Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Quick Takes Sixth Friday in Lent

I can't get all that fancy schmancy html code to copy and paste from Jen's site to mine, probably because I'm on my mom's computer in St. Louis and it's a mac, and I don't speak mac.  Intuitive, my #$$.

Here are my quick takes:

1.  What did you do on St. Patrick's Day?  I went with my very own Patrick to an Irish pub of course, with kids of course, to hear his brother's Irish band play mostly Irish music.  The Great Whiskey Project anyone?  


2.  Have you ever seen this Barats and Bereta youtube video about Mother's Day?  You should.  It bears reference to every family picture taking event I have ever been a part of.



Anyway, I was taking close-ups of Edmund being a goofball....when Peter joined in.  

Lovely boys, aren't they?

3.  Every spring, while doing the Great Seasonal Drawer Changeover, I decide to re-invent some stuff.
These "mom" capris weren't making me feel the love anymore, so I had my tailor "fix" them.

Before.


After.

So, my knee-length walking shorts are a little long.  But we're almost there.  And now I can spare myself the agony of shopping for shorts, because you know when I find something that fits, I buy it in every color.  Yes, I had two pairs of these "mom" capris, and now I have two pairs of slightly-still-too-long walking shorts.  

4.   I spent lots of time in the backyard, in the grass, on a lovely quilt from a dear friend, with Edmund, Lucy, and Baby J this week.  Edmund and Lucy were having the worst spring break ever, but then we went to St. Louis last night, so you know it's only going to get better.

My baby has no fear.
5. Gratuitous sweaty baby belly shot.   I should have taken pictures of skirt #2 that Lucy and I completed this week, or the gorgeous mantel that the Chef installed and painted.  But I didn't.  Next week, I promise.  Wait, no I don't.  It will be Good Friday, and I will be on the road again.


6.  I'm torn between a rock and a hard place here, but the Chef has convinced me that the power of prayer is too strong an opportunity to pass.  Several (like nearly a hundred) of you lovely readers peruse my ramblings every day.  I would be most gratified if you would give a shout out to the One Above for my sister and her husband as she battles cancer yet again.  She is one tough cookie.  We are filled with His Hope and asking for His healing for her.  

7.  Enjoy your weekend!


Thursday, March 29, 2012

What We're Reading Now


The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater is a magnificent blend of Misty of Chincoteague and Jaws.  Stiefvater does an incredible job of weaving the celtic myth of the water horse into a modern story of an orphan girl, Kate or Puck Connolly whose entering the Scorpio Races to save her home and keep what remains of her family together.

Water horses are like regular horses, except they are much larger, faster, and have square pupils.  Oh, and they are carnivores.  They are sometimes "more lupine than equine."  The opening line of the book is a haunting refrain, "Today is the first of November.  Today someone will die." 

Water horses eat people.  And other flesh too, sheep, cats, cows, you name it.  They come out of the sea in autumn, and ravage the tiny island of Thisby.  Even if they are caught, they are always dangerous.  You never know when one is going to take a bite out of somebody.

Kate's parents died while out on their boat.  They were killed by water horses.  About to lose her older brother to the mainland, Kate announces she will be racing in the Scorpio Races on November 1st.  She cannot abide riding a water horse though, so she enters her own gray mare (a regular horse meal to the water horses). 

Not only is this the first time a domestic horse has run in the Scorpio Races, it is also the first time a girl has entered.  This leads to a few coarse comments from sexist, old-school villagers.  Comments that give me pause in recommending this book for kids.  High school age, no problem.  But middle-school?  Well, when Kate finds a friend in four time Scorpio Race champion, Sean Kendrick, one old timer makes double pumping gestures with his arms next to his hips and says something like, "Is she a better ride, Sean?"  See what I mean?

Sean and Kate's relationship is lovely and pure.  There is a definite spark between them as they share a ride on Sean's water horse.  They both dream of a scenario where they can live happily ever after on their beloved island.  Their relationship is loving rather than lascivious or lustful.  One of my favorite scenes is shortly after Sean and Kate realize that they care for each other.  At their next meeting, which is in front of several other riders, Sean wonders what Kate will say.  She says nothing, however.  And hands him a piece of a cake.  

And Kate goes to Mass!  And confession!  And the priest, though too old to drive, is portrayed as a wise and gentle man who genuinely cares about his flock.  But Sean is a sort of a pagan.  Some on the island have a weird ancient horse goddess religion.  When a friend of the family is killed by a water horse, he burned on a pyre, and his horse given back to the sea.  There is a parade with a woman dressed a horse goddess who reportedly grants one wish a year.  To declare her mount in the races, Kate must pour her blood on a rock, that fifty years ago was the site of a human sacrifice.  She only has to slice her finger though, and declare, "By my blood, I will ride."  Most villagers treat these New Orleans-esque macabre rites as traditions.  They make a big show of these events for the tourists. 

I believe this book will be the next Hunger Games or Twilight phenom.  The big issues with Hunger Games (gratuitous violence, mercy killing) and Twilight (lust, lust, and more lust) are not a problem in The Scorpio Races.  Though very violent, having a natural predatory killer is far preferable to children killing each other.


Leo and the Lesser Lion by Sandra Forrester is the bittersweet, Depression-era, saga of Mary Bayliss.  She and her beloved older brother Leo were the victims of drowning from which "Bayliss" recovered, but Leo did not.  Their family are practically suffocated with grief.  But this is not a sad book!  Well, not completely sad.

Mary Bayliss is told many times during her recovery that God must have saved her for a special purpose.  Now, don't conjure up images of Steve Martin in The Jerk.  I'm being serious.  She decides that her purpose is to become a nun.  She attends Sacred Heart School, where she has tortured nuns for six years.  After making this decision, she starts helping the nuns with the "weary travelers" aka hoboes. 

Two nights before Leo died, he and Mary Bayliss climb out the window to go visit a hobo fortune teller.  Before they go, Bayliss mentions that their pastor said fortune telling is a sin.  Leo laughs and asks her when she started listening to priests anyway.  This scene happens early in the book, and put that bad taste in my mouth that I get when the Church is portrayed as silly.

But after Bayliss's decision to become a nun, she gets to know some of the Sisters better.  The Sisters are shown to be generous, wise and caring. 


Several months after Leo's death, Bayliss's family takes in two girls who were left at the Children's Home.  Bayliss struggles with the fact that they are given Leo's room and her old toys.  She is also peeved that she can no longer help the Sisters after school, but must watch the girls instead.

However, Bayliss makes a great effort to change her behavior, to be less selfish.  There are many scenes where she goes out of her way to be helpful, to not slam doors when she is angry, to not respond to catty remarks.  Even after she realizes that being a nun might not be what God wants from her, she does not discard all of her good behaviors. 

In spite of its faults, I really enjoyed Leo and the Lesser Lion.  And I'm going to let my kids read it too.

Friday, March 23, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday Fifth Friday in Lent


--- 1 ---

We are very excited, planning our trip to GA for Easter to visit the our good friends, the Colonel and JDMom.  I got a Facebook hint that I might be getting one of these in my Easter basket, not that I'm on Facebook, seeing as how I gave it up for Lent...


--- 2 ---

Peter and I had a Mother/Son Luncheon yesterday.  It was lovely, Mass at the school, chicken at the Ritz, boys getting pictures taken with their moms.  One my friends referred to the Luncheon as "Motherboy," and now I can't separate the two images in my head.  If you're not familiar with Arrested Development, Motherboy is a mother/son costume contest.


--- 3 ---

The following Quick Take is a rather lengthy and bizarre glimpse into one of our dinnertime conversations.  Bizarre, because there were no references to bodily functions.


Last night at dinner, we discussed whether or not is legal to purchase C4, and if you can get it on the internet, legally or illegally.  Then we discussed how the FBI tracks keywords like C4 and watches the people to see if they're criminals.  The Chef brought up an article he read in Wired about some huge warehouses where the government can keep records of everything electronic, every phone conversation, email, etc.

Then Edmund asked if any person has touched the deepest part of the ocean with his hand.  This led the Chef to research the deepest part of the ocean, just because I disagreed with him and said that they don't know how deep the deepest part of the ocean is.  The Chef says, "They're pretty sure."  I still think I'm right.  I mean, "I'm pretty sure" doesn't strike me as scientific fact.


So, we learned all about the Mariana Trench and who has been down there and who is planning to go down there.

In 2012, I will go down to the deepest part of the ocean!  I may even try to touch it!

After a brief discussion about who James Cameron* is,  Peter said that one of his teachers almost was the teacher on Challenger Space Shuttle, which led us to a discussion about when the Challenger exploded, and where we were when it happened.  I was definitely in sixth grade reading class discussing Shirley Jackson's short story, The Lottery when Sr. Patricia Ann made the announcement over the PA. 


Then the Chef told us all about the other shuttle explosion over Texas in 2003, which I somehow missed, having given birth to Edmund less than a month before.  I have no memory of this event.  For all I know, last night was the first time I've ever heard about it.

Too bad Susan wasn't with us for dinner.  She recently learned that the NASA Space Program never sent astronauts to other planets.  I'm totally mystified as to how she ever got it into her head that astronauts had explored planets.  We've taken her to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  Heck, we're even related to an astronaut.  


*The Chef proofreads my posts, and at this point he said, "James Cameron is a tool."  I know, honey.

--- 4 ---

Baby J and I went shoe shopping, the first of many therapeutic retail expeditions.  Start 'em young.  We were very frustrated with the Stride Rite nazis...is nazi too harsh a word here?  Think of Seinfeld's Soup Nazi.  Anyway, because Baby J is not solo walking yet, they would only let a purchase from the "Step Two Early Walker" shelf which we didn't like because of the big rubber toe on every pair. 

We've also been to Von Maur but they don't carry wide widths which are essential with one who has as much instep fat sqwish as Baby J.  Nordstrom does carry wide widths in this ridiculously cute brand, See Kai Run.  I would wear these shoes.  They are so freaking cute!


These are the ones we got.
These are the ones I want for me.  She wants these too.  They're very tasty, but her chub bubbles out of the tops.


--- 5 ---
The Chef wrote a bio for Lucy's playbill:


Lucy is very excited to be on stage in a St. Genesius Production.  Of course, she is a middle child of 5 so drama comes naturally.  Lucy enjoys reading and singing in her room.  Her drawings of animals are legendary.  When she was 3, her teacher described her as socially savvy.  Do not cross her.  She is her father's favorite and her mother's second favorite, which is pretty good if you think about it.
--- 6 ---

Behold!  Lamb of God!

Note the use of a nursing stool as a sacramentary stand.  I don't know this kid, but I like his liturgical style.

--- 7 ---

I'm hosting a rosary at my house today, to pray for the Stand Up for Religious Freedom rallies around the country on this day, as well as some personal intentions.  This means I have to clean my house and buy donuts.  One of those things is much more appealing than the other.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's "What We're Reading Now" Wednesday!

Ok, here's hoping Baby J doesn't swat the mouse pad....


Last year, I started reading One-Handed Catch by M. J. Auch, because it was nominated for a Caudill award (which is like the Newbery award of Illinois).  I stopped reading, because I was in some kind of funk and just couldn't get past the part where Norm gets his hand stuck in his father's meat grinder at their family owned supermarket in post WWII America. 

I have been on the lookout for more "equal opportunity" in my reading choices and have been making a concerted effort to read just as many "boy" books as "girl" books.  So, I picked up One-Handed Catch, again.

This time I started where I had left off, when Norm gets home from the hospital, mid-summer, minus his left hand.   His mom, from day one, gives him no breaks when it comes to chores or schoolwork or other expectations.  She does help him to tie his shoes, however.  Norm's dad, blaming himself for the accident, is far more likely to cut Norm some slack, even to the point of discouraging Norm from trying out for the baseball team next spring. 

Norm, inspired by stories of a one-handed major league outfielder, figures out a way to re-learn throwing, catching, and batting with only one hand.  I don't want to give away the ending, but I'm really glad I finally finished this book.  Susan saw me reading it and said, "Haven't you read that already?  It's really good!" 


While perusing the local library shelves for more masculine material, I found this classic.  Peter read this whole series in grade school.  Mr. Tucket by Gary Paulsen is the story of a boy, Francis Tucket, who is captured by Pawnee from a wagon train on the Oregon Trail. 

Do not worry, gentle reader, he escapes after three weeks with the help of yet another one-armed character, mountain man extraordinaire, Mr. Jason Grimes.  Mr. Grimes takes a lot of time teaching Mr. fourteen year old Tucket how to survive in the wild West, as they look for the wagon train and the rest of his family, which they do not find, for at least five or six more novels. 

I can totally see why Peter loved these books, and how they have fed into our family's obsession with Survivorman and Man Vs. Wild.  His sixteenth birthday is coming up, and I have a feeling he might enjoy some Louis L'Amour.  If I find one more multi-tool, or homemade spearhead, clanking around in the dryer....




We were delighted to see that the Ranger's Apprentice series of ten volumes, had one more addition.  If you're new to the series, this is not the place to start, as The Lost Stories by John Flanagan is a collection of vignettes and backstory to the original series prompted by questions from his fans. 

Authors do read their fan mail!  That's why Richard Peck decided to write one more Grandma Dowdel book.  They also occasionally read this blog.  That's how I've gotten comments from Sarah Prineas, author of The Magic Thief series and Rick Yancey, author of The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp, and The Monstrumologist, among others.


Lucy is reading the third in the Red Blazer Girls series by Michael D. BeilThe Mistaken Masterpiece.  I read the first adventure, The Ring of Rocamadour a few years ago.  The Red Blazer Girls books are fun mysteries, solved by four girls who attend a Catholic all-girls prep school in Manhattan.  As I remember, some of the girls take their Catholic faith a little more seriously than others.  Art imitates life and all that, but there was nothing objectionable.  Imagine a Trouble with Angels/National Treasure hybrid.  Lucy likes it so much, she wants to read the other three in the series.


Matilda Bone by Karen Cushman is the tale of a young, pious girl who finds herself apprenticed to a bone-setter in medieval England.  Matilda has been raised in the manor of a wealthy lord and educated by a priest in reading, writing and Latin.  She is severely lacking in inter-personal skills, and tends to view all illiterate people as less than herself.

The priest is barely in the story at all, but Matilda quotes him ceaselessly.  Though he is not the villain, I'm not too thrilled with the way the priest is portrayed.  It is clear that he is a man of letters, not a man of compassion, letter of the law, not so much the spirit.  It's not enough for me to dissuade my kids from reading the book, but it bothers me, nonetheless.  Matilda learns to change the way she thinks about others and to stop priding herself on her nearly useless skill set, while at the same time learning how to care about the poorest of the poor. 



Lucy declined participation in the Battle of the Books competition, but I am still encouraging her to read some of the books from this year's list, especially Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott, which I am re-reading myself.


Edmund, however, is busily reading the books on his competition list.  Right now, he's reading Freckle Juice by Judy Blume.  Now, don't freak out on me.  Judy Blume is not all female problems and fornication.  She wrote lots of decent fiction for younger kids, including the hilarious Fudge books.  Freckle Juice is the harmless tale of a kid who want freckles and buys a secret recipe from a scheming classmate.

Susan is too busy to read, eat, or sleep this week.  Tech week for Beauty and the Beast is upon us.  We can't wait to see her stage debut as Napkin #1, and Male Villager #1 - a role which she is probably doomed to play in every production.  That's what happens when you're tall and you go to an all girls school.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Kitchen Appliance I Didn't Know I Needed


Suppose you want a bowl of potato chips, but you're being watchful about serving sizes.  The bag says one serving is a one ounce portion.  What do you do?  Weigh the chips on your kitchen scale!


Suppose you are bagging up your 30 lbs. of Zaycon Foods boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and you want some idea of how much 6 chicken breasts weigh.  Weigh the bags on your kitchen scale!


Suppose you are helping a Cub scout with his car for Pinewood Derby and you want to make sure that the car weighs as close to the legal limit as possible.  Weigh the car on your kitchen scale.


Suppose you bought the 4.5 lb. box of raisins from Costco, thinking that you were going to make a heckuva lot of Irish soda bread, but when it came down to it, you only had time to make one batch.  On St. Joseph's Day, no less.  The recipe calls for one 15 oz. box of raisins.  You know what to do.  Weigh them on your kitchen scale.


 I just got a kitchen scale last month, and I don't know how I got along without one.  Well, I do know that Edmund's car from last year's Pinewood Derby had a weight pried off the back end on race day.


Suppose you are down to your last banana.  Everyone knows you can't hang a single banana from a hook.  You could eat it now, or you could rest it on its own countertop pedestal, your kitchen scale.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Movies (and books) for Holy Week plus a side of nonsense

If you subscribe to this blog by email, you may have in recent days, received emails for posts that do not exist on the interweb.  That is because I often work on my posts for days, or weeks, or sometimes forget about a draft that I saved for months, and then I go back and see if it's worth saving or publishing.

I do this on the Chef's old laptop, the one with the piece of professional looking black electrical tape holding the locking button on, the same one that is missing a corner of protective gray plastic and has some exposed Tron looking innards, the very one with a touch mouse pad that Baby J likes to swat.

Sometimes, when she swats that touch pad, she can simultaneously scroll down to the "Publish Post" button and click on that button at the same time.  It's one of her many gifts.

Sometimes, I am completely unaware that this has happened, until I get a new email about my latest published post.  Ooops.

Doh!

One of the recent posts that got prematurely sent and then deleted, is this post about Movies for Holy Week.

For a couple of Christmases, the Chef's grandmother would give us old movies on dvd, like The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston and I swear we used to own Ben Hur, too.  But last year, I couldn't find it anywhere.  So we resorted to watching The Ten Commandments which might be second only to Gone with the Wind for longest movie ever.  I fast-forward lots of the dance numbers. 

So, I went to Wal Mart and bought Ben Hur.  Wal Mart always has a nice selection of Christian dvds around Easter.  I bought The Passion of the Christ, because I love it, though I do have to fast-forward the scourging.  Either that, or I have to close my eyes, or leave the room.  And I bought The Robe, starring Richard Burton, which is also a  great novel for Lent.  (I also like to read Louis de Wohl's The Spear or Fulton Sheen's Life of Christ.)  But I could not find Jesus of Nazareth there, so I had to order that one on Amazon.

I've never seen Jesus of Nazareth, but many times I've heard scenes from it described in homilies or conversations.  For instance, when watching Disney's animated Robin Hood, someone points out that the voice of Prince John is Peter Ustinov, "you know, Herod, from Jesus of Nazareth?"  No, I didn't know that.


 As I was fact checking this post, I discovered the Peter Ustinov also played a truck driver in The Great Muppet Caper.  You probably knew, that, because you remember him from Jesus of Nazareth.

Here is Ustinov with Professor Honeydew, on an episode of The Muppet Show. Truly, he was a renaissance man.  

Now, Edmund keeps looking at my newly purchased pile of dvds, and he has realized that The Passion of the Christ is rated R, so naturally, that's the one he's been bugging me to watch.  I've been putting him off with episodes of Survivorman and Avatar: The Last Airbender, which apparently is a cult classic and extremely popular among Susan's ninth grade classmates.


I've let the oldest two watch my own edited version of The Passion, the one where I fast-forward the scourging.  And I definitely think Lucy is ready for it.  But Edmund, I don't know.  As the Chef pointed out, the subtitles alone will present a huge stumbling block.  I think we'll stick with Jesus of Nazareth for now.  Or Ben Hur.  I'm certain Edmund will want to watch Ben Hur, when I tell him that an actor died while filming the chariot race.  You actually see this tragedy in the final cut of the movie.  Just checked Snopes on that one.  Another myth blown.  Though apparently, there were deaths of men and horses during the filming of the 1926 silent film of Ben Hur.


There is the possibility that snopes.com is run by a conspiracy....I really need to get my Circadian clock fixed, and stop blogging in the fives of the a.m. on a Saturday.  Seriously, a week ago, this would have been the fours!  I am too kind to wake up the Chef to have him proof my post for idiocy and nonsense, so I will just let Baby J swat the mouse pad now.

Updated (4/11/2014):  Definitely adding The Prince of Egypt to our Holy Week Cinematic Celebration.  At this time, it's streaming on Netflix.

Friday, March 16, 2012

7 Quick Takes Fourth Friday in Lent


--- 1 ---

Check out the rolls!  I missed her glorious chub during the winter months. 



--- 2 ---

The weather?  It rocks.  Our rink?  It's the single largest mosquito breeding ground in the village.  But it is slowly being pumped out to the sewer.  No, not my toast sewer.  I'm not from here, remember?  Seriously, I got three bites tonight.  I think I love mosquitoes right now.  But check back in June or July.

--- 3 ---


I was reading Waltzing Matilda and was delighted to learn about Elizabeth Gaskell.  Never heard of her, but Charlotte says, and I quote, "If you liked DowntonAbbey, you will love these!"  You had me at, "If you liked Downtown Abbey."

I found Cranford and North and South on Netflix streaming, so now you know what I'll be watching while folding laundry for the next several weeks. 

--- 4 ---


It's almost too hot to make Irish Soda Bread, but I already bought the quart of buttermilk and the pound of raisins.  Plus, this recipe will knock your socks off.  I said it all before.  I'll say it again:


I'm not that Irish, so I never even heard of Irish soda bread until college. What I experienced then was dry, dusty, and conducive to cotton mouth. In fact, this is what "traditional Irish soda bread" is supposed to be. Let's face it, Ireland: not known for fabulous cuisine. Then I met Aunt Deb, another Kraut married into this Mick family, and she gave me the World's Best But Least Irish Soda Bread Recipe. All of Aunt Deb's recipes are World's Best, such as her Cranberry Salsa, her Margarita, but I'm getting off track. What makes her soda bread so amazing is TWO, count them, that's TWO WHOLE CUPS of Sugar and ONE ENTIRE QUART of Buttermilk. I think that if you add 2 cups of Sugar and 1 qt. of buttermilk to any baked good, it would be better. This recipe yields 3 9x5 loaves of the most cake like raisin studded deliciousness. Tastes great toasted, and buttered. Yes, butter that goodness!

--- 5 ---

I'm not sure if it's because it's the fourth week of Lent, or if it's because of Daylight Savings Time, but everything kind of fell apart this week.  It takes me about a month to recover from this bi-annual time change.  I don't even want to know how many tardies my kids got this week because we I can't get out of bed on time.  And dinner?  What dinner?

But this blog post, gave me one tip that I can implement today.  Leila wrote, "my friend hadn't yet told me I just had to know what was for dinner by 10 am."

I love friends like that.  I usually try to know what's for dinner the night before, so I can throw a hunk of frozen meat on the counter and defrost it the old fashioned way.  I'm a risk taker, what can I say.  But 10 am,  I can do that!  Even this week. 

Tonight...ummm...potato soup and a salad.  Done.  Nothing to thaw either.

--- 6 ---



The Hunger Games is coming to theaters next Friday.  I wrote a brief review of the book here.

--- 7 ---

My dad is suing the Department of Health and Human Resources.  The news media showed up at his office yesterday, but he had already left.  I had to tell my parents to stop reading nasty comments on news sites.  Prayers for them would be most appreciated.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Prayers and Politics

Anyone who knows me, knows that I ardently avoid political news and mainstream news coverage.  I much prefer my friends' Facebook links to let me know what to read.  9 times out of 10, what they link to is much more positive, informative and entertaining than what's on the Yahoo news page, or on Google's list of headlines.

I don't even read the CatholicVote blog, for which the Chef is a frequent writer.  It depresses me.

But according to St. Paul, we must "fight the good fight by having faith and a good conscience."   (1Tim1:19-20)

Perhaps, you've already heard about this lawsuit filed today in the name of religious liberty and private Catholic business owners against HHS. You probably didn't know that the Mr. O'Brien, the plaintiff in the case, is my dad.

Brian Burch sent me this email today:

All —

In case you do not receive the CatholicVote emails, I wanted to alert you to a new lawsuit we filed this morning on behalf of Jessica's father Frank O'Brien.

The suit is the first legal challenge to be brought by a private business owner challenging the HHS mandate.  Each of the the previous cases filed have involved religious institutions (EWTN, Belmont Abbey, Ave Maria, etc.).  Mr. O'Brien's case is especially significant given that the new mandate makes no exceptions whatsoever for private businesses or citizens.  The Bishops have been trying to make this point for some time, namely, that the assault on religious freedom is not limited to the lack of an exemption for religious groups.

Please pray for the success of this suit.  And pray for Mr. O'Brien and his family.  It takes courage to do this, and no doubt he will be subject to all kinds of attacks.

CatholicVote.org is funding the case along with lawyers from the American Center for Law and Justice.


Brian
Brian Burch, President
CatholicVote.org





Whenever I see my dad, he never fails to tell me, "I'm so proud of you." 

I'm pretty darn proud of him, too. 

If you clicked on the article, you may have seen all the hateful comments.  So, say a St. Michael prayer for my dad.  I'll be keeping my head in the sand and clutching my rosary until it's all over.  May God's will be done. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What We're Reading Now Vol. 2


Susan and Lucy both told me that I have to read The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine, so I did.  You might think a book about two princesses who are sisters would be about rivalry and jealousy and general snark.  But you'd be wrong in regards to this book. 

The two princesses are sisters, who love each other.  Meryl is bold, Adelina is timid.  Meryl protects Adelina, killing spiders for her and even taking a vow not to leave the castle until Adelina is wed.  When Meryl is stricken with the fatal Grey Death, Adelina is the one who must leave the castle to quest for the cure, facing shape-shifting spectres, flesh-eating gryphons, ogres and dragons.  Awesome sister stuff, plus epic poems.  I heart epic poems.


Peter is reading Roberto and Me by Dan Gutman.  Yes, Peter is fifteen, but he is a baseball fanatic.  I enjoy reading stuff much too young for me, so why can't he?  Yeah, why not?!  Roberto and Me is one of the Baseball Card Adventures series, in which a modern day boy (Joe Stoshak, aka Stosh) goes back in time to meet a baseball hero of the past.  Part historical fiction, part biography, part sci-fi.  It all works.  I reviewed another title in this series way back in August 2007. 

Edmund is participating in his school's Battle of the Books competition.  And guess who volunteered to help lead the third grade team? Yup, you guessed it. 

Oh, but didn't I give up volunteering as a New Year's Resolution a few years ago, just like I gave up hosting parties where my guests have to buy things?  I guess I sorta forgot.  Having team meetings with third graders in the cafeteria that perpetually smells like bananas and bologna will be so fun, especially with Baby J crawling in the filth crumbs underneath the table. 

I'm actually quite proud of Edmund for signing up.  Reading is not his strong suit.  In fact, he goes to multiple tutors a week and is being tested for learning disabilities.  If your child is smart, but scores pathetically low on state tests, you might want to look into testing.  No one told me this until my sister, an educator and his godmother, suggested it.  I wish I knew this in kindergarten. 


So, he has to read and/or listen to books from the third grade list.  He finished Betsy Byars' Tornado last week.  A sweet story about a family who is waiting out a tornado in a storm cellar and listening to a farm hand tell stories.


And we are almost finished listening to The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner on audio cassette.  The audio book is less than two hours long.  Those kids were so lucky, living in a boxcar and not getting attacked by bears, crawling around the dump and not getting tetanus, getting utensils from said dump and not getting e-coli, adopting a stray dog and not getting rabies or fleas, drinking out of the creek and not getting dysentery.  I'm constantly stopping the story to explain how Violet, Benny, Jessie, and Henry are doing really dangerous things. 


Susan "lost" my copy of Anne of the Island, so I had to get her one from the library.  If it's not at my mom's house, Susan is going to buy me a new one.  And it had better fit into the slipcase with the rest of the set.


But before I made her read Anne, she had strep throat.  Twice.  So I let her read The Year We Were Famous by Carole Estby Dagg.  I read it, too, and I made a big mistake.  I regret to say that I committed a cardinal sin for book lovers everywhere.  I read the ending first.  And it ruined the story for me.  DON'T READ THE ENDING FIRST! 

The Year We Were Famous is based on the author's great-aunt and great-grandmother's real walk across the United States in 1896.  It's a good look at that time period and the risks women faced at the time.  Some states were just giving women the right to vote.  Bicycles and shorter bicycle skirts were in vogue.  The heroines of our story are out to save their farm from the auctioneer's block by publishing a book about the trip.

The main characters, eighteen year old Clara and her mother, Helga, have one heck of a journey, facing blizzards and deserts, Indians, and even shooting an assailant.  They meet lots of famous historical figures along the way as well, including President-elect McKinley. 

One night in Pennsylvania, Clara learns that her father is not her biological father.  This subject is treated quite well in the book.  Helga explains how her lover left to find gold before she learned of her pregnancy.  She tried to locate him, but she only knew roughly what area of Colorado he had gone to.  Desperate, she asked her mother to help her.  Her mother married her off to one of the workers from her father's factory, Ole.  Ole was crazy about Helga, but too shy and too poor to do anything about it.  He married pregnant Helga and they moved to Spokane to start a new life together.  Helga makes a great point of telling Clara, that it is because of Clara that she married Ole, who became the love of her life, and the father of Clara's nine siblings.  Clara reflects that this knowledge makes her love Ole all the more, because he chose to love her as his own. 


Baby J is big into farm animals right now.  The Chef makes all the animal noises for her and she laughs and laughs.  The Chef is actually quite talented at this.  His goat noise is the best I've ever heard.  We all have our gifts.

We got this board book from the library.  Never fear!  It was brand-new, out-of-the box, when we checked it out, so no one had chewed on it. Yet.

Did you know that the library frequently washes and disinfects things like board books, puzzles, puppets, computer keyboards, the toys at storytime, etc.?  At least our library does.

I really love the Dwell Studio board books.  The simple geometric illustrations are very attractive.  The Easter Bunny might be putting some of these in Baby J's basket.  Dwell Studio should totally sponsor me and send me free stuff to keep and free stuff to do another giveaway.  One can always dream.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Quick Takes Sixth Friday in Lent

I can't get all that fancy schmancy html code to copy and paste from Jen's site to mine, probably because I'm on my mom's computer in St. Louis and it's a mac, and I don't speak mac.  Intuitive, my #$$.

Here are my quick takes:

1.  What did you do on St. Patrick's Day?  I went with my very own Patrick to an Irish pub of course, with kids of course, to hear his brother's Irish band play mostly Irish music.  The Great Whiskey Project anyone?  


2.  Have you ever seen this Barats and Bereta youtube video about Mother's Day?  You should.  It bears reference to every family picture taking event I have ever been a part of.



Anyway, I was taking close-ups of Edmund being a goofball....when Peter joined in.  

Lovely boys, aren't they?

3.  Every spring, while doing the Great Seasonal Drawer Changeover, I decide to re-invent some stuff.
These "mom" capris weren't making me feel the love anymore, so I had my tailor "fix" them.

Before.


After.

So, my knee-length walking shorts are a little long.  But we're almost there.  And now I can spare myself the agony of shopping for shorts, because you know when I find something that fits, I buy it in every color.  Yes, I had two pairs of these "mom" capris, and now I have two pairs of slightly-still-too-long walking shorts.  

4.   I spent lots of time in the backyard, in the grass, on a lovely quilt from a dear friend, with Edmund, Lucy, and Baby J this week.  Edmund and Lucy were having the worst spring break ever, but then we went to St. Louis last night, so you know it's only going to get better.

My baby has no fear.
5. Gratuitous sweaty baby belly shot.   I should have taken pictures of skirt #2 that Lucy and I completed this week, or the gorgeous mantel that the Chef installed and painted.  But I didn't.  Next week, I promise.  Wait, no I don't.  It will be Good Friday, and I will be on the road again.


6.  I'm torn between a rock and a hard place here, but the Chef has convinced me that the power of prayer is too strong an opportunity to pass.  Several (like nearly a hundred) of you lovely readers peruse my ramblings every day.  I would be most gratified if you would give a shout out to the One Above for my sister and her husband as she battles cancer yet again.  She is one tough cookie.  We are filled with His Hope and asking for His healing for her.  

7.  Enjoy your weekend!


Thursday, March 29, 2012

What We're Reading Now


The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater is a magnificent blend of Misty of Chincoteague and Jaws.  Stiefvater does an incredible job of weaving the celtic myth of the water horse into a modern story of an orphan girl, Kate or Puck Connolly whose entering the Scorpio Races to save her home and keep what remains of her family together.

Water horses are like regular horses, except they are much larger, faster, and have square pupils.  Oh, and they are carnivores.  They are sometimes "more lupine than equine."  The opening line of the book is a haunting refrain, "Today is the first of November.  Today someone will die." 

Water horses eat people.  And other flesh too, sheep, cats, cows, you name it.  They come out of the sea in autumn, and ravage the tiny island of Thisby.  Even if they are caught, they are always dangerous.  You never know when one is going to take a bite out of somebody.

Kate's parents died while out on their boat.  They were killed by water horses.  About to lose her older brother to the mainland, Kate announces she will be racing in the Scorpio Races on November 1st.  She cannot abide riding a water horse though, so she enters her own gray mare (a regular horse meal to the water horses). 

Not only is this the first time a domestic horse has run in the Scorpio Races, it is also the first time a girl has entered.  This leads to a few coarse comments from sexist, old-school villagers.  Comments that give me pause in recommending this book for kids.  High school age, no problem.  But middle-school?  Well, when Kate finds a friend in four time Scorpio Race champion, Sean Kendrick, one old timer makes double pumping gestures with his arms next to his hips and says something like, "Is she a better ride, Sean?"  See what I mean?

Sean and Kate's relationship is lovely and pure.  There is a definite spark between them as they share a ride on Sean's water horse.  They both dream of a scenario where they can live happily ever after on their beloved island.  Their relationship is loving rather than lascivious or lustful.  One of my favorite scenes is shortly after Sean and Kate realize that they care for each other.  At their next meeting, which is in front of several other riders, Sean wonders what Kate will say.  She says nothing, however.  And hands him a piece of a cake.  

And Kate goes to Mass!  And confession!  And the priest, though too old to drive, is portrayed as a wise and gentle man who genuinely cares about his flock.  But Sean is a sort of a pagan.  Some on the island have a weird ancient horse goddess religion.  When a friend of the family is killed by a water horse, he burned on a pyre, and his horse given back to the sea.  There is a parade with a woman dressed a horse goddess who reportedly grants one wish a year.  To declare her mount in the races, Kate must pour her blood on a rock, that fifty years ago was the site of a human sacrifice.  She only has to slice her finger though, and declare, "By my blood, I will ride."  Most villagers treat these New Orleans-esque macabre rites as traditions.  They make a big show of these events for the tourists. 

I believe this book will be the next Hunger Games or Twilight phenom.  The big issues with Hunger Games (gratuitous violence, mercy killing) and Twilight (lust, lust, and more lust) are not a problem in The Scorpio Races.  Though very violent, having a natural predatory killer is far preferable to children killing each other.


Leo and the Lesser Lion by Sandra Forrester is the bittersweet, Depression-era, saga of Mary Bayliss.  She and her beloved older brother Leo were the victims of drowning from which "Bayliss" recovered, but Leo did not.  Their family are practically suffocated with grief.  But this is not a sad book!  Well, not completely sad.

Mary Bayliss is told many times during her recovery that God must have saved her for a special purpose.  Now, don't conjure up images of Steve Martin in The Jerk.  I'm being serious.  She decides that her purpose is to become a nun.  She attends Sacred Heart School, where she has tortured nuns for six years.  After making this decision, she starts helping the nuns with the "weary travelers" aka hoboes. 

Two nights before Leo died, he and Mary Bayliss climb out the window to go visit a hobo fortune teller.  Before they go, Bayliss mentions that their pastor said fortune telling is a sin.  Leo laughs and asks her when she started listening to priests anyway.  This scene happens early in the book, and put that bad taste in my mouth that I get when the Church is portrayed as silly.

But after Bayliss's decision to become a nun, she gets to know some of the Sisters better.  The Sisters are shown to be generous, wise and caring. 


Several months after Leo's death, Bayliss's family takes in two girls who were left at the Children's Home.  Bayliss struggles with the fact that they are given Leo's room and her old toys.  She is also peeved that she can no longer help the Sisters after school, but must watch the girls instead.

However, Bayliss makes a great effort to change her behavior, to be less selfish.  There are many scenes where she goes out of her way to be helpful, to not slam doors when she is angry, to not respond to catty remarks.  Even after she realizes that being a nun might not be what God wants from her, she does not discard all of her good behaviors. 

In spite of its faults, I really enjoyed Leo and the Lesser Lion.  And I'm going to let my kids read it too.

Friday, March 23, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday Fifth Friday in Lent


--- 1 ---

We are very excited, planning our trip to GA for Easter to visit the our good friends, the Colonel and JDMom.  I got a Facebook hint that I might be getting one of these in my Easter basket, not that I'm on Facebook, seeing as how I gave it up for Lent...


--- 2 ---

Peter and I had a Mother/Son Luncheon yesterday.  It was lovely, Mass at the school, chicken at the Ritz, boys getting pictures taken with their moms.  One my friends referred to the Luncheon as "Motherboy," and now I can't separate the two images in my head.  If you're not familiar with Arrested Development, Motherboy is a mother/son costume contest.


--- 3 ---

The following Quick Take is a rather lengthy and bizarre glimpse into one of our dinnertime conversations.  Bizarre, because there were no references to bodily functions.


Last night at dinner, we discussed whether or not is legal to purchase C4, and if you can get it on the internet, legally or illegally.  Then we discussed how the FBI tracks keywords like C4 and watches the people to see if they're criminals.  The Chef brought up an article he read in Wired about some huge warehouses where the government can keep records of everything electronic, every phone conversation, email, etc.

Then Edmund asked if any person has touched the deepest part of the ocean with his hand.  This led the Chef to research the deepest part of the ocean, just because I disagreed with him and said that they don't know how deep the deepest part of the ocean is.  The Chef says, "They're pretty sure."  I still think I'm right.  I mean, "I'm pretty sure" doesn't strike me as scientific fact.


So, we learned all about the Mariana Trench and who has been down there and who is planning to go down there.

In 2012, I will go down to the deepest part of the ocean!  I may even try to touch it!

After a brief discussion about who James Cameron* is,  Peter said that one of his teachers almost was the teacher on Challenger Space Shuttle, which led us to a discussion about when the Challenger exploded, and where we were when it happened.  I was definitely in sixth grade reading class discussing Shirley Jackson's short story, The Lottery when Sr. Patricia Ann made the announcement over the PA. 


Then the Chef told us all about the other shuttle explosion over Texas in 2003, which I somehow missed, having given birth to Edmund less than a month before.  I have no memory of this event.  For all I know, last night was the first time I've ever heard about it.

Too bad Susan wasn't with us for dinner.  She recently learned that the NASA Space Program never sent astronauts to other planets.  I'm totally mystified as to how she ever got it into her head that astronauts had explored planets.  We've taken her to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  Heck, we're even related to an astronaut.  


*The Chef proofreads my posts, and at this point he said, "James Cameron is a tool."  I know, honey.

--- 4 ---

Baby J and I went shoe shopping, the first of many therapeutic retail expeditions.  Start 'em young.  We were very frustrated with the Stride Rite nazis...is nazi too harsh a word here?  Think of Seinfeld's Soup Nazi.  Anyway, because Baby J is not solo walking yet, they would only let a purchase from the "Step Two Early Walker" shelf which we didn't like because of the big rubber toe on every pair. 

We've also been to Von Maur but they don't carry wide widths which are essential with one who has as much instep fat sqwish as Baby J.  Nordstrom does carry wide widths in this ridiculously cute brand, See Kai Run.  I would wear these shoes.  They are so freaking cute!


These are the ones we got.
These are the ones I want for me.  She wants these too.  They're very tasty, but her chub bubbles out of the tops.


--- 5 ---
The Chef wrote a bio for Lucy's playbill:


Lucy is very excited to be on stage in a St. Genesius Production.  Of course, she is a middle child of 5 so drama comes naturally.  Lucy enjoys reading and singing in her room.  Her drawings of animals are legendary.  When she was 3, her teacher described her as socially savvy.  Do not cross her.  She is her father's favorite and her mother's second favorite, which is pretty good if you think about it.
--- 6 ---

Behold!  Lamb of God!

Note the use of a nursing stool as a sacramentary stand.  I don't know this kid, but I like his liturgical style.

--- 7 ---

I'm hosting a rosary at my house today, to pray for the Stand Up for Religious Freedom rallies around the country on this day, as well as some personal intentions.  This means I have to clean my house and buy donuts.  One of those things is much more appealing than the other.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's "What We're Reading Now" Wednesday!

Ok, here's hoping Baby J doesn't swat the mouse pad....


Last year, I started reading One-Handed Catch by M. J. Auch, because it was nominated for a Caudill award (which is like the Newbery award of Illinois).  I stopped reading, because I was in some kind of funk and just couldn't get past the part where Norm gets his hand stuck in his father's meat grinder at their family owned supermarket in post WWII America. 

I have been on the lookout for more "equal opportunity" in my reading choices and have been making a concerted effort to read just as many "boy" books as "girl" books.  So, I picked up One-Handed Catch, again.

This time I started where I had left off, when Norm gets home from the hospital, mid-summer, minus his left hand.   His mom, from day one, gives him no breaks when it comes to chores or schoolwork or other expectations.  She does help him to tie his shoes, however.  Norm's dad, blaming himself for the accident, is far more likely to cut Norm some slack, even to the point of discouraging Norm from trying out for the baseball team next spring. 

Norm, inspired by stories of a one-handed major league outfielder, figures out a way to re-learn throwing, catching, and batting with only one hand.  I don't want to give away the ending, but I'm really glad I finally finished this book.  Susan saw me reading it and said, "Haven't you read that already?  It's really good!" 


While perusing the local library shelves for more masculine material, I found this classic.  Peter read this whole series in grade school.  Mr. Tucket by Gary Paulsen is the story of a boy, Francis Tucket, who is captured by Pawnee from a wagon train on the Oregon Trail. 

Do not worry, gentle reader, he escapes after three weeks with the help of yet another one-armed character, mountain man extraordinaire, Mr. Jason Grimes.  Mr. Grimes takes a lot of time teaching Mr. fourteen year old Tucket how to survive in the wild West, as they look for the wagon train and the rest of his family, which they do not find, for at least five or six more novels. 

I can totally see why Peter loved these books, and how they have fed into our family's obsession with Survivorman and Man Vs. Wild.  His sixteenth birthday is coming up, and I have a feeling he might enjoy some Louis L'Amour.  If I find one more multi-tool, or homemade spearhead, clanking around in the dryer....




We were delighted to see that the Ranger's Apprentice series of ten volumes, had one more addition.  If you're new to the series, this is not the place to start, as The Lost Stories by John Flanagan is a collection of vignettes and backstory to the original series prompted by questions from his fans. 

Authors do read their fan mail!  That's why Richard Peck decided to write one more Grandma Dowdel book.  They also occasionally read this blog.  That's how I've gotten comments from Sarah Prineas, author of The Magic Thief series and Rick Yancey, author of The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp, and The Monstrumologist, among others.


Lucy is reading the third in the Red Blazer Girls series by Michael D. BeilThe Mistaken Masterpiece.  I read the first adventure, The Ring of Rocamadour a few years ago.  The Red Blazer Girls books are fun mysteries, solved by four girls who attend a Catholic all-girls prep school in Manhattan.  As I remember, some of the girls take their Catholic faith a little more seriously than others.  Art imitates life and all that, but there was nothing objectionable.  Imagine a Trouble with Angels/National Treasure hybrid.  Lucy likes it so much, she wants to read the other three in the series.


Matilda Bone by Karen Cushman is the tale of a young, pious girl who finds herself apprenticed to a bone-setter in medieval England.  Matilda has been raised in the manor of a wealthy lord and educated by a priest in reading, writing and Latin.  She is severely lacking in inter-personal skills, and tends to view all illiterate people as less than herself.

The priest is barely in the story at all, but Matilda quotes him ceaselessly.  Though he is not the villain, I'm not too thrilled with the way the priest is portrayed.  It is clear that he is a man of letters, not a man of compassion, letter of the law, not so much the spirit.  It's not enough for me to dissuade my kids from reading the book, but it bothers me, nonetheless.  Matilda learns to change the way she thinks about others and to stop priding herself on her nearly useless skill set, while at the same time learning how to care about the poorest of the poor. 



Lucy declined participation in the Battle of the Books competition, but I am still encouraging her to read some of the books from this year's list, especially Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott, which I am re-reading myself.


Edmund, however, is busily reading the books on his competition list.  Right now, he's reading Freckle Juice by Judy Blume.  Now, don't freak out on me.  Judy Blume is not all female problems and fornication.  She wrote lots of decent fiction for younger kids, including the hilarious Fudge books.  Freckle Juice is the harmless tale of a kid who want freckles and buys a secret recipe from a scheming classmate.

Susan is too busy to read, eat, or sleep this week.  Tech week for Beauty and the Beast is upon us.  We can't wait to see her stage debut as Napkin #1, and Male Villager #1 - a role which she is probably doomed to play in every production.  That's what happens when you're tall and you go to an all girls school.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Kitchen Appliance I Didn't Know I Needed


Suppose you want a bowl of potato chips, but you're being watchful about serving sizes.  The bag says one serving is a one ounce portion.  What do you do?  Weigh the chips on your kitchen scale!


Suppose you are bagging up your 30 lbs. of Zaycon Foods boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and you want some idea of how much 6 chicken breasts weigh.  Weigh the bags on your kitchen scale!


Suppose you are helping a Cub scout with his car for Pinewood Derby and you want to make sure that the car weighs as close to the legal limit as possible.  Weigh the car on your kitchen scale.


Suppose you bought the 4.5 lb. box of raisins from Costco, thinking that you were going to make a heckuva lot of Irish soda bread, but when it came down to it, you only had time to make one batch.  On St. Joseph's Day, no less.  The recipe calls for one 15 oz. box of raisins.  You know what to do.  Weigh them on your kitchen scale.


 I just got a kitchen scale last month, and I don't know how I got along without one.  Well, I do know that Edmund's car from last year's Pinewood Derby had a weight pried off the back end on race day.


Suppose you are down to your last banana.  Everyone knows you can't hang a single banana from a hook.  You could eat it now, or you could rest it on its own countertop pedestal, your kitchen scale.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Movies (and books) for Holy Week plus a side of nonsense

If you subscribe to this blog by email, you may have in recent days, received emails for posts that do not exist on the interweb.  That is because I often work on my posts for days, or weeks, or sometimes forget about a draft that I saved for months, and then I go back and see if it's worth saving or publishing.

I do this on the Chef's old laptop, the one with the piece of professional looking black electrical tape holding the locking button on, the same one that is missing a corner of protective gray plastic and has some exposed Tron looking innards, the very one with a touch mouse pad that Baby J likes to swat.

Sometimes, when she swats that touch pad, she can simultaneously scroll down to the "Publish Post" button and click on that button at the same time.  It's one of her many gifts.

Sometimes, I am completely unaware that this has happened, until I get a new email about my latest published post.  Ooops.

Doh!

One of the recent posts that got prematurely sent and then deleted, is this post about Movies for Holy Week.

For a couple of Christmases, the Chef's grandmother would give us old movies on dvd, like The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston and I swear we used to own Ben Hur, too.  But last year, I couldn't find it anywhere.  So we resorted to watching The Ten Commandments which might be second only to Gone with the Wind for longest movie ever.  I fast-forward lots of the dance numbers. 

So, I went to Wal Mart and bought Ben Hur.  Wal Mart always has a nice selection of Christian dvds around Easter.  I bought The Passion of the Christ, because I love it, though I do have to fast-forward the scourging.  Either that, or I have to close my eyes, or leave the room.  And I bought The Robe, starring Richard Burton, which is also a  great novel for Lent.  (I also like to read Louis de Wohl's The Spear or Fulton Sheen's Life of Christ.)  But I could not find Jesus of Nazareth there, so I had to order that one on Amazon.

I've never seen Jesus of Nazareth, but many times I've heard scenes from it described in homilies or conversations.  For instance, when watching Disney's animated Robin Hood, someone points out that the voice of Prince John is Peter Ustinov, "you know, Herod, from Jesus of Nazareth?"  No, I didn't know that.


 As I was fact checking this post, I discovered the Peter Ustinov also played a truck driver in The Great Muppet Caper.  You probably knew, that, because you remember him from Jesus of Nazareth.

Here is Ustinov with Professor Honeydew, on an episode of The Muppet Show. Truly, he was a renaissance man.  

Now, Edmund keeps looking at my newly purchased pile of dvds, and he has realized that The Passion of the Christ is rated R, so naturally, that's the one he's been bugging me to watch.  I've been putting him off with episodes of Survivorman and Avatar: The Last Airbender, which apparently is a cult classic and extremely popular among Susan's ninth grade classmates.


I've let the oldest two watch my own edited version of The Passion, the one where I fast-forward the scourging.  And I definitely think Lucy is ready for it.  But Edmund, I don't know.  As the Chef pointed out, the subtitles alone will present a huge stumbling block.  I think we'll stick with Jesus of Nazareth for now.  Or Ben Hur.  I'm certain Edmund will want to watch Ben Hur, when I tell him that an actor died while filming the chariot race.  You actually see this tragedy in the final cut of the movie.  Just checked Snopes on that one.  Another myth blown.  Though apparently, there were deaths of men and horses during the filming of the 1926 silent film of Ben Hur.


There is the possibility that snopes.com is run by a conspiracy....I really need to get my Circadian clock fixed, and stop blogging in the fives of the a.m. on a Saturday.  Seriously, a week ago, this would have been the fours!  I am too kind to wake up the Chef to have him proof my post for idiocy and nonsense, so I will just let Baby J swat the mouse pad now.

Updated (4/11/2014):  Definitely adding The Prince of Egypt to our Holy Week Cinematic Celebration.  At this time, it's streaming on Netflix.

Friday, March 16, 2012

7 Quick Takes Fourth Friday in Lent


--- 1 ---

Check out the rolls!  I missed her glorious chub during the winter months. 



--- 2 ---

The weather?  It rocks.  Our rink?  It's the single largest mosquito breeding ground in the village.  But it is slowly being pumped out to the sewer.  No, not my toast sewer.  I'm not from here, remember?  Seriously, I got three bites tonight.  I think I love mosquitoes right now.  But check back in June or July.

--- 3 ---


I was reading Waltzing Matilda and was delighted to learn about Elizabeth Gaskell.  Never heard of her, but Charlotte says, and I quote, "If you liked DowntonAbbey, you will love these!"  You had me at, "If you liked Downtown Abbey."

I found Cranford and North and South on Netflix streaming, so now you know what I'll be watching while folding laundry for the next several weeks. 

--- 4 ---


It's almost too hot to make Irish Soda Bread, but I already bought the quart of buttermilk and the pound of raisins.  Plus, this recipe will knock your socks off.  I said it all before.  I'll say it again:


I'm not that Irish, so I never even heard of Irish soda bread until college. What I experienced then was dry, dusty, and conducive to cotton mouth. In fact, this is what "traditional Irish soda bread" is supposed to be. Let's face it, Ireland: not known for fabulous cuisine. Then I met Aunt Deb, another Kraut married into this Mick family, and she gave me the World's Best But Least Irish Soda Bread Recipe. All of Aunt Deb's recipes are World's Best, such as her Cranberry Salsa, her Margarita, but I'm getting off track. What makes her soda bread so amazing is TWO, count them, that's TWO WHOLE CUPS of Sugar and ONE ENTIRE QUART of Buttermilk. I think that if you add 2 cups of Sugar and 1 qt. of buttermilk to any baked good, it would be better. This recipe yields 3 9x5 loaves of the most cake like raisin studded deliciousness. Tastes great toasted, and buttered. Yes, butter that goodness!

--- 5 ---

I'm not sure if it's because it's the fourth week of Lent, or if it's because of Daylight Savings Time, but everything kind of fell apart this week.  It takes me about a month to recover from this bi-annual time change.  I don't even want to know how many tardies my kids got this week because we I can't get out of bed on time.  And dinner?  What dinner?

But this blog post, gave me one tip that I can implement today.  Leila wrote, "my friend hadn't yet told me I just had to know what was for dinner by 10 am."

I love friends like that.  I usually try to know what's for dinner the night before, so I can throw a hunk of frozen meat on the counter and defrost it the old fashioned way.  I'm a risk taker, what can I say.  But 10 am,  I can do that!  Even this week. 

Tonight...ummm...potato soup and a salad.  Done.  Nothing to thaw either.

--- 6 ---



The Hunger Games is coming to theaters next Friday.  I wrote a brief review of the book here.

--- 7 ---

My dad is suing the Department of Health and Human Resources.  The news media showed up at his office yesterday, but he had already left.  I had to tell my parents to stop reading nasty comments on news sites.  Prayers for them would be most appreciated.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Prayers and Politics

Anyone who knows me, knows that I ardently avoid political news and mainstream news coverage.  I much prefer my friends' Facebook links to let me know what to read.  9 times out of 10, what they link to is much more positive, informative and entertaining than what's on the Yahoo news page, or on Google's list of headlines.

I don't even read the CatholicVote blog, for which the Chef is a frequent writer.  It depresses me.

But according to St. Paul, we must "fight the good fight by having faith and a good conscience."   (1Tim1:19-20)

Perhaps, you've already heard about this lawsuit filed today in the name of religious liberty and private Catholic business owners against HHS. You probably didn't know that the Mr. O'Brien, the plaintiff in the case, is my dad.

Brian Burch sent me this email today:

All —

In case you do not receive the CatholicVote emails, I wanted to alert you to a new lawsuit we filed this morning on behalf of Jessica's father Frank O'Brien.

The suit is the first legal challenge to be brought by a private business owner challenging the HHS mandate.  Each of the the previous cases filed have involved religious institutions (EWTN, Belmont Abbey, Ave Maria, etc.).  Mr. O'Brien's case is especially significant given that the new mandate makes no exceptions whatsoever for private businesses or citizens.  The Bishops have been trying to make this point for some time, namely, that the assault on religious freedom is not limited to the lack of an exemption for religious groups.

Please pray for the success of this suit.  And pray for Mr. O'Brien and his family.  It takes courage to do this, and no doubt he will be subject to all kinds of attacks.

CatholicVote.org is funding the case along with lawyers from the American Center for Law and Justice.


Brian
Brian Burch, President
CatholicVote.org





Whenever I see my dad, he never fails to tell me, "I'm so proud of you." 

I'm pretty darn proud of him, too. 

If you clicked on the article, you may have seen all the hateful comments.  So, say a St. Michael prayer for my dad.  I'll be keeping my head in the sand and clutching my rosary until it's all over.  May God's will be done. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What We're Reading Now Vol. 2


Susan and Lucy both told me that I have to read The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine, so I did.  You might think a book about two princesses who are sisters would be about rivalry and jealousy and general snark.  But you'd be wrong in regards to this book. 

The two princesses are sisters, who love each other.  Meryl is bold, Adelina is timid.  Meryl protects Adelina, killing spiders for her and even taking a vow not to leave the castle until Adelina is wed.  When Meryl is stricken with the fatal Grey Death, Adelina is the one who must leave the castle to quest for the cure, facing shape-shifting spectres, flesh-eating gryphons, ogres and dragons.  Awesome sister stuff, plus epic poems.  I heart epic poems.


Peter is reading Roberto and Me by Dan Gutman.  Yes, Peter is fifteen, but he is a baseball fanatic.  I enjoy reading stuff much too young for me, so why can't he?  Yeah, why not?!  Roberto and Me is one of the Baseball Card Adventures series, in which a modern day boy (Joe Stoshak, aka Stosh) goes back in time to meet a baseball hero of the past.  Part historical fiction, part biography, part sci-fi.  It all works.  I reviewed another title in this series way back in August 2007. 

Edmund is participating in his school's Battle of the Books competition.  And guess who volunteered to help lead the third grade team? Yup, you guessed it. 

Oh, but didn't I give up volunteering as a New Year's Resolution a few years ago, just like I gave up hosting parties where my guests have to buy things?  I guess I sorta forgot.  Having team meetings with third graders in the cafeteria that perpetually smells like bananas and bologna will be so fun, especially with Baby J crawling in the filth crumbs underneath the table. 

I'm actually quite proud of Edmund for signing up.  Reading is not his strong suit.  In fact, he goes to multiple tutors a week and is being tested for learning disabilities.  If your child is smart, but scores pathetically low on state tests, you might want to look into testing.  No one told me this until my sister, an educator and his godmother, suggested it.  I wish I knew this in kindergarten. 


So, he has to read and/or listen to books from the third grade list.  He finished Betsy Byars' Tornado last week.  A sweet story about a family who is waiting out a tornado in a storm cellar and listening to a farm hand tell stories.


And we are almost finished listening to The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner on audio cassette.  The audio book is less than two hours long.  Those kids were so lucky, living in a boxcar and not getting attacked by bears, crawling around the dump and not getting tetanus, getting utensils from said dump and not getting e-coli, adopting a stray dog and not getting rabies or fleas, drinking out of the creek and not getting dysentery.  I'm constantly stopping the story to explain how Violet, Benny, Jessie, and Henry are doing really dangerous things. 


Susan "lost" my copy of Anne of the Island, so I had to get her one from the library.  If it's not at my mom's house, Susan is going to buy me a new one.  And it had better fit into the slipcase with the rest of the set.


But before I made her read Anne, she had strep throat.  Twice.  So I let her read The Year We Were Famous by Carole Estby Dagg.  I read it, too, and I made a big mistake.  I regret to say that I committed a cardinal sin for book lovers everywhere.  I read the ending first.  And it ruined the story for me.  DON'T READ THE ENDING FIRST! 

The Year We Were Famous is based on the author's great-aunt and great-grandmother's real walk across the United States in 1896.  It's a good look at that time period and the risks women faced at the time.  Some states were just giving women the right to vote.  Bicycles and shorter bicycle skirts were in vogue.  The heroines of our story are out to save their farm from the auctioneer's block by publishing a book about the trip.

The main characters, eighteen year old Clara and her mother, Helga, have one heck of a journey, facing blizzards and deserts, Indians, and even shooting an assailant.  They meet lots of famous historical figures along the way as well, including President-elect McKinley. 

One night in Pennsylvania, Clara learns that her father is not her biological father.  This subject is treated quite well in the book.  Helga explains how her lover left to find gold before she learned of her pregnancy.  She tried to locate him, but she only knew roughly what area of Colorado he had gone to.  Desperate, she asked her mother to help her.  Her mother married her off to one of the workers from her father's factory, Ole.  Ole was crazy about Helga, but too shy and too poor to do anything about it.  He married pregnant Helga and they moved to Spokane to start a new life together.  Helga makes a great point of telling Clara, that it is because of Clara that she married Ole, who became the love of her life, and the father of Clara's nine siblings.  Clara reflects that this knowledge makes her love Ole all the more, because he chose to love her as his own. 


Baby J is big into farm animals right now.  The Chef makes all the animal noises for her and she laughs and laughs.  The Chef is actually quite talented at this.  His goat noise is the best I've ever heard.  We all have our gifts.

We got this board book from the library.  Never fear!  It was brand-new, out-of-the box, when we checked it out, so no one had chewed on it. Yet.

Did you know that the library frequently washes and disinfects things like board books, puzzles, puppets, computer keyboards, the toys at storytime, etc.?  At least our library does.

I really love the Dwell Studio board books.  The simple geometric illustrations are very attractive.  The Easter Bunny might be putting some of these in Baby J's basket.  Dwell Studio should totally sponsor me and send me free stuff to keep and free stuff to do another giveaway.  One can always dream.