Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tiber River Review: Strength of a Woman

I wasn't quite sure exactly what I should expect from this book when I selected it to review for the Tiber River Review Program. I suspected that this book might wind up being a commentary on selected heroines of the Bible with some in depth analysis. I have read other books in the past that set out to retell well known Bible stories and have found them not only poorly interperted and lacking, but also filled with commentary that is often inaccuarte. Bearing that in mind, I was a little wary when I picked up this book. The subject matter interested me so I figured I'd give it a whirl and hope the time I invested in reading it would be well spent. I'm happy to report that I found this book to be well worth the time I spent reading it. In fact, I wish there was more to it as I found myself wanting to read more when I came to the final page.

Amy LeBlanc's Strength of a Woman is an engaging retelling of the stories of Biblical heroines. The writing style reminded me of a gripping historical fiction novel. Each of the eleven stories retold in this book are well done. Four of the stories are from the Old Testament, and the remaining seven are from the New Testament. Each of the stories will captivate you and in many cases make you want to read even more. I was so enthralled with several of the stories that I had a hard time putting down the book. I would certainly recommend this book if you are looking for an enjoyable read.
I wrote this review of Strength of a Woman 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. A free copy of this book was given to me in exchange for my honest review of this book.
Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

Small Successses--Is it really Thursday again?

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

Time flies when you're having fun or are just plain busy, doesn't it? I can't believe it's Thursday already. Life is simply passing before me. Let's see if I can remember some of what I've done this week. Shall we?

1. I just finished disposing of all the expired OTC and prescription medicines that were sitting in the medicine portion of my kitchen cabinets. I root through there every few months to make sure we don't have any old stuff in there.

2. On Sunday, I remembered to buy candy for the trick or treaters. Sadly, I have eaten an entire bag of Snickers. I also helped my brother and my father-in-law finish some of their Christmas shopping for the girls. For my brother, I picked up the super cool two wheeled Barbie transportation device that Ellie is going to love when she sees it on Christmas and my father-in-law and his girlfriend will be looking pretty cool in the eyes of my girls when they see what the American Girl items they got. My kids are really blessed to have such generous people in their lives.

3. I have successfully remembered to make goodie bags for both of the girls' classes and my religious ed class. I also finished gathering all the necessary items for Madeline's class party and remembered to remind all the moms who said they could volunteer either their time or supplies for the party this Friday of when they or the items they're sending in are needed. It's nice to realize that I can stay on top of things from time to time.

Bonus: I'm doing my best to not freak out over the bump in my lesson plans for my religious ed class. We have to do a Child Lures Prevention class this weekend per the diocese and my plans for an All Saints Day party have been thwarted. I'm nearly done assembling my lesson plan based on the 36 page manual I was given on teaching children to be safe around those who may attempt to harm them. I have next to no direction or support from the religious ed department so I'm a little stressed over this. And, the fact that they sprung this on us along with the materials just this part Sunday doesn't help.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Where does the time go?

Over the past several days I've become keenly aware that time is flying. I'm a little surprised that Halloween will be here in less than a week. What happened to October? Looking back, it seems like this past month was a blur of soccer games, running back and forth to do school school drop offs and pick ups and house cleaning. I know I got a lot accomplished this month, but I feel like this month and the two before it zipped by before I had a moment to sit back and enjoy them.

Flying time also means growing kids. It has really hit home with me within the past week that Ellie is growing up and away from me. There is hardly any baby left in my baby. Her little palms are still baby soft, but she's a little kid who talks and does her best to be independent. It hit me last Thursday morning as I chased her around the house with foam swords that she won't be here in the mornings next year. It will just be me and Mr. Furkins and that makes me feel very sad. I don't want Ellie to grow up. If I could have her stay just as she is right now forever I would. I know next year as I sit here alone every morning after the kids go to school that I will miss her terribly. Next year she will be in school for a full day. I think if she was in a half day program I wouldn't feel so bad about it, but I know that's not going to happen.

We got drenched Saturday afternoon while the girls played soccer. Madeline and Ellie had back to back games. The weather was sketchy. One minute it would be sunny and warm and the next it was rainy and windy. This scenario repeated itself more times than I care to remember. Madeline had a good game where she scored three goals. Ellie's game saw more wind and rain than Madeline's. The game felt like it went on for forever. I think we were all really happy when we finally got to head home.

On Saturday night Ellie fell asleep on me at Mass. It is very rare that she falls asleep in my arms anymore. So while part of me was happy to have her sleeping in my arms, other parts (my back, arms, shoulders and neck) were straining under the pressure of carrying one third of my body weight in limp child form. It's moments like these that I really wish Bryan was beside me instead of sitting at home watching a movie or playing a computer game. By the time Mass was over I was beat, but I'll take it. It's worth the sore muscles to squeeze a few more drops of baby out of Ellie.

Madeline developed a bright red rash on her cheeks on Friday. I though she was a little red when she came home from school, but after going to her school Halloween party that night she was really red. At first we thought she was just hot from running around. It got progressively worse over the weekend, but she wasn't itchy and didn't have a fever. My parents, without seeing her were convinced she had the mumps. (They always jump to the worse case scenario.) Bryan thought she may have had an allergic reaction to something. I wondered if she picked up some sort of contagious rash. When she woke up with the rash looking brighter than ever yesterday morning, I decided yesterday to take her to the pediatrician to see what it was. She has Fifth's Disease. The doctor tells me it's harmless in her case and that she could show signs of the rash for a few months. Unfortunately, we had to sit in a waiting room that smelled of vomit and sour milk packed with sick kids for over 45 minutes waiting to get called back to an exam room to be told that Madeline is perfectly fine and just has "a cool rash". (Madeline isn't amused with the "cool rash".) I hope that Madeline and I don't come down with anything. I did notice that our pediatrician's office will happily take gently used toys and books. I sat there thinking of how wonderful it would be for me to dump the huge stack of unwanted children's books I have sitting on my bedroom floor in their office. I could get part of my room back! I'll certainly be keeping them in mind.

Just a few more days until November. I hope it's a month that lingers.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Small Successes

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. We survived nearly a week without a working heater. Thank God for the gas fireplace that I hate. It's the only thing that kept us warm until the repair man could replace the busted ignition on the heater.

2. I managed to outpace my overly energetic student in my religious ed class last Sunday AND I even got all of the kids to talk to me. In fact, one of my quietest girls is now very chatty. We're all having a lot of fun. They're a great group of kids.

3. I have expanded my food preparation skills to include making quesadillas. Madeline is very happy. Ellie, however, is not.

Dear Baseball fans

Dear Baseball fans,
I truly do not care about your favorite MLB team. If you are a Phillie's Phan, I really don't care about your team (same goes if you like the Philadelphia Eagles). Perhaps I'm the grinch, but I don't like your team dear Phillies Phans during the regular season, not even when I have Hall of Fame or lower level seats. Sure, I can tolerate a Phillies game if it means I get cotton candy and a delicious pulled pork sandwich, but don't expect me to care about the game or even to want to watch all of it. I do like the Philly Phanatic. He, the cotton candy and pulled pork sandwich are the only things I like about baseball.

For the past too long, my Facebook page has been flooded with stupid comments relating to the Phillies games. Seriously, if you are that excited about the game and need to comment excessively about it while it's happening, invite some friends over to watch it with you. My husband who loves his Phillies is even irritated by the overzealous posting every 5 minutes Phillies Phans.

Dodgers, I'm not happy with you. You could have spared me from being subjected to the World Series and a pack of happy Phillies fans. But no, you let me down. I rooted for you for a few games much to the irritation of my husband, but you didn't pull out a win. Instead I got to witness the overzealous joy of Phillies Phans. Thanks, Dodgers. Two years in a row now you have let me down.

Yankees, I'm counting on you now. Win tonight and please quiet the Phillies Phans on Facebook for me next week.

And in case you are wondering, I do have a few teams that I support with rabid enthusiasm. I love my girls' soccer teams and the Philadelphia Flyers. And yes, if the Flyers were in the Stanley Cup, I can honestly say that I would not be one of those annoying overzealous Facebook posters.

Your Unapologetic Anti-baseball Fan

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I really want to homeschool Madeline. I spend so much time going over things she should have learned in school every day. It's frustrating to have to teach someone else's curriculum. It's even more frustrating when you can tell that they're "teaching to the test". Most of what Madeline brings home looks like standardized test prep.

Sadly, Bryan is not on board with the idea of homeschooling. He doesn't think I'm patient enough based on my frustration with her when it comes to having to reteach simple concepts that were taught in school. After nearly seven hours in school Madeline is spent and isn't exactly receptive to learning when she gets home. The school takes her best hours and they simply aren't giving me the results I would like to see.

During the Summer I essentially homeschooled her and she learned a lot. She had a good time and we expanded her horizons. Now that she's back in the public school I feel she's being stifled rather than challenged. She could learn so much more at home and have much more time to be a kid at home.

I really wish Bryan would give homeschooling a chance.

Book Review: Take Five-Meditations with Pope Benedict XVI

I recently had the opportunity to read Mike Aquilina & Fr. Kris D. Stubna's Take Five-Meditations with Pope Benedict XVI for The Catholic Company as part of their Book Reviewer Program. For it's diminutive size, the book packs a nice punch. I found the book to be thought provoking and certainly inspirational.

The introduction of the book includes a short note on how to use the book. It's a book you can easily skip around in and still benefit from it just as much as you would if you read each meditation in order. Also included in the introduction is a summary of Pope Benedict's background. I actually found his backstory to be quite interesting.

There are seventy-two meditations in this book. Each meditation begins with a quote from the Pope's teachings or written work. Following that are three sections entitled "Think About It", "Just Imagine", and "Remember". The "Think About It" section offers three prompts or questions to get you on the right track. In "Just Imagine", you'll see a scripture quote that ties in nicely with the meditation. The "Remember" section offers a statement that you can reflect on throughout the day.

I liked the simplicity of the format of this book. It is a book where you could read one meditation each day and then reflect and pray on it. What is nice about this book is you can read the short chapter on a specific meditation in the morning before starting your day and take the rest of the day to incorporate the clarity learned in that meditation into your day. Most of the chapters are about two pages long so you're not looking at a huge time investment. Just a few minutes a day focused on these meditations will help to put you or keep you on the right track.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who's looking for spiritual inspiration but doesn't want something that's over the top. The simplicity of this book will make you want to turn back to it again and again.

To purchase this book or to get more information, please visit The Catholic Company. As a reviewer for The Catholic Company Catholic Book Reviewer Program, I was supplied with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Like free photo gifts?

If you do, click here. Kodak is giving away $15 photo gift credits right now. It's a promotion that is going to run for a few weeks. Not a bad deal if you are planning to get some photo gifts made for the holidays. I usually buy photo ornaments and mouse pads for the grandparents around Christmas. They're always a hit since they have their favorite little people's happy faces on the gift.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Warm and toasty at last!

I wasn't the most optimistic person this weekend (actually, I don't think I'm ever an optimist, I'm a realist, but some say I'm a pessimist). Bryan, who is an optimist, was certain that our heater would be fixed today because the heating company assured him that they would be here on Monday. After being told that I'd have my heater fixed on Friday (I wasn't holding my breath.) I figured that it was just a line. String the cold people along while you take your sweet time getting the part they need. If you take long enough, maybe they'll spring for a new heating unit.

Imagine my surprise when the doorbell rang shortly afternoon and the repairman was at my door. Bryan had talked with them this morning and they told him that they could come out this afternoon. I didn't realize that they meant a few minutes afternoon.

In less than 15 minutes my heater was back up and running. I am delighted that I no longer have to have the fireplace running. Oscar will surely be disappointed. He's enjoyed sprawling out in front of the fireplace the past few days.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I want my heater fixed

I'm feeling a bit anxious at the moment. All morning I expected to get a call from the heating repair guy, but the phone never rang. I had Bryan call around lunch time to check on the status and they said they'd call back. Two hours later we still had no word. I had already lost hope that the heater would be fixed today a few hours earlier. Bryan called back a second time and within an hour we had a call. The part they're waiting for will not be in until Monday. Ugh!

Bryan is rather bummed about this. He's freezing his butt off upstairs in his office. I, however, am roasting down here in the family room next to the lovely gas fireplace that gives me a headache.

Since neither of us are comfortable with leaving the fireplace on when we're sleeping our out of the house, we do not have a steady source of heat. We piled extra blankets on the girls last night to make sure they stayed warm. I was actually quite comfortable last night. I like to be cold while I sleep.

I'm rather dismayed that we need to go a few more days without a functioning heater. It's not the fact that we're a bit chilly here that's bothering me, but the worry that the simple little part that needs to be replaced is going to prove impossible to obtain. The week before Ellie was born we had a massive heat wave and our central air unit that was only 4 years old died. The problem was one small part that the repairman assured me he could have the next day (kind of like the heater guy did yesterday). After several days, we learned that our builder used a unit that was not industry standard and it was essentially impossible to get a new part unless we could wait 6 weeks. Don't ask a very pregnant woman if she wants to wait six weeks to have her A/C replaced in the middle of a heat wave. We ultimately wound up having to replace the entire unit so I could be saved from going off the deep end and so our newborn wouldn't have to come home to sweltering hot house. At the moment, I am incredibly worried that we're heading into the same situation once again, only I'm not pregnant and it's cold instead of unbearably hot.

So while Bryan complains about how cold he is all weekend, I'll be sitting here worried that the tiny little part that is causing our heating woes will prove impossible to obtain. I sincerely hope that the repair man can get the part we need. I really don't want to have to replace the entire heating unit. That's an expense we don't need at the moment.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's raining, but the sun is shining!

Today is a gloomy day here. It's cold and rainy, but I feel like the sun is shining on me. The heating guy was here this morning. My heating unit is still not fixed, but I feel like I got good news. Apparently the igniter for the unit is not working. Because that's not working, the heater doesn't produce heat.

The heating guy doesn't have the igniter, but he assures me that they can have it for tomorrow. Tomorrow works for me. If something happens and they don't have the part in time to install it tomorrow I am told they will come out on the weekend and do it. My house is rather warm on the main level thanks to the gas fireplace that I hate. I never thought I'd say it, but thank God for that fireplace.

I'm just very happy that the entire unit isn't shot. I feel much better now knowing that the problem isn't something huge.

I certainly feel like the dark cloud that was hovering over my house yesterday is fading away. The universe is coming back into alignment here.

Small Successes

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

This week has been one that has kept me on my toes. Bryan had a business trip in Las Vegas this week and true to form something big happened. For some reason life always throws a challenge my way when Bryan isn't around to keep me from freaking out. This time our crisis was the heater stopped working. Last time the garage door broke. It never ceases to amaze me that everything falls apart when Bryan is gone.

1. I finally got around to ordering some Catholic coloring books for my kidergarten religious ed class. I've been having some difficulty finding coloring pages I liked for the class, and there's also the issue I've been having with the religious ed department not always copying the proper worksheets for me. Now I can get a bunch of coloring pages run off (the religious ed department will get those right) to keep some of my more exuberant coloring students occupied while they're waiting for the rest of the class to arrive. I'm really happy with the coloring books I selected. I just wish I hadn't procrastinated for so long. I could have used these last month.

2. On Saturday, Bryan and I took the girls to the beach in Ocean City, NJ and got lots of nice pictures of them that I can use for my Christmas cards. I had wanted to go to my hometown and take pictures there, but they're currently dredging sand onto the beach to build up the dunes and it's not a pretty sight. By stopping at Ocean City, we saved ourselves 30 minutes of driving (each way) and discovered that other beaches in Cape May County are nice, too.

3. On Monday, I took the girls to the dentist and the Cape May County Zoo on Monday. I was totally exhausted after a day of driving, worrying about my husband while he traveled, and exploring the zoo with six lively children and my best friend.

Bonus 1: I managed to get Ellie the flu shot that she's required to have by NJ law to attend pre-K. That was an adventure all by itself!

Bonus 2: On Sunday, I rearranged Madeline's closet and dresser configuration to maximize space for her clothing. And, I swapped out all of the babyish books on Madeline's bookshelf and replaced them with her chapter books.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Book Review: Come and See Wisdom

I'm having a particularly bad day today, so I'm reminded of Job and his plight in the Book of Job which is covered in the first four chapters of Come and See Wisdom. I'm fairly certain that God likes to see just how much I can take while my husband is traveling for business and I'm home alone with the kids. I suspect it's comic relief for Him. I'm sure I'd also laugh if I could just sit back and watch my antics.

Anyway, my latest book to review for the Catholic Company is Come and See Wisdom. It's is a Bible study book that is broken down into 22 chapters. To use this book you need a Catholic Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (I'm partial to the big green one in case you're wondering.). This book can be used in a group setting, which is ultimately how the book is intended to be used, or it can also be used for an individual Bible study. I suspect it would be great for homeschooling for middle and high schoolers.

Each chapter has a few pages that discuss the portion of the bible being examined and is followed by 20 questions that each have notations that correspond to a particular verse in the bible or a specific paragraph in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

If you are looking to start a bible study group at your parish, this book is really an excellent resource. In the introduction of the book it essentially walks you through what you'd need to do to start up and run a Bible study group. Every so many chapters it offers suggestions for a monthly social activity.

The format of the book reminded me an awful lot of the workbook my husband and I had for our pre-Cana class with it's read the lesson, answer the questions and discuss type of format. If you are using this book in a Bible study group there are tips included in the book for how to engage all of the participants in the discussion areas. I think the guidance the book offers is a nice touch. It's sort of a how to run a Bible study group for dummies type of thing. The guidance in the book takes care of all the guess work for you. Using this book will certainly allow you to ensure that you have consistency in the manner of presentation from lesson to lesson.

I liked how the book gives the reader background on different aspects of the Bible in terms of history, how a particular passage or psalm relates to passages from other books in the Bible. I also found that this book does not assume that it's users all have a knowledge of literary terms. It's explanations may seem rather mundane for those who are already familiar with these terms, but they're explained very clearly so that the concept is easy to grasp for someone who is not already acquainted with the terminology. So aside from offering insight to passages of the Bible, this book can also offer some enlightenment in the area of language arts. That's a bonus if you are using this to homeschool.

To find out more about Come and See Wisdom, visit the Catholic Company. As a reviewer for the Catholic Company, I was supplied with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Cry with me

It looks like my day has gotten worse. It appears that my heating unit is no longer producing heat. My step father-in-law who knows a thing or two about heating walked me through the process of checking that the blower still works (it does) and reigniting the furnace pilot. I even replaced the batteries on my pain in the butt not user friendly digital thermostat (another gem from the previous owners).

I'm beside myself right now. The house is 63 degrees, despite the fact that I've had the heat on all day. My husband is on a plane that won't land for more than an hour. I could cry right now. We really don't need the added expense of a new furnace right now (it's 11 1/2 years old) but I have a feeling we're going to be buying a new one. On the positive side, we do have a gas fire place (that gives me the worst splitting headache) so it's not like we'll be without heat.

I feel really bad that the first thing I have to tell Bryan once he lands is that our heater doesn't seem to be working. I'm sure he won't be a happy camper. Why oh why must something go horribly wrong every time Bryan goes away on a business trip?

It's going to be one of those days!

When Bryan travels I call him before I go to bed to talk to him for a few minutes and to say good night to him. Most of the time Bryan is in a different time zone when he travels. Occasionally, my beloved spouse is having too much of a good time and I'm not able to get in touch with him. Other times he doesn't have cell service in whatever place he's in. There have been times when my husband has thought it was ok to call our house at 1 or 2AM while the girls and I were sleeping. I do everything in my power to make sure the phone doesn't ring in our house past 11PM.

Last night, I was feeling especially tired after two days chock full of activity and single parenting. I sent Bryan a text at 11:55PM to let him know that I was going to bed early and I would be calling him in 5 minutes. (I go to bed between Midnight and 1:30 most nights.) After making sure the dog was locked in his crate, locking up the house and making sure the girls were still alive (Yes, I check every night to make sure my girls are alive before I go to bed.) I gave Bryan a call. He was at Wolfgang Puck's Vegas restaurant. I only talked to him for a few minutes. I explained to him that I was rather exhausted after hosting my parents for about 5 hours that afternoon/evening. When they come over the kids and the dog get very excited, and my parents both talk to me about different things at the same time. The noise level alone wipes me out. I said good night to Bryan and didn't expect to talk to him until around 8AM this morning.

I'm not sure what exactly happened to my husband, but he must not have checked his text messages for many hours. At 4AM my phone rang, and as luck would have it the handset I had on Bryan's pillow was the loud one from the kitchen that plays a song when Bryan calls. So I was startled out of a deep sleep by the phone. I answer it to an overly bubbly Bryan who is literally shouting into the phone. My first thought was the he must be drunk. Why else would he call me at 4AM? No, my perfectly sober husband was blissfully unaware that Las Vegas was several hours behind NJ. He insisted for about a minute that it was only 1AM and that he hadn't said good night to me. It wasn't until I firmly pointed out that it was 4AM here on the East Coast and that I had already talked to him four hours ago that he realized he made a big mistake. Part of me thinks he was just so excited that he won $400 playing black jack that he had to call me.

Because of my 4AM wake up call I couldn't fall back to sleep. My stomach was killing me because I am generally starving when I wake up. So I had to go downstairs to the kitchen to grab a pudding cup to make my stomach feel better. Around 5:30AM I finally managed to fall back to sleep. When the alarm went off at 7AM I felt anything but refreshed.

The day got more interesting when I asked the director of Ellie's school if it was still NJ law that children under 5 are required to have the flu vaccine to attend preschool. Unfortunately the answer was yes. So I spent this morning scrambling to locate a pediatric dose of the flu vaccine for Ellie. Our pediatrician is out and doesn't know when they'll have it. Our family doctor was also out. I wound up on a wild goose chase to get her the vax. After calling the 800 number for the Walgreen's Take Care Clinic I was told that the local Walgreen's had it. So I signed Ellie out and took her there to get the flu shot. Once I got her signed in (We were first on the list...yeah!) I talked to the nurse on duty and found out they have been out of the pediatric dose for weeks. Ugh! But she did tell me she's heard rumors that the Minute Clinic at a CVS 20 minutes away had it. I decided we'd take a chance and drive over there. There was a crowd of people around the Minute Clinic and I began to wonder if Ellie would be 5 before she was seen. We were 9th in line and spent about 90 minutes waiting to be seen, all the while not being sure if they even had the pediatric dose of the flu vax. Fortunately, our wait was not in vain. Ellie got her flu shot so I now have one less thing to worry about.

Bryan is now on a plane that is heading home. Provided the flight was not delayed (I haven't checked the status yet.) he should be home in just enough time for me to get over to the parish school in time for the class I'm required to take by the diocese to be a catechist.

I'm very tired and I can't wait until this day is over. I'll be very happy to have Bryan home and snoring in bed next to me instead of calling me at 4AM.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Think my kids will rail against censorship?

I've been wondering if I'm going to have kids flaunting their first amendment right of free speech someday. See, I ban certain TV shows, books and toys in our home. For the most part, I ban things that irritate me or provide a bad example for my children.

Bratz dolls have been banned since they first came out. My girls don't need to play with underage hookers with too much make-up and too little clothing. They have Barbie. At least she looks like a respectable call girl when she isn't cavorting around in a princess gown.

Rainbow fish is a banned book. Why? Because the message in the story is horrible. Why do people think that a story that tells kids that it's not ok to be special or different is good? It also tells you that people won't like you if something about you makes you stand out in the world. It's not a sweet story about sharing. It's a story of extortion. If you want friends rainbow fish you better give us a scale, otherwise you can live out the rest of your days as the outcast. Real sweet! Did I ever mention that when we moved into this house Ellie's bedroom had Rainbow fish wallpaper border running all around the room? I scrapped that off the walls within the first few days that we lived here. I didn't sleep well knowing that my innocent child was surrounded by the characters from that horrid book.

Lots of TV shows have been banned. Yo Gabba Gabba with it's characters that look an awful lot like adult toys is not allowed to air in my home. Many of the shows marketed to the tween and teen set are also not allowed in my home. Our most recent TV show to be blocked is Nickelodeon's Fresh Beat Band. The songs annoy me and I can't shake the feeling that this show is trying to be the AIDS free preschool version of Rent. Don't get me wrong, I really like the musical Rent, but I don't need the irritating Nick Jr. version playing in my house every day.

Ellie knows it's a banned show (the screen goes black and the box asking for the parental code pops up every time the show comes on TV). She's aware that I simply don't like the show. Maybe it's because she carried on every time it came on TV because she didn't like it. All I know is it's up there with my least favorite kids' TV shows.

I know on some level that Madeline resents that I don't allow her to watch certain shows (such as iCarly and Hannah Montana). I do my best to offer her other shows that I feel are more age appropriate and respectful. I don't know why, but Nickelodeon has a penchant for portraying adults as idiots. In a few years, I'm sure my daughter will think she knows it all and I really don't need a TV show egging her on.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I feel like I've been MIA

I'm starting to think that I've been busier that I previously thought. I'm a little lazy and didn't go and look at any of my more recent posts, but I don't think I've shared my pumpkin patch pictures from two weeks ago. I know I didn't put any of my recent beach pictures up either. Did I even blog about my trip to the beach this past Saturday? I think I'm in the middle of a time warp. How is it that Madeline's birthday was a month ago? Time has been zipping past me ever since I got sick back in August. Here's hoping it slows down sometime soon.

Today was a rather busy day here. Bryan left at 5:30AM to catch a flight to Las Vegas. He's out there for a meeting. So my day consisted of waking up early (kind of) to say good bye to my husband, worrying for his safety while he was flying (worrying and praying that is), driving to Stone Harbor for a dentist visit for me and Madeline, checking on my parents' house "at the shore" (non-public bathroom break), lunch at Mc Donald's with my best friend and her four kids, and a visit to the Cape May County Zoo. When we finally got home I crashed on the couch for a nice long nap.

I'm happy to report that I successfully kept the girls busy today. I like to keep them busy while Bryan is away so they don't miss him too much. I particularly like to keep busy while he's flying. Otherwise I obsessively worry about him. Tomorrow my parents are going to visit so that will create a diversion for the kids for tomorrow. I just have to get past two mornings and one more bedtime routine and life will be back to normal for a few more weeks.

Unfortunately, I'll likely only see Bryan for 30 minutes on Wednesday night before I have to go to a class I'm required to take as a catechist in our diocese. The kicker is I'm not even sure if I'm actually registered for the class since the DRE appears to be a bit of a scatterbrain. I've emailed, given her handwritten notes and spoken to her in person and I still do not have a straight answer. I'll be calling tomorrow to try to follow up once more. I'm frustrated to say the least.

I'm looking forward to Thursday when life goes back to normal for a few more weeks. Bryan has two more business trips coming up next month. I honestly don't know how I used to cope when he used travel frequently. Before Ellie was born he used to travel almost monthly. In fact, I think he was away for about 45 days of my pregnancy with Ellie (spread out over many trips). We don't have the exact dates for his next two trips, but I'm really hoping he won't be traveling on our anniversary since it's the day before Thanksgiving.

This tired mom is going to head off to bed now. Maybe tomorrow I'll find the time to post my beach and pumpkin patch pictures. My new profile picture is from our beach trip this past Saturday. Bryan played photographer for a few minutes so I could get in a few pictures.

Important announcement

For those of you who have been wondering for days on end what the deal was with the sky, I have breaking news from my four year old weather reporter. Apparently, "The sky is out today." so get out there and enjoy it while you can!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Tiber River Review: St. Augustine's Confessions

I recently tackled St. Augustine's Confessions. I vaguely remember reading bits and pieces of it in a college philosophy class (in fact, I still have that very musty old copy), but I don't think the professor realized he was living on this planet, so we never really delved very deeply into any of the philosophy books we covered, nor did we read any of them from cover to cover. St. Augustine's Confessions is by no means light reading. Bits and pieces of it are a bit lighthearted, in fact, I even found myself laughing out loud on a few occasions, but on the whole the I found the book to be what I would describe as heavy. It's certainly not a frivolous read. While at times the book seemed a bit daunting, the story itself is captivating. This is essentially St. Augustine's autobiography and conversion story. I have a penchant for history, so from that standpoint, I really enjoyed St. Augustine's account of life in the Roman Empire 1600 years ago. As he takes us on his journey to God, he gives us glimpses into life in the Roman Empire. His story of conversion is timeless and something to which many of us can relate and aspire. His compelling story is nothing short of inspirational. At times, the reader may even think that St. Augustine's journey to God is simply too good to be true. St. Augustine journeys from a life immersed in sin to one doused in holiness. You can't read this book and not come away with the realization that God has unlimited patience and mercy for even what appears to be the most hopeless cases. St. Augustine's undying gratitude and praise for God is inspiring as well. On many occasions I took a few moments to ponder whether or not I am actually giving God all the praise and gratitude He deserves in my daily life. If nothing else, reading St. Augustine is a humbling experience. I do want to take a moment to discuss the translation of this particular printing of The Confessions. Compared to the Penguin Classics version I read parts of in college, the language in this version is a bit more reader friendly. The size of the font is also much easier on the eyes. Perhaps reading teeny tiny fonts when you are 18 isn't an issue, but when you are in your thirties and have spent the day chasing after small children, the last thing you want to do is sit down and read teeny tiny print in a book that can seem a bit daunting at times. (Let's just say that St. Augustine can be rather wordy at times.) So I certainly appreciated the larger font (although it's still small compared to many other books I've read recently) and the more modern feeling translation of this timeless classic. I also appreciated the built-in woven bookmark that came with this beautiful hardback edition. It's great to have a bookmark that my little one can't remove from my book . (One of her favorite past times. Must be a riot to watch Mommy search for the book mark and the page she read last.)

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review of Confessions Of St. Augustine, Hardback 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. As a blogger reviewer for Tiber River, a free copy of this book was given to me in exchange for my honest review.

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

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Small Successes

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.
1. I successfully lobbied to have Madeline removed from the basic skills math roster. I'm still in disbelief that they wanted to put an A/B math student in a remedial math class.
2. I finally wrapped the birthday present for my girls' friend that has been sitting on our dining room table for three weeks. The party was three weeks ago and we couldn't make it. I can wrap Christmas gifts three months in advance, but I can't wrap a little birthday gift.
3. My partial-homeschooling of Ellie with handwriting and letter recognition that I started last week is going really well. On the days that she doesn't have school, We work on letters, the sound they make and writing the letters in upper and lower case. I've discovered that Ellie is a perfectionist. For the past year I assumed she was just a very stubborn kid who didn't want to learn, but I've come to realize that she's a perfectionist who gets extremely frustrated if she can't get something right on the first try.

Bonus: I got more of my Christmas shopping finished last weekend. A friend of mine posted a great deal on Yankee Candles on her Facebook page that allowed me to get several people on my list taken care of at a great price. Now I have more gift wrapping to do!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Guest of honor or innocent victim?

Right now I'm being summoned by my daughters to go down to the basement (trap) to dine on plastic food at their restaurant. I'm meeting my plush fiancee there for another date. Yes, I'm aware that I'm married and all, but Bryan doesn't seem to mind that Phil and I have a relationship. Phil, is a half man half goat (from Disney's Hercules). He always looks rather annoyed to be forced into tea parties and restaurant scenarios in the basement. In a lot of ways, I totally get how he feels. I keep reminding myself that there will come a day sometime in the future when I will wish the girls would want to use me as their pretend patient, beauty shop client, guest of honor or talent show judge. For now, I'll gather up as much patience as I can and head to the basement to go on a date to a restaurant with inedible food with this grumpy guy who I swear is part animal. I thought when I got married I'd be done with dating. Guess I was wrong.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

This is why I'm not a Wal-Mart shopper

I loathe going to Wal-Mart. I always leave the store wishing I hadn't gone there. I keep getting emails with pictures of the people of Wal-Mart. Well, Bryan introduced me to the website last night. And so, I present you with my new source of daily laughter.

Book Review: Discovering Mary

I recently had the opportunity to read David Mills' Discovering Mary as part of The Catholic Company's Book Review Program. I was drawn to the book because as a convert to Catholicism, myself, I wanted to see what another convert had to say about the Blessed Mother in his book.

I was actually a bit disappointed once I started to read the book. The preface and the introduction had me convinced that I was in for a good read, but, the good feelings I had about this book apparently were not meant to last. For some reason I found the first two and a half chapters of this book teetering on the very edge of being dreadfully boring. I'm not sure if it was his writing style (Some of his sentences were very oddly structured.) or what I am pretty sure were typos (I found a few sentences that I believe were incomplete thoughts.) but, something about it all was preventing me from getting into the book. In the first three chapters Mills covers the life of Mary, Mary in the Bible and Mary in Catholic Doctrine. It really wasn't until we hit the later portion of the third chapter that the book seemed to come alive.

I found the remainder of the book rather interesting and I began to wonder if I was still reading the same book that had bored me to the point that I fell asleep while reading three evenings in a row. Imagine my shock when I found myself turning the pages and staying awake as I read the remaining three and a half chapters last night. The final three chapters cover the feasts of Mary, Mary's titles and Marian devotions, prayers and apparitions. In all honesty, I don't think I really learned very much about Mary that I didn't already know before reading this book. I will say that the author tossed in tidbits here and there that expounded on certain titles for Mary or other things of that nature, so I won't say that I didn't learn anything from reading this book.

Now it is possible that I didn't get much from this book because the author wrote this book with the assumption that the reader may know little, if anything about Mary. A new convert to Catholicism, a cradle Catholic who has lived under a rock his entire life (I'll offer my husband as an example here.) or a Protestant who is simply curious about those crazy Catholics and their obsession with Mary could all pick this book up and learn something about Mary that they likely didn't know before. Given that this book is essentially an introduction to Mary and is intended for an audience where some may have vast amounts of knowledge about Mary while other's have little to none, I feel the author has covered all the bases adequately. I still feel that the first two and a half chapters were rather boring and probably could have been written in a more engaging manner, but I really did enjoy the second half of the book which was a fast and engaging read.

If you'd like to find more information on Discovering Mary, visit The Catholic Company. As part of The Catholic Company Book Review Program, I was supplied with a free copy of this book in exchange for this review.

BSI Update

I realized that I never posted a follow up to the BSI situation with Madeline's school. I had emailed with Madeline's teacher last week after I sent the letter detailing why Bryan and I did now and would not consent to Madeline being placed in a a basic skills math class. The teacher assured me that Madeline wouldn't be sent down for the BSI class, but I had also spoken to parents who told me that you simply can't get your child out of it. Those conversations were disturbing and I really thought I was going to have to start shopping for homeschooling curriculum by the end of the week.

Yesterday I got an email from Madeline's teacher. Between my letter and the teacher interceding on Madeline's behalf, Madeline was excused from BSI. I feel relieved now. And to make the situation even better, Madeline brought home a bunch of tests, quizzes and classroom assignments from math yesterday. The lowest grade was a 94% (still an A) because she made a careless mistake on one question and forgot a period at the end of a sentence on an open ended question. Not too shabby. Everything else had 100% at the top of the page. I love seeing those triple digit scores. They just give me that nice warm and fuzzy feeling. And I love that my child comes home telling me that she's certain that this is the year she's going to get straight A's.

Want Snow White for $9.99?

I have a Snow White fiend living in my house right now. I don't know if I should blame all the heavy advertising that has been on TV for the past several weeks, or Disney for promoting their princesses so heavily. I guess if I'm going to be fair, I should just blame the Snow White book Ellie has been making me read her frequently for the past 6 or 7 months. I'm not a Snow White fan. I can't stand her voice and I just don't like the story. I'm an Ariel girl.

If you are like me, and living with a Snow White fanatic or maybe you just need a copy of this DVD, you can go to and get the Blue Ray + DVD combo pack for $9.99 if you use the promo code SNOWHITE at check out. I stumbled on this lovely little deal while perusing a message board this morning. I don't have any idea how long this promotion is valid.

If you are a cheapskate like me, you'll also like to know that you can add something that cost $5.01 or more to your order and get free super saver shipping (the added item has to be eligible for free shipping). Apparently, Amazon doesn't care if your check out total is below $25, the pre-promo total just has to be $25 or more to get the free shipping.

My mom needed to pick up something small for Ellie to round out her Christmas shopping for the girls so this was the perfect solution. She placed her order this morning and told me she also got a $5 off coupon for a future DVD purchase after she placed the order. Not sure if everyone is getting that deal as well, but it's not a bad deal if you have other DVD's to buy.

Gotta break out the Christmas tunes....

I just received my shipment confirmation for my Yankee Candle order. Looks like I'll be wrapping Christmas gifts before the week ends.

I'm really excited that I'm actually making decent progress in my Christmas shopping already. I've set a goal of being done with Christmas shopping and wrapping by Thanksgiving. Sure, I realize this may actually be a pipe dream, but I'm going to do my best to make it a reality.

I want to make the holiday season as stress free as possible. I want to revel in the joy of having a festive house and no holiday stresses during the month of December. If I meet my goal, I'm even considering being crazy enough to host a gingerbread house decorating party at my house with some of my girls' friends.

I'm hoping to get my Christmas card picture of the girls taken this weekend. I'd like to take them to the beach and get some nice pictures in the sand dunes or I'll take them to a nature trail that we became aware of last year. I usually like to have my Christmas cards printed before November rolls around.

Should I be concerned?

Two nights ago as we were getting ready to sit down for dinner Madeline started asking some interesting questions. She was talking to Bryan and she wanted to know what his plans were if I should get in a car accident and die. Nice, huh?

Bryan sat there looking at her like she had two heads. I don't think he knew what to say. So then Madeline decided to try to prompt him again. "Will you start dating so you can get married again?" At that point, I decided to turn away from the food I was preparing to see what Bryan would say. Of course, we got the lovely response of "I don't know, why are you asking me this?". Turns out Miss Madeline has been watching Full House a bit too much lately, and was wondering if her dear old dad had a plan. I have to say it's a bit alarming that my child is thinking of scenarios where I'm not in the picture. It's not a scenario I'd like to think about. I sincerely hope that God does not plan to take me from my children before they are grown.

In some ways I found her line of questioning a bit interesting. I know if the tables were reversed and Bryan were to die in an accident, I couldn't imagine moving on to another relationship. In fact, the fact that my husband "doesn't know" what he would do kind of alarms me. I seriously doubt that I would remarry if I were widowed. Absolutely nothing about the prospect of everything that would come along with finding a new spouse appeals to me.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Procrastination or real life getting in the way?

I currently have four items in my possession awaiting a review from me. I have a book, which I waited for over two months to actually receive from Tiber River, two products from the Amazon Vine program, and another book from The Catholic Company. Now to be perfectly honest, I thought I was doing pretty good with all of my reviews. Since I was invited to the Amazon Vine, I have been reviewing four products a month. In an effort to not frustrate my children and to move my reviews along a little faster, I have been trying to select books and items that will interest them or could be used by them. So far it's working out well. I even did this recently when selecting a book from The Catholic Company. Ellie is absolutely in love with the Go Fish cards that came with the sacrament tote set we received from them. She knows the names of just about all the sacraments now from playing that game.

Despite my usually fast reviewing process, I have fallen behind. This week alone, three books arrived on my doorstep. And then, I got an email, which I think was a not so friendly reminder from Tiber River letting me know that my book had been delivered. Hmm. Well, I'm sorry if I haven't tackled St. Augustine's Confessions in under a month. Perhaps I should be bringing this book to my girl's soccer games, Mass, the religious ed class I'm teaching, and keep it in the car to read while I'm waiting to pick the girls up from school. To be fair, I did wait for this book to arrive for 10 weeks. It was ordered on June 11th and arrived on August 31st. I suppose getting sick with the flu threw a monkey wrench in the reviewing process. And, maybe I was wrong to make the book that I waited for take a back seat to the items that came from places that sent them out in a timely manner. Who knows? All I know is making sure I'm actively involved in my children's lives takes precedence to a book or product that's awaiting a review. I'm certain the review would have been written within two weeks time if I had received it any time in July or early August. September and October are generally my busiest months out of the year. I don't have much spare time in the fall.

I could have read all day today and cranked out at least three reviews, but then I would have missed watching Madeline score two goals in her soccer game. I also would have missed seeing Ellie actually kick the soccer ball twice in her game. I was just as excited to see Ellie actually connect with the ball as I was to see Madeline score her goals a few hours earlier in the day. Weather permitting, I'll be watching Ellie play soccer again tomorrow.

Once I'm done making sure I have everything I need to teach my kindergarten religious ed. class I'll sit down and do some reading. Who knows, maybe I'll even get a review out of the way.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Need some candles?

I was frittering away a little time on Facebook this afternoon and I noticed that a friend of mine from high school has posted about a pretty good deal at Yankee Candle. Curiosity got the better of me when someone made a comment about Christmas shopping, and I decided to take a peek at the Yankee Candle website.

I wound up buying 10 large jar candles. The candles are usually $24.99 and at buy one get one free, I couldn't resist the chance to get some decent gifts for the many people on my Christmas shopping list. Since I usually buy my candles from White Barn Candle Company, I had to trek over to the Yankee Candle shop that is a short drive from my house when there isn't any traffic. Somehow I didn't think I'd sit in traffic at 6pm on a Friday night. Apparently the years of being a stay at home mom who doesn't sit in any kind of going home traffic has warped my outlook on traffic patterns.

Ellie and I went to the Yankee Candle store so we could sniff the candles. I went there simply to figure out which scents smelled good so I could go home and place an order on line. Thanks to my handy iPhone, I was able to snap a picture of each scent that I found particularly nice smelling.

Once I got home I got to work figuring out which scents to buy for which people and myself, of course. At the moment I have 3, possibly 4 candles earmarked for me. I think Bryan and the girls will each be giving me a candle for Christmas.

If you are interested in grabbing some yummy smelling candles for yourself or to give as gifts, click here to get the coupon. It can be used in store or online and it's valid until this Sunday 10/04/09. I wasn't sure if they'd give me unlimited free candles at the store, plus I knew I couldn't carry 10 candles out to my car and wrangle Ellie at the same time, so I just ordered online. I look forward to having my shipment of Christmas gifts delivered sometime soon. Best of all, I was able to slash the amount I'm spending on some people in half thanks to this sale. I love being a bargain hunter.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

This mom will be sleeping tonight!

Since I'm the neurotic mother of the year, I decided that I needed to follow up with Madeline's teacher this afternoon to make sure that we were successful in getting her removed from the BSI program.

I'm happy to report that I've been informed that a child cannot be forced into the program if the parent does not consent. That is a HUGE relief. Don't get me wrong, I think BSI is great for children who actually need it, but it's not needed or necessary for Madeline.

So that said, I'm going to take a deep breath and try to relax now. Once the mama bear in me is roused, she doesn't calm easily. It's amazing how quickly I spring into action if I perceive a threat to my child's best interest. I should probably come with a warning label that simply states: Don't mess with this mom, she's verbose, unrelenting, and quick to react.

Small Successes--The frazzled mom edition

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

This past week has been a doozy. First I started to freak out on Friday because Madeline choked on a math facts quiz. She should have had a 78% but the teacher was generous and gave her an 89%. When you get 11 out of 50 wrong that's -22, not -11. We had a full weekend where we got a lot accomplished. Then Monday was a bad day when I got an email from the teacher regarding Miss Madeline's talking. Wednesday brought even worse news. Based on one test taken by my daughter that "doesn't count" while her teacher had been out for nearly a month tending to her son who was in the hospital my child has been deemed in need of basic skills instruction in math. Yes, apparently a child who gets all A's and B's in math is not able to keep up with the demands of a mainstream math class. Amazing. I thought all the 100% and check and check plus papers meant that she was excelling in the mainstream class.

So without further delay, I present to you my small successes for the week:
1. Bryan and I took the girls to a local farm to go on a hay ride for pumpkin picking. We got four big pumpkins that are perfect for carving or decorating.

2. I cleaned all the stains (Thanks, Mr. Furkins.) off of the family room carpet. I'm not sure why, but every time I clean up one of the dog's messes, the spot starts to collect dirt a week or two later. It drives me crazy.

3. Yesterday I think I learned to accept the fact that it's ok if Madeline brings home a B in math. I went to bat for her with the teacher about the BSI program. She feels Madeline doesn't belong in there and at her request I wrote a letter explaining why my husband and I will not consent to her being in the BSI program. Her teacher is going to talk to the BSI teacher and also explain why Madeline does not need the extra help. Apparently there are children in Madeline's class who truly need special instruction in this subject that aren't getting it. I have lost sleep over this and I can't tell you just how livid I am that my child who has a GPA of 3.88 was "selected" for this program. Inefficiencies like this in the public school system are precisely the reason why I should be homeschooling my children. It's too bad Bryan is against homeschooling. I'm doing my best to change his outlook on homeschooling.

Bonus 1: I finally framed one of Madeline's 10X13 First Holy Communion portraits. That's only taken me 5 months to do!

Bonus 2: I have started homeschooling Ellie on the week days when she doesn't go to pre-K. She is also now my official I and A reader when we read books. She expressed an interest a week or so ago in wanting to learn to read, so this is our first step in that direction. She's enjoying reading the I's and A's.
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