Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Solmnety of Mary, Mother of God

--Not a little-known feast, exactly, but I do know some folks who seemed genuinely surprised that January 1st is a holy day of obligation...and not because it's the beginning of a new year. As Catholics, we celebrated the coming of the new year on the first Sunday of Advent, for Pete's sake. Tomorrow, January 1, 2010, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

At any rate, we shall celebrate here with some music.

Happy New Year...may God Bless you and your family with every good thing.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Resting in the Joy

I know it's been a while. Things here are crazy busy once again, and no help for it.

Last week Wednesday, the kids and I made our way through wet slushy streets to midday Mass. It's something I would rather do on a far more regular basis, but the distance means that the time involved eats up the better part of our day. It's just not practical. Rotten excuse, I know, but there it is. At any rate, we made it, and afterward we helped several other families to decorate the Narthex, the Nave and the Sanctuary for Christmas.

What a blessing! What a joyful task! There were several Nativities from which to choose, and we ended up using just two of them. The one in the Narthex is raised up, and properly housed in a rough stable. The pieces are full-color, and large. An angel hovers above the stable, suspended from the ceiling with strong wires.

The other was placed just in front of the Ambo. This was my job, and it was an incredible honor. I used wooden platforms beneath fabric to place the figures of the Holy Family and two sheep. They are surrounded by white, pink and red poinsettias, and that's it. The pieces are plain, but elegant.
Photobucket
(That's your humble blogger there, proclaiming the Psalm. The Holy Family is there in front of the Ambo.)

The kids made good helpers, ferrying plants from the rear of the Nave to the front, attaching festive bows to every other pew on the center aisle, and taking great joy in helping to make the church a pretty place to come and worship the Infant King on the Feast of His Nativity.

I think the most humbling thing for me was to help change the Altar linens.

When we finished our work, we left to discover driving rain and lashing wind had come to usher in the storm we were expecting. We made our way carefully home, and were blessed to have that afternoon, evening, and the following morning--Christmas Eve--to just spend time together at home. We found ourselves decorating the tree, and doing puzzles, watching Polar Express and White Christmas, and just hanging out. It was lovely.

On Thursday, our supper plan was to gather in the home of dear friends with three other families (12 adults, 26 children!), and then proceed to church for Midnight Mass. The snow and ice storm meant that we had to leave a bit earlier than anticipated, but we all made it in time.

What a gorgeous Mass! With the humongous tree lit up with white lights, a brass quartet joining the organ, the choir singing beautifully, the packed pews, the legions of servers and seminarians, the occasion was absolutely everything that Christmas should be. The Proclamation of the Birth of Christ and the Gospel were both chanted, the hymns were sung with gusto, and a Canon and two Deacons joined the clergy.
Photobucket (Those middle two servers kneeling there are the Thurifer [the taller one, on the right] and the Boat Bearer [the smaller one, on the left]. The Boat Bearer also happens to be my Pickle! There were about nine other servers and seminarians who are not shown here...and we only had a handful of our 28 seminarians with us that evening.)

It was nearly 3:00 in the morning when we finally arrived home from Mass. Santa visited the stockings and placed the modest collection of gifts beneath the tree.

Christmas Morning dawned grey and stormy, and so, though we had planned to make the trip back in to town for Mass, we decided to stay in after all. The children were thrilled with their gifts: Reepicheep with her Littlest Pet Shop edition of Monopoly, Pickle with seven Loony Tunes videos (because when Santa finds things like that at the second hand store, he shows no measure of self control!), the Frog with the entire Love Comes Softly series of movies on DVD, and the Monkey with his collection of coloring books, pencils, books about gross bugs, and little airplane. The Pudge? Well, she was happy with all of the wrapping paper. Santa is almost ashamed to say that he did, in fact, bring for the Pudge two really cool dog toys. Dog toys?! Yep, well, they are spiffy little rubber chewy ballish things with knobby ends all over, and with molars coming through, Santa knew that was just the thing for the Pudge. She loves 'em.

On Christmas Evening, I found myself absolutely unable to keep my eyes open. Odd-it's nearly 2:30 AM as I write this, but that night, I just couldn't make it. It was all of 8:30 when I said to My Darling, "I am going to bed!" I did, too. I went to bed and managed to get some great sleep that night. I also took a nice, long nap on Saturday. I got caught up on sleep that I've been missing out on for months, and the past couple of days have been wonderful.

Pickle substituted for some friends serving Mass this afternoon for the Feast of the Holy Innocents, and I get to cantor on New Year's Day. The following day, our choir will travel to another cathedral to present our Lessons and Carols again, and to sing at Mass.

While January is not nearly as heavily scheduled as December was, the dates are beginning to be filled in with various activities. In the midst of it all, I hope each of you was blessed to celebrate the Birth of Our Lord with the ones you love, in the warmth of a sturdy home, with plenty of good food to eat, and the knowledge of being so richly blessed.

Do not forget that Christmas is not yet finished--we must keep in mind that the Magi have yet to arrive...Epiphany awaits!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Whaddya know 'bout that?

Gah! For Pete's sake!

Apparently, some people think I can sing.

I enjoy singing. Actually, I love singing. It's something that I've worked at for many years, learning from many teachers throughout my life. I remember things that I learned from my elementary school music teacher (named, appropriately, Mrs. Staff!), tidbits from junior high school--though I didn't as greatly enjoy being in that particular group--and the legions that I learned in high school. In high school, our teacher was (and still is) one of the best anywhere in the Midwest. She learned choral teaching and conducting under Dr. Robert Fountain, and was absolutely born to do what she does. Many of the student teachers who progressed through her classroom were also students of Dr. Fountain, and had more and more to teach those eager to learn. Many of the techniques that I still use, I learned from them. Methods of breathing, of focusing tone, of releasing phrases, of enunciation--all of the mechanics of singing--I picked up here and there.

But in all of this time, save for the required course work, I've not ever really studied singing. I wanted to; when I went to college for a whole semester (!--before I ran out of money), my major was vocal performance. One semester, however, does not make a vast amount of difference. I learned, yes, from my vocal professor, but have always been a little sad at how much more I could have learned had things worked out differently.

The choir with which I now sing is a very good choir. We focus on sacred music from various genres, always keeping in mind the liturgical applications. This year, one of the pieces selected by our director, Pat, is the aria and chorus from Messiah, "O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion." Back around October, Pat asked me if I would be willing to take a shot at the aria. Well, ok...I'm familiar with it, since I sing along with the CD in my van, and I was hearing it plenty when I was in the Messiah choir beginning in August (we performed on the 11th). So I gave it a shot.

I have a hard time performing anything solo. I love singing in a choir--to work to blend with those around me, to be amidst the harmonies and conspire to weave beautiful tapestries of music with a group of musicians is pure bliss! Ah, but to have the eyes and ears of listeners focused on my voice alone is terrifying. And with a work so well known and loved as Messiah, well, that just takes plain guts. And work. Lots and lots of work.

So to prepare, I asked the Lord what I always ask Him, chiefly to let my voice be silent and His be heard, for His glory. I do this at the beginning of every Mass when I am the cantor, and any time I have even the smallest of parts which might stand out.

I also spent plenty of time with my CD, hearing Carolyn Watkinson croon to me, and doing my best to join her.


Amazing, isn't she? And I must say, I kind of enjoy it when people surprise me and don't match their voice. When I found this video this afternoon, it was the first time I'd laid eyes on this lovely person. I somehow imagined her to be somewhat older, rather larger, with bouffant-ish red hair, and wearing something flouncy, sparkling, and overflowing with chiffon. Idn't she cute? :) Just sayin'.

At any rate, I sang the aria, because I like to do as I'm told.

It was gushed over. Which, of course, translates to "I" was gushed over. I hate that. I don't mind that people appreciate, but it was a huge relief when my dear friend Amy understood when I said that it didn't feel the greatest, and that I wasn't entirely happy with it.

It was enough, though, for another friend to let me know that he intends to broadcast it on the radio, for Pete's sake.

FOR PETE'S SAKE!!!

Huh. Whaddya know 'bout that?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's WHAT time?!

On the one hand, it's really nice to be in a quiet house. The lights around the Creche glow warmly, the lights around the windows shine gently, and the slow, steady breathing of my Pudge falls on my ear. She is resting peacefully on my chest, the smell of warm milk sweet on her cheeks.

On the other hand, I could totally do without insomnia. Really. I am so tired that I can't even stand it, but my mind just will not let up.

It's been a strange Advent. My heart has been trying and trying to prepare Him room, but it's been complicated somewhat by the turn of events following Pudge's measles.

People are afraid of measles. Think about it--when was the last time you were in the presence of a person with the measles? Probably doesn't happen very often. Most people in my mom's generation had measles when they were kids, and most people of my generation and younger have been vaccinated.

The thing people are afraid of is not knowing enough about this virus to keep cool when they hear that it's "out there."

So the Pudge got measles. We don't know where, and we don't really even know how or when. It could have been at the library, or the grocery store, or even in the Narthex at church. She could have gotten it because some baby slobbered on the handle of the cart at the store and then she touched the handle and then sucked on her pudgy little fingers, or because she was drooled on by a playmate who had just been vaccinated.

So what happened? She had a fever, which we controlled easily with acetaminophen and ibuprofen and tepid baths. She had a rash which lasted a few days and then faded. She had two runny diapers. She may have had a headache and sore throat--both of which would have been alleviated with the meds. She had goopy eyes and a runny nose, which, considering her age, is not so surprising--perhaps what is surprising is that this bout with measles is the second time ever in her little life that she has been sick. And oh, yes, I do count that puny little Piggy Flu as the first.

Oh--and just to get it out there, as soon as we knew that measles was what was had, we were on the phone with those we knew to be at risk, those we thought might possibly be at risk, and those we knew would pray for the Pudge. And for Pete's sake, we kept her home until we knew she was past the possibility of passing it on.

Most of the people with whom we are in contact vaccinate. Some of them don't. Whether we or they do or don't doesn't really matter in this case--Pudge, having just turned a year, was too young to have received an MMR shot, so she fell into the category of "unprotected" by default. And those who choose not to vaccinate do not do so thinking that their children will never get______(measles, mumps, chicken pox, etc......). Generally speaking, they are a very well-educated, well-informed bunch who make decisions after weighing pros and cons, and with the support of their doctors.

But I gotta tell ya, there was mass hysteria out there. Grown, thinking, mature adults absolutely freaked out about this--and mostly because they had no idea what measles is, how it progresses, how it spreads, who's at risk and who isn't, and what they should do about it--because for Pete's sake, we'd better do something!

And why, you might ask, would this affect our Advent?

Well it's like this. We discovered Pudge's measles on Thanksgiving evening. That would be November 26th. That following Sunday (the First Sunday of Advent), November 29th, she and I did not go to Mass (though I was able to go to an evening Mass, thanks be to God). That Monday, Pickle went with My Darling to the boys' club that they always go to on Monday, and someone was very upset about that. Never mind that Pickle is vaccinated and boostered. He cannot carry measles. But whoever was upset about it started The Panic. The Panic spread, the rumors began, the gossip flowed like cheap wine from a box, and the phone began ringing off the hook.

Oh wait--actually, it didn't.

On Sunday, My Darling let a couple of people know that Pudge had the measles, and I received one e-mail from a very lovely woman asking how Pudge fared, and would we like her to send a meal along with her husband and sons to give to My Darling on Monday evening? God bless her!!

The next day, our whole home school group received an e-mail stating that measles was "making the rounds"--because, you know, one child in one family equals "making the rounds." Someone heard about this and passed it on and passed it on and passed it on (because sometimes we women........well, sometimes we talk.). And someone threatened to call a doctor whom they knew who kept track of infectious diseases. And someone called someone else and said that we were using this as an excuse to drop our home school group like a hot potato because we wanted to participate in a different one. And someone called someone else and said that they heard that our daughter said to someone else's daughter that we might not be homeschooling all the way to high school anyway, so what did it matter?

Yes, really.

Everything kind of happened behind closed doors and spilled onto keyboards and screens.

Now, I love e-mail. I use it all the time and think it's groovy that I can send quick updates and notes to my Grams, and print off menus for Mass when I'm scheduled to cantor. But when something like this happens, I truly wish that all e-mail service in the 100 miles surrounding us would crash. People grew not only afraid of measles, but of the phone.

Some of the e-mails we received were near threats--"Don't show up to First Friday Mass!" Some of them were piggybacks of gossip--"We hear MamaMidwife's Lovey and Flower have measles, too--we're praying for them!" (.....except that they didn't have them....not that anyone bothered to call her to find this out.......) Some of them were directed to MamaMidwife, and were Just Plain Hurtful--"Don't come to this event because I'm terrified that you'll give measles to others there!" (.....even though she's vaccinated and cannot carry measles.....)

The fear, I tell you, was palpable.

The worst e-mail--the kindest, but the worst--was the one from our beloved Monsignor. Someone had called or e-mailed him very, very late on Saturday evening, the night before the Second Sunday of Advent. We had already made the decision that the big three were going to Mass with My Darling and the little ones would stay home with me. And at 11:00 at night, I received an e-mail letting our family know that we had all been dispensed of our obligation to attend Holy Mass, the Holy Mass celebrating Immaculate Conception, and all Masses until we were confident that the risk of exposure had passed.

Yes, really.

And what was the risk?

The risk was that because the Monkey, who has not been vaccinated, lives with his dear sister the Pudge, he might carry the measles and hand it off to some unsuspecting unvaccinated child.

Not that we could arrange to not have him at First Friday Mass. Not that we could make sure he stayed--literally--within our arms at Sunday Mass, and in the back of the church, or on the side where very few people ever sit because the lighting is horrible. Not that we were out to expose the families whom we know and love like our own families, for Pete's sake, wishing them all to suffer the wrath of the measles!

And how long was this a risk? Well gosh, I don't know. It probably still is, because here it is, December 17th, and he has yet to get the fever, the Koplik's spots, the rash, the goopy eyes, the sore throat, the headache, the diarrhea, or for pity's sake, the anything associated with measles. But, you know, it could happen at any time.

This Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, REJOICE Sunday, we went to Mass as a family, in the parish to which we belong.

Not the First Sunday of Advent. Not First Friday. Not the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Not the Second Sunday of Advent. And Heaven knows, none of the daily Masses in between.

And as a result of the fear, gossip, panic and lack of communication, we are now considering leaving the home school group with which we'd felt such a strong bond. We hadn't considered it before this whole thing erupted. But having been on the receiving end of a lot of muck being slung about, we're not sure it's really the place we want to nurture our children. (Our children, who, by the way, were witness to their mother reading e-mail after e-mail, talking with friends and those whom she thought to be friends, trying to sort out and assure that we were not trying to infect people with some deadly disease, and for Pete's sake, would they please ask us what our plans for our family are, rather than relying on what someone's daughter said that our daughter said months ago??!! Yes, REALLY!)

A lot of damage can be done when people allow fear to take hold. With the refusal to ask questions, research anything, talk with any doctor who actually deals with measles, rather than studying it from a book, so much has been accomplished on the side of evil--hurt feelings, motives questioned, friendships destroyed, faithful people alienated.....

So it's been a strange Advent.

I'm trying so to keep it all in perspective, to focus on the joy of this season. It's been mighty difficult. There's so much other crud going on that Mass has been all I've had to look forward to...and when you're told not to come to Mass, it's like a stab to the very soul, with a twist of the blade for good measure.

Thanks be to God, my Pudge is well. Thanks be to God, the Monkey is, too. Thanks be to God we can now fully focus on Advent, on preparing our hearts to welcome the Lord Jesus, the Infant King, Emmanuel, God with us.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pondering

Many choir rehearsals these weeks. Lots of sacred music. Plenty to feed the soul. One of the choirs with which I sing is preparing to offer is our annual Lessons and Carols. This is not my choir, but it is perhaps the most famous to offer a Lessons and Carols service each year--King's College, Cambridge, England. I was searching for my favorite carol of this year, and found a treasury. Please take the time to hear each of these pieces, perhaps with a cup of tea, or while placing the figures for your family's Nativity set, as we are doing this snowy morning. Savor Advent. Long for Him. Ponder the Gift.















Sunday, November 29, 2009

You know you're Catholic when....

When I was on bed rest, pregnant with the Pudge, the thing that grieved me the most was missing Mass. I longed for the familiarity and the simplicity of the rituals of signing myself with holy water, hearing the organ and the choir, participating in the liturgy as one of the faithful...and partaking of the Eucharist--receiving my Lord, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

When My Darling and the children would return from Mass, they would give me their sweaters, and I would spend the next hours inhaling the sweet fragrance of incense, which is used every week in our parish. With so many young men gathering to serve every Sunday in the vesting sacristy, there are always plenty of jobs to hand out, including Crucifer, candle bearers, thurifer, boat bearer, zuchetto, Vimpas for the miter and crosier, book bearer, etc., etc., etc.....Last year, because he was new-ish and rather on the small side, my Pickle was frequently boat bearer--which meant that he stuck to the thurifer like glue, and came home plastered with the smell of incense all over his clothes, in his hair, on his skin...you know, until he started to smell like boy again.

So today, because of the Pudge's measles, for Pete's sake, we went to Mass in shifts (which we pretty much never do!). My Darling went to our traditional Mass this morning, taking with him the Frog, the Monkey, and the Pickle. Reepicheep and Pudge and I stayed home. Pudge and I got a wonderful nap in, and Reepicheep was able to watch The Lord of the Beans unhindered by the Monkey, who often begs for the funnier scenes to be repeated many times over, until the whole point of even watching the movie becomes moot.

When the first shift returned home, My Darling sat next to me on the couch.

I could not help myself. I smashed my nose into his shoulder and took such a deep breath that fibers from his shirt landed in my very toes. He smelled sooooooooooooooooo good. The kind of good that makes you want to keep breathing it in until you absolutely explode from having so much goodness inhaled into your lungs, and upon exhaling, you groan involuntarily simply because.

I said to him, "They used a different incense today."

He responded, "Well, you know dear, it is Advent, after all."

Yes--Happy New Year, liturgically speaking. Welcome to cycle C of the readings. And since the priest now wears purple--now you can play the Christmas-y-type songs.

The measles, by the by, are on their way out the door--thanks be to God! The rash is fading quickly from her face--her forehead now looks slightly tanned, rather than angrily burned. The spots are still there, but a bit lighter, and mostly when she's overly warm or has been playing hard or crying. Last night marked the first night that she truly slept in better than a week--meaning that I, too, got a bit of sleep, which I desperately needed.

Keep up the prayers for our friends AJ and Sarah, for Rebekah and ber baby sibling, and for her cousin JP. They need them.

Bloggy Wonderfulness

My dear friend Mama Midwife sent me a link to the most craftylicious, pretty, eye candy I've seen in a long time. And besides all that, it has a fabulous name!

I give you: The Angry Chicken! The category which is the feast for the eyes is this one, and I do encourage you to Ooh and Aah over it as I did. I squealed. I daydreamed. I planned.

My girls and I shall be whipping bunches of these up for Christmas presents...............now all I have to do is pick one to start with, for Pete's sake!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Just a quickie--

I'm catching up on my blog reading, and spotted this gem for Advent preparation. What a wonderful resource! A nod to Pat for posting this.

Huh? Who, me??

I'm so sorry. I've been neglecting my poor blog, and now I think it's wincing from the sudden onslaught after days and days of disuse.

We have the measles around here. Well, actually, the Pudge has the measles.

Also, SHE'S ONE!!

Yeah--it's been crazy.

When the heck was my last entry, anyway? Way back in the dark ages of the Swine Flu (or as My Darling likes to spell it, "The Pig Flew"--get it? Get it???? Now all that other crazy stuff can happen.....) which was better than a month ago? No, surely I've written since then.

My Pudgie's birthday was a whole week ago. We celebrated just as a family, choosing to gather with our dear friends--and Pudgie's Godparents--in December, on the anniversary of her baptism. The Frog made a cake, and the Pudge totally went for it. We cleared the table so that only the cake remained, then we lit the candle, sat her on the table, and sang to her. I had to hold her back to keep her from grabbing that little flame, but after the Monkey helped her puff it out and I let her go, she had a fantastic time! I promise pictures will be posted. I just have to get my hands on the Frog's camera.

The Reepicheep also had a birthday--she entered the Double Digits! Since her birthday falls so close to Thanksgiving, that's when we've traditionally celebrated with family. Her big present this year meant that she finally got her ears pierced. She's hemmed and hawed about this for around four years, for Pete's sake. We allowed the Frog to get hers done for Christmas when she was in first grade, and offered the same opportunity to the Reepicheep. She flatly rejected it, and happily ignored the possibility for about ten minutes, after which she began reasoning out every single aspect of being able to dangle various shiny objects from her earlobes.

Having spent the better part of the last four years pinching her ears to see Just How Much It Really Would Hurt, she finally said that she perhaps just might possibly want to reconsider her hastily made decision, and would we think about maybe talking about discussing whether or not we might permit her to try again? (Really--when she talks, she takes her time and says nearly all of these things!!! It's slightly maddening.....but terribly cute!)

So we did. On Wednesday, we hopped over to the shopping center and popped into the Girly Girl Store and she sat up in the chair and squeezed the fingers right off of my left hand, and choked nearly to stuffed animal death the teddy bear she was given to hold, and when all was said and done--she came away with sparkly little flowers on her dainty lobes. She is fairly smitten, and has been seen casting grinning glances into whatever reflective surface is within ten feet.

On about the measles.

Did you know that in the generation before mine, the mothers who carried their babies passed on all kinds of natural immunity to things we now immunize for? Like measles, mumps, chicken pox....just to name a few. This meant that when their children got those diseases, their immunity was for life, with no need for a booster. Since I was immunized as a child, I haven't passed those immunities on to my children--which means that they need boosters for their immunizations that I didn't need--which means that in just a few generations, what in the world will we be able to do??? Just a thought.

So last Saturday, my little Pudgie, Freshly Turned One, began sporting a fever. It rose pretty quickly, as fevers are wont to do, and parked at about 102. I Motrined her back to sleep, and woke up with a sweaty, feverish little thing plopped onto my back by the Frog.

I figured, well, she's probably teething those molars in. After some more Motrin, we loaded up in the van and went to Mass. There was nothing else going on afterward, so we came home to have our quiet time. Her fever climbed right back up again--this time getting to 104. We began with the tepid bathing, cool washcloth for the head, nursing-like-a-newborn, Tylenol and Motrin regimen, and didn't look back until Wednesday. I put a call in to our wonderful doctor, Dr. Renee, and had a phone consult. We had just a couple of runny diapers, a drippy nose, and teary eyes--but nothing else, save for the fever. She said to keep an eye, and that with no clear signs of any infection, it was likely viral anyway, so there wasn't much to do for it but watch and wait. It was Wednesday evening that I noticed the little white spots in the Pudge's mouth--and later that night that just above her brow became reddened. It spread p into her hairline, covered her scalp, poked it's rashy little nose in behind her ears, and looked like it meant business.

Thursday dawned, and the fever was completely gone, thanks be to God! We got through the day hosting My Darling's parents and his sister's family, and after the turkey had been eaten and stored and everyone left, My Darling gave the Pudge a bath. It occurred to me that I hadn't changed her all day--it had fallen to others, since I was busy playing hostess. When she was brought out of the bath, I had my first peek at the spots which now covered my little sweet Pudge.

I will say it looks a lot less menacing than chicken pox. This rash is red, raised little dots, but they're only about the size of the head of a pin. There are a lot of them, to be sure, but they're not those big nasty blistery things of the pock nature.

Her nose has dried up a little bit. Her eyes are still runny, and red--it looks like she's been having a marathon cry, though goodness knows she hasn't.

She's tired, but restless. I know that when I go up to the bed, it will be not to sleep, but to hold my little Pudge while she wrestles with the idea of sleep, but never really gives in completely.

Everything I've read says that she should be markedly better in about two more days. We're weighing whether or not she should go with us to Mass on Sunday, or if we'll go in shifts so that My Darling and I both get to go.

I will check in again tomorrow.....hopefully with pictures and a promising update.

Please pray for my little Pudge, continue your prayers for AJ and Sarah, and add Rebekah and her baby sibling.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

As Fr. Longenecker would say....

....chust for nice. (Ok, really for a big, fat laugh. Because it's really that funny.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I've posted this song before, with a different video, but this one is a little better. It's just really been on my heart lately, and I have a minute to post it. AJ and Sarah, this is for you, friends. Steph, Rebekah, you too.

Love you all so much.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Buffer Zone

It's late. Really, I'd much rather be in bed, but My Darling took the Pudge up just a short while ago, and I need to give him time to get her to sleep.

Besides, I need time to get my thoughts in order, and this is where that happens. Please excuse any lack of cohesion, but this is where you, the reader, are captive audience to my thought-spew. Great visual, isn't it?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Saturday.........what an absolutely glorious day! Indian Summer made its return to the Midwest, and we welcomed it with arms wide open. My Darling needed to take care of sighting in his gun for deer hunting, so he took Pickle, Reepicheep and Monkey with him up to Mama Midwife's house. Her husband and My Darling went out onto their land and, well, shot at things. Word has it they used a barrel for a target, and it only took 3 shots for him to get the job done. Pickle and Reepicheep each got to take one shot with a .22--under the watchful eyes of both men, mind you, one of whom is not only a county deputy, but also a hunter safety instructor. Pickle said it was awesome. Reepicheep said she's done. :) Atta girl!

While they were gone, the Frog, the Pudge and I were outside. Because when it's 75 degrees in November, you dang skippy better be outside! I've been waiting and waiting to plant my bulbs. I grabbed them several trips back at our second home the home improvement store, and finally it was pleasant enough outside to get my attention. When the wind came through some weeks ago, it brought this oppressive cold, grey sky with it, and it's been windy, cold and rainy ever since. This weekend began a lovely trend of fair weather that I would far prefer lasting into December....but I know it won't. At any rate, the Frog brought the Pudge outside, along with a blanket. The two of them sat and soaked up the Vitamin D, while I yanked the weeds out of a bed My Darling put in for me three years back.

I had originally intended this bed to be full of red and yellow flowers, and even planted seeds--but nothing ever came of it. So for the past two years, I've been working in compost and letting it go weedy--and then pulling everything out. I've mulched it and enriched it, so that this last time, there were some weeds, but not many by any stretch. On Saturday, I planted red and white parrot tulips, pink fringed tulips, red double late tulips, white hyacinths, and purple/yellow/white crocuses. I still need to get more mulch on top of them, but the weather is to be wonderfully fair for the rest of the week.

While I was working on planting the bulbs, the Pudge was working on planting her little eyelids shut. She ended up napping on the lawn (nestled in with her boppy pillow and blankie) for nearly two hours! The Frog stayed outside with her, and when I went in to clean up my hands and throw open every window in the house, I ended up sprawling across the bed and dozing off myself.

The afternoon brought the final lawn mowing of the year, with the Monkey riding on the tractor with My Darling, grinning that humongous grin that he gets around any motor. It was a truly fantastic Saturday afternoon.

Sunday began as usual--we shared breakfast together and prepared for Mass. My Darling drove us in to town, while I applied my make-up. I'm absolutely proficient at applying mascara whilst bouncing around at highway speeds! So we got to Mass, settled in our pews, the boys processed in with the Crucifix, incense, and candles. Monsignor censed the altar, we prayed, we sang the Gloria, we prayed some more..........and the fire alarm went off.

In a church where incense is used--heavily--every single Sunday, the usual routine has been to silence the alarm. But apparently there was a day last week when the company which services the alarm system had to come do some maintenance, and the thing hasn't worked right since.

The lector read the first reading, but there was no way the cantor could sing the Psalm with the incredibly loud noise beating in her ears. Not that I would know--by that time (about 5 minutes), those of us with little ones had gone outside to the front steps to protect our babies' ears. After what seemed an interminably long time, people began streaming through the doors and onto the sidewalk--Monsignor had dispensed everyone's Sunday obligation, encouraging them to attend the later Mass at the other church in our parish.

Whoa.

Now, I had been mulling over in my mind whether or not to receive the Eucharist, but for Pete's sake, to just have it not offered presented quite a shock to my spirit.

I've definitely been given a wake-up call as to just how blessed we are to live where we do, and have the luxury of just attending a later Mass--of having that option! What an amazing thing!! And how often do people take it for granted? How often does my family take for granted that we can just pop in to Mass any day of the week, at almost any hour we want?

Never again, My Lord, I promise.

We did go to the later Mass, thanks be to God.

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Between the Mass-that-wasn't and the Mass-that was, we were visiting with some friends. Our family and three others came together at another family's home. The dads and boys were going out with wagons collecting food for a local Catholic food pantry, so the moms, sisters and little ones got to stay back and have a nice afternoon. The older girls watched the little ones, and the in-betweens played outside. We women were left with our nurslings to discuss.

What did we discuss? Our Husbands, of course! We are all couples who take part in the diocesan Marriage Preparation ministry, and it was so awesome to talk with other women who strongly value our marriages, and know well how to keep things in perspective. It was so uplifting, and great to have honest feedback about things that we all experience in our marriages.

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I found out this morning that my grandma has been hospitalized with a heart ailment. She's in ICU again tonight, but they anticipate being able to move her to a regular room tomorrow sometime. They are switching her from an IV med to the same medication in pill form, and just want to be sure that she tolerates the change. God willing, she'll go home Wednesday. Please keep her in your prayers.

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Well, there it is. Sorry it's not more inspirational, more organized.....whatever. I'm just not up to it. The good news is--I think the Pudge is asleep.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Small Success Thursday

I'm so discombobbulated today, I guess I ought to get this posted before it's Friday--uh, that gives me ten whole minutes.

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I suppose it's a success that I snuck in a nap. Since I upped my meds, I'm feeling a bit more like myself, but I'm still struggling to get the rest I truly need...so napping is good. I snoozed with the Monkey, which is always a treat.

I sat in the kitchen with My Darling this evening. We ate nearly alone, after the kids inhaled their supper and scooted down to play in the basement. It was almost a date--and it was only interruped three or four times. And we only had to tell the interlopers to leave five or six times before they got the hint.

When I was hungry today, I reached for actually healthy food, rather than just plain empty calories. Empty calories are so delicious........Nutty Bars are my heroin, for Pete's sake. But they are really helping to "Widen My Assets," if you catch my drift. And I think you do. I'd rather not widen anymore, thankyouverymuch.

And so, my final success is a bit of a pre-success--perhaps more of a statement. I hereby endeavor to use the exercise equipment I have here in my home. I have some little hand weights, resistance bands, yoga block dealios (um, the lumbar pad of which currently resides in my seat in the van....), and an exercise ball (which was bought for use in labor--which definitely counts as exercise!). You know, this whole statement feels vaguely familiar. I'll have to check back through my old stuff to see if I've made this particular statement before................

There are lots of other people here celebrating their successes today.....what are yours?

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Please continue to pray for AJ and Sarah. Their news today was not as good as they were hoping for. Please pray for strength, peace and grace to carry the Cross He has seen fit to bless them with.

Prayer Request

Would you please keep my friend AJ and his lovely bride Sarah in your prayers? It would mean the world to them. Any time at Adoration, any Masses, any mortifications, any Rosaries--any and all, however the Holy Spirit moves your heart would be fantastic.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Small Success Thursday

Well, well, well. Here we are again at another Thursday, and looking back at the week, I have some small things to celebrate. So, here we go, folks!

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1. I have managed to assist My Darling in the priming and painting of the Family Closet portion of the Addition. Photos shall be forthcoming.

2. Last night at Messiah Rehearsal, I was able to correctly sing a few trouble spots without letting them get the best of me--a good thing, since we only have one more rehearsal before we meet up with the orchestra. It's fish or cut bait!

3. I spoke with my doctor and increased the dose of my medication, which I've been needing to do. She totally understood when I explained that I can talk to my other Mom friends 'til the cows come home about it, but when it came to actually picking up the phone, it seemed to become a poisonous cactus. At any rate, it's done, and I'm feeling much the better for it.

4. I managed to resist the siren call of the Dr. Pepper that's nice and cold and fizzy and delicious and a mere 30 or so steps away. Sleep is more important. And caffeine is bad for the singing voice, too. And Heaven knows I have some singing to do.

There are other folks celebrating their everyday triumphs here as well. What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Two down....

The Pudge has fully recovered, thanks be to God, from her bout with the flu. It's totally up in the air as to whether or not she had the Bonafide H1N1 Swine Flu--after all, with the empirical treatment and complete lack of testing, it seems to me there's a whole lot of assumption going on. Better safe than sorry? Always. I guess we'll just be glad that it wasn't terribly awful, that there were no complications for my dear little Pudge, and that no one else in our family became ill. Praise God for all blessings, great and small!

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This is one of the heaviest weeks, musically, that I've had in a long time. It's not Holy Week, and it's not Christmastide, but this week takes the cake for Most Musically Stressful Week of Ordinary Time by a head full length.

Here's why: Last night, I had choir rehearsal with our Diocesan Choir. Tonight I had rehearsal with the Messiah Choir. Tomorrow night, I have rehearsal again with the Diocesan Choir. Sunday, I cantor at Mass. And then Sunday afternoon, the Diocesan Choir is partnering with a Lutheran choir for a Vespers service to commemorate All Saints Day.

Lutherans, for Pete's sake! Nothing against Lutherans, mind you--some of my dearest and oldest friendships are with faithful Lutherans. But the piece we're singing as a joint choir is not at all something which would be chosen, liturgically speaking, for use in a Catholic choir. It's something quite out of our usual repertoire, and has consumed many chunks of rehearsal time. It's gorgeous, really, with a lush and rather romantic sound to it. But we're frankly just coming into feeling at ease with it, I think. Good thing we have another rehearsal tomorrow night to polish it a bit more.

I'm afraid my voice this evening, upon return home from my second rehearsal in a row, is a little worse for wear. I am banking on my cup of Lady Grey and two full days of rest to restore it, that I may worthily and properly sing the Psalm on Sunday. It's so humbling to be part of the liturgy, to lead the faithful in singing the Psalms of King David. David! He who slew the great giant with a pebble, who led the people of God when the Ark of the Covenant was finally returned once again, who penned the Psalms to the Lord and sang to Him amidst the sheep of his family. And how could I ever be worthy, really, to proclaim the Psalms?

Of course, the answer lies in Grace and Grace alone. My voice should never be heard apart from the Holy Spirit raising it. He has called me to this ministry, and I must answer in obedience.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Must Post

Has anyone seen this movie? My thanks to Monstrous Regiment for posting this trailer. Looks fantastic.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Little Something New

I've been seeing this on some other Catholic Blogs, and I like the idea. The whole "Small Success Thursday" thing seems like a worthy way to inject the late-middle of the week with a little pick-me-up.

So, without further ado, my Small Success This Week:
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1. I've managed to keep my sanity amid the Swine Flu. (Saying it like that, and adding it to some sort of "official" list makes it sound more like the black plague the media's making it out to be!)

2. I've done, folded and PUT AWAY around 25 loads of laundry. And it's only Thursday!

3. When grocery shopping last night with My Darling, I kept our cart to my list. Really, this should go on another list which includes considerations for national awards, but I'll keep it here in an effort to stay humble. ;)

Want more inspiration? Check the efforts other folks have put forth here.

What successes have you had this week?

Ok, all right.......I can't avoid it any longer.

There's just way too much great political-parody stuff out there that MUST be posted. We all need a good laugh! Enjoy this:


Many thanks to The Crescat for being the first place I saw this gem.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pudgy Little Update

So here's the scoop:

The fever remains gone. Adios and good riddance! The cough, however, remains. We've given it the eviction notice, but it takes it about as well as my old nemesis the Nausea Bug did. In other words, it's still here.

But the fever is gone, which is what counts, for Pete's sake.

So now we just pray that the fever stays far, far away from the Little Pudge, and that the cough packs up and leaves soon.

Swine flu, begone!!

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This sleeping at odd hours during the day and sleeping for beans at night is for the birds. Really. But it's done a couple of interesting things. First of all, the big kids have been working on their own school projects. They're deeply involved in engineering their own building design, utilizing a spiffy architecture set that My Darling brought home. And the girls are writing stories, in which they are required to use proper sentence structure, punctuation, handwriting and spelling.

I love homeschooling!

The Monkey, who shall shortly be re-named the Squash, has been learning the finer points of mudding drywall. He has a small spatula tool (I'm told it's a knife, but I do not let my children play with knives, for Pete's sake!) with which he slathers the stuff on, creating all manner of interesting sculptures on the wall. Now, he knows that these will all be sanded down to nothing when they dry, but he goes on about his business with the happy heart of a three-year-old boy. Perhaps we could all take a lesson from the joy of a small child.

The Pudge, despite her cough, is back to her delightfully funny little self, thanks be to God. She has been exploring language of late, and we're beginning to be able to relate her words for things to the things she's naming. She has a name for the Frog that is pretty close to her actual name. And to her beloved Daddy, she coos, "Daddoo.....Daddoo...." It melts him like so many chocolate chips in a double boiler!

I realized yesterday that we passed Monday with hardly a glance--but on Monday, my little Pudgy Bug was Eleven Months Old. We are now in the countdown to Birthday Number One. I shudder to acknowledge that she is growing up so fast, but I suppose they all do, then, don't they?

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Even she knows how BIG she is!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dreaming with her eyes open

She's on my lap, my little Pudgy Bug. She's snoring, which I ordinarily find quirky and cute, but tonight would rather not hear.

She's more congested than she was the other day, and her cough is awful. But the fever is gone, for the most part, and we pray it stays gone, for Pete's sake. The danger of pneumonia as a complication is at the back of my mind top of my forehead. Saint Rapheal the Healer, pray for my baby. Saint Luke the Physician, pray for my baby.

I've had such encouraging news from many friends recently--marriages being strengthened and healed, families settling into new homes far away, healthy children being born into loving families...

In the beloved style of Fr. Z., tell me some of your good news. And for Pete's sake, please keep praying.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Well, if you're going to be up in the middle of the night..........

The clock in the corner of my screen reads 1:17 AM. There are two sleepers next to me: My Darling on my left and the Pudge on my right. I'm up anyway, listening to my baby breathe, so I figured I might as well update my humble home on the web.

What a day.

What a few days.

On Wednesday, the Pudge was a little run down--just a little fussy, a little stuffy-sounding, but no cough or dripping or anything. Ah, well, I thought, she's a baby. Sometimes babies are fussy.

By around midnight, she was starting to spike a temp. We gave her Motrin (not a product plug--it's just what we happened to have on hand) and she fell into a fitful sleep. I fell into a fitful non-sleep, as mothers are wont to do when their little ones are under the weather. The last time I looked at the clock was 3:45.

Thursday was a tough day. She was even fussier, and I was giving her Motrin throughout the day to keep her temp down. When it works, it works well; she resumed playing happily, babbling at her siblings and being adorable as usual.

But last night, everything changed. Last night, her breathing became labored. Her fever didn't respond as well to the Motrin. She went from being ok to being just plain sick. We ended up giving her a tepid bath at 1:30 in the morning to help her body cool down enough to get her the rest she needs. And even then, it was fitful for her and worse for me. I didn't close my eyes until around 5:00. My Darling took the Pudge downstairs with him and snuggled her on the couch. Being upright seemed to help her breathe better.

I put in a call to our doctor. My Darling, knowing that there was no way I was good for much of anything, took the day off from work, intending to go to his second job this evening.

When the doctor called back at around lunch time, I described to her what was going on with my Pudge. I told her that she has a fever, and how when she breathes hard, like when she's crying, her ribs can be seen because of the skin sucking in around them. She didn't need long to say, "You need to take her in. We don't have x-ray equipment up here, so just head to urgent care. She needs chest x-rays."

Oh, that is not what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear, "She probably just has a cold. She'll be fine."

We headed to town with our dear one. She was so brave and good. We got to the hospital, and found ourselves donning those ridiculous masks. She would not keep hers on, and she was already miserable enough without me making her wear something over her little face. Then we sat in a room and waited. And waited. And held her through a throat swab and rectal temp, and then waited some more. Finally, we were taken to radiology for x-rays.

Her chest x-rays were torturous. The first one went ok, I thought, but then she was crying and crying...and with her breathing the way it is now, her cry is a raspy grunt barely louder than a whisper. The tech, whom I knew in high school, was kind enough to let me wear the heavy lead apron and hold my baby so that they could get the films they needed.

We waited some more, and received the good news that the x-rays look good--no pneumonia, thanks be to God. The strep culture came back clear, so no strep, either.

But they are no longer running the tests for H1N1. It's too expensive (around $300), and takes so long that by the time the results come in, the patient is either recovered or being treated in the hospital for complications. So they are now doing what they call "empirical treatment," which means that with certain symptoms, they run less expensive, faster tests, and then treat for H1N1.

My baby has the swine flu.

We're keeping a very close watch on her breathing, because if it doesn't improve, we'll have to go back in for more x-rays, and possible admission. So many people are already praying like mad for my little Pudgy Bug, and we're hopeful that it won't come to that. For the first time in recent memory, our family will not be going to Mass. I hate thinking it, I hate writing it...but it is the prudent thing to do. In a parish with lots of pregnant Mamas and elderly people, we don't want to put anyone else at risk. And My Darling did not go to his second job this evening.

The clock now reads 1:35. I'm sure I'll be up for quite a while yet, watching my baby breathe.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Quiet? Here??

You must be kidding. It's not quiet here. It can't be quiet here. I have four extra children entrusted to my care, running from one end of the house to the other, chasing the dogs, testing the limits, and otherwise having a rousing good time. But believe it or not, it is actually rather quiet at this very moment.

These four children are the middle four of dear friends of ours who are currently traveling in Europe (they have the baby and the eldest with them). They were blessed to attend the ordination to the transitional deaconate for two of our diocesan seminarians in Rome on Tuesday, and, God willing, shall return home on Saturday. Other families have taken turns caring for the kids, and beginning yesterday, they are here for the last leg.

Here's what I love: I love that there is someone for everyone in my family to play with. I love that this family disciplines much the same way we do, so there is no guessing on their part--or on mine. I love that these parents have taught their children to respect adults, whether in their family or not. I love that even though there are NINE CHILDREN in this house at this very moment, three of them are sleeping, and the other six are in the basement making up plays and messing around with legos. I love that when I led the kids in the Angelus at lunchtime, everyone knew the prayers, and said them. I love that when we sat down for the Rosary last night, everyone settled in and prayed along.

I love thinking that someday down the road, when I say that there are nine children in this house, they might all be my children. :) Just sayin'.

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Since my last post, I have had yet another trip to the dentist. If I really tried, I could count them all up since July, but that will have to wait. This last trip was for the permanent crown on the lower right side. Now I have two. Two crowns ought to make me a double queen.....? Does that mean something special in a game of checkers or chess? Does it mean someone else will come in and do my laundry and mop my kitchen floor? No? Rats.

Ok. So the first trip was just a consult. The second was for a root canal. Then another root canal. Then some fillings and a temporary crown. Then more fillings and another temp. Then a permanent. Then a cleaning, and later that day Tooth Number Seven left the building. Then the current permanent. So that makes.....9 visits since July 1st. That's got to be some kind of record. It also means a whole lot of really (no, I mean it) great reflection time. And some really great nitrous oxide.

The next visit will be in December....and it will be the beginning of the end, for Pete's sake. On the next visit, which will be hours long, I will have a partial done which will cover teeth numbers six through nine, with a "dummy tooth" in place for number seven. Then they'll crown over two other front teeth to make them all nice and straight and pretty.

I've only wanted this done since I was ten years old. What's 25 years in the grand scheme?

My girls went to have their teeth cleaned this morning, and Reepicheep came back with a referral for the orthodontist. I love that our insurance will cover her braces.....I also love that when Pickle goes on Monday and brings home his referral, insurance will cover his, too.

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Here's hoping everything continues smoothly with our extra kiddos. Please keep their parents and their other traveling companions in your prayers for a safe return home to their family.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ode to Tooth Number Seven

I had an adventure at the dentist yesterday.

Ok, really, I had a tooth extracted yesterday. Only it really wasn't a tooth anymore, it was a "root tip." That's what they call the thing that remains where a tooth has broken off.

Broken. Off.

This tooth, Tooth Number Seven, was the bane of my existence for a very long time. It grew in horribly crooked some twenty-five years ago, and my parents never thought it was enough of a concern to correct. I longed for braces--not just to straighten out my tooth for aesthetic reasons, though that was certainly a huge factor in my own motivation. It also caused me no end of pain, for Pete's sake. Bump the lip? Cut the lip. And suffer the wrath of the ever-present canker sore. Seriously, if I slept wrong, I'd end up with a canker sore.

It was impossible to floss around, being so tightly wedged against its neighbors as to disallow the floss, even the really thin kind, to swipe between them. This meant that despite frequent brushing it fell into rapid decay once the cavity began. I had it filled and re-filled, but the fillings never really sat well...and eventually the thing broke off.

Broke. Off.

In a cheeseburger.

A McDonald's cheeseburger, no less. With no pickles. I don't like pickles.

You know, filling enough to stave off rabid hunger, but soft enough to cushion the head of a sleepy toddler.

In other words, nothing requiring much chewing.

This occurred at the beginning of June, and yesterday, I had the resultant "root tip" removed. Sitting in the chair, sucking like mad on the stream of nitrous oxide, I remember thinking absolutely clear, lucid thoughts. One of them was this: why is it that when that gas hits your brain, you can think clear thoughts but cannot speak clear words? Some things are a bit funnier, yes, but for Pete's sake, why can't I tell these people about the things I'm thinking? It's as if physical actions will only go in slow motion where your voice is concerned, and your lips have turned to inflated rubber raft sides flapping uncontrollably in the wind. But in my mind, I was thinking about blog entries, soup recipes, thing on my t-do list (which certainly must extend from here to the moon) and every-day, ordinary things--and all at average speed.

Despite the inability to speak while gassed, I had not a care in the physical world. Where normally I would have stiffened a bit at the jabs which delivered the numbing medication into my gums and the roof of my mouth, I just sat there and thought about how many cans of red beans I need for minestrone soup. And instead of balking at the idea of someone taking hold of something firmly implanted into my jaw, I wondered if I should make stroganoff again soon or think of something else to fit into the menu. At the end of it all, I discovered that I now display a gaping hole in the space where Tooth Number Seven used to comfortably (or not-so-comfortably) protrude reside. My gums and jaw are a bit tender, but my lip rejoices in its delicious freedom of movement, delighting in the soft friend it's found in the space the tooth left behind.

I must confess, I almost like going to the dentist. This is probably because the people in the office we now patronize are kind and have an excellent rapport, both among themselves, but also with their patients. It's a clean, homey place, and the radio station piped into the treatment rooms is versatile and kept at a low volume. What's not to love? Besides that, they are compassionate, never once uttering phrases which used to ramp up my anxiety--things like, "Boy, do you ever brush your teeth?" (Of course I do.) And, "Haven't you ever thought of braces?" (Daily, since I was ten.) And, "Why don't you come to the dentist more often?" (Um, because you people make me feel sad and inadequate.)

My present dentist and his assistant (who really should be called something more like Guardian Angel, for Pete's sake) are fabulous. They get on so well together, have a delightful banter with each other, and have treated me with compassion and dignity, which I so greatly appreciate. It's terribly important, because I've been spending a lot of time there since my first appointment in July. I've had two root canals (done at another office, but the complements extend to them as well), two temporary crowns, with the second permanent scheduled to be placed next Tuesday, lots of fillings, with a few more scheduled in a couple of weeks, a cleaning, and when the vacancy left by Tooth Number Seven heals, I will be having a partial done which will cover five teeth and make me have a nice, pretty, straight smile.

I have also found that the long appointments afford an excellent time for interior prayer. With your mouth open and capable hands working therein, what else can you really do? There are only so many ceiling tiles to be counted, only so many times you can look for the hidden deer in the wildlife art, and since you already know the settings on the x-ray machine, you might as well throw in a bit of prayer here and there. I've offered Rosaries, prayed to my dentist's (and his assistant's) guardian angel, prayed for those who cannot afford dental care (which really counts me, but my Mother-In-Law is an angel herself!), for those who need far more dental work than I do, and so on. It's wonderful.

When was the last time you were blessed by a trip to the dentist?

Monday, September 28, 2009

....And that one goes in the "keep" file.

It's blustery. Like that cute song that Winnie-the-Pooh sings in the classic movie, "It looks like a rather blustery day to-day." Even though it's not Wednesday, it was definitely a Winds-day here.

The Frog had her first Confirmation class last night. There were about 20 kids there, all on fire in their hearts in love with Our Lord, and it was a beautiful thing to behold. The not-so-beautiful part was the onset of this front. There we were, kneeling in the darkened nave, the scent of incense hanging in the air from the morning's Mass. The silence was such a treasure--no squawking babies to be taken out into the Narthex, no shuffling of hymnals. We moms waited together for our kids to come join us, and together we prayed the Litany of the Holy Spirit.

We were deep in reverent prayer, our voices melding together praising Our Lord. It was beautiful. And then the wind came.

Oh my goodness. The church shuddered. Hail pounded against the ancient stained glass windows, as if to crash in on top of us. I was certain that we were doomed to rise directly into the heavens, for Pete's sake. (I do not like wind. At all. Ever. Not even to fly a kite. Perhaps to ruffle the curtains at my kitchen window, or sift through my baby's hair, but that's it.)

The wind carried through to today. All day, it howled outside, truly bringing down the leaves and dropping the temperature like a stone. The prelude to this front has taken the better part of a week, and has left me and the Frog with mega-headaches. She was adjusted this morning and this afternoon, and it still persists.

I shall gladly shoulder my suffering and pray for an end to hers.

This cold, blustery weather called for soup.

Ah, soup! That comfort of all foods, capable of warming a home, a body and a spirit all in one fell-swoop! I relish the preparation, I delight in the simmering, and I just plain lurve to eat the stuff.

Today's soup was potato. I've been craving it for a few days now, and have been mulling over a recipe in my mind. I checked a cookbook for the basic make-up, but then flew on my own from the bland concoction listed by Better Homes and Gardens, who insist that water, chicken stock, milk, butter, potatoes, salt and pepper make a good soup. Perhaps a good base, but to call such simplicity soup??!! I think not.

So here's what I did.

Roughly 3 quarts chicken stock
Roughly 1 cup whole milk (I would have used cream, but wouldn't have had enough for my morning coffee, which is a requirement, for Pete's sake!)
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp Blessed salt
1 tsp freshly ground sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 cups red potatoes, scrubbed and diced
1/2 pound fresh breakfast sausage, cooked and drained
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 large onion, diced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

I combined the stock, milk, butter, salt and pepper. I let it heat to a boil while I prepared the potatoes, and then plopped them into the pot, along with the sausage. The garlic, onion and carrots were sauteed in the olive oil, until the onions were translucent and the carrots were tender. It was lovely. All the while, I kept an eye on the simmering pot. I admit, it did boil over once, but it was while I feverishly chopped carrots. And the worst I said was, "Rats!" I promise.

After they were cooked, I added the veggies to the soup and let the whole thing mingle about while the Frog made those delicious crescent rolls that are so cheating! but soooooooooo good....especially when baked on a stone and dipped into homemade soup.

This recipe goes directly into the "keep" file.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The New Element

Now that I look at that title, I realize it makes this post sound very scientific: "Attention everyone, your author has discovered a new element. Prepare to modify your Periodic Tables."

No, really, I am so not science savvy. It's just a new element here on my humble WebHome.

Scroll to the bottom to see it.

All the way. To the bottom of the page.

It's cute.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Herald

The Lord saw fit to herald in the first day of Fall--according to the calendar--with a steady, gentle rain. Though the forecast called for a high of near 80, the mercury has yet to reach 60 degrees.

The smell of brownies warms the air this afternoon, and the Frog, the Pickle and the Reepicheep are settled on the living room floor with the Scrabble board. The Pudgy Bug snoozes on the couch.

I've just come from the bedroom, where the Monkey sleeps on his daddy's pillow. I couldn't help but just stare at him and reflect on the beauty of my little son.

His brow is smooth, but damp and warm with sleep. The delicate veins which cover his eyelids like lacework hint at the vibrant life flowing through them. His ears are so intricate, so perfect. I wondered to myself, could I draw this? Could I ever get it right? Would I be able to shade it, to color it properly, so that it looked even close, for Pete's sake? Of course not. Only the Lord could do something such as this.

His right hand settles around his favorite Bunny, the first two fingers barely resting against his lip. His left hand is curled gently, completely relaxed.

My heart pondered: My Lord, You were once this small. Your Mama kissed your brow, your cheeks as you slept and marveled at your beauty. Your hands were soft and clutched her skirt as she kept Your home a place of serenity, holiness, warmth.

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What an inspiring way to begin a new season....

Friday, September 18, 2009

I'm growing each year to appreciate the fall more and more. Driving on the country road, I pass corn, soybeans, and winter wheat. The corn has begun to wither on the stalks, fading to a sandy brown. The soybeans meld from green to gold, the mottled colors running together like a watercolor painting. The winter wheat is the only thing which does not change.

We have a huge honey locust tree in the back yard. All summer long, its leaves give shade and cover to the east side of the yard. The leaves are tiny, grouped on stems together. They are smaller than the petals of my sunflowers. In the fall, the leaves turn a brilliant yellow, and flutter to the grass, flitting on their way down. The shadows cast through my kitchen windows and onto the bamboo wood floors each morning are enchanting.

As the air cools and dries, the windows stay open all day. In the summertime, they are open only in the mornings and evenings, and closed to the humid heat through the afternoon. But today, the fresh air wafted through the house all day long, bringing the bird song in with it.

I rearranged the kitchen this afternoon. Since the washer and dryer made their way upstairs into the new laundry room, and the walls of the old were torn apart to access the plumbing, the kitchen had become something of a catch-all (as though I needed another one of those, thankyouverymuch), and was starting to make me a little nuts. Not only that, but the old laundry room is now far larger, thanks to My Darling flooring over the old basement stairs (since we now have the new basement stairs) and taking out the walls which enclosed it. It's 81 square feet, for Pete's sake. Eventually the wall separating that room and the kitchen will come down...but that's not exactly on the top of the priority list. I've been trying to figure out a way to make it a little more welcoming, since it's the first room one enters when coming in through the back door. I moved a large shelving unit from the kitchen into the Room-Formerly-Known-As-The-Laundry-Room (and now I have no idea what to call it, for Pete's sake!). It holds a gigantic plant and all of my food storage containers, canning supplies, and stock pots. My kitchen now looks humongous. I mean, it really looks like we could have a much bigger table and have five or six more kids sitting around it.

Just sayin'.

Good thing we have five more seats in the van.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Harkening

A post over at Fr. Z's blog has a discussion about baptismal rites in the com box. I had to mention my Little Pudgy Bug's baptism, and remembered that I longed to share photos back then.

Perhaps it's time to try again.

The water is poured:
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Receive the Light of Christ:
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We all posed afterward:
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And then she talked with Monsignor! (I love the expression on his face...)
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My original post tells the better story.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Little Girl

My friend is going through something that has broken her heart. I can't take this burden on for her, but I can give her small words of hope and encouragement as I find them. My spiritual reading lately has brought me back to Bishop Sheen. I found a wonderful book of his quotes (at a second hand store--for 99 cents!) which has become more and more worn as I page through it each night. I have been blessed to pray for my friend and the cross she finds herself carrying while I meditate on these truths.

And then there's this.

I've always found it far easier to relate to others through music, and this situation is no different....so this post is for you, H.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Crescat Poll

The Crescat has a poll running. Since I don't generally post things political, I'll just direct my faithful readers over there. Go vote!!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Allergy Season

The annual crop of ragweed has been spewing it's pollen into the late summer air, and my sinuses have been greedily ingesting all they can.

It's allergy season in the Midwest, big time.

Every afternoon, all year long, we have Quiet Time in this house. The Frog, the Pickle, and the Reepicheep are all expected to find something which will occupy their time until the little ones finish their snoozes. They can color, write, read, paint, knit, make collages, play with legos--whatever--as long as it does not involve conversation. I do permit the use of their MP3 players (the little $10 versions which store music, and do not do anything fancy like take pictures or show videos...), and if it's kept to a volume which cannot be heard past a closed door, I allow the Frog to listen to the local Christian radio station.

Last Thursday during Quiet Time, I really needed to snooze with the Monkey and the Bug. I'd been to the dentist in the morning and had a choir rehearsal in the evening, and I was feeling a bit under the weather. Following lunch, the big kids chose their afternoon activities (we had just hit the library, so there wasn't too much else they wanted to do besides grab one of their new books anyway), and the Bug, the Monkey and I settled into the Big Bed to snuggle and snooze.

I slept like a rock. That doesn't happen a lot. Ever since becoming a Mama, there have been fewer than a dozen times when my head has hit the pillow and I've slept so soundly that I am completely unaware of the goings on of the household. Usually, I am in a perpetual state of awakeness. If a feather floats to the floor, I know about it. If a mouse drops a crumb, I sense it. If one of my children blinks, I hear their eyelashes brush their cheeks. Thursday, though, was one of those days when I was so completely unconscious that I didn't even hear My Darling come home from work.

When I woke up from my nap, someone had already come and plucked my happily cooing Pudgy Bug from her little nest beside me. The Monkey was downstairs messing around with blocks. And my head pretty nearly burst from the pressure therein.

Good grief. Holy cats and marbles. I was so plugged up I could hear virtually nothing, and though I could breathe through my nose just fine, there was enough pressure in my sinuses to burst a fire hose. I could actually see the swelling in my face. My eyes watered enough to fill a rain barrel.

It's very interesting to sing in a choir rehearsal when you cannot hear those around you. I can feel in my voice whether or not I am in tune if I'm singing alone. To be able to blend and tune to others, though, generally requires a careful ear. Rats. The ladies on either side of me said I sounded fine. I trust their honesty, because even if I had sounded like an alley cat, I would have been entirely unaware.

Saturday morning, I peeked at the clock at a little past six. I thought, surely I can sleep in a little. I closed my eyes and drifted back into another sound sleep, only to reawaken at 10:30! Good gravy! I slogged downstairs, where My Darling took one look at me and said, "Oh for Pete's sake, you look absolutely miserable. Get back to bed." Sometimes, I have absolutely no trouble at all with obedience. ;)

My fever hovered around 101.5 all day. I tried to read a few times, but each page I managed to turn felt as though it weighed as much as a Mack truck. My eyes felt heavy and sticky. My lids pulled toward my cheeks with every word I tried to comprehend. I pretty much slept the day away.

Sunday, I was to cantor at Mass. I did, too. There are times when I stand behind the ambo and hear something come from my mouth, not knowing at all how it got there. The Holy Spirit uses my voice to proclaim the Psalms, and many times I am greatly surprised by what I hear. On Sunday, I sniffed my way through the Mass, and was so stuffed up I could barely hear myself pray through the petitions. But when I opened up to sing, there was the Holy Spirit, carrying my voice. I love that He does that. It's another reminder that I can do nothing at all without My Lord.

I am beginning to recover this week. I think. I'm less stuffed up than I was over the weekend. Now if this pesky cough would just go away...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Metaphor Monday

What if we lived the way she does?
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Explored each thing as though for the first time...
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Peered intently into the depths of the sand...
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Looked not just with eyes, but also with heart...
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And felt everything as though with a baby's hand?
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How much more would we see, would we love, if we opened our eyes wide like hers?
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Or if once in a while we would just look down, would we love where we are in the world?
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Sometimes, I just know I'm being tapped on the shoulder. I believe that God loves me enough to talk just to me from time to time. Slow down, he says, and look at all that I have made. Soak in the beauty. Remember that I created everything, and that I proclaimed it all to be good.

Humankind was created for His pleasure and delight. But what wonders are around us that He created for our delight?

Like this
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and this
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and these
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and this
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Find your childlike faith. Look with the eyes of your heart, and see that He makes all things new.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wrapping it up

The week, that is.

Last weekend, I had two of our precious Godchildren with me here while My Darling assisted Mama Midwife and her husband and assorted others move their earthly possessions to the other side of the planet about 45 minutes north of here. We all ended up there for supper, and then the Frog and the Pudgy Bug and I stayed with Mama Midwife while her husband gave some of the help a ride home. I continue to wallow in my denial of the fact that I no longer have a geographical neighbor who can come over on a moment's notice for a cup of delicious tea and help me finish salvaging the day's crossword. Good thing we live in the age of technology, so we can do those things over the phone.

Still. It's just not the same. She should move back.

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Sunday was such a beautiful inspiration! Our family volunteered for our diocesan celebration for couples observing their 50th year of married life together. My Darling and I will be celebrating 12 years of marriage tomorrow, so these folks are definitely heroes to us!

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The rehearsals for this choir are trotting along at a pace. I've found that it's best to prepare myself mentally before heading in to the choir room. It's just really intense--you know those days where by bed time you feel like it's been an entire week since the day began? Yeah. Like that. Only musically. Again with that whole music nerd thing. But the totally cool thing is that our rehearsal director can give us a 7- or 8-note example of what he doesn't want, followed by what he does want, and the entire choir just does it. It's the way a choir should work, and it's absolutely mind-blowing. I lurve it.

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I discovered an awesome blog, written by some very knowledgeable fellow from Madison, WI, having to do with all things Liturgical. Great for the GIRM nerd who wants some good, relevant reading, and excellent ideas for music, general intercessions, understanding anything to do with the Church and why we do what we do liturgically. Give him a read. I hear he's a superb musician, as well.

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And now for the best part of my week.

Last night, as we settled down for our Rosary, I was feeling a bit ruffled. The evening was one full of domestic challenges, minor squabbles, small bits of disrespect, and general family life late on a Friday evening. I was at that point of just wanting the kids in bed so I could catch up on some reading or something--I was looking toward morning with the hope of things being better...or as He tells us in His Word, "His graces are new every morning." I love that promise.

BUT. (Always with the "but".)

In the book I finished reading not long ago, Death on a Friday Afternoon, by Fr. Richard Neuhaus, we are admonished, "Don't rush to the joy of Easter!" In other words, to some extent, savor the suffering. Be with Our Lord in His suffering by not rushing through our own. Find Him in the small moments of frustration just as we seek Him in greater earthly sufferings. (A decent review of this wonderful book is here; another, more in-depth can be found here.)

So I sat on the couch with my Monkey in my lap, his plastic Rosary clutched in his little fist, his head leaning back against my shoulder. The Pickle and the Reepicheep curled up with their blankets in their customary spots, and the Frog held the Pudgy Bug close.

I held my Rosary stretched between my hands, to show the Monkey how it goes. We've been encouraging the kids to each lead "their" decade. Always, we go through the children, asking them what the Mysteries are for the day: "Frog, what's the first Luminous Mystery?" "Reepicheep, what's the third Joyful Mystery?" -And so on. So this week, I've been asking them what the mystery is, and then, "Would you please lead the decade?"

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My Darling holds the Pudgy Bug and leads us in the Rosary. Months ago, mind you. The Pudge is far pudgier now.

Last night, though, I was leading, because I just wanted to immerse myself in the prayers, meditating on Him, and be more interior than having to monitor the kids. Sinful, I know. But there it is. As we came to the third Sorrowful Mystery (the crowning with thorns), I said to the Monkey, "Now we pray the Our Father, because there is a bead here all by itself." He pinched the bead between his little fingers, and began, "Our Father, Who art in heaven..." (Except that in his little toothless way, he says, "Our Fazzer..."--like he's German, but without too much accent...terribly adorable...). I hadn't asked him; it was completely unprompted.

Now, just the other night, it had been next to impossible to get him to even pray out loud, much less lead anything. But here he was, leading first the Our Father, and then the entire decade of Hail Marys. We came to the fourth Sorrowful Mystery, Our Lord carries His Cross, and he did it again. He led the decade.

And then the fifth Sorrowful Mystery, the crucifixion and death of Our Lord. And he led that, too.

I was dissolved into tears. I was a pile of mushy heart. I was laid bare by a three-year-old dear boy.

You know, sometimes, if you wait just long enough, being with Him in your suffering, He shows you His mercy and love in such concrete ways that you can't not be aware of His presence.

Thanks be to God.