Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mary's Rockin' Eve

OK, maybe "rockin'" is going a little too far. We just ate some brownies, and we're now sitting by the fire, watching what appears to be a Disneyworld infommercial on the Travel Channel. My dad and step-mom (and Chiara) have already headed off to bed, and it's not even 10 p.m. Noah and Olivia, on the other hand, say they're in it for the long haul. We'll see who survives until midnight. Noah, of course, makes it to midnight every year since he not only rings in the new year but his birthday as well.

It's hard to believe we're on the brink of another new year. I'm not one for New Year's resolutions, so you won't find any of those here. I do, however, like to set some "goals." Last year one of my main goals was to go on a retreat for the first time since high school. I went on three in the span of six months, so, as you can see, I take my "goals" very seriously. This year my goals once again lean toward the spiritual side. I would like to look into getting a spiritual director, something that intimidates me for a number of reasons, and I'd like to go on another retreat. Although I can't go on a longer retreat, I would like to go on something that will challenge me in an intense spiritual way. Last year it was the silent/contemplative retreat that forced me to stretch. I would definitely like to do another silent retreat since that was really a phenomenal experience and one that has had a lasting impact in my life.

I'd also like to learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. I simply cannot get this prayer routine, no matter how many times I give it the old college try. You might as well hand me an instruction manual and tell me to land a plane. I open that book of Christian Prayer and my eyes glaze over. I wonder if some of it has to do with the fact that I'm always trying to learn on my own and I could really benefit from the communal prayer experience. Another part of me thinks it has to do with my lack of connection to the Psalms. I know the Psalms are important. I know many saints and spiritual greats say that the Psalms are imperative to their prayer life, but so far I haven't experienced that profound Psalm Aha! moment. I'll keep working on it, but if anyone has any secrets to the Psalms, please pass them along.

Finally, one of last year's unmet goals, will roll over to 2009: I want to spent a weekend with my dear friend Dorothy, which would be an awful lot like going on private retreat with a spiritual director. So maybe I'll be able to fulfill all three goals in one big spiritual extravaganza.

That's about it. It may not sound like much, but, trust me, those spiritual goals are quite a challenge for me. If I can be even half as successful with these goals as I was with last year's goals, I'll be happy. I don't put time pressures on myself with these goals. In fact, I don't really put any pressure on myself. I just put the ideas out there into the universe and begin to take baby steps toward achieving what I want.

Feel free to share your goals or resolutions. Maybe we can help each other along the way. Happy New Year! May 2009 be a year of blessings and spiritual surprises for all of us.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A gift hidden in sorrow

Our dear blog friend Emilie Lemmons died in her sleep on Dec. 23 while her husband held her hand. You can read his last post on her blog and the last quote she wanted to share with all of us by clicking HERE.

I wanted to post about Emilie's passing as soon as I read the sad news on Christmas Eve, but I found myself unable to put into words the strange grief I was feeling. As you know, I never met Emilie, never even spoke to her by phone. I knew her only through her blog and our common bonds as mothers, writers, bloggers and spiritual seekers. I was awed by her strength in the face of tremendous hardship, in her ability to enjoy every minute with her young sons even while she was dying, in her grace and honesty right up until the end. When I learned of her death, I wept, not a few sentimental tears for a stranger's sorrow, but hysterical, overwhelming, sob-inducing tears. I found it odd that I could feel such strong emotions for someone who was never in my life in any concrete way.

It just so happens that throughout Emilie's last days (which I knew of from reading her blog post about going into hospice care), I was experiencing a terrible professional betrayal. And let's just say, I wasn't handling it well. The fallout, which is by no means even close to over, paralyzed me. Suddenly I wasn't sure about anything -- about my career (which also happens to be a vocation), about my obviously misguided hope that people will do the right thing (especially when they work for a Catholic organization), about my next step forward into whatever unknown I was about to face. I found myself unable even to read my Advent reflections, no less pray about them. I felt empty and abandoned. I felt a spiritual darkness I have not felt in a very long time. But through all of it, my mind kept coming back to Emilie, and I would realize that despite my seeming inability to pray, I was praying for Emilie -- constantly.

At night, when I was lying awake in bed worrying about how to handle my work situation, I would think about Emilie awake in her bed worrying about leaving behind her husband and two sons. And I would pray. In the morning, when I would stare at my computer as if some magical fix would arrive by email, I would think of Emilie starting her day and wondering if it would be her last. And I would pray. For several days running, the only thing I could pray about was Emilie. And that was Emilie's great gift to me. At a time when I could not find the words or the inclination to pray for the guidance and trust I needed in my own situation, at a time when God seemed very far away and maybe not all that interested in my little problems, Emilie kept me in God's presence when I most needed it. Without her even knowing it, in the midst of her great suffering, she was still giving to other people, still making a difference in the life of a complete stranger.

I didn't realize all of this until days after her death, until I finally found the words I needed to pray. I honestly didn't think I would make a spiritual rebound so quickly, and I don't think I would have had it not been for Emilie. That's not to say I'm out of the dark spiritual woods I've found myself in lately, but at least I'm on a well-marked path.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Sign of love

And now a few words from the home office as we wrap up our Christmas celebrations:

"God's sign is simplicity...he makes himself small for us. This is how he reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendor. He comes as a baby -- defenseless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with his strength. He takes away our fear of his greatness. He asks for our love; so he makes himself a child. He wants nothing other from us than our love...God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him and love him." -- Pope Benedict XVI

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

We're in the home stretch

Well, we are in the final countdown to Christmas. For the first time in the eight years we have lived here, we are not going anywhere for Christmas and we are not hosting anyone here. Kind of weird in a peaceful and calm sort of way. We decided to give our family a rare but much-deserved holiday without highway travel. Today is incredibly quiet. We're not even heading out to the overcrowded vigil Mass today since we can go tomorrow morning. Noah will serve Mass on Christmas day, which is especially nice.

A few incidentals to report as I reflect back on the last few weeks:

I managed to follow through on my plan to make it through the entire shopping season without setting foot in a mall. I have not darkened the doorstep of either big mall in our area since way before Thanksgiving. In fact, I can't even remember when I was last there. While I did a lot of shopping online, I did everything else right here in town. It was a very stress-free shopping experience.

I am also happy to report that the Christmas stocking tradition was given a reprieve. It required some last-minute visits to stores, but since my self-imposed rule meant not leaving the boundaries of my town, it was no big deal. In fact, I could have walked to the stores had it not been about 7 degrees outside. (I should note that while I would not walk to a store in 7-degree temperatures, I did see three people out jogging. That's just insane.)

We made it through all of our various Christmas-related events. Here are a few photos from the girls' "holiday dance demonstrations."

As I write this post, the girls are sitting here in the family room talking about Christmas. Olivia is reading to Chiara -- a book called "Silent Night," and she's asking Chiara if she knows the most important thing about Christmas: That Jesus was born, and we all get that present. Now Olivia just yelled, "Only seven hours until we go to bed." Somehow I have a feeling that the seven-hour itch has to do with more than Jesus' birthday.

Chiara's Christmas intensity has been increasingly obvious the past few days. She worried aloud last night that Santa might forget what she wants. She can rattle off her list at the drop of a hat, right down to the "new place mat" she requested. Every night, when we light the Advent wreath and pray before dinner, she insists on "reading" from a prayer book. She always says the same thing: Thank you God to giving the baby Jesus to Mary. One day at lunch last week, she continued her "reading" by saying that Jesus was home with Mary and they were playing games and that Joseph had gone for a walk to take out the trash. Sounds like life in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago was an awful lot like life right now.

So I guess this is it. Merry Christmas everyone. I'd like to think I'll post some sort of reflection for Christmas, and I may even write one in my head, but will it make it to the blog? Probably unlikely. Just know that I will remember all of my wonderful blog readers in my Christmas prayers. Thank you for being part of my journey. Peace.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas column

This is my December "Life Lines" column, which ran in both Catholic New York and The Evangelist. If you saw the Evangelist version, you read an abbreviated column. Here's the original in full. Enjoy.

Lessons from George

When we first moved into our house eight years ago, we couldn’t help but wonder about the little cottage behind us. Somewhat neglected and almost hidden behind overgrown shrubs and towering oaks, it seemed as if it were out of another time. Then we met the owner, George, who was a lot like his house – quiet and unassuming. An older single gentleman, George lived the life of a hermit, or at least that’s how it appeared to the outside world. He often looked disheveled and unkempt, which belied what we knew about him – that he was quite well to do, given that his family had once owned all of the land on which our little neighborhood now sits.

Every once in a while you could get George talking, and, if he was in the mood, he might keep you for an hour, covering everything from the beautiful wildflowers that his mother had so lovingly tended to the local folk festival that was an annual tradition for him. On rare occasions, I’d bring him some muffins or watermelon or a piece of pie. But mostly we left George alone because that’s the way he seemed to like it.

One morning recently another neighbor knocked on our door to tell us that George had died. We weren’t surprised. We had seen him out walking and knew that it looked as if his health was failing. I knew I had to go to the funeral, not only because I expected it to be sparsely attended but also because George was one of the few neighbors who came to both of my local book release parties and purchased copies of my books even when I knew he wasn’t interested in the subjects. I guess that had a lot to do with the soft spot I had for George.

When I walked into the funeral parlor, dozens of family members joyfully greeted me. The room buzzed with laughter and smiles and an endless stream of stories that spoke of a man very different from the one we saw on occasional walks around the block. One after another, nieces and nephews stood up to bear witness to a beloved uncle who they said was better to them than many parents are to their own children, a man who expanded their world by encouraging them to try new things, go new places and always take the time to learn a little something on the way there. At one point, when all of us were singing “May the Circle Be Unbroken,” I couldn’t help but cry for the loss of this man who was so much more than what he seemed and who may have had some things to teach me if I’d been able to see beyond the exterior trappings.

I was out in my yard recently cutting back plants and preparing for the long cold winter, when I stopped to look over at George’s darkened house. I couldn’t help but wonder how often I am too quick to judge by appearances or shy away because I think I know someone better than I really do.

And then I thought about this season, this time of year when we await the arrival of a baby in a stable. We have the good fortune of being able to view the birth of Christ with 20/20 hindsight, but would my vision have been so clear and so certain had I been in the field that night 2,000 years ago? Would I have looked at a poor baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, nestled among some farm animals, and walked away, sure that I didn’t belong there? Or would I have knelt down and let the baby touch my heart with gifts and graces hidden from human sight?

The Rule of St. Benedict says that we should welcome all people as if we are welcoming Christ himself. Would I have welcomed Christ into my life if I had been tending my flock in Bethlehem on that first Christmas? Do I welcome Christ into my life today in the people around me, regardless of how they seem on the outside? Looks like maybe George had something to teach me after all.

Copyright 2008, Mary DeTurris Poust

Friday, December 19, 2008

Prayers for Emilie

Every now and again I have asked you to pray for another Catholic writer and mom named Emilie. I link to her wonderful blog, lemmondrops, over in the left column of this blog page. Emilie has cancer, and she is now in hospice care and facing the final chapter of her life. Please go to her blog by clicking HERE and read her post, and, if you have time, follow her link to her most recent column on finding light in the darkness of Advent.

I am awed and amazed by Emilie and her faith and her will to live even while she is dying. I don't know why it has to be this way. Why she has to leave her two young sons and her husband. Why someone who has so much to teach the rest of us would be taken so young. This is one of those things that leaves me asking the big questions. I don't know Emilie personally. I know her only through her blog, and yet I feel connected to her and inspired by her. I don't know how she's managed to remain so positive throughout her incredibly difficult ordeal. She was handed something that none of us want to face and all of us fear, and yet she has done it with grace under pressure.

Tonight, when I am feeling crushed under the weight of minor problems, I think of Emilie and wonder how I can be so easily beaten down when someone else can muster up so much courage in the face of such suffering. Please pray for Emilie and her husband and children this weekend, and then go give your children a hug.

The great Christmas stocking debate

OK, here's the question of the day: Is the Christmas stocking important or irrelevant? This debate rages at our house each Christmas season. For me, the Christmas stocking is key when it comes to under-the-tree goodies. For Dennis, it's completely unnecessary and incomprehensible. He says he didn't get a Christmas stocking as a child, which I think might qualify as child abuse in some states. I, on the other hand, continue to get a stocking from my dad and step-mom. Granted, it doesn't come in an actual stocking anymore; it's in a Christmas gift bag. But my dad always hands it to me and says, "And here's your stocking."

In my family, the stocking was critical Christmas booty. It wasn't filled with extravagant gifts but that didn't take away from the excitement. Sure, you'd get toothpaste and lip balm and a new hairbrush. But you also might find a little gem in between all the practical flotsam and jetsam -- a candle, scented bath soaps, a little piece of costume jewelry, or, better than anything else, some little trinket that didn't require a lot of cash but did require a lot of thought. The stocking is where creative givers can really shine.

So, this year, in deference to a simpler Christmas and to Dennis' family non-tradition, Dennis and I are not going to exchange stockings. I will see how I fare without one. I don't think I'm going to like it one bit, and I have a sneaking suspicion that in a few weeks or months, when Dennis is looking for shaving cream or razors or Goo Gone or some new little gadget -- like the meat tenderizer he got in his stocking last year -- he, too, will come to appreciate the significance of the stocking.

I will, of course, continue to give the children Christmas stockings. They can decide once they are adults whether they believe in a stockingless Christmas or one filled to overflowing with all sorts of little doodads and goodies.

So what's the concensus at your house: Thumbs up or thumbs down to the beloved Christmas stocking?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A different kind of white Christmas

My friend Michele forwarded an email Christmas story to me this morning. At first I didn't have time to read it because, as usual, I was racing around with my list of things to do, but when everything came to a stand still because plans were unexpectedly delayed, I went back to the email. The story of how one family created a Christmas tradition that honors the true meaning of this beloved holiday is so worth the few minutes it will take you to read it.

Click HERE to read "For the Man Who Hated Christmas." Get some tissues. And thanks, Michele, for making me stop and think for a minute.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The longest snow day ever

So last Thursday the kids were sent home from school at noon because of an ice storm. Up until 30 minutes ago, they were STILL here. That's almost a week off -- and not because the weather continued to be bad but because National Grid did not return power to our school until last night. Then, this morning, in a cruel twist, we had a two-hour snow delay to boot. It's been some week, and we were among the lucky, lucky few who did not lose power in our town. I don't know how we managed to slip through those cracks, but what a blessing. So many families we know had no power for five days. No heat, no lights, flooding basements, spoiling food. It got to the point where I felt bad telling people that we hadn't lost power.

Still, those who did were in amazingly good spirits. They talked about the kindness of friends and neighbors, about living by the heat of a wood stove and realizing that they were living like those from Colonial times, about the sense of community that was evident as people slept over friends' houses and stopped by to do laundry. We did offer our house to one family. They said they were going to the shelter at Town Hall instead. Dennis pointed out that it really wasn't surprising that someone might choose a shelter over our crazy house and that sometimes he'd like to go to a shelter. Nice.

Today things are back to "normal," or as normal as they can be at this point. Chiara will have her holiday dance recital in a few hours, and our school will go ahead with its Christmas concert tonight. As I sit in my warm and well-lit house, for which I am more grateful than ever, this weather-related event seems very much in season -- in more ways than one. Sure, we expect storms and cancellations and power outages in the winter, but this week, as we await the Gift of Light that changed the world forever, how fitting that we spent so much time these past few days reflecting on the darkness and how lost we would be without light in our lives.

And on that note, I must end with my favorite Bible passage:

"In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness
and the darkness has not overcome it."
-- John 1:1-5

Sunday, December 14, 2008

We're in the pink!

It's the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday. Rejoice! I am, as I always say, a "stickler" for the third Sunday, the rose Sunday, of Advent. I think it comes from the fact that so many people expect the rose Sunday to come up fourth, as the grand finale, not realizing that it is instead a reminder to us that Christmas is getting close and we'd better hop to it with the spiritual preparations. When Noah was young he learned -- incorrectly -- at both children's liturgy and faith formation class that the rose candle was lighted on the fourth week of Advent. It drove me crazy, especially when he refused to believe me when I explained he'd been given inaccurate information. Not long after, we pulled him out of faith formation and put him in Catholic school, which might seem like a rather dramatic move, but this week, when our pastor asked the congregation if anyone knew what the pink candle signified, and Noah, who is almost 12, responded, "joy," and then explained that the purple candles signified repentance, I was feeling pretty content. Sure, he'd heard it from me over and over, but he'd also just re-learned it in school and I think that's what made the biggest impression.

We are deep in the throes of Advent here. Yesterday Noah was helping with our parish's Giving Tree preparations. Today Olivia was practicing for Angel Choir. This week will include our school's performance of Christmas carols at a local mall as well as our school's annual Christmas concert. Add in a few dance class recitals and a reconciliation service and you've got some serious holiday spirit in the making.

I'm trying to take these days leading up to Christmas at a slower pace despite the myriad commitments. I gave up writing Christmas cards this year (so don't feel bad if you don't get a card from us), and I've toned done the shopping to a minimum, not because I'm not feeling generous but because I'm not feeling frenzied. I want this season to be about the important stuff.

On that note, I recently saw this little video clip on Ironic Catholic and wanted to pass it on. It is, at first, amusing and light-hearted, but then it becomes more serious and inspiring. In fact, I had goosebumps at one point and, by the end, I was applauding all by myself in my family room. It is Bobby McFerrin and his audience spontaneously breaking out into a rendition of Ave Maria. Enjoy, and happy Gaudete Sunday. Think pink.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The ice man cometh

We woke up this morning to a world coated in ice -- and no cable, telephone or internet service. It's crazy how dependent we've become on those little wires that connect us to the world. It was a bad time to find out that our one radio didn't work anymore, so we had to call a friend to find out if school was canceled. It was. By 7 a.m. Olivia was asking me to sew a doll with her. By 7:15 a.m. Noah was asking me to play chess. That was followed by requests for eggs, smoothies, video games, play dates with school friends who live on the other side of town, more sewing of the aforementioned doll, yoga, cocoa, popcorn. You get the idea. It's only 1 p.m. The day is young. Who knows what they'll come up with over the course of the next eight hours before bed time arrives.

Here are some quick shots of the ice-coated trees in our yard. (If you click on the photos, you'll get the full-size version where the ice is more visible.) We were lucky not to lose any limbs or whole trees so far. Some neighbors and friends did not fare so well. Now, as things warm up, you can hear the sheets of ice sliding off the house and crashing to the ground and porch. It sounds like we're under an attack of some sort.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Remembering Thomas Merton

Today is the 40th anniversary of Thomas Merton's tragic death by accidental electrocution while at a conference in Bangkok. I managed to forget the date (Dennis reminded me), despite the fact that I read at least a line or two of Merton almost every day. So much of what he wrote resonates with me. Sometimes I don't even quite understand it on an intellectual level but on a spiritual level it makes complete sense to me.

I couldn't possibly do justice to Merton by picking one quote that sums up the power of his gift, but I will quote the one passage that I have hanging next to my desk:

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually do so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone."
-- Thoughts in Solitude

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Under the weather

I'm not feeling so great these days. Hence, the low level of activity on the blog. I hope to be back to my normal routine later today or tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a little thought to ponder:

When I was reading my Magnificat reflections this Advent, I came across this one line that has stuck in my head for days on end.

"The Lord is not scandalized by our unworthiness; he waits for the faith that welcomes his Presence."

Doesn't that just make your shoulders relax? God knows we're unworthy, but he loves us anyway. Yes, we should try to be more worthy, but with all our faults and all our weaknesses we are still beloved by the Beloved.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Looking for Christmas gift ideas?

We are cutting way back on Christmas shopping this year, and I have vowed that I will not set foot in a mall. I'm really not a mall person anyway. In fact, I am planning to do all my shopping within my town, which could be really challenging. I'll get some stuff online, but beyond that we're talking about our local bookstore and the odd little peace shop that seems to be able to stay in business. Cool store, but the choices are really limited to the few people I know who will put up with incense-scented gifts. Hey, I like it, so if you get a Buddhist prayer bell or some wacky peace pot, you know who to blame.

If you don't want to spend your days fighting for parking spaces and traipsing around an overcrowded mall or hitting every Target and Pier One in sight, what can you do? Well, you can get creative. Now the ideas I'm going to suggest certainly aren't for everyone, and I don't know if any will suit children, but I'm just going to throw some suggestions out there and maybe one or two will stick.

For the coffee lover, check out Mystic Monk Coffee by clicking HERE. I have not yet tried this coffee, but I've heard good things and I'm all for supporting the Carmelite Monks of northern Wyoming. I'm hoping to try this coffee soon since I am, in fact, a coffee lover. Hint, hint.

For the cheese lover, visit the venerable Trappist monks of the Abbey of Gethsemani (of Thomas Merton fame) by clicking HERE. I recently received a lovely selection of Gethsemani cheeses from a good friend. The monks also make bourbon fudge and bourbon fruitcake. No bourbon in the cheese, as far as I can tell. I want to visit the real Gethsemani some day, not just the web site. It's on my long-range "to do" list.

Speaking of Trappists, I can't forget the monks of St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Mass. They make 28 flavors of preserves without any artificial gunk or preservatives. You can check them out by clicking HERE. I have a Trappist friend who lived at Spencer for a while, so I have a soft spot for this abbey, which is also on my list of places to visit and is more likely to happen since it's not that far away.

For the cheesecake lover on your list, visit the Orthodox Nuns of New Skete by clicking HERE and checking out the rather pricey but obviously delicious offerings. Amaretto and creme, chocolate amaretto, eggnog, Irish creme, Kahlua, pumpkin, and more. Yum.

And then there are the more eclectic offerings to be found at In-His-Steps by clicking HERE. I bought a beautiful and funky handbag from this group when our parish school held its annual craft fair. I bought it as a Christmas gift for someone, but I'm going to have a hard time parting with it. Perhaps I can get the intended a bourbon fruitcake instead? In all seriousness, this group does great work in Cambodia, helping orphans and widows, abused women, and victims of human trafficking to get their lives on track. They sell at craft fairs and other offbeat places, so check out the schedule on their web site.

Now, I've given you quite a few creative gift ideas, but equally important is to tell you what you should NOT buy. I'll just offer one warning: Stay away from the "Nativity Rubber Duckies." I'm not kidding. They actually make such a thing. Here's a photo, in case you don't believe me.

Why? Why, I ask you, would anyone need or want rubber duckies dressed as the Holy Family and assorted shepherds and magi? It's beyond bizarre. Almost as strange as the Maximilian Kolbe doll for children. Some things just shouldn't be toys. Enough said.

And this leads me to my next suggestion. Perhaps, if for any reason we feel compelled to buy something like a Nativity rubber duckie, we have simply purchased far too much. Perhaps we should reconsider Christmas and what our giving is all about. One organization, Redefine Christmas, is promoting that idea full force at its web site, which you can visit by clicking HERE. Redefine Christmas is all about giving gifts of charity. Maybe the person who already has everything doesn't need another sweater or tie. Maybe he'd get more satisfaction out of knowing that his gift helped someone who doesn't have enough money to buy food or who can't afford to give their children books. Check it out, and if you don't like any of their ideas, pick your favorite charity and strike out on your own.

Christmas gift giving has gotten out of hand. This year the economy is threatening to bring everyone back to their senses, but maybe, just maybe, we should be giving more thoughtfully and more simply regardless of the economic outlook. It's not about the gifts; it's about the Gift.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A trying week, and it's only Wednesday

You may have wondered why I'm posting elf videos and cat flicks instead of writing anything meaningful. Well, aside from the fact that the videos made me laugh, they also gave me a break from blogging during this unusual and difficult week.

Chiara has shingles and had to see four doctors in five days. Thankfully, it looks like it has peaked and is starting to fade. The stuff near her eye had us in a panic, but it seems like the worst is over now.

Just as Chiara fell into a deep sleep this afternoon -- her first nap in days -- I got a call from school saying that Noah was in the nurse's office throwing up. Nice. So I woke Chiara, which was a bit like waking a bear in mid-hibernation, and we headed to school. Now Noah is in bed, and Chiara is dressed as a princess, barking orders at everyone -- Princess Scarface.

Olivia just arrived home on the bus with her school portrait in her hands. Why do they give children expensive portraits to carry home in backpacks and on buses like a piece of scrap paper picked up off the floor? We had one minor bend in the photo, which I think I can cover with the frame, but, still, come on people. These photos cost a lot of money. It would be nice to get them without creases and crinkles.

I think you can tell that I'm feeling a little cranky today. OK, a lot cranky. Tune in tomorrow to see who's home with what illness.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Too good not to share

I thought I'd lighten the mood a bit after yesterday's heavy start-of-Advent post, and this is just the thing to do it. Maybe it's just me, but I think this video is hysterical. Thanks to Ironic Catholic for the heads up.