Friday, October 31, 2008

My little goblins

Another Halloween is over. We've got three tired kids and a ton of candy. We should be set until Easter in terms of chocolate. Here's how things looked before we set out.
That's Hannah Montana, a little ballerina, and a dementor...

Halloween: The Sequel

OK, I almost didn't post this video clip because I figured that if you take the time to watch this, you probably won't have time to read my other Halloween post from earlier today. But, it's a timely, informative and funny clip about Halloween and All Saints' Day by one of my favorite writers, Jesuit Father James Martin, so I just had to post it. Just promise me you'll read the post before it as well. Deal? Deal.

And thanks to Barry at The Tail End for the heads up on this one.


Halloween is in full force here, even if the costumes are still on hangers. By the time Chiara and I had finished our errands this morning, she had a pocketful of chocolate thanks to the bank teller, the woman at the dry cleaners, and the produce person, of all people, at the grocery store. You'd think she'd be handing out carrots or bananas or something freshly grown. Add all that to the big tin of ghost cookies that Chiara received from her Uncle Bill via UPS and you've got quite a sugar rush in the making before anyone even utters the words "trick or treat."

I have to admit that, in terms of costumes, we've had it pretty easy this year. Noah is going to be what he was last year: a "dementor" from the Harry Potter books and movies. It's a pretty scary-looking costume, and, if you've read the books, a pretty scary concept in general. Dementors basically suck your soul out of you. They take away all your joy. I look at the costume as a modern-day version of a vampire or ghost. But, alas, when I went to daily Mass at noon today, and our pastor asked Noah, who was serving as acolyte, what he was going to be, the word "dementor" seemed to echo off the chapel walls and hit me in the head over and over. I felt myself slinking down in my chair. Nothing makes dementor sound even worse than it is than saying it right from the chapel altar. It was a proud moment for me as a parent.

Our other costume choices are much more sedate and charming. Chiara is going to be a ballerina using Olivia's outfit from a ballet dance recital years ago, and Olivia is going to be Hannah Montana using last year's hip hop dance recital outfit, although she does have an "official" Hannah Montana wig, and we braved the ransacked costume aisles at Wal-Mart last night in search of a sparkly microphone and a sufficiently hip jacket to go with the costume. We got both after some significant searching, and, although I really despise going to Wal-Mart, I have to say that last night I was happy to be in a store that was selling costumes that look like they belong on children because that is certainly not the case elsewhere.

It was just last weekend that I opened our Sunday paper and had to hide the party store flyer advertising costumes because the outfits -- even for 8-year-old girls -- were so suggestive that it made my stomach turn. If you don't have children or haven't seen one of these flyers, let me tell you, Halloween ain't what it used to be, folks. Children's costumes, specifically girls' costumes, have been hypersexualized to a point of disgrace. If you are foolish enough to allow your fourth-grader to dress up as a French maid, I don't have much sympathy for you. But, if your daughter wants to be Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz or Snow White or some other sweet little princess-like character, beware. Many of these costumes have been trimmed down and tarted up to the point that Dorothy no longer looks fit for the yellow brick road. Today's tiny Dorothys look ready for only one road -- 42nd Street in the pre-Giuliani days.

The dresses are micro-minis. The tights have been transformed into thigh-high fishnets. Usually the midriffs are bare and the neckline is plunging. And we wonder why our kids are so sexually advanced. Gee, I don't know where they'd get that overly sexualized view of themselves. Or, in the case of boys, of the girls next door. Of course, if you flip the page over to the adult-size costumes, you can see where your little pop-tart Dorothy might end up one day. I don't think we're in Kansas anymore! If you are a woman and you want to buy a costume that does not look like it should come with a pole, then you're pretty much limited to the nun costume, which in some ways is just as outrageous as all the other fantasy costumes since there are probably as many nuns in this style habit as there are nurses running around in fishnets and short-shorts. What a world. What a world.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Magic in the air

If you'd like a little late October inspiration, head over to Peace Garden Mama by clicking HERE and read Roxane's beautiful ode to a few steadfast autumn leaves. It's definitely worth the trip across cyberspace.

Your prayers are needed

Please, please, please pray for a little girl named Constance, who is 5 years old and is experiencing unexplained kidney failure in both kidneys. Please also remember her mom and dad, two sisters and brand new baby brother. I can't even imagine what they are all going through at this time. I try to put myself in their shoes and just end up crying over the prospect that we never know what's coming down the road and how helpless that feels, especially, I think, for parents trying to protect their children from anything and everything bad. The only thing it seems I can do at this point is pray, so I thought I'd call on all you good people to join me. Thanks.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The cold, hard truth

Well it turns out that all those friends had very good reasons for not inviting me to their jewelry parties all these years. I'm not going to say I'm cheap because I'm not when it comes to important stuff, but let's just say that I cannot justify $150 on a piece of costume jewelry that I might wear once a month, at most. Although, if I spent that much on a piece of costume jewelry, I think I'd find a way to wear it every day, maybe even to bed each night. I was wildly disappointed. I had hoped to get a lot of Christmas shopping done and maybe even buy something for myself, but I knew I was in trouble when I walked in and saw that none of the pieces had prices on them. There are only two reasons not to put prices on things: Everyone who's attending has so much disposable income that they don't have to consider cost, or everyone who's attending will be so stunned by the prices that if they see the price tag before they try anything on, you won't sell so much as one earring. I think the small group fell into the latter category, although I'll speak only for myself.

I tried on a few very lovely necklaces, and then the saleswoman showed me how I could make those necklaces look even better by layering more necklaces - and hundreds of dollars -- on top of the original. Some of the combos would have been upward of $400, which I find absolutely shocking. I just can't believe people have money to throw around like that.

Of course, I felt like a heel not buying anything, which is sort of the point of these parties. You have some crackers and cheese, drink a glass of wine, talk a bit with the other guests, and suddenly you feel as though you will be ridden out of town on a rail if you don't buy something. So I found one of the elusive catalogs and flipped through until I found some small earrings that were not on display but were reasonably priced. I bought some Christmas gifts for my nieces and called it a night.

I'll be back later with some thoughts on something other than necklaces.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Big night out

So I'm heading to my first jewelry party tonight, which is a big deal for me. Not that I'm so into jewelry. I'm not. But for the eight years I've been living in this town I've been waiting to get invited to a jewelry party, any jewelry party. This doesn't say much for my social skills since you can't swing a cheap necklace without hitting someone who's hosting one of these things. I have been invited to a couple of parties second-hand, but that always makes me feel so cheap. How pathetic are you if you have to sneak in on someone else's invitation? Actually, I do have to admit that I was once invited to a jewelry party given by the sister of a dead friend who lives two hours away -- the sister, not the dead friend. But that didn't work out, and besides, I'm not so desperate that I'll drive two hours to look at some silver earrings.

I have been invited to Pampered Chef parties, decorating parties, skin care parties, make-up parties, and even a couple of Jockey clothing parties. For whatever reason I have not been able to score the big jewelry party invite. Maybe they've seen the jewelry I wear and figure it's pointless to invite me. Anyway, big thanks to my neighbor for taking a chance on me.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pyramid of Cousins: The Sequel

OK, I believe this falls under the category of "You Can Dress Us Up, But You Can't Take Us Out." If you've been with us through the summer, then you know that my cousins and I are prone to forming human pyramids, which seemed quaint when it was happening at a summer picnic. Now, captured in formal wear at one cousin's wedding, it seems a little insane. But, hey, we had fun.

The wedding was great. Lots of good food. Lots of dancing. Lots of family. Perfect recipe. Chiara found a friend in the flower girl and danced the night away. Noah couldn't believe the cocktail hour was not the dinner, and Olivia enjoyed dressing up and stepping out. A good time was had by all.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Keep those comments coming

Thank you to everyone who left comments on the blog or emailed me privately to talk about the "lost generation" of Catholics and what you remember from your years in religious education. I'd like to keep the comments on this one open for a couple more days, in part because I'm hoping for more but also because I'm heading to my cousin's wedding tomorrow and won't be around to post.

So...if you have no idea what I'm talking about right now, please read the previous post and join in. If you've already read or commented, please pass the post on to someone else who might have something to say. I'm not necessarily looking for only negative memories. If you had a great experience in religious education or Catholic school and have never felt disconnected from the Church, tell us about that and what you think made it all work.

And thank you again. To those of you who emailed me directly: I'm trying to get back to each of you personally but it may take me a little while to catch up.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Calling all Catholics, sort of

Here's the chance to have your say about being raised Catholic. In the next few months, I will be speaking at conferences in New Jersey and Colorado, and, in anticipation of that, I'm looking for input from Catholics -- practicing or non-practicing -- between the ages of 30 and 50, although if you fall outside that window and have something to say anyway, feel free.

My topic is the "lost generation" of Catholics, those people who came of age soon after Vatican II, when religious education was rapidly changing and not always in the best ways. Yes, the Church gave up the harshness of the Baltimore Catechism but they sort of threw the baby out with the bathwater. In an attempt to help young Catholics develop a more personal relationship with Jesus, a lot of the basic teachings of the faith got left by the wayside. I always say I came of age in the Era of the Collage -- lots of cutting and gluing pictures of happy people, not so many lessons on actual faith basics. I got almost all of that directly from my family, specifically my mother.

Since the publication of my second book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Catholic Catechism," I have been hearing from lots of adult Catholics who say that they were never taught many of the things that are contained in the catechism. So my question for you is this: Do you have any recollections of religious education (or Catholic schooling) that make you feel as though you were not sufficiently grounded in the faith? Do you feel disconnected from the Church now because of this? Is there anything specific the Church (meaning worldwide) or your church (meaning local) could do to help you become more involved in your faith or catch up on what you missed out the first time around?

Now remember, this is not a gripe session about specific Church teachings you don't like or don't agree with. This is about the overall approach of faith formation that you experienced and whether you feel you were given the necessary education to understand your faith. If you have children, do you feel they are getting a better education in the faith now than you did years ago?

You can respond via the comment section in this post, by e-mail, or, if you don't like to write and want to talk, email me and let me know and I will gladly give you a call. For those who live close by, I would like to hold a "focus group" within the next few weeks, where I can have some of you over to my house to discuss some of these things in person. Coffee, tea, wine and desserts will be provided, if that helps draw you in.

So please, respond -- write, call, e-mail, send smoke signals, whatever it takes to get you to tell me your Catholic faith story. I will not use any names if/when I incorporate information into my presentations. Everything is as confidential as you want it to be. Thanks!

Friday, October 17, 2008

A conversation on prayer

First, let me say thank you to all of you who left comments on the blog or emailed me privately since yesterday. You are such a nice group of people! We all need to get together for coffee some time.

Now, on to the matter at hand. Yes, yes, the way to begin a prayer life is to start small. Small but consistent is the key. Jill's suggestion of 15 minutes is excellent. Unfortunately, based on my own experience or maybe my own personality and prayer style, 15 minutes is still too long for me as a starting point. This whole conversation made me recall a time about eight years ago when I went to confession to a very cool priest at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas. It was just before Olivia's baptism. He asked me to give myself a penance. I chose five minutes of prayer every day, not because I saw it as a form of punishment (which is not what penance is about anyway) because I saw it as the only thing that might get my spiritual life on track once and for all. Eight years later, I'm sad to say, I'm still not committed to five minutes a day. That's not to say I don't pray at all. I do. A lot. I may do 20 minutes one day and then nothing for a few days. I may do five minutes before bed or five minutes in the middle of the day, but not five minutes day in, day out, which is how it needs to be in order to make it stick so we can move on to bigger chunks of time.

I think the time you spend in prayer at the beginning also has to do with the kind of prayer you're doing. If you're saying the Rosary or praying the Liturgy of the Hours, 15 minutes might go by in a flash. In fact, it might not seem nearly long enough. If you are doing contemplation, 15 minutes can feel like 15 hours, just sitting there in silence, waiting for God to say something, which is what I've been working on. And usually, when I do pull off some time in contemplation, I end up feeling like I must have done it wrong because nothing happened, which I think is just part of our human tendency to want to see some visible progress when we work at something, even prayer.

So last night I did go down to my prayer space to sit in silence, thinking that maybe some prayer was just what I needed to shake that whiny, self-doubting mood I was in yesterday. But before I started, I decided to read a few pages of a book by a Catholic writer friend -- "The Journey: A Guide for the Modern Pilgrim," by Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda and her husband, Michael Scaperlanda. Now, I'm not planning on any big pilgrimages, unfortunately, but I am working on something that relates to pilgrimage, so I thought Maria's book might be helpful. Boy, was it ever, in a deeply personal way.

In the chapter called "Developing a Pilgrim Heart," Maria talks about her home office writing schedule, something that appeals to me since I, too, write from home. She talks about how she takes time for contemplative prayer before she ever leaves her bedroom each morning and how she writes in a journal each morning and then allows herself to write an entire page of "whatever comes out" before she gets down to the business of the day. She also talks about how this is a difficult discipline, one that requires trust."My soul waits for God, and that involves trust," she writes.

Then Maria goes on to talk about the amazing pilgrimage she made to Europe with her entire family back in 2000, and she addresses the "load we carry," not only in our actual backpacks when we are on physical pilgrimages but in our figurative backpacks when we are going about our days and trying to get right with God and the people in our lives.

"So maybe I am not as materialistic as some people. However, I carry another burden that is just as taxing. It is the question, Am I good enough? A little voice sings this out-of-tune melody in my ear: I am not worthy (of a nice home, cars, things, trips). I am not good enough to be loved. I will never be good enough to be loved and don't deserve the goodness and bounty that God gives me every day. This spiritual burden is one I wish I didn't carry in my backpack, but I do, all too often. It's a pattern, a habit really, that I have allowed for so long to shape my behavior that I have to consciously and deliberately fight it almost daily." (p. 31)

By the time I finished this passage, I was in tears. It was as if Maria read my heart, spoke my mind, felt my pain. Those words could not fit me more perfectly. Maria summed up exactly what I face, what I feel every day. But my tears weren't tears of sadness. They were tears of hope. Here was someone I have known for a long time, someone whose work I respect, and who seems to be many, many spiritual years ahead of me even if we are almost identical in human years, and she, too, regularly battles the demons of self-doubt and unworthiness. Wow.

You have no idea how this passage about heavy spiritual backpacks lightened my own burden last night. All I can say, is Thank You, Maria. Gracias, amiga! Your words were the jolt I needed to remind me of what I already know: Even when I feel unworthy, even when my prayer life seems plodding and unproductive, I am loved by a Creator who put me here for a reason.

Five minutes, 15 minutes, two hours. Whatever amount of prayer time we can pull off makes a difference. I think I've said in a previous post, that we can even use everyday things -- like the dryer buzzing or a car horn honking -- as a moment of mindfulness that calls us back to our center and reminds us to focus, even for just a few seconds, on God.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wading my way through the clutter

Well, last week, when I vowed to take control of the clutter in our house and free my mind from the visual chaos that bogs me down, I did not think it was possible to end up with more clutter. But, alas, that's where we are today. Work deadlines, kids' activities and Dennis' recent back injury joined forces to defeat my best laid plans. Instead of throwing out reams of paper, the kids just brought home more. Yesterday, as I searched for a square inch of empty counter space in order to sign yet another permission slip from school, I realized that things are reaching epic proportions here.

At the same time, I'm battling writing demons that keep taunting me with the possibility? reality? that I'm really just writing for myself, and, if that's the case, should I be writing at all? (I have to go back to the clutter and chaos and convince myself that all of these negative vibes are tied together somehow.) So I spent my "free" time yesterday, which basically means the five minutes it takes me to drive to Chiara's preschool, pondering this thought, wondering if perhaps my writing days are nearing an end, and, if so, then what? Meanwhile, I picked up a book I had on hold at the library, opened it up, and was given the exact quote I needed to read. It was a collection of famed Trappist monk Thomas Merton's journals called Entering the Silence, and this is what it said:

"Let me keep silence in this world, except in so far as God wills and in the way He wills it. Let me at least disappear into the writing I do. It should mean nothing special to me, nor harm my recollection. The work could be a prayer; its results should not concern me." -- December 14, 1946

Imagine that. Not worrying about the results of my writing? Not thinking about the fact that my first book from almost seven years ago never has and never will result in a royalty and cannot be found on any bookstore shelves anywhere? Not thinking about the fact that other than a few dedicated readers -- I'm talking to YOU -- this blog is really just a private journal put up for the world to see? Not wondering if there's any point to what I do here day after day? That's a big leap for me. So much of myself is wrapped up in what I do and how well I do it, which I guess is the case for a lot of us.

And then I found another quote that really did tie up all these loose ends I'm dropping all over this blog. The feeling of chaos in the clutter, the feeling of uselessness in my work, the inability to make progress in contemplation. Just as I suspected, it's all connected.

In his book "The Shattered Lantern: Rediscovering the Felt Presence of God," Father Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, writes: "When self-worth depends upon achievement then very few persons are going to spend much time in prayer or contemplation since these are by definition nonutilitarian, pragmatically useless, a waste of time, a time when nothing is accomplished. One of the major reasons why we are not more contemplative, why we do not pray more, and why we do not take time to smell the flowers, is that these activities do not accomplish anything, produce anything, or practically add anything to life...In pragmatism, contemplation dies, not through badness but through busyness."

Bingo. Contemplation and prayer, the things I need most in my life in order to conquer the chaos and make peace with myself and the busyness around me, are left by the wayside because they don't have any earning power -- at least not that we can see. Contemplation and prayer don't bring in a paycheck, they don't help the kids score As on their tests, they don't help us drop pounds and shed inches like working out at the YMCA. In short, time spent in contemplation and prayer feels like goofing off, although both are much harder than typical goofing off activities. So, how to get past this monumental hurdle, which shows up again and again and again? To be honest, I have no idea. I guess the starting point is to make a real prayer schedule that doesn't get changed just because we're tired or busy or stayed up late to watch the post-debate chatter. I have a feeling that this hurdle is going to be harder to jump than that big pile of clutter I've been whining about all week. But I'll carry on and see what happens...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's funny because it's true

I first came across this incredibly funny essay on parenting years ago. Now it's back in circulation, and just as funny as ever. If you have children or know people with children or have ever had to deal with children for any reason whatsoever, this will strike a chord. It's called "Old Testament Parenting: Lamentations of the Father" by Ian Frazier, and it is hysterical. Makes me realize that the parenting hoops I'm jumping through this week are all par for the course. Click HERE and enjoy.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The great pumpkin

We decided to pick our own pumpkins at Stanton's Farm in Feura Bush today. The farm, which is owned by a lovely family from our parish and Catholic school, is just a few minutes from our house and, as you can see from the photos (including the header photo at the top of this blog), the weather and the fall foliage were just perfect. Chiara, on the other hand, was not so perfect. See photo above. She loved the hay ride to the pumpkin field but refused to admit it on film.

We found a great pumpkin, as well as some gourds and Indian corn. I've never picked Indian corn right from the stalk before. Very cool. We also brought home a big corn stalk for the front porch and a bale of hay, which we use first for Halloween decorating and later behind our outdoor Nativity scene. It's all very upstate New York, which I am just loving more and more these days, in case you haven't noticed.

The kids had a great time in the corn maze and even more fun in the hay maze, which really did stump us a few times, leaving us staring at a wall of hay while we tried to find a way out. The hay slides were also a big hit with everyone except Chiara. See photo below if you don't believe me. She was not amused by the long, dark tunnel slide or the big kersplash into a pile of hay at the bottom. Once was definitely enough for her.

We headed home with a bag of cider donuts, which we have all declared the best cider donuts ever. I have promised to get the kids at least one more batch before the season is out. They're that good.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Clutter and contemplation

Given the work I do, I have lots of newspaper clips and books hanging around my house. In a box under my bed, in a basket next to my dresser, in not-so-neat piles around my desk downstairs, I have unorganized "archives" of stories and columns I've written over the past 25 years, sometimes more than one copy of the same story. It occurred to me this morning -- don't ask me why -- that some day, when I'm gone, my kids are going to open these boxes or look at these piles and heave them into a dumpster without bothering to glance at what's there, and who can blame them. I've got the most mundane stuff piled in with the best stuff I've ever done. If even I can't bother to sort out the flotsam and jetsam, then why would anyone else take the time?

So that got me thinking about the incessant clutter in my house. Don't get me wrong, if you walked into my house now, you wouldn't think it looked messy. But in the nooks and crannies, trust me, it's cluttered and messy. I know it's an issue for lots of families. Kids bring home reams of paper every week -- tests and homework, announcements and art work, permission slips and newsletters. No matter how diligent I am about keeping up with this endless paper trail, too much of it ends up piled on a counter or stuck to the refrigerator with a big magnet because I don't know what else to do with it.

And so the clutter grows...and it's not just paper. Closets are packed to overflowing with clothes, half of which no one ever wears. Boxes and bins of toys are so overwhelming that the kids don't even bother to play with the stuff because it's just too hard to get to. Kitchen cabinets and the basement and attic...There's too much stuff everywhere. And when there's no empty space in our kitchen or bedroom or basement and every square inch of our life is cluttered up with unnecessary extras, it makes it that much hard to clear out an empty space in our heads for contemplation. Clutter on the outside leads to clutter on the inside, which is why Zen design is so streamlined and stripped down or why monks and nuns in monasteries live in almost empty "cells." You can't settle down into silence if everything around you is teeming with the "noise" of clutter and chaos.

I once had a yoga teacher who taught classes in her home. It was the most sparsely decorated place I'd ever seen. We removed our shoes before entering, and there, in her living room, was nothing but a small settee and a little table that folded up against the wall. Her bedroom was a futon on the floor behind a Japanese paper screen. There is no doubt that the clear and calm space made our yoga practice that much easier. When I try to do yoga at my house, I typically have to spend 30 minutes picking up toys and putting away laundry and moving furniture to make a space to practice. The result: My efforts to practice are almost always doomed. Same with my prayer space, which is a little corner of my "office," which is a corner of our finished basement, which is the playroom. So...on those rare occasions when I actually decide to go to my prayer corner to pray, I have to hope that the basement doesn't look like a toy tornado just passed through, and I have to hope that I had time to put away all my books and papers when I finished my last project, and I have to hope that the Foosball table isn't pushed too far into my office because there is nothing prayerful or prayer-inspiring about a physical space that is completely out of control.

So what to do? Well, we have a three-day weekend coming up and, hard as it is to believe, the only thing we have on the schedule is a soccer game and church, which means I get to work on a big writing project that's nearing deadline and I have time to tackle some house projects as well. I'm starting to think that the clutter problem needs to take priority because without us even realizing it, the clutter is making life more difficult for everyone. If I have a hard time thinking or settling down when surrounded by endless piles of junk, I'm sure the kids are feeling the same way when they try to settle down to do homework or read. There's just too much stuff in our lives. So we'll see how it goes. Will I be willing to part with 25-year-old stories from my first newspaper job? Will I be willing to box up a bunch of unused toys and donate them to a good cause? Will I get rid of those jeans I'm saving because I'm sure I'll fit into them again some day?

I recently read about someone who is trying to pare down his life to only 100 belongings. That seems so outrageously impossible to me that I can't even think about it, but maybe I could work in the opposite direction and get rid of 100 unnecessary belongings. I'm convinced that the only way to reach a point where I can find a quiet, empty space in my head is to first create a quiet, empty space in my house.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Living up to the stereotype

So Chiara and I were in the kitchen tonight, when all of a sudden I heard a rustling of plastic bags and the pantry doors came flying open. I knew our dog, Greta, was on the opposite side of the house, so I could only assume that this was a mouse, or, more likely, something bigger, like a squirrel. So I did what any self-respecting woman would do. I jumped up on a kitchen chair. I wish I were kidding, but I'm not. Where does this come from? I actually jumped on a chair without a second's thought, as if it were the most natural thing to do, as if I were a cartoon character.

So there I am, standing on the kitchen chair, calling Dennis to come check things out. He goes over to the pantry, and disarms a....loaf of oat bread. Yes, I was standing on a chair, taking cover from a large loaf of oat bread that had fallen off a shelf, landed on some plastic bags that we reuse (being green and all) and knocked open the door. Man, do I feel like a dork. But, the kids got a good laugh out of it, and that's all that matters, right?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Boys return from Ticonderoga

Dennis and Noah returned from the Boy Scout Camporee at Fort Ticonderoga, which is about two hours from our house up in the Adirondack Mountains. (Everything seems to be "about two hours" from here, which I guess is a good thing.) They had a good time, despite the cold nights and the lack of previously advertised "re-enactment" at the fort, which was critical in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War. You can see Lake Champlain to one side and Lake George to the other. Dennis said the leaves were beautiful, about one week from peak season. Dennis forgot the camera, so here are a few shots taken with his cell phone.

I'll be back later with more thoughts on something other than scouting...

Friday, October 3, 2008

First Friday

Today was our school's regular First Friday Mass, and it was especially lovely, I thought. The seventh grade was in charge of planning, and they made beautiful banners and distributed handmade (and blessed) prayer cards that focused on the lesson of the Good Samaritan. The highlight of the morning, however, was the meditation hymn sung by our school's Liturgy Choir. Looking around, I could see that I wasn't the only parent wiping away tears as the kids sang the incredibly beautiful Chris Rice song "Come to Jesus." If you haven't heard it, go to iTunes and buy it. I didn't even have a student in the choir and I was all choked up. It wasn't just the simple but moving words that got to me. It was the angelic sound of the kids' clear and happy voices and the realization that I am very lucky that this kind of liturgy is just part of normal school life for my children. I couldn't help but wonder what these kids might go on to do with their lives because of the strong faith foundation they are receiving right alongside and intertwined with their lessons in math and reading, science and history. I went to public school growing up, so this sort of thing wasn't part of my experience until we moved the kids to Catholic school three years ago. Makes me sad that so many Catholic schools are closing when this is exactly the kind of thing our crazy mixed-up world needs more of.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My brave little baby

Chiara came through her minor surgery with flying colors. She approached it with curiosity rather than fear, which is more than I can say for her mother. Within minutes of coming out of general anesthesia, she was sitting up, eating a red, white and blue rocket pop, and talking a mile a minute. Every nurse who walked by marveled at her and said she was their best patient and a "tough" little girl. Even when they took out the IV and blood was coming out of her hand fast and furious, she sat there stoically and took it all in. I was so proud of her, and so relieved when it was all over and she was home and running around and acting like nothing unusual had happened. Really, if she wasn't wearing a giant bandage on the side of her head (see photo above), you'd never know she had surgery. She didn't require any Tylenol. In fact, we didn't even fill the prescription for Tylenol with codeine because she seemed completely unfazed by the whole experience. She napped as usual, slept through the night, and bounded off to preschool this morning, anxious to show her friends the bandage she was sporting. She reported back later that everyone loved her bandage.

Here she is with one of her post-surgery prizes: