October 2008 Archives

have a safe & happy ...



smock totally lifted this pic from one of her favorite retro sites, aptly named retro planet. browse it here. don't miss the retro gifts & kitsch section -- it's totally faboo.

Fun Game For Littles



My little Jude received this game from a good friend this past week. We CANNOT get enough. It has been played over and over by all or some members of our family and is helping with the hard lesson that other people can win and it's okay. Reallllly okay.

It's joined the favorites shelf with Uno, Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land and Memory.

What are your very favorite games for kids?

Something to ponder


From Kathleen Norris' book Acedia and Me:

I was not aware that even as I maintained a busy and productive life, sloth, acedia's handmaid, had a firm grip on me. For I had become aware that it was possible to reject time, as well as embrace it. If I wanted to, I could live just barely, refusing the gift of each day.

Whatcha Reading? Wednesday

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Several things got finished last week. 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper. Piper is a Baptist minister who was involved in a terrible car accident, where he was declared dead. He had an experience of going to Heaven, but not of going in through the gates, before he was sent back here to finish his life. Like Peter Kreeft (see, I'm in decent company) I think there is more to near death experiences than "random firings of dying neurons". This is also the story of his recovery and his reaching out to others who are in terrible circumstances. Very interesting.

Beautiful Boy by David Sheff. A story of addiction--and what it is like to have a beautiful, talented, smart and funny son throw most of that away for crystal meth and other drugs. Sheff doesn't spare himself much, seeing that his divorce and the long distance joint custody he and his ex-wife arranged may have played into his son's problems. But the most heart wrenching passages are those where he comes to realize, as all of us as parents must realize, that ultimately our children are going to live their own lives, and there is nothing more we can do. For better or worse, their lives are theirs (and God's) and not ours.

Let me tell you, as the mother of a twenty-something, this is difficult, even when the kid is doing the right things. It must be absolutely the hardest lesson to learn when the child is doing the wrong things.

And the best book of last week was a book that I felt like I could have written myself, in large part: Homeschooling: A Family's Journey by Gregory and Martine Millman.

What really resonated with me was their almost reluctant decision to homeschool. Because they had decided to live on one income, they could no longer afford a home in the fancy neighborhoods with the good schools. They sent their girls (they have three girls, then three boys) to the parish Catholic school, only to be disenchanted with the education they were receiving there. It was only after several discussions with the teachers and the administration that they became homeschoolers.

The book is a discussion of their philosophy of homeschooling and why it works. Like us here at CasaS, they found it a fit with their lives as a family. They are not proponents of "school at home", that is, trying to make a home school room function like a classroom. They were "book people", and that mirrored our take on homeschooling.

This is a book I would recommend to people who are just starting out on their homeschooling journey. It will give you confidence that yes, you can do this. That your school doesn't have to look like everyone else's school to be right for you. That those extra-curricular activities you take part in (judo and drum-and-fife core for them, sports and Scouts for us) can be a major part of your learning experience if you have time to really involve yourself in them. That literature and the arts are to be enjoyed and savored--not dissected and examined with a test in mind. And that travel, to anywhere, can be a chance to learn, learn, learn.

If you're homeschooling, or thinking about it, read this book. It made me so homesick for homeschooling, it's not even funny.

On the to read pile: Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris. And the first of the James Herriot books.

How 'bout you?

Pretty Shoe Tuesday

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These shoes are WAY out of any of OUR price ranges, but I like 'em anyway, and PST is all about the dream, isn't it???


And it's time to start thinking about Christmas party shoes. These are party, party shoes! They come with their own disco ball!


And then this week's Summa Shoe entry, this cutie little number is by one of our favorites, Betsey Johnson:


Happy Tuesday, ya'll!!!

The end of the world?



If this just came with a six pack of Bud, it'd be the most redneck thing, evah! And I know from redneck.

smock's daybook

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for monday, october 27th.

Outside My Window... is outside my window.

I am thinking... i need sleep. serious sleep.

I am thankful for... my smocklings could have something worse than the stomach virus they are sharing.

From the kitchen... something needs to be cooked for dinner, but what that won't make everyone start another round of rebounding their food?

I am wearing... black pants, black tee, black flip flops. standard smock uniform.

I am creating... not a darn thing.

I am going... to lose my mind iffin the smocklings aren't well soon.

I am reading... medicine bottles to figure out who can have how many to bring down fevers.

I am hoping... everyone has uneventful sleep tonight!

I am hearing... sopi barking from her crate.

Around the house... every single trash can we own is filled with baggies waiting for another round of vomit-spewing.

One of my favorite things... is an illness free home.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: get everyone well again before friday.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...


LaMa Daybook

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Outside My Window... cold little Texas bushes, lunch-hour traffic, sunshine and blue sky.

I am thinking... glitter is of satan

I am thankful for... the little things, family, friends and health- as cheeso as it sounds.

From the kitchen... last night lasagna followed by pumpkin bread, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin ale. Mmmm pumpkin.

I am wearing... jeans, nursing tank, flannel, woolly socks and greasy pinned-back hair

I am creating... a lace-weight scarf for my mother. It is really boring and taking forever.

I am going... on a stroll to Kroger for oatmeal... and maybe avocados.

I am reading... Havana Nocture, Packaging Girlhood and The Lion, Witch, Wardrobe with Jake for the 3rd time.

I am hoping... tomorrow comes quickly!

I am hearing... mega blocks on hardwood, the dryer, baby babbling, and oral sound effects.

Around the house... laundry needs finishing, school stuff needs to be put away, dinner needs contemplation, mega blocks need shepherding, I could go on...

One of my favorite things... is cat sneezes.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: Celebrate 8th anniversary tomorrow! Halloween festivals and trunk or treat Friday, Jude's birthday and All Saints Saturday. Also fun fall crafts and finishing that pumpkin ale.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

I couldn't resist.

A fun idea for Mondays!

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Idea courtesy of the sweet "simple woman" over at The Simple Woman. Julie over at Happy Catholic (link to the left) is doing the same sort of thing.


FOR TODAY, October 27, 2008

Outside My Window... A beautiful, sunshiney day, with a definite chill in the air. It's sweater time when I head out for the grocery!

I am thinking... I need to make a list of what needs to get done today. AND I need to get off this computer.

I am thankful for... PapaC, who got up at 1:15 this morning to drive to Fort Worth and pray outside the abortion clinic from 2-3 as part of 40 Days of Life. How can you not love a man with a heart for babies and troubled women?

From the kitchen...Chicken fajita salads for supper. Gotta add avocados to the grocery list.

I am wearing...Black sweat pants and a pink t-shirt with sneaks. Hey, this is my running hard, cleaning house day!

I am creating...A purple afghan for a friend's new granddaughter, Annabelle.

I am going...To the grocery store, the hardware store, the church and a renta company to return tablecloths. Fun, huh?

I am reading...Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris. Excellent beginning.

I am hoping...That I can get all my laundry done before I have to take McKid to swim team.

I am hearing... Silence, blessed silence.

Around the house...I need to finish labelling and setting up our personal files in the filing cabinet.

One of my favorite things...Frozen bananas! Yum! I had one for breakfast.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: Weight Watchers, walking, clean off my patio, clean out my car!

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

In Yellowstone

Happy Monday, ya'll! I'm off!

For LaMamacita!

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What MamaT's listening to today


.....while LaMa is probably listening to numerous choruses of "Happy Birthday to You!"

happy 26th to la mamacita!

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better late than never ... enjoy, you sexy mama!

Cardinal Egan, GREAT JOB!


And you can read what he wrote HERE.

My favorite parts?

But you might protest that all of this is too easy. Why, you might inquire, have I not delved into the opinion of philosophers and theologians about the matter? And even worse: Why have I not raised the usual questions about what a "human being" is, what a "person" is, what it means to be "living," and such? People who write books and articles about abortion always concern themselves with these kinds of things. Even the justices of the Supreme Court who gave us "Roe v. Wade" address them. Why do I neglect philosophers and theologians? Why do I not get into defining "human being," defining "person," defining "living," and the rest? Because, I respond, I am sound of mind and endowed with a fine set of eyes, into which I do not believe it is well to cast sand. I looked at the photograph, and I have no doubt about what I saw and what are the duties of a civilized society if what I saw is in danger of being killed by someone who wishes to kill it or, if you prefer, someone who "chooses" to kill it. In brief: I looked, and I know what I saw.

And then this:

However, we must not stop here. The matter becomes even clearer and simpler if you obtain from the National Geographic Society two extraordinary DVDs. One is entitled "In the Womb" and illustrates in color and in motion the development of one innocent human being within its mother. The other is entitled "In the Womb--Multiples" and in color and motion shows the development of two innocent human beings--twin boys--within their mother. If you have ever allowed yourself to wonder, for example, what "living" means, these two DVDs will be a great help. The one innocent human being squirms about, waves its arms, sucks its thumb, smiles broadly and even yawns; and the two innocent human beings do all of that and more: They fight each other. One gives his brother a kick, and the other responds with a sock to the jaw. If you can convince yourself that these beings are something other than living and innocent human beings, something, for example, such as "mere clusters of tissues," you have a problem far more basic than merely not appreciating the wrongness of abortion. And that problem is--forgive me--self-deceit in a most extreme form.

Go read the rest. I got it courtesy of Bill Luse's site, Apologia. (#1 on our links, and always will be!)

Hurray for this. Our bishops in Fort Worth and Dallas also wrote a letter on abortion and voting and had it distributed to all the parishes to be read and/or handed out.

Teach it, fathers! Preach it. Live it.

Who cares what the world thinks? They'll never like us anyway. It's a fools game to try.

I suppose that, like Chesterton, I am a cheerful pessimist. Sometimes I have to work on that cheerful part.

But it makes me feel better to see the shepherds leading.

The right way.

There are a lot of wonderful arty "R"s out there. It was impossible to pick only one, so the letter "R" may continue for several weeks of Fine Art Friday! But to start with I picked Peter Paul Rubens. If you want to see scads of his work, go to the website Gallery of Art.

On that website, Rubens is described as "a prolific seventeenth-century Flemish and European painter, and a proponent of an exuberant Baroque style that emphasized movement, color, and sensuality."

I say, Ya think?

Rubens work is so exuberant that I have elected to put larger pictures up than I normally do. It takes a larger picture to see even part of what is going on in a Rubens painting. Here are four I picked, out of a zillion I liked:


Christ at Simon the Pharisee


Descent from the Cross


Fall of the Rebel Angels


The Holy Family with Saint Anne

Happy Friday, ya'll!

Feast of St Anthony Mary Claret



"Love is the most necessary of all virtues. Love in the person who preaches the word of God is like fire in a musket. If a person were to throw a bullet with his hands, he would hardly make a dent in anything; but if the person takes the same bullet and ignites some gunpowder behind it, it can kill. It is much the same with the word of God. If it is spoken by someone who is filled with the fire of charity- the fire of love of God and neighbor- it will work wonders." (Autobiography #438-439).

Speaking of Travis McGee.....


.....and Jimmy Buffet (what? we weren't speaking of Jimmy Buffet? are you sure?), here's a song that mentions my beloved Travis McGee. Yeah, I know the visual is an ad, but the song is there, and it's the only Buffet version I found on YouTube:

Boat drinks, anyone?

Used books sales are an addiction

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.....and I need to join a 12 step program.

I'm a classic abuser.

"OK, I'm not going this year. That's that. I have enough. No, MORE than enough books."

Time passes. And not much.

"Well, I need to go out to the post office anyway. The book sale is probably cram-packed full of people anyway."

Time passes. Again, not much. And I get in the car to go to the post office.

"Well, look at that. St. Stephen's parking lot is 1/2 empty. Hmmmm. Probably means all the good books are gone."

I drive over to the post office and drop off a letter.

"Well, let's see if business has picked up over the lunch hour. Wow. Lots of parking spaces. I'll just pull in and see what's up."

I walk around the book sale. Just to look, you know. I'm just looking!

OK, and buying one, just one book, FOR MCKID, you know, not for ME. Well, maybe two books for McKid. Who can turn down Understood Betsey?

One hour later I walk out with a sack of books. Not as much damage as I've done in the past, but still.

Crack cocaine, people. It's my crack cocaine.

Here's what came home with me:

Uncle Wiggly's Storybook by Howard Garis. I was looking at an ad for this in the Vermont Country Store catalog just yesterday, considering whether to order it. $1? Done.

Understood Betsey by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. To add to my shelf of kid books. My grandchildren better love to read.

Son of Dust by H. F. M. Prescott. I know nothing about this except that it has been reissued by Loyola Classics, so I'll probably love it. This one was printed in the '50s.

The Thanatos Syndrome by Walker Percy. Long on my to read list, now on my to read shelves.

The King's Cavalier by Samuel Shellabarger. Yee haw! I have hunted for this since I read the first Shellabarger, hoping I'd find it.

Pilgrim's Inn by Elizabeth Goudge. I liked City of Bells and Green Dolphin Street. I expect to like this, too.

All Things Bright and Beautiful and All Things Wise and Wonderful by James Herriot. This purchase finishes the set for me. I'm so glad to have found just the two I needed!

Shades of Travis McGee by John D. MacDonald. This one contains three novels: The Quick Red Fox, Pale Gray for Guilt, and Dress Her in Indigo. I read all of John MacDonald many years ago. Can I tell you how much I admire his creation of Travis McGee, Meyer, and The Busted Flush? MacDonald's McGee and Parker's Spencer--two of my favorite fictional men of all time.

And finally, just for fun:

Calico Palace by Gwen Bristow. This was the first "grown up book" I remember receiving as a gift. It's been 40 years. Will I still like it?

Your result for What Your Taste in Art Says About You Test...

Conscientious, Fulfilled, and Spiritual

15 Renaissance, 7 Islamic, -1 Ukiyo-e, -15 Cubist, -29 Abstract and 8 Impressionist!

The Renaissance was a cultural movement that profoundly affected European intellectual life. Beginning in Italy, and spreading to the rest of Europe by the 16th century, its influence affected literature, philosopy, religion, art, politics, science, and all other aspects of intellectual enquiry. Renaissance artists looked at the human aspect of life in their art. They did not reject religion but tended to look at it in it's purest form to create visions they thought depicted the ideals of religion. Painters of this time had their own style and created works based on morality, religion, and human nature. Many of the paintings depicted what they believed to be the corrupt nature of man.

People that like Renaissance paintings like things that are more challenging. They tend to have a high emotional stability. They also tend to be more concientious then average. They have a basic understanding of human nature and therefore are not easily surprised by anything that people may do. They enjoy life and enjoy living. They are very aware of their own mortality but do not dwell on the end but what they are doing in the present. They enjoy learning, but may tend to be a bit more closed minded to new ideas as they feel that the viewpoint they have has been well researched and considered. These people are more old fashioned and not quite as progressive. They enjoy the finer things in life like comfort, a good meal, and homelife. They tend to be more spiritual or religious by nature. They are open to new aesthetic experiences.

Take What Your Taste in Art Says About You Test at HelloQuizzy

by way of julie at happy catholic.

like a very good girl, i attended my weekly weight watchers meeting with mamaT just yesterday. i lost .2 pounds last week -- whoopie, right? hey, at least i was headed in the right direction. and, we had an awesome session where we learned the importance of avoiding HALT: hunger, anger, loneliness and tiredness. all four of these being triggers for addiction, including food addiction. i thought, well now, if i watch out for the triggers, i can beat this hefty monkey on my back. really, it was a terrific meeting. i was so inspired that i even went home and drank eight -- yes, e-i-g-h-t -- glasses of icky ol' h2o. i was feelin gooood.

so then, how is it that i found myself at the olive garden this afternoon elbow-deep in oven-baked smoked mozzarella, provolone, parmesan and romano cheeses, served up all yummy-gooey on warm peppered tuscan bread? i mean, i wasn't particularly ravenous, i was keeping delightful company, and i wasn't angry in the slightest. heck, i wasn't even chagrined. so, what's up with my need to inhale all of that delish?

they say they're like family over at the olive garden -- and yes, i am aware that the place is called "olive garden" not "the olive garden" but i'm suthren, so bear with me, okay? anyway, they pride themselves on being like family. "when you're here, you're family" being their big ol' motto and all. i say, okay, so you're like family. just like aunt mildred who always insists that even though you've made three trips to the buffet table, you still have room for a helping of her famous pecan pie. i mean, c'mon. it's a helping. who can pass up a helping? and don't forget the whipped cream. oh! and a scoop of vanilla ice cream to cut the sweet. she simply would not take no for an answer.

well, josh-- that would be our waiter - must have been channeling aunt mildred today.
because there i was, slumped back in my chair with my belly all puffy, feeling like a big ol' tick with a lopsided grin (which i am quite sure resembled a hazy heroin addict's grin) all over my face when josh insists we try the pumpkin cheesecake. we had to try it because it's a seasonal item. that means "it won't be here for long and you just simply cannot miss it." well, I couldn't hurt ol' aunt mildred's feelings now could i? so i split a slice with my partner in crime (another weight watcher who shall remain nameless). i absolutely and positively relished every succulent bite of my creamy melt-in-your-mouth slightly spicy pumpkin cheesecake topped with fluffy whipped cream, caramel sauce and the most delightful little ginger cookie crumbles. it was practically a religious experience.

now, i'm not sure why i'm writing all of this apart from the fact that they say confession is good for the soul. that said, here's my theory: heaven is a big ol' buffet. seriously. i do not think that it is by accident that GOD has chosen to offer Himself to us by way of food and drink in the Mass. at a dinner table no less. and, food is such a delight. food brings people utter joy. i know it makes me downright happy. happy, happy, happy. want to test my theory? ask yourself what's your favorite flavor of girl scout cookies. a-ha! see what just happened? you started thinking about all of those delicious flavors. thin mints ... caramel delites ... cinna-spins ... i know. drool. it's okay. i'm not passing judgment.

speaking of judgment, what about hell? is it perpetual drought and famine? starvation without death? that thought is seriously scary. and the complete antithesis of a buffet. but whatever it looks like, i can guarantee you there will be no doughnuts in hell. of course, moderation is good. but i cannot shake the feeling that it is not unlike purgatory. can i live purgatory now? i guess i'd better learn. as smockdaddy always says, learn it now or learn it later. mmm, now and laters. ack! stop it. so, i bet that's it. purgatory is like a perpetual single-serving. of all things green. with only one cheese -- slimy ol' ricotta cheese. shiver.

Reading in Bed

Helen H. Moore

Oh, what could be better
Than reading in bed,
Or thinking about
All the books that you've read?

With someone who loves you,
A father, a mother,
A doll, or a pet,
Or a sister or brother,

A grandma, a grandpa,
An uncle, an aunt -
(Can you think of anything better?
I can't!)

While outside the sky
Is all twinkling with light,
From stars that shine down
As we sleep through the night.

Oh, what could be better
Than sleeping in bed,
When the books that you love
Fill the dreams in your head?

......you might want to read this essay by Timothy Larsen: Reading Habits.

.....about one man's take on the economic woes around us:

Why I Am Hopeful by Andy Crouch, published on the Books and Culture website.

You might also be interested in his site Culture-Making, as well.

Today is National Nut Day

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.......Hug your favorite nut!

Pretty Shoe Tuesday

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Three pairs of shoes for your consideration today, all from the same company.

#1 is a lovely little number in chocolate brown. I adore this shoe, though I am not sure that I can actually wear a t-strap:


Then there is this shoe, which I think is great fun with the contrasting color strap. It comes all in black, but where would be the snap in that?


And finally a classy entry, with a touch, just a touch of the spectator to it. I love black and white, and I like this!

Happy Tuesday, ya'll!

Mama T's listening to......

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We heard 'em at the State Fair on Saturday. Awesome!

And who knew there was actually a career path marked "rock bagpiper"?

Music For Your Monday


Ave Maria as performed by Celtic Woman. This girl's voice is just beautiful, simple. Together with the harp it is sublime.

What do you have on this week?

Quote for today


"I hate turkeys. If you stand in the meat section at the grocery store long enough, you start to get mad at turkeys. There's turkey ham, turkey bologna, turkey pastrami,.Some one needs to tell the turkey, man, just be yourself."

---------------------Mitch Hedburg

Autumn Food!


Cranberry Orange Nut Bread

Makes 1 loaf (I triple it and breakfast is done for a week)

1/2 cup milk of choice, I like almond milk in this
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease 9 x 5 " loaf pan.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the milk, orange juice, canola oil, sugar and vanilla.

Sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and allspice. Mix until smooth. The batter will be thicker than a normal cake batter, don't be alarmed!

Fold in orange zest, cranberries and walnuts. Spoon in prepared pan.

Bake about an hour. Let bread cool for about 15 minutes before inverting it onto a cooling rack.

And, finally, a little autumn music!


And NOW, I'm gone!

And just a little autumn poetry....


The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I'll put a trinket on.

---------------------Emily Dickinson

Fine Art Friday


When you live in Texas, summer lasts a long, long, LONG time! We have a little spring and a little more autumn than that, usually with a lot of Indian Summer thrown in there.

So, the instant that the thermometer stays below, oh, say, 82 degrees during the day, we start thinking about chili, beef stew and red beans around here. Things that cook long and slow and that heat up the kitchen WAY too much to think about during the hot part of the year.

Yesterday I cooked the first pot of beans I've cooked in MONTHS, and while the temperature is probably back on its way up to at least the high 80's, I've got autumn on the brain.

So, with that in mind, here are the entries for Fine Art Friday:


Autumn at Argenteuil
Claude Monet


Autumn in the Village
Marc Chagall

Happy Friday, ya'll!

"Whenever I go into the chapel, I put myself in the presence of our good Lord, and I say to him, Lord, I am here. Tell me what you would have me to do.

If he gives me some task, I am content and I thank him.

If he gives me nothing, I still thank him since I do not deserve to receive anything more than that.

And then, I tell God everything that is in my heart. I tell him about my pains and my joys, and then I listen.

If you listen, God will also speak to you, for with the good Lord, you have to both speak and listen.

God always speaks to you when you approach him plainly and simply."

- St Catherine Laboure

For your consideration....


.....Robert George's article from the Witherspoon Institute.

Read it. It's important.

And absolutely chilling.

I had to do this, because of Ellyn

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When I read hers this morning, it just made me laugh out loud. This one is probably about right for me, and I do know all the words.

Your Karaoke Theme Song is "Margaritaville"
You are a true party animal, but your style is mild and chill.
Kicking back with a few friends and a few drinks is all you need to be happy.

You certainly don't feel pressured to be a part of any party scene. In fact, you avoid trendier spots.
You've been known to kick loose anywhere and everywhere. All you need is a cooler.

You might also sing: "Gin and Juice," "Love Shack," and "Red Red Wine"

Stay away from people who sing: "Wind Beneath My Wings"

And I think that the advice to stay away from people who sing "Wind Beneath My Wings" is spot on.

Quote for today


Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.

------------------------P.J. O'Rourke

(MamaT note: Before I cleaned out my shelves, I think this was the thought process that kept a lot of books on my shelves!)

Booking Through Thursday

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Okay-here was an interesting article by Christopher Schoppa in the Washington Post.

Avid readers know all too well how easy it is to acquire books -- it's the letting go that's the difficult part. ... During the past 20 years, in which books have played a significant role in both my personal and professional lives, I've certainly had my fair share of them (and some might say several others' shares) in my library. Many were read and saved for posterity, others eventually, but still reluctantly, sent back out into the world.

But there is also a category of titles that I've clung to for years, as they survived numerous purges, frequent library donations and countless changes of residence. I've yet to read them, but am absolutely certain I will. And should. When, I'm not sure, as I'm constantly distracted by the recent, just published and soon to be published works.

So, the question is this: "What tomes are waiting patiently on your shelves?"

Oh, I think this is such a good question! When I cut down my library several months ago, I still kept more than whole bookcase of "to be read" books. And that was after passing on tons of them. Honestly, I think that I had more unread than read in my collection. Red-faced, me.

Some of what is in my "to be read" pile are additional works by authors that I've read and loved. The last two Jon Hassler books to read. One more Georgette Heyer. Several Trollope books. Six (yes six!) more books in Galsworthy's Forsyte series. All the books in the Jewel in the Crown series, picked up at a used book sale. A couple of volumes of Dickens. Some of them I put off reading because when I read them, I will have finished all of them (Jon Hassler) or finished all I have of them (Heyer) and I don't want that to happen. By not reading them, I still have "somethng good" in reserve.

That's crazy, I know. But it is how it is.

Then I have another subset of books that I've been meaning to "get around to" for so long that I can't give up on the idea: Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer, the Horatio Hornblower series, Colleen McCullough's First Men in Rome books....

I have toyed with the idea of making a resolution to buy or check out of the library no new books, except for book club books, for a year and just read my own library. It would take longer than a year to do!

How 'bout you?

Whatcha Reading? Wednesday

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Just finished Cosmas, or the Love of God by Pierre de Calan, which is the selection for my book group this month. An excellent little book, it has been reissued by the Loyola Classics publishing line.

It's a look inside a Trappist monastery, and particularly a look at a young postulant, Cosmas, who has a tremendously difficult time reconciling his vision of what monastic life should be like and its reality. The young man attempts to become a monk, leaves twice after breakdowns, yet is still convinced that God is calling him to La Trappe. The narrator, his novice master, says the question is why would God call Cosmas to the monastery (something Cosmas is very sure of), yet not give him the grace to persevere in his vocation?

This opens the door for questions about how you judge whether a vocation is genuine or not, etc. It made me everlastingly glad that I don't have to try to make that judgement, and it gave me insight into the things that one must look at in doing the judging.

It is also a treatise on the reality of Christian life (using the monks as a symbol for us all) vs. the idealized version of that life. I found that refreshing, much in the same way that I found In This House of Brede refreshing--the monks are not perfect, they are just trying. After an evening when a dear friend (!) told me that Christians ought not try to impose their values on this world 'til they perfected themselves, this book is a great antidote. I wanted to put it in her hands and tell her to read it. No one gets to perfect here.

Very much worth the read. Thumbs way, way up from MamaT.

Currently reading? John Adams by David McCullough, and enjoying it throroughly!

This one thanks to Julie over at Happy Catholic. I'm just glad I wasn't mayonnaise!

You Are Ketchup
You are easy going and very measured in your approach to life.
Popular and well liked, you get along with everyone.
Seriously, everyone loves you!

Your taste tends to be pretty mainstream American.
You go for the classic favorites: burgers, fries, and apple pie.
You get along best with mustard and mayonnaise personalities.

Vacation picture #8

A hot spring at Yellowstone

A hot spring at Yellowstone. Sulfur and the living organisms that like hot water and sulfur give it that unique color. And smell, too, I might add.

Look at my new laptop case!



Isn't it just too, too Summa?

And not much more money than the icky black one I was looking at at Office Max!

OK, Smock, so if you want to go for the Mary Janes, how about these? Pretty cool, I think. And only $114!


'Course, if you wanted something a little different you could go for these by Via Spiga:


They're a little more expensive, but hey, you gotta pay to get shoes that look like they've been dipped in oil!

MamaT's Monday Music


If we're gonna have a blast from the past (and, hey, I'm all for 'em, since I personally am a blast from the past), let's try this one on for size:

I love music on Mondays, LaMa!

Book Meme- LaMamacita's Answers


What was the last book you bought?

Home Learning Year by Year by Rebecca Rupp. I have yet to do more than flip through.

Name a book you have read MORE than once.

Like Smock, a bunch. I will re-read anything I enjoyed. The last was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (thank you MamaT), I've read it probably 4 times.

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?

Maybe not fundamentally, although all the books I've read have collectively shaped a lot of my mind. The one with the most memorable impact is the The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. I feel lightheaded every time I read it.

How do you choose a book, eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews?

I love to read stuff from good recommendations. Usually I grab something (fast!) off the New Books shelf at the library based totally off cover design and title. I just discovered I can pursue the library online and have my books waiting for me. I need to utilize this more.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

Much prefer non-fiction. I find fiction way easier to read these days of super multi-tasking though, which is fine because I heart it too.

What's more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?

Gah! Both! If I HAD to choose I'd say beautiful writing. I can get lost in expression even if it goes nowhere.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book).

I just finished Atonement by Ian McEwan and was very swept up in Cecilia, so she comes right to mind.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?

Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution by T.J English (highly recommend), The Magician's Nephew by C.S Lewis, Jake and I are reading it for the first time together and Kids are Worth It by Barbara Coloroso which has a permanent home on the night stand.

What was the last book you've read, and when was it?

Atonement. I guess I finished it last week?

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?

Mos def.

Music For Your Monday


I let my eldest son pick today's entry. If you'll grant me just one more old school, groovy tune, I'll give you Let It Be:

He's learning the melody on the piano and sings along. If you've never heard a 5 year old belt the Beatles you are missing something wonderful.



you might not be able to wear your favorite pair of pants if you gain a few pounds, but you can always wear your favorite pairs of shoes. ~sara vass

i say, amen, sistah!


introducing the guess "cabana" mary jane. on sale for less than $100. now that's a sexy bargain. look for it in your size here.

Vacation picture #7

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The very fattest prairie dogs EVAH!

The fattest prairie dogs ever

Yesterday's hymns

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The introit was this. We sing 5 verses of it. If you go over to cyberhymnal.org there are lots more than that!

Jesus shall reign where'er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

To Him shall endless prayer be made,
And praises throng to crown His head;
His Name like sweet perfume shall rise
With every morning sacrifice.

People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on His love with sweetest song;
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on His Name.

Blessings abound wherever He reigns;
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blessed.

Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honors to our King;
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the loud amen!

Sung to Duke Street at SMV, but there are other tunes that fit!

Offertory was one of my favorites:

All my hope on God is founded;
He doth still my trust renew,
Me through change and chance He guideth,
Only good and only true.
God unknown, He alone
Calls my heart to be His own.

Pride of man and earthly glory,
Sword and crown betray His trust;
What with care and toil He buildeth,
Tower and temple fall to dust.
But God's power, hour by hour,
Is my temple and my tower.

God's great goodness aye endureth,
Deep His wisdom, passing thought:
Splendor, light and life attend him,
Beauty springeth out of naught.
Evermore from His store
Newborn worlds rise and adore.

Daily doth th'almighty Giver
Bounteous gifts on us bestow;
His desire our soul delighteth,
Pleasure leads us where we go.
Love doth stand at His hand;
Joy doth wait on His command.

Still from man to God eternal
Sacrifice of praise be done,
High above all praises praising
For the gift of Christ, His Son.
Christ doth call one and all:
Ye who follow shall not fall.

We sing to Michael at SMV, and a MIDI of that is hard to find, but there is a beatiful version, much more melancholy sounding, to Coblentz here.

Can't find the communion hymn online, so you are out of luck there. Unfortunately, I don't have time to type it in from my hymnal this morning.

Then we closed with this one:

O holy city, seen of John,
Where Christ the Lamb, doth reign,
Within whose foursquare walls shall come
No night, nor need, nor pain,
And where the tears are wiped from eyes
That shall not weep again.

O shame to us who rest content
While lust and greed for gain
In street and shop and tenement
Wring gold from human pain,
And bitter lips in blind despair
Cry "Christ hath died in vain!"

Give us, O God, the strength to build
The city that hath stood
Too long a dream, whose laws are love,
Whose crown is servanthood,
And where the sun that shineth is
God's grace for human good.

Already in the mind of God
That city riseth fair:
Lo, how its splendor challenges
The souls that greatly dare;
Yea, bids us seize the whole of life
And build its glory there.

Sung at SMV to Sancta Civitas, but can be sung to Morning Song or Morwellham.

Happy Monday, ya'll!

smock's version of mamaT's book meme


What was the last book you bought?

mississippi sissy by kevin sessums. complete impulse buy. i loved the little boy on the cover, what can i say?

Name a book you have read MORE than once.

are you kidding? too many to name, but at the top for number of times would be the little prince by antoine de saint-exupéry, the picture of dorian gray by oscar wilde, and the catcher in the rye by jd salinger.

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?

unfortunately catcher in the rye only exacerbated my already jaundiced-eye world-view for YEARS. on the flip side, reading "my first catholic dictionary" at the age of 25 completely changed my view of the catholic church FOREVER.

How do you choose a book, eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews?

i usually choose by recommendation or author, as i tend to read everything an author writes iffin' they are any good. erm, also? i am the sort who chooses her books by the cover, mamaT. case in point, see the answer to the first question above. sorry.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

non-fiction hands. down. i'm a complete voyeur. and to all of my "reality t.v. sux" friends out there -- reality t.v. has been around since time immemorial. only it was called memoirs, journals, non-fiction, biographies, etc.

What's more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?

gripping plot.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book).

from recent memory it would have to be the original odd thomas. i absolutely fell in LOVE with him.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?

confessions of an ugly stepsister, mississippi sissy, and the catholic church in pictures. all of which are still uncracked. such a pretty fat and seduced by madness, which i'm wading through.

What was the last book you've read, and when was it?

bright lights, big ass. finished about a week or so ago.

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?

yes. lots of them. if it doesn't hook me by one-fourth of the way in, i'm outta there. nine times outta ten, i'm reading for pleasure. so, if it isn't entertaining, why bother?

A Quote

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Without garlic, I simply would not care to live.

----------------------Louis Diat, French chef (1885-1957)

Though it might be onions at our house, garlic would run a neck and neck race. One time Zman was small and watching me cook. A little voice piped up, "Mama, does everything always start with onions in a pan?"

"Only everything worth cooking in a pan, baby."

Vacation picture #6

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Devil's Tower National Monument. Absolutely amazing.

Devil's Tower National Monument

Vacation picture #5

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Some weird plant in the South Dakota Badlands.


Okay, so in a million years.....

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......you will never guess what I have been doing today.


This morning, McKid and I went to a small urban (suburban?) farm and picked our own green beans (both flat and round) and cherry tomatoes. We didn't get to pick okra, but we bought some that was prepicked. We also purchaed onions. Organic vegetables for $3 a pound, or less.

I thought it was important for McKid to know that vegetables are actually grown and have dirt on them rather than have her think they come from little piles in the grocery store. And I wanted her to appreciate the work it takes to get food to our plate, at least in a little way.

Ya'll, I am just telling you that the cherry tomatoes we picked today taste absolutely NOTHING like the cherry tomatoes we buy at the grocery. I could be, well, actually have been, eating them straight out of the bowl. If I allowed myself to get a little ranch dressing (and ONLY a little--they are so good plain) I could sit down and eat the entire bowl of them at one sitting. I am trying to restrain myself.

We bought more green beans than it is possible for us to eat in the next week, so I am blanching and freezing 3/4 of them. They just turned the most beautiful shade of green! Woo hoo!

I am woman, hear me roar.

Next week, pick your own pumpkins and the farmer said the big tomatoes would be ready. But I refuse to can. My house is hot enough already.

I may, however, read up on homemade spaghetti sauce and the freezing thereof.

And, of course, figuring out what kind of shoes to wear to pick pumpkins in.

Happy Saturday, ya'll!

Vacation picture #4


Mount Rushmore, of course. More fabulous than I expected. Worth the drive. Made me realize I'm not an artist. Who knew those faces were inside that mountain? [grin]


Vacation picture #3


Near Mount Rushmore. Communing with nature. I needed it!

Rocks and trees

What was the last book you bought?

I just bought Homeschooling: A Family's Journey from Amazon, 5 minutes ago

Name a book you have read MORE than once

Pride and Prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird, David Copperfield, Staggerford

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?

Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl, The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis, and Evangelical Is Not Enough by Thomas Howard

How do you choose a book? eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews

Who would choose a book by it's cover? I guess people do, but I can't imagine it. I choose by review some and recommendation a lot

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

Mostly fiction, though i feel a binge of non-fiction a'comin'.

What's more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?

Can't say. Depends on the novel.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book)

Agatha McGee from Staggerford and other Jon Hassler novels. Well, right up until she decided that there might ought to be women priests, which I thought was totally out of character for her.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?

John Adams by David McCullough, The Belief of Catholics by Ronald Knox, and In Conversation with God.

What was the last book you've read, and when was it?

John Paul the Great by Peggy Noonan, just before I went on vacation.

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?

Yes. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez.

The question?

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How long can 2 Summa Mamas stand around and talk in a parking lot?

The Answer?

I don't know. How long do you have?

Vacation Picture #2

Salina, KS cathedral

The cathedral in Salina, KS. This is where we went to church on the first Sunday we were gone.

I want to read this

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While we are no longer actively homeschooling (the Zman is now in college and doing fine, thank you very much), I still love it and miss it. From the First Things blog comes this article/review of a new homeschooling book, Homeschooling: A Family's Journey.

The first part of the article hits close to where we were when we started our journey:

Gregory and Martine Millman did not set out to homeschool their children, at least not consciously. When they became parents in the mid-1980s, their plan to was to lead "a normal yuppie life," upwardly mobile, working their way into a neighborhood with good schools which of course their children would attend. "The only question we asked," they write, "was 'which school,' not 'whether school.'"

How, then, did they come to write a book called Homeschooling: A Family's Journey? Two factors intervened in their quest for a mainstream middle-class life, sending them down an unanticipated long-term detour. The first was their decision to live on one income, with Martine a stay-at-home mother to their six children, a choice that put both private schools and neighborhoods with good public schools well out of their financial reach. The second was an incident that occurred at their eldest daughter's inner-city Catholic school. Their daughter, a second-grader, had answered a test question correctly, but the answer had been marked wrong. After much wrangling for an explanation from the school, they were told that she had given a "fourth-grade answer" to a second-grade question; that she was "not supposed to know that yet"; and that it would be unjust to her "less-advantaged" classmates to reward her for knowledge that they did not possess. "By the time we got back into our car," they write, "we had decided to homeschool."

And then there is this:

"After our years of homeschooling," the Millmans write, "we know that there is little that we cannot learn on our own. A college degree functions as a formal attestation of that learning." The we here is telling. It speaks to the cooperative enterprise, the relationship at the heart of homeschooling. The Millmans are not merely homeschooling parents, but homeschoolers themselves; not standing over their children to shepherd their progress, but sitting with them, doing the math; not teaching, but learning alongside them. To bring up children to see no real dividing line between "learning" and "everything else" is to reap adults--a whole family, in fact--for whom learning remains a lifelong journey and a habit of being.

I'm going to the library to see if this book is in yet.

Worth reading


A transcription is now available for Peter Kreeft's 10 year old talk How to Win the Culture War. It's still valuable reading. I suggest you go do so. Here's a snippet to entice you:

Here is one of the most wonderful and terrifying sentences I have ever read, from William Law's Serious Call, "If you will look into your own heart in utter honesty, you must admit that there is one and only one reason why you are not even now a saint. You do not wholly want to be."

That insight is terrifying because it is an indictment, but it is wonderful and hopeful because it is also an offer, an open door. Each of us can become a saint. We really can. We really can. I say it three times, because I think we do not really believe that deep down. For if we did, how could we endure being anything less?

What holds us back? Fear of paying the price. What is the price? The answer is simple. T. S. Eliot gave it when he defined Christianity as "a condition of complete simplicity (costing not less than everything)." The price is everything--100 percent. Martyrdom, if required, and probably a worse martyrdom than the quick noose or stake, the martyrdom of dying daily, dying every minute for the rest of your life. Dying to all your desires and plans--including your plans about how to become a saint.


But how? We always want to know how. Give me a method, a technology, a means to this end. What does that question mean, "How can I become a saint?" Or "Give me a means to the end of sanctity." It means, "Give me something that is easier than sanctity, which will cause sanctity. So that if I do this something or attain this something, then this something will be the middle term, the link between me and sanctity."

No. There is none. No prayers, no meditations, no 12-steps programs, no yogas, no psychological techniques, no techniques at all. There can be no button to push for sanctity, any more than for love. For sanctity is simply love: loving God with all your soul and mind and strength.

How do you love? You just do it. A cause cannot produce an effect greater than itself. And nothing in the world is greater than sanctity, nothing greater than love. Therefore, no cause, no human cause, can produce sanctity. There can never be any technology for sanctity.

Of course, God is its cause. Grace is its cause. The Holy Spirit is its cause. "Oh well, why doesn't God cause it then? If sanctity isn't a do-it-yourself thing but an only-God-can-do-it thing, then why doesn't God make me a saint? If only grace can do it, why doesn't He give me that grace?"

Because you don't want it. If you wanted it, He'd give it. He promised that: "All who seek find." It's back to "just say yes." It's infinitely simpler than we think, and that's why it's hard. The hard word in the formula "just say yes" is the word "just."

We are comfortable with Christ and theology or Christ and psychology or Christ and America or Christ and the Republican Party or Christ and the Democratic Party or Christ and phonics or Christ and dieting. But just plain Christ, all Christ, Christ drunk straight, not mixed, we find far too dangerous for our tastes.

Aslan is not a tame lion. Just say yes to Him? You never know what he'd do with you!

Vacation picture #1

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Not the first thing we saw, just the first picture! This is in the South Dakota badlands.

Life in the Badlands

Pretty Shoe Tuesday

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I'm having a hard time transitioning from summer shoes to fall shoes. After months of flip flops and other assorted sandals, everything else looks too hot and closed in. We haven't had a cold snap yet (I'm sitting here in sandals!) but the time has come to look ahead.

So, only one option today. Selected only because I'm into retro at the moment, and how many pairs of forest green shoes do you see around????


Happy Tuesday, ya'll!

What MamaT is listening to.....

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No purer voice out their than Alison Krauss.

Today's track is from one of my favorite bands lately, The Postal Service. They're a collaboration of people from other bands that I love- DNTEL, Death Cab for Cutie, Rilo Kiley. I can't rave enough.

This jam, Such Great Heights, has been busy on my playlist for a couple of years and is special to Papicito and I immensely.

What are you listening to today?

Monday Morning Musing

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Spending a good bit of a week in a car gives you a lot of time to talk to your spouse. And that's a good thing. It had been a really long time since PapaC and I did anything (other than a baseball game!) that just included the TWO of us. Vacations were, of course, family things in the past. And, God willing, some of them will be again in the future. But this time it was just us two. And that was beyond fabulous. It made me realize how lucky I am that nearly 30 years into this marriage I am married to someone that I would marry again. In a heartbeat.

It also gave us time to think and talk about our future, the future we hope for for our family, our upcoming obligations, and our wishes and dreams. Some of that thinking I'm sure I'll share on the blog. Some of it was far too personal for that.

We also spent some time talking and thinking about changes we want to make in our lives in a sort of spiritual sense. And one of them has to do with keeping Sundays.

I am old enough, as many of you are probably NOT, to remember when Sundays were days when most stores were actually closed. And not just Chick-Fil-A! Yes, the grocery stores were open, but not all of them. And even the ones that were open weren't open all day.

But now we live in a 24/7 world. There's some commercial out there now that touts this: "Hey, this is America! Where you can get a cheeseburger at 4 a.m.!"

Yeah, and a cup of Starbucks on Christmas Day.

That I know because my son was the one selling the cup of coffee on Christmas Day.

When he was working, he had people tell him, "Boy, I can't believe that you're having to work on Christmas Day!" And he replied, "Well, you're buying the cup of coffee. If there weren't customers, I wouldn't be here."

They sheepishly agreed. And his tips were mind-boggling.


One of the many things I am in this life is an accountant. I get the business part of life. And I'm not necessarily saying that I think that the government ought to step in and make everybody close on Sundays. Or on any other day of the week. And yeah, yeah, you can certainly discuss the people who need jobs working on those late night shifts and weekends. I'm still not convinced that it's not a vicious circle--because we ask people to work weird hours they have to shop at weird hours--and on and on.

But then what am I doing to abet a trend that I absolutely hate? If I keep Sundays for myself and my family, and yet I spend the day at the movies or at the restaurant, aren't I complicit in making someone else work on that very day that I'm trying so hard to keep for me? How can that be a good thing? How can that be right?

Look, I'm not naive enough to think that anything our little family decides to do will make any difference at all in this world. WalMart ain't gonna shut down because MamaT decides to do her grocery shopping on Saturday (or Friday or whenever) instead.

But it'll make a difference to me. So here at CasaS we are trying something new. It may not work, and it may not last, even if it does "work" (though how we'd judge whether it works or not I'm not sure). We're going to make every effort to get our errands run and our chores taken care of before Sunday. We're going to treat Sunday as a real day of rest. We're going to go to church, visit with our friends at coffee hour and then we're going to (gasp!) go home. Go home and be with our family. Go home and read. Go home and take a nap. Go home and crochet. Go home and play dominoes. Go home and talk. Go home and paint. Go home and play with the dogs.

It'll mean that Saturday will become a real work day. The day when PapaC and I have to get done the things that I must have his help for around here. And it means that I'll have to think more about what I can get done in the evenings (hello, loads of laundry!).

But what will it feel like to have a real day of rest?

I can't imagine.

I'll let you know.

after day 2 of "cereal night"

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i remind the children that...well, at least i'm not lindsay bluth funke.

Very nice....

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......Catholic Calendar pages. I especially like the monthly view, with the links to the saints, etc.

HT to the Black Cordelias, link in our blogroll to the left. (Or 5 bob to them, in their parlance. BTW, they are very worthwhile checking out if you haven't already! And be sure to check out their "About Us" for an explanation of the name of their blog.)

What PapaC bought me today!



From a company called Faith Factory. Lots of good shirts here!

Quote for today


Keep a clear eye toward life's end. Do not forget your purpose and destiny as God's creature. What you are in his sight is what you are and nothing more. Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing that you have received--fading symbols of honor, trappings of power--but only what you have given: a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage.

----------------------St. Francis of Assisi

Feast of San Francisco

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St Francis of Assisi is a popular guy around here. The children adore The Poor Man of Assisi year round. Today we made some pine cone bird feeders while talking about him (Jake: Naked?! Stripped naked? In front of everyone? Hardcore!), blessed a little medal for the cat's collar together, and finished up our novena- the words hit me hard everyday after the morning news:

Glorious Saint Francis, who voluntarily renounced all the comforts and riches of your home to follow more perfectly the life of poverty and abnegation of Jesus Christ:
obtain for us, we pray, a generous contempt of all things in this world, that we may secure the true and eternal things of heaven.

Hardcore, indeed. San Francisco, pray for us.

Anyone ever tried one of these?

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I was reading my Lion Brand newsletter this morning, and one of the products they were touting was a knitting board. (Note: the picture above is NOT from Lion Brand, it's from McCalls, just so you know.)

I am aces with a crochet hook and yarn, but knitting has always made me throw my needles and yarn down and curse. And normally I do NEITHER of those things!

So, La Mamacita? What say you? Ever tried it? Know anyone who has?

Bueller? Bueller?

to vaccinate or not to vaccinate, that is the question. and a biggun at that. i started studying the options about thirteen years ago, when we had to decide whether or not to vaccinate our firstborn. at that time, it was still highly unusual not to vaccinate; but, being the sort who enjoys bucking the system on occasion and considering this was something that could affect the life of my child forever, i wanted to get a clearer picture of what was going on with vaccinations. smockdaddy and i read several articles, a few books, talked to different parents and weighed the pros and cons to the best of our ability. and then we decided to vaccinate. in the interest of full disclosure, we did opt out of the varicella vaccine as it was still relatively new when "big d" was still wee. his doctor - whom i adored - didn't bat an eye over our decision. he said he understood our concerns and noted only that we may need to apply for an exemption later on when we started school.

call me naïve, but i never even considered that the choice could be something that could cause any negative response. that is, until i actually witnessed a bitter argument firsthand. at an impromptu play date gathering at a local park, i witnessed two moms get into a virtual shouting match over their vaccinated and non-vaccinated children. being the nosy parker that i am, i intervened by asking the pro-vac mom what the big deal was. if her son was vaccinated, what the heck was she so worried about? she then began to argue about social responsibility -- to which i inwardly scoffed, writing her off as a wacko socialist. [this was 12 years ago; i've mellowed somewhat.] anyway, after some very awkward silence, the non-vac mom finally bundled up her son and left. it wasn't my intention to "pick sides" - i honestly didn't see the big deal. for either side. and i ended up leaving the park very upset by the whole situation because i just didn't like seeing a mom in the minority being treated like an outcast.

fast forward twelve years and the decision to abstain from vaccines has become more popular. and now i am the one who finds myself being treated like a social pariah. and, because i have lots of crunchy friends (hi guys!) who choose not to vaccinate, i've been asked to defend my decision to vaccinate on more than one occasion. i don't like being put on the defensive, so i've put even more time into researching the more liberal/freethinking/crunchy side of the argument. but i still respectfully disagree with it.

as i understand it, moms who choose not to vaccinate sometimes claim that preservatives (in particular, thimerosal) in vaccines may be linked to autism. thimerosal was removed from infant vaccines in 1999; and even after thimerosal was removed from infant vaccines, the autism rate has continued to climb. the cdc, the american academy of pediatrics, the institute of medicine and several other prestigious medical organizations maintain there is no known link between vaccines and autism. studies published in the new england journal of medicine and elsewhere also have found no link. now, i'm the most subjective person i know. i'm all about the gut reaction, feelings, and emotions. hello? my mantra is "math is hard" so exactly how scientific do you think i am? but the cdc? aap? the new england journal of medicine? these are all highly regarded sources with huge reputations to uphold. are we supposed to believe that this is some gi-normous medical cover-up they are all involved in together?

seriously, what motivates some to completely ignore the majority of the scientific data out there? one cannot write them all off as conspiracy theorists. and, to be fair, some moms that i've spoken with agree that there isn't enough scientific data to prove a link, but they contend that the bottom line for them is this: if there is even a remote chance that vaccines are related to autism, it is a risk they are not willing to take. i say, fair enough. but speaking of risks, there is another side to this coin.

the answer to the debate is not as simple as it seemed to me back on that playground twelve years ago. it was easy to be cavalier back then, but with recurring outbreaks of infectious diseases, i'm even more concerned about this debate now than ever before. even as a parent who has chosen to vaccinate all six of my children, i cannot be sure that just because they are vaccinated that my children are completely protected from these diseases -- or protected from others who may be carrying the diseases. according to the american academy of pediatrics, vaccines are only 90 percent to 99 percent effective. so the question then becomes do we as parents who have chosen to vaccinate our children think that a possible 10% chance of contracting a life-threatening disease if exposed is worth the risk?

consider this: measles, a highly communicable disease, was declared eliminated in the u.s. in 2000, but outbreaks of infection attributed to incoming travelers have increased this year. at least 131 cases have been reported so far this year alone -- the highest number of annual cases in twelve years. and whether we like to admit it or not, officials cite parents' refusal to vaccinate their children as the leading cause for this jump. this is serious, folks. this is a disease that once infected 3 - 4 million people a year, causing 450 deaths and 4,000 cases of measles-related brain infection. per annum. and there's more. there have also been outbreaks of other childhood viral diseases, such as polio and mumps, in recent years. all of which can be prevented by vaccines.

on a personal note, i am friends with a mother whose son has autism - a condition she fears was caused by vaccinations. on the other hand, i am friends with a mother who nearly died because, as an adult, she contracted measles. both situations very real and very frightening.

can there be any doubt that we all want what's best for our children? of course not. and, we need to understand that there are two sides to this debate. we need to work together, calling for continued long-term research; and in the meantime, we need to treat each other with respect and dignity.

Quote for today


No harm's done to history by making it something someone would want to read.

--------------------------David McCullough

Whatcha Reading? Wednesday

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Well, since I was on vacation last week, I did little reading, but a LOT of listening. While reading in the car (and we drove over 3500 miles last week!) is problematical for me, listening to books on CD is AWESOME!!!!

First we listened to Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich. This one is the 3rd in the Stephanie Plum detective series. And while I could do with a little less talking about her lust for a cop guy she's known since grade school, overall it was very entertaining, with some pretty good secondary characters. I just loved her grandmother and the ex-prostitute-trying-to clean-up-her-act, Lula. The physical description of Lula alone made us laugh out loud. I won't necessarily rush out to read the next one, but if it's on the shelf by the library checkout, I'd give it a try. And I'd definitely listen to another one on a vacation trip.

Then we listened to 1776 by David McCullough. Thumbs up, way up, from both PapaC and me on this one. Examining just one year of the Revolutionary War was an interesting take. And by delving into the letters from people on both sides McCullough makes you understand how near a thing the success of the Revolution was. Without a few fortuitous snowstorms and miscommunications, the outcome could have been radically different. He doesn't paint Washington as a demi-god, but he does give him the props he deserves for being the personal force that he was. Without someone like him for people to rally around, the whole thing would have been mere philosophical talk and blather. Very, very good. Highly recommended. So highly, in fact, that I've pulled another of his books out of my stacks to read next.

Up on the nightstand? Cosmas, or the Love of God by Pierre de Calan, which is my book club selection for the month. Then another McCullough book, The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal.

Oh, and I'm still dipping into Knox's The Belief of Catholics.

How 'bout you?



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