Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

My Mom and I have been busy in the kitchen today, preparing for this evening's meal and as we can for tomorrow's feast.

We have homemade Creamy Clam Chowder simmering for this evening. It is an unusual recipe, I think, but is absolutely delicious. Chowder lovers, here's a little gift for ya!

Clam Chowder
My favorite clam chowder.... Different and delicious! From Mom's files.

1 51 ounce can chopped clams (reserving liquid)
6 slices bacon
1 medium onion
1 cup carrots, diced
3 cups tater tots
2 cubes chicken bouillon
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon lemon and pepper
1 carrot, shredded
4 cups milk
2 cups half and half
5 tablespoons flour

In large pot cook cut-up bacon till crisp. Drain off fat. Add chopped onion. Add liquid from clams and bring to boil. Simmer 10 min. Add spices, onion, carrots, tater tots, milk and clams. Return to just a boil and let simmer for one hour. Serves 10.

Notes: I usually use all skim milk, for the milk and the half and half. (On Christmas Day however, we pull out the stops and use half and half for an extra special and very creamy consistency!) I use twice the bacon called for. Mix the flour with water and add at end to thicken soup, as needed.

I have Frozen Peppermint Delight freezing for tomorrow's dessert. This recipe is as easy as recipes get, it's yummy, and it's very pretty too. We like to have a standing rib roast for Christmas dinner, and I think the cool peppermint follows roast beef perfectly. Here 'tis!

Frozen Peppermint Delight
1 package (14 ounces) cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 gallon peppermint ice cream, slightly softened
1 carton (12 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 jar (11-3/4 ounces) hot fudge ice cream topping, warmed
Crushed peppermint candy

In a bowl, combine cookie crumbs and butter. Press into an ungreased 13-in. x 9-in. dish. Spread ice cream over crust; top with whipped topping. Cover and freeze until solid. May be frozen for up to 2 months. Just before serving, drizzle with hot fudge topping and sprinkle with peppermint candy. Yield: 12-15 servings.

This evening we are going to a traditional Latin Mass at 8pm. Oh how we'd love to go to Midnight Mass at the Oratory--click here to read at St. Louis Catholic about what you can expect tonight at midnight--but it won't work for us this year. We are thankful to Fr. Lockwood who will celebrate the TLM at Assumption parish at 8pm.

The boys are excited as only 8 and 9 year old boys can be. Although they will be in bed later than their usual 8:30 bedtime tonight, we anticipate they will wake us early on Christmas morning. We've already told them they can't get up before 6am!

And so, as Advent draws to a close, and we celebrate once again the Coming of the Christ Child, may you all be blessed with a happy and holy Christmas, and may your celebration endure for the whole Christmas season!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mom's Coming to Town!

Tomorrow evening we'll head up to the airport to pick up my mom, who is flying in from Washington (state) to be with us for the holidays! We are all so excited!

The boys love it when Grandma comes to town. First off, she brings one suitcase that is practically loaded with surprises, no matter what time of year it happens to be. But their excitement goes a bit deeper than the haul they will likely take on opening her luggage. There are many little traditions that have evolved over the years, all of which makes the boys very close to her, even though we are so far away most of the year.

One such tradition is the Baking of the Bread. My mom, herself the daughter of a baker, makes the best homemade bread. The recipe, given to her by her dad over 50 years ago, is not even written down. She has it in her head only, but it produces five beautiful white yeasty loaves every time. She keeps saying she's going to write it down, and she should. As much as my boys enjoy helping, kneading, tasting, they might just want it when they're old enough to bake themselves. We all know that within days of her arrival, our house will smell like it only does on bread-baking day. Mmmmmm.

The boys also know Grandma is pretty willing to do just about anything with them, whether it's playing a game, putting together a puzzle, reading, or playing outside (in warmer months, that is). And then there are the fun little songs that only Grandma sings to them... even if it began when they were babies, and at 8 and 9 they're getting a little 'old' for it, somehow it's still ok, because it's Grandma.

Of course my husband and I are looking forward to her arrival too! Mom and I have always been very close, so when she comes in we spend hours upon hours 'catching up', as if it would be possible to ever be caught up. She and I will enjoy decorating for Christmas, spending time in the kitchen cooking and baking sweet treats, watching our old favorite Christmas shows that we watched together in years gone by.

She'll be here for a month, a nice long visit that will fly by in a wink. It will be the first Christmas without Dad, so I think her time here with us over the holidays will be as good for her as it will be for us.

We'll cherish every moment. Truly, there is no one I'd rather share 'my morning cup' with!

Monday, November 30, 2009

St. Andrew-Christmas Anticipation Prayer

Happy Feast Day of St. Andrew!

One of the Advent calendars our family is using this year includes the following beautiful prayer. Following the prayer is a suggested instruction for praying it.

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour vouch safe, oh my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His Blessed Mother. Amen.

It is piously believed that whoever recites the above prayer fifteen times a day from the feast of St. Andrew (30th November) until Christmas will obtain what is asked.

+MICHAEL AUGUSTINE, Archbishop of New York
New York, February 6, 1897

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving...

... to all of my dear readers!

Just taking a quick break from preparing what I can today for tomorrow's feast. Well, I did take a break this afternoon to play Monopoly, of all things, with my 8 year-old. That was a couple of hours ago. My good hubby relieved me a bit ago so I could get back to my kitchen, and now they're battling it out. Our son, I think, would never tire of playing the game.

My cranberries are prepared and in the fridge. I love standing over a simmering pot of these red little beauties and listen to their pleasant popping as they are transformed into a delicious spiced sauce without which I just can't serve a turkey.

I have one pie half-made, just waiting for a crust to cool. I still need to mash my sweet potatoes for the sweet potato casserole which is good enough to call dessert, and chop celery and onions for stuffing, then I can relax this evening! In the morning we'll get busy again. I say we because that same good hubby will be at my side in the kitchen all Thanksgiving morning, helping me with all the rest of the preparations.

It will be just us and my father-in-law, as our Thanksgivings have been since marriage, except when my mother-in-law joined us too, may she rest in peace.

So very much to be thankful for: Faith, Family, Friends, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

God bless you all this Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What We've Been Reading

Early this year I began reading The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, to the boys. They loved the adventures of Bilbo Baggins as he, along with a band of dwarves, heroically fought and defeated the dragon Smaug on the Lonely Mountain. Having once taken my boys to the land of Middle-earth, our obvious next read-aloud would be Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy.

We spent all spring and summer journeying with Frodo and Sam, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, Gandalf and the rest, as their once intact fellowship, became broken and spread out, but nonetheless persevered as with one heart to defeat the evil Lord Sauron of the dark land of Mordor.

The boys enjoyed each book, but their enthusiasm to listen to the tale each evening was further bolstered by the fact that they knew they would be allowed to watch Peter Jackson's film version of LOTR only after we had finished reading it.

And so, having finished Return of the King about the time the new school year started a couple of months ago, they have watched the movies several times. Each Sunday they have their choice as to what they will watch for their 'Sunday Night Movie', something they look forward to all week. Perhaps needless to say, any of the three movies in the LOTR trilogy have received top billing for some weeks now. But that's okay; I don't mind knocking Star Wars out of first place for a while!

Just a few nights ago we started Heidi, by Johanna Spyri. The boys are familiar with the story, having watched the movie at their grandma's house, the version with Jason Robards playing Grandfather. It is a touching story, and I think we're all enjoying the book as much as, or more than, the movie. (Yes, the boys saw the movie first on this one!) Heidi is a very endearing character, and even the boys, who are going through an 'eeewww, girls!' stage right now, are pulling for this little heroine. They always beg for one more chapter, so we're speeding through it.

On their own, the boys have recently discovered Henry Huggins books, by Beverly Cleary. They are loving reading them! Henry's sign on his clubhouse door which reads 'No Girls Allowed' immediately struck a chord with them! They were also surprised and pleased to read about landmarks with which they are very familiar from visiting my home in Washington (state). The other day my youngest was quietly reading when he called out to me and said, 'Hey, Mom, listen to this!' He proceeded to read to me about their huckleberry picking on Mt. Hood. Ms. Cleary, the author, grew up just outside of Portland, Oregon, and she incorporates local names and places into her books. As a friend of mine said, next time we're out that way, we'll have to go find Klickitat Street in Portland and show the boys where the stories 'took place'.

As for me, I haven't picked anything up since I finished Dracula a couple of months ago. As much as I want to, being back at it with homeschooling, keeping up with every other daily task about the house, family life in general, on top of spending time reading with the boys, it seems my own reading time is swallowed up.

No complaints though. All too soon the years of homeschooling and evening read-alouds will be but a memory, and I'll have all the time in the world to pull my books off the shelf. I know too that by then I'll look back fondly on these days and years and wish them back. With that thought, I will cherish every turn of every page I read with them today.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November - The Month of the Holy Souls

There are so many beautiful posts out there in Blogdom about the Holy Souls. Check out St. Louis Catholic for one very nice piece on Suffering Souls. It gave me pause to think again of loved ones and friends who have gone on before me.

The Month of the Holy Souls has very personal meaning for me this year, having just lost my dad. There is much that I can do for him and indeed for all the Holy Souls, by way of prayers, and penances on their behalf.

We all bear crosses, some are visible, some are unapparent to others, but they all have eternal value if only we will offer them up. If we imagine our loved one being released into the light of Eternal Beatitude in the presence of Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother, in part due to our own offerings and prayers, does it not make the cross-bearing here on earth more meaningful, more tolerable?

Offering our sufferings is but one way to help the faithful departed though. has a very nice list of many charitable acts we can do for them. Click here and scroll down.

Remember the Holy Souls in Purgatory especially this month!

* * *

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Trying Something New

I am very happy to say my appointment with our Family doctor went well. He has prescribed for me a drug called Naltrexone, with the hope that it will indeed halt the progression of my MS.

Naltrexone is a drug that’s been around for years, but it was not originally intended to treat auto-immune diseases like MS. However, a couple of physicians in the U.S. have found this drug, in a low dose form, to be effective in patients with MS and other disorders.

After years of being on interferon injections three times per week, and watching my MS continue to progress all the while, I am thrilled that my doctor will prescribe it for me (not all docs, including my own neurologist, are willing to prescribe it). This is an oral med to be taken nightly before bed…. Hooray! No more needles!

While the research done on Naltrexone for MS is, at this time, limited, the anecdotal evidence is abundant, and much of it is glowing. MSers are finding not only is it slowing down and even halting disease progression, many are experiencing symptom relief as well.

I am hopeful; at the same time, I am guarded. I know this medicine is not a cure for MS. I also know what it is to be disappointed when a promising therapy does little to help me. Will I be one writing a glowing testimony of my improvement on Naltrexone? Only God knows, and the outcome is truly in His hands. Still, I can’t help but be enthusiastic to begin.

I am so thankful for this doctor we have. Without him I don’t know if I would have had the opportunity to try Naltrexone. But what makes it even better, is that he is a faithful Catholic who cares for our family body and soul.

As he gave me the prescription and sent me on my way, the last thing he said to me was, ‘You will be in my prayers.’

Now that’s good medicine!

* * *

St. Jude, Pray for Us!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Prayer Request

Tomorrow I will be seeing my doctor to discuss a new approach drug-wise to treating my MS, in yet another effort to find something that will stop the train.

I, with my husband, go into this appointment with hope and prayers, and ask you, dear readers, to join us with your prayers.

May God's holy will be done!

Thank you... and may Our Blessed Lord reward you for your charity!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pachelbel's Canon

One of my favorite pieces of classical music is Pachelbel's Canon in D. Whether played on piano, organ or strings, I think it is simply beautiful. It was this piece played on organ to which I walked down the aisle at our wedding 10 years ago.

Well, now the boys are playing Pachelbel's Canon on the piano. Their somewhat simpler version is in the key of C rather than D, probably because they are just learning to play 16th notes, and why throw the black keys in on top of their first 16th-note runs?

It is a delight for me to listen to them, even when they're trying to master such repetitive tunes as "What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?", but when a piece like the Canon comes along, I feel like they are really playing the piano!

Last week the boys' teacher assigned the first 12 measures of the piece. One of my boys is the more reluctant pianist, practicing only as he must. He accomplished the assignment well enough, his teacher was pleased, and this week he has the next 12 measures to work on. My other boy sees every piece as a challenge to master well, and quickly if he can. He practices more of his own accord, especially if it's a piece requiring more study, as this one does. With his extra effort, he was able to play the entire piece for his teacher this week! His next assignment is to polish it, working on the dynamics throughout the piece.

As I have said before in this space, we are very blessed to have piano music in our home. As the boys progress, they will have the opportunity to play a world of beautiful music, like Pachelbel's Canon. And as we pray before each piano lesson, may it all be to the glory of God!

St. Cecelia, Patroness of Musicians, Pray for Us!

Question of the Day

I know I've been scarce in these parts of late; just trying to juggle life and homeschooling and, well, life.

But today I am returning to blogdom to ask a quick question, and that is:

Where in the world do all the pencils go???

We started our school year with three large boxes of No. 2s, and an equally large supply of extra pencil-tip erasers, and today we are out of all them!

Somewhere in this house we must have a pile of pencils and erasers, but I haven't seen it if there is. You would think it would be noticeable.

Am I the only homeschooling mom with this problem??

(Annoyed sigh).... Target, here we come. Again.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Home Again

We returned to St. Louis Saturday evening after a little more than a week in Washington (state). Though it was a trip that one month ago we had no idea we would be making, to be with family to mourn and bury my dad, it was a good trip. As all visits with my family go, it was way too short.

My head is teeming with bloggables, from the passing of my dad and the funeral, to visiting with friends and extended family not seen for 20+ years, from the ever-breathtaking views of Mt. Hood and the Columbia River gorge to our youngest son turning 8 on the trip and losing a tooth in the Portland airport, from Mom's flat-out gorgeous flower garden to the book I began reading on the airplane trip out and can hardly put down (Dracula, by Bram Stoker)... and what stress and hot weather can do to a body with MS.

But on arriving home I realize regular life must resume, and so I quickly type this from my school computer while the boys take a brief play-break outside with Lucy, their buff-colored cocker spaniel that they missed for 8 days. I don't know that I'll find the time to blog about any of the above items. Regular life, homeschooling and all that goes with it, keeps my blogging to a minimum it seems, so we'll see.

But, to sum up our visit, I am more grateful for dear family and friends today than I ever have been before. Our family is truly blessed. Our Lord has taken my dad into eternity and, I think, left the rest of us closer.

I'm glad to be home, but the lump I always get when saying good-bye hasn't quite gone yet. Love you, Mom!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dear Dad - 1934 - 2009

My Dad passed away Tuesday night. Our Lord, in His infinite mercy, took him swiftly and peacefully.

Your prayers have been, and are, deeply appreciated.

HSMom and Family

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Update on Dad

Dear Readers: At a meeting between my family and my dad's neurosurgeon last night, the doctor indicated that he does not expect Dad to live through the end of this week. He is in God's hands; we ask that you pray for his peaceful passing, and for our family, especially Mom, as we go through these last days with him.

Thank you and may God bless you for your generous prayers.

HSMom and Family

Monday, August 24, 2009

Attention MO Homeschoolers!

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) announces a webinar on 8/25/09 (tomorrow!) at 2pm CDT to discuss Missouri Homeschool Law Change.

From the event registration page:

"Can home educated students stop counting their 1000 credit hours at age 14? 15? 16? 17? Under a new Missouri law, compulsory attendance goes to age 17 unless a child has earned 16 high school credits. Scott Woodruff will explain what a "credit" really is for homeschoolers and how they can earn one. Learn ways to adapt your record-keeping and college preparation to this new development. Don't get behind the curve on this important change in the law! Woodruff will allow time to take your specific questions regarding this law change. Time permitting, Woodruff will also walk through other aspects of homeschool law for those who are relatively new to homeschooling in Missouri." (This is a members-only e-vent.)

Sign up to attend this important event here.

School ... and Life

Today is the first day of our school year. It is beginning with much less fanfare than in previous years. Usually I begin revving up the boys days beforehand, and we're all kind of excited to get going by the time the day comes. I can't say that this year.

We are (I am) distracted by all that is transpiring with my dad. His condition has not changed as of last night. My mom, with the support of my brothers and me, will be faced with difficult decisions this week, barring a miracle. It is very hard on Mom.

We are comforted, though, knowing Dad received Last Rites last evening, as well as being enrolled in the brown scapular.

My dad (along with Mom) was received into the Catholic Church just three years ago, Deo gratias! We entrust him to Our Lord and Lady. May God's will be done.

Your continued prayers are most appreciated.

....... Now I must go ring that school bell.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Prayers for My Dad

Friends, my dad, age 75, is in the ICU after suffering a subdural hematoma on Tuesday morning. The surgery to relieve the condition went well, but he has not awakened yet, and has been on a ventilator since Tuesday.

Your prayers for him, and for my mom too, are most appreciated.

God bless you!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mary Poppins

Last night we took the family to the Broadway musical Mary Poppins, and what a treat it was! It is playing at the Fox Theater, which venue alone was a sight to see in all its ornate beauty. But the production was, in a word, amazing!

This Mary Poppins had many of the familiar Disney song and dance numbers including Chim-Chim-Cheree, Step in Time, A Spoonful of Sugar, and Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious, but it had many new songs written for this musical as well. All were wonderfully performed, as the cast sang and danced their way energetically through the play.

There were several characters that would be familiar only if you had read the book(s) by P.L. Travers, characters not seen in the Disney film. But having read the books to the boys, we were happy to see and know Miss Lark, Miss Andrew (the 'holy terror'), and Neleus the statue in the park. Still, for those who have not read the books, the theme of the musical was unchanged, and the added characters serve to bring out the wonders which occur wherever Mary Poppins is, much like the animated characters in the film version do.

The cast was wonderful, the story, songs and dance numbers were delightful, and there were even a couple of eye-popping 'special effects' that left the audience, adults and children alike in awe. My husband and I were still trying to figure out 'how'd they do that?!' this morning. I'll leave it at that, just in case a reader might get a chance to go. We all enjoyed it, and the boys, as if it were a dvd, want to see it again; unfortunately the live production is just a tad pricier than a dvd!

Mary Poppins continues at the Fox in St. Louis through August 30, and plays in other cities through September 2010.

Should you get to go, I'm pretty sure you'll agree that this Mary Poppins production is 'practically perfect in every way'!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Beloved Flower Pots

I am happy to report that the boys did very well today as they assisted for the first time at the solemn high Mass at the Oratory! It was a proud moment indeed, seeing them in the procession, walking slowly, seriously, hands folded as in prayer.

During Mass, sitting opposite each other in the choir stalls, they both followed along, doing as they are supposed to do, but for the most part, being still as flower pots! On recessing out following Mass, I caught each boy's eye and they both gave a quick smile to Mom.

As we all readied ourselves to leave, one of the older altar boys told them, "Good job up there!" Both boys beamed. And their exuberance was evident on the way home as they were all a-chatter:

"I loved it!!"

"Oh Mom, it was fun!!"

"I want to serve every Sunday!"

And from one boy to the other: "Are you going to be a priest?" "If God calls me, I will."

Thus was the first day of, hopefully, a long-lasting service at the Altar for our boys. If ever a flower pot was beautiful to behold.....

Deo Gratias!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

This Sunday!

After several Sunday after-Mass practices, the boys are ready. They know where to go to get their cassock and surplice, they know how to process in and bow to their processional partner before taking their places in the choir stalls, they know the signals for standing, kneeling, sitting, they know to watch the big boys and do as they do.....

Tomorrow our boys will assist at Holy Mass for the first time as altar boys (though Abbe's more specific term for what they'll be doing their first few weeks in the choir is "flowerpot"!) They can't wait! Their dad and I are equally excited for them, if just a little nervous. Other moms have assured me they'll do just fine.

Yes, I'll have camera in hand!

* * *

To an Altar Boy

To be Christ's page at the altar,
To serve Him freely there.
Where even the Angels falter,
Bowed low in reverent prayer.

To touch the throne most holy,
To hand the gifts for the feast,
To see Him meekly, lowly,
Descend at the word of the priest.

To hear man's poor petition,
To sound the silver bell,
When He in sweet submission,
Comes down with us to dwell.

No grander mission surely
Could Saints or men enjoy;
No heart should love more purely,
Than yours my altar boy.

God bless you, lad, forever,
And keep you in His care,
And Guard you that you never
Belie the robes you wear.

For white bespeaks untainted
A heart both tried and true;
And red tolls love the sainted
The holy martyrs knew.

Throughout life, then, endeavor
God's graces to employ;
And be in heart forever
A holy altar boy.

------ by St. John Berchmans

* * *

St. John Berchmans, Patron of Altar Boys,
Pray for Us!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Soup in Summer

My husband loves to bar-b-que and he would gladly do it year-round if the weather permitted. There has been many a chilly--no, cold--January or February Saturday that he has asked me if firing up the 'Q' sounded good. It always sounds delicious, as my husband is very good at the grill. Anyone who has had his bbq-grilled rib-eye steaks, medium-rare, knows they're better than any steak at any restaurant in town. (And that's not bias, it's a fact!) Still, the whole grilling thing for me is more than just the food; it's sitting outside, kids playing in the backyard, smelling that smoke, and watching him do what he loves to do. Kinda hard to do that mid-winter, but once in a while on a not so inclement day, he'll cook up a nice dinner on the grill.

Well, today, on this warm summer day, I'm turning that scenario around a bit and I'm making a hearty, wintry Lentil Soup for dinner. The meals that go so well with the chill winds of the winter months are the ones I love to prepare. Soups and stews, chili with warm cornbread and honey, just about anything in the crockpot. I love it when my husband hurries in the front door at the end of his workday, collar turned up, hat and gloves on, sleet sticking to his coat, and we all come to the table to steaming bowls of comforting soup that not only warms us from our fingers to our toes, but it warms our hearts too, as our little family is cozy inside while winter rages outside. Mmmm... there's nothing better that time of year.

Well, today I'm more than several months early as I watch the mercury rise outside. But Lentil soup just sounds good to me, and if hubby can 'Q' in January, I can make soup in August! And you can bet that even though we have no need to warm our fingers or toes on this summer day, a good heart-warming knows no season.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Of Your Charity

Yesterday one of my uncles, my dad's brother, suddenly passed on into eternity. He was 76 years old, and it is thought that he had a heart attack.

Though I grew up only a quarter mile from his house, and he and my dad (and their sister) were partners in our family dairy farm, I cannot say I knew Uncle Jim well. I knew his two kids, my cousins, well, but I simply had no closeness of any kind with my uncle.

To my knowledge he lived and died without any religion of any kind, and I am saddened by this. I am sorry too for my cousins' loss of their only remaining parent.

And so I would ask you, dear readers, of your charity, to say a prayer today for my Uncle Jim.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual
light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Piano

I have always loved the piano. I didn't take lessons growing up as many of my friends did, mainly because we never had a piano in the house. But my desire never waned. When I was 18 we did get a piano. My parents got it for $100. It was old and small--didn't even have 88 keys. I think it had 85. But it was good enough to start lessons on.

When I got my first 'real' job at age 20, the first thing I wanted to buy was my very own piano. So I saved and I saved, until the day I went downtown to the piano store and was able to buy one on my own. It was a Kohler console piano, walnut, and I thought it lovely. It was delivered to my parents' house where I still lived at the time, and there it stayed through my 20s. And all through my 20s I continued to take lessons.

I never became an accomplished pianist, but I always loved to play. Circumstances led me to stop lessons at some point around age 30, but I kept my piano, moving it everywhere I moved (much to the chagrin of every brother and friend who ever helped me move!)

My piano has followed me everywhere, including the 2200 mile move to St. Louis some ten years ago. In the early years of our marriage I played a very little, but was too busy with my babies to play as I once did. Ensuing years silenced the piano even more as my ability to play with both hands became less and less possible, my left hand succumbing to the effects of MS.

But two years ago next month, piano music came back into our home when our boys began taking piano lessons, and what a blessing it has been. Each week a fine young piano teacher comes to our home to instruct the boys. And everyday I sit at the piano and go through the lessons with our sons. I never imagined two years could show so much progress in them, but it has. One son especially loves to play, but it is a delight to listen to either of them at the piano.

I didn't realize over 25 years ago when I bought this piano that one day it would be my sons' playing on it that I enjoyed so much. Very infrequently I will still sit down and play a few old favorites, albeit one-handed, and when I do, the boys will yell from whatever room they're in, "Mom, is that you??", surprised at my quasi-ability to make 'beautiful' music. But as much as I have always loved to play, it is now our boys' music that brings me such joy.... on my very own, old, piano.

St. Cecilia, Patroness of Musicians, pray for us!

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Beautiful Day at the Oratory

Yesterday was an especially nice Sunday. Our boys were very excited to see the newest priest at St. Francis deSales Oratory, Canon Jason Apple. As a deacon, he was our oldest son's catechism teacher at the SFdS homeschool co-op and thus, our son was particularly anxious too see this former deacon recently ordained to the holy priesthood. (Click here for some nice pictures posted at St. Louis Catholic from Canon's ordination).

And see him we did. The boys followed his every move around church as we sat in our places waiting for Mass to begin. "Look," they both whispered to me, "there he is!"... "Is he going to say Mass, Mom?"... ""Look, Mom, he's going to hear confessions now!!"

It really impressed upon me how much our young boys look up to these deacons and priests. They were truly in awe of him. Such a high calling they have! And so we offer our congratulations and prayers for Canon Apple. And we are reminded to pray:

Lord, send us priests,
Lord, send us holy priests,
Lord, send us many holy priests and religious vocations!

After Mass the boys received their first instruction in serving from Abbe Alex, the Oratory Sacristan (and also our younger son's catechism teacher). Some of the concerns I posted in my last blog entry were relieved as my husband and I sat in the pew observing their practice. All of the boys--five in all--were very attentive and reverently followed Abbe's excellent direction. If our boys were excited about serving before, they are more-so now.

And so ended another blessed morning at the Oratory. God bless our good priests and religious!

As we got in the car to go home, my 7-year old son and I had the following exchange:

"Mom, if God is calling you to be a priest, but you don't want to be one, do you still have to be?"

"Why? Don't you want to be a priest?"

"No," he answered, almost sheepishly.

"You know what I think?" I asked him, "I think if God one day calls you to the priesthood, you will probably want to become a priest. You have lots of time to pray about what God is calling you to. For right now I think He's just calling you to be an altar boy, don't you?"

"Yeah!" he said with a sigh of relief and a big smile.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Altar Boys

As a mother to two boys, I have long thought of how proud I would be if one day either or both of them might join the procession at Holy Mass as altar boys. Well, that day might just be in sight! Today I received a call from our Oratory Sacristan who wished to schedule a time for meeting with interested boys, and to begin training them to serve.

My boys are very excited about this! And so am I, though admittedly I am not a little bit apprehensive, simply because I know my boys! Can these two, who are perpetual motion--squared--at home, actually sit in the choir stalls as still as potted plants for the duration of a solemn high mass--often the better part of two hours?? I see other boys their ages fulfilling such service every Sunday, but can mine do the same? I am hopeful, but I will certainly implore Our Lord and Lady in this! And I need to find out soon who is the patron saint of altar boys (anyone care to save me the googling?)

But concerned though I might be, I did find some encouragement from a mother of many sons, who perhaps felt as I did when her oldest boys first processed in to Holy Mass. Just this week I got a book of poetry by Hilary McRee Flanery, also known as Long-Skirts (a link to her poetry blog is here, or on the blog list on the right). In her lovely book A Breath of Home, there is a poem entitled Five Sons wherein she observes the transformation of her active, loud, raucous boys into still, quiet and serene altar boys:

Five Sons

Today, five sons,
Served on the altar.
Determined boys
Who would not falter.

Boys, at home,
Who fight and shove
But on the altar
Assist with love.

At home shouting,
From top of lung.
On the altar,
Latin’s sung.

At home running
Can’t sit still.
On the altar
Disciplined will.

At home throwing
Cereal, toast.
On the altar
Adoring Host.

At home bedrooms,
Scattered scene.
On the altar
Order, serene.

I, proud, mother,
Faithful to Rome,
Five sons on the altar,
Five men at home.

Thank you, Long-Skirts! This is my hope and prayer for my two sons, that indeed they will honor Our Lord as altar boys, and that the coming weeks will be just the beginning of many years of service for them at the Altar of Our Lord.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Poem for Every Mom

Rummaging through my desk this morning I came across a tattered print-out of a poem I love. It is by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton and was published in 1958 in Ladies' Home Journal. Five children we do not have, but with the two God has blessed my husband and I with, I can affirm every line, and that with a lump in my throat!

Song for a Fifth Child

Mother, oh Mother,
come shake out your cloth,
empty the dustpan,
poison the moth,
hang out the washing
and butter the bread,
sew on a button and make up a bed.

Where is the mother whose house
is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery,
blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).

The shopping’s not done
and there’s nothing for stew
and out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
but I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.

Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
for children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.

So quiet down, cobwebs.
Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Coming to Theatres... October 2009:

The 13th Day, a film about the miracle of Fatima. Watch the trailer here. This one looks like a must-see!

A Yummy Potato Salad

I like to cook, and pretty-much avoid the dinner-in-a-box food aisle. But recently I needed a quick summer side-dish, and I found a ready-made potato salad that is delicious. Bought at Sam's Club, it is Resers Country Style Red Potato Salad. It comes in a 4# container, so is enough to serve a small crowd, or for your family to eat on all week.

Just thought I'd pass on the tip-o'-the-day for your summer cookout. I'm pretty sure I'll never make a homemade 'tater salad again!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Music to My Ears

My eldest son can often be heard humming a tune as he plays and goes about his day. Usually it's the Star Wars theme, or something like it. This afternoon he was at the kitchen sink getting a drink, and my husband and I heard him humming a tune that was very clearly the Kyrie, as sung this morning by our beautiful Oratory choir.

Kyrie eleison...
...Christe eleison...
...Kyrie eleison
Sure made us smile.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Scrubbing Bubbles and My Mother-in-Law

I am all about any cleaning product that does the hard work for me. There is one such product I've been using for almost 10 years, one my dear mother-in-law (RIP) introduced me to shortly after I married her son: Scrubbing Bubbles. You may remember the old commercials of those zealous little bubble-guys cleaning the tub, declaring as they go down the drain, "We work hard so you don't have toooooooo......!"

Well, their claim is true! Just spray the foaming cleanser onto your grimiest after-the-boys-have-been-in-the-dirt-tub, and your sink and chrome fixtures, leave it a few minutes, then wipe it clean with a damp cloth. Not only is it clean, it's shiny too! And truly, there is NO scrubbing.

I knew my mother-in-law only a few short years. Our eldest son barely remembers his 'Moon-scoon-Gramma' (a term of endearment only a 2yo could come up with), and our youngest has no memory of her at all. But my husband lovingly quotes her often, recounting nuggets of wisdom she imparted and which he has carried with him since his youth, and is now passing on to our boys. One such nugget is that when someone pops into your mind, say a prayer for them; it may be God is nudging you because they are in need of your prayers.

Funny as it may sound, Scrubbing Bubbles is one thing that always brings her to my mind. And so as I put those bubble-guys to work this morning, I also took her advice to pray for those who are brought to mind. Thanks for the great tips, Mom.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon her.
May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Test Time!

'Tis the season for Standard Achievement Tests in our house. At the end of each year I give the boys the CAT-5 (California Achievement Test, Complete Battery) for the grade they just completed. I do it for a couple of reasons, the first being that I want them to be accustomed to this style of testing as they progress through the grades, such that when they are at the age to take college admissions tests, it will not be foreign to them. Secondly, I want to know how they compare academically to the level which is determined to be the 'standard' in the US for their age/grade level.

And so, this is the week. We have completed all of the Language Arts sections, as well as Mathematics. We have only Science and Social Studies to go. Phew!

I say 'phew' because these tests, I think, are harder on me than them! Consider. All school year long, I am theirs for the asking when they need help. If they don't understand a concept, I am there. If it's a math fact that has them stumped (e.g., 8x9), I remind them to find the nearest fact that they do know (8x10) and figure it from there. If it's a grammar issue, sometimes a nonsensical, funny sentence will help him realize that what he thought to be the verb in the sentence is, in fact, the noun. If it's a matter of "Mom, my hand is soooo hot!!!" from too much writing (he thinks!), then I am there to be a cheerleader encouraging him to keep on keepin' on.

But, with the exception of the cheerleader role, Achievement Testing is a different ballgame. I make sure the boys understand each section, I set the timer, and but for a question of clarification here and there, I am to remain mute while they fill in with their #2 pencils, dozens of little circles which will ultimately indicate they're level of comprehension in Languages Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.

One thing that has become very apparent this year: our two boys, who just completed 3rd and 2nd grades, are as different as night and day (as if I didn't already know that.) One boy excels at reading, writing and drawing, while the other at mathematics. This morning while the more math-o-phobic of my sons was completing his section on 'Language Expression', he flipped ahead a few pages in his book only to see pages upon pages upon pages (in his mind) of math problems. Oh horrors! Oh dread! Oh Mom!!!!!

Contrast this with my numbers kid who, upon flipping a few pages ahead in his test book and seeing his math section, looked up at me, pumped his fist, and with the eye of the tiger, gave a confident 'Yeah!!!!!!!' In a few minutes he'd be finished with the pesky Language Arts section, and he could cozy in to doing what he does best. Egging him on a bit, and simply for my own amusement, I asked him if he were up to the challenge, and he enthusiastically answered 'YES!!' with another fist pump. When I told him he could and should use scratch paper to work his problems, he insisted he could do them in his head. He did just fine, and in a fraction of the time allowed.

For my other son, however, the math section requires a bit more effort. And here's where it gets hard for Mom. I sit there, watching him do math, or his brother doing grammar, unable to offer the assistance that I usually spend all year offering them in the classroom. I far prefer that role of teacher/helper, exercising patience in reiterating a given concept for the dozenth time if need be.

Overall I think both boys are doing well. But I will be pleased indeed after tomorrow's final test session, when these test booklets are signed, sealed, and sent off for scoring. Then we will absolutely and truly be able to relax into our summer break from daily academics.

Aye, summer. 'Tis the season to be a bit (just a bit!) lazy. Phew! Please pass the lemonade!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lightning Bugs

As a transplant to the Midwest I was in my mid-30s before I saw my first lightning bug. (For all the Northwest has to offer, it is not a home to lightning bugs!) I've been here 10 years now, and I still thrill to see these slow-fliers for a few weeks each May and June.

On a warm evening as the boys chase them, catch them, and marvel at their little twinkling lights, I can't help but think that perhaps that is precisely why God made lightning bugs: simply for the wonderment and delight of every child...... and every child within the adult who still marvels too.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Funnies... Not for Kids

Peanuts, Garfield, The Family Circus, Hi and Lois, The Far Side, and Calvin and Hobbes; Winnie Winkle and Judge Parker. The 'Jumble' puzzle at the bottom of the daily comics page. These are all part of what made reading the comics with my breakfast before work each morning, more anticipated than the front page of the newspaper.

Having been a full-time homemaker for 10 years now, it's been a very long time since I had a morning get-up-and-go-out-to-work routine. We do not subscribe to the local paper and thus, I've lost touch with my old favs, and many of them had been discontinued, even when I was still reading the funnies.

Fast-forward to present. My boys, over the years, have gotten a taste for the comics, from the occasional Sunday paper we'd pick up after Mass. And for a few weeks now they've asked us to pick one up each Sunday. OK, fine. Pretty harmless entertainment, right?

WRONG. Yesterday as one son read the comics aloud with his brother looking on and Mom and Dad sipping coffee at the dining room table, the words "sex change" came out of our son's mouth. My husband and I immediately and in unison, cried out, "WHAT?!?", while we both grabbed the "funny" papers from our unwitting boys' hands.

So much for allowing the boys to look forward to the comics section each Sunday. While the time will certainly come for our boys to be made aware of the myriad ways in which this world is messed up, the Sunday full-color funny papers is not the jump-off point we need for imparting this sort of knowledge to them.

Of course the kids wondered what they said that caused such a reaction in their parents. "But what is a sex change??" they both wanted to know. After giving them sufficient and age-appropriate information, we let them know that we would not be picking up a Sunday paper any longer. Of course they were disappointed, but having grown up with limitations on secular communications coming into our home, from the DVDs they watch, to the TV commercials that must be turned off as we watch a Cardinals game, they took it pretty much in stride.

I think it was more disappointing for me because those days of anticipating the next installment in the Winnie Winkle serial, or being touched by the oft-poignant The Family Circle, or laughing out loud at Calvin's latest adventures are looked back on with fond reminiscence, and I had hoped to give them some of that same enjoyment. Alas, even the funnies have gone the way of the world.

But all is not lost. The Sunday funnies? Well, the boys won't be reading them, as I don't need yet another thing to screen first. But, we will replace it with a book or two of those same strips I enjoyed. I think they will find a real kinship with Calvin. And certainly it will provide our boys with more reason for a genuine and innocent chuckle than what is found in today's Sunday funnies.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Chartres Pilgrimage

If ever there was a pilgrimage that I (and my husband) would like to go on, it would be the Pilgrimage of Tradition to Chartres, France. This is a 3-day, 70-mile walking pilgrimage across France, on which this year there will be 15,000 pilgrims from all over the world, 70 of whom are Americans. They begin at Notre Dame in Paris and walk the 70 miles to the great Gothic cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres.

According to The Remnant: "This Pilgrimage dates back to the middle ages. It has been made by kings (such as King Louis XIV), Queens (such as Mary Queen of Scots), and Saints (such as Joan of Arc). The famous, the lowly, the noble and the commoner" have made the difficult walk. The website goes on to detail how the annual pilgrimage was eventually discontinued, but how that in the 1980s "several tradition-minded French Catholic laymen began again to organize the Pilgrimage. The Pilgrimage was held in honor of Mary, the Mother of God, for the purpose of the restoration of the traditional Mass and Sacraments of the Catholic Church."

In 1990, under the organization of several columnists from The Remnant, Americans began participating in the pilgrimage, and have every year since.

As much as my husband and I would like to go, it would be impossible for us considering the strenuous nature of this pilgrimage. So, what's the next best thing? Send our prayer requests with a pilgrim! One dear young lady from St. Francis deSales Oratory is taking with her on her flight to France this afternoon, the prayer requests of many of the moms from our homeschool co-op! And so I ask you, dear readers, to pray especially for this young lady, her companions, and all of the 15,000 pilgrims as they are on the road to Chartres on this Pentecost weekend. For surely they all have our best in mind and heart:

(From The Remnant): "We will also do our best to represent all Catholic Americans on the road to Chartres. America is in such desperate straights, as we all know; so we will remember our country in a special way this year, asking God to save America and give His children the grace to survive whatever persecution of all things Christian may be on the horizon."

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Empress of the Americas, pray for us!
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Birthdays at Our House

My husband brought a very nice tradition into our marriage and family life: that of celebrating birthdays, in a big way. Or in a bigger way than I knew growing up anyway. When he was a kid, his family always made signs for all the birthdays. Nothing elaborate, just simple signs drawn on plain paper with crayons, hung about the house to wish happy birthday to the one whose day it was.

We've continued the tradition in our family, adding to the homemade signs streamers in the dining room, a much-used "Happy Birthday" banner hung on the dining room wall, balloons, and a special dinner plate (with chosen birthday dinner) for the honoree. From the moment the birthday boy (or girl, only one out of the four we celebrate each year) awakes in the morning, it is obvious that this is indeed their special day.

The boys love it. They make their signs with sweet sentiments, illustrated with whatever they are currently interested in. If I kept the signs each year (and many of them I have) they would be a pictorial journal of the boys growing up.

Today it is my turn to be on the receiving end of signs, balloons, 'happy birthdays' with kisses and hugs given early and often. I love it too. One of the signs, made by my more artistic son, shows a space shuttle blasting off to 'Planet Mom', while my numbers-loving kid made a sign with a long math problem which ultimately adds up to my age. And of course my husband's beautiful card and flowers greeted me as well. We have cake and ice cream to look forward to. It is a happy day in our house, and I am thankful for these little traditions we've carried on.

And if anyone is mildly curious as to my age, just complete my son's math problem below.


Friday, May 1, 2009

Indigo Bunting

We have a bird feeder at which we regularly see chickadees, doves, crows, house finches, and to our especial delight, bright red cardinals. But this morning we saw a first: a male Indigo Bunting! My younger son came running into the room where I was, yelling, "MOM!! There's an Indigo Bunting outside!!!" I went to the window, and sure enough, a bright blue bird fitting his description (and as described and pictured in his bird book) was feeding along with the other birds!

If you're unfamiliar with this bird, click here for pictures of the Indigo Bunting. It was really a beautiful bird, and it was a thrill for my bird-watcher 7 year old!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Regina Coeli

Happy Easter to all!

Each day in school the boys and I break for lunch at noon and together say the Angelus. But with Eastertide upon us, we substitute the Regina Coeli. This is a prayer that I've not before memorized, but as we recite it for the whole of the Easter season, I'm sure I won't need a cheat sheet by the season's close.

Queen of Heaven rejoice, alleluia: For He whom you merited to bear, alleluia, Has risen as He said, alleluia. Pray for us to God, alleluia.

V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.

R. Because the Lord is truly risen, alleluia.

Let us pray: O God, who by the Resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, granted joy to the whole world: grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may lay hold of the joys of eternal life. Through the same Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday.... and....

I'll get to the 'and' in a minute. First things first.

Today is Good Friday, the day in which each year we remember Our Lord's Passion. He has already been betrayed by Judas and taken to prison. Today He will be scourged, crowned with thorns, and sentenced to death by crucifixion. He will carry His cross to Calvary, where on that cross the spotless Lamb of God will shed His blood and die for the sins of the world.

In remembrance of this, we fast, we abstain from eating meat; we mortify our own flesh, offering our own sufferings back to Him in thanksgiving for His sacrifice which was all for you and me.

It can be interesting trying to impart these ideas and practices to the kids. Of course they are not at the age where they must fast as adults do. But I do let them know we will not have treats today, nor excess of the things we like. This morning my oldest got on a stool and, before I realized it, was helping himself to a chunk or two of brown sugar out of the brown sugar cannister. When I looked up and saw him I quickly told him, "Nooo, J, remember it's Good Friday!" He immediately pulled his hand out, indeed remembering, and knowing we shouldn't indulge on this day (not, mind you, that ANY day is OK to raid the brown sugar!!)

This afternoon our family will go to Church for the Liturgy and Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And we will all the more look forward to His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Oh.... and....

Today my husband and I celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary! In 1999, April 10 was on Easter Saturday, and thus the church on that day was decked out with Easter Lilies and other beautiful flowers. It was a lovely day, forever etched in my memory, the day we wed. But today, 10 years later, it falls on Good Friday. And so, but for the beautiful dozen red roses my husband brought home last night, and cards exchanged between us, we will postpone celebrating with dinner out to Eastertide.

Blessed Good Friday to all.
Happy Anniversay, honey. And thank you for ten wonderful years.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Silk-Tie Easter Eggs

Martha Stewart has a really fun and easy looking way to dye Easter eggs using old silk ties. And they turn out beautiful! Check out this clip for Silk-Tie Easter Eggs before you go and buy an egg dyeing kit!

So, go raid your hubby's outdated ties--or head off to Goodwill--and start dying eggs!

(Thanks for the tip, Mom!)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Good Poetry

Readers know my love of good children's literature, and how we in our house enjoy nightly read-alouds. Now and then we'll have a poetry night where I read our best-loved poems by various poets, our favorites being those of Robert Louis Stevenson or the delightful gems of A.A. Milne (no library in a household with children is complete without The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne, imho.)

Some are laugh-out-loud funny, and each of us waits for our particular favorite to be read again. Some tell an interesting story, while others teach a valuable lesson to young and old alike. Such is the familiar poem by Mary Howitt, The Spider and the Fly. The boys memorized it a couple of years ago; we read again recently, among others, and I thought I'd share it here.

The Spider and the Fly
Mary Howitt

Will you walk into my parlour?" said the Spider to the Fly,
'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I've a many curious things to shew when you are there."
Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne'er come down again."

"I'm sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?" said the Spider to the Fly.
"There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,
And if you like to rest awhile, I'll snugly tuck you in!"
Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "for I've often heard it said,
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!"

Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, " Dear friend what can I do,
To prove the warm affection I 've always felt for you?
I have within my pantry, good store of all that's nice;
I'm sure you're very welcome -- will you please to take a slice?"
"Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "kind Sir, that cannot be,
I've heard what's in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!"

"Sweet creature!" said the Spider, "you're witty and you're wise,
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I've a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,
If you'll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself."
"I thank you, gentle sir," she said, "for what you 're pleased to say,
And bidding you good morning now, I'll call another day."

The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again:
So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.
Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
"Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing;
Your robes are green and purple -- there's a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!"

Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue --
Thinking only of her crested head -- poor foolish thing! At last,
Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour -- but she ne'er came out again!

And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne'er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


After several days of the stomach bug flying through our house and biting each of us one-by-one (it's the only time I'm thankful for a small family!) we're all feeling better... thank you for the prayers!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Last One Standing--Prayer Request

My family has the stomach flu. Nasty stuff. It began on Thursday evening, hit one boy hard for 24 hours and now he's fine. Today it got my husband, and just a bit ago, my other son. I feel fine right now, but I fear it's only a matter of time.

If you would, say a prayer for me. MS and fevers are a very bad mix, and I would love to skirt this one. Thank you!!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Make Sense?

I recently overheard someone bemoaning the fact that all too often 'life doesn't make sense'. I concurred in my mind, but my thoughts immediately expanded on the whole idea. Usually when we think of life not making sense, it is due to something negative going on, something in which we simply do not see the good. Whereas, when life is rolling smoothly along (and the way we want it to), it doesn't occur to us whether there is any sense in it: it's good, of course it makes sense! But the more I think about it, especially in the context of our Catholic faith, the more I wonder which scenario really makes more sense.

This temporal life, our faith tells us, is a 'valley of tears'. Isn't it par for that course if we are presented with a degree of suffering that likely doesn't measure up to our desire for an easy life? Isn't that suffering, in fact, a mercy of God? An opportunity to offer to Him penance in this life, and thus, hopefully, lessen our Purgatorial 'time', and that of others, in the next? This makes sense to me. I'm a sinner. Sin requires reparation. Our Lord gives me opportunity to make reparation.

To me, it's God's obvious blessings in our lives that are harder for me to reconcile, because I don't deserve them! I'm thankful for them, but why am I so blessed?! The only answer is God's boundless love for me. My deserving or not deserving His blessings is irrelevant, I think. He loves me, that is all.

To give personal example to all of the above, I relate it to my life with MS. This chronic and progressive condition has been an unwelcome guest in my body for 16+ years now. I believe with all my heart that I have it for a reason (and that it is not simply the luck of the draw). If I didn't believe in God's control, and near presence to me in this, I would be miserable indeed!

What is more amazing to me though, is that He did not ask me to carry this cross alone. Along with the MS, just a few years later, Our Lord allowed me (with the help of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, but that's another post!) to meet the man who would become my husband.

On Good Friday this year we will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. And even after all these years, and as my condition progresses along, it never ceases to amaze me how good, how loving, how generous, how absolutely perfect my husband is with and for me. Truly my cross is his cross. And he is teaching our boys to be just like him.

I am blessed beyond measure, and honestly, it doesn't make sense! I don't deserve it! But then, who of us deserves the abundant blessings of Our Lord? It is most humbling.

And so, to come full circle, though there are times I wonder where in the world there is anything good in MS, if I keep my eyes on Our Lord and His eternal purposes, I can see where this negative in my life does make sense. But His blessings on my life--the 'good' things--my husband, my family, these can only, in my mind, be explained through faith in Our loving Lord and His endless mercy on His children. Not because I deserve it, but simply because He loves me.

Make sense?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Meménto, homo, quia pulvis es,
et in púlverem revertéris.

Remember, man, that thou art dust,
and unto dust thou shalt return.

A blessed Ash Wednesday to all as we commence our Lenten journey.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Morning

This morning we went to the early Mass, and afterward we went to the brunch that was prepared by the Knights of Columbus. It seems of late we have not gone to coffee hour after Mass, but after this morning my husband and I agreed we need to make it a more consistent part of our Sunday morning.

Our boys played with other kids while we we were able to greet Father, say hi and visit a bit with old friends, as well as becoming better acquainted with some new ones, one of whom we have heretofore only known... well... in blogdom! Nice to make all those connections.

Holy Mass, followed by delicious food, good conversation with friends, and kids at play. Now that's the way to spend a Sunday morning.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


.... to the designer of my new My Morning Cup header. I think he did a great job, and he did it for free!

Matrimony has its privileges. :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rest in Peace....

Today is the funeral of a dear 31-year old mom from our homeschooling community. One week ago she collapsed while homeschooling her kids, and died immediately of what was later found to be coronary artery disease, which she was unaware of having. She leaves behind a husband and four children, ages 7 down to a baby who is not yet one year old. In just over an hour family and friends will say good-bye at a solemn high requiem Mass (where we would be but for sickness).

This is a loss that I can't fathom. I know such tragedies happen, within the will of our loving God, but it is so far beyond my scope of understanding, that I don't have adequate words to apply to it. But I do know that it has given those of us who knew her pause to consider our own mortality, to be thankful for our own families, to realize when our husbands leave for work in the morning that it could be the last time we say good-bye.

For we all share in her destiny, and in the scope of all eternity, none of us has a very long earthly existence. "Whereas you know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is a vapour which appeareth for a little while, and afterwards shall vanish away. " (James 4:14-15) And hopefully, with this heightened sense of the brevity of our own earthly lives, we will renew our resolve to be ever-ready for our own eternal destiny.

And yet for all of the truth and comfort we find in our faith, my heart aches for the family enduring the loss of this young wife, mother, daughter. And so we do all that we know to do: we pray. We pray for this dear soul: Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her, may she rest in peace. We pray for her family, may they find comfort in Mary, Our Blessed Mother, who certainly bore such sorrows, and in Jesus her Son and Our Lord, who alone can give peace, which surpasses our understanding, amidst their present storm.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray or us!
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!


Monday, February 9, 2009

The Gift of Your Cross

"The everlasting God has in His wisdom forseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you as a gift from His all-knowing eyes, understood with His Divine mind, tested with His wise justice, warmed with His loving arms and weighed with His own hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with His Holy Name, annointed it with His Grace, perfumed it with His Consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from Heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God." - St. Francis de Sales

Friday, February 6, 2009

Shire! Baggins!

I've done it. I've introduced the boys to the inhabitants of Middle-Earth.

In previous posts here I've said that the boys are not ready for the Lord of the Rings trilogy yet, and as much as I'd like to begin reading it to them, there are enough good books out there that they might grow beyond in just a few years, that I saw no need to rush into LOTR; I want to exhaust my book list for the age group they're in now, first.

Well, my youngest has been asking me to read it to them. Added to that, I recently spoke with another homeschooling mom who had read it to her 7 and 9 year olds, and they loved it. So, I decided to give it a go.

We started The Hobbit about a week ago and we are better than halfway through it. They are following it just fine, and enjoying it a lot! If they are still interested when we finish it, we'll go on to Fellowship of the Ring.

It's been seven years since I've read it--I remember my youngest was an infant when I read it last, so I'm enjoying our journey to the Lonely Mountain where Smaug lives, and I look forward to LOTR. And maybe if we get through the trilogy, I might just go on to read The Silmarillion (to myself, not aloud), a book I've had for some time, but have never read.

In any case, it's great fun to have a good excuse to visit Middle-Earth once again, and greater fun to bring the boys with me this time.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Definitive Cheesecake

I love to bake, so when birthdays roll around I enjoy making the birthday boy's (I'm the only girl here, and I don't bake for myself!) favorite cake. In my husband's case, that would be cheesecake, bar-none. Well, I've tried many recipes through the years, most of which have been fine, even "mmm, that's good", but not "wow... that recipe is a keeper!" Until this time. Finally I chanced upon a recipe out of Taste of Home magazine that is THE cheesecake that I will, without doubt, make again. And again! No need to search the recipe files anymore for the best cheesecake recipe--I found it.

Following is the recipe as written. I did make a couple of minor alterations. At the last minute (too late) I realized I did not have mini-chocolate chips for the filling, so I simply left them out. It was so good, I would leave them out next time. We thought the crust provided plenty of chocolate chip flavor. The only other alteration I made was with the garnish. I chose not to place crumbled cookies on top; instead, just before serving I drizzled warmed hot fudge sauce on top. Delicious and nice looking too.

One more thing this recipe has going for it: the top didn't split during baking as so many recipes I've tried before. It was beautiful coming out of the oven.

And so (without apologies for the fat content!) I give you the recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake. Cheesecake lovers, bake this one with confidence!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake


  • 2 cups chocolate chip cookie crumbs (about 28 cookies) - I used Chunky Chips Ahoy
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 5 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1-1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon chocolate chip cookie crumbs


In a large bowl, combine cookie crumbs and sugar; stir in butter. Press onto the bottom and 2 in. up the sides of a greased 9-in. springform pan; set aside.

In another large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add flour; mix well. Add eggs and egg yolks; beat on low speed just until combined. Beat in sour cream, orange peel and vanilla just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour over crust. Place pan on a baking sheet.

Bake at 325° for 65-75 minutes or until center is almost set. Remove from the oven; let stand for 5 minutes. Combine the sour cream, sugar and vanilla; spread over filling. Return to the oven for 8 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen. Cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight. Remove sides of pan. Garnish with cookie crumbs. Yield: 12-14 servings.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sweet Song of Spring

Yesterday when our family returned home after Mass, upon opening the car door I heard a sound I hadn't heard for months: the distinctive song of the Cardinal! On February 1! It was such a beautiful sound I immediately followed it up to the top of a tall and bare maple tree. There sitting in the branches against a bluer-than-blue sky was my favorite bird, the bright red male cardinal. I told the kids, who heard him singing as well, to look up in the tree, and they easily spotted him. They too, were thrilled to see their first cardinal of 2009.

Seeing redbirds, and hearing their song being sung so loudly makes me think spring must be near. And yet, there is still snow on the ground from last week's winter storm, Phil saw his shadow today, meaning there is supposedly six more weeks of winter, and it is only February 2! It is much too early to be thinking spring in the midwest.

But the Cardinals are singing, very soon the baseball Cardinals will be swinging their bats at spring training, in no time the tulip bulbs will be poking through the earth; come what may, winter storm-wise, spring will be here soon. And that's a happy thought!

And on this February 2, this Feastday of the Purification of our Lady, it is also my husband's birthday. Happy birthday, sweetheart.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

In Thanksgiving

Let us pray for our Holy Father Pope Benedict. Let us pray for the Bishops of the SSPX.

So much for which to be thankful, in a week that has otherwise offered precious little about which to rejoice.

At a time when the Church must prepare to undergo great testing, Her ranks have been emboldened.

Deo Gratias!

Friday, January 16, 2009

So Much for Sunday Morning Krispy Kreme Runs

Our boys love Krispy Kreme Donuts. A run to pick up a half-dozen of the sweet treats after Mass on Sunday morning is about as good as it gets in their world. But news this morning of KK's "Freedom of Choice" free-donut-day brings our little Sunday morning run for a family treat to a screeching halt. Read the full story at

Yet another opportunity to teach our boys that our practice must be consistent with our faith.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Latin-Centered Curriculum

Mid-school year here, I feel compelled to tell how entirely pleased I am with the Latin-Centered Curriculum as outlined in Andrew Campbell's book of the same name (and by the way, I link to his own homeschool blog in my blog list at the right). You can check out a link to his book here. I've devoured both Volumes 1 and 2, and while Mr. Campbell modifies his course suggestions in the second volume, I've designed our classical curriculum using a combination of suggestions from both books.

My boys, ages 9 and 7, are thriving, and I'm learning a lot too! I never had a word of Latin in my public school education experience, but I'm learning it right alongside the boys, chanting with them, amo, amas, amat.... We're also learning Greek, mainly focusing on the alphabet this first year. We're working our way through the first level (Aesop) of a composition program called Classical Writing, which is going very well. We're studying Greek Myths, and will soon begin Norse Myths (both texts being written by the D'Aulaires), and doing a lot of other reading from various texts in literature and religion. Math, early American history, continued spelling work, science and piano round out very full school weeks for us.

I find January can be a motivationally-challenging time in the school year, what with having just come off a never-long-enough Christmas break, outdoor temps being cold enough to stay indoors all day, and another break being yet a long way off. But we're persevering, and I have to say things are rolling along very well, with much thanks to Mr. Campbell's curriculum guidance.

I give The Latin-Centered Curriculum an A+!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Charlotte's Web

I just finished reading Charlotte's Web by E.B. White to the boys this evening. I think it might be the first time I've actually read it myself, though the copy I have was given to me when I was very young. I remember Miss H (see post below) reading it to my class, but that might be the last time I heard the story.

The boys were enthralled from the first chapter. What I thought would take the better part of a month to read to them, took only about five nights, as after each chapter the boys begged for just one more, and I usually obliged.

As most readers probably know the story, I won't give a full review here. Simply put, it is a sweet story of friendship and love, and the sacrifices one is willing to make for her beloved. As I read the final few chapters I had to really swallow the lump in my throat--if the boys see Mom getting misty, well, suffice it to say, they're not going to join Wilbur in his teary moments, and Mom probably shouldn't either! But we loved the book. A highly-recommended read-aloud.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Miss H

Each year I receive several Christmas letters from friends and family. While I am not one to compose an annual update--I simply send a card and a photo--I do enjoy being on the receiving end, as it is nice to find out what's going on with those I hear from only once a year.

Today I received one I always look forward to. It was from the teacher I had in the third grade! Yes, we have kept in touch all these years. Miss H, as she was when I was 8, was but 22 years old as she taught my class, her first ever. Her letter today tells me she just turned 60 and is in the middle of her 38th year teaching third graders, with no immediate plans to retire. She still loves working with her 'little people' as she fondly refers to her students.

Thirty-eight years ago Miss H quickly became my favorite teacher. I remember her being enthusiastic, smart, inspiring (yes, you CAN write in cursive and I don't want to hear 'I can't'!!) funny and clever. She was everything this little third grader needed to be inspired to do my best in school.

When I moved on to fourth grade and beyond, we stayed in touch. In grade school I would help in her class when my other teachers would let me; in junior high and high school we sent cards to each other on birthdays. At my high school graduation she took me to dinner at one of the best restaurants in town.

When Miss H was nearing 20 years in the classroom, she decided to pursue a second career: law. She continued teaching by day, and went to school at night, completing her degree and passing the Bar somewhere around age 40. To this day she practices law and teaches third graders.

What makes this story amazing though is that in the midst of law school, Miss H was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She was hit pretty hard at times with acute disability, but she forged on in spite it of it all, and attained her goal, obviously herself practicing the 'I can do it' philosophy she preaches as a teacher.

And this leads me to the other thing that was to connect Miss H and me in life, besides our student/teacher-turned-friend relationship: about five years after Miss H was diagnosed with MS, I received the same diagnosis. An unfortunate connection, to be sure, but one that is comforting nonetheless as I watch Miss H, even from the long distance that now separates us, continue to do great things to help others, as both a teacher and a lawyer.

In both of our lives, MS has taken its toll, in different ways, but I can easily say that in this we are very similar: we have neither of us allowed the disease to hinder our spirit or our drive to attain that which we deem important in life, inasmuch as we can control these things.

Miss H is still an inspiration to me now as I endeavor to live a full life amidst the struggles a chronic condition brings. And now as I am teaching my own little third grader (and second grader), I find myself saying some of the same things to my sons, my 'little people', that she said to me, in hopes of encouraging the same love for learning that Miss H fostered in me so many years ago. I hope and pray I am as successful as she was... and still is.