for new readers, or for pre-readers
9. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
10. The Mitten by Jan Brett
* 11. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown + REad it, can't say I understand what the big deal is, and my kids never cared for it.
12. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
* 13. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis + Loved it but I read it as an adult. My kids can take it or leave it.
* 14. Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawing of Shel Silverstein by Shel Silverstein See No. 7
15. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
16. Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
* 17. Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss Same as other Seuss
18. Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola
* 19. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst Another one that's fun to read out loud.
* 20. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin, Jr. A charming story that was used to death in my kids' reading program.
* 21. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl Ok
* 22. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams - Sweet
* 23. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle - Never saw what people love about her or this book.
24. Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor --I've seen the movie, it seems sweet.
* 25. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss + Same as other Seuss
* 26. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka A must-read for journalists--the POV of a story can make a big difference
* 27. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archambault My daughter loved this and it was fun to read aloud.
* 28. Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder + Loved all the Little House books, even before the TV series came out.
29. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
30. The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne +
* 31. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner Read most of the series as a kid
32. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
33. Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
34. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
35. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
36. The BFG by Roald Dahl
* 37. The Giver by Lois Lowry--Strange, and kind of disturbing. I didn't see it as a kids' book
* 38. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff Charming, I think we still have it.
39. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
* 40. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder + Read the whole series
41. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
* 42. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien Read it in high school because it was the cool thing to read, can't remember a thing, probably should read the whole series again.
43. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss +
44. Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
* 45. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry--I liked this, a gentle intro to Hitler and the Jews, since the main characters all live.
46. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien
* 47. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott I prefered Little Men
* 48. The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister Another one my kids enjoyed
49. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
50. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
* 51. Corduroy by Don Freeman Cute
* 52. Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg If this is what I think it is, I read part of it in my son's literature book and didn't really "get" it.
53. Math Curse by Jon Scieszka
* 54. Matilda by Roald Dahl -- this kid has spunk
55. Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
* 56. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume - I know Judy is controversial but I like her books
* 57. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary - I liked Ramona, though I always thought of her as younger than me.
58. The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
59. Are You My Mother? by Philip D. Eastman
* 60. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis Read them all as an adult, loved them, can't get my kids interested.
* 61. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey Old-fashioned drawings, and a lot of stuff kids today probably wouldn't recognize, but I loved it.
* 62. One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss + If they cannonized children's authors, he'd be St. Seuss
63. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
* 64. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats Know I've read it, can't say much about it
65. The Napping House by Audrey Wood
66. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
* 67. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter + Always prefered the pictures to the stories
* 68. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt My son had to read this one. I found it to be more of an adult story.
* 69. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum I enjoyed many of his Oz books
* 70. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery I read the whole series
* 71. Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss More Suess
72. Basil of Baker Street, by Eve Titus
* 73. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper "I think I can" I loved it
* 74. The Cay by Theodore Taylor Another one my son had to read. It was ok
* 75. Curious George by Hans Augusto Rey I've probably read them all
76. Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
* 77. Arthur series by Marc Tolon Brown I've read some of them. Not bad for a cartoon.
78. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
79. Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
* 80. Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder Read them all
81. The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
82. The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
83. Sideways Storiesfrom Wayside School by Louis Sachar
* 84. Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish-Funny and fun to read to kids
85. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
* 86. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
* 87. Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater One of my favorites as a kid
88. My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
* 89. Stuart Little by E. B. White Ok, but I liked Charlotte's Web better.
90. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
* 91. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare Read it several times when I was in Jr. High, really liked it.
92. The Art Lesson by Tomie De Paola
93. Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
* 94. Clifford, the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell Not bad for a cartoon.
* 95. Heidi by Johanna Spyri Never really liked it
* 96. Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
97. The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
98. The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
99. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
100. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ask and Ye Shall Recieve

My son was assigned a term paper last week. That means that I'm about to learn everything I ever wanted to know (and more) about the Minoans and the Egyptians of the Middle Kingdom. Without a high level of supervision this paper would not get written, it is just that simple. Unfortunately, he requires a high level of supervision on almost all of his homework, and I'm the supervisor. I'm getting tired of it.

He had the day off Friday because he sold (we bought) raffle tickets. The kids who did not had to set up for Open House. All the kids are off Monday. Before I went to work yesterday I left him a list of chores, including reading the reference materials I helped him find Thursday night, finding ten facts that fit into the outline we prepared Thursday night and preparing the bibliography (they have been working on bibiographies in class and for homework so I figured he should be able to do it). I also left some household chores. He got the chores done, but practically nothing on the paper. I wasn't happy. It wasn't like he did a bad job; he didn't do anything.

This morning I went to mass. A parish near here has mass on First Saturdays with Exposition and Benediction after mass. I went to pray for patience and wisdom, among other things. I can't find the reading but it talked about different gifts and talked about the jobs needed and the gifts. As a mom I have a lot of those jobs and I pray that I may have those gifts.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

More Stuff

My dad visited this week. My sitter was off work for the week and he came to watch the baby for a couple of days. He brought a box of "stuff" with him. There is one part of me that wants to just shut the box and stick it on the top of the closet with other stuff I don't want to throw away, and yet that box contains my grandparents' wedding picture (only very slightly flood damaged), my parents' wedding picture (there is a good one in there) my parents' high school graduation photos, pictures of the last family reunion before my paternal grandmother died and more. He even gave me back all the pictures of my kids I've given them through the years. Also, mom (who hated hand sewing) made Christmas stockings for each of us kids, and somehow I've ended up with most of them--flood damaged as they are. I hate to throw them away, and yet I wonder what to do with them. Do I keep them in a box for my kids to find one day and wonder about? How many pictures can I hang on a all before it is too many? If I hang them on the wall they are enjoyable, but if I put them and the other photos in a large plastic box, it will be easy to grab and evacuate with. What do I do with family memorabilia?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My Baby is Gone!

My baby is gone. She is lost forever. I'll never see her again. Today her curls were cut. She now looks like a little girl, not like a baby.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Special People Came to Dinner

When I started dinner tonite, I started thinking about my last post. I decided that those dishes aren't giving me much pleasure sitting in the cabinet. I was off work today because my sitter is, so I got home about 4:30 (had to pick up my son from school)and figured my husband would get home about 6:00. This gave me plenty of time to get dinner on the table and I decided to use my grandmother's dishes. I figured that we had enough of a head start on homework that I could take the time to hand wash them. When the kids saw the table they asked why I had the fancy dishes out. I replied "some very special people are coming to dinner". The first guess was "Grandpa" and I replied that they were the most special people in the world to me. The dishes survived the dinner without mishap and clean up took only a little longer than usual. I'll have to have those special folks to dinner some other day.

Two Sets of China

I have two sets of china, one new, one used. Had I made a different choice, I could have two sets of new china. Ok, the new sets aren't really new. One is the set I got when I got married 17 years ago. It has probably been used about 17 times, maybe less. The other "new" set is almost 50 years old and was my mother's. It looks like it just came out of the box--and why not? I'm sure it was used less than 50 times. However, I don't have that set, my sister does. Instead, I have a set that is over 50 years old, that was my grandmother's. I'm not sure when she got it, but it was after she got married, and before my mother did. It is definitely a used set though. Even though those dishes have never seen the inside of a dishwasher, the gold trim is wearing off in spots. A few of the dishes have been carefully glued back together. Yes, Grandma used her good dishes. I didn't live near her, so I don't know exactly when she used them. She didn't use them when the family with five kids visited but I'll bet she used them when the card club came over.

Looking at the dishes got me thinking about the differences in our life styles now and then. When Grandma and Grandpa had "company" they brought out the good stuff. They dressed up, and so did the company. Grandma cooked special food and served it on the good dishes. Their friends returned in kind. Today we don't have "company" we have our friends come over. We pull out the paper plates and cups we write people's names on. We do potluck or pick up party trays from the grocery store. Everyone dresses casually. Part of it is just a change in lifestyle in general--I don't dress up to go grocery shopping like my mom did and the only reason my kids have "school clothes" and "play clothes" is that they wear school uniforms. On the other hand, my grandmother treated company like they were special, whereas today we say "don't go to all that trouble for me" (because I'm not special?) so I guess one of my daughters will inherit some "new" china and one a definitely used set.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


My daughter's Girl Scout troop, along with other troops from our parish, went camping this weekend. I've known a lot of the leaders for several years now. While the troops I led were not parish girls, the school was in the same service unit, meaning neighborhood, as our parish and we did activities with them regularly. We were talking about how we got dragged into being leaders--some were recruited by other volunteers, others (like me) were recruited by our daughters. Looking at that group it struck me how most of us had every reason not to volunteer--with only one exception, we are working moms with more than one child. The one exception is the lady who was running the show. I know she helps her husband with his business, but she doesn't work full time. However, she raised four kids and now often babysits the profoundly handicapped daughter of one of them. Besides the Girl Scouts, she is active in the Boy Scouts, she teaches religion in our parish and is the parish babysitter on Sunday morning (and my baby loves her). I'm one of those people who suffers from "helium hand" and have at times found myself overcommitted; yet my life would be so much less without these things I do. I know not everyone is called to do everything, but I think most of us are called to do SOMETHING for those outside our little circle.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Cardinal Vices

Our parish recently got a new Parochial Vicar. He also teaches at the seminary. Today at mass he talked about the cardinal vices, which I learned in high school English as the seven deadly sins. He talked like a teacher, sometimes touching briefly on another subject--he mentioned that the cardinal virtues also exist--and saying "and we'll talk about that some other day". He was enjoyable to listen to and said that "for homework, consider which of these sins give you the most trouble, and if you say none do, you are lying". In case you don't remember your high school English class (or whatever religion class may have covered them) those seven sins are:

Pride: The root of most of the rest of them. Can be expressed as "never being wrong", having a "superiority complex" or an "inferiority complex".

Envy: Wanting what others have--usually money, physical atributes or fame

Anger: Not always sinful, has to be properly channeled. Sleep on it, rather than acting in anger. Don't take it out on loved ones.

Lust: Treating people like objects to be used for your own pleasure. Hard to overcome; for some people will be a constant struggle.

Gluttony: Using food to fill a void that God should fill.

Sloth: Not doing what we need to do. Doesn't mean we must avoid proper rest and recreation.

Greed: We need to look out for those less fortunate than ourselves. Having nice stuff isn't necessarily bad though.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Interfering Mother?

One of the hardest things for me as a mother has been deciding when to interfere, and when to back off and let my kids take a fall, or have to grow because I'm not there to handle the problem. It is especially hard regarding my son because he isn't normal, his problems aren't normal nor are his reactions. Some things I've had to accept. I've had to accept that getting through a normal school curriculum means he is going to spend his evening doing homework, with me supervising, closely. I know that one day he'll have to make it on his own, but I've decided that "one day" will be after high school. I know we spend more time on homework than most kids do, so I'm hesitant to criticise homework assignments. Tonite, however, I did. Exams are Thursday and Friday. His school is on a 4 by 4 block, which means they take four classes each semester, so in essence, this isn't a 9 weeks test but a semester exam (in terms of material covered). He has two on Thursday and two on Friday, and he gets out of school at 11 on Thursday and Friday. Yesterday (Monday) he came home with his old tests to study in 3/4 classes. I've been leaving voice mail messages and emailing the teacher in the other class for another reason, but I'll call him again tomorrow, but I digress. Yesterday he also came home with a research assignment--to write a two page, single spaced 12 point font paper on one of several Roman emperors. I just copied a bunch of text, pasted it into a word processing document and made it 12 point type, single spaced, two pages long. It was over 1000 words. When I was in high school a 1000 word paper was ten hand-written pages long and was considered a TERM paper, and you had several weeks to finish it. This paper is due tomorrow. We worked on it for an hour last nite. The lesson plan says they worked on it in class today (but I saw no evidence of that) and we worked on it for an hour tonite (and are up to about 300 words) before I called it quits and said it was time to study for exams. I emailed the teacher and told him that his assignment basically made my son choose between studying for exams or writing his paper. I just don't get it.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Girl Scouts, The Easy Way

My daugher joined a new Girl Scout troop tonite. She has been in GS for four years already, with me as the leader. This year I said no. She is out of elementary school,I don't have time for it, and there weren't many girls left in the troop. I said she could join another troop if we could find one. We did, it is one from my parish. Most of the girls attend or have attended the parish school, but she has met them at service unit activities. I said I'd help, and I registered, but I'M NOT THE LEADER, I DON'T HAVE TO GO TO ALL THE MEETINGS AND I DON'T HAVE TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR GETTING STUFF THERE. I did volunteer to be cookie mom, and we are going camping in a couple of weeks, and I'm going to that. Hey, I know what's fun.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

You are so lucky!

Today I was told how lucky I am. Someone I work with gave birth to her first child, a beautiful little girl, about nine months before I had my baby. Somehow the topic of kids came up and she said "You are so lucky to have been able to have your baby". She is a couple of years younger than I am, but has been told that she is no longer fertile. Interesting food for thought after yesterday's post.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Open to Life?

Sunday was Respect Life Sunday. My pastor is big on life issues and spoke about them, touching on contraception, abortion and care of the elderly among other things. He said that God loves to create human life, but needs the cooperation of husbands and wives. Reflecting on that has gotten me reflecting on my own life recently.

I'm 45 years old, the mother of three, ages 14, 11 and 2. Guess which pregnancies were planned by me, and which one was planned by God? I love my baby dearly and in a lot of ways, I'm glad I have her, but I'd be lying if I said I never thought about how life might have been without her (or if she'd shown up a little closer to the other two). I've always enjoyed babies and my first positive thought when I found out I was pregnant with the baby was that I would get to nurse another baby. However, I told my husband when I had her that while I couldn't promise him I'd never want another baby (he was a lot more attached to the idea of two kids than I was) I could absolutely positively guarantee him that I NEVER wanted to be pregnant again.

What does that have to do with recent life? Well, one of the joys of getting older is that clockwork cycles aren't always clock-like anymore. My cycles had started to get irregular before the baby, and getting tired of waiting them out led to her. Last month we took a chance once, and then my period didn't come, and didn't come, and didn't come--but the second line never showed up on the pregnancy test either. However, I did worry a lot. Couple this with getting some bug that made me nauseous and I was less than happy. The thought of another pregnancy almost had me in tears. One Sunday I was in bed trying sleep off that stomach bug and the phone rang. It was a friend who was calling to tell me that another friend, about my age, who has a son who is 14, was pregnant. I was elated, because I knew my friend had been trying to have a baby for a LONG time. I started wondering why I couldn't be elated at the idea of me having another baby. Unfortunately my friend lost her baby, and fortunately, I've learned that I am defintely NOT pregnant. I just thought it was interesting that those things happened about the same time, and wondered if Someone is trying to tell me something.

Monday, October 02, 2006


There, I've said it. I'm a bad parent, I don't want to put forth the effort necessary to see that my children are well-educated. I'm lazy. I'd rather do so many things in the evening other than supervise homework and studying. However, it seems that some experts don't see me as so bad--they too see a point of diminishing returns on homework.

I'll be the first to admit that if I had given school more effort, I could have done better. I was the classic underachiever--the National Merit finalist who did not graduate with honors from high school, and who every year of high school had a class that kept me from the honor roll. Now, they weren't blow-off classes, but they were certainly classes I could have mastered with more effort. It is difficult to get A's and B's in Latin, Chemistry and Trig without studying or homework, especially if, as was the case with chemistry and trig, I had a lousy teacher. All that being said, I think that had I spent an hour a nite regularly on homework and studying, I would have done fine. My kids however, who leave for school earlier than I did, and get home later, often have much more than an hour of homework, especially my son, who has problems that make homework even more time-consuming than it is for normal kids. While my daughter usually manages to finish hers without a problem, last week she had to finish it on the bus, since religion class cut into homework time. I'd like to find some sort of activity in which to involve my son, but he just doesn't have time after homework most nites. Why so much homwork so often?

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Free Books

Ebooks free for the downloading, along with movies and sheet music. No, you aren't going to find the latest best seller or hot ticket, but you will find old classics and forgotten favorites. usually charges $8.95 per year for access to thier collection, but you can review it for free, and download to your heart's desire, for a month, beginning October 15.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Picking Up Your Cross

Today's Gospel said: He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the gospel will save it.”

What does it mean to "pick up your cross"? Tonite at mass, Fr. said that it means to accept suffering as a part of life and to look to Jesus to get you through it. That seems to be a common thought, but its one I question. Most suffering in life is not something we choose in any sense of the word. Where is the self-denial in accepting what we cannot change? If I get cancer, is that a cross? How is the way I deal with it any differnt from the way a non-Christian (or even anti-religious) person deals with it? Yes, I turn to God in prayer, but at the same time, I'm doing the same things as the other guy--trying to get rid of the cancer. Personally, I don't think things I have no choice about are crosses.

I think a cross is something that will bring me pain if I choose to pick it up--but which I don't have to choose. It is the choice to remain faithful to the Church's teaching on contraception, even if it is difficult for me. It is the choice to carry a handicapped or fatally ill fetus to term, rather than to do the sensible thing and abort. It is the choice to tell my daughter that she can't wear that, even if all the other kids are, because it is immodest. It is the choice to speak up (and be branded a fanatic or prude) when someone is telling dirty or ethnic jokes. It is making the choice not to tell the Islamic captors that I'll pray to Allah. Most of these choices aren't near so dramatic as His cross, nor so painful--but many of them can be very hard for us to make.

Friday, September 15, 2006

My 9/11 Memories

Where was I that September day? I was sitting in the office of the special ed coordinator at my son's school, trying to get some problems resolved. Someone in the office said they heard there had been a plane crash, but I figured "accident--awful, get on with life" and went in to talk to Mr. B. While we were talking, he got a call from home, and was obviously very upset. By the time I got back out to the main office area, the second plane had crashed. I drove to work and listened to the radio. Either during the drive or shortly after getting to the office, the third crash was known. At the office (I work in a high rise building) everyone was crowded around the TV sets and lots of folks were in tears. The office manager said that anyone who thought s/he have trouble working could leave. I had a lot to do and didn't really see the point, so I stayed. Later that day the news came out that our public schools were going to be closed the next day. They said that the schools have a noticable Muslim population and they thought it would be best for everyone if there was a cooling down day.

When I picked up the kids, they had notes saying that the topic had not been discussed at all in school and we were to deal with it as we thought best. I asked my kids why they were getting the next day off, and my daughter replied "because its my birthday", and then said something about getting ready for open house. At that time my kids were in fourth grade and kindergarten, so I just kept the news off TV and didn't say much.

The next day I took the kids to mass. It was the regular day the Catholic school kids in my parish go to mass, and this was the 8th grader's special mass, kind of like a ring mass, but with some other token. The place was packed with folks who aren't usually at such stuff. I remember going to mass that Sunday and the place being packed. The hymns included America the Beautiful, Amazing Grace and Let There Be Peace on Earth and everyone sang. What a shame it takes something like that to pack the churches and get people to sing.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Too Much Parenting?

I've sometimes wondered if kids today are getting too much parenting, and that is one of the subjects de jour on the alumni listserve for my alma mater, Mississippi University for Women. How much should parents be involved in their kids' lives, particularly older kids? I know I had much more independence as a pre-teen and teen than my kids do. When I was my daughter's age, I walked a mile to school every day, and if I didn't show up one day, the teacher expected a note from my mom the next. My daughter's bus stop is 1/2 mile from the house and about six kids get on there. I drive her over there every morning, and as long as there is a crowd of kids there, I'll leave her--but several of the moms stay, and this is a middle school. It is also a magnet school, and on our way to the bus stop we pass the bus stop for the kids who go to the neighborhood school. There are no moms there--and not a huge number of kids. One of the moms at my daughter's bus stop said that when her older kids attended the neighborhood middle and high school they chose to walk, since they could leave later in the morning.

My son's school has a website on which the teachers post lesson plans (including homework) and grades. Parents are urged to check it weekly. When I was in high school my parent's saw my grades at report card time, unless I chose to show them earlier. Now, all schools I know of have interim reports--sort of like report cards that inform the parents half way through the nine weeks if the student is in danger of failing. Information is a good thing, but can you get too much of it? Where do you draw the line between informing parents and making school into the parents' responsibility rather than the students'? I'll be the first to admit that my son's homework is my responsibility. Now, he is mildly autistic, and with that comes organizational issues and attention issues. I'm not sure how much homework he'd get done if I wasn't right on top of him--and I'm paying too much for this school to let him fail. I'm not really sure what "normal" is. My son gets all that help;  my daughter, who was student of the year at her school last year doesn't, but I'm smart enough to know that neither one of them is normal.

The almuni listserve is discussing "helicopter parents"--those who hover over their children, even when those children are in college. I went off to college to be on my own. I loved my parents dearly but I was ready for independence. The college administrators on the listserve talk about college kids still leashed to their parents by cell phones--who still expect their parents to solve their problems. I want to raise kids who can think on their feet and solve their own problems. I love my kids, but I want to put myself out of a job one day.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

My Driving Tour

If you come to New Orleans, you can go on a bus tour that highlights the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina. As I've noted in previous posts, in the western suburb in which I live, life has just about returned to normal. The last hurdle is waiting for FEMA to pick up those trailers people waited so long to acquire. My daily life takes me around this suburb and into the city--but only to the "sliver by the river" that didn't flood. While I periodically have excuse to drive into the more damaged areas of town, they are few and far between, basically because there is nothing going on there. Well, yesterday. Labor Day, I decided to do a driving tour. I drove out West End Blvd. to Robert E. Lee, passing the modular home that was in Saturday's paper. It had a long line of people waiting to tour it. I must say, the house looked like it belonged in Lakeview and in New Orleans. If I was one of those people who had to replace my house, I think modular would be the way to go. The paper said they could have you in your house by Christmas. Considering how much fun I've had getting repair men out here, I think that's almost a miracle. I drove down Robert E. Lee to Paris Avenue, with a few short detours onto the "bird" streets of Lake Vista. That's an area that has levees that protected it from the other levee breaks, so for the most part it didn't flood, or at least not to the extent that the neighboring areas did.

I drove down Paris Avenue through what was a middle class African-American neigbhorhood (Lakeview and Lake Vista are primarily upper class White. It was spooky. There were few trailers, and a lot of the yards were not kept up. Houses were open to the elements. After a year of that, in some ways they looked worse than they did a year ago. No businesses were open. The large Catholic church and school were shuttered, the parishoners have been "clustered" at the parish in Lake Vista. The archbishop did not dissolve many parishes, but clustered quite a few, saying that as the recovery continues needed parishes will be reopened. I suspect Katrina kept the Archbishop from having to make a lot of the kind of decisions that have had to be made in many old Catholic cities--decisions to close inner city churches that once serve large immigrant populations, churches that many people still carry a sentimental attachment to, but churches that serve a fraction of the number of people they were build to serve.

From there I headed "down to Deh Parish" or to use standard English, to St.Bernard Parish, where many of the houses had water up to and over the rooftops. To get there I had to drive through the Ninth Ward, which was the site of one of the levee breaks. The Ninth Ward, I learned through a couple of lawsuits I worked on before Katrina, was a neighborhood of working class folks, mostly African Americans. About 50% of the homes were owner-occupied, often by people who had inherited them. Sometimes those same folks owned a rental or two in the neighborhood. Because these people were not wealthy and because these buildings were not mortgaged, many of them did not have insurance. Most of these houses were nothing to write home about before the storm, now they are in even worse shape. There were some trailers, but some parts of the neighborhood don't have utilities even now.

One thing I have to say is that those folks in St. Bernard have spunk. It is a White blue collar community. In the 1960's and 70's they moved from the Ninth Ward to St. Bernard. Family members lived in close proximity to each other. Everything down there was covered with water for weeks. Most people lost anything they didn't take with them. Yet, I saw more signs of hope there than I did in parts of the city. Many yards had trailers in them. There were several trailer parks full of FEMA (travel) trailers and even a few with real trailers. Home Depot was bustling and some businesses had reopened. Last year their school superintendent said that without schools the people couldn't come back so she was going to reopen the schools whether she had the money to do so or not. They were able to use portable classrooms and the second floor of a high school to open an all-grades school even before Christmas, and before New Orleans managed to open even their undamaged schools. I think St. Bernard will be back, but I'm not so sure about some of the city.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Catholics Don't Do That

We went to mass tonite and our Hispanic deacon gave the homily. He said that not long ago he was visiting a place of business during the course of his busy day. He heard some commotion, some of it in Spanish. By way of background, since Hurricane Katrina about a year ago there has been a large influx of Hispanic workers into the area. Some have regular jobs but a lot do day labor, hanging out in the parking lots of Home Depot or Lowes or at certain gas stations that have come to be known as the place to hire someone for the day. As he speaks both Spanish and English, the deacon thought perhaps he could be of assistance--even though he had a busy schedule that day. The deacon was told that the business was indeed hiring, but all applicants had to go through the agency a couple of miles away. When he told this to the Hispanic man, his wife, who was with him, burst into tears. When the deacon asked what the problem was the couple told him that they didn't have a car and had walked several miles to that business that morning. I guess hearing that they had to walk another few miles to the agency and then, hopefully, back to the business, was just too much for her. The deacon admitted he hesitated, as he had a lot on his schedule that day, but then offered to take them to the agency. The woman thanked him and said "You must be a Christian". He told her than he was and that he was a Catholic deacon. She said "You can't be, Catholics don't do things like that". He said that stung, but admitted that he had considered just going on with his business.

That story got me thinking about the faith-based responses to Katrina. First the Catholic good. The archdiocese did its best to get schools up and running ASAP and welcomed all kids, without regard to ability to pay. Considering that no public schools opened in New Orleans until after Christmas, those schools offered some kids the only way to go to school in their own community. Lots of parishes in other places sent crews down here to gut houses and do other grunt work. Collections were taken up in many places--I know the parish we attended in Atlanta collected over $20,000 one week, and planned to take up another collection the next week. I know that my parents' parish, whose church and school were destroyed by Katrina, have received a lot of out-of-state help. I know that the Catholic social service agencies have provided a lot of help for a lot of people.

Shortly after the storm I read an article about faith-based responses to crises. The article said that typically what happens is that the Baptists and Mormans come in first in small crews with chain saws, brooms shovels etc--things that small local-oriented organizations can handle. Then the mainline Protestant churches come in and set up food kitchens and supply yards--things that take more people and money to coordinate. Last of all, the Catholics come in and set up and run long-term more professional services like agencies dedicated to counseling, home ownership, and the like. We have organization and staying power, but the response, perhaps like our Church, seems more institutional than personal. That couple my deacon met needed a ride then and there, not a subsidized bus system that will last into the future-even though such a bus system would in the long run probably help more people.

Obviously, individual Catholics do much that doesn't involve the Church--the Church didn't know that those people needed a ride; our deacon did, and despite hesitation, responded. Still, I'd say that while our strength is our ability to act collectively, our weakness is our tendency to allow the collective to take over our responsibility to act individually.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Is it Ok to Say "No"

My daughter brought home a note today. It said email....if you want to be a Girl Scout. Five years ago she brought home a similar note, which I dutifully filled out (back in the day of paper forms collected at school)even checking the box that said I would help. I didn't hear anything more from the Girl Scouts that year, but I heard from my daughter who wanted to know why there was Cub Scouts at school but not Girl Scouts. I figured leadership was the problem, so that summer I took the bull by the horns and called the council and volunteered. I got her best friend's mom to be my assistant and we led a troop of almost twenty girls. We had a ball.

The next year, right as school was starting I made a startling discovery--I was pregnant. It was the most miserable of my three pregnancies between the nausea and fatigue that didn't completely go away until almost Christmas and the swelling, itching and insomnia that commenced around March. Still, we had good girls and we had a good time--I even made a camping trip in late February. I hated the idea of quitting, but I knew I couldn't handle a troop and a baby. Luckily, my co-leader agreed to take over, if I'd help.

That fall, my co-leader backed out. She'd help, she'd do camping trips and some of the meetings, but she couldn't be reliable because of problems in her personal life. I had only a small group and decided that we could meet on Saturday mornings and rotate parents to give me the two adults needed. The girls were great, but all those Saturday morning meetings really cut into my free time, and I was having trouble getting parents to show up. By summer I was burned out so we did very little.

The next year our service unit was going to do a Washington DC trip. It was to be the girls' last year at that school and so I decided I'd try to keep the troop together at least a little, mostly because my daughter wanted me to. I said I'd be willing to do SU events and one or two camping trips, with a meeting before each trip, or, if the group wanted to do the WDC trip, I'd be willing to meet monthly and do fund raisers, if I could get a commitment from a mom to be a co-leader. A mom stepped up to the plate. A few hours after that meeting we evacuated for Katrina. When life had returned sufficiently to normal, I found that three of my six girls were no longer in town, nor was the new co-leader. I couldn't get in touch with two more. My daugther, however, wanted Girl Scouts. I decided that I'd try to get a troop going, and recruited at school across all grade levels and put together a troop that included one Daisy, several Brownies and several Juniors. Basically we did activities from the Brownie Try-It book using the Juniors as assistant leaders to earn their leadership badges. They had a good time, but again I had trouble getting help and attendance became a problem. I was glad when the year ended and though we did a few things this summer, I can't say that I had all that much fun.

My daughter enjoys Girl Scouts, and I think the shame of the program is that it doesn't manage to hold on to girls long enough for them to get into so many of the wonderful opportunities it can afford older girls. Yet, I'm tired of being the leader. I don't mind helping, but with a toddler and a high school freshman besides her, I don't have time to meet regularly. I'm tired of scheduling away my free time only to have no one (or practically no one) show up. Yet, she wants to be a Girl Scout. Is it ok for me to say "no" to leadership, and her to say "yes" to membership?

Has Life Changed?

Right now, here in the New Orleans area, it is time to look back and reflect, as it is the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The paper today was full of articles about how different parts of town are recovering (or not) from the storm, and about people's plans for the future as well as the losses they are mourning. I started to reflect on how life has changed for me and mine.

We are fortunate. We are living in our house with our stuff, all of which was untouched by Katrina. Our kids are in the same schools they would have been in if Katrina. My husband and I are working the same places we were before the storm. In other ways, life has changed. There was a huge line at the courthouse today of people filing Katrina claims. My husband was hired to be a salesman, but since it is hard to find help and since they can't sell what they can't deliver, he spends part of the week driving a delivery truck. Two of my daughter's good friends did not return after the storm. I am working on several Katrina cases, and I'm sure a lot more are on the way. Macys hasn't reopened in our mall. The doctor's office is packed. There are "for sale" signs on houses on almost every street in my subdivision--and they aren't going down quickly. I wonder if Katrina is the reason my son's school won't have a bus this year. The bus driver said only two kids signed up, and of course he can't afford to run a bus for so few. Whenever a hurricane forms we are all glued to our TVs or computers, checking the path several times a day and discussing evacuation plans. I think our sense of safety has been shattered, we aren't sure things will be ok. I know we will all be glad when hurricane season is over.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Year Later

The big topic around here is "Katrina, One Year Later". It was a Saturday morning when we woke up and found she was heading our way. I had a Girl Scout meeting scheduled that morning, and my daughter's birthday party was supposed to be that afternoon. I didn't figure anyone would show up for the GS meeting, but since I was the leader, and called the meeting, I felt obligated to show up. All the girls came and we had a two hour meeting. On the way home, I told my daughter that we ought to go by the club and see if it was open. Of course it was not, so I told her she had a choice--we could have the party that day at the house and the kids could play in the hose, or we could wait until the next weekend and have it at the pool as planned. She decided she wanted to do it that afternoon, which was fine with me, since we had decided to leave, but late, so the baby would be sleeping. About eight kids showed up for the party and a good time was had by all. In the middle of it, my brother called. He lives behind my parents in Mississippi and wanted to know if we could stop and pick up my parents on our way to my sister's in Atlanta. Of course we said yes. My parents had never evacuated for a storm before--their house was fine during Camille in 1969, so they just hunkered down for a few days without power. This time however, my mom was on oxygen and chronically/terminally ill and she wanted out. We picked them up about six and headed toward Atlanta. We spent the night outside of Montgomery and got to Atlanta Sunday afternoon.

Monday we took the kids to the zoo in Atlanta and saw, among other things, the pandas. It was a dismal drizzly day, and since school had started, the zoo was practically empty. We got back to my sister's and watched hurricane coverage and worried. When we finally heard from my brother, we found that my parent's house had two feet of water in it. It took over 24 hours before we heard from my brother and sister-in-law who chose to ride it out in thier home in Bay St. Louis and ended up with four feet of water in thier house. We looked at the TV shots from New Orleans and figured that life as we knew it had come to an end. We set about enrolling the kids in school and trying to figure out where we went from there.

We were lucky. My husband heard that they were allowing people to return to our area to "look and leave" on Labor Day. He headed to Baton Rouge and spent Sunday nite at a friend's house (along with 14 other people). Our first good news was when he got home and found that we had no water in our house. That same weekend I found that our firm had opened an office in Baton Rouge and that I had a job. We knew we'd be going home sooner rather than later.

There have been a lot of articles in the paper about how things have changed. We are lucky--by October my kids were back in their schools, my husband and I were back at our jobs and the baby was at her sitter's. Our house is fine and in a lot of ways, for the last few months things haven't been that different from before the storm. Yet, in other ways they are different. We haven't been to be beach at Grandpa's (Grandma passed away in March) because of the debris in the water. Our damage (minor thought it was) is mostly not repaired because of the expense and the difficulty scheduling workmen. I'm working on a Katrina case at work that has changed the client's life forever. People we know have moved and will probably never return. Our neighborhood is dotted with FEMA trailers (not everyone was as lucky as we were).

Now Earnesto is in the Gulf. Our Lady of Prompt Succor pray for us that we may be spared loss of life and property this hurricane season.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Where They Learn

I've read many times that one reason the mainstream media makes such mistakes reporting religious news is that many members of it are not themselves religious. So, where do they get information regarding the religions on which they report? According to Resource Shelf, they get some of it at It's an interesting place to surf.

Kids' Books and Our Reaction

Elena over at My Domestic Church commented about the book The Midwife's Apprentice and about how thought she enjoyed it, as did her sons, some Catholic groups are highly opposed to it. This brought to mind a book my son had to read this summer A Secret History by Procopius, a famous historian from the time of the emperor, Justinian. Evidently Procopius wrote a multi-volume history of his time focusing on the glories of Justinian. A Secret History tells, as Paul Harvey would say "the rest of the story". Basically it describes Justinian, famous for his Code, as a man who changed the laws whenever it suited him. It describes his wife as a harlot and indicates that both of them engaged in homosexual acts mentions other "unnatural" acts as well.

My son is on the immature and sexually innocent side. He has decided that he isn't getting married because he doesn't want to have to kiss on the lips. I was reading the book a chapter ahead of him, to make sure he understood what he was reading and of course he didn't understand the sexual references. As I was explaining them, one part of me was wondering why in the world a Catholic school would be assigning such stuff to the kids. I was seriously considering calling and complaining. As a I formulating my objection--I've found you get further with most people with calm, reasoned questions and/or objections than what you do with hysterical "how can you do that to my kid" remarks--I realized that in no way were those acts glorified in this book, but rather they were further proof of the evil of these people. I also realized that most kids his age would know what they were talking about, and that for us, it let me be the one to tell him that some people did that stuff, and that it was as wrong as what it sounded. I decided not to call the school.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Vacation photos

Down by the Old Schoolhouse

Kids on the sofa at our cabin Mom and kids on porch

Dad and kids on porch

Beautiful Country

Enjoying Ice Cream at Obergatlinburg

Mom and the kids at Newfound Gap

Friday, August 04, 2006

Book Review: Unveiled

Unveiled The Hidden Life of Nuns by Cheryl Reed was part of my vacation reading. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've always had a fascination about what goes on behind convent walls, and when I ran across this at the library (with a copyright of 2004 rather than 1964) I grabbed it.

Cheryl Reed is a journalist raised as a Fundamentalist Protestant who flirted with Catholicism before rejecting it and its teaching on the hierarchy and birth control in favor of Orthodoxy. She spent five years visiting a variety of women's religious communities throughout the country and writes about her experiences and impressions.

She begins her journey in a Benedictine monastery in Minnesota where she meets both a nun who wears the traditional habit and keeps her hair in a crew cut and a feminist who says that she doesn't know if she would remain Catholic if she wasn't a Benedictine. Another community she visited was the Passionists. She noted that they still shave their heads and that they use the discipline (of DaVinci Code fame.)Some of her comments about them and their penitential practices indicate that she doesn't understand Catholic teaching about penance and indulgences.

She discusses the habit and I found this quote best summed up her attitude: "But to me it [the habit] signified total obedience, and aspect of religious life I was having trouble accepting. The orders that retain the habit seemed to require complete devotion to Church practices and theology and there didn't seem to be room for questioning and debate." She seems more impressed with sisters like one in Chicago who runs a shelter for women and children who around 1980 (remember, this book was probably researched in the late 1990's) stopped going to mass, unless it was a celebration with her community, or she was with her parents. Sorry, but I just don't "get" a nun who doesn't go to mass at least weekly. I have to say though that even she wondered if the Benedictines in Ferdinand Indiana were doing the right thing in creating a "summer camp" atmosphere for their vocation retreats and so carefully crafting the image they presented to the press (including her).

Using illustrations from the lives of sisters, she talks about the meaning of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to today's religious women. While she clearly is impressed by those who embrace material poverty to serve the poor, she also admits it isn't the lifestyle for her. She seems far more impressed with those who see the vow of obedience to be obedience to the will of God (as interpreted by the sister in question) than she does by those who see it as obedience to superiors and the Church.

She ends the book comparing two groups--a group of women who renounced their vows and broke away from the IMH Community in California and formed their own community which includes men and families (and lesbians in relationships) and the sisters who stayed in the community. The breakaway group welcomed her and she admitted that if they were closer to her home, she'd consider joining. The group who remained did not, and she described them as a bunch of old women waiting to die. She concludes that the future of religious life is with groups like the breakaway group, rather than with traditional religious communities. Frankly, I find it funny that she can't see why so many of these groups are having trouble finding recruits. She admits that some traditional habited communities were attracting young women, but just can't admit that they might be on to something. As I said on Amy Welborn's blog today, why would a young woman who loves the Church want to join a group of women who don't go to mass, who see the hierarchy as oppressive, or who practice Buddhism and Goddess worship (yup, she mentioned nuns that did)? Why would a young woman who doesn't go to mass, who sees the hierarchy as oppressive, or who practices Buddhism or goddess worship want to spend her life in a Catholic religious community?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Book Review: De-Coding Mary Magdalene

I mentioned in the previous post that I read the blog of Amy Welborn, a Catholic author. Several of Amy's recent books were written in reaction to Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code. I recently read one, Decoding Mary Magdalene. I have to hand it to Amy. She has done a terriffic job of balancing readability, scholarly credibility (she lets you know the source of her quotes and ideas without microscopic footnotes) and spirituality. Her background as a teacher comes through when she ends each chaper with reflection questions. She takes on the modern thesis that Mary Magdalene was made into a whore by the Church so as to lessen her importance to early Christians and points out that in the middle ages, no saint had a bigger following than she did, except for the Blessed Mother.

I have to say though, that reading The DaVinci Code was more fun--kind of like comparing the well-balanced, low-fat, high fiber meal with the chocolate cake. One is good for you; the other has its place and can be more pleasurable.

Blogs I Read: Open Book

Yes, I'm one of Amy Welborn's fans too. For those who haven't read her blog, Open Book, Amy is a writer of Catholic books (I believe all non-fiction at this point) and the keep of a blog that is generally updated several times daily. She comments primarily on news, both Catholic and secular, but thows in enough about her family and life to make it somewhat personal too. She has a large following of regular readers who regularly fill her comments boxes. If you aren't familiar with her, take a look.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Our Vacation

We spent last week in Gatlinburg TN. We left home Saturday morning and drove as far as Gasden AL. After checking into our hotel we headed for mass at St. James, which turned out to be a lovely old church in the downtown area. Unfortunately, they didn't have a nursery at that mass, and the baby isn't used to going to mass, so I spent most of the mass in the narthax with her. The little I heard of Father's homily talked about vacation as a time to relax and reflect--kind of appropriate for a family starting vacation.

Sunday morning we got to our house in Gatlinburg. We stayed in Camillia Cottage which was WAY up the mountain. Unfortunately, our only view was of trees--we were across the street from the people with the views off the mountain. It was a comfortable place for the family to relax though. The baby (actually toddler) loved the hot tub and the jacuzzi tub. The big kids loved the cable TV (Mom and Dad don't think we need that at home so gettting to watch it is a favorite part of most vacations).

Monday we went into Smokey Mountain National Park and hiked up to Laurel Falls. It's about a mile each way, and paved, but up is slightly uphill, something this out-of-shape flatlander isn't used to. The falls were pretty, but there were lots of people there and on the path up. After eating lunch in town my oldest daughter and I perused the crafts at the convention center. The whole family then headed for Obergatlinburg in an overhead tram car. Once we got there we did the usual round of rides. There was a large waterslide you went down on a raft. My husband took the baby and she loved it, so I took a turn too. Let's just say we got ired before she did.

Tuesday we went to Dollywood. It was packed with people and we didn't get there until after 10:00 a.m. so we spent a lot of time waiting in line. We did see a couple of shows we liked but mostly what we remembered about Tuesday was the crowds.

Wednesday we went to the affiliated water park--Splash Country. Again, there were too many people there. We didn't get there until almost 2 p.m., since we spent the morning driving up to Newfound Pass and then to the highest point in the park--Klingman's Dome where you take a 1/2 mile hike almost straight up to get to an observation tower. The views were worth it, and once I get a high-speed connection, a cooperative computer and some time, I'll post some since none of those I tried to post via dial up made it.

Thursday we headed back to Dollywood, which because of rain and threatened rain, was much emptier than it was Tuesday. We were able to ride pretty much at will, which made for a much more pleasant day.

Friday we headed for home, but instead of going through Knoxville as we did on the way up, we drove throught the park to Maryville. We drove past a waterfall that was visable from roadside and drove a one lane road back to an old schoolhouse and cemetary. The inside of that schoolhouse was so dark--but I guess in the days before electric lights people must have been used to things being darker. Unfortunately, when we got to Maryville, we realized my purse was back at the cabin. Fortunately, it was still there when we got back. Unfortunately, it meant we spent an extra two hours in the car that day.

We had a great time and I'd recommend Gatlinburg to any family looking for a vacation spot.

Monday, July 17, 2006

All Sort of Useful (or Fun) Links

As I've mentioned before, research is fun!! Here is a list of links to all sorts of things you didn't realize you could find online (and some you did). You can search podcasts, find out if it rained on your birthday last year, or research your current disease. Go ahead, click, you are bound to find something interesting!

Blogs I Read: Nunblog

When I was a kid I wanted to be a nun. Actually, I thought it would be easier to learn to like church than to learn to like boys. I entertained the notion for quite some time, and in another era, may even have given it a whirl, but I came of age during an era when "no one" was doing that and I was teased when I was seen reading Katherine Hulme's The Nun's Story. I went off to college, started dating and decided that boys weren't so bad after all. Eventually I even married one (and let him do all that stuff to me--which resulted in three beautiful children). Even so, I have continued to be curious about religious life, especially in those communities that really seem to be "nuns" rather than just a bunch of old women living together. Nunblog is by one such sister. She's a Daughter of St. Paul and is from New Orleans. Her posts give some insight into life behind the convent gates and into a woman who lives it.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Blogs I Read: My Domestic Church

One thing about a blank screen is that you have to come up with something about which to write. I've decided that one topic about which I will write is the blogs I read. The first blog I regularly read was one by someone with whom I used to debate (sometimes on her side, sometimes not) on AOL's message boards. Eleana (or Elljazz as she was known back then) writes My Domestic Church which runs a gamut of topics primarily relating to her family, pro-life issues and homeschooling. We are both Catholic, and both had babies late in life (her more so than me--if memory serves me she was 46 when she had her last baby--who is still young enough that I wouldn't say yet that she's the last) but other than that we have little in common. She's the homeschooling mom of many; I'm the working mom of three. She prefers homebirths; I like epidurals. Even with our differences, I will say one thing--she's smart. I may not always agree with what she says, but she doesn't spout unsupported garbage as fact. She has a lovely family so drop by her blog and meet her and them.

Questions about Catholicism

I'm Glad You Asked is from the website of a Bible Belt Catholic church and gives the answers to questions frequently asked about the Catholic faith. It is clear, concise and well written.

Choo Choo Round Two

When my 14 year old son was three or four he got the first parts to a wooden train set. We bought a Sesame Street set because it was relatively inexpensive, and a couple of "Thomas the Tank Engine" pieces because that's what he wanted. Over the years, until he was seven or eight, adding to that set was a regular source of rewards, Christmas presents and birthday gifts. My guess is that by the time we were done, we had almost $500.00 in trains, tracks and other pieces. I will say though that they were played with, a lot. When we were cleaning up two years ago getting ready for the baby, the trains went in the attic.

Friday night I took the kids to the bookstore, and they had a train table, that the baby loved. She hated to leave it. Saturday, I sent my 14 year old up in the attic for the train set. Today we have been playing choo choo.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Mass at the Skating Rink

Saturday I went to mass at the skating rink. No, they didn't have couple skate or do the limbo-I guess the skates were retired some time ago. I went to mass at St. Thomas in Long Beach, Mississippi, where the "new" church, put up after Hurricane Camille destroyed the "old" church in 1969, was destroyed (at least the bottom 20 feet of it) by Hurricane Katrina. The Knights of Columbus had been looking for a new hall and right after the Hurricane, purchased the old skating rink in town. The renovated it into a combination church and school, and brought in portable classrooms for more space. It was interesting. The had carpeted the floor and some church somewhere else had donated pews, so those had been put in recently. The altar also appeared to have been a donation. The tabernacle appeared to me to be what was in the church--but it's been a while. There were two sets of Stations of the Cross. One set was obviously made by the school children and was made of laminated construction paper. The other was some sort of metal and was probably donated by some parish that no longer needed them. They had cubicle dividers (you know, the things used in offices to make temporary walls) blocking and making a path to the bathroom (which was on the same wall as the sanctuary). I don't know the cost for the set-up but it was all done in a few months and even if they had bought everything new (which they didn't) I doubt the cost would come close to the over $1,000,000 they are looking at to replace the church. The bishop has yet to decide whether the parish will be rebuilt on the beach, where it has been for over 100 years, or if it will move inland. He has decided that the school will move inland, and to the next town over, to be combined with another school.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Same Name and Then Some

I like to peruse to blogs listed on the Catholic Blog Directory and recently found one I really like--and the author has so much in common with me it is almost freaky. The Maternal Optimist and I share a first name, our middle names are the same, but spelled differently. We both have family roots in Wisconsin, but live in the South. We both work in the legal field. We are both Catholic, both have three kids and have both recently lost a parent.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Guess who I saw today?

Many years ago I was a schoolteacher. I like to say that I spent four years of college knowing I wanted to be a teacher (and refusing to listen to the incredulity in people's voices when they found out that was my major)and my first two years out of college learning that was not my calling. The second year I taught I had a student named "W". As I was walking down the hall the first day of school, one of the other teachers said "I see you got "W" this year"--and it wasn't like I was lucky to have him. "W" had spent two years in first grade and was in his second year of second grade--and for all practical purposes he couldn't read. As would be expected of a child who was that far behind, he was a behavior problem; yet there was some goodness there that always struck me--and maybe I related to him because I too was struggling to do something at which I was not succeeding. I taught a lot of kids those years, but the only one I can say I've ever had a real interest in meeting again and seeing how he was doing was "W". Today I got my chance.

Quite a few times this last school year I've seen a school bus with "W"'s first initial and last name on it. The school busses here are owned by the drivers and their names are on them. I've wondered if that was him. Today as I was returning to my office from lunch, I saw W's bus turn into a gas station. I entered it as well, and went over to speak to him. Yes, he was my "W". I told him that I was glad to see that he had made it in life, and that he was one of the few kids I remembered, because he was such a nice kid. He said that besides driving the school bus he also owned a limo service and that God had blessed him with everything he needed. He said that now all he needed was a wife--that he hadn't had children yet because it wasn't right to have them and not be there for them.

I didn't ask him what he remembered of me. I do remember that we mailed out report cards that year and that I wrote letters to all the kids and put them in those envelopes. I wrote "W" a long letter, basically telling him he was good and congratulating him on what he did well. A friend I worked with told me that on the first day of school the next year he came looking for me, and was not happy not to find me there. There were times this overwhelmed young teacher was probably less than kind to that overwhelmed child so I hope his memories of me are not horrible. He was pleasant to me today, and seeing him made my day.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The DaVinci Code

Ok, everyone else it seems has said their two cents worth about the book or movie, now it is my turn. I just finished the book and found it to be an enjoyable page-turner. It held my interest, even though, as I often do when reading books like that, I had already checked the last chapter to make sure everyone survived. I will also say that I generally prefer reading bodice-buster romances to classic literature. I have always loved to read but generally did not enjoy literature classes at school--or many of the books we were assigned to read.

But what about what it has to say about the Church? If you haven't read it, basically the premise of the book is that Jesus and Mary Magedelean were married and had a child--a child who has descendents living today in France. The "Holy Grail" is Mary Magedelean and some papers buried with her which basically show that Jesus was a feminist, that he meant for MM to be the head of the Church, not Peter. They say that Constantine, who was a pagan, decided to make Christianity the religion of the empire and basically merged pagan and Christain symbols and beliefs, and got rid of "the sacred feminine" turning Christianity into a male-dominated religion rather than one that honored the life-giving woman. Of course the Church is threatened by these and doesn't want them revealed.

The book starts with a murder in the Lourve, a murder that takes place in such a way that the victim has about 15 minutes to get a message to someone. He uses an elaborate code based on the works of DaVinci as interpreted by Dan Brown, to lead his grandaughter to the Grail. The book ends with everything wrapped up neatly and happily. That's the ending I like. As far as what the book says or doesn't say about the Church--well, I don't believe it is true, so I just enjoyed the book as fiction and let the "lies" go.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Required Reading

I love to read, I have always loved to read. If anything I spend too much time reading. Why is it then that I find so many books on required reading lists to be odious? My son is required to read two books this summer. Unfortunately, right now we aren't 100% sure which two books those are. His high school has four tracks. The summer reading list we got shows that she should be reading the books for a particular track--but his admission to that school was conditioned on him attending their summer program--a program in which they are supposed to read one of their summer reading books. However, the book they are reading is for a different track than the one assigned through the mail. When I called the school I was told that a determination of the track on which he will be placed will be made following the summer program.

Right now he is reading Whirlygig which he says is ok. If he moves up to the next track, he will have to read A Lesson Before Dying, which doesn't sound real exciting to me. Are these books supposed to make the kids love to read? Who decides that these are "good" books anyway?

For Social Studies, he may have to read Secret History by Procopius. At least it is short--I checked it out tonite so that I'll have it read before he starts. I love to read, I love history and this doesn't hold any attraction to me. Surely there is something out there that the kids would enjoy more and that would teach them about the ancient world.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Breast is Best?

If you want my opinion on this topic, let me tell you that I'm a working mom who has nursed three kids past a year, two who never used up the free formula from the hospital--one of whom is still nursing at 25 months. Of course I think breast is best, and I can't for the life of me figure out why some moms go into the hospital having decided to bottle feed their babies from day one. I have so enjoyed nursing mine that I feel as sorry for the moms as for the babies. By the time number three arrived I had pretty much decided that the baby was going to eat where she wanted when she wanted and if other people had a problem with it--it was their problem not mine.

All that being said, I'm leery of the move to guilt moms into breastfeeding. Educate them yes, but while breast is best when all things are equal, things are rarely equal. Sometimes milk production is low (perhaps because of a problem with mom, or perhaps because of problems with the baby's suck--which is what I think happened with my son)and mom doesn't need someone trying to tell her she's a failre when she feeds her baby. Much as some online would like to portray working moms as self-centered materialistic hedonists who care more for their BMW's and fancy vacations than for their children, most working moms I know are working to pay house notes on moderate houses, grocery bills and to provide health insurance for their families. I'm fortunate to have a job and work enviornment conduceive to breastfeeding, but for many workers an office with a door that locks, or the ability to get away for 15 minutes in the morning and afternoon are nothing but a dream. I say let your baby enjoy the mom he or she has; don't make both of you miserable because you can't be the mom someone else thinks you should be.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Declare a Fast

In the Old Testament people saw misfortune as a sign of God's displeasure. Some people see that even today. Others, like me, see it as a result of original sin, but not necessarily as God being displeased about anything in particular. However, I do believe that prayers can either keep misfortune away or help us through it. As noted elsewhere on this blog, a major misfortune in this area has been Hurricane Katrina. Well, as everyone on the Gulf Coast knows, hurricane season started again today. We all know that bad storms aren't likely until later in the summer but with all the FEMA trailers and debris about, even "small' hurricanes sound scary--and the forecasters are saying we are the city most likely to get hit this year. With all this in mind Archbishop Hughes has declared a fast this Friday. He has asked that we follow the fasting and abstinence rules for Ash Wed/Good Friday and pray for safety from storms this year. Want to join us?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Is it ok to take when nursing?

I have spent the last two years as a nursing mom, and the first words out of my mouth when the doctor said she was going to prescribe medication for me have been "Remember, I'm nursing the baby". Still, its nice to know there is an on-line reference on which to check drugs to see if they are safe for nursing moms:

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mothers' Day Musing

Mother's Day has never been a real big deal in our family. The kids give me a card, my husband gives me a gift card and then it is Sunday as normal. There have been a few abnormal Mothers' Days. In 1992 I was sitting in the 9:00 a.m. mass when I started to have contractions. Not really understanding exactly what they were, since they didn't really hurt, but not wanting to have anything embarrassing happen, I told my husband that we were leaving. An couple of hours later we went to the hospital. At 10:30 that night, an emergency c-section was performed, making me a mother--on Mothers' Day. Another that stands out was two years ago. My baby was born Thursday afternoon, and we came home Saturday afternoon. Mothers' Day I felt fine and was scheduled to lector, so we went to mass. Our parish has a tradition of giving flowers to a selection of moms on Mothers' Day, usually including the oldest mom, the mom with the most kids and the mom with the newest baby. Guess who got a flower that year? Everyone was amazed that I was at mass so soon, but frankly I felt better that day than I had a week before. Today was another memorable Mothers' Day, but for a much sadder reason. It was my first Mothers' Day without my mom. She died the Thursday after Ash Wednesday. Most of the time I can say it was a blessing when death finally came, but there are times when I miss her so much. I was crying in church today when I thought of her celebrating Mothers' Day in heaven.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

My "new" rug

I now have a Turkish rug in my den. The main area has a red background and the pattern is mainly shades of blue. My parents got the rug when we were in Turkey in the late 1960's. At that time they bought one for each of us four kids, one for each of their parents and one for them to keep. At the time of Katrina, all seven we in their house and got wet. Those that were being used got hung up to dry and were ok, but there were a couple rolled up in the closet that were not noticed for some time. They haven't been thrown away yet, but I suspect they will be, including the one I've always wanted.

I was at my Dad's yesterday and he told me that I should take one of the Turkish rugs home with me. I knew the one I wanted, it was the only silk one in the bunch, and when it was new it had a sheen to it that the others did not. While the others had geometric patterns, that one looked like the entrance to mosque or other building, that curved arch with a lamp hanging down. Another wonderful feature of that rug is that it was the one they gave to my paternal grandmother, someone for whom I have always had a special fondness. She died when I was almost 10, about 18 months after we got back to the US. Unfortunately, that rug was one of those that didn't get hung up and it was in less than wonderful shape. My daughter was not impressed, and I asked her which one we should take. She picked out the one we have, so I said we'd take it. It looks nice with the furniture in the den.

My dad also pulled out my mom's jewelry box and asked me if I wanted to take any of it. Well, one trait I inherited from my mom is that neither one of us really wears jewelery all that often, so when I looked at all that stuff I really didn't see anything that said "Mom" to me, nor was there anything I was dying to wear, so I passed on all of it. Dad mentioned her wedding rings, but I told him that I had my paternal grandmother's rings, so I thought my sister should have firt crack at Mom's. He said he'd ask her, but said that since I had two girls, if she didn't want them, I should take them.

Dad is starting to clear out stuff, and I'm starting to think about how much of it I want. Compared to a lot of people, he and my mom didn't have all that much irreplaceable stuff. There aren't any antique sideboards or valuable original paintings. Basically, if he died tomorrow, there would be a house full of used furniture, not a lot for the kids to squabble over. However, there are the Turkish rugs, some brass pieces they picked up in Turkey, Mom's and Grandma's silver flatware, Mom's and Grandma's china, Mom's Lenox Nativity set, Mom's crystal, and a few other things like that. I'm not willing to fight my sibs for any of it, though I'm not sure how much of it any of them would want. I'd hate for any of those things to end up at a garage sale, but I'm not a big fan of clutter either. How much of that kind of stuff do you hang onto?

View My Stats