Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Year of Small Successes


Faith and Family Live has chronicled a year's worth of Small Successes. Wow! I believe, with few exceptions, I've been there posting right along.

1) I've begun using Map My Run to increase the length of my running loop. Last weekend I mapped out a 4 mile course and that distance for the first time. Of course, my poor 41 year old body revolted and my legs have been dead ever since, but it's ever onward and upward from there!

2) We've been desiring to expand the cultural experiences of our children. On Friday night, two of my ballerinas and I are heading to the Kennedy Center to see American Ballet Theater's production of Romeo and Juliet. I can't wait!

3) On Friday we will have reached the half way mark in our homeschool year. Boy has it really flown by! I'll have progress reports to post next week.

What are your Small Successes for the week?
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Catholics and Torture

There is a very interesting discussion going on at one of my favorite blogs, Creative Minority Report. The guys have invited a guest blogger to express her thoughts on moral clarity and torture.

The Church teaches that physical and moral torture is a sin against the dignity of the human person. From the Catholic Catechism:

2297 Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong. Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.

As Catholics and Christians, we likely all agree with the above teaching. However, what the definitive definition of torture actually is, is still undefined, even by the Church. As a Catholic and a military wife, I'm a bit conflicted when the definition of torture includes water boarding. Many folks I respect and admire would argue that water boarding does indeed constitute torture. Others I equally respect and admire wholeheartedly disagree. For myself, the words "uses physical VIOLENCE" stick out and I am inclined to say water boarding does not inflict actual violence. I will say, I sure am glad I am not personally tasked with making any sort of determination on what constitutes torture. What do you think? Check out the post and read some of the comments here.


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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Arch Enemies: Part 2

At the dinner table last evening, Lil' Wingnut asked his big brother to beat up Tom. Apparently, Tom hates North Carolina, the Seahawks, and the Vikings. In his three year old mind that is more than enough motivation for fourteen year old Stat Boy to beat up a five year old bully. I let the little guy know, Stat Boy is not in the habit of beating up five year olds. He asked if I'd do his dirty work for him. I declined. He finally asked his doting father to beat up Tom. His father assented, to which Lil' Wingnut exclaimed, "You're my hero, Dad!" Later he promised, "When you beat up Tom and make him cry I'll give you a surprise. It's my Webkinz." Um, yeah. Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, January 25, 2010

Arch Enemies


Lil' Wingnut has a big imagination. You give him a little synopsis and he takes off with it and creates a complete image of a boy, about 5 years old, who is the absolute antithesis of himself. This little boy's name is Tom and he has brown hair and blue eyes. He is also a very bad, and threatening boy. Apparently he has threatened to give Lil' Wingnut a purple eye and a kick in the nose. Tom doesn't brush his teeth. He brushes his armpits and he never says his prayers. Tom is a very wicked little boy at Mass and never earns donuts or gum. I don't think I like this Tom character at all.

For the life of me, I do not know why Lil' Wingnut has created an arch-nemesis. It must be a bit of male bravado. Our little guy talks a mean game about giving Tom a round house kick to the face, vanquishing his enemy in no time flat. Funny, that brave little boy completely collapses, hides his face in my arms, and whimpers if anyone happens to mention Tom is at the door asking for him.
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Friday, January 22, 2010

March for Life 2010


While I won't be heading there with my younger children, we are sending our older two with a local church group. I find it inspiring that they look forward to going on the March each year. Prayers and blessing for the 10's of thousands marching for an end to the scourge of abortion!

*My image today was designed by a friend of Karate Kid. I think it's pretty awesome, especially since she used the sonogram image of her own little brother.
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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Small Successes: One More Step for Momkind


Small Successes for January 21, 2010:

1) I kept on top of the laundry this week. I even sorted and matched socks.

2) When the new dishwasher was delivered, I did not freak out and point a blaming finger at anyone when the darn thing was too big to fit under our countertop. I calmly consulted with Wingnut. Together we decided to send the new dishwasher back and that evening we went into the appliance store and picked out another dishwasher that will fit. Our new dishwasher arrives on Saturday.

3) Every other year, our homeschool co-op participates in a JA Biztown simulation curriculum. I am heading the program for our co-op this time around. Yesterday, my co-teacher and I went through six weeks worth of curriculum, organizing and familiarizing ourselves with it so we will be ready to lead the first class next Friday.

What are your small successes for the week? Add you link to the list of successful moms at Faith and Family Live.
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Love/Hate Relationship with Facebook

Having been on Facebook for just over a year now, I've developed a love/hate relationship with the social networking site. Several months ago I wrote a post cautioning folks to be careful of who they "friend", but also encouraging users that Facebook can be a wonderful tool for evangelization, and inserting a Christian worldview into the internet world, little by little.

A couple of Facebook episodes last week, alone, have led me to re-evalutate the merits, or lack thereof, of social websites. First of all, I was schooled in modesty by two 18 year old chums of my oldest daughter after the breast-cancer-awareness-campaign had gone awry, for which I was very sorry. Realizing a little too late I had broken a cardinal rule: Some things just do not need to be broadcast to the entire internet world. My error was inadvertent, but I really should have thought my actions through to their natural conclusion before getting involved in the whole "bra-haha".

Later, the same week, I came across a status update written by one of my dearest friends. While reading comments, her friends had left, one in particular stuck out in a very sore thumb sort of way. Her friend had included in her comment a very anti-Catholic statement, and a very inaccurate one to boot. I was incensed, but I decided I would not respond publicly. One rule I do adhere to is to not get into arguments about religion or politics on Facebook. I don't believe peoples' hearts and minds can be changed with the short little snippets and exchanges that occur on Facebook. Instead, I decided to air my grievance privately to my friend, pointing out that her friend had really offended me as a Catholic. Thankfully, my friend was equally mortified and at a loss as to what to do, write, or say. Thankfully, my friend is a wonderful person with an open, generous, and loving heart who let me rant at her for something completely out of her control.

While I do enjoy Facebook and enjoy my weird web friendships, it can become a very irksome environment. I need to be sure I continue to adhere to my initial reasons for Facebooking and make sure my posts are edifying and uplifting, if not occasionally humorous.
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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Child's Faith

Watching our youngest grow in understanding and Faith has been both endearing and quite humorous. He's become quite adamant about leading a decade of the Rosary every night, pretty inquisitive regarding what the Mysteries of the Rosary mean, and has begun making his own little observations on matters of Faith.

Last week, once he'd led his decade, he fell asleep while we finished the Rosary. Several hours later he sat straight up and began mumbling something. When I asked him to repeat himself, he mumbled once again, so I pulled him close so that I might understand what he was saying. I asked him to repeat once more, to which he responded, "Hail Mary, full of Grace. . . " The little cutie was finishing his Rosary in his sleep.

Lil' Wingnut whispered a question in my ear for each of the Sorrowful Mysteries on another occasion. "What is a pillar?" He'd ask. We'd stop and explain. "What is a thorn?" Again we'd stop to explain. "What is a cross?" For that one, we called foul. He's been around long enough to know the answer to that one. At this point he was just seeing how far we'd tolerate his questions and attention seeking. The little imp.

On another occasion, our little guy made this observation, " The devil doesn't say Mary has a little lamb. He says she has a cow." That devil sure has the wrong idea, doesn't he?!


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Monday, January 18, 2010

God's Design?


When babies are born they are so beautiful and helpless. Parents can't help but love and adore them. As toddlers, just observing them grow and learn and discover the world around them is absolutely endearing, so even though they are beginning to assert their independence, they are still incredibly lovable. As children enter their school years, they begin helping around the house, often becoming indispensable. They begin to enjoy some of the same pastimes as their parents, and can carry on mostly intelligent conversations. School age children become treasured chums and we can't imagine our lives without them.

Then something happens. Puberty hits. Frequent moodiness occurs. Your teen suddenly wants you, his loving parent, to leave him alone. They suddenly begin to smell funny, not the sweet essence they had as babies, or the aroma of the great outdoors they had as school aged children, but the kind of stink that requires a daily shower and deodorant. Your teenage son's voice changes and the sound of his cracking or squeaking voice drives you to distraction. He also begins to grow long whiskers on his chin and even that drives you nuts.

If you're a father, your teenage son may start beating you in sports. If you're a mother, your teenage daughter begins doing some things better than you do, whether it be cooking, housekeeping, or playing creative games with younger children. This becomes irritating to you.

Now you begin to imagine your house without your teenage children in it. Now you start to count the days until they are 18 or on their way to college. You still love them beyond measure, but they just need to leave your house in peace and start their own family.

I'm really beginning to see God's plan in all this. If our children were not beautiful and helpless as infants we wouldn't care for them. If they didn't finally grow up and become teens, we'd never want them to leave us and start families of their own. Of course, I'm being a bit tongue in cheek on this, but there is a kernel of truth in it, don't you agree?
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Friday, January 15, 2010

3 Cheese Mac 'n Cheese

This was absolutely the best macaroni and cheese ever! I cannot afford to make this one too often. The ingredient list is a bit pricey and the calories are outta there! Sorry, Sam, this recipe has more than 5 ingredients, but it is worth every one! Making also requires a bit of skill, as there is a b├ęchamel sauce involved. I wish I'd had my camera's battery charged. It was as beautiful as it smelled and tasted. Mmmmmmm!

Gourmet Three Cheese Mac 'n Cheese

1 pound shaped pasta (I used cellentani) cooked according to package directions. Drain, and reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Pour drained pasta into large baking dish.

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
black pepper to taste
salt to taste
2 TBSP whole grain mustard
5 cups milk
12 ounces grated sharp white cheddar
6 ounces grated smoked Guyere
6 ounces cubed Fontina
1 cup Panko bread crumbs

In a heavy sauce pan melt butter over medium heat. When foaming subsides add flour and whisk until smooth and mixture takes on a bit of color (about 5 minutes). Add salt, pepper, mustard, stir until combined. Slowly add cold milk, whisking vigorously to break down any lumps. Stir constantly until b├ęchamel begins to thicken. Add all but 1 cup of grated cheeses and all of the fontina cheese. Stir until cheese is melted, adding pasta water as needed to keep sauce from becoming too thick and gooey. Taste frequently and season as needed with salt. Stir sauce into drained pasta. In a medium bowl toss remaining shredded cheese and bread crumbs together. Sprinkle cheese and crumb mixture over the top of the macaroni dish. Broil in oven until cheese topping melts and crumbs turn a golden brown, approximately 10 minutes, but watch very closely to make sure the topping does not burn. Serve immediately. This served our family of 8, some even had seconds, and we had enough leftover for several of the children to have for lunch the next day.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Manhattan Declaration

Have you signed it? Join fellow Christians in supporting the call of Christian conscience in our country. For more information, follow this link: Manhattan Declaration. Print Friendly and PDF

Small Successes: Small but Significant


Small Successes for January 14, 2010

1) I've been flying in the bathroom with the FlyLady this week. Ahhhhhhh! I love a squeaky clean bathroom, don't you?

2) Our yearly homeschool portfolio review is coming up in February. Instead of waiting until the night before, I'm already pulling samples, organizing binders, and typing up book lists for each student. It is always such a relief once the review is over, especially since it means I won't have to worry about it until next year.

3) We've been automatic dishwasherless for over a month. Our new one finally arrives today. Ok, installing a new dishwasher really isn't my success, but I'm just so darn happy about it, I had to post it. The kids and I are pretty sick and tired of the dishpan hands! Hip hip hooray for the new dishwasher!

What are your successes this week? Follow the link to Faith and Family Live and share them with the the blogging world!
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Book Review: My Take on Anna Karenina


I've always shied away from this novel. I am just not a fan of adultery story lines. I've seen several different versions of Anna Karenina on video, but the story was always romanticized. I just can't sympathize with adulterers and I cannot see how such stories are romantic. Still, I'd heard this book was wonderful, and Leo Tolstoy is often lauded as the world's greatest novelist. Being a fan of classic literature, I finally decided I'd try and read it. I was not disappointed. Unlike movies based on this work, Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky's love affair is far from romantic. It is tragic. Even before Anna's despair drives her to suicide, their relationship is tragic. Their selfishness does irreparable harm to Anna's son, her husband, Vronsky's career, Anna's reputation, and to their own child.

The title of Tolstoy's novel may be Anna Karenina, but her story comprises less than half of the pages. The main character of this novel, and a much more sympathetic one, in my opinion, is Constantin Levin. The exploration of his character, activities, ideals, and struggles was much more interesting and complex than the love affair between Anna and Vronsky. Levin's is a deep mind who tends to over think most every aspect of his life, from when, whom, and how to marry, to his relationships with his family; from how to run his estate to how he should relate to his workers; from an inward struggle to understand faith to his thoughts on the political landscape of Russia. At times I found his inner turmoil intriguing, at others I found it to be a bit much, tending toward self absorption.

Having finally read this novel, I've come to understand it not as a tragic love story, but a story exploring the deeper theme on the purpose and significance of life. Most of the main characters explore this theme at some level or another, but Anna and Levin go to passionate extremes to find meaning. Both even despair when that import appears to be stripped from them. In the end, Anna, because she found her life's merit to be false, commits suicide, whereas Levin is able to pass through despair to find the true meaning and purpose to his life.

So, Anna Karenina fans, did I get it right? Is this what you took away from your reading of the book? I'm off to dive into War and Peace.

If you haven't yet read Anna Karenina I highly suggest finding the Everyman's Library edition translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude. I've read they were close personal friends of Leo Tolstoy and their translation is the very closest to the original Russian. I also found the character guide at the front of the book to be extremely helpful. Due to mature thematic elements I would recommend this book for older high schoolers and adults only.
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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

TMI?


Last week, on Facebook, an old friend asked me to participate in a breast cancer awareness exercise. Women were to post the color of the bra they were wearing in their status, with no explanation. Without hesitation, I complied, thinking at least "mocha" was obscure enough that many people, knowing my love of coffee, would assume that was what I meant.

In my opinion, I believe breast cancer awareness is overdone. I believe we can all agree, the NFL looked ridiculous wearing all their pink garb! We get it, breast cancer exists and it totally stinks. However overdone awareness campaigns are, I still participated as a sign of solidarity with my sisters in Christ who have breast cancer, are cancer survivors, or who will have cancer down the road. It was a way, albeit silly, of saying, "I support you. I'm praying for you. I'm with you, girlfriend!"

I didn't even think twice about posting my bra color as being immodest, not until the father of our eldest daughter's godfather queried my status with, "What???" There was no way I was going to explain. No way! Ok, maybe I really don't want men thinking about the color of my undergarments.

From the way I read the message, this exercise was just between women, and men weren't supposed to know what we were talking about. Boy, am I ever naive. People were explaining it all over Facebook. Great! Then the uproar began over the appropriateness of the campaign. Whatever. Hey, guess what?! Women wear bras--at least some do and most should! Guess what else?! Women are dying of breast cancer and it truly stinks! Men are dying of prostate cancer, but very rarely do we hear about that. Maybe next week I'll start a campaign for prostate cancer awareness and have the fellas post "boxers or briefs" for their status. Ok, I won't. TMI. I really don't want to know.

One friend then posted this great message for her status: "Breastfeeding reduces your risk of getting breast cancer (and the longer you nurse, the lower your risk). It also helps your daughter reduce HER chances of getting breast cancer. Now post this message instead of the color of your bra!"

What do you think? Is posting one's bra color in a public forum TMI, immodest, scandalous, cheeky, silly, or a positive way of supporting our cancer stricken sisters? I'll be honest, I'm still undecided on this question. Convince me!
**I had to change the title of my post as it was coming up in some wonky searches! Ewww!
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Monday, January 11, 2010

And the Winner is. . .

. . . Sarah-Kala! Now that is funny, as I just won a drawing over at her blog last week. Really, we've no nepotism going on here! I had my most girly girl, Special K, draw a name out of a hat. Congrats, Sarah-Kala! You have my email address, so if you could pop an email with your mailing address I'll send out your gift card as soon as it arrives here. While you're waiting, have a browse at Ulta.com. I'm sure it will satisfy!



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Rattling 'Round My Brain

For over a month I've suffered with a case of bloggers block, but now I've got a weeks worth of posts rattling around in my brain. Stay tuned!


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Friday, January 8, 2010

Girly Girl Giveaway


I love being a girl. From shoes to earrings, hair styles to make up, long flowing skirts to feminine dresses, being a girl is fantastic. I rarely go a day without putting on earrings, styling my hair, or putting on a bit of makeup. In fact, the only time this grooming doesn't occur is if Wingnut is on a trip and can't appreciate his beautiful wife, or I'm sick as a dog and can't put a mascara brush to my lashes. My absolute favorite girly accessory is mascara. I love to try all the new lash blast, voluminous lashes, lashes to die for products advertised on television. My sister has lashes to die for, but I have to get mine from a tube :-( I just don't feel girly without my Mabelline or L'Oreal or Revlon or whatever my favorite lash extender is at the time.

Here's the giveaway. What is your favorite, can't do without, girly accessory? Leave it in the combox and you will be entered into a drawing for a $25 gift card to my new favorite beauty supplier, Ulta.com. Ulta stocks beauty supplies galore, including fragrances, make-up, lotions, bubble bath, hair care products, etc. Entries will be accepted until 12 pm on Monday. One gorgeous winner will be drawn randomly. Check back on Monday to see if you've won.

Long live girly girls!

PS For the fellas, leave a comment for your wife. It can be her personal favorite accessory or you can leave a comment telling us what accessory you find enhances your wife's beauty and femininity.
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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Small Success 2010 Edition: Go, You!


A new year has dawned, lets give ourselves a pat on the back for getting even the small stuff done!

1) We're flying in the kitchen with The FlyLady this week. I cleaned and reorganized several cupboards and the school supply drawer. Miraculously, the fridge was cleaned out last week, but I'll count that success here this week :-P

2) We hit the books again on Monday after a two week break. It went exceedingly well. There wasn't a grumble or rough spot all this week. Only one bad attitude needed an adjustment, funny, I was the one that needed the adjustment. Christmas break was just too lovely to come to an end. Sigh.

3) Workouts have been pretty inconsistent around here since Thanksgiving, even so, Wingnut and I managed to get in at least three workouts a week, but now our noses are to the grindstone and we are picking up the pace. We're starting up a new cycle of P90X, but instead of the cardio workouts, I'll be running as often as the weather allows. I hit the road yesterday and ran close to three miles. I felt awesome the first mile and thought I might run five, as great as I was feelin, then the second mile hit and I had to turn and face the frigid wind. I didn't wear enough layers on my bottom half and my legs and behind froze! That second mile didn't go so well and I ran only 1/2 of it, but then I picked it up and ran all of the third mile. I did reach my goal of running three miles over Christmas break. I even ran that distance twice. Hurray for me!

What are you cheering about this week? Come leave your link at Faith and Family Live.
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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

More on Service Above Self

My blogging buddy, Natalie, made a very valid point in the combox, yesterday. There is a fine line between teaching responsibility and creating resentment when older children are charged with the care of younger siblings. As the oldest of three, myself, I understand that type of bitterness and resentment to a certain extent. I pray we do not cross that line with our own children, and I'm fairly confident that we do not.

With four older children capable of helping out, caring for the two younger siblings is usually fairly evenly divided. In general, our children are very giving and generous and love to help not only at home, but enjoy helping with the various charitable projects their CCD and youth groups develop. Too often, it is easier for our children to be charitable and giving to friends and strangers outside our home than to be so in our very own family. Isn't that so for many of us? This was what I was attempting to address in my post yesterday. The lesson they've had more difficulty with is the importance of showing love, care, and generosity to those closest to them. Fostering a heart of service at home is just as important as creating a heart of service toward the world.
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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Creating a Heart of Service

Unfortunately, children do not come with an instruction manual, and I had absolutely no clue how difficult it would be teaching our children to think of others before themselves. It has been our one family's goal, as it should be in every Christian family, to create a heart of service in each of our children. I can think of no better tool for teaching service than to give our children the gift of siblings. Caring for younger brothers and sisters is a great responsibility and an important life skill for whatever vocation your children might have. I know of several families that assign a younger sibling to each of their older children to care for. This system works very well, especially in large families. We've never used this system, per se. Our older children have always taken turns helping with the younger children when they see the need, or have been called upon to do so.

Service above self has come easier for some of our children than for others. Every so often, one of our children needs a stronger reminder to harbor a spirit of service. When needed, a selfish child is assigned to a more needy sibling and is required to serve that sibling's every need, from fixing the younger child's breakfast and lunch, to dressing and grooming, to playing what the younger child wants to play without complaint. Hopefully, after a set period of serving, our offending child comes to realize how important it is to give of oneself and mends his or her self serving ways.

How does your family promote a giving and serving heart in your children? I'd love to read your ideas and suggestions.
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Monday, January 4, 2010

Back to Normal

Waaaaaah! I so thoroughly enjoyed our two week Christmas break, I can't believe it is back to the grind today. The highlight of our break was the 21 inches of snow, or as one of our friends put it, the Advent miracle. The snow led to all our activities being cancelled for that weekend. Holed up in the house, life slowed down and we were given the blessing of really being able to prepare mentally, spiritually, and physically for Christmas. It was the most lovely Christmas.

I don't believe in making New Year resolutions. Resolutions should be made every time we head to confession, right? One of the best blog posts I read for New Year resolutions can be found on Michelle's blog, Rosetta Stone. In fact, she has written some truly great posts the last several weeks, definitely worth a gander.

Anyhoo, since I don't make New Year resolutions, I will share one goal I will be striving for, as it's really been on my heart and mind. I really need to limit my internet haunting. It's really been interfering with more important things around here. My new rule is no internet until the kids have finished their school work for the day. We've been slowly slouching into beginning school later and later each morning. My being on the net has contributed to that. I also need to be more available to the children during school. When they see me on the computer they find me unapproachable for help. That is not a good thing. So from now on, no blog posts, no emails, no Facebook before homeschooling is done.
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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Recipe: Bacon Cream Cheese Dip

Karate Kid and I made Pioneer Woman's Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Thingies--definitely a keeper! We had about 6 slices of left over bacon and another package of cream cheese. I was feeling inspired. This what we came up with and it was a huge hit at our New Year's Day Party:

Bacon Cream Cheese Dip

six slices bacon diced and sauteed until good and crispy
1/4 red onion, diced fine and sauteed in 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings
1 package cream cheese softened
1 cup sour cream
Juice from one lemon
Salt and Pepper to taste

Stir together until homogenous, chill, and serve with chips, crackers, or crudite.
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