Friday, July 31, 2009

Want 30% off at Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic?

Gap is having their Give and Get promotion again.  If you click here, you can use this coupon in store to get 30% off at Gap, Old Navy or Banana Republic now through Sunday.  5% of your purchases will be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Go shopping and fight cancer at the same time!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The world according to Madeline

Madeline comes out with statements from time to time that either make you stop and think or just shake your head.

As the girls were slowly finishing up eating their pizza, I decided that I needed to erase all the old messages on the answering machine.  I'm not sure why, but I had 23 messages and many of them dated back to May.  Were they important messages that were two 1/2 months old?  Why no, they were the standard "Hi Karen, it's [fill in the blank]. Give me a call when you get home." type of messages.  I have no idea why I never deleted them.  Just lazy, I guess.  Pushing that erase button takes a second of my time.

When I finished erasing all 23 messages of no importance, Madeline declared that it was just like going to confession.  I needed clarification on that one.  Message erasing=confession?  The explanation was quite simple.  The answering machine now had a clean slate, just like when you go to confession.  I guess the kid knows how to apply the practice of her faith to the mundane tasks of everyday life.  So answering machine, I absolve you of all your message bearing duties until the next time your services are required, at which point I will eventually get around to helping you obtain a clean slate once more.  Go forth and conquer.

Another Book Review: Notes Left Behind

I think I mentioned a week or so ago that Amazon invited me to be one of their Vine reviewers. The perk of being a member of the Vine is I get to read advanced copies of books in exchange for me writing a review of the product on their website. Words come easily to me and I like to write product reviews so this is an opportunity I was more than willing to jump on.

I just finished writing a review of Notes Left Behind by Brooke and Keith Desserich. Ever since I read Jenny Scott's blog about her daughter Allie five years ago, I've had a hard time turning away from blogs and stories about the children and families who's lives are devastated by childhood cancer. Notes Left Behind is based on the journal/blog that the Desserich family kept to chronicle their daughter Elena's battle with an inoperable brain stem tumor. I selected this book because I remember reading an article about it a while back on AOL. Here's a story ABC ran back in December.

Here's the review I submitted to Amazon:
I cracked open this book yesterday afternoon when it arrived. I flipped through the pages and landed on one of the final journal entries. Within seconds I was crying and I instantly wanted to drop what I was doing and read the entire book. I had been in the middle of another project at the time, so I had to put off reading this book for several more hours. When I did get the opportunity to curl up with this book later that day, I couldn't put it down. It's one of those stories that grabs at your heartstrings and doesn't let go.

This book is incredibly touching and well written. It is an inspiring and heart-wrenching story. Keith and Brooke Desserich write from the heart about their love for their beautiful daughter Elena and how much they have learned about life from her. The journal was started by them for their younger daughter Gracie after Elena was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and was given a prognosis of 135 days, so that Gracie could have a remembrance of her big sister. The journal chronicles Elena's radiation and chemotherapy treatments, but it aslo chronicles the journey of Elena and her parents over Elena's last days of her short but beautiful life.

Elena's story is one that will make you want to hug your kids a little tighter at night and read just one more bedtime story. It is a wake-up call, if you will to cherish each and every moment you have with your children. This story is also a call to action to find a cure for cancer.

I don't think I can recommend this beautiful story highly enough.

As a member of the Amazon Vine, I was supplied with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Small Successes

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.
1. I took a shower in the master bathroom for the first time in over 18 months.  That means that I also primed, and painted the new drywall strips that had to be fitted around the new shower.  From start to finish it took 12 days from ripping out the old shower to having a shower that could be used.  Some days it felt a lot longer than that.  Bryan and I are both loving the convenience of not having to use the kids' bathroom anymore. Good bye Ariel and tropical fish!  I shall only visit you to brush teeth and do hair.

2. I replaced the screen on our sliding glass door.  Early this Spring, Mr. Furkins uncharitably stuck his Furkiney puppy paws through the screen this spring when he realized that I had an outside person in the house while he was frolicking in the backyard.  I was not pleased with the tears in the screen despite the fact that we hardly ever use the screen (can't with the sliding glass door pool alarm).  It took me about 30-45 minutes out in the hot morning sun to replace the screen.  But I'm happy to report that I did it and I didn't injure myself like I did eight years ago when I did my last screen replacement. (I ran the screening tool over my finger pad and created a blood blister that was rather painful.)

3. I finally got around to addressing the thank you notes from Madeline's First Communion.  Yes, at this rate, friends and family will see the thank you notes in their mail boxes about three months after the fact.  I have 5 left to address (I did 6 so far).  I still have to cut the pictures apart so I can put a picture of Madeline in her dress in each card.  Let's not talk about all the thank you notes I still have to write and send out from Ellie's birthday party earlier this month. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Can I get a germ-proof bubble here?

I've been a bit preoccupied over the past week or so with all the medical types of issues going on with my little family.  

About a week and a half ago, Mr. Furkins stubbed his foot when playing fetch in the back yard with Bryan.  So for a few days, the dog walked around with a little limp.  I'm sorry, but Oscar is the clumsiest thing on four legs.  He's always tripping or falling over things.  He even underestimates the traction on the kitchen floor and runs into doors and walls and furniture.  I have little sympathy for him since I think he could avoid these accidents if he'd slow down a little.  But he's a crazy dog and I don't think he knows how to relax.

A week ago Ellie went to the doctor for her 4 year old well visit.  Turns out I haven't been putting the sunscreen on her funny.  She really is spotted, and apparently the pigment loss is caused by eczema.  So she's has white spots.  I'm told by the doctor that dry eczema patches don't tan.  Every moisturizer I try on her makes her skin red and it hurts her.  Lanolin is the only thing I can use on her that doesn't irritate her, but that unfortunately stains everything.  Sometimes I wonder if the hypoallergenic dermatologist tested creams and lotions have ever been tested on people who actually have sensitive skin.  My guess is probably not.

Ellie also has a cough that the doctor thought was nothing last week.  Now I'm not sure if she's getting better or not.  It's hard to tell when compared to the other sick people in the house.

Bryan has bronchitis.  He started to feel unwell this weekend, but he's stubborn and decided to suffer rather than seek medical attention so he could feel better.  He realized on Monday after he got to work that he probably shouldn't have gone to the office.  Fortunately, he decided to capitulate and seek the advice of a medical professional.  I got to the point where I told him I wasn't going to have sympathy on him if he wasn't getting help for his ailment.  He's now on 5 different medications for his bronchitis.

Madeline woke up in the middle of the night on Monday and was crying that her ear hurt.  She was so miserable and crying so much that Bryan and I thought Ellie was the one calling us.  So we walked past Madeline's room to check on Ellie only to find her fast asleep.  Turns out Madeline has a really bad ear infection, and the nurse practitioner told Bryan that she may have the beginnings of bronchitis.  So she's now on an antibiotic.  She has seemed pretty out of it for most of the past two days.

I am just hoping that I get through this unscathed.  I'm constantly next to at least one sick person.  Bryan keeps telling me that it's only a matter of time before I succumb to illness, too.  I'd like to think that I may be immune.

I do think that Ellie is getting better. The cough doesn't sound as bad as I remember it being last week.   She's been hanging out with me a lot more since Madeline hasn't been up for playing.  I've taken her to stores while Bryan and Madeline stay at home and rest.  Ellie was so happy to go out with just me.  She had the biggest smile on her face when she said "Look Mommy, only one child is going to Target!".  She skipped and pranced all though Target yesterday.  She smile on her face was infectious.  Since Madeline isn't allowed in the pool for a few days (nurse practitioner's orders) Ellie has been relishing her one on one time with me in the pool.  She is such a little love and I know she has enjoyed her one on one time with me as much as I have.  She's making me feel like four isn't a bad age.  I guess I'm not missing age three all that much anymore.

Book Review: The Fathers of the Church

I've spent my spare time over the past several days engulfed in Mike Aquilina's The Fathers of the Church (expanded edition). I rather enjoyed this book. It is close to the intellectual weight of the history books I'm used to reading for fun without all the copious footnotes. I think most people with a genuine interest in the subject material will find this book to be quite readable and engaging. This is not a book that I would classify as history light, as I have with others in the past, but I wouldn't put it in the "boring history book" category either (for the record, I have yet to meet a boring history book, but I have been told that some of the ones I read are boring).

The book has an introduction that lays a good foundation for the remainder of the book which is separated into four sections that categorize the Fathers. They are: The Apostolic Fathers, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Nicene Era Fathers and Post-Nicene Era Fathers. There is also a small section on the Mothers of the church at the end of the book. Each of these sections starts off with an overview of the time period that is being examined. After that, it is followed with sections on the individuals who emerged as the influential fathers of the period. Each Father is presented with a short biography and then excerpts from the Father's own works are presented.

In many ways this book illustrates how the Church was formed and forged over the first 750 years. By reading the works of the Fathers in their own words (translated into English, of course) you can see how the Church took shape over time. On several occasions, I found myself thinking about how this book filled in lots of the gaps that were left from another book I had reviewed not too long ago that essentially dealt with the highlights in the history of the Church.

In all, this book is a wonderful introduction to the influential Fathers who fortified the foundation of the Catholic faith. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and getting to know each of the Fathers.

This review was written as part of the Catholic Book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. For more information on The Fathers of the Church, visit The Catholic Company.

As a reviewer for The Catholic Company Book Reviewer Program, I was given a free copy of The Fathers of the Church in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Whew! I've been busy!

We spent the weekend hanging out with our neighbors and getting a few minor things done around the house.  By Sunday night I was totally wiped out.  Who knew socializing could be so exhausting?  The good news in we had a great time with our neighbors.  Bryan and I are just so happy that we have friends that we can hang out with in our neighborhood.  It's been a while since we've had people to hang out with on the weekends. (We're really not as pathetic as I just made us sound.)  The bottom line is we had a great time.  And since I haven't mentioned it lately, I just love my neighbors.  I don't have a single one that I dislike.  That's pretty cool in my book.

Today I took Ellie to get her birthday pictures done.  She acted like a goofball the entire time Erin (our super cool photographer) was shooting her.  Sadly, I only managed to get 4 shots that I liked.  Then the girls decided to fight in the store (FUN!) and totally irritate me.  Ellie made me totally regret buying her the matching purse for her birthday dress.  She fooled around with it for the pictures and then started using it as a weapon against Madeline.  She'll make a mean old lady with a purse some day.  Watch out muggers!  Ellie will take you out before you can blink.

Then, I made a scary decision to take the kids to Wal-Mart.  I don't like to go to Wal-Mart, ever.  I go in the store only when I'm desperate or need to find something that no one else sells.  That said, I probably wind up in that store 2-3 times a year.  I was in there to look at Corelle dishes (I'm tired of the pattern on my current set.  I think it's to be expected with Corelle that you tire of the pattern before the dishes actually need to be replaced--those things last FOREVER!) and I also wanted to see if I could find a palm tree tooth brush holder.  I didn't get new dishes (wasn't planning on making that final decision today), but I did get a toothbrush holder.  I went to a lot of stores over the past two weeks looking for one.

I also managed to get my huge backload of laundry washed and folded.  I had ten loads of wash.  I'm now down to half a load of stragglers.  I'm pretty happy with that.

I even found the time to read some of the book I'll be reviewing soon for The Catholic Company, too.  I'm going to be burnt out by tomorrow after all that I've done over the past few days!

Friday, July 24, 2009

My work is useless against Disney

For the past 6 years I have worked tirelessly to teach Madeline that commercials are only there to make you waste your money.  As seen on TV toys?  Not in our house!  Madeline understands that if a company has to advertise their toy or food that it probably isn't good enough to sell itself.  I generally will not buy things my children ask for if they saw it on TV.  I look at it as me teaching them to be consumer savvy.

Apparently all my efforts are useless against the advertising genius of Disney.  For the past two weeks Madeline has been hounding me to watch Disney Channel to see this amazing thing.  It  turns out that she wants me to take her to Disneyland.  Sorry kid, but I'm not flying out to the West Coast to see fireworks when we live 17 hours from Disney World.  This is what she was desperate for me to see.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I don't like computer glitches!

I've had more than my fair share of things get eaten by the computer glitch gnomes.  I've lost entire college papers (good thing I usually wrote them on paper first), emails, message board replies, blog posts, and now, book reviews.  None of these disappearances ever make me happy.

I realized today that my totally awesome review of However Tall the Mountain that I wrote for the Amazon Vine program got sucked into the black hole of cyber space.  Unlike the reviews I write for The Catholic Company and Tiber River, I don't have a copy of the review saved anywhere else.  I've been reviewing products at Amazon since 2001 (writing product reviews on various sites has been a hobby of mine for years) and I've never had this happen.  I can't tell you how incredibly annoyed I was, still am.  My review read like a mini political science blurb and I was so proud of it.  Now, it's lost.  I wrote a new one, but it's nowhere near as cool as the original.

I've learned my lesson.  I need to save all the reviews I write until I can confirm that they went through.  I'm going to go mourn the loss of my really good review. 

Small Successes

Celebrating the little things in life that add up. Or as they so perfectly titled this weeks post over at Faith and Family Live, "Sweating the Small Stuff".  Now I feel like I'm being stalked (because I wrote a blog about this on Sunday that I never posted).  I am notorious for sweating the small stuff, but I just let the big stuff fall where it may.  Yes, I'm that disordered control freak that worries more about the silly things in life than the serious things.  

1. I managed to finish spackling the drywall all around our new shower.  Bryan isn't exactly good at that, so I've spent the past few days making the the walls look as close to seamless as possible.  Let me go on record here stating that I seriously dislike working with joint compound.  I also found the perfect shower curtain, hooks and rod for my new shower.

2. I cleaned the kitchen.  It stayed pretty and clean for a few hours yesterday.  When are they going to invent self cleaning countertops?  You should come over and ooh and aah over how clean the top of my fridge is.  It's beautiful, if I do say so myself.

3. I reviewed every book that came to my house (courtesy of review programs) over the past week. (It's been a busy week of reading in our house.)  You can read one of my reviews here.  The other ones were for the Amazon Vine program. Serena Williams' On the Line and Awista Ayub's However Tall the Mountain were both very good reads.  The girls and I also reviewed The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School.  Madeline was over the moon that I got a book that she could help me review.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Only because I'm indecisive....

I'm feeling democratic (indecisive) today.  The backgrounds at  Simply Chic Blog Backgrounds are back up and running so now I have to decide what I want to do.  I want your input.  Should I stay with my new current background, or should I revert to the sunny yellow one with the bold daisies? I like them both.  The current one reminds me of ice cream (Don't ask, I'm odd.) and the old one is just so bright and bold.  I can't decide which one I should use.  

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pursuing simplicity

Why is it that simplifying life isn't always easy?  I look to the Summer months as a time where I can sit back, relax and just enjoy life.  For some reason the past few Summers have been anything but relaxing.  

The last two years saw incredibly busy Summers that zipped by.  We spent an entire Summer settling into our current home two years ago.  Then, last year we put in a pool and were encumbered with everything that goes along with a project of that magnitude.  And, this Summer, it's just miscellaneous small stuff that seems to be standing in my way.  I'm one of those people who often sweats the small stuff, and that generally complicates life to an unnecessary degree.

Today, I did manage to have a day that is the kind of simplified life I want this time of year.  I'm very grateful for that.  My neighbor Kelly and her three girls came over and spent the better part of the day with us.  The girls went swimming and had lunch out on the deck.  Madeline even had another friend from her class join us.  I'm tired and exhausted from meeting the demands (or needs) of the six little girls I had at my home today. As tired as I am, I feel like I managed to have a simplified day.  Really, all I want to do is enjoy being at home with my family and friends this Summer.  I'm not expecting life to be all fun and games for an entire season, but I do want to take full advantage of the down time we have right now.

I'm going to go do a load of laundry and watch my girls play Mariokart on the Wii.  

Friday, July 17, 2009

Book Review: Signs and Mysteries

Thanks to the book reviewer program at The Catholic Company, I had the pleasure of reading Mike Aquilina's Signs and Mysteries. It was one of those books that I had a hard time putting down. I'd put the book down telling myself that I was going to take a break and then almost instantly pick it back up to read just one more chapter, which inevitably lead to the next. I found the premise of the book to be rather captivating and with bite sized chapters for most of the symbols, it was quite easy for me to devour this book.

In all, twenty-five ancient Christian symbols are decoded. In each chapter you'll learn the significance of a particular symbol and it's origin. In most cases, the symbols are borrowed/commandeered from other traditions (usually Jewish, Greek, Roman or Coptic/Egyptian). Prior to reading this book I was aware of many of the symbols, but I wasn't necessarily aware of the origins or the meanings behind them.

The book itself is written in a very engaging manner. It's not a boring account of history by any means. (I know some people who think history can be boring, I don't think I've ever encountered boring history, but I can assure you that this book would not fall in the category of boring history book.) Laugh if you want, but I wasn't expecting the book to be as heavily laden with illustrations as it was. I had a light bulb moment where I realized that obviously this book had to have illustrations to introduce the reader to the symbols. I'm so used to reading non-illustrated accounts of history that it just threw me off course for a few minutes.

My only criticism of the book would have to be the illustrations. While Lea Marie Ravotti did a beautiful job on the illustrations, I can't help but feel that the book would have been even better if it contained actual pictures of some of the archaeological finds of ancient Christian symbols. I watch a lot of documentaries that touch on this subject, and I feel that readers who may not have ever seen color pictures of these finds are missing out.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good history of early Christian symbols. For more information on this great book, head over to The Catholic Company.

As a reviewer for The Catholic Company Book Reviewer Program, I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review of Signs and Mysteries.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Small Successes

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.
1. I successfully made 48 decorated cupcakes for Ellie's party.  The homemade icing was quite yummy.
2. The house is fully recovered from the birthday party.
3. I remembered to brush Oscar this week. The population of dog hair dust bunnies should be considerably less this week as a result.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I can't believe I'm about to say this

Bryan, apparently was right. There's a sentence I don't utter or type very frequently.  It's not something I like to admit too frequently, especially if it means that I was wrong.

Over the past two years, I've argued with Bryan about sending the kids to Catholic school.  He's against it because we have a perfectly good public school two blocks away from our house and we pay a lot of money in taxes.  We also moved to this community because of the public schools.

I wanted to send them to St. Mary's because I wouldn't have to run them back and forth to CCD, the school day is shorter and starts earlier, both of my girls would go to the same school for 5 years, and I wouldn't have to worry about what they're going to wear to school since they'd be in uniforms.  I also liked that the school is small compared to the public school.  The school I send Madeline to has 700 kids from K-4 and this is only one of four K-4 schools in the district.  I also liked that the kids stay with the same kids year after year.  The public school I send Madeline to is a National School of Character.  As part of their character education, the classes get mixed up every year.

After three days of Vacation Bible School (VBS), I have come to the conclusion that St. Mary's School is not the school for us.  The vast majority of the kids who are participating in the VBS are students at St. Mary's so Madeline has been interacting with kids who would be her classmates if she went there instead of the public school.  And, based on what I've seen and what Madeline tells me, I could not imagine sending my children to this school.

I've probably mentioned on several occasions that Madeline is a social butterfly.  The girl makes friends everywhere she goes.  She goes out of her way to meet kids from other classes on the playground at recess, she makes friends with her opponents at soccer games, and she has formed many friendships at CCD and at the children's liturgy at church.  She's very inclusive and is nice to everyone.  I was certain when I signed her up for VBS that she'd make friends there, as well.  So far, she has two kids who will talk to her.  The rest ignore her and don't even have the common courtesy to acknowledge her when she speaks to them.  It appears that the children who go to the Catholic school are a tight clique and they're mean.  There is a girl in Madeline's group that the other kids (classmates from St. Mary's) pick on and call worthless.  Madeline tells me the girl wouldn't talk to her until today (she was probably trying to discern whether or not Madeline would pick on her, too).  The poor kid spent the first two days not talking to anyone.  Madeline made a friend the first day she was there and from what she tells me, she's another kid the others wouldn't acknowledge.  Bryan tells me kids are mean, (I know they are, I was tormented as a kid.) but this amazes me.  I honestly did not anticipate that the kids would be mean at VBS. 

So I will concede that Bryan is right.  I apparently don't really want my girls to go to St. Mary's.  I don't want their values to be corrupted.  Ever since they were toddlers I have done my best to instill in them the importance of being kind to everyone.  They have been taught that we don't make fun of people and we aren't deliberately mean to them either.  I'm proud of Madeline.  She goes out of her way to befriend shy kids and kids that are ignored by others.  She's been like this since she started dancing at age three.  I have had teachers tell me about how Madeline has pulled very shy kids out of their shells.  I would hate to put her in a situation where she either needed to conform to a clique or live as a social outcast.  Maybe it's just me, but shouldn't the children who go to a Catholic behave in a way that is more Christian than their public schooled peers? Of course, maybe the school isn't entirely to blame.  Maybe a lot of the blame should fall to the parents, but the school certainly shouldn't tolerate the behavior.   I guess I won't complain about having to take her to CCD at night anymore.  At least her classmates there are nice to one another.

Madeline is still having a good time at VBS despite the situation with the other kids (she's happy with the friends that she made).  Ellie seems to be enjoying herself, too.  I will have to think about whether or not I will send them next year.  Madeline is clearly turned off by how the other kids are treating the one girl.  She keeps asking why the other kids are so mean to the girl.


At long last, my house is quiet.  For the past 5 days I've had everyone at home.  As much as I love having Bryan and the girls at home, there are times when I wish I could just have a few minutes to myself.  Today, I have just that.

Bryan went back to work today and the girls are both at Vacation Bible School.  I'm relishing my three hours of solitude.  I managed to mop my kitchen floor, water my tomato and basil garden, brush Mr. Furkins, have a phone conversation without interruption and spend some much needed time just meditating.  I feel like I got a lot accomplished and I still have 30 minutes left before I have to go get the girls from the church.

The past few days have been rather busy here.  We had Ellie's party.  I'm happy to report that it went quite well.  Bryan and his father also ripped out the shower of doom in the master bathroom and replaced it with a nice shiny new one.  No more previous owner filth and no more leaks!  Yay!  I suspect that I will be able to  use my new shower by the end of the week.  We still have to do some caulking and I have to paint once the walls are properly finished (The old shower was embedded behind the drywall.).

I'm hopeful that I can just relax tomorrow morning when the girls are away.  Maybe I'll lounge in the pool tomorrow morning.  I don't get to have the pool all to myself very often.  It's only happened a few times.  I think I could enjoy reading St. Augustine's Confessions while I float around.  I used to love reading in the pool when I was in high school and college.  I can't read in the pool when I have the kids.  Not only would my book get wet, I wouldn't be able to watch the girls. 

Monday, July 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Ellie!

Happy fourth birthday Ellie!  Four years ago you slipped into our world and stole my heart.  I spent 8 1/2 months wondering if it was possible to love you even half as much as I love your big sister.  The first time I held you in my arms I was in love.  I love you more than I ever thought was imaginable and that love grows with each passing day.  I could not imagine my life without your smiling face, and I don't know how we ever lived without you.  

You bring immeasurable joy to our lives.  You make us laugh with your crazy antics.  Your smile can light up the room.  In short, your personality is out of this world.  You, my little Hippie-Hopper, are a most wonderful gift.  

Today my Ellie marks the completion of her fourth year!  It amazes me how quickly the time has flown by.  It doesn't feel like four years at all.  Many of the days have been long, but the years have been decidedly short.  Too short if you ask me.

Look at how my baby has grown over the past four years:
Just Born

First picture with Mommy and Daddy

First Picture with big sister Madeline.

Finally home!

First Christmas

First Birthday

Almost 1 1/2 years old

Two years old

First trip to Disney World at nearly 2 1/2

Three years old!

This past Fall

Almost 4 years old!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Religious art by Madeline

Madeline drew this tonight and showed it to me when I was tucking her in.  Let's just say I was caught off guard.  

In case you can't read what she wrote, it says "Oh No Christ is dead!!".  I explained to her that Jesus died to save us, and that he rose again.  She told me that she feels sorry for Him and that she wishes He didn't have to die.  I think she's missing the point.

On a side note, I can't help but think Cinderella looks a little too happy for this scene.

Cupcakes before 8am

I had an essentially sleepless night last night.  Between Bryan's snoring and several thoughts that kept racing through my mind, I didn't get more than 2 hours of sleep combined.  I suspect I will be crashing sometime this afternoon.

Tomorrow is Ellie's fourth birthday and I am once more in frantic party planning mode.  I was essentially totally unprepared for this party up until last Thursday when I started to get my act together.  I'm not sure if I was just forgetful or if I was really just procrastinating and hoping that my baby could stay three just a little while longer.  Age three is my favorite age, so I'm really sad to see it end.  If I could freeze Ellie at this stage of her life indefinitely I would.  I'm still shocked at how quickly four years have passed by.  I will do my best to savor the last day of Ellie at age three today.

Since I couldn't sleep, I got up a little before 6am this morning and started working on party stuff.  I just took the last batch of cupcakes out of the oven.  When I get back from Mass this morning I will begin to decorate the cupcakes.  I'm optimistic that my decorating will turn out well.  Let's hope the finished product meets my lofty expectations.  

Friday, July 10, 2009

Book Review: Surprised by Canon Law

As part of The Catholic Company's Book Reviewer program, I recently had the opportunity to read Pete Vere and Michael Trueman's Surprised by Canon Law, Volume 2. I became rather interested in reading this book when I noticed in the book description that it covered questions regarding parish mergers. Most of the parishes in our diocese are currently in some stage of a merger, including our own, so when I saw that subject of parish mergers was covered in the book, it grabbed my attention.

In all, this book answers a 101 questions pertaining to Canon Law. The book is divided into thirteen chapters. The back of the book has a handy little index and a two page glossary that defines some terms that I suspect many Catholics are not familiar with. Prior to reading this book, I was actually only familiar with a small handful of the glossary entries. That surprised me, given the amount of historical reading I do that is usually intertwined with Church history. And, oddly enough, I was only familiar with one of the terms, Carmelengo, because of my previous reading of Dan Brown's Angels and Demons (You can laugh, it's alright.). We'll just chalk that one up to me being a convert.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. In fact, I found it so interesting that I devoured it in a single afternoon (Amazing what one can accomplish while trying to avoid mopping a kitchen floor!). I liked how the authors would answer a question about Canon Law and in many cases present an example of how the law would be carried out using a hypothetical situation. I also liked how every once in a while you'd find a little bit of humor tossed into the mix. There were several occasions where a witty remark was slipped in. Perhaps they were put in there as little surprises (My feeble attempt at making a reference to the book's title, you like?).

Given that I finished the book as quickly as I did, I would say it's a fairly easy read, but I could be slightly biased since I took a break from reading St. Augustine's Confessions to read this. On that note, this book was like a breath of fresh air with medium type (as opposed to the teeny tiny type I have been staring at for the past few days). Even though the book is an easy and engaging read, that doesn't mean it's light on information. The book is jam packed with loads of information. I would suspect that parts of it aren't going to seem entirely relevant to the average lay Catholic, such as the chapters on Holy Orders and the Institutes of Consecrated Life. For the most part, the book has many chapters that most certainly are relevant to the day to day life of the average lay Catholic. Even the chapters that don't necessarily pertain to those of us who aren't called to join a religious order or become a member of the clergy are still pretty interesting.

I know I'll be recommending this book to friends and family. Obscure Church questions often come up in discussions (like who exactly owns the church property), and this book answers a lot of those questions.

This review was written as part of the Catholic Book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Surprised by Canon Law-Volume 2.

As a reviewer for The Catholic Company Book Reviewer program, I was supplied with a free copy of Surprised by Canon Law-Volume 2 in exchange for my honest review.

Do you like free chocolate?

I'm not a huge fan of chocolate.  And when I do eat chocolate, I'm pretty picky about it.  You might say I'm a chocolate snob.  I'm more of cavity causing Nerds, Sweet tarts, Sour Patch Kids, original Spree, Starburst and Jolly Ranchers kind of gal.  But, I figure some of you may actually like chocolate.  If you haven't heard by now, Mars has a program going called Real Chocolate Relief where every Friday they give away 250,000 candy bars (in actuality, they're coupons for a candy bar).  My mom has been on my case for about a month now to go their website and register for my free candy (Dad's motto is "If it's free, take it!").  Yesterday she called me and let me know that I could get Ellie M&Ms with the free candy bar coupons.  Given that I have an M&M loving child, I decided to make Mom happy and register for the free candy.  She tells me you can get up to 4 coupons per household while the program is running (only one a week).  

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Small Successes

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.
1. I finally got the invitations for Ellie's birthday party out to the neighbors late last week.  And, more importantly, I decided on a date and time.
2. This Monday, I went out and got Ellie an outfit to wear to her birthday party. (I'm such a slacker.  Ordinarily I have this stuff done many months in advance.)
3. I weeded the tomato and basil garden yesterday.  It once again looks beautiful.

Bonus 1: I dumped the most disgusting mosquito breeding water ever (You could see the larvae swimming in it.) and threw away the very large and gross containers.  After two years of waiting for Bryan to dispose of the over sized containers, I decided to do it myself.  I can't fritter my life away waiting for others to help me.
Bonus 2:  I also learned how to replace the taillight for my van. (Again, I couldn't stand by while Bryan procrastinated.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My venting got an apology

I spent six of my teen years working in customer service positions.  I've bussed tables, waited tables, scooped ice cream, made hoagies, interfaced with thousands of customers daily as a Wawa cashier, worked in a few retail stores, worked for the U.S. Coast Guard, and ran the front desk of an ocean front motel.   All this before age 20.  Each job was either a Summer job (some years I had 2 full-time summer jobs) or a seasonal position.  I know how to treat customers with the dignity and respect they deserve, and I know what it is like to be treated with less courtesy than you might bestow on a dog by those customers.  As a result of my many years in the customer service realm, I expect to be treated properly as a customer.  I am respectful of the people who are working often thankless jobs for a poor wage when I encounter them in my daily life.  Because I know what it is like to be in their shoes, I never treat them badly as others have done to me.  My only expectation is that you treat me respectfully and do your job well.  If you do an exceptional job, I will tell your manager or email corporate and sing your praises.  If you accord me the worst service ever or treat me poorly, expect that your manager and the corporate office will be getting a fully detailed report of my experience.

On Monday I had a pretty awful experience at a local Gymboree where the store manager for some reason or another decided to treat my daughter in a way that did not respect her dignity as a human being.  She denied my child who had an urgent potty need the use of their rest facilities.  I emailed the corporate offices of Gymboree and told them what happened.  Today I received a call from the district manager.  She apologized for the incident and explained that the associate I encountered was a new manager who according to the district manager was "not properly trained" with regards to children and bathroom emergencies.

I've had problems with Gymboree in the past that warranted intervention from the district manager.  The last time I had an issue (3 years ago) it was handled so badly that I cut back my patronage of Gymboree by 95%.  If I haven't mentioned it prior to today, I used to essentially be addicted to clothing my girls from head to toe in Gymboree.  At that time, the district manager thought that telling me about their stores that were set to open soon and hardly apologizing was a good way to smooth over a bad incident.  It wasn't, and I essentially decided they didn't deserve my money.  

The bathroom incident from this week was enough to make me seriously ponder whether or not Gymboree is deserving of the $200-300 that I now spend there annually.  While talking to the district manager today, she asked me to give them another try.  I told her I didn't know if I wanted to bother.  She continued to push, so I asked her how she was going to entice me to shop there.  Her response "With our awesome product!".  I told her that was nice, but I saw no incentive.  She didn't understand.  So I had to explain to her when I go to Olive Garden and we have a dreadful experience (and we've had more than our fair share given that we are there almost weekly) that they ask us to give them another try and they offer us a gift card to do so.  After I spelled it out for her, I told her the apology was nice, but a discount on a future shopping trip or a gift card would be the only way they'd see me walk through their door again.  I explained to her that Gymboree isn't the only children's store that sells cute clothes and I listed a few other stores that would love my business.  In the end she decided that she would mail me a coupon for a future trip.  I'm satisfied (not impressed), but I think it's sort of funny that they refused to do that three years ago.  If they had done that three years ago, they may not have lost me a regular customer.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I feel like Christmas has just visited me!

Several months ago my parents came up to watch the girls so Bryan and I could go to a Flyers game and they brought up a bag of some of my old books.  I was pretty annoyed that they brought more of my stuff that I haven't touched in nearly 10 years up to my house.  They like to force me to take all my junk that I left behind when I got married by sneaking it into my house when they watch the girls.  I think they find it rather amusing.  I am not amused.

The bag of books they dropped off didn't get much attention before I banished them into the the garage.  I saw a plethora of Cliffs Notes (Yes, I actually read the books, but I used the Cliffs Notes to see if my interpretations were on the right path.) and then a few books that I simply didn't care for like the Great Gatsby.  I'm sorry, but I don't feel the Great Gatsby was all that great.  Benjamin Franklin's autobiography was in there, too but I can't even remember when, or for what class I read that.  Surely, I did not pick that up as pleasure reading, or did I?  

I've been impatiently waiting for Tiber River to send me a copy of St. Augustine's Confessions.  I'm not sure what the hold up is, but I've been waiting nearly a month now, and I'm not exactly the most patient person.  It's a book that has been on my to-read list for a while now.  I know I read some, maybe all of it many years ago, but I had lost my copy.  I often find myself wanting to read some of my favorite books from the past and me, not being able to find those books.

Just a few minutes ago I took the dog out and decided on our way back in to peek in the bag and see if anything good was in there.  I have to say that I am totally delighted and thrilled right now.  I have no idea how I missed this, but Salinger's Nine Stories was right on top after I pushed the Cliffs Notes out of the way.  That is one of my favorite books.  I simply love Salinger and I've always found it disappointing that he never published more books.  I suspect that when he has passed on some new books may make their way into publication.  

Aside from three of my beloved Salinger books, I found my old copy of St. Augustine's Confessions.  I'll be diving into that after I enjoy some time alone with Salinger.  I also found my copy of Great Dialogues of Plato (another beloved book) and a bunch of classics that I read for fun when I was in high school.  Even my copy of Dracula that scared the crap out of me and caused me to have a Summer of insomnia is in that bag.  I left Dracula in the garage.  He doesn't need to come in the house.  If I've learned anything from watching True Blood on HBO, it's that vampires can't come in your home unless invited.  So Dracula, you'll have to stay in the garage. 

I'm so excited to have more books to read.  I've been wandering around for a few days bummed that I don't have anything new to read.  Now I feel like a little kid on Christmas morning. I just wish the books didn't all smell musty.  


Honest Scrap Blogger Award

I'd like to thank Elizabeth at The Divine Gift of Motherhood for this most prestigious award.  I love reading her blog (she uses such pretty and classic pictures) and she makes me feel like I chose a good name for my Ellie.  You see, her name is Elisabeth Katherine and one of the first things I noticed when I stumbled on The Divine Gift of Motherhood was that the author's name was Elizabeth Kathryn.  Coincidence?  I think not! 

In order to keep this award, I must do the following:
1. Say thanks and link to the presenter of the award.
2. Share ten honest things about myself.
3. Present this blog award to 4 other whose blogs are brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged me.
4. Tell those 4 people that they have been awarded the HONEST SCRAP and inform them of these guidelines in receiving it.

Ten things about ME! (Who wouldn't want to know more about lovable me?):
1. I have a massive sweet tooth and think candy should be a major food group.
2. I grew up on the Southernmost barrier island in Southern NJ. (You get bonus points if you guess the name of the island, extra bonus points if you've ever visited it!  The points have no value)
3. I share a birthday with my dad.
4. I once had a hermit crab that lived over 7 years.  I stole $2.50 in change from my mother to buy that hermit crab.  I was only allowed to buy him if I used my own money (I didn't have any at the time) so I resorted to stealing from the change jar.  I didn't tell my mom that I stole the money until after the crab was dead.
5. I talk to my plants.
6. All of my house plants have names.
7. I was unmercifully tortured in elementary school because I had flared front teeth. As awful as it was, I think it made me stronger (certainly sarcastic, if nothing else).  
8. No amount of money in the world would convince me to drink a glass of white milk.  Aside from being lactose intolerant, I think the taste of white milk is absolutely revolting.  I won't drink any glass of milk (not even chocolate).  An extra thick milkshake is as close as you'll get.
9. I am a recovering pack rat. It's a genetic disease, I'm certain of it.
10. I struggle with letting go of trying to be perfect.  Something that isn't easy for a perfectionist.  My first wake-up call was during an RCIA class where Sr. Marie told me I was never going to be perfect (this was after I had shared that I was a perfectionist) and to stop trying.  Ouch!  You know what?  She's right and it took me several years to realize she didn't say it to insult me.

I nominate the following bloggers:
1. Joy, at Joy in the Morning, not only does she have a beautiful little girl with a beautiful name, Elisabeth, she is also sort of local to where I live.
2. Cookie, at The Cookie Jar.  She seems to have an outlook on motherhood that is similar to my own.  
3. ViolinMama, at A Rosey Outlook on Life, because I think her kids are pretty cute and I like her writing style.
4.  Koda's human, Betty, at A Corgi in Southern California.  You make me wonder if Mr. Furkins will be requiring his own blog detailing the crazy antics of his live some time in the future.  Can you see it?  "The Adventures of Naughty Mr. Furkins"  it could happen.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I need to vent!

I realized earlier today that I didn't have a birthday outfit for Ellie.  If her birthday wasn't just a week away, this wouldn't be a problem but it's a week away.  I decided to take her to our local Gymboree to find a cute outfit for the big day.  

Everything was going well in the store until it was time to check out.  Ellie suddenly had to pee while I was waiting for the transaction to finish processing.  I asked the sales associate if Ellie could use their bathroom since I know they have one in the back (we've used it in the past for emergencies).  She informed me that they don't have a bathroom (I really dislike being lied to in case I've never mentioned it.) and that I was welcome to take her to Cold Stone a few store fronts down to use their bathroom.  Poor Ellie was seconds away from having an accident.

Fortunately, we have a potty seat in the back of our van.  We had to race to the car and then Ellie had to hang on while I got the seat set up and ready for use.  Unfortunately for me, the gallon zip lock bag I put in the potty (our folding potty uses gallon zip bags) had a hole in it.  So thanks to the sales associate who had no compassion for my child, I have pee on the floor of my van. Yay!

I fired off emails to Gymboree letting them know I was very upset, and I alerted the Cold Stone corporate office that this Gymboree location is sending their customers who want a restroom to their facilities that is for their patrons, not Gymboree's.  I'm just very annoyed right now.  I'm trying to let it go, but it bothers me so much that some people can be so inconsiderate of the urgent needs of a child.

I know how to change a light bulb!

Yay for me!  Today I changed a light bulb.  I know, you're sitting here reading this and thinking "Wow, this chick really celebrates the small stuff in life, doesn't she?".  This, my friends, was no ordinary light bulb.  It was a tail light.  Those are in a totally different category if you ask me.

I can change the ordinary household light bulb.  Halogen, compact fluorescent, incandescent, I've got them covered.  I can change theatre lighting (took a class in college) and twinkle lights on the Christmas tree, too.  Automobile light bulbs are in a class of their own and until today were beyond the scope of my light bulb changing abilities.

I consider the replacement of auto lights to be a car repair, and I don't do car repairs.  I'm not a mechanic, and I have no lofty aspirations of becoming one anytime in the next 80 years.

So why did I venture into the world of auto repairs today? On Friday a well-intentioned motorist jumped out of her car and ran up to Bryan's window to let him know that our left tail light was out.  She scared the crap out of us because she appeared out of nowhere like the dead cyclist in the Sixth Sense. Bryan said he would take a look and see if it was out (Really? You can't just take the lady's word for it?).   He never did.  So I decided that I would have to fix it myself.  I watch my neighbor, Steve, replace the last tail light so I figured I could probably do it.  I'm happy to report that the most challenging part was hunting for the right tools (I knew what I needed, I'm a pretty handy gal.) since a certain someone doesn't put his tools back where they belong.  After I found the socket wrench, I just had to figure out how to get the light bulb out.  A quick IM to Bryan got me the insight I needed (For those not in the know you need to push in and twist, and the little bugger pops right out!  Pretty neat!).

I now have a new skill!  I feel rather accomplished today.  My lovely assistant, Madeline, helped me make sure everything was in working order. She was my official brake pusher-inner. I'm happy to report that she didn't try to shift the car into reverse.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Another week, another social gaffe!

I am notorious for social gaffes.  They're never intended and they're never meant to be malicious, but they happen and I'm sure on many occasions, I have offended people.  If you know me, you just sit back and laugh at me or shake your head (Oh! That crazy Karen has done it again!).  Generally, I have at least a social gaffe a week.  Some times I have multiple gaffes in a day or week.  Occasionally, I can make it out of a week without one at all.

Yesterday we had a great day with our neighbors.  We went to a birthday party down the street and hung out with the neighbors there for a little bit.  Then we headed over to another neighbor's house for a fun afternoon of eating good food and hilarious stories.  After our afternoon/evening with the neighbors we went home for a short while to feed the dog and let him out to stretch his legs, and then it was off to watch the local fireworks with the neighbors from outback and the neighbors from around the corner and across the street (same ones we visited in the afternoon).

While waiting in the parking lot for the fireworks to begin, that's when the social gaffe happened.  My neighbor, Joanne, complimented Madeline's dress.  Instead of just thanking her for the compliment, I had to say "We have the same dress for Ellie, too, but Bryan didn't want her to wear it to the birthday party today because he didn't want us to be THAT family with the hokey matching outfits."  At that moment, the neighbors from outback were getting out of their car and guess what?  Yep, their kids were wearing matching shirts. Crud.  I know Sara heard me and I felt bad.  I had no idea the kids were dressed alike.  So I commented to Joanne that I just had my social gaffe for the week and pointed out the matching outfits.  She proceeds to tell me that she thinks Bryan was just being ridiculous and that the girls should have worn the other dresses.  Ten minutes later I noticed that her girls were dressed identically, too.  Double gaffe!  I had to laugh at myself.  Obviously  I am not particularly observant (in my defense when I saw the girls in the afternoon they were in swimsuits, and Sara's kids were, too, when we saw them at the birthday party).

I now have two more sets of neighbors who are aware that I frequently have spontaneous social gaffes.  Keep you ears open, you never know when you'll catch the next gaffe.  Bryan tells me it could be worse.  I could be Joe Biden and have gaffes that are much more frequent.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

Here's wishing all of you a safe and happy 4th as we celebrate the annunciation of the Declaration of Independence two days after it was signed by our founding fathers (See what fun facts you learn when you have a quality education in the field of political science?).  Yes, it's true.  Our founding father's ever mindful that their treason against the King of England could get them all invited to a necktie party, signed the Declaration of Independence on July 2nd and then got a two day head start out of Philadelphia before the Declaration was publicly announced.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Book Review: The Book of Books

I recently had the opportunity to review The Book of Books by Henri Daniel-Rops for The Catholic Company. The premise of this book is to retell the stories of the Old Testament in a way that makes it more acceptable to children and even adults. You're probably going to think I'm a bit of a dork, but the best way I can explain the way in which this story is told, is to liken it to the narration of the Princess Bride story by the grandfather in the Princess Bride movie. Simply put, the storytelling in this book just reminds me of a grandfather retelling the stories.

Overall, the book is an enjoyable read (please read my comments at the end of this post to understand what wasn't enjoyable).* I felt there were a few bits and pieces where it seemed like the author was talking down to the audience, but perhaps that's because the book was written in 1955 and was directed to children. If you are like me, you may find the occasional condescending tone to be a bit off putting. Even children, the intended audience of this book, don't like being talked to in this manner. I think such instances in this book are just a by product of the era in which this author lived.

As far as the reading level is concerned, I would say this is an easy read. I would imagine that a fifth grader could easily read this book. An adult could easily devour this book in a lazy afternoon (provided there are no children vying for his/her attention every five minutes--glimpses into my life are lovely, aren't they?).

The retelling of the biblical stories is pretty good, but as with any synopsis, details are missing. Due to several literature classes in high school and college, I am very familiar with the Book of Job and I found the very broad telling of this story in the book to be lacking. You can't fully appreciate the story by reading a somewhat short synopsis of it. The Passover story was rather lacking, as well. Perhaps I'm biased because I am quite familiar with those stories, but I don't think the author did them justice. If you want the simplified version of the Old Testament stories, this book will give you just that. However, if you are looking for the rich details, then I'd suggest you tackle the bible itself.

This review was written as part of the Catholic Book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company for more information on The Book of Books.

As a reviewer for The Catholic Company Book Reviewer Program, I was supplied with a free copy of The Book of Books for my honest review of this book.

*Great, you made it to the end of my review. I was emailing back and forth with Chris (he runs the awesome reviewer program over at The Catholic Company) and I mentioned to him that by page 11 of this book, I had already found two questionable statements by the author which struck me as incredibly close-minded. I instantly dashed to the copyright page to find out what was going on, and then I ran to my lap top and began writing a scathing review of this book based on 11 pages. I even contemplated whether or not I wanted to read the remainder of this book. The author was born in 1901 and the book was originally published in 1955 (presumably in French) and then in English in 1956. I decided that the author and his book with offensive comments were simply a product of his time and I managed to finish the book. I looked past the occasional sexist remarks towards women that I found later in the book. Let me tell you what I found was highly offensive in this book. On page 7, he made a comment about the appearance of Jews that struck me as highly stereotypical. And, now that I think of it, it's even more offensive given that it was written just years after the Holocaust. Then on page 11, our closed-minded friend (the author) makes reference to the "African Negros" and their uncivilized societies. I took several courses in Anthropology while in college and that comment truly offended me. Indigenous people are not backwards uncivilized groups. Just because they're different from us or don't wear clothes does not make them uncivilized. They are living a life that is totally untouched and uninfluenced by our society. Sure they're going to seem different and maybe even backwards when compared to our modern society, but they're not unorganized or uncivilized. The destruction of indigenous society is, I believe, the reason the lesser developed countries have all the problems they have today. It is because people like us interfered in their way of life in an attempt to pull them into modern-day life that many of those people suffer today. I could write quite a lot on this subject, but I don't feel that this review is the proper platform. Maybe someday in the future I'll blog about my feelings on this subject.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Alabama...isn't that our President's name?

This one is just too funny to keep to myself.  Apparently the public school, who essentially spent the entire school year telling the kids how wonderful Obama is, never bothered to tell them how his name was spelled.  I guess trying to indoctrinate my child with liberal Democrat ideas took precedence.  

In case you haven't noticed yet, I'm a cradle Republican.  Some people are cradle Catholics, I am a cradle Republican.  As a toddler and young child, I dreamed of marrying Ronald Reagan.  Did you know just saying his name makes babies smile?  When I went to college and studied Political Science, I was was often the lone Republican in the room.  I held my own against my liberal peers much to their chagrin.  So you can probably imagine that having my child come home from school where she's been fed the liberal Kool-Aid every day for 177 days of school* doesn't make me a happy Mommy.

So how did we get on the subject of President "Alabama"?  I'm the mean mom who doesn't allow her child's brain to go to mush over Summer break.  Every day I give her a combination workbook assignments, handwriting practice, journal exercises and match fact quizzes in addition to reading.  We're finishing up the 2nd Grade Brain Quest work book and getting ready to start on the 3rd Grade one next week.  Todays Social Studies assignment was to use a map and write the capitals for all 50 states.  And that's when it happened.  Madeline pointed to Alabama on the little laminated map and said "Isn't that our President's name?".  

Oh public school, you are failing to properly brainwash my child into the liberal school of thought.  Don't mess with the Mommy who had her child photographed with a plush version of the GOP elephant.

*Madeline missed three days of school this past year.  She was spared one heavy political day thanks to our Disney Vacation.

Small Successes

Celebrating the little things in life that add up

1. Finally, after nearly a week of waiting for sunny and warm days, we got to use the pool again. We've been in it every day for almost a week now. Ellie once again has the confidence to jump in the pool unassisted, and she's jumping in far enough that I don't have to cringe and pray that she doesn't hit her head on the wall with each jump. She's even going under the water with each jump. Maybe she'll be swimming before Summer draws to a close.
2. Since I couldn't find the size pet bed I wanted for Oscar, the pet bed destroyer, I brought a bed that I liked at Target and altered it. I turned one bed into two, and not only do they match my family room furniture, they look pretty nice. I've also come to the conclusion that it's more satisfying to do this type of stuff for my kids vs. the family pet.
3. I saw my first wild snake this past Saturday at my cousin's pool party. It was a rat snake. If I wasn't afraid to get bit, I would have tried to pet him (his head was in a mole hole).

Bonus: I actually decided on a date for Ellie's birthday party and brought invitations. With 11 days to go, I really need to get those invites filled out and sent out.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tiber River Review: Catechism of the Catholic Church

After several years of dragging my feet, I finally went out and got myself a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Why did I wait so long?  Well, for starters, it's a pretty thick book with rather small type.  Honestly, that shouldn't have deterred me, but I let it as part of the litany of excuses not to pick it up.  I think what really deterred me was the assumption that I wasn’t going to find it an enjoyable read by any stretch of the imagination (and coming from someone who reads history texts for pleasure, that’s really saying something).
Once I got over the trepidation I had about reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I found myself faced with the daunting task of trying to decide which version I should buy.  There are really quite a lot out there from which to choose.  I initially turned to an online retailer of books to read reviews in hopes of finding the best version.  Did I want the short and sweet version?  Nah, I’m long winded, so I’ll take one the full-length version, please.  How about one with no index?  What, are you kidding me?  An index is a must.  You can’t look things up if you don’t have an index!  Did I want one that other reviewers said fell apart?  Umm, that would be a negative.  I like my books to stay in one piece, thanks.  One thing was certain, the “green one” was the catechism that many people claimed in their reviews of ones they found disappointing to be the better one.  That had me sold, but the giant online retailer didn’t sell that version.  So off I went to find a Catholic bookseller who sold this version.
I’m happy to report to you that the “green one” really lives up to all the hype.  It is thorough, and that’s good because you walk away knowing exactly what the Church teaches.  I particularly like the well-organized index.  It is invaluable when you want to look up something specific.  There is also a very thorough glossary in the back of the book that refers back to specific paragraphs in the catechism.  And to refer back to my first paragraph, I was actually surprised to find the catechism to be rather interesting and engaging.  It wasn’t the dull read that I feared it might be.
I do feel that the text for this particular catechism is on the advanced level.  It reminds me of a light version of the law books I studied in college.  If you are looking for a version that is simplified and in plain English, this is probably not the catechism for you.  However, if you are looking for a very thorough version of the catechism that has a great index and doesn’t fall apart easily (mine is still fully intact after much reading), this may very well be the one for you. You can purchase it here.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

Tiber River Review: The Way of the Cross for Children

My three year old has developed a bit of a fascination for the stations of the cross that are hung around our church.  While we're in church waiting for Mass to begin, she likes to find Jesus everywhere in the church.  When I noticed that our local Catholic gift shop had a children's book titled The Way of the Cross for Children, I knew I had to buy it for her. 

The format of the book is pretty much what you would expect for a children's book on the stations of the cross.  Each station has two pages devoted to it.  You could use this book to pray the stations of the cross with your children, or you could simply read the explanation of each station to them in sort of a story format.  On the first page, you'll find a heading with the number of the station.  Below that, the title of the station is listed in boldfaced type.  You'll then find an opening verse for the group leader followed by a response for all.  This verse is the same for all fifteen stations.  A beautiful illustration for each station is presented below that.  Beneath each illustration is a description of that station.  I particularly like that it is written in a way that even a very young child can understand. The second page for each station has a prayer verse for the group leader, followed by a response prayer for the group.  Each prayer verse pertains directly to the station.
I like this book, but I think the prayers are better suited to older children.  My seven year old could easily follow along with the prayers, but it would be very difficult for a child who cannot read to participate.  I fully appreciate that there is a description that is child friendly for each station.  When reading this book to my three year old, I simply read the station descriptions to her and we talk about what is going on in each picture.  In all, it is a lovely book to add to your child's library.

This review of The Way of the Cross for Children was written for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.
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