Monday, September 30, 2013

My first VLOG: Sin and the Baptismal Garment

I have been meaning to do this for so long, and so today I just jumped in with two feet and recorded a lesson that I did with my kids. We added some silly graphics and words to explain and here it is.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

7QT: Out of Sync and a Link (or two)

So, instead of saving my pretty, happy, funny and real pictures from the Convent Blessing, and using them for {phfr} at Like Mother, Like Daughter, I used them on Tuesday. Instead of doing a What We're Reading Wednesday I wrote about our book on Thursday. I totally skipped 7QT Friday, but I have at least a few quick takes to do this morning.

In keeping with my Out Of Sync Week, here is my version of 7 Quick Takes for A Saturday Morning.

1: Nick Names
I promised to explain about Sister Joseph Andrew's nick name "Sister Bone Breaker". Don't worry, it wasn't very widely known or used. But it was very apt.

Sister Joseph Andrew is front and center.
Back in the day--when I was single and living in Ann Arbor and Sister was after me to attend a discernment retreat and I was hedging and making excuses, I thought I had the prefect excuse. My friend Laurie was coming to visit. She would be flying in the day the retreat was to begin. Sr. Joseph Andrew slyly offered to pray that, if it was God's will, I would be able to attend the retreat. I smugly assumed God's will had already been decided.

When the day of the retreat arrived, I get a call from Laurie. She is at the airport and her flight has been delayed due to frost--or it may have been diverted--but anyway, after an hour or two of hemming and hawing and multiple phone calls she decided to stay home that weekend.


I HAD to go to the retreat.

When I showed up and told Sister Joseph Andrew she smiled knowingly, and told me she had another girl coming who had the same excuse as me only her friend BROKE HER ARM and couldn't come to visit.

So, the other girl---don't know who she was---and I were both prayed into the discernment retreat by a Sister whose prayers were, apparently, so powerful they could stop air travel AND break bones.

2: Link #1
I found the following link at Conversion Diary and was moved by the blogger's story. You will be too. I promise: I'm no theologian.

3: Link #2
Here is a humorous, and mostly accurate, explanation of the entitled generation of young people trying to flood the job market these days: Generation-y-unhappy.

4: Safety Moment
At work, Jim and his co-workers have what they call "Safety Moments". In the oil industry, not paying attention to safety can cost lots of money, and more importantly, it can cost lives. So they are interested in making sure everyone, across the business is safety minded. A "Safety Moment" is when a presenter at a meeting shares some story of safety--or un-safety--to inspire folks to pay attention.

The most common safety reminder in our house is to "hold onto the railing while going up or down stairs". We are always after the kids, especially when they are toting toys from one floor to the other with no free hand to hold on with. So, yesterday morning, 7yo A was on her way down stairs, with a stuffed animal in one hand and the letter that the stuffed animal had written in the other, when she apparently missed the first step. We heard the sound and it was scary. According to her story, she feel from the top to the first landing, about 10 steps.

Being prone to drama, her crying was LOUD and it took a few minutes to be sure there was nothing seriously wrong. We quickly narrowed down the pain to her ankle and she was moved to the couch to rest. By the afternoon we were pretty sure we had at least a good sprain so we headed to the local Walk-in Clinic---make sure you walk, don't run, 'cause you'll be waiting awhile anyway.

After hours of waiting and a few minutes with a doctor in one office and an x-ray technician in another location, we had the diagnosis: sprain. Cure: off load the ankle for two weeks.

A was a trooper until she heard she needed crutches. For some reason that induced lots of weepy objections. When she had calmed down I was able to get an explanation out of her: "When I picture myself in crutches I just don't like it."

I don't think it is a vanity thing, I think it is a fear thing--it makes her feel like something is wrong and she is worried about that.

We haven't gotten any crutches yet, but the plan is to find some today. I don't think I can carry her everyplace all week, so we will persevere in the search for a mobility assist.

7: No, I didn't skip 5 and 6. Check my math below.

Since #1 and #4 were so long I will count them each as two. So that makes....let me count two plus one more, plus another, plus two more is six. So this is seven.

Quick take #7 is just to say that I will belatedly link to Jen over at Conversion Diary. And, though I don't want to be a weird fan-girl or anything, I just have to say I spotted Jen at the Convent Blessing, though she left before I could go over and ask for her autograph.

No--I would really do that. But, I may have introduced myself if I had a chance---or any guts. Instead I stared and pointed.

Yah. Weird, huh?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride Finally Makes Sense

I grew up in Southern California where a trip to Disneyland was pretty much expected to be an annual thing. For us it was more like every 5 years, but that still meant that I went often enough to have favorite rides and lots of different memories. One of the favorites was called "Mr. Toads Wild Ride" and it was a very low tech ride (in fact it is one of the original rides from 1955) in a two man car that went along a track through various scenes and doors that would magically open before you just short of crashing into them. 

In case you never get the pleasure of taking this ride, here is a video version I found. Enjoy:

Thanks to Auntie Leila, I finally get---forty years later--this favorite Disneyland ride from childhood. Why did I love it so much when I didn't really get it? I vaguely remember attempting to read The Wind in the Willows when I was a kid and I just didn't get very far. 

We have been listening to the wonderful book since Auntie Leila wrote about it a few weeks ago. I am glad we chose an audio version because the language is so beautiful and I have enjoyed listening to it as much, or more, than the kids. 

We tend to avoid animal books in this house because we really feel they tend to blur the lines between the dignity of the human person and the place of animals in creation. 

But I have noticed a distinction between the animals-are-like-humans stories (in video or book form) of today and the human-like creatures who happen to be animals in books like the Narnia series and The Wind in the Willows. 

If you take for example, the Lion King movie, you find animals in their natural habitat doing everything that animals do naturally, except we have added speech, feelings, virtues, and even vice that don't apply to animals. This often ends up elevating animals to creatures at least as important in creation as humans. While animals are entrusted to the care…and USE…of humans, they do not share their dignity. Humans are the only creatures made for their own sake---so that they might attain eternal life. All the rest of creation is made to serve the ends of mankind.

Now take a story like The Wind in the Willows. Here you find animals who dress like people, live in houses like people, drive cars, have money, and relate to each other like people. They just happen to have some animal characteristics---the mole prefers to live underground, though he is learning to enjoy the life of the river rat. The toad has very little of toad-ness about him, except his looks. These talking animals interact with  people as if they were all the same. Toad is arrested and helped to escape all by people. In this particular book they also happen to have names that identify them as animals. 

In the Narnia books there is a distinction between "talking animals" and the more ordinary animals that are considered "dumb brutes". Thus it is horribly immoral to tie a bunch of talking horses to a heavy load and force them to pull it. That is akin to slavery. If they had been "dumb brutes", well then, all is okay. The talking animals, for their part, live much like their human counter parts.

This way of using animals in stories gives the story a feel of a parable or fable and helps to bring about a message about behavior--good or bad---without the added confusion and complexity of persons. You can make generalizations about animals without offending or confusing people. 

The Lion King version* of the animal world is the one that leads to what we have today---a world in which dog's sit in strollers and babies are aborted.  

*I am NOT saying that The Lion King leads to being in favor of abortion. I AM saying that the train of thought that attributes too much dignity to animals also tends to devalue persons. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Me and The Sisters

I have finally gotten the pictures off of Jim's phone and can now share our great weekend. 

So, this past Saturday we had the great pleasure of visiting some old friends who were in the Austin area for a very special event. 
The Kennedy family with Sr. Joseph Andrew (sitting in front) and Sr. Philip John.

Back in the day (about 1998), before husband and children, after studying at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I interviewed for a job as a DRE (director of Religious Education) for a group of small private (not diocesan) Catholic Schools run by a new order of Dominican sisters. 

They were living in a house in the area called Domino's Farms where the headquarters of Dominos Pizza was located, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was living in Steubenville at the time and so I had to drive out to Ann Arbor for the interview. I remember that I rented a car…a very tiny, red car…because my old Honda was not up to the long drive. 

My interview was really a whole weekend. I stayed in a little house that was down the road from the sisters. Sister John Dominic took me around to the school (the second one was in the process of being built). I remember clearly visiting the convent (it was temporary since the Motherhouse was also being built) and seeing the sisters heading to and from their little living room chapel. I sat in Mother Assumpta's office and we talked about expectations and what the job entailed. I was so nervous. I wasn't sure what God was doing with me at this point. Was He going to call me to religious life? Was Ann Arbor going to be my home? 

I was offered the job and I accepted, and so began my friendship with The Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. I can count the four founders among the people who greatly influenced my Faith, my life, my future. I have been friends with several of the sisters since before they answered their call to religious life. Oh, I have stories (about Sister Ave Maria and Sister Philip John mostly). After spending about three years working with and for the Sisters I met Jim, we married and moved to California, and the rest is history. 
Me and D with Sr. Ave Maria. 
In our first year or two of marriage we were able to visit once or twice, but it has been a decade since I have seen Sr. John Dominic (with whom I co-authored a book and who has some GREAT virtue education materials coming out soon), Sr. Joseph Andrew (whom we once nick named "Sister bone breaker"---story to follow soon), Sr. Ave Maria (with whom I played hooky on our discernment retreat---more stories to come), Sr Philip John (with whom I hung out at a surf bar in So. Cal watching my little brother's band just months before she entered the convent) and Sr. Elizabeth Ann (we were catechetics "stars" back in the day---and she still is. You may recognize her from EWTN). 
Sr. John Dominic and I catching up on catechetical ideas. 

The Sisters are well known these days for their appearances on The Oprah Winfrey show (yep…THAT Oprah), the Bible Challenge game show (in which they took second place), and for their new CD that is hitting the top of the Billboard Charts

And I knew them back in the day. 
We finally caught up with Sr. Elizabeth Ann who was running around making everything work all afternoon. 

The reason we saw each other this weekend was that they are getting read to build a new priory in Georgetown, just outside Austin. They have already built a temporary convent and there was a blessing of that building by two Bishops as well as a sort of housewarming, in which we got tours of the convent and heard all the news of what is going on there. There was Texas BBQ and time to chat with the Sisters. 

Behind this large picture of the future priory was the empty lot on which the building will sit. 

It was really fun to see the looks on the faces of the Sisters who did not know I would be there…or perhaps didn't believe we would really show! It was really great to find that, though life has taken us all in different directions, and we have all grown in so many ways, there is still that great connection--a love of our Faith, a deep desire to pass it on to the next generation, and great hope for the future of the Church. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

{pretty, happy, funny, real} Internet Friends Edition

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~  

Every Thursday, over at Like Mother, Like Daughter!

Last week we had the pleasure of getting together with Patty and family from Reasons For Chocolate. I am not really sure when I first started reading Patty's blog and how I found it, but it is very likely that it had something to do with chocolate. So, of course, I was hooked. And for a few years I have been watching her kids grow and reading about life in Patty's world. About the same time she began reading mine and may have been the first to ever comment. She has certainly been my most frequent commenter and number one encourager! 
We had a delightful time talking, watching the kids get along, chasing cutie pie Clementine---seriously, the cutest little trotting toddler I have ever seen (my own kids excluded of course ;)
All pictures but the last are Patty's expert work. The last is taken by David. 


Brand new friends, just like old friends. 
The kids got along swimmingly!


Two boys who spend most of their days surrounded by girls find some time to play Davy Crocket and Roy Rodgers. 
What could be happier than that? 

Roy Rodgers said "I'm distracting the Indian while Davy Crockett shoots." 


Just before Patty and David and clan arrived Jim and I turned to each other and said "So this is the second time we meet in real life someone whom we only knew on the internet." 
(the first meeting was with each other 13 years ago next month)

What a fun testament to the Family of God. 
When we share our Faith we are truly Family.
[not pictured: the two dads who lead these families! They were intrepid photographers for this miraculous picture--which was preceded by lots of chaos and at least one melt down. Sally heroically swept in and somehow switched A from stubborn-I-won't-take-a-picture girl to smiling-sweetness-girl!]

round button chicken

Friday, September 13, 2013

Mind the Gap

I read a blog post (linked below) this past week that really spoke to me. It was an analogy for the differences between school, school-at-home, and what some people call "un-schooling". 

I admit the first thing that attracted me to this blog post was the title. For those who are not familiar with it when you take a train or subway in the U.K. you see signs like this:
(please excuse the grainy iPod photo)
This is a doorway upstairs in our house. The poster at the top is like the signs you see in the Tube stations. The map on the right is a London Tube Map. 

It refers to the gap that exists between the train and the platform edge. In fact, when you are in the tube stations of London there is a repeated recorded voice that says: "Mind the Gap between the train and the platform edge." I have very fond memories of D, with his sweet little three year old voice and his very slight British accent, repeating these words over and over again. 

This blogger has used the phrase and the idea of riding a train, as opposed to a car or bike, to explain the different approaches to education. 

It's like someone hands you a train schedule when you are five years old, and it details the plan for every day of the next thirteen to seventeen years of your life. The stops are laid out, the timetable is set. There is only one set of tracks for your school train.They are the same for everyone. They tell you this is the only way to get between stops, where you are tested to make sure the train is on schedule.

I find that in spite of having been a "train conductor" (school teacher) in the past, my inclination for my own children is the bicycle approach. 

Her image of the family riding bikes together, exploring the world around them at a more leisurely place, with older kids having some freedom to explore--to steer their bike, to pedal at their own pace-- is exactly how we like to see ourselves. 
You learn from all things you do, but the learning does not need to be measured. Your parents don't keep track of how fast or how far you go each day...You don't have to keep up with anyone else.
Development--growing up--is not a race. Yet we spend so much time, as a society, worrying about our kids keeping up. 

I am not just talking about the world of "you have to get into the right pre-school if you are going to get into that great college" or "if you haven't started competitive football by the age of five you may as well give up". 

I am also talking about reading fluently by kindergarten (or even first or second grade) about doing algebra in third grade. 

So much of what we think of as academic is really developmental. If we had a more relaxed approach to when a child reads fluently, we may see a decrease in learning disability labels, or at least a decrease in kids wearing glasses. If we had a more relaxed approach to math instruction, we might have fewer grown-ups who "hate math" or think they are "bad at math".

Opting out of the race, getting off the train, so to speak can be very difficult. The world around you assumes that your objective is to make sure your kid is "on schedule" and that there are "no gaps". Our objective is to raise children who love God first, know how to love others as well as themselves, and love to learn. 

Love does not keep a schedule, arrive at certain stops at certain times, or stick to one set of tracks. Love is free.

Go. Read. She explains the analogy really well. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A 9-11 Prayer

Please vist Mary at Counting Graces for Pope Benedict's prayer at Ground Zero. 

The Patience of a GPS

If only I was as patient as my GPS. 

Here is my GPS first thing in the morning.
I wish I could get a sign like that for my forehead for first thing in the morning. 

Michelle (the name of the voice we chose for our GPS) never sounds the least bit annoyed when I ignore her directions. She will say "Make a legal u-turn" innumerable times in the same sweet tone. She never says "How many times have I told you to make a legal u-turn?" and she never says "If I have to say make a legal u-turn one more time there will be consequences."

Since I know I will need to repeat myself a lot throughout my kids' childhood, I may as well be sweet about it. I mean what kid heard "Put your shoes away, please" and never had to be told again? Or after being told "Please don't do that" completely stopped all strange noises and loud tappings? What child only had to hear once "Elbows off the table please."?


Actually, for a couple of years now I have been looking for a GPS voice that WILL nag and get frustrated with me. I think it would be funny. 

Somehow I don't think my kids find it funny when I nag and talk impatiently.

So, the plan is this: talk like Michelle even if I feel like exploding and only use these three precious names in love (or real danger). The rest of the time I go to them and get eye contact first or use a sweet nick name that softens my voice. 

Yikes! I think I have my work cut out for me. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

My Favourite and My Best Bread Recipe*

Okay, it is the ONLY bread recipe I make. But it is GOOD. 

I got it from this website way back when I lived in Scotland. I was desperately seeking an easy-to-make-at-almost-the-last-minute bread recipe for dinner. So, of course it couldn't involve any kneading/rising/yeast. I came across this and it was in instant hit. 

What it lacks in beauty is made up in flavor and hardiness. It is a great bread to serve along side soup or a salad. It is also great as a snack and travels well as two slices buttered together, stuck in a zip lock bag and brought to the park in your big bag of park stuff. I happen to know this last idea from personal experience. 

If you don't have buttermilk on hand (I usually don't) you can use plain greek yogurt and it is just as good…and has added protein! It makes two good sized loafs and they freeze quite well. 


  • 4 cups buttermilk or plain greek yogurt 
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pour in buttermilk, and stir until all of the dry mixture has been absorbed. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared loaf pans.
  3. Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted into the crown of the loaf comes out clean. Serve warm. Store leftover bread wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator. This reheats well.

*The title (including the spelling of "favorite" is meant to remind you of Charlie and Lola. Well, at least it reminds me of Charlie and Lola. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

{pretty, happy, funny, real}

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~  

Every Thursday, at Like Mother, Like Daughter!


The other day the 7 year old came into my room (at ten minutes to 6-----AM!) to chat. She said that when she moved her eyes "like this they just stay in the middle". She knows this because when she looked in the mirror "her eye balls were facing straight". Such a problem for an early morning. So I took a picture with my iPod to show her. Then I thought it turned out so pretty!

{happy} birthday

And, of course, the people in this picture make me happy!
My prayer at the end of every Mass is: "Thank you Jesus for the blessing of receiving You in Holy Communion. For the blessing of my husband and for my three kids, right here, right now at this developmental stage of their life. 


 Yes, you saw that right. This is what happens when you are in a hurry to frost the cake and you don't wait until it is totally cool. AND when it is September in Texas and it is over 100 outside. 
Everyday lessons. I guess school HAS started in this house. 


The kids like to take their turn with the camera. Most of the time they offer to take a picture of Jim and I, then whomever is not the photographer gets in the act. And so we have many of these sorts of couple pictures 
We were both reminded of another such incident four (FOUR!!?) years ago when we were in Paris at the Louvre. 
Sounds romantic, huh? Or maybe snooty?
This picture reminds us that, although it was wonderful and beautiful and a blessing....
it was also real. 

For some reason, the idea of standing there watching her brother take a picture of her parents was traumatizing. 
Poor, sweet, three year old A. 

round button chicken

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Chocolate and Heaven

So...slow readers that we are, we are STILL reading The Last Battle. But we are still loving it! Currently, we are near the end and the characters are all trying to figure out where they are. They saw Narnia die, at least the Narnia that they knew. But this new land looks a lot like Narnia. Here is what Lord Digory says:

When Aslan said you could never go back to Narnia, he meant the Narnia you were thinking of. But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here: just as our world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan's real world. 

When we finished the chapter we had a great discussion of this life and the Next Life. We talked about how everything good that is here points us to the good of heaven. 

At this point, the seven year old said. "You know what? Chocolate is a copy of heaven." A girl after my own heart! Is a taste for good chocolate genetic?
I got this image from Googling chocolate. I do not own it but I hope it is made from dark chocolate. 

Sometimes the simplest things are the truest (if one thing can be truer than another, which it can't, really…but you know what I mean). 

Yes, chocolate is a thing that points me to heaven. So is that beautiful flower. So is a beautiful painting. So is a crucifix. So is the face of an innocent child. So is a venti, iced, cinnamon dulce latte. 

Perhaps they aren't equally clear copies of heaven. But, any created good in this life is a taste of the eternal Goods of Heaven. 

That is why we sin when we make a created good our god. That incredible sunset is meant to point you to its Creator. That love you experience from your friends and family is meant to point you to the Lover (God) and the Beloved (God). 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (second only to Scripture as a self-help/answer-all-the-questions-of-life-book) says this. (the big print is my addition) 

#1060 At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. Then the just will reign with Christ for ever, glorified in body and soul, and the material universe itself will be transformed. God will then be "all in all" (1 Cor 15:28), in eternal life.

If our love for this world is properly ordered it will lead us straight to the Triune God who awaits us in the Next World. 

So, the next time you taste some great chocolate, praise God and long for the Chocolate of Heaven. And if you have to skip that great chocolate, you can offer it up and remind yourself that you are building a store of REALLY Real Chocolate in Heaven!