Monday, December 30, 2013

How We're Failing Our Children

I'd like you to meet a friend of mine from college. She was a cradle Catholic, born and raised in a Catholic family, very active in her parish. When we met, she was a born-again Christian. Today, she is not a Christian. Here's a description of her upbringing, in her own words:

Catholicism to you is so different from Catholicism to my parents. I definitely grew up in an actively Catholic family: church every Sunday, my mom taught Sunday school. I was in the Teen Music Ministry that played music once a week at Mass. I taught 3rd grade Sunday school when I was in high school. I was my church's, and possibly my county's, only member of the Diocesan Youth Council. I was one of two DYC members to represent the youth on the Bishop's council, whatever that was called. I attended the Christian Leadership Institute, led by my diocese, and then the next summer came back to work on the kitchen crew. The next summer, loving it so much, I volunteered to lifeguard. You really can only attend once, unless you find roles for yourself. I attended the 1999 National Catholic Youth Conference.
I did everything a teenage Catholic could do to get involved, but I didn't really know what it stood for.
When I became a Born Again Christian, I questioned Catholicism. I then learned that my parents didn't follow all of the Catholic beliefs. They used birth control, for example. So, I'm not used to knowing what Catholics actually believe.

Where did we, the Church, go wrong? Could we place part of the responsibility on her parents, for not practicing what they preached? Sure. But look at how many other adults were charged with teaching her the faith. This wasn't an apathetic teen, looking for her earliest opportunity to leave the Church. She loved it. But when questions were raised, she had no answers.

I wish I believed her story was an anomaly, but it's not. I can immediately bring to mind others - from active Catholic families - who no longer practice, some who no longer believe in God. We are failing our children. Certainly parents are the first catechists, but it's reasonable to assume that others have the opportunity to contribute a great deal.

What we are doing is not working. Retreats and songs and inspiring speakers and prayer teams are great, don't get me wrong. But unless we TEACH the faith, it cannot be learned. How to best do that, I don't know. Maybe no one does. But unless we want to continue to hear stories like my friend's, we better start working on answers.

She and I did a clown ministry in college (she's not pictured here)

Friday, December 20, 2013

7QT (Vol. 67): Advent, Toothbrushes, and Reverse Discipline

We don't really do Santa in our home. Peter recently saw someone dressed as Santa and wondered why anyone would wear clothes like that. "Well, he's dressing like Santa Claus. That's one way we remember St. Nicholas and all the great things he did for people. At Christmas, sometimes someone dresses as Santa Claus and gives gifts." "Oh! Mommy, at Christmas, I will dress as Santa and you can dress as... an elephant." I think he thinks it's like Halloween.

Speaking of elephants, we have a shelf of Things Anne Can't Have in our living room. While cleaning recently, I saw this guy on it.
I tossed it back on the floor, since she's not likely to hurt herself with a rubber elephant. Peter came in shortly later. "Mommy! You knocked over my Advent decoration!" "Oh, sorry, put it back up." "Yes. It's purple, for Advent."

That elephant was a gift from our dentist. As you would expect, they also gave us toothbrushes, one for each child even though only Peter had an appointment. They were functional, but cheap, and started to wear out in about a month. When we went to buy new ones, I noticed that Oral-B sells toothbrushes for different ages (that also have Pooh characters, big selling point for Peter!). Generally, I'm skeptical of things marketed towards kids, but... Pooh Bear. So we bought them. Best toothbrushes! The one for Anne has short bristles for her tiny baby teeth and a rounded head that doesn't poke her. Peter's toothbrush has a much smaller head than any other child brush we've used, which has made it so much easier to brush his teeth without making him uncomfortable. We're hooked.

Peter was irritating his sister the other day and absolutely ignoring me. "Peter! Stop it!" "Mommy, do you like it when I scream?" "No." "Then why do you scream at me?" "I wasn't screaming, I was using a louder voice because you were ignoring me when I used a regular voice." "How about you use a nice voice and I will listen." Another good reason to use gentle discipline. He is willing to be gentle with me.

Peter sometimes has a tough time choosing healthy ways to express anger. I've been encouraging him to "sing out the angries" or dance them out or whistle or hug or whatever. Anyway, we were running late recently (a frequent occurrence, if truth be told). Peter was dancing around his room in his underwear, not complying with my requests to stand still and put on pants. "Peter. Come. Here." He scampered over. "Here, Mommy. Here is a nice, sweet hug to get out all your angries. Now do you feel better?" "Yes. Thank you, honey."

Of course, he's not perfect. I was playing with them both earlier this week and Anne abruptly started to cry.
me: Anne, what's wrong?
Peter, in his "squeaky Anne" voice: Peter just bited my finger!
me: Peter, don't do that. That hurts her.
Peter: Her finger was in my mouth.
me: Next time, take it out. Or ask me to.
Peter: There wasn't any time.
Jeremy: There is always time to not bite someone.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas next week. Anne's birthday is also next week, so with all the festivities I plan to enjoy my family and not do much blogging. God bless us, every one.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Shoveling the Driveway

Helping Daddy with a Peter-sized "shovel"

Wearing socks on his hands because mittens were too bulky
When is it my turn?

Monday, December 16, 2013

I parent better than my husband.

I had an epiphany yesterday, one that was far too long in coming. I shared it with my husband and apologized for having been ridiculous these past three years. I realized that I parent better than he does.

It's not that I'm a better parent. He is a fantastic dad. It's that I am more skilled at the actions involved in parenting. Getting children dressed and fed, keeping them out of trouble and happy, completing chores without ignoring them - those types of things.

On occasion, I've gotten frustrated with my husband for not being able to do what I do. How hard is it to have both kids fed and dressed by the time I'm done showering and getting dressed? After all, I do the same almost every Sunday for church. Note my complaint: not that he isn't doing it (he is), but that he's not doing it as efficiently as I do.

Now think about applying that standard to something else. It would be unreasonable to expect equal performance from two people if one puts in at least twice as much time doing it. No one would want me to get up and play drums with worship team on Sunday. I mean, I can keep a beat (usually) and I know the songs, but Jeremy is much better at playing drums (and most other instruments). It's unreasonable to expect equal performance from us.

In addition to being a great dad, he's also a great husband. When I apologized, he simply said, "I forgive you." No blame, no gloating, not even "it's about time." I am well and truly blessed.

Friday, December 13, 2013

7QT (Vol. 66): Tears

Have you heard Belleau Wood by Garth Brooks? I don't care if you don't like country music; you should go find a YouTube version and listen anyway. It is a fictional account (not actually based on the battle of Belleau Wood) of a Christmas truce in WWI. Although the song was released in 1997, yesterday was the first time I'd heard it. I cried. I cried for the ending of the truce, for soldiers ordered to kill, for the loss of humanity. I cried because it is still happening.

More than that, I cried because we scorn God. He gives us the greatest gift of life and we waste it. In war, yes, but in so many other less obvious ways too. "I'm sorry," I whispered.

Tonight, I attended our youth group's living nativity. It was beautiful. The kids faltered here and there with lines, but they portrayed the message of Christmas powerfully. I love these kids of ours. As they sang "Breath of Heaven", I prayed their words would come true for each of them. "Breath of Heaven lighten my darkness, pour over me your holiness, for you are holy, Breath of Heaven."

One young man did a solo of "Joseph's Lullaby" by MercyMe. I can vouch that at least two dads were wiping away tears. I hope and pray that these kids of ours were as touched by what they performed as we were. I want so badly to see them take ownership of their faith.

On a much lighter note, I did wipe away tears today playing outside with the kids. That wind gets cold! I think I spent about 10 minutes getting them both dressed for no more than 15 minutes of playing outside. Then we came inside. Both of them immediately collapsed into puddles of despair that I could not instantaneously remove all of their outerwear. Sigh.


It was totally worth it anyway. Reminded me of something I read years ago. "Why do you spend an hour getting all the stuff together and walking to the pool for less than 30 minutes of swimming?" "Because otherwise I have to think of something to do to entertain them for an hour!"

7 Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Carols for Children

What comes to mind when you think of Christmas music for children? "Jingle Bells", "Frosty the Snowman", and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" probably top the list, which is interesting. The first two are not about Christmas at all (just winter) and the third focuses on Santa Claus, not Jesus. Also, the second two songs have long verses that are difficult for children to learn.

Most children appreciate music that has a lively tempo, a definite rhythm, and repetition. There are many traditional Christmas carols that appeal to children and lend themselves to singing along. Here's a list to get you started:

Repetitive Chorus

  • We Three Kings 
  • Ding Dong Merrily on High 
  • O Come Let Us Adore Him (Adeste Fideles) 
  • Angels We Have Heard On High 
  • The First Noel 
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen 

Easy to Learn

  • Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus 
  • The Little Drummer Boy 
  • Do You Hear What I Hear 
  • Joy To The World 
  • Go Tell It On The Mountain 

Christmas Lullabies

  • Silent Night 
  • Away in a Manger 
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem 

Be sure to include instruments, too. Bells are a great addition to "Ding Dong Merrily on High" and of course any percussion is welcome during "The Little Drummer Boy"! In addition to this list, Peter really likes "The Friendly Beasts". His favorite part is making the animal noise at the start of each verse. :-)

Anne really gets into drumming

Friday, December 6, 2013

7QT (Vol. 65): Girlfriend Club, Wife Association

When I was dating, there seemed to be a friendly girlfriend club with open membership. The guys would get together, we girls would tag along. Once introduced, we would smile knowingly at each other while our boyfriends talked animatedly with each other about things of no particular interest to us. We'd chat about what we did while they watched sports, how lousy we were at video games, and what things we did that they would never understand. It was fun.

Times have changed. We're adults now, so we're more likely to meet at someone's home or a sit-down restaurant, which changes the conversational flow. We're also not in college, so we have fewer common activities and experiences. It can be super-awkward. Now it's more like a formal association rather than a club. To join, you must be in the same stage of life: casually dating, cohabiting (w/ or w/o marriage), cohabiting with pets, or cohabiting with kids.

If you're not in the same life stage, there is nothing to say. I've had painful conversations that haltingly go something like this:
Wife: So, you have kids.
Me: Yep, there they are. Here's something funny one of them did.
Wife: Wow, kids. We don't have kids.
Me: Yeah.
Wife: We have a dog. Do you have a dog?
Me: We have no dog.
Wife: But you sure have kids. There they are.

We have a couple of male friends whose company I have always enjoyed. Now, though, they have moved to the stage in their respective relationships where it would be odd to invite them without their significant others. I've met both women and think they are very nice - but when we get together, the guys talk while we flounder. See, when just the guy would come over, he and Jeremy would do most of the talking while I did what I like best: listened and chimed in if I had something worth saying. This left the "burden" of conversation on my extroverted husband. I got all the pleasure of socializing without having to do much for it. Now, though, I have my own conversational partner. I feel like I need cue cards.

Years ago, I read that women change friends more frequently in life than men because they make friends for different reasons. Male friendships are based on a common interest or activity. Female friendships are based on a common stage in life. I thought it was an interesting theory. I know my friendship waned a bit when a friend had her first child, then strengthened again when I had Peter. However, I have other friendships that have remained strong despite us being in very different stages of life.

Perhaps a female friendship needs a common life stage to begin before it can endure changes. Once you're already friends, you can talk about interesting things like religion and politics and education and all the other things you don't discuss with people who might find your opinions offensive. But you need to lay the groundwork of small talk first.

Another friend of ours has recently considered the dating scene again. He is pretty fantastic, so (most recent experience notwithstanding) I'm confident he'll find someone he enjoys dating. That makes me a little sad. See, he was originally Jeremy's friend, so I suspect when we hang out as a foursome eventually, his girlfriend and I will find ourselves expected to chat. Maybe we should buy a dog before that happens.

7 Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I made him a sandwich and never saw him again

In my younger, more foolish years, I was not well-acquainted with hummus. In fact, at the time of this story, I'm not sure I'd even tasted it yet. I did know, however, that it came in a variety of flavors and textures. Also, I had a very stylish white sweater vest with a hood. And with that background, begin.

I was working food service at SUNY Geneseo, making subs. When I arrived for my shift, I noticed we were missing a container from the sub cart, but I couldn't recall what usually filled that spot. I figured if anyone came asking for it, I'd look for a refill.

An hour or so later, a boy came in and asked for a hummus sub. (We counted hummus as a meat substitute; it was spread on about half an inch thick.) That's what we were missing. I explained that I would need to check in back to see if we had any more; he agreed to wait.

I checked where we usually kept it, none there. I knew we had recently switched from a creamy hummus to a grainy hummus, so I asked my manager if it was being kept somewhere else. She suggested taking the container from the salad bar cart, since that was closed for the evening. I grabbed a container, double-checked it with her to ensure it was indeed hummus, and brought it out.

I felt bad, so I put on a bit extra. The boy graciously accepted my apologies for the delay and took his sandwich. Ten minutes later, he was back. I looked up, puzzled.

"Um, hi again. Can I help you?"
"Uh, I don't think that was hummus."
"Oh. What was it?"

Monday, December 2, 2013

Family Photo

Photo from JCPenney, all rights belong to me

We did it! After more than a week of hovering around Anne, we were able to get a family picture taken tonight in which she had NO bruises on her face! No smile, either, but beggars can't be choosers. We had a variety of poses, of course, but not one where both kids were smiling. Peter has chapped lips currently, so in many of the pictures he is licking his lips. Good memory shots, though!

Anne's one year portraits are scheduled for Wednesday. Here's hoping we can make it two more days unscathed. :-)

Friday, November 29, 2013

7QT (Vol. 64): Evangelii Gaudium

I've been slowly reading my way through the first apostolic exhortation from Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium. It is such a beautiful challenge, a call to real evangelization, to sharing first the love of God. All doctrine and dogma comes forth from "the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead." If we cannot share that truth, we have no business trying to enforce anything else. Here are excerpts of some of my favorite parts, so far (up through #64).

Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, [Christians] should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet.
If news is good enough, we're motivated to spread it simply to have someone with whom to share our excitement. Sharing our faith shouldn't feel like an obligation, but should simply spring forth from the joy we have in it.

In today’s world of instant communication and occasionally biased media coverage, the message we preach runs a greater risk of being distorted or reduced to some of its secondary aspects. In this way certain issues which are part of the Church’s moral teaching are taken out of the context which gives them their meaning. The biggest problem is when the message we preach then seems identified with those secondary aspects which, important as they are, do not in and of themselves convey the heart of Christ’s message. We need to be realistic and not assume that our audience understands the full background to what we are saying, or is capable of relating what we say to the very heart of the Gospel which gives it meaning, beauty and attractiveness.
This is something I've been evaluating in my own life. I seek out others with a faith like mine, looking for encouragement and community. There is value in this, but I wonder if it blinds me to how "the others" perceive the world. I need to keep a healthy balance, staying engaged with society while remaining in a vibrant faith community.

In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated. Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them.
This one struck me because I wanted to skim over it. I believe he is absolutely right. Traditions that do not bring us closer to God may be worse than useless if they make new members of our church feel confused or uncomfortable. But, but... I like them! It's not particularly pleasant to see that I think more of my enjoyment than another's soul.

The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door.
This will raise some hackles, I'm sure. It is so tempting to justify our closed-door policies, especially in poverty-stricken neighborhoods or in the aftermath of robbery or vandalism of our church building. But again, we cannot put our own pleasure above the possibility of drawing souls to Christ. (It may also be useful to remember this is addressed to the Church throughout the world. There are parts of the world in much worse shape than the most violent areas of our inner cities.)

How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality.
Yeah. Excuse me while I find a mirror so I can get this plank out of my eye.

We are living in an information-driven society which bombards us indiscriminately with data – all treated as being of equal importance – and which leads to remarkable superficiality in the area of moral discernment. In response, we need to provide an education which teaches critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values.
Yes yes yes! HOW? I've been discussing this with friends and family recently, even before reading this. We have developed almost no solid plans to improve the current system. This, perhaps, should be a post of its own. Does your parish provide this kind of education? How do they do it?

See more 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Peter, Gymnast Extraordinaire

As close as possible to his teacher

Absolutely refuses to try this alone :-)

"I can do the slide all by myself!"

Demonstrating a knee scale for his class

This he can do!

Tipping over during his "safety roll"


Monday, November 25, 2013

Things You Never Wanted to Know about Me

It has been a long, hard day for me. Instead of any post of substance, I will resort to being utterly shallow and self-centered. Here is a list of things that never crossed your mind to ask.

1. Every movie I've seen in theaters was G or PG, except Bruce Almighty. It wasn't worth it.

2. My pinkie toes kind of slant under my ring toes. And yes, I call them ring toes.

3. I once scored a goal in soccer from the midfield line while playing defense. It was purely accidental.

4. I memorized a quote from Return of the Native in high school, although I can't tell you anything about the story any more. "What did she say? Surely nothing that can't be got over." "'Get out of my sight you slim twisted slack-witted 'maphrotite fool' was the woman's words to me."

5. Every boy on whom I've had a crush was Catholic, ended up in the military, or both - except for the three I actually dated. Jeremy became Catholic while we were dating... so I guess that's less interesting than I thought.

6. As a child, I desperately wanted to wear contact lenses because I really liked watching my cousin put in hers.

7. When I was in fifth grade, I got a palatal expander as part of orthodontic treatment for my cross-bite. I gave an oral report the same day. On Saskatchewan.

8. We had king-sized candy bars to celebrate the feast of Christ the King.
It looks all Instagram'd, but it's really just a bad exposure

Friday, November 22, 2013

Bedtime is Forever

Peter's bedtime routine can easily take an hour. I brush his teeth, then Daddy takes over. He helps Peter use the toilet, take a bath or shower, and get into his night diaper and pajamas. Together, they read a story, then call me (and Anne if she's awake) up to pray with them. Jeremy takes Anne downstairs while I lie down with Peter. We sing three songs, pray the introductory prayers, one decade, and closing prayers of the Rosary, then sing two more lullabies. Then Jeremy comes back up to cuddle for awhile, sometimes taking Peter downstairs again to the rocking chair for a few minutes.

Does it seem to take forever some nights? Definitely, especially if we have company. On nights he's tired, Jeremy has fallen asleep up there. But we don't have any plans to change.

Peter, like most little children, loves routine. Why mess with success? I know he is capable of calmly going to bed with a much shorter routine, which is what I use when Jeremy isn't around for bedtime. Since Peter is happy this way, though, I can't think of a compelling reason to change it just to allow me more time on Facebook.

Also, we're making memories. At the end of his day, Peter is guaranteed some individual attention from each parent. He is enjoying reading with his Daddy. He is sharing quiet prayer with his Mommy. He is learning songs I love. We keep this routine believing he will treasure these memories throughout his life. Bedtime is forever.

Peter, age 2 months

Monday, November 18, 2013

In the Silence

I am
between chores and diapers and meals

No five-teeth smiles
or little boy hugs
to "the best mommy in the whole world"
sweeten this moment

Furnace and fridge
hum a lullaby
to the man of my dreams
for another day
of work and fatherhood

I am
in twilight
where moods are
neither bright or dark
and night
may still be
cloudy or full of stars

I am
neither lonely
nor alone
as my soul settles
for His whisper

m51 - Whirlpool Galaxy
Whirlpool Galaxy by afrojim123 on Flickr

Friday, November 15, 2013

7QT (Vol. 63): Bruises, Rhymes, and Other Lessons

Anne is an independent baby. She took her first steps last weekend, making our lives that much more exciting. She is fearless and determined, which will eventually serve her well, but currently results in a lot of bumps and bruises. I have high hopes of having both a family Christmas portrait and her one year old portrait done within the next month. I am waiting for her face to be free of bruises before scheduling either sitting, though. It might be awhile.

Peter loves rhyming. I've capitalized on this to practice reading with him, writing and illustrating a group of rhyming words for him to read. Once he sounds out one of them, the rest are easy. He gets such a kick out of being able to read to me!

Since some rhyming words don't have the same spelled ending (i.e. fly and pie), sometimes I just draw pictures and have him sound out only one word. Recently, I decided to do this and make the word an unknown one. Here's the picture:

His answer suggests I need to improve my art ability. "M. Mmm... magnificent tree frog."

Anne is starting to make meaningful noises. While visiting her grandparents last weekend, she was quite enthusiastic about grapes and began to say, "Ray ray!" when we put her in her high chair. She also makes a "bwuh" sound when she wants the crust from my husband's sandwich, which we think means bread. Yesterday morning, Peter came in and whispered, "Mommy, will you get up so we can have breakmast?" (I have no idea why the f becomes an m in that word.) Anne immediately came fully awake and said, "Ray ray! Bwuh!" Her small stature is certainly not due to lack of appetite!

I have not been nearly as conscientious with my second child about teaching sign language. The only ones I've really used have been nurse, more, food, all done, please, and apple. Despite my laziness, she has managed to pick up the sign apple, which we use for applesauce. Or at least a sign that I know means apple. She opens and closes her fist near her mouth. Close enough. :-)

Actual sign

Peter is thrilled about his gymnastics class through the town recreation department. He has learned the terminology for quite a few stunts, although his ability to perform them is a bit more limited. He is having fun and learning something new every week. Plus he looks adorable in his gym clothes, which in itself might justify the cost.

I almost never watch videos online, preferring to read the information. But some things just cannot be done justice with a still photo or text. If you want to watch my budding musician, turn down your speakers first!

Read more 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Aren't they unhappy rear-facing?

The safest way for kids to ride in a car is a rear-facing car seat , assuming they're within the height and weight limits. As long as they don't know anything different, they're quite content. (In related news, Peter still takes a bath in an infant tub. He hasn't discovered that some baths use more than a gallon of water...)

I'm happy reading in my seat, too!

Monday, November 11, 2013

In Gratitude

Today I am thankful that all my friends and family who have gone into combat have returned safely.

I offer my condolences to the many who cannot say the same.

I am also grateful to all those who sacrifice comfort, safety, and sometimes even their lives to improve the quality of life for others: social workers, military, counselors, police, firefighters, ministers, EMTs and more. Thank you.

America, America, God mend thine every flaw
Confirm thy soul in self-control
Thy liberty in law

Friday, November 8, 2013

7QT (Vol. 62): Labyrinth of Discernment

Have you ever walked a labyrinth? It's not a maze. There are no dead ends, no blind corners. Physically, it is a journey to the center and back to the place you began. Spiritually, it can be an experience of self-reflection and enlightenment, truly about the journey rather than the destination. So is discernment. My husband and I have been discerning God's will about where to live, whether to stay in upstate NY or move elsewhere. Originally, we had planned to move just a few miles away, to an area where the children and I could easily walk to church, a playground, the library, and grocery store. Then we began to reconsider.

We spent a lot of time in prayer, weighing our options and on our knees begging God to direct us. At the end of that period, we thought God was calling us to leave NY. I was specifically drawn to the story of Gideon, a man who answered God's call very cautiously. Before beginning the task God placed on him, Gideon asked for very obvious signs. In that spirit, I asked God to use the sale of our house as a sign that we were headed in the right direction.

My husband wanted to relocate based on evidence that there are locations where people are happier. In the first round of decision-making, we considered the following criteria: close enough to drive home in a day, low risk of tornadoes or earthquakes, minimal predicted water shortage in the next 50 years, homeschool laws, winter lows no colder than Rochester, and happiness ratings. We ended up deciding to move to Milwaukee, WI. I told people at the time, though, that this was all contingent on the house selling. I didn't want to presume I was certain of God's will.

Our real estate agent was astounded that we weren't getting any offers. We were the most active of his properties for first showings, but had yet to book a second showing. We began to look around at other options. This time, we focused on healthy dioceses, as based on vocations to the priesthood and religious life along with number of new members through RCIA. We wondered why we hadn't thought to consider this aspect earlier. We decided to move to Harrisburg, PA.

Earlier this week, we decided to move within the greater Rochester area. We've come back out of the labyrinth and are back where we started. Has Rochester changed? Only slightly. A new bishop has been assigned, Bishop Matano, who has a good track record of reviving a failing diocese within five years. We hope to see changes here in the near future.

Mostly, though, we changed. The idea of moving to a happier place pushed us to be more conscious of our own negativity. Our willingness to uproot for the good of our mental health and our children's faith reaffirmed to each other our commitment to our family. Knowing that there are healthier churches out there has encouraged us that there is hope for our diocese and parish.

The journey is not complete. We haven't decided where to move. We don't know whether to stay with our current parish and see how things change in the next few years or switch to a local parish known to be more what we want. We haven't sold the house. Like Gideon, we continue to ask God for a sign, confident that he will lead us. His will be done.

More 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

All Saints

I would include Halloween pictures, but they're stuck on my laptop that once again won't charge.

Monday, November 4, 2013

My First Date

My first boyfriend and I became a couple when I was sixteen. It was a storybook start to my high school romance, but it wasn't my first date. That had happened about ten years earlier.

I have two brothers. The older one, Shane, is more than seven years older than I, so we were spared most of the squabbling that happens between siblings. (Keith and I, not so much!) Being that much older, he was occasionally assigned babysitting duty. I have a lot of great memories from him babysitting, including my first date.

For whatever reason, it was just the two of us. Mom and Dad went out to an event; I think Keith may have had a sleepover. I was frustrated and upset that I didn't have anything special to do when "everyone else" had something fun. (In retrospect, I'm sure babysitting me didn't make Shane's top ten list of fun things...) After listening to me whine for a bit, Shane suggested he take me out for a date.

I'm not certain of our ages, but Shane was still too young to drive. He decided we would go to a local ice cream shop - a mere mile and a half away. On the way there, the excitement of my first date kept me going. I was out with my big brother! I was having a date! He was going to buy me ICE CREAM and I didn't even have to ask for permission! It was super-exciting.

By the time we had to walk home, though, even the sugar rush couldn't keep me going. I was somewhere between six and eight years old. It was getting late. I was tired. No problem. My big brother picked me up and carried me all the way home.

I've had some wonderful dates since then. But nothing beats a first date.

Happy Birthday (in 2 days), Shane!

Friday, November 1, 2013

7QT (Vol. 61): Birthday Breakfast Ideas

Anne's first birthday is coming in a couple months. Two days after Christmas, to be exact. I didn't spend much time or energy planning for Peter's first birthday, but his was easy. With a July baby, a cookout with cake and ice cream was a no-brainer. But two days after Christmas? No one will be excited about cake and ice cream (including me) because it will just be one more dessert gathering in the middle of week of festivities.

When she gets a little older and might care about her birthday being overshadowed by Christmas, we have a couple alternatives. She can celebrate her half-birthday or her Baptism day, which is in early February. For this year, though, I'd rather do it while her out-of-state aunts, uncle, and godmother are in town. What to do? Breakfast! My brother's boy inspired me with his party last weekend, which was...

Crepes! We had our choice of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, banana slices, and real whipped cream - all laid out on the counter, ready to go. Jam, spreadable cream cheese, and peanut butter also work well as spreads with fruit. We also had juice, coffee, sausage, and scrambled eggs. It was absolutely delicious and a whole new way to celebrate.

Photo from Yog Frozen Yogurt and Crepes

Another option is an oatmeal sundae bar (idea courtesy of Turtle Magazine). Serve plain oatmeal and set out a variety of toppings. Possible toppings include raisins, dried cranberries, banana slices, Greek yogurt, chopped apples, graham cracker pieces, chopped walnuts, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, and peanut butter. For the dairy-free crowd, I've found that almond&coconut "milk" makes a very tasty oatmeal.

Pancakes or waffles are another good breakfast option for feeding a crowd. As each batch is ready, set it in a warmed oven until you're ready to go. Many of the toppings for crepes or oatmeal also go well with pancakes and waffles. You might also mix fruit or chocolate chips into the batter before your bake. Pumpkin pancakes are another way to make this breakfast more special. If you want a sweeter treat, serve waffles with ice cream and traditional sundae toppings.

Photo from The Muqata
Click to read about a Hebrew idiom's Biblical roots. Pretty cool!

If you have a smaller group and a chef more skilled than I, omelettes might work. Have a variety of fillers available - ham, sausage, bacon bits, mushrooms, apple slices, avocado, tomato, feta, swiss, provolone, monterey jack, or cheddar cheese, green onions, broccoli, or caramelized onions. Don't stop there! Consider the following for toppings: sour cream, salsa, guacamole, and pesto.

If you're feeling really festive, any of these can be served with special beverages. Tea and coffee come in a multitude of flavors. A selection of fruit juices and be served straight or mixed as a punch. Smoothies can be made quickly with frozen fruit and either a yogurt or orange juice base. (You can make a smoothie out of just about anything, really... Look around to find recipes you like.)

Happy Birthday!

7 Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

All Saints Cupcakes and Giggles

I have two kids in my Sunday school class with a variety of food allergies between them. To serve everyone the same snack, it must have no dairy, eggs, gluten, peanuts, or tree nuts. I enjoy a challenge, though, so I decided to make cupcakes to celebrate All Saints Day. Peter helped. They weren't actually challenging, thanks to the good people at Cherrybrook Kitchens who make mixes that are free of all those allergens!

The white frosting (using shortening and rice 'beverage') represents clouds to show these holy folks are in heaven. (I adapted this idea from the more creative and dedicated mom at Catholic Cuisine.)

The children were all excited to have cupcakes with a saint's name similar to their own. We talked about all their saints and a couple more to boot. At the end of class, I prompted,
"Today we learned about friends of Jesus who live with him in Heaven. What did we call them?" "God!"
"Well, Jesus is God and he does live in Heaven. What did we say was a word for his friends, though?"
"Dead people!"

Oh, and the two with food allergies? Neither one came to class. I ate their cupcakes. :-)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gentle Parenting at Breakfast

Peter is rather particular about his breakfast. Unfortunately, he's not always particular in the same way. He always eats chicken nuggets and then a banana, but sometimes I need to do all the microwaving, sometimes he does it all, sometimes he only does half. Then there are the issues of when to cut it, how long it takes to cool, and whether or not I am supposed to eat with him. If I fail to read his mind on any of these issues, it may result in a meltdown.

And, if I'm not sleep-deprived, I identify with him.

I distinctly remember feeling unreasonably angry or sad as a kid when my breakfast did not go exactly as I wanted it. Too much milk in my cereal. Foam on my orange juice. The list went on. What was worse than being so upset was knowing I was over-reacting and not being able to do anything about it.

So when Peter is gearing up for a tantrum, I know this isn't the time to push rules. On my good days, I hold him and wait until he can pull himself together, then start back at the beginning. I try to fix the situation. Once he has made it through breakfast (and gotten his blood sugar back to a good place), we talk.

(Our mealtime rules are sit nicely, talk politely, and try what is served. If he doesn't want to obey those rules, he is free to leave the table and wait until the next time food is served, which is usually 2-3 hours. I usually wait to do a rules reminder, though, until he is at least sitting nicely and might be in a place where he is ready to obey.)

Not every day is a good day for me, though. Regrettably, my unhappy mornings turn into unhappy mornings for him, too. I confront Peter with a staccato list of his choices, then turn my attention to getting either myself or Anne fed. And he forgives me. He eventually gets his emotions back under control and picks what he wants. He doesn't withhold affection or my food until I apologize. He just loves me and moves on with his day.

I try to do the same for him.

Friday, October 25, 2013

7veryQT (Vol. 60): Things I Will Enjoy Some Day

1. Using toilet paper that has not already been unrolled at least once.
2. Eating ice cream and drinking cow's milk and putting sour cream on things.
3. Having my children use the toilet independently without a running commentary to me.
4. Sleeping through the night.
5. Using the toilet without an audience or a child crying because he can't come in with me.
6. Sleeping late on weekends.
7. Having a life where my thoughts are not consumed by toileting issues and sleep.

And then I will look back at this time and say, "Remember how great it was when the kids were little?"

7 Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Water Week!

A couple weeks ago, Peter chose to do water week (in lieu of whatever I had planned for homeschooling that week). We took a walk along the Erie Canal with my parents and happened to be there in time to see two boats go through the lock! 

He pulled her most of the way back!
For our unit study, we sang 15 Miles on the Erie Canal, found the local bodies of water on a map (river, lake, canal, bay all in this county!), learned about states of matter, and read some good books, including Splash! Poems of Our Watery World (Levis), Ice is Nice! All about the North and South Pole (Worth), and A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams (Bryant/Sweet). Our memory verse was Matthew 14:29.