Thursday, April 29, 2010

Small Successes: Little Things Count Big

Small Successes for April 29, 2010

1) This weekend Special K will have two very big days; her 8th birthday and her First Holy Communion. We are so excited for her, but nearly as excited as she is. I've been planning and prepping for the festivities this week. She's going to have a grand weekend!

2) Even with the water works Sunday night into early Monday morning, I was able to keep up with the laundry.

3) Tonight our parishes 8th graders will be Confirmed and despite our very busy week, I made 5 dozen double chocolate cookies for the reception.

What are your Small Successes for the week? Give yourself a pat on the back and leave your link at Faith and Family Live.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Language Standards

Its eye-opening to hear ugly words parroted by your preschooler. The first time I realized I needed to change some of my language choices was when Karate Kid was just this side of two and began cursing up a toddler storm while attempting to plant a marigold plant that was not cooperating. Thankfully, once I cleaned up my own vocabulary, hers followed suit. It could have been much more mortifying, I'm sure.

For me, cleaning up my language has been a work in progress. Having left my faith in my younger years, I picked up some very ugly habits that I truly wish I hadn't. I am horribly guilty of slipping, now and again. When I do, I hear it from my teens, but I think they would agree I am improving still, although not perfect.

As our children have gotten older, we've had to battle the influence of their friends and the words their friends are allowed to use. We felt it was important to draw a distinct line between what we feel is appropriate language usage and what was inappropriate, regardless of what their friends said. As far as we know, our teens have respected our standards, at least in our hearing.

I have a wonderful friend whose definition of vile cursing is completely different from my definition of vile cursing. I'm amazed at how she was able to maintain such a high standard in her home. All three of her children are teens and absolutely will not use the words "stupid", "dumb", "butt", "suck" (as in that totally sucks!), or "hate". Quite honestly, I admire her for having such high standards. I've been embarrassed on occasion and have had to apologize for one of my own children (Lil' Wingnut) using "curse" words in front of this family.

I suppose what I'm getting at, in this somewhat meandering post, is that we need to have standards in our families. We also need to recognize that other families may have different expectations than ours and that we need to be sensitive (within reason) to one family's ideals while being tolerant (within reason) of another family's apparently lower standards.
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Monday, April 26, 2010

The Plight of Motherhood

We had a rough night last night. Lil' Wingnut fell asleep with his sisters and when Wingnut went to retrieve him to bring the lil' guy to our room, he had already wet his sisters' bed. He hasn't been wearing pull-ups to bed for several months and we have rarely regretted it, but last night was nuts. Even after wetting his sisters' bed, he still need to pee like a race horse. Two hours later, I woke to him whimpering, he was wet again and still need to use the bathroom. Another two hours later and we woke to a wet bed again. Three times before 3 am?! Completely stressed out and imagining the worst, I lay awake for a couple more hours.

This morning, I began by questioning the siblings about how much water Lil' Wingnut had drunk the night before. They all reassured me he hadn't drunk very much, and that they had taken him to the bathroom before he went to sleep. So, being the worry wart mother that I am, I went online searching for reasons our three year old was peeing so much and so frequently. As I read through the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes, Lil' Wingnut came strolling through the living room with a baby bottle in his hands. One of our teens had brought it home from a youth group event and apparently 100% breastfed Lil' Wingnut was fascinated with it. I asked him if he'd been drinking water from it. He smirked and nodded his head. I then showed the bottle to his sisters and asked how much he'd drunk from it last night. Apparently, he drank at least 14 ounces of water right before bed. The imp.

This is the plight of motherhood in a nutshell; a child's problem may have the simplest of explanations, but we cannot help worrying and imagining the absolute worst. No one told me how many sleepless nights I'd have fretting over my babies. Well, I was told, but I didn't believe it. Who knew love could be so stressful?
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Friday, April 23, 2010

Little Boys and Their Purses

Lil' Wingnut has a bag full of goodies, and they are for sale. So far I've purchased used make-up, a book mark, a pin from The March for Life, a super ball, and a pair of earrings. He's pretty desperate, as he's only asking mere cents for each item.

After selling a couple miscellaneous items to Karate Kid, he let her know his money wasn't for sale. Too bad for her, she's trying to save for college.

Stat Boy asked if he could purchase Lil' Wingnut's brain for two cents. "No, I can't sell you my brain. It's not in my purse," the Lil' guy responded.

Um, it's a European man bag, buddy.
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Small Successes: Let's Sweat the Small Stuff

Small Successes for April 22, 2010

1) Laundry is done. It's the never ending chore, isn't it? Stayed on top of it. Hooray for me!

2) I've worked out every day this week. I ran Sunday and Monday, walked Tuesday, and taught a ballet class on Wednesday. My goal for the week is to run 10 miles total. So far I've run 5.75. I'll run this morning and hopefully again on Saturday. That should put me over my goal for the week.

3) I broke out the hard core chemicals and cleaned our shower this week. It is squeaky clean. I do try to go as chemical free as possible with our cleaning supplies, but I've yet to find a natural cleaner for the shower that powers through soap scum, mildew, and mold--ewwww!

Head on over to Faith and Family Live and give yourself a pat on the back for all the small stuff you accomplished this week!
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tips from an Older Homeschooling Mom

If you are a young homeschooling mom with a quiver full of little ones, this post is for you. Several times this year, I've been approached by young moms just beginning their adventures in homeschooling, asking for advice. Much of what I remember as a young mom with four kids under the age of 6 is an absolute blur. I do know we survived and are still homeschooling today, and for the most part, successfully.

For young moms, I think the main challenge isn't homeschooling itself, but how to do it all and keep toddlers entertained without feeling you've somehow neglected them. The following are tips I have given to moms in this particular state.

1) Your number one goal in raising your children and in homeschooling is to educate for eternity. Our God given task is to get our children, our spouses, and ourselves to heaven. If we happen to learn Calculus along the way, that is a bonus. Remind yourself daily that is is why you are homeschooling. Begin everyday with prayer and some kind of devotion. It doesn't need to be complicated, we often read about the Saint of the Day or the Mass readings for the day as our devotion.

2) You cannot do it all. You are not and should not be expected to do it all. Obviously something needs to give. For us, what gives, is a perfectly cleaned house. On any given day we really could not have guests just pop in without their seeing just a little bit of chaos somewhere in this house. It took me years to let go of a perfectly clean house, but let's face it moms, we have children, sometimes many children at home ALL THE TIME, whereas our public/private school moms have many, most or all of their children out of the house a good portion of the day.

3) Let go of perfect. From an early age, I began teaching the children to do many of the household tasks. There is a learning curve and I had to let go of perfect. Take a deep breath, let it go.

4) Do not be embarrassed, ashamed, afraid to ask for help. Help can come in many forms. If family is available they might take your non-school age children for an hour of two a week so that you can homeschool your school aged children. Other homeschooled families may have teens seeking service hours or a little income. A good friend who was trying to keep her head above water hired our oldest daughter to come a couple times a week to help out. Sometimes she played with the preschooler and toddler, but more often she helped homeschool my friend's oldest daughter, allowing my friend to play with her younger children, or get some much needed housework done. If you can afford it, having someone come in and clean bathrooms and mop the floors once a month can be a huge help.

5) Keeping toddlers and preschoolers entertained can be a real challenge. While babes in arms can be worn in slings, nursed, or nap during school, toddlers tend to be into everything and require nearly constant activity and supervision. This is so incredibly difficult while trying to teach phonics or addition. If you are like we were, having about a two year space between each child, you have a near constant stream of toddlers disrupting school. Strategies that have worked for us have included: schooling during morning naps, having older children take shifts playing with a toddler, and using short videos (Veggie Tales and Signing Time work very well and left me nearly guilt free for having implemented them as a distraction for my toddlers). By the time our toddlers were about 2 1/2 they really did want to be included in our activities. I have a special box of educational toys just for school hours. Our little ones would sit at the table and play with these toys for almost long enough for me to help the older children with their school work. This year our three year old sits through our science and history lessons. This has been such a blessing. They really can absorb so much information just by listening. He could tell you all about glaciers, volcanos, and the twins Romulus and Remus.

6) This tip I discovered only once I had a high schooler. Nothing counts until you hit high school. Prior to high school your educational goals should be relatively simple: by the end of second grade your child should be reading independently and able to read instructions for their school work. Independence is a huge goal, worthy of striving for in your homeschool. By junior high you will need to focus on introducing your students to higher scientific concepts and emphasize writing skills, preparing them for high school and beyond. Therefore, if you find yourself absolutely swamped, minimizing homeschool in the lower grades will not be detrimental to their overall education. In lower elementary, formal math and reading are all you really need to focus on. Choose science, history, art, and music that need only be done occasionally. Capitalize on your children's interests and read, read, read and explore, explore, explore.

Over our 12 years of homeschooling, we have implemented nearly all of these tips. We have survived. We have more than survived, we have flourished.

I know these tips don't even come close to being exhaustive. If you are an experienced homeschooling mom, please feel free to leave your valuable tips in the combox.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Black Bean Soup

This is a family favorite. Pancetta is not traditional, but it adds such a wonderful flavor. Diced bacon is a suitable substitute. Be sure to add the baking soda in the first step as it helps the beans retain their color. No one wants to eat gray soup :)

Black Bean Soup

1 lb dried black beans
8 to 10 ounce ham steak
8 cups water
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces diced pancetta
2 carrots diced
2 stalks celery diced
1 onion diced
2 clove garlic minced
1 tsp chipotle pepper
4 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
1/2 lime


diced red onion
diced avocado
lime wedges
sour cream
chopped cilantro
Queso fresca or Queso blanco

Rinse and pick over dried beans. Place in a large Dutch oven with the whole ham steak and cover with water. Add baking soda, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1/2 hour. Remove ham steak from the pot. Remove the rind and bone, dice into bite sized pieces, and refrigerate. Cover pot with a lid and let beans sit off heat for two hours. Pour beans and liquid into a large container, reserving all. Wipe out Dutch oven and return to stove. Add diced pancetta and saute over medium heat until fat renders and pancetta is browned, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon remove the pancetta and set aside, leaving rendered fat in the pot. Add diced carrots, celery, onion, and minced garlic to the pancetta fat, add a little salt to help draw out any moisture, and saute until softened and just beginning to take on color, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle sauteed veggies with chipotle pepper and saute until fragrant. Return beans and reserved liquid to the pot with the vegetables. Add broth and bring soup to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the beans are soft, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Test several beans to check for doneness. Return reserved ham and pancetta to the soup and heat through. Squeeze 1/2 lime into soup. Serve with desired garnishes.
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Monday, April 19, 2010

Book Review: Theophilos

"It seemed good to me also, having diligently attained to all things from the beginning, to write to thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mayest know the truth of those words in which thou hast been instructed." - Luke 1:3-4

I am a huge Michael O'Brien fan. I've read all of his books, most of his essays, and I dream of one day owning at least a print of his artwork. I could not wait for his latest book, Theophilos to be released.

A departure from his earlier, end times novels, Theophilos is a fictional account of the character to whom Saint Luke addressed both his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Steeped in historical context, O'Brien writes a fascinating first person account of Greek physician, and uncle to Loukas, Theophilos.

The novel is divided into three sections. The first part being a journal written by Theophilos giving the background story of his own life and it's intertwining in that of Saint Luke's. Tragically orphaned, Loukas comes to live with his uncle and aunt on the island of Crete and is classically educated and trained, under his loving uncle's guidance, as a physician. Upon leaving his uncle's medical practice to begin one of his own, Loukas has fallen in with the followers of the crucified Christos. Theophilos is skeptical and concerned for Loukas when he receives the account, written by Loukas, of the mystical life, death, and resurrection of this Yeshua.

The second section, entitled "Examinations", is the account written by Theophilos after he seeks out Loukas in Judaea. Theophilos, in his concern for Loukas' acceptance of this strange cult, takes on the task of interviewing those touched by the life of Yeshua and examining the evidence for and against this new religion. Is it myth or is it truth? Theophilos interviews followers and rejectors alike, seeking to build and fortify his case against the new religion in hopes of dissuading Loukas from promoting the cult.

The final section continues Theophilos' journal and reveals the results of his encounters with the followers of Yeshua. What does Theophilos conclude? Could a soul, coming in such close contact with first person accounts of the miracles and teachings of Yeshua Christos remain untouched?

Of all Michael O'Brien's novels, this is by far my favorite. It is obvious he took great lengths in researching the history, culture, and political environments of first century Greek, Roman, Judaean, and Christian cultures. While reading, I could not wait to go back to Saint Luke's Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles to re-read Saint Luke's accounts. O'Brien's writing made Saint Luke's writings that much more rich and real. Theophilos' and Loukas' story is beautifully written and filled with deep emotion, and while it is evident the account is written from a distinctly Catholic point of view, it truly is accessible and relevant to all Christians. Unlike many of O'Brien's novels, there is only fleeting, veiled adult content, and so I would recommend this book for teens and adults. Our family is studying Ancient Greece and Rome, finishing this year with the birth of Christianity. Our teens will be reading this novel as part of their history studies.
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Friday, April 16, 2010

Temper, Temper, Temper

Lil' Wingnut loves to lead the first decade of the Rosary every evening. Usually he is very excited to announce the mystery and he's been working hard on keeping track of his "Hail, Marys" on the beads, but last evening he decided to be an imp and began messing around with silly voices while reciting his prayers. After being asked once to pray in a normal voice, he chose to disobey and continued on as he had been. Wingnut took his decade away from him and finished it as a disciplinary measure. The Lil' guy did not appreciate that one bit. He sat throughout the rest of the Rosary with his arms across his chest and an enormous scowl on his face. I really was afraid his face would stick that way. It was all we could do to keep from giggling at his pathetic show of temper. In the end, he even went to bed angry.

Would you say an angry Rosary is better than no Rosary at all? Neither would I.
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Small Successes: Go Mom Go!

Small Successes for April 15, 2010:

1) Laundry is washed, dried, folded and put away.

2) We went back to school on Monday after an 11 day break. It's always difficult getting back into our lessons after taking time off and this week was no exception. We hit a couple of rough spots, really rough spots, and I resisted the urge to buckle under and cry. Did my eyes well up? Yes, they did. Did I feel choked up? Yes, I did. Did I beg God for the grace and strength to keep on pushing through the difficulties? Yes, I did!

3) My Ancient Greek History students have been chomping at the bit, wanting to study the Olympics. I promised we would have an Olympics day the first Friday we have nice weather. This Friday is looking very promising. I've been reading up on the Ancient games, plotting, and planning for our day of competitions. I hope the kids enjoy their Olympic festival!

Have any Small Successes to share this week? Leave your link at Faith and Family Live.
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Don't you wish you were 7 years old and could rock this look as well as Special K? I know I do. Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Feeling Fine

About nine months ago I requested prayers for a health problem I'd been having. I saw a doctor and was sorely disappointed, as instead of looking for the source of the panic attacks I'd been having, he immediately offered to treat the symptoms with a prescription.

Instead of going back and following up on the blood work, I took things into my own hands and changed just a few things. I cut way back on my caffeine intake. I limit myself to just one coffee in the morning. On weekends, Wingnut and I may indulge in a bit more caffeine, but I do try to make that rare. I'm just not 20 years old anymore and my poor old 41 year old body just can't take the caffeine.

I also cut back on my alcohol intake. I had been drinking a glass or two of wine every night, hoping it would help me stay asleep. After reading up on it, I found alcohol can actually exacerbate the problem. To be honest, I wasn't doing much different by drinking a glass of wine than what the doctor offered with a prescription. I still enjoy a glass now and then, but it is no longer a nightly ritual.

Around the time I saw my physician, I also finally weaned Lil' Wingnut. He was three, and I also thought maybe the panic attacks were hormone related. I'd seen evidence in my cycles (i.e. very short luteal phase) that also indicated I was fairly unbalanced hormonally. My cycles have become much more predictable and my luteal phase normalized fairly soon after the Lil' guy was weaned.

Finally, I began to exercise on a much more regular basis. Wingnut and I tackled and completed a first round of P90X. He got fantastic results, loved the workouts and kept on going with it. I didn't get awesome results, I began loathing the workouts, but I discovered I was actually in good enough cardiovascular shape to run a mile or two. Getting out the door and into the fresh air is so much more appealing and I've really begun enjoying running.

This mixed combination of changes have made a huge difference. I have had very, very few panic attacks in the last 8 months and the few I've had, I've been able to link to a specific stressor. If I do happen to wake in the middle of the night and feel my heart begin to race, I pray. I'll offer the stressful situation and then just magnify, worship, thank, and glorify God. It has become an absolute comfort to spend time in silence and just pray in the still of the night.

So, I thank you for your prayers and your words of encouragement. I'm feeling fine.
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Monday, April 12, 2010

Movie Review: The Stoning of Soroya M.

I would never call myself a feminist by any measure, but after watching this movie, I am even more thankful for living in this country and for the freedoms and dignity women we American women enjoy.

The Stoning of Soroya M. is based on the true story of a Iranian wife and mother who is falsely accused of adultery by her husband, tried in the village court (peopled my males only), found guilty, and then sentenced to die by stoning. Soroya becomes the victim of a conspiracy headed by her husband because she refuses to grant him a divorce so that he may marry a 14 year old girl that has caught his eye. If Soroya had agreed to the divorce, she and her two daughters would be left destitute, with no income, no food, and without recourse, while her husband would be free to remarry and free to take her two sons from her. Such is the plight of women in many Moslem villages. Under Sharia Law, a woman accused of adultery must prove her innocence, while a man accused of adultery must be proven guilty. Nice law.

The story is told by Soroya's aunt, Zahra, who tried unsuccessfully to protect her niece from horrific injustice. In an effort to expose the brutality that had recently occurred in the village, Zahra approaches a wayward reporter who has just happened upon the village. The reporter, played by James Caviezel, was French-Iraninan journalist Freidoune Sahebjam, who after recording Zahra's heartwrenching tale, writes the book of the same name.

This is not a date night movie. It is a depressing, brutal film and was very difficult to watch. Even so, I would recommend seeing this movie, just as a reminder that these absolutely monstrous crimes against women occur even today in the Islamic world. While I was unable to view the actual depiction of the stoning, turning my face away with each stone that is thrown, the story was one that needed to be told and needs to be retold until these crimes no longer occur. Throughout the stoning scene, I was reminded of the beautifully dramatic scene in The Passion in which Christ draws the line in the dust while in the background a group of Pharisees demands the stoning of the prostitute. What a gift Christ's mercy is.

If you felt the violence in The Passion was overmuch, you will not be able to stomach this movie, either. In fact, you may want to read this review of the film in the NY Times, although this particular reviewer did not understand the meaning of either film. The stoning scene is horrific and much of the subject matter is mature. I would recommend this film for adults only.
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Friday, April 9, 2010

A Tech Review? Really?

I am not a lover or a consumer of technology. I just don't understand it. If it weren't for my technophile hubby, I truly would still be in the dark ages, before cell phones, the internet and GPS. Wingnut is a Mac addict through and through. And while I did not allow him to stand in those ridiculous lines waiting to purchase an iPhone two years ago, we do own three of them now. We own two desk top Macs and a laptop, plus, Wingnut was able to convince his place of work to purchase all Mac laptops as they can boot into Windows as well as the Mac platform (OS something or other).

Our laptop has been running slowly of late and Wingnut is impatient with glitches. He had been chomping at the bit with excitement over the iPad. I absolutely refused to let him pre-order one. I could not see pre-ordering a brand new technology without getting my hands on it and trying it out first. So while I won the pre-order battle, I lost the war in a big way. Wingnut got up early last Saturday and stood in a line, an actual line, to purchase his iPad, sight unseen. He called me from line several times.

1st call: "It's not too bad. They have two lines. One for pre-orders and a second for the rest of us losers."

2nd call: "It was a bad idea to bring Lil' Wingnut with me. He had to go to the bathroom. I lost about four places in line. Sigh."

3rd call: "I'm on my way home. Yes, I got it. Actually I got two. I'll explain why when I get home."

Two! I was livid. I didn't want two. I didn't even want one. What was he thinking! When he got home he explained he thought I'd want one, especially since he travels so much and would be taking the iPad with him when he left. Whatever. I have three other computers I can use. What do I need an iPad for?

Sheepishly, he charged it up, loaded software onto it, and showed me how it worked. I spent the rest of the afternoon using my iPad. The longer I used it, the more my irritation dissipated. By the end of the day, I was in love.

The iPad is much smaller than I had anticipated. It really looks like a bigger, thinner version of an iPhone without the phone. It works very much like the iPhone(without the phone), a laptop, and a Kindle all wrapped into one. I've been using it like a laptop; checking email, Facebook, and blog reading. I plan on using it like a Kindle and have downloaded several free books from iBook and the Gutenberg Project. They had some of my very favorites; from Shakespeare to Austen; Dickens to Chesterton. You can't beat free.

While it doesn't have a wonderfully useful keyboard, I can comment on Facebook and blogs fairly easily. Unless we get a bluetooth keyboard to go with our iPads, I will not be writing blog posts using my iPad. It is much less cumbersome than even a laptop. Amazingly easy to use, I caught my littlest two exploring my new toy while I was making dinner. They were able to handle it with ease and had already figured out how to play games on it.

What I love: compact size, a cinch to use, great for checking email, reading blogs, updating Facebook, internet browsing, watching Netflix(yes, there's an app for that!), downloading and reading books, playing "Words with Friends" with my buddy from A Wink and A Smile, wonderfully long battery life (I used mine for three days before needing to charge it).

What I wish was better: lacks Flash Player, keyboard isn't all that easy to use, blogging is more difficult and I need to be in HTML to edit my blog

What can I say. Wingnut is a brilliant man and he loves me. What did I ever do before I had an iPad???

P.S. Since I'm not a techie, I'm sure I didn't cover everything folks might want to know about the iPad. If you want to know about something specific, leave a comment and I'll try to answer and if I'm unable, I'll ask Wingnut.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

If I Truly Want to Run. . .

. . . I'm going to have to develop better habits and get rid of some bad habits.

Two years ago, I began watching what I ate, and really cut back on my caloric intake, without changing the way I cook. Those of you who know us, know we really love good food and I really enjoy cooking good food. I just cannot see myself sacrificing that enjoyment, especially once I realized I could just cut back my portions and still lose weight. I began walking everyday and over the course of 5 or 6 months I lost 25 pounds.

I've been able to maintain that loss, but I do still need to lose about 20 more pounds. I need to step up my exercise and so I began running this winter and I found I really enjoy it. My runs average between two to four miles, depending on schedules and how I feel. Sometimes I feel like complete garbage, and this is something that needs to change if I'm going to keep running.
The following are what need to happen if I'm to continue running at 41 plus years old:

1) The wine, sugar, and whine are gonna have to go. I really do need to take better care of my body; eat better, sleep more, and take my vitamins.

2) Earlier is better, especially as summer approaches. I am not a warm weather runner. I'm not a cold weather runner either :( but at least in the cold I can layer.

3) Consistency is truly lacking. Some weeks I run once or twice, others I'll run three or four times. I think the latter should be my goal.

4) My iPod is my running buddy. Making sure the iPod is plugged in every night will ensure I can get out the door running before the temp gets too warm. I've been running listening to my old walking playlist and too many of the songs on that list are not upbeat enough. Current running favs are "Get on Your Boots" and "No Line on the Horizon" by U2, "Uprising" by Muse, "Paralyzer" by Finger Eleven, "Kryptonite" by 3 Doors Down and "Learning to Fly" by Foo Fighters (I'm an alternative gal). I'm up for suggestions if anyone has favorite, upbeat, running tunes!
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Just a Cute Little Boy

This little guy just warms my heart, from his head of white blond hair, to the tips of his little green galoshes, and today he's sporting a goat milk mustache. I could just eat him up, I love him so. Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Movie Review: The Syrian Bride

The Syrian Bride follows the wedding day of Druze bride, Mona, to her cousin, Tallel, who is a famous Syrian comedic actor. Mona's family lives in the much disputed and occupied Golan Heights of Israel and viewers soon discover that once she crosses the border into Syria to marry her cousin, she can never return to Israel and will likely never see her family again (in reality, Druze from Golan may not return to Israel cross that particular border, but they can travel to other locations in Israel via air travel, and Syrians are allowed into Israel in the same way). The historical political conflict regarding the Golan Heights is not well addressed in the film, and what is addressed is overwhelmingly anti-Israel. Engaging in a little research into Israel's taking of the Golan, will better dispose you, as viewer, to understand why the Golan is so important to both Syria and Israel.

Throughout her preparations for the day, she is not the joyful bride one would hope to see, but a heavyhearted woman, who does not appear to revel in her up-coming nuptials. As the hour for the wedding approaches, Mona's family drives to the border to meet her new in-laws and groom for the first time. Israeli officials, Red Cross Volunteers, and Syrian guards engage in confusing and seemingly ridiculous back and forth communication across the border in an attempt to make sure the paper work and documentation for the border exchange meets all respective protocol. Meanwhile, the melancholy bride waits.

Along with the main storyline of Mona and Tallel's wedding, there are several side stories revolving around many in Mona's family. Mona's sister has suffered and struggled in her marriage in the patriarchal Druze community. Her pro-Syrian activist father has only recently been released from prison due to his political activities. Her black market smuggling younger brother is ever on his cell phone, attempting to avoid trouble of one kind or another, and her older brother returns to Golan for the first time since marrying a Russian woman, much to the dismay of the family and the entire Druze community. Doesn't drama abound like this in every family?

The acting is well done, and the film is enjoyable and interesting, even if a bit heavy handed. Being a foreign language film, you will be required to read subtitles in order to follow the story, but it was well worth the effort. Having only one scene in which adult themes are touched upon, I would recommend this film for high school students and adults.

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Potato Casserole ala Maurisa

One of our traditional Easter dinner dishes is a wonderfully delicious and rich potato casserole. Usually I make it with potatoes, sour cream, sharp cheddar, bacon and a little minced red onion. I decided to get creative yesterday and what I came up with put potato casserole completely over the top.

Potato Casserole

5 lb red potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
salt and pepper to taste
6 oz diced pancetta(italian bacon, regular bacon may be substituted)
8 oz softened cream cheese
8 oz smoked mozzarella, shredded
3 shallots, finely minced

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce heat to a gentle boil. Cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 15-20 minutes, drain and return to pot. Add softened butter and heavy cream. Mash the potatoes until desired consistency (we like a few little chunks of potato here and there). Add salt and pepper and stir to combine. Set aside to await rest of ingredients.

In a medium skillet, fry bacon until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat and reduce heat to medium high. Add minced shallots and saute until tender and just caramelized, about 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside.

Add cream cheese, 2/3 of crisp bacon, 2/3 shredded mozzarella, and 2/3 of sauteed shallots to the potato mixture and stir to combine. Pour potato mixture in a casserole dish. Top with remaining bacon, cheese, and shallots. Bake in a 350 degree oven until hot and bubbly and cheese has melted (about 20-30 minutes)

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

He is Risen!

The whole crew cooperated and let their mother get a nice photo of them just before the Easter Vigil last evening.

“Why do you seek the living one among the dead?
He is not here, but he has been raised." Luke 24:5-6

A most blessed and happy Easter to everyone!
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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Institution of the Priesthood

Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday begins the beautiful three day liturgy of the Triduum in the Church. During this Mass, the washing of the feet of the apostles by Christ is re-enacted by the priest as a sign of his service in the Church. The word Maundy comes from the Old English mande, derived from the Latin mandatum, the first word in the phrase "Mandatum novus do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" or "A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you", John 13:34.

Part of the observance of Holy Thursday Mass is a recognition of the institution of the priesthood by Christ. The Catholic Church's consecrated male priesthood is one of it's defining characteristics. Much has been written and said about the celibate life of the Roman Catholic priest, much of it slanderous, demeaning, and completely misunderstood.

Are priests human? Yes, they are and therefore they sin just like any of the rest of us. Sometimes their sin is unfathomable, despicable, and an absolute scandal to the Church, but to define the entire priesthood by the horrific sins of a few is absolutely unjustifiable. The vast majority of priests that have served our family are true men of God, wholeheartedly devoting their entire being to Christ and his Church. They are welcome into our home for family meals and celebrations and have been truly wonderful role models for our children, especially our sons.

Tonight, in our parish, some 20 boys will be vested by our devoted Monsignor as altar boys. The program in our parish is truly unique and I really do wish more parishes would adopt it. Becoming an altar boy is a serious endeavor and these boys take it very earnestly. The boys are trained during Lent before taking part in the vesting ceremony on Maundy Thursday. Honestly, there cannot be a better way of exposing our sons to the mystery that takes place on the altar than to have them serve at the altar as boys and young men. These boys may discover their own vocation while serving Mass. A few of these boys very well may be our future priests. What a blessing it is for them to serve in such an important way. God bless in a special way our priests, the priesthood, and altar boys tonight.
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