Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mass With Little Ones

The past two weeks Katie has been getting up early and asking if she can come to Mass with me and Anthony.  Usually when I take both of them to daily Mass it's a recipe for disaster because they fight over my lap and it usually results in Anthony crying loudly or screaming.  But since she's been asking to go things have been surprisingly calm.  The kids are getting along and they've both been very quiet.

I find that what works best with keeping them happy is giving each of them a notebook and some crayons so they can just color and draw. But while Anthony spends a lot of time playing at my feet or just exploring the pew, he does also pay attention.  Some days he watches intently and imitates what the priest is doing as he says Mass.  There have even been times where I've heard him trying to say what the priest is saying.  I think he thinks he's helping them out.  He typically only does it when it's one of the two priests he knows best, his godfather and his "favorite priest." (Father has insisted since he was very small that he's Anthony's favorite.)

So today while in line to receive communion Anthony was having a great time singing on the way up.  Katie, soaking in her surroundings was happily waving her latest drawings, until she got very serious before bowing before the eucharist just before getting a blessing.  And then I notice Father motioning for me to look at Anthony who was in my arms.  He was really hoping to receive communion.  He had his tongue out and had this "I'm waiting" sort of expression on his face.  He was visibly disappointed that he got denied.  He has plenty of people who attend daily Mass who all think he already has a good understanding of what goes on at Mass.  Perhaps they're right.  I'm curious to see how he reacts going forward.  Today was the first time I've ever noticed him hoping to receive.

It amazes me how much little ones pick up when they attend Mass frequently.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Not A Dog Person

The twelve year old me would be horrified to hear me say this, but I'm absolutely not a dog person.  At least, not a person who wants a dog to live in her home.  I don't mind other people's dogs that I'm not required to live with, but I want no part of living with a dog, particularly Oscar.

Dogs are like living with the most irritating toddler you can find, only it smells really bad and it's parents never come to take it home.  Dog smells, dog hair and even the smell of dog food are all offensive to me.  The sound of a barking dog sets my nerves on edge.  When people tell me about their small dog that lived for more than a decade I start to panic that I could be stuck with this dog for more than another year or two.

Today Oscar decided to remind me of why I despise living with him.  Instead of barking at the door to go outside, like he normally would, he decided to pee on the kitchen floor.  Ellie sat next it it and didn't notice.  I kept asking if anyone knew what the awful smell was in the kitchen and no one knew anything.  Then Katie went to throw something in the trash and the poor kid stepped in the massive puddle of pee and slipped.  She ended up being covered in it and needed an immediate bath.

I'm not a dog person because I can't stand the smells and sounds associated with having a dog.  But my children shouldn't be dog people because the animal they claim they love so much is something they can't be bothered to feed or let outside at regular intervals.

Someday this misery of dog ownership will end and I'm going to celebrate like I never have before.  I long for the day when I can live in a pet free house.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Engaging Vs. Sleep Inducing Lenten Reading

I told Bryan earlier today that I'm just going to stop taking book suggestions from the saints.  Two books in particular that were given high praises by saints have left me bored to sleep.   Several weeks ago I wrote about how disappointed I was initially with the book What Jesus Saw From the Cross.  I have tried and tried to keep reading this book hoping that maybe it gets better, but I'm finding myself less and less impressed with the book.  I feel like so much of what is in this book is conjecture and the author trying to make sure his readers know just how sure he is of himself and his ability to fill in the blanks that are not overtly covered in detail in the Gospels.  The book feels like a penance and I think after this afternoon I'm just not going to bother forcing myself to read it anymore.  I have plenty of other books that would be better for reflecting on Holy Week.

Now the other book I've been reading for Lent, St. Francis de Sales Sermons for Lent is a far more engaging read.  It is not a sleep inducing book and it is thought provoking.  You can read a sermon from this book and come away with a deep appreciation for whatever points St Francis was talking about, and it gets you thinking about how you are living your life and what you could be doing better.
I think Lenten reading should make you contemplate Our Lord's great love for us and help us to mediate on his Passion.  In short, it should draw you closer to Him, not bore you to sleep.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Pencils and Cheerios

Anthony really likes to keep me on my toes.  There's just something about this little guy that drives me crazy and makes me laugh all at the same time.

Yesterday he was such a busy little guy that I wound up falling asleep on the couch before 7pm while Bryan and the girls were at soccer practice.  The last thing I remember before Katie woke me up was having Anthony sitting in front of me on the couch while we all watched Mulan.  She frantically woke me up from a nice, but way too short, nap to tell me that Anthony was playing in the toilet.  Ugh!  I don't know what it is about him, but he really likes to dip toilet paper in the toilet and then pull it out to watch the water drip on the floor.  It seriously makes me gag.

Earlier that day he asked for a banana and I gave him some cut up banana.  Minutes later when he asked for another banana I told him "no" and I thought that was the end of it.  Of course, it wasn't.  He found a way to reach the rest of the bunch, and went into the family room where he proceeded to bite through the peels of three bananas.  He actually ate the peels off the backs of the bananas.  If you're wondering who does stuff like that, I can give you an answer.  Anthony.  Anthony does stuff like that.

Today he was very quiet at Mass.  He was happily playing with some of those little golf pencils that our church has out in the pews from a charity campaign that is ongoing.  When he decided to stop scribbling all  over my Magnificat pages, he decided that pencil points where the ideal vehicle for picking up Cheerios.  I guess he feels more sophisticated eating his Cheerios with a pencil instead of his fingers.  I kept trying to pry the pencil from his kung fu grip, but the more I tried the more it seemed like I was going to send him into a full out tantrum.  So in the interest of not causing a major scene during the consecration, I decided to just let him use the pencil as an eating utensil.  Good thing the "lead" is really graphite and not actual lead.

I did think his pencil as utensil showed some creativity.  His very odd antics often reveal that he's a pretty smart kid who likes to find solutions to the problems he encounters.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Book Review: The Little Flower: A Parable of St. Therese of Lisieux

St. Therese is one of my favorite saints.  The simplicity of her Little Way just amazes me, and I like how her example is excellent for teaching little children how to do small things with great love for Our Lord.  St. Therese has been the saint I introduce my kindergarten religious education students to first, and over the years I've had many students who have come to really like the little girl who grew up to become a saint.

My usual vehicle for introducing children to St. Therese has been the stories in the Catholic Children's Treasure Box series.  At the beginning of the school year my present class of kindergarteners learned about St. Therese and they still talk about her and point out the little wooden peg doll statue of her that I keep on our class prayer table.  About two weeks ago I surprised them with another story about St. Therese.  The story I read to them was The Little Flower: A Parable of St. Therese of Lisieux.  It didn't take long for the little girls (all of my students are girls this year) to notice that it was a story about our much loved St. Therese.
The story is filled with gorgeous illustrations that warrant taking your time to look at them after reading the text.  Several times the little girls stopped me from turning the page because they wanted to examine one of the illustrations a bit more.  But not only are the illustrations beautiful, the story is also quite beautiful.

In the context of the story the parable is told to St. Therese by Jesus as she talked with Him about how she wanted to do great things for Him but she was very little.  It's a great story that shows very young children that while they may be small and unable to do to big amazing things for Our Lord, they are no less special to Him.

Overall the story is very well done and certainly has appeal to little girls in the five to six year old range with no questions what-so-ever.   It's a book that I'd suggest for a little girl's Easter basket.  The illustrations are perfect for Easter because they are so Springy.  My four year old, who has St. Therese as one of her patron saints, will find this beautiful story in her basket on Easter morning.  I know she's going to love this story and I can't wait to see her reaction.

I was provided with a review copy of The Little Flower: A Parable of St. Therese of Lisieux by the publisher, Gracewatch Media, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit their website Peanut Butter and Grace for more information on this title.  They also have a lot of great information for teaching your children about their Catholic faith.  The book is also available on Amazon with prime shipping if you're looking for the perfect book to tuck in your child's Easter basket.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Crunch Time for Easter Prep

Several years ago I got tired of realizing at the last minute that I didn't have everything I needed on hand for holidays just days before the actual holiday.  So I started to make an effort to plan ahead so I didn't have to feel overwhelmed and frazzled the night before a major holiday.  These little post it note reminders that I have used from year to year have been so invaluable to me.

During Advent I have post it notes that tell me when to buy stocking stuffers, or chocolate Santa's for St. Nicholas' feast day. And notes telling me when I should make sure the kids and I have outfits, stockings, shoes and whatever else is needed.  There's even a note telling me when to make cookies and how many batches of each to make.  It makes life a lot easier and I don't have to try to remember what I need to do.

During Lent I have reminders telling me what candy to buy and when.  I also have notes that tell me to order Easter outfits (if I haven't already) and more notes telling me to make sure we have tights, stocking and shoes and all dresses, shirts and dress pants ironed.  That note about shoes, tights and ironing is for this week.  I used to wait until Holy Week to do the ironing, but I've come to find that after Holy Thursday night life starts to feel chaotic if I have to gather up outfits and get things ironed.  The Triduum has a way of making me feel like I've been put through the ringer every year.  It's probably the most exhausting, but beautiful and spiritually fulfilling three days of the year.  So I just don't have time or the energy after Holy Thursday to fill Easter eggs with candy, stuff baskets or iron clothes.  It's just not happening.  I hardly have the energy to think of new hiding places for Easter eggs after the Easter Vigil.  One of these years I'm going to just dump them all in one place for one lucky kid to find.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Book Review: Easter Story

Sometimes teaching small children about Holy Week and Easter requires more than just reading them a story. That's where coloring books and activity books come in handy.  I find that kids can often remember parts of a story better if they can recall doing an activity or something memorable that will help them retain what they have learned.  The Easter Story Bible Activity Book is an excellent hands on vehicle for helping little ones between the ages of four to seven (pre-K through 1st grade) to better understand the Easter story.

This activity book is ideal to use during Holy Week and the Easter Octave.  Each two page section of the book covers a different part of the Easter story beginning with Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and concluding with Jesus appearing to his Apostles and disciples after His resurrection.  Each of the pages in this book are filled with colored illustrations, a variety of activities, such as mazes, color by number, picture searches and so on.  Each section of the book tells a different part of the Easter story in a chid friendly way.

I'm looking forward to using this book with my four year old starting this upcoming Sunday.  I know she will enjoy doing the fun activities.

I was provided with a review copy of Easter Story Bible Activity Book by the publisher, Pauline Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  You can learn more about this title or take a peek inside the book here.

Need Easter Basket Ideas?

Jessica over at Shower of Roses is hosting a great Easter giveaway right now.  She has a ton of great Easter basket ideas that cover children from infant to teen or adult, really, I see things up there that I'd love to find in an Easter basket for me!  So hop over to her blog and check out her giveaway post and get some ideas for filling those Easter baskets!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Book Review: The Wolf and the Shield

The more children's titles I read from Pauline Kids the more I become convinced that they have some of the best books out there for helping children, especially those in the 7-12 year old age range, to come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of their Catholic faith.
Recently I had the opportunity to review The Wolf and the Shield, which is the first in a series entitled Friends with the Saints.  The book is about an eleven year old boy named Kieran that is set in fifth-century Ireland.  The main character's adventure has him meet up with St. Patrick and, in time, this transforms him.

The story is a page turner that I believe will be enjoyed by both boys and girls.  What I like most about this adventure story is how it weaves the Catholic faith and morals throughout the story.  The story also helps young readers to realize that the saints are our friends and are approachable.

This book is best suited for children ages 7-10 or second through fifth grade.  It's a chapter book with a few black and white illustrations sprinkled throughout the book.  The book will likely be a bit challenging for a very young reader, but will be more of an enjoyable, fast read for the upper age range of the target audience.  It's a story that will leave young readers feeling like they know St. Patrick better.

I particularly like that the book had a section at the beginning entitled People and Places.  It gave pronunciation guides for the names of some of the characters, and defined some terms the reader would encounter throughout the story.  I liked that thoughtful addition to the story because, in the case of the explanation of the places, it gave the reader some context up front so they didn't feel bewildered with uncertain terms while reading the story.

The end of the book has a list of discussion questions.  These are great for talking with your child about the story and also about how they might apply some of the situations from the story to their own life, particularly as pertains to living out our faith.  The discussion questions are one of the features I appreciate in the books from Pauline Kids.  You can tell that they really do want their readers to understand their faith well and apply it to their lives.

I look forward to seeing what saints will be featured next in the Friends with the Saints series.  I'm sure they won't disappoint.

I was provided with a review copy of The Wolf and the Shield by the publisher, Pauline Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Pauline Media for more information on this title or to take a peek inside.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Book Review: Little Lessons from St. Therese

St. Therese is one of my favorite saints, and I think she's becoming a favorite with my daughters as well.  I was delighted recently to be asked to review a lovely book filled with the wisdom of St. Therese.  This book is one which is perfect for an Easter basket for someone between the ages of 9 to 12.  Little Lessons from St. Therese of Lisieux is a mix of beautiful water color illustrations and the words of St. Therese.
This book is a great way of introducing an older child to St. Therese.  The beginning of the book gives an overview of who St. Therese was.  It then follows with quotes from St. Therese on a variety of subjects.  What I like most about this book is it lays the ground work to intrigue young minds to get to know St. Therese better.

The illustrations in this book are beautifully done.  They are mostly paintings of gardens and flowers, which is quite befitting a book about the Little Flower.  There are several other illustrations that either depict St. Therese, or scenes that look like those of ones described by either St. Therese or her family members in their writings.  So someone who is familiar with St. Therese will likely find illustrations that remind them of something from the life of the Little Flower.

The end of the book contains a list of discussion questions that are thought provoking.  They're an excellent way to get your child talking with you about faith and how to emulate St. Therese and her Little Way.

I was provided with a review copy of Little Lessons from St. Therese of Lisieux by the publisher, Gracewatch Media, in exchange for my honest review.  You can learn more about this title by visiting the publisher's site Peanut Butter & Grace.  You can even take a peek inside the book.  The book is also available for purchase from Amazon.

Friday, March 11, 2016

When One Ingredient Changes Dinner Plans

I was feeling very accomplished this morning.  I took Katie and Anthony to Target to get coffee for Bryan and to pick up the mozzarella and ricotta cheeses that we would need for tonight's dinner.  I came home, happily told Bryan that I'd be making one of his favorite meals, baked ziti, for dinner, and then forgot about that dinner until 4:30 when he came upstairs and asked if we were still having the ziti for dinner.

Arrgh!  This really is the story of my life.  I plan to make something for dinner and then, usually right around dinner time, I realize that I never actually made anything.  It's frustrating.  But today, I told Bryan not to worry, I could slap together a ziti and have it ready in roughly an hour.  It was looking promising until I realized that we also didn't have sauce.  Can't make baked ziti without the sauce!  Lenten Friday problem if ever I saw one.  I'm pretty sure I have a mason jar of sauce in the basement freezer but just thawing that would take a nice chunk of time.  I really do need to get better at planning these things.

Bryan and I ended up ordering take out pasta dishes for us, and since the kids won't eat pasta with sauce (unless it's baked manicotti, or ziti) we just made pasta at home for them.  I'm not sure what it is about Lent that makes no meat on Friday seem so difficult.  Year round we eat meatless meals on Friday, but for some reason those Lenten Fridays are fraught with dinner complications.

Next week I'll be ready with all of the ingredients!  I'll have to remember to double check that I have everything we need on Thursday.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Review: Noori Dresses

A few weeks ago I was asked if I'd be interested in reviewing a dress from an online dress shop called Noori Dresses.  Noori Dresses is a designer boutique dedicated to little girls and preteens. They specialize in high end special occasion dresses. 99% of all their dresses are made in USA. They have a great selection of Easter, Baptism, First Communion and Flower Girl dresses. They offer free shipping for $100 and more.   Their story starts in 2007 when they were looking for a good christening dress for their daughter.  When they could not find a good one for a reasonable cost, they decided to sew it themselves. Friends and relatives loved the dress and some of friends requested them to sew for their daughters as well. Within 5 years a hobby turned into one of the top retailers for kids' special occasion dresses in the US.

I do a lot of clothing shopping online, but I tend to be very skeptical when it's a company that I'm not familiar with.  I had looked around on the website for Noori Dresses and was impressed with the selection of First Communion dresses they had.  Here are some of the communion dresses I liked best:
You can find this dress here.
This one is so simple, but so very pretty.  You need to click on the link to check out the sweet detail above the box pleats.  
I like this dress, too.  It's very sweet and has nice detailing on the top.
If a sleeve is something you must have on a communion dress, this is a lovely option.

Looking at all the communion dresses had me wishing Katie was preparing for First Holy Communion, but we're a few years away from that, and I felt it was really important that I chose a dress that she could wear now for the review.  No one wants to look a pictures of a dress that won't be worn for about three more years, right?  So Katie and I looked at all the pretty dresses they had to offer and we found a very sweet dress that is perfect for Easter.

As soon as I took the dress out of the box Katie was oohing and aahing over it.  She wanted to wear it right away.

Since Easter is in March this year, we can reasonably expect it to be chilly on Easter since we live in NJ.  So I ordered Katie a cute little sweater shrug to wear over the sleeveless dress to keep away the chill.

The dress is very nice quality.  Everything about it seems to be well made and it's even made in the USA!  I feel like finding an American made garment is very difficult these days, so I was very happy that it was made domestically.  The organza material for this dress is very nice both in design and weight.  It's not super flimsy like other organza dresses that we've had in the past.  I feel pretty confident that this dress won't start snagging if you look at it the wrong way like some organza overlays seem to do.

Overall my experience with Noori Dresses was a good one.  I'm happy with how quickly they shipped from across the country, I'm happy with the quality of the dress and most of all my daughter is very happy with her beautiful new Easter dress.  I'm sure we will think of them the next time we are looking for a holiday or special occasion dress.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Gorgeous Weather

I had meant to write something yesterday, but by the time the kids were in bed I was close to falling asleep on the couch.  I attribute that to me having a busy, yet productive day.

Yesterday was the first time in a long time that I not only folded and put away laundry, but I also washed several loads.  I've been paying Ellie to do laundry the past several weeks.

Once I got the laundry issue out of the way I had to go to an appointment for blood work.  My arm is still hurting from that.  On may way into the office I was amazed at just how warm it was.  It was 75 a little after noon.  After I got home, Bryan and I took a walk around the neighborhood.

While Anthony napped, Katie and I went in the back yard and she played on the swing set.  I really feel like that swing set is one of the best back yard purchases we have made since the pool.  It's big enough that even I can go up in the tower and stand up.  I was a bit annoyed this afternoon to discover some rust on it in a few places since it's not even 6 months old.  I'm waiting to hear back from the company to see what they're going to do to resolve the issue.  Not sure if they're going to replace the rusted parts or not.  I'm sure one way or another we'll get the issue resolved.

The amazing weather we've had is something I'm trying not to miss out on, since I'm sure cold and or rainy days will happen soon enough.  I spent so much time outside today that while the kids and I were in line for confession this evening a friend commented that I looked a little burnt.

I have a lot of reviews I need to write in the next few days.  I've got some great book ideas for Easter baskets, and I even have a nice dress company to tell you about.  I just need to take Katie outside and take some pictures of her in the pretty dress she'll be wearing for Easter.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Unexpected Inspiration

When it comes to planning vacation bible school for our parish I try not to stress.  The first couple of years I directed it I acted as if everything depended on me and I essentially tried to do every bit of it that could be done by me, myself.  It was exhausting and it was largely due to me being a control freak and partly due to me not being able to trust that people would come through if I delegated a specific task to them.  Too many years of forced group projects at school had trained me that if you want something done right and you want to get an A it's better to do it yourself and slap the names of the other people in the group on it when you're done.

Managing a growing family and heading up a project that requires a lot of work isn't easy if you want to actually get sleep or maintain sanity.  So after year two of running VBS I started to listen to Bryan and a few of my other friends who were begging me to delegate tasks.  I did it, and it was amazing.  People came through and got the jobs that needed to be done completed.  The first year I delegated I was really on edge because I worried that things might not get done right.  Sometimes we had a hiccup, but when we did we were able to course correct it with minimal effort.

Right around the time I started delegating, I also started spending more time asking God to help me get the volunteers we needed or just asking Him to guide me to the right prayers, saints or devotions to introduce to the kids.  And that's when things started buzzing along beautifully.  I'd go to Mass, pray beforehand that I needed classroom teachers, or someone to pick up or bake a snack and most of the time before I left the church someone would approach me with what was needed.  Or, I'd come home to find an email or a message on my answering machine that essentially answered my prayer.  Nothing short of amazing, and I attribute it to me placing it in God's hands.  I really should take a lesson from that and apply it to other areas of my life.  When I do, I see equally amazing results, but I fail to exhibit that level of trust all the time.  It's something I'm working on, and I know it's something Our Lord is working on me about, too.

So the past week or so I've been focusing on VBS and praying about it.  I have a few positions I need filled, and I also need to pick the saints that will be featured and the crafts.  I know I'll get the volunteers we need.  I'm not sure who the new faces will be yet, but I'm sure they'll be exactly what we need.  Crafts, had me stumped.  I like to keep it fresh so people don't feel like their kids are doing that same things year after year.

My first wave of craft inspiration was courtesy of the liturgical calendar.  The first day of the program is the feast day for St. Benedict, so he will get featured this year and the kids will do a craft that involves the St. Benedict medal.  But the rest of the days were a mystery to me until today.  Now I think I have some clarity.

I help out with the crafts for Little Flowers Girls Club at a neighboring parish.  This month was my turn to come up with a craft.  St. Anne was the featured saint and I didn't have the easiest time coming up with a good craft.  After looking online, I got the idea to print a nice image of St. Anne with the Blessed Mother and put it in a wood craft frame.  I wasn't sure if the girls should just paint it or do something more.  So I thought about VBS and things that typically are simple but look very nice and that's when I thought that maybe gluing sequins to the frame would look nice.  I was going to leave the wood unpainted, but I decided this morning that it might look nicer if they were painted.  So as I sat in the kitchen painting 16 frames I got hit with an idea.  I could use these same frames with a photo of the Divine Mercy image as a VBS craft.  That would allow us to talk about the Year of Mercy in a video and have this as the corresponding craft.  The kids can paint the frame (because we have time for that at VBS) and then sprinkle it with glitter or sequins if they like.  But then I started thinking that this would also work as the Marian craft idea. (I always have one Marian craft day to help encourage a devotion to Mary.)  And that's when I got the idea of doing a rosary holder with an image of Our Lady of Good Counsel.  I just need to ask someone we know who does wood working who also volunteered his talent to help with VBS if I needed it, if he can cut keyholes into the backs of plaques and add a peg or hook to the front so it can function as a hanging rosary holder.  If that's the case, I will have three out of five crafts picked.  I never would have expected to have such amazing clarity on what the crafts might be this early.

I'll try to add pictures of the St. Anne craft later this week.  It's such a simple, yet pretty craft.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Bathing Suit Shopping for Teens

If you've never had to search for a decent bathing suit for a teenage girl, consider yourself lucky.  Last year was the first year Madeline was in juniors sizing for swimwear.  I dreaded having to find a nice bathing suit that was modest but not frumpy looking and certainly not something that looked like it belonged on someone twice her age.  I consider us blessed that the process was amazingly painless last year.  Madeline looked at what was available at Kohls and found a few cute tankini options that worked well for her.

Since I always like to put a bathing suit in the kids' Easter baskets, I started looking for swimwear not too long ago.  I have something in mind for Ellie and I already have bathing suits for Katie and Anthony.  But, finding something for Madeline, has not been easy at all.  I asked for suggestions on a Catholic mom's group on Facebook earlier today after being very disappointed in the offerings I found on Kohls, Speedo, JC Penney, and a few other sites.  Offerings for tankini separates ranged from dowdy to very mature to I can just hear Madeline saying I'm not wearing that!  This is the girl who likes her clothing to look classic and she, thankfully, is not the kind of girl who wants to wear things that are revealing.

Someone mentioned that Target was where they had found swimwear for their teen, so I decided to look on line and see what was up there.  There are a lot of tankini pieces that I think are nice for the 25+ set, but not much that are suited to a teen.  Then I came across a few cute retro looking options that I thought might work for her.  After showing her what I found she agreed that three of them looked like something she would wear so I placed an order and hope that the one I select for the Easter basket will work.

Here's a peek at the two that I ordered:
The yellow one is a one piece suit that you can find here.
And this one is a tankini.  You can find the top here and the bottoms here.
I am very hopeful that one or both of these swimsuits works for her.  I ordered two different sizes for each since we aren't familiar with the brand so I was unsure of how they were cut.  If these suits work out I will be happy knowing she's decently clad while swimming in our pool.  

Friday, March 4, 2016

Know Anyone Who Plays Youth Soccer?

Last summer Bryan noticed some fundraising campaigns on Facebook that were sponsored by companies where youth teams could fundraise simply by asking friends on social media to answer a few questions or visit a website.  It essentially is a word of mouth campaign that gives teams and other specified groups money.  Both of our girls' soccer teams did one of these fundraisers last summer and the teams each earned some money to pay for training or tournament fees.

Right now Ellie's soccer team has a fundraiser that is sponsored by Nabisco.  If any of you can visit the fund raising page and complete one of the nine tasks (many of them take only a few seconds)  it will help her team to earn up to $1,000.  If you have a child who plays youth soccer, or know someone else with a youth soccer team you can spread the word to help other teams raise money.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

GOP Debate Thoughts

I'm watching the GOP debate at the moment and I think it's probably raising my blood pressure.  I cannot fathom how people are supporting Donald Trump.  Part of me wonders if these supporters understand politics.  Do they understand how government works?  I sit here and I lament the fact that being properly educated is not a requirement for enfranchisement.  Perhaps, just as immigrants need to pass a test to become naturalized, the electorate should have to pass a test to show their suitability to cast a vote.

Maybe I'm being an elitist or something.  I don't know.  I have a degree in political science and so much of what I'm seeing lately reminds me of things my professors would say in their lectures that makes me cringe as I see the disaster that appears to be unfolding at the moment.  The vast majority of my professors talked about how uninformed and uneducated the majority of the American voters are.  They essentially likened them to mindless sheep or lemmings that had no real idea of what is really going on.  Now at the time, Republicans and Democrats were not so far apart.  I believe today that there is a bit more a chasm between the two sides given that we have a socialist running as a Democrat in the primary.  That's alarming.  But as alarmed as I am about that, I'm even more alarmed by the number of people claiming to be conservatives who are supporting Donald Trump.

The angry mob vote concerns me.  I realize people can honest and truly have a conversion and change.  There have been politicians who have switched parties.  I don't doubt that one can switch affiliation and be true to the new party line they've ascribed to.  What I do doubt very much is the authenticity of Trump's political affiliation.  He's not a conservative.  And, even if he wants to pretend he is, and he winds up winning the GOP nomination, he will have every unsavory thing he's ever done pulled out before the election.

Trump is not a man who can run on any kind of family values.  He has zero experience in government and given how he pompously handles himself when debating his "fellow" Republicans, I cannot see how he can possibly deal with foreign heads of states without creating a myriad of gaffes and disasters.

If you disagree with me, that's fine.   I do my best to avoid discussing politics with people because I am not a fan of getting into heated debates with people over politics.  Ordinarily I can remain silent about politics but presently I feel I simply can't do that.  I feel that too much is at stake with this upcoming election.  I sincerely wish there was a viable third party candidate who was capable of winning the election at the present moment.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Not Living Up to the Hype

I'm probably not alone in this, but I find it more than a little irritating when a book seems to be hyped up as one of those must read types of books and it's far from it.  For a few years as Lent rolls around one of the books I always see in emails as a must read or great Lenten reading is What Jesus Saw from the Cross.

I procrastinated on ordering this book in the week leading up to Lent as I tried to decide what book I wanted to read, and it went out of stock.  I have to think that that was actually a blessing in disguise.  I wound up ordering The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Lent instead.  Clearly that was my better choice.  I love St. Francis, his wisdom is timeless as is his practical advice.  He's one of those awesome saints who doesn't leave you feeling like sainthood is never within your grasp.
Probably a week into Lent I noticed that What Jesus Saw from the Cross was back in stock, so I ordered it.  I've been reading it over the past week and a half and maybe a few chapters in isn't deep enough, but I feel like the book is not living up to the hype.  As I read through it, I feel like I'm getting a tour guide narrative of what may have been.  I'm hoping it gets better as it progresses, but I'm not holding my breath.

I write book reviews both here and on Amazon and I always say what I really think about the book.  Some books don't appeal to me, although the ones that I do like far outweigh the ones I don't.  When buying a book I always check out consumer reviews.  If there are enough people saying they don't like the book I'll usually take their advice and look for something else.  This book had a few reviews that echo the sentiments I presently have about the book, but there were far more glowing reviews.

I actually think it would be pretty cool if Amazon developed an algorithm that could accurately tell a consumer if he or she would be likely to like a particular book based on their reviews and ratings of other books they had read.  Something like that would be very useful.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Shifting Gears

This morning Bryan and I took Madeline to the high school she will be attending next year.  It's a school that several people we know either send or have sent their kids to and all of them have been happy with the experience.  Today we had a meeting with the guidance counselor to go over her current classes and what she would take for next year.  I'm very pleased that between the curriculum from Seton and the two independent studies that we added to her course load that she won't be missing anything that is required for her to graduate.

The only question is whether or not she will need to take biology.  It's a freshman course at this school, and with Seton it's a sophomore year course.  She's presently taking Earth Science.  The guidance counselor thinks what she has will be sufficient, but she's going to double check to make sure she won't be lacking when it comes time to apply to colleges.

Madeline spent the day shadowing a sophomore so she could get an idea of what the classes she will be taking will be like next year.  She had a good day and is looking forward to next school year.  She got to meet several of the girls who play for the soccer team and they were happy to hear that she plans to play with them.  Apparently the team needs more girls, and from what they were telling Madeline, it sounds like she'll get play time.

I'm hoping that this will be a good switch for her.  She's not particularly thrilled with the Seton curriculum, and for some of the classes I can't say I blame her.  I do feel like some of the classes are a bit on the impossible side and I've grown tired of the very obscure seemingly sneaky trick questions Seton likes to toss out in their tests.  Even with me using the test to create a study guide, I've found that there are lots of times where the correct answer to a question seems to be nowhere in the text or lesson plan.

So while I'm not entirely thrilled that we won't be homeschooling for high school any more, I do think the switch has the potential to be a good thing.  I'll know better once the school year starts and we see how things go.  What I do like about this school is it is small, has a great reputation for turning out students who are well prepared for college, and has a very good priest who used to be at our parish as a religion teacher for sophomore and senior year.  Daily Mass is even available on campus at the end of every school day for students who wish to go.  I think that's pretty cool, and I suspect it's part of the initiative started by our bishop a few years ago to foster a Catholic identity in the diocese high schools.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Democracy is Risky

I have to say that I'm very concerned about where our country is going.  The upcoming Presidential election really worries me.  At the moment, the GOP is infuriating me and I'm convinced that because of the ego and pride of certain candidates still running in the primaries for the GOP ticket that we will not see the best person win the Republican nomination.

I've been growing annoyed with the Republican party and their poor handling of many of the past Presidential elections.  From choosing the wrong guy for the Presidential nomination, or choosing the right guy only to have him choose the worst person as a running mate, they have flubbed it up time and time again.  Sometimes I wonder if they really want to get their guy in the White House.  McCain blew it when he chose Palin, when he should have tapped Alan Keyes who would have done far more for him than the gaffe machine from Alaska.  And now, somehow we've got someone who I really feel is an egotistical Democrat pretending to be a Republican as the front runner for the upcoming election.  It's scary stuff.

I've had many professors who would talk about what a tremendous risk a democracy is and how it doesn't take much to unhinge one.  I do worry if we aren't about to look at the unhinging of ours.  It's scary when you think about how we enfranchise our citizens to vote even if they are largely uninformed and have no understanding of the gravity of their vote.  Some of what I see going on make me cringe.  Just go on social media and read some of the unfiltered thoughts of people who will be voting for our next President.  It's frightening.

Our country clearly needs prayers.  I don't want to be a fear monger, but I don't think there's anything great looming on the horizon for our least not in the immediate future.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Fuller House...Really?

For the past few days my FaceBook feed has been lit up by friends and family raving about Fuller House.  Now I really liked watching Full House and I figured eventually I'd watch the new show, but wasn't overly eager to see it.

Tonight Bryan put it on and while we haven't made it through episode one, I'm shocked at how much they're pushing a political agenda.  I'm also finding all of the throwback references a bit cheesy.  I did notice that there is plenty that seems like it's a show I wouldn't want the kids watching.

It would be great if there were some good options for family tv out there.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Agony of Getting Lost

Madeline is away on a weekend long retreat with her youth group.  It should be a fun time and hopefully a very good experience for her.  She's enjoyed every retreat she's been on in the past year, so I'm sure this one will be every bit as good as the others.

Getting to the retreat, however, was a different story.  I don't particularly like to drive to places where I don't know the way without using directions.  I'd much rather know exactly where I'm going.  I chalk it up to my type A control freak personality.  I need that feeling of knowing where I'm going otherwise I feel nervous and on edge.  I don't like the unexpected.

Minutes before taking Madeline to her retreat I checked the email that was sent out to the parents to get the address.  I popped it into my Waze app and we were ready to go.  Along the thirty-five minute drive I saw a lot of places I remembered from last year, and then I started noticing that places I recalled from the route I took last year weren't along the route.  I figured it was just Waze taking me a different more efficient way since there were three different ways to get there when I checked it out on google maps.  Then after missing a turn and irritating the drivers behind me, we arrived at our "destination"  a place that was clearly not the retreat house and looked like a decidedly not nice area of the not so nice area where we were headed.  Oh joy!

So I had Madeline dial up the youth minister to find out why we arrived somewhere totally different.  And that's when she tells me, It's 8th Street spelled out E-I-G-H-T-H.  So once I typed it in to Waze we were there in about two minutes.  But it was enough to put me completely out of my comfort zone and send my stress level way up.  When I got home I just had to look at the email and the letter that was sent out and each of them had the address listed with the number for the street.  Gah! Either way, I was destined to wind up at the wrong place today.  But honestly, what kind of town has streets like Eighth and 8th both followed by street, or Sixth and 6th?  That's just asking to cause a lot of confusion.  I wonder how many people that don't live in the town get confused when they have a bunch of streets named like this.  And even better is it's not like these streets are far apart.  They're minutes apart and who knows, they may even intersect.  It's not like the little five mile long island I grew up on where there was a Pine Avenue in one town and five minutes away there was a Pine Street.  People got those confused at times, but they actually had different names and were in different towns.

I think it goes without saying, but getting lost today did not help me to relax at all.  I'm determined to not get lost on Sunday when it's time to pick her up.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Must Stress Less

There's no doubting it, I'm stressing myself out.  This morning I woke up and after staying in bed for a few minutes I realized that I was feeling pretty good.  Then my feet hit the floor and within minutes I was thinking about everything I needed to do today and then my side started hurting again.  Ugh!  Talk about frustrating.  I feel like I'm my own worst enemy right now.  I don't want to worry and I don't want to stress about anything, but it's like I'm unable to do anything but that.

Bryan being away on a business trip alone is stressful enough.  It's just me and the kids and I really feel the burden of shouldering all the responsibilities.  Most mornings that Katie has school Bryan will take her, but when he's gone that's my job.  Fortunately Madeline and Ellie are capable of helping to get Katie and Anthony dressed and fed in the morning, so that's a big help.  Otherwise there's no way I'd be out the door with Anthony in time to make it to Mass.  Food, however, is a problem.  Bryan is the one who usually cooks dinner so evenings are just rough for me.  And right now there are a lot of foods I don't want anything to do with so those are kind of off the menu for a time.  That leaves me with pretty much nothing to cook for dinner.  Tonight was night two of cereal for some of us, and I got a little creative in finding other options for Anthony that weren't PB&J sandwiches, waffles or bananas.  One more night of figuring out what to feed three of the kids until Bryan is home.  Madeline was at youth group tonight where she had dinner and she's about to go on retreat, so she at least has been eating non-cereal items for dinner.  Lucky girl!

I think it's just impossible for me to relax when I feel like I just have so much going on that I feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water.  I'm hoping that once Bryan is home I will be able to feel a bit less stressed.  It always seems like it is worse when he is gone.  In fact, I started to feel really awful and had the beginnings of this problem while he was gone for a few weeks ago.

I know homeschooling is a big stressor for me right now.  I'm having a hard time keeping Madeline on track and she has a lot of ground to cover in the coming months to get everything completed.  She's going to a local Catholic high school next year and while we have until late July to complete all of her 9th grade work with Seton, we would like to have her final grades for the year sent to the high school by the end of their school year.  She did do a good job in the past week of chipping away at several assignments but she seems to have lost momentum this week.  Honestly, the sooner the can finish all of her work for the year the better.  I know once she's done I'm going to feel like a weight has been lifted off of me.

Just last night, I decided that the most stress relieving thing I could watch on tv after the kids went to be was episodes of Rugrats.  I used to watch that show all the time when I was in high school and  college just to decompress and not have to think about anything else.  So it was a bit relaxing last night to sit and watch that show.  I'll likely watch more of it tonight as I try to unwind.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

My Own Biggest Stressor

I'm starting to think I might be my own biggest stressor.  I have had several days with almost no pain since taking Prilosec.  In fact, I was beginning to feel so well that I was thinking that perhaps I might just cancel the appointment I have with the GI doctor.

I woke up for the second day in a row with a sore throat and ear pain this morning.  My body aches and I feel exactly the way I do when I'm about to get hit with another sinus infection.  Fun times ahead, I tell you!  So I went to the doctor this morning and before checking out my ear and throat he wanted to talk about the pain I had been having since the ultrasound last week came back saying my gallbladder and liver were just fine.  Unremarkable is the word on the report.

So I told him about how I started to think that perhaps the pain really was starting to remind me of when I was eighteen and got hit hard with reflux and the beginnings of an ulcer.  A lot of my circumstances are pretty similar.  I was under a lot of stress when this happened at eighteen and I started losing a lot of weight as a result of all the gastric issues. I've had a lot of stress and upheaval the past two months and that I suspect it was creating a similar situation.  So I told him about how I started taking Prilosec and eating only foods that I know won't aggravate my reflux and how within a few days I was starting to feel better and started to gain back some of the weight I had lost.

I asked his opinion about whether or not I should still go see the GI doctor and he thinks it would be wise to give the Prilosec a few more weeks and if I'm not feeling a lot better to then pursue seeing the GI doctor.  It makes perfect sense to me, but for some reason I have started stressing myself out today.  I don't know if it's because I'm feeling sick, or because I know I have a full plate of things to do these next couple of days while Bryan is on the other side of the country, or if suddenly the Prilosec just isn't doing anything for me.  I just wish I knew how to relax and stop worrying about everything.

I'm always very stressed and on edge when Bryan is away on business so that's nothing new.  But tomorrow and Friday Ellie is spending two days at the parish school shadowing in the class of a couple of her friends.  The timing for these shadow days couldn't be more inopportune for me.  I made arrangements with my friend who works at the school to meet me before Mass to take Ellie to the school since drop off time is during Mass.  But when it comes time to pick her up, I will be half an hour away at a friends house for a birthday party Katie was invited to.  Talk about bad timing.  So my father in law is going to come down for a bit tomorrow afternoon to spend some time with the kids and pick Ellie up at the school.  After that I have to take Madeline to a youth group meeting and then Ellie has a soccer practice that she'll be heading to and then it will be time to load up the little ones and pick up Madeline. Then, Friday, Ellie has her second shadow day and after that I have to drive Madeline to her weekend retreat which will have me upsetting nap time for Anthony.  She tried to find a ride out there but wasn't having any luck.  I honestly can't wait until Saturday morning when Bryan will be home.

The bottom line is I need to find a way to relax, stop worrying and quit stressing about everything.  It's absolutely no good for me to continue on the path I'm on right now.  If I thought the GI doctor would be able to run some of the tests I know he'll want to do I could see just going to the appointment, but both my family doctor and I are very confident that two of the most commonly used diagnostic tests will not be happening anytime soon.  Essentially I'm in a bit of a holding pattern for the time being.  I really just need to learn how to let go and let God do His thing, but that's so much easier said than done if you're like me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Hearts Can Change

I posted on Friday about how I was given a note telling me to take Anthony to the crying room by someone who was obviously annoyed by him.  The note had me very upset.  So upset that I felt the need to write a letter to our pastor about it and at the urging of Bryan, also to share a picture of the note I received to our parish Facebook page.

On Facebook plenty of people responded in a short amount of time.  Those who knew me were outraged, and several other's were also upset that someone would feel the need to leave such a note rather than just approach me face to face to discuss what she felt was a problem.  There were some good discussions coming out of that post, but ultimately, our pastor asked that it be removed.   By that point my letter to him had already been delivered outlining the issue and asking what he felt the best way to handle the situation would be.

This morning at daily Mass we all got to hear his response to my letter.  He made it abundantly clear that none of us should have a problem with the sounds of children in the church.  He also talked about how leaving notes like the one I received on Friday was not a Christian response.  Posting about the incident on social media was also addressed, since he felt it had the ability to fan the flames of an issue that can cause division.  So clearly the logic behind the post and it's subsequent conversation was revealed.

In all, Father's homily was top notch.  He explained to those present why some parents choose to avoid the crying room, citing that it is a circus room and not a place where parents can teach their child how to behave at Mass.  He addressed that it's not a problem to have a child making sounds during Mass, but how in cases where the child is wailing and unable to be quieted, how it would be prudent to remove the child for a time.  That we have done, and most people we have seen with little ones have done that as well.

I felt one of his best points related to the dropping fertility rate and how as people have chosen to have fewer children, we have created a society that is less accepting of the sounds of children.  He pointed out that these little ones have something to teach us and should not be excluded.  Because our society has become less child friendly, it has essentially gotten many of us to a point where we expect not to be bothered by them or their sounds when out in public.  He made it a point to state that when you attend a public event, such as a Mass, you cannot expect or anticipate that there will not be children or other distractions around you.  He let people know that that quiet some of them expect at Mass can be found in our adoration chapel.  I know that's one place I don't take my little ones unless it's empty, and if other people show up while we are there I always leave so we don't disturb them.

After Mass there was a lot of talk about the homily.   Many of the people there that know me were aware of what happened on Friday so they felt as I did that the homily was very well done.  I do wish the woman who wrote the note had been there this morning, but she wasn't. (I do think she sat in front of us at Sunday Mass.)  Grumpy Cat Lady, however, was there.  Over the past six or seven weeks I've been making it a point to say hello to her, hold doors for her and ask her how she is doing when I see her.  Today as I was walking out of the church with Anthony she came up to us with a big smile on her face to tell me how well behaved she thought he was today.  She even told Anthony he was really good.  So hearts can change.  It was such a welcome exchange and gives me hope that we will win her over in time.  Bryan thinks the homily might have played a big part in her change of tone, and he might be right.

So if you're the mom of the noisy baby at church and someone says something unkind or leaves you a note telling you where you should take that baby, take a deep breath before you respond.  If they don't run off as soon as saying something, tell them why you're not going to be pushed into a crying room or why you'll continue coming to the church.  Maybe you're like me and you have more than one little one.  On days when it's just me, Anthony and Katie, I know if I get up to take Anthony out of the church the noise level will escalate to fever pitch because Katie will then have a total freak out.  So sometimes what looks like the logical choice to an outsider is the lesser of two evils.  If, as in my situation, the person does an attack and run approach, write a letter to your pastor or approach him about it and let him know what happened and how you feel such a message can become a problem not just for you, but for other families as well.  If you have priests who are not shy about welcoming children at Mass they may just be your biggest ally in getting the rest of the parish community to accept the little ones.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Caramelized Bananas

A few years ago Bryan and I met up with one of Bryan's business contacts for lunch at Fogo de Chao in Philadelphia.  The place is like a festival of meat where the gauchos come to your table with different meats and you tell them what you'd like and they carve it off for you.  The food is very good and it's very easy to overeat there when surrounded with so many delicious meats.

As much as I love the meats there, there is a side dish that I love just as much as the meat.  That side dish is the caramelized banana.  It has that out of this world yummy quality that leaves me wondering if I should go for another round of filet mignon, parmesan encrusted pork or more caramelized bananas.  In those moments the struggle is very real.  There's only so much food I can eat at a time.

I'm not sure why, but I never tried making the caramelized bananas at home.  I suppose I thought it would just be too complicated.  Yesterday while at my sister-in-law's house for a graduation party her boyfriend's family was there cooking some out of this world food. His family is from Barbados and these people are just gifted with making some fabulous food.  While I was happily eating some rice and beans and bacon wrapped dates, a plate of what looked a lot like caramelized bananas appeared on the table.  Turns out they were plantains, but they tasted just as awesome as the bananas from Fogo.  The plantains inspired me to try making the caramelized bananas so I went in search of a recipe.

I found this recipe from Food Network and gave it a go.  The results were very yummy.  They turned out so well that after bringing some to Bryan while he was in a meeting, he came upstairs shortly after asking who made them.  They really only take a little bit of time to prepare, so I'll certainly be making them again.  I wish I had taken a picture so I could show you  how they looked.  You don't need to serve them over ice cream like they tell you in the recipe.  They're very good all by themselves.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

When Did Online Shopping Become Frustrating?

Lately I've gotten to the point where I can't stand going to the store to buy things.  These days I pretty much only shop at Target and Kohls because most other store annoy me.  I get fed up going to the store to buy something only to find that they don't have what we're looking for or the store is just aggravating to navigate in general.  In the past two months, even just going to Target, my happy place, has become something I will only do if I absolutely need to go there.  I'd much rather have stuff shipped to my door.

Online shopping has been great for helping me avoid the stores, but lately I'm finding that outside of Amazon, a lot of online retailers are a bit of a headache.  I don't even recall where I ordered from yesterday, it was Children's Place and one other place that escapes me, but both of their websites were just frustrating.  And just a few moments ago I was placing an order with Kohls for some items I needed to order for the kids and the check out process was so painful with their site malfunctioning during check out like it always does, that I got to the point where I felt as hopeless as I do when I am in their store and standing in one of their painfully long lines with kids who are suddenly desperate to leave the store or use the bathroom.  Nothing like bringing the aggravation of shopping to the comforts of your home.

I wish some of these online retailers would look at how Amazon and other sites that do online shopping and checkout really well, have their sites set up and follow their lead.  I can't help but think it's all a matter of getting a good developer in there to fix the issues.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Book Review: A Single Bead

Not too long ago I had the opportunity to sit down and read a new book called A Single Bead by Stephanie Engleman.  The book, which is geared, to teens, is about a young high school girl who after finding a single rosary bead belonging to her grandmother goes on to not only look for the other beads which all have significance to her extended family, but also on an unexpected journey to finding a deeper faith in God.

The story line follows a family a year after a tragic event involving the death of the grandmother.  The grandmother and her incredible faith were the glue the held the family together.  The main character of the story is a girl named Kate, who is presently dealing with her own struggles and the depression of her mother.  The story is engaging and keeps you wanting to continue reading to find out what will happen next.

Overall, I think the story is very well done.  The book has not only a good story, but a lot about Catholicism woven into the storyline, so it not only entertains,  it also informs.  I'd say this book will most likely appeal to teenaged girls.  I'm not sure if the guys would get into this book, but I know girls would enjoy it.

One of the things I like about this book is it has discussion questions at the end.  This is good not only for facilitating a conversation about the book with your teen, but also for reading the book as a group.  Even as an individual reading the book, you could look over the questions and think about them.  Several of them get you to think not only about the book but about how some of it can apply to your own life.  So it's a good series of questions for deeper thought.

I was provided with a review copy of A Single Bead by the publisher, Pauline Teen, in exchange for my honest review.  You can find out more about this book and view a preview here.  It is also available at Amazon.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Quick Takes: Second Friday of Lent

I'm doing my best to try avoiding stress, but it seems like stress just flocks to me like I'm a magnet.

I need to start working on getting announcements and registration forms together for our parish VBS.  I'm now about two weeks behind where I wanted to be.

I'm looking forward to this Sunday.  Ellie will be singing the responsorial psalm at Mass.  Hopefully we can sit close enough that I can record her singing again.  I always feel a bit self conscious pulling out my phone in the middle of Mass to record her when she sings the responsorial psalm.  Hopefully people just recognize that I'm a proud mom and not someone who just likes to take pictures and record random parts of Mass.

Madeline is getting a lot of assignments that were a bit delayed in being submitted checked off the list.  I will feel a lot better when she's caught up.

We're ditching cable very soon.  Between Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu and the content we've purchased for our Apple TV we are at the point where we really don't need cable anymore.  For a while I've been telling Bryan that I feel like it's a waste since most of the time I get annoyed that nothing good is on despite the many channels we have.  Bryan brought an antenna recently that also allows us to get the local news so we really aren't missing anything by eliminating cable now.

I don't know if it's a result of the Prilosec that I recently started taking, but the pain in my side feels like it's happening a bit less the past couple of days.  It's still not gone, but I'm not in a much pain as I had been.  I do think a lot of it is stress related.

I left Mass in tears today after finding a note written by the woman sitting in the pew ahead of us.  You can read about it here.

Response to the Well Intentioned Lady at Mass

I don't think we've ever been properly introduced, but I see you around at Mass frequently enough.  My name is Karen and the toddler I often have at my side at daily Mass is Anthony.  He'll be two in May.

My son really enjoys coming to Mass with me.  Our church is really like a second home to him, he's that comfortable there!  You see, he's grown up in this church.  From the time he was six days old he's been at Mass nearly every day of his life.  Typically I don't go to daily Mass on Saturday mornings since it's the only day of the week I ever get to sleep past 6:15am.  But on weekdays you can find me, Anthony, and depending on the day any one of my three older daughters at the 8am Mass.

I want you to know that I'm very touched that so many of the people at daily Mass are so happy to have us around.  People, who I worry I am bothering by bringing my son to Mass with me, come up to me before or after Mass all the time to tell me how happy they are to see and hear him each day and how he reminds them of their grandchildren or great-grandchildren.  Did you know that the people who sit in the front of the left hand side of the church talk among themselves when they hear Anthony come in and start making sounds?  Apparently they refer to him as "our baby."  I didn't know that until recently.  They've been referring to him as their baby since he was very small, I'm told.  I actually think it's really sweet that they think of him that way.

One of the things I love about the people we attend daily Mass with is how loving and kind they are.  I hope you've experienced some of the kindness and love that Anthony and I have.  You, me and Anthony are all so blessed to have such great people who come together and pray with us at Mass each day.  Don't you think?

I want you to know that I'm not oblivious to the sounds my children, especially the baby, make at Mass.  Probably more than anyone else in the church, I, the one right next to the baby, cringe when he starts to make noise.  If it's happy sounds or him singing I try to relax and not worry about it.  His godfather likes to point out that Anthony is crying out to God his Father when he starts making noise at Mass.  I suppose he's right.  With only a few words in his vocabulary, I suppose he prays the only way he knows how.  I can tell you that he knows how to make the sign of the cross.  Have you ever noticed how cute a toddler is when he does that?  Anyway, I digress.  I know the noise can sometimes be unpleasant.  But that is life.  Life isn't always neat and tidy or quiet.  When each of us comes to Mass we don't cease to live life for that half hour or hour that we are in the church.  Those of us with years of practice and self control will obviously have a better handle on keeping still and quiet, but little ones have a hard time acting like adults, because that's not the nature of a small child.

I know you are bothered by the noise my son makes.  I'm sorry for that, but I'd like to point out to you that none of us are perfect.  Not me, not my son, not you, or even the priest who's offering Mass that day.  I'm sure that each one of us does something that annoys someone else, and I bet a lot of us bother people at Mass, but you probably are unaware of it if you do because most people will recognize that the person who is doing something that annoys you is a beloved child of God, and that person has every right to be there worshipping God as just as you do.

You asked me to take my child to the crying room, which makes me think you are annoyed by the presence of a little child at Mass.  I am sorry his sounds bother you, I really am.  But let me tell you why I'm going to continue sitting right where I always sit at daily Mass.  That spot, where we sit, right under the station of the cross that says "Jesus dies for us", reminds me day after day that I am broken and in need of a savior.  But there's more.  I sit where I do because should my son begin to make an excessive amount of noise, I can easily walk to the rear of the church and either stand outside the glass doors until he's calm or just stand next to the holy water inside the church and he's happy.  I don't often leave the pew because I'm teaching my son that when we go to Mass we stay in our seat.  We don't get up and walk around and take breaks.  Raising little ones and teaching them how to behave is a tedious process that takes years.  I don't know you, so I don't know if you ever had little ones or not.  If you do have children then I suspect you know what a difficult, yet important job I have in guiding my child to become a good Catholic man someday.   But I'd like to ask you if you've ever been to the crying room.  Have you felt how icy cold the room is during the winter months and have you felt how swelteringly hot it is during the summer?  It's not an inviting space.  Also, did you know during the week that the crying room is empty?  Going to daily Mass and sitting all alone in a cold room looking through hazy glass to see Mass going on down below is a great way to feel like you're not part of congregation, but rather a spectator.  My family and I sit in the pews because we're raising our children, who are members of the church by virtue of their baptism every bit as much as you or I,  to learn how to worship and adore their God at Mass.  We've done the crying room with our eldest daughter and it was a disaster.  The crying room is more like the circus room.  There's no reverence and people act like they aren't even at Mass.  It is not a place to teach your children how to behave at Mass.

Now maybe I'm reading something into your note.  Perhaps you assumed that I didn't know there was a crying room and you've taken some inspiration from the banners listing the works of mercy behind the altar and decided that it would be a mercy for you to instruct the ignorant and inform me that our parish is equipped with one.  Might I suggest in instances where you find yourself annoyed by my child or anyone else at Mass that you opt instead to bear wrongs patiently?  Offer the annoyance up to Our Lord.  Tell Him that you can't stand the sounds of the little baby that He loves and made in His image and likeness.  Talk to Him and then listen to see what He says.  I'm sorry, but I believe Our Lord is just as happy to see my baby in the church even on his most obnoxious screaming day, as He is to see you there when you are having a good day, a bad day, a day when you're just going through the motions, or even a day when you're angry with Him and can't understand why He placed whatever cross you're struggling with at that moment in your midst.  He loves each of us in spite of ourselves.

If I misjudged the nature of your note, I'm sorry.  I have a difficult time believing it was written with a charitable spirit, especially considering you dropped it at the place where we were sitting on your way back from communion as you left the church.  And considering you didn't sign your name to it, I can't help but feel it was a bit passive aggressive.  If you were that upset by the baby's sounds you could have stayed until the end of Mass and approached me to discuss it.  I want you to know that you hurt my feelings and made me to feel like I was unwelcome.  You are not the first person in recent memory to do this.  But like her, I will treat you with kindness and I forgive you for hurting me.  It may take me a bit of time to get over it, but I will.  Just know that in the meantime I'll be praying for you.  I pray that God will soften your heart.  Perhaps you have some circumstance in your life that makes hearing the sounds of a baby happily singing bother you.  I am sorry if the joyful noise of one of God's little ones upsets you, but I urge you to take it to Our Lord.

Going forward, please bear in mind that your actions and words, whether spoken or written, have the ability to hurt those around you.  Your note, which thankfully I did not read until after Mass was over and after I had prayed for you, upset me so much that I left the church in tears.  Those who encountered me on the way out were upset that anyone would do what you chose to do.  Had you given me this note on a day when Anthony was exceptionally loud, I likely would not have been as upset as I was in receiving it today.  I would like to point out to you that Anthony made no noise until the offertory.  It wasn't until Fr. Pete called him out for not making the noises that he loves to hear, that Anthony made any noise.  Prior to that my son was happily munching on Cheerios, which I bring to keep him quiet, and scribbling on a piece of paper.

So again, I'm sorry that the sounds of my child disturbed you.  I suspect that you might be less bothered by his sounds and antics if you perhaps sat on the other side of the church where it appears to be quieter.  We won't be offended if you choose to sit further away from us at Mass, just know that I plan to continue sitting in the same place, give or take a pew, for the foreseeable future.  Somedays will be louder than others, I'm sure, but as always I will do my best to keep my child as quiet as I can.  Unfortunately that free will that Our Lord endows each of us with kicks in at birth, so as much as I, too, would love to go to a Mass that is so quiet you can hear a pin drop, even I can't stop the baby from making noise.  Know that I am right there with you in disliking noise during Mass, but when I hear a baby crying or a child loudly talking, instead of grabbing a pencil and paper to tell the mom where to go, I offer up a prayer for the child and the parent with him.  It's rough being the parent of the kid who makes noise.  People will turn and glare at you and occasionally someone will snap on your child inches from his face or leave a note that is the equivalent of saying: "Dear Mother, Your child is annoying and not welcome to sit with the rest of us.  Please either go to the crying room or don't come here."  It's not a fun place to be, but it's life.  Can you just imagine if someone were to snap on the lady who reeks of perfume and tell her she should go sit outside so she doesn't bother people who can't handle the way she smells?  How awful and tactless that would be!  Or what if the man who says all the prayers too fast or too slow, or the woman who is singing her heart out to God and hitting every wrong note along the way were told they should go sit somewhere else if they can't say the responses with perfect timing or sing perfectly.  That wouldn't be a Christian response at all and I imagine it would really hurt the person who was on the receiving end of such comments.

Finally, let me tell you why your note struck such a chord with me.  It not so much because you hurt my feelings, which you certainly did, but it's because I worry that you have done or will do this to another parent.  This is the sort of thing that may make a family decide that it's just not worth going to Mass anymore, or at least not while their child is still very young.  Would you really want to be the catalyst that drives someone from the Church and perhaps places their soul and the souls of their children in peril?  I wouldn't want that on my conscience at all.  People will remember when they've been offended or treated unkindly so ask yourself before you act if what you are doing is being done out of your own selfish desires or out of a spirit of charity.

Kind Regards,

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Small Successes: February 18th

Celebrating the little things in life that add up...

1. Thanks to my $1 a load laundering service, I had a living room filled with several loads of clean laundry this morning.  I was feeling up to actually getting something accomplished, so I managed to get everything folded.  Ellie was nice and helped get some of the laundry sorted and she also put a good amount of it away for me.

2.  I have Katie set up to homeschool for kindergarten.  We've decided to have her do another year of pre-K three mornings a week so she's still interacting with her friends since being around the other kids seems to be doing wonders for getting her to talk.  I enrolled her with Seton for the upcoming school year and we already have all of her books.  So now I'll have plenty of time to start planning.  I think I'll probably start her some time in the late spring so I won't feel like anything has to be rushed on the days when she goes to pre-K.

3.  I finally made myself go to the craft store to buy the cording I needed to turn the new Jesus Tree set into ornaments.  I even started gluing the cording to the backs of the wooden discs.  I had forgotten how much I hate working with hot glue.  Several of my fingernails are now sporting a hot glue coating, but I managed to keep from burning my fingers badly.  I also found a cute little bendable tree in the Easter aisles of Target that I can use for the ornaments.

4.  I'm feeling mildly better today after making an effort to try to stop stressing and worrying over everything.  I've had a few moments where I'm having pain, like when the kids start bickering or when the baby starts having one of his tantrums.  So whatever is wrong with me, I suspect a lot of it is due to stress.  I'm trying very hard to relax, but I think after having a couple of very stressful months filled with illnesses and some decisions that will bring big changes in the fall, I just got to a point where the stress and worry overtook me.  I feel like I need a few days off to just take a break.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

One Problem Ruled Out

I had the ultrasound done today to see if the pain I'm feeling on my right side is my gallbladder.  I was really surprised when I got a call from my doctor shortly after noon letting me know they received the results.  The good news is my gallbladder and liver are fine.  I'm very happy about that, because I figured I was either going to have several months of misery ahead of me, or would have to have surgery, which I'm not particularly a fan of having to go through that.

When I got home with a CD of the scans they did Bryan and I took a look at them and compared them to ones online.  We both thought my gallbladder looked normal, and I was starting to wonder just what could be making my side hurt.

I have a history of reflux and had the beginnings of an ulcer when I was 18.  I think it was all the result of me being as high strung as I am and just being very stressed.  Since that time I've tried to worry less, I watch the foods I eat to make sure they won't cause reflux and so on.  So on a whim, I decided to google ulcer and where I'm having pain.  All of my symptoms, including the ones that didn't get mentioned as being associated with gallbladder issues fall under that category, too.  Then I started thinking about how the acidic foods I've been eating this past week, that were supposed to be good for gallbladder issues, were making my side hurt more, even to the point of feeling like it was burning.  That's when I told Bryan I thought it was possible that I might really have a GI issue.

When the doctor's office called me it was to tell me that I need to see a GI doctor if I'm still having pain.  I spent almost an hour calling around trying to find someone who could see me in the next week or two.  It's near impossible.  After calling about seven offices I finally managed to get an early March appointment.  After I gave a bit more info on my present situation she decided that she was going to send a message to the office scheduler to see if she could get me in sooner.  So now I only have to wait until next Friday to see the doctor.  I'm hoping that they'll be able to give me something to give me some relief.  In the meantime, I'm going to try to relax a bit and stop worrying about what could be wrong.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

So Much for Everyday

I meant to blog yesterday but between falling asleep on the couch for a few hours mid day and getting caught up in the History Channel Series The Men Who Built America my day rapidly disappeared.  I spent six hours last evening watching three of the episodes from that series.  It was nice not having to watch Sofia the First and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  I feel like I see too many of those shows.

My gallbladder ultrasound is tomorrow morning.  I'm hoping it will show the reason why I'm having so much pain on the right side.  From there, we'll have to see what, if anything, the doctors are willing to do for me.  I called and set up an appointment with a surgeon today at the request of one of my doctors only to have the receptionist tell me that I was wasting my time.  It appears that there are certain medical conditions that make medical professionals unwilling to consider the possibility of treating you.  As I told the one doctor I saw today, I'm experiencing pain at times that is more painful than labor, and lasts far longer than I've ever labored.  I told the receptionist at the surgeon's office that I'd like an appointment anyway even if it is a waste of time.  I'm hoping it won't be.

The more I described the pain I was having to the doctor I saw this morning the more she kept nodding and affirming what I was saying until she said that everything I described was exactly how she felt just before she had to have her gallbladder removed.  She seems to think there's a good chance I have gallstones.  All I know is if it's stones or an inflamed gallbladder, I want something done as soon as safely possible so I can stop feeling so awful.

I feel like I'm near useless at present.  I've gone another week since doing any laundry or even setting foot in the basement.  If it's not on the main level or upstairs, I pretty much have nothing to do with it.  Outside of making sandwiches or a bowl of cereal for the smaller kids, I haven't prepared any food for anyone who isn't me.  Fortunately Madeline, Ellie and Bryan can all make food and all know how to do laundry.  Otherwise I think we'd all be half starved and wearing dirty clothes.

I took the older kids to confession on Saturday and while discussing my severe dislike of suffering, I got asked if I ever just want to time travel in those situations.  Yes!  I do!  I really do.  And finally, someone else gets how I feel! For instance, if I could go back a few months, I'd go and have my [then] infrequent gallbladder pain looked at and hopefully addressed.  I'd also have insisted on seeing an ENT dr. before December so my sinus inflammation could be treated with the preferred treatment option.  If I could go forward, I'd skip ahead to October or November.  But I guess if I had the ability to time travel that I'd be skipping out on chances to offer up my suffering, as well as numerous chances to really lean on Our Lord for his grace and support.  Do I want to suffer?  Not at all, but if it's what I'm being called to do, then I'll do my best however imperfectly I may do it.  I told Father in confession that I feel like it's been Lent for me for the past month.  So while everyone else was on day four of Lent, for me it was day thirty-one and yet, Easter won't get here any earlier for me.
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