Thursday, November 29, 2007

Virtual Cookie Swap is here!

Well folks, the recipes are in (or at least most of them are...if you had one to include but it's not here--let me know the link and I promise I'll add to the list!)

SFO Mom, Barb, shares Mrs. Wagner's cookies. Be sure to read the whole post. May we all remember the Mrs. Wagners, who share their cookies and their friendship with us and look for opportunities to be Mrs. Wagner to some little one this Christmas.

Jena of Two Different Loves shares her recipe for Sour Cream Raisin (Craisin) Bars that sounds delicious and even healthy (hey-the recipe calls for raisins-that's a veritable health food, right?) And the suggestion to substitute festive colored craisins---pure holiday genius!

From Australia, Therese at Aussie Coffee Shop, shares two delicious biscuit (that's cookie for my stateside friends) recipes that she loves to bake at Christmastime: White Christmas and Rum Balls.

Eileen from Eileen on Him or At Least I Try, has put together an amazing assortment of Christmas cookies: Mexican Wedding cakes, Pie Crust cookies and even included a great icing to use on her Sugar Cookie Cutouts. I just hope she posts pictures of all those multicultural reindeer after they're frosted!

The instigator for this current cookie swap, Katie, offers two yummy cookie recipes: her Peanut Butter Squares and her sister Betsy's Seven Layer Bars.

Dawn, our parish Mom's Group "in-real-life" cookie swap hostess, presents one of her family's favorites--Chocolate Peanut Butter Secrets.

Jamie of Ad Silvam Ibimus offers a delicious traditional Latke recipe to be served with applesauce and sour cream...and perhaps (as she suggests) Rolaids!

Mary combines two easy and always great together ingredients--pretzels and chocolate for a fun and easy treat to make with the kids--Chocolate Covered Pretzels.

Barbara, whose blog Praying for Grace has a companion food blog-Bless Us O Lord, has shared a recipe for Chocolate Chip Biscotti. Decorated with festive colored sugar or, as she suggests, red or green M and M's, these look like a sure hit for any Christmas dessert table. And while you're there, take a look around the rest of her food blog, you won't be disappointed. (You can also find her Christmas Cookie Line-Up in the sidebar!)

Finally, on the Ark, we always make these Buckeye cookies every year. They are simple and taste just like a peanut butter cup! Although last year, growing up, the kitchen was always filled with the scents of certain cookies at the holiday. This year, as the holidays are bringing out the sentimentalist in me, here is the recipe for Les Madelines that my mom always made:

Generously butter and flour Madeleine pans.

Melt and set aside 1/2 lb butter (2 sticks)
Mix together (with a wooden spoon-I have no idea why, but I always do it anyway)
4 eggs, 1 c. sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla/almond extract, 1 c. flour
Add melted butter
Fill Madeleine pans 2/3 full
Bake at 375 for 18-20 minutes. Unmold and let cool immediately. Store in a air-tight container to retain spongy, cake-like texture.

Thank you to everyone who shared their Christmas memories and recipes with us.
Happy Eating!

And the winner is...

Barb at SFO Mom! Email me at patjrsmom at yahoo dot com with your mailing information and we'll send it on its way. Congratulations and thanks to everyone for playing! Later, probably after the holidays, I have another review to do on a book about Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Check back for the review and the accompanying giveaway in late December or early January.

And don't forget, there is still time to submit a cookie recipe for tomorrow's virtual cookie swap. Quite a nice collection has come together, but there's always room for more cookies, right!?!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Last Chance

Enter by midnight CST tonight to be in the drawing to receive the book The Shepherd's Prayer. Here's the link to enter. I'll announce the lucky winner tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ready, Set...Don't Go

You're humming the tune to this song if:
  • A. You (like me) have pre-teen girls in your house or--
  • B. You just never got over Billy Ray Cyrus and now, you don't have to.
In my house, A trumps B hands down, but the song is in my head today more than usual.

Yesterday, we opened a new chapter here on the Ark. My oldest, more commonly known as "The Boy", turned thirteen yesterday. (Don't worry, son, you won't see any photos of the day on the blog. I'm learning to respect the privacy that you suddenly seem to require more of these days.) It was a melancholy day, which contained, quite honestly, little time with the birthday celebrant. He was here after school and basketball practice for a few hours (to eat) before leaving for a scrimmage that wouldn't return him home until nearly 9:30 last night. I've seen it coming for a while now, but have chosen to try to ignore the signs--you know, things like:
  • the not-so-subtle hints that perhaps his younger sisters would like to be my new grocery shopping helpers.
  • the suggestion that we plan a "friends" birthday party falling on deaf ears.
  • the need to walk just a little closer to the "guys" on the basketball team than to the family on the way out of the gym.
  • the enormity of the embarrassment that comes simply from Mom or Dad's presence.
My husband laughs and lovingly tries to cheer me up with talk of "bench strength", but it's not the same. And it won't be-ever again.

Thirteen years ago, when experienced mothers looked at brand new mom-me and my firstborn son, not a one of them left without saying, "They grow up so fast. Enjoy every moment of it." And I, the know-it-all new mom would nod seriously, looking at my innocent, helpless, eight pound boy and think to myself, "Yeah, right!"

Well, if thirteen years of parenting has taught me anything, it's that I don't know very much. They do grow up that fast. And I hope that if I've learned anything along the way it was to remember to enjoy every last bit right then and there--before I find myself closing chapters on books I've not yet finished.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Advent Resources

One of my favorite books to celebrate the liturgical year is a great book called the Big Book of Catholic Traditions. I think I've linked it in a previous post here. It is full of great ideas. And for recipes--A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz is great! Also, author Cay Gibson has a couple of great books (but a recent addition specific to Advent) that can be found here.

Do you have any Advent resources that are your tried and true favorites?
Preparing for Advent (including a giveaway!)

Two upcoming events here on the Ark are sure to start you thinking about Advent's quick approach.

First, don't forget to share your favorite Christmas cookie recipe with us. I have a handful so far, but would love to hear from the rest of my readers. You all must be Christmas cookie people--we'd never get along so well if you weren't! ;-) The original post is here. You can leave a message in the comments on either section with a link to your post containing your recipe or you can email your recipe to me at patjrsmom at yahoo dot com.

And, second, the giveaway I promised is now underway! I will be giving away a copy of the book The Shepherds' Prayer: A Christmas Novel, written by Richard M. Barry. While the book works well with the accompanying study guide to serve as an Advent scripture study, it is great as a stand alone read as well.

The story is told from the point of view of a young man whose past is a mystery but for a single lambskin blanket containing a cryptic message. One night, he eventually works up the courage to ask his adoptive father for "his story" and what he hears leads him on a journey to discover his past and much more. Written in easy to read language and woven together with familiar people, places and events from Sacred Scripture, this story offers a chance to ponder the mystery of our own connections to salvation history. As the book is a mere eight chapters and one hundred and twenty-three pages, it would also make for a great Advent family read aloud.

If you're interested in adding this book to your collection, leave a note in the comments before midnight CST on Wednesday, November 28th. The winner will be announced on Thursday, November 29th. Good luck!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Keep One in Theaters, Get the Other
into Every Catholic Home

Thanksgiving Weekend is a critical weekend for two sets of Catholic filmmakers. While the team at Metanoia Films appeals to Catholics to keep Bella in theaters this coming weekend, the filmmakers at Catholic Exchange appeal for a blockbuster response to our multi-award winning DVD, Champions of Faith: Baseball.

Just as important as ticket sales for theatrical releases, DVD sales support and sustain films released straight to video and in this instance will enable Catholic Exchange to create more films featuring cultural icons who embrace and affirm our beloved Catholic faith.

This Thanksgiving weekend only, you can buy a special “Christmas 6-Pack” for just $69. Keep one for your family and give the other five away as Christmas gifts. That's nearly 50% off the retail price and a full $30 less than the regular price for a Champions of Faith 6-PK! CLICK HERE or call 1.877.263.1263 right now to order!

You can read my review of Champions of Faith here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Day 2007

Thanksgiving Prayer
This Thanksgiving let those of us who have much and those who have little gather at the welcoming table of the Lord. At this blessed feast, may rich and poor alike remember that we are called to serve on another and to walk together in God's gracious world. With thankful hearts we praise our God who like a loving parent denies us no good thing.

Today and every day, it pleases God for us to sit as brothers and sisters as we share the bounty of the earth and the grace God has placed in each blessed soul. For this we all give thanks and praise to our loving and gracious God.

From Songs of Our Hearts, Meditations of Our Souls: Prayers for Black Catholics, edited by Cecilia A. Moor, Ph.D., C. Vanessa White, D.Min., and Paul M. Marshall, S.M.

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving from our house to yours! God Bless!
Christmas Spirit Award

Michelle, at Dei Gratia, humbles me with an award for Christmas Spirit.

What is the Spirit of Christmas you ask?

Quite simply it is those that have a generous and giving nature. Those who care about others. Those who have a kind word to say or a broad shoulder to lean on in the times that others need that. Those who display the "Spirit of Christmas".
-from the award creator

There are so many people to choose from, but I'm only supposed to pick five, which means that there will be people to pass it on to when YOU get it! goes...

Faith at Faith's Travel Blog(under the new name Musings of a Road Warrior)-as generous and caring as it gets AND her blog will be reopening soon as she begins to travel again.

Eileen at Eileen on Him...or at Least I Try-always thoughtful and caring in her words. I truly enjoy our virtual chats.

Barb, SFO Mom-living out her faith through her words and actions. Always a joy to read.

Becky at Wild at Heart Family-One of my favorite online buddies.

Jena at Two Different Loves-Thinking and reflecting on lots of issues-especially related to adoption in a caring and generous way.

You can get the code to add the award to your blog here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Green Bean Casserole

My family will gather this year, as it has for the past several, for its annual Thanksgiving Fiesta. Seriously. My brother-in-law's wife, whose family includes some 22 aunts and uncles and assorted cousins, is a first generation Mexican-American. It is fiesta grande to the nth degree. And each year, I am responsible for the making/taking of the super-sized version of the green bean casserole. And I always feel a little plain by comparison. I mean, here I am-green bean casserole surrounded by such exotic fare as homemade tamales, hot spicy chicken dishes, or things with names like arroz or flan. I just can't compete.

But the thought of cumin-infused green beans doesn't seem right either. Then it occurred to me. God hasn't called me to be something different to everyone; but, instead, to be everything to the someones He's given me.

And it seems I've been called not to a hot, spicy, exotic role; but, rather, to that of comfort-giver, provider of warmth, familiarity, and sensibility-a life that just screams GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE.

So, this Thanksgiving, watch out! My kitchen will overflow with french-style green beans and cans of cream of mushroom soup. The scents of crispy fried onions and black pepper will linger in the air. Me and my green bean casserole. Bring it on.
Her Perspective: Vietnamese Adoptee via the NYT

An interesting article to read about a woman who was adopted from Vietnam.

Monday, November 19, 2007

You can take the girl out of Connecticut...

but, oh nevermind, you know the rest and here's my score to prove it!

33% Definitely Yankee

So, what about you all? Are you a Yankee or a Dixie? Find out here.

H/T my dear Dixie (Y'all must have been a Dixie, right?) friend, Julie.

This was a whirlwind of a weekend. Friday night the Captain and I led our couple's bible study group and went out for coffee--always such a nice end to the week. The Boy had a basketball game Saturday, which they won--yeah!--and after going to Mass Saturday night, we had the girl's school fundraiser dinner to attend. When we arrived home from the dinner, there were still three batches of chocolate chip muffins to be made for the monthly family birthday celebration happening at 8:30 AM, Sunday morning. By what could only be termed the Spirit moving, we actually arrived on time for the birthday breakfast. Fortunately, after a quick stop to pick up the Sunday papers, we were headed back home with nothing else on the agenda...EXCEPT...there were two loaves of cranberry pumpkin bread to make, two loaves of yeast dill bread to make, a bunch of boneless chicken to be cooked and separated for three different meals (including last night's dinner) and the girls and I prepared the Blessing Mix for their teachers.

Why is it that there is no such thing as a day *off* for moms?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Preparing for Advent

I'll be hosting another giveaway soon for the Catholic/Christian Christmas tale called The Shepherd's Prayer. It promises to be a great story and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you all. In the meanwhile, you can check out and download the Study Guide which accompanies the book here. It is designed to be used during the four weeks of Advent in preparation for Christmas.
Which Came First?

Baby T has become a bit of a shoe Houdini lately. He just can't seem to keep a pair of shoes on his feet. We've done velcro, lace-up, buckle, etc...but still he manages to squirm his feet free. And his favorite place to do so? In the car. So, as he is the sixth child, I have given up on shoeing Baby T in the car--unless I know he'll be getting out.

Yesterday, as we waved goodbye to CB at preschool and were pulling away from the curb service drop-off, N reported with concern:

"Mama, Baby T took his shoes off again!"

"It's okay," I responded knowing of my new grand shoe plan, "He doesn't have any shoes on right now."

"I KNOW!" she countered, exasperated, "BECAUSE he took them off!"

Sigh. It's going to be a long day.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Virtual Christmas Cookie Swap

Okay, friends, I know I have some excellent bakers in my midst. Some of you so much so that my traitorous children will actually request your confections over mine! And, some of you well-loved bakers have suggested we share our sweets this season.

So, here you have it---the first ever Ark Virtual Cookie Swap! If you'd like to participate, post your favorite Christmas Cookie recipe on your blog and then leave a link to it in the comments section. Don't have a blog? Don't worry-we want to try your Christmas Cookie recipe, too! You can email me at patjrsmom at yahoo dot com and submit your recipe that way. Feel free to invite a friend to join us as well. When it comes to cookies, the more the merrier, right? Please have all posts and emails ready to go by November 30th and then, on December 1st, just in time for Advent, I'll post all our delicious cookie recipes.

Any questions, feel free to contact me. Happy Baking!

Doctor Visit

The other morning, I took The Boy for his final follow-up after breaking his elbow. I brought with me my three youngest as that was the way our schedule worked out that morning. As you might imagine, The Boy and I and our three small attendants attracted some unwarranted attention in the doctor's office.

When the doctor came in to greet us, he commented on how many of *us* there were:

"I see you brought the whole crew this morning," he chuckled.

"Not quite," I replied cautiously, "I have two more who are in school."

"Oh my," his raised eyebrows expressed, "I only have two hands and could barely handle three children."

Thinking back to Dr. Ray's talk, I remembered "the response" his wife used when questioned about the size of their family, but not wanting to offend the doctor gave a watered down version of it, "Well, our kids are generally well-behaved, so it's not that bad."

As the visit finished, he turned to me and said, "You know something, they actually are well-behaved." And walked out into the hallway, leaving the door open thus inviting in a nearby nurse, who also felt compelled to comment on our family:

"You must be a brave mommy to take all your kids to the doctor's office,"she mused.

Taking a deep breath, I said (again), "Not really. These aren't all my kids."

Relieved she said, "Oh, they're not all yours."

Thinking that we were almost out the door, thus ending this conversation, I calmly said, "No, they're all mind, but I have two more in school." The look on her face said it all, but if it hadn't the very obvious "point and count-out-loud" method she began using to calculate the number of children in our family was about all I could take before 9:00am.

"Just how many kids do you have?" she screeched, "Is it six?" I nodded. "SIX!?!" she uttered in disbelief, as though I just affirmed the existence of Martian life. She turned to The Boy and said sarcastically, "Is she on medication?"

Thoughts began running through my head. Did she just ask me if I was on medication? No, did she just ask my 12 year old SON if his MOTHER was on medication? Yes, I believe she did. Dr. Ray's wife's response wasn't as offensive as I thought. What was it again? Oh yes. Now I remember...

"Six well-disciplined children are much easier to handle than one un-disciplined one," I spat out and we left. I was furious. I certainly didn't walk through the office condemning the reproductive choices of anyone with less children than me; why, then, was it socially acceptable to question my choice and even engage my pre-teen son in mocking the decisions of his "medicated", and therefore obviously crazy, mother?

Anyone have any answers? If I can remember to take all my sanity pills, I'll be back later to read your thoughts...
Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Kelli. She is the winner of the pair of Ten Commandments tickets, shirt and poster. Kelli send your mailing information to me at patjrsmom at yahoo dot com and I'll send it out first thing. Congratulations again and let us know how you like the movie!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ten Commandments Giveaway!

Here's a fast and furious giveaway happening on the Ark. I'm giving away two tickets to The Ten Commandments movie but they must be used by November 30th! (Tickets are good only in the US). In addition to the tickets, the winner will also receive a promotional Ten Commandments t-shirt and poster. To learn more about the movie, watch the trailer here.

To enter, leave a note in the comments below by midnight CST on Wednesday, November 15th. A winner will be chosen at random and announced on Thursday.

Good luck!
The Doctor is In

Since some of you's the rewind on Dr. Ray Guarendi's talk at our parish tonight.

First, let me just say that if you like him on his radio show, you'll love him in person. He is every bit as down-to-earth as he sounds and ten times more funny. He is like a walking caricature of himself.

He covered a wide range of topics-including parenting (discipline in particular), his adoptions, the wisdom of the plethora of parenting *experts* in our culture, and even touched briefly on his journey back to the Catholic church.

One of the most important things that I think he spoke about was the resolve of parents, the ability to stick-it-out with our kids for as long as it takes to discipline them. As he said, society doesn't take kindly to "undisciplined" (read: whiny, pouty, my-way-or-the-highway, spoiled, bratty) individuals whether they are 3 or 33. Heck, we, as parents, don't like it when our kids act that way. He talked about all the labels which exist that "excuse" this sort of behavior: the difficult child, the strong-willed child, the high maintenance child, etc...Then he talked about the need for the BIG people to stop kowtowing to the LITTLE people and stop offering them excuses and start showing them that our will to help them become a person of strong moral character is stronger than any will they might possess. Why? Because we love them that much.

He asked how long we, as parents, thought this process might take; how long we would need to persevere. In silence, we considered his question. Then, he called to our pastor in the back of the church and asked, "When people come in for confession, Father, do you usually hear, 'Well, I've pretty much conquered all my sins. Thanks for your help. See you later.' or do you hear, 'It's me again, Father, here I am with the same list of sins I've been confessing for the past 40 years.'"

I'm not sure about the rest of you, but that convicted me right on the spot. If God loves me enough to hang in there with me and repeatedly forgive me, while I persist in what is surely incredibly frustrating behavior to Him; then as His example to my children, they deserve nothing less than my unending love-through my commitment to discipline them to become who God wants them to be.

Dr. Ray's talk is available on DVD here. And whaddya know--you can even watch clips of his talk as well!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Eyes Wide Open

Ethics in adoption is a hot topic. Ensuring that children are not handled as merchandise, thus making safe and honest adoptions possible, is one of the main goals of reputable adoption agencies. This story ran in the Sunday Chicago Tribune discussing the not-so-stellar reputation of the Guatemala country program. If you're interested in international adoption ethics, this one's worth a read.

This should keep you busy...

Unless you have 5 or 10 minutes to spare, don't click on this link. It's for a good cause, really; who doesn't want to help donate rice to the hungry? And as an added bonus, you'll do it by testing your vocabulary prowess. Here's the catch, though, if you're a bit of a wordsmith and/or even slightly competitive, 5 or 10 minutes may not even be enough. 43 was my best vocabulary score and I donated so many grains of rice that I lost count, but that was after, a little more than my fair share of computer time.

I've heard it only goes as high as 50. Anybody score higher?

This morning's addiction brought to you by Owlhaven. Thanks, Mary!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Laundry Etiquette

If you leave a Kit Kat bar in your pocket for me to find while washing your jeans, it is only proper for you to inform me about it before I find it in the dryer's lint trap.

Not only is it bad manners, it is a waste of perfectly good chocolate.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


This morning, the blog got a much-needed update in all things admin related. There are some great new blogs added to the sidebar. You should check them out. And then you should let me know if I missed any...because I can't shake the feeling that I have. Sigh.

(And Michelle, I just realized your blog went private! I'd love to stay on your reading list...)

And this updating extravaganza is brought to you courtesy of the Captain, who (without prompting) got up before going in to work this morning, which means well before anyone else did, and completely cleaning up the mess left in the kitchen last night.

I am so unworthy of such a great husband. He's one of the many blessings I count when I wake up each morning, especially when I find myself with unexpected time on my hands.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Lessons from the battlefield

My husband's always said that we should never volunteer to be marriage prep speakers; that what we'd have to say would frighten all but the heartiest of betrotheds away. After reading this post, over at Life in Fitzville, I think he may be wrong. One heaping dose of our marriage prep would be just the kind of reality check future couples might need to see if they have "what it takes" to see marriage and parenthood through to the end.
Come on, get happy!

We knew the day was coming. We've talked about it before.
Maybe even more than once.
But the reality of the situation is setting in. We simply don't have enough seats in the Suburban to seat another ark rider-or two, and try as I might, I'm just not as gifted as some of you might think. I've yet to figure out how to drive both the Suburban AND the Taurus at the same time, thus ending our vehicle dilemma.

I know, I know. If I'd only just give a little more effort...

The older ark members are generally resigned totally in favor of the swap of our inconspicuous tank for an even larger one. Among the conversations overhead:

"I just hope they don't get the white one. I mean, it looks like a prison van or something."

"If they'd just let me, I'd start driving now. They can be so unreasonable."

"At least the Suburban wasn't completely uncool. I may as well start wearing shorts and black knee socks with sensible shoes."

"I like the big car!"..."Shhhh-somebody give her a lollipop to quiet her."

Regardless of the passengers' opinions, however, they will soon be riding on new wheels. The questions left for debate are two:
  • 12 or 15 passenger?
  • Chevy or Ford?
We really don't need the seating for 15 passengers, but it would allow us the option to transport out-of-town guests or all the kids' friends to Chuck E. Cheese's for a birthday party. (Hmmm...maybe I've just answered that one myself.) Seriously, it would also allow us extra space for storage if the fourth (no, that's not a typo) seat was removed.

As for the auto maker...well, we've only owned one Chevy--the Suburban. And it's been a gem since the day we got it. Not a single bit of trouble, but again, it's the only Chevy we've ever owned. We've owned three Fords, however, and each one has had its share of---how do I put this---quirks:
  • There was our 1999 Windstar (purchased new) that emanated a sound from the gas tank reminiscent of a fog horn. Waw-wah. Waw-wah. After many months of service, the moaning ceased, but other smaller problems took its place.
  • We also owned a 2001 Expedition (purchased a year old). It functioned fairly well until the transmission needed to be replaced less than two years later. Okay, I admit, that could happen to any vehicle. But to have to replace the transmission AGAIN, less than two more years later. I'd like to see the odds on that one.
  • And, not to be outdone by its older siblings, our 2005 Taurus went through a phase where it refused to stop running. Yes, even after the key was turned to the off position and REMOVED from the vehicle. Now, if it could have also driven itself and a few of my passengers to and from school, sports and the like, we might have been able to make that work. Unfortunately, no such luck.
So, all you families with large vehicle needs, what do you drive? What are the pros and cons of them? While I wait for your answers, I'm off to check the Suburban to see if it's grown an extra bench seat in my absence.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Praying on the sidewalk

Whether you're praying in the Fox Valley--or at any number of abortion clinics around the country... Whether you've prayed one time--or a thousand... Whether you've learned about the babies who live because of your prayers--or not...go read this article and then check out the book.

Then, consider whether you might be called to pray, specifically, this weekend at the Aurora PP clinic. If so, sign up here.
Important Recall

This was passed along to me from our Mom's Group email list. It was news to me. The recall was announced for a product known as Aqua-dots in the US and sold under the name Bindeez in Australia, where it has also been recalled.

From the article:

The toy beads are sold in general merchandise stores and over the Internet for use in arts and crafts projects. They can be arranged into designs and fused when sprayed with water.

Scientists say a chemical coating on the beads, when ingested, metabolizes into the so-called date rape drug gamma hydroxy butyrate. When eaten, the compound _ made from common and easily available ingredients _ can induce unconsciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death.

You can read the full text of the article here.
Ethiopian Word of the Week

Our Ethiopian daughter, H, was extremely fluent in her native Amharic when she arrived home a year ago. While we made valiant attempts to pick up words and phrases in her language, the need for her to learn English overshadowed our efforts.

As time went on, she spent less time listening to her Amharic music cds, reading her books in Amharic, playing the Amharic learning cd on the computer, or speaking with friends and family in her native tongue. Actually, when she spoke to people back in Ethiopia or adopted friends her in America, she readily began to slip into English during her conversations. When we met with two other adoptive families this summer, two of the teenage boys had arrived in the US less than a week prior and spoke mostly Amharic to one another. I watched as H listened to them and I asked her if she knew what they were saying. "I know what they are saying," she replied, "but I don't know how to answer them." Sigh.

So, we've made a recent addition to the weekly activities on the Ark. H selects a word from a small Ethiopian Amharic phrasebook we have and writes the English word, its Amharic equivalent and the phonetic spelling of it in English. Then, we try to use that word throughout the week. She has a compelling reason to practice her Amharic writing (which rarely happens). She tests many words by paging through the book and "trying out" words on the rest of us before selecting one. And we are beginning to prepare our vocabulary for a return trip to Ethiopia and (possibly) for conversation with a new family member who only speaks Amharic!

***I'm going to add the Ethiopian Word of the Week to my sidebar (granted I don't have the ge'ez characters at my disposal, but I'll post the English word and its phonetic Amharic counterpart.***

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Speaking of recipes

For my birthday this year, in addition to taking me out for our bi-annual birthday coffee, H's godmother gave me this wonderful cookbook:

The author was born two hours north of Addis Ababa and was brought to an orphanage there with his sister when his birth mother died during a tuberculosis outbreak in the early 1970s. He was adopted by a family in Sweden and describes his idyllic, typical Swedish upbringing where he learned his love of cooking from his maternal Swedish grandmother. As he grew older, and began training as a chef, he longed to return to his native land and experience the tastes and aromas of Africa-and specifically, Ethiopia.

This cookbook is the result of his trip back home to discover the cuisine of a continent and a little piece of himself. Featuring beautiful photographs and recipes prefaced by stories of his journey, this cookbook is a must have for anyone who wants to learn more about the delectable and rich history of African cooking.

***It also includes a comprehensive list of resources in the index for ordering spices, foods and supplies to assist in food preparation. We've already placed an order for 30 pieces of injera and are planning an Ethiopian food night coming soon!***
Pumpkin Squares

This is one of the favorite fall desserts on the Ark. It tastes great and has the added benefit of being super easy to prepare! It even bakes in an 11 x 17" pan. Is there any dessert more lovely? I think not.


1 c. oil
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1-16 oz. can of pumpkin


2 c. flour 2 t. cinnamon
1 t. baking powder 1 t. pumpkin pie spice
1 t. baking soda 1/4 t. salt

When mixed together thoroughly, pour batter into a lightly greased 11 x 17" pan. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


4 oz. cream cheese, softened 6 T. butter, softened
1 t. vanilla 2 c. powdered sugar
1 T. milk

Cream together 'til smooth. Spread on cooled bars. Enjoy!

(What about all the sugar, eggs and oil, you ask? Hey, I never said they were *good* for you! But they sure *taste* good!)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


While leisurely mixing up cream cheese icing to top some delicious pumpkin squares (recipe to follow), and talking to H about the Ethiopian "Word of the Week", CB took it upon herself to feed Baby T an entire container of his favorite flavor of Trix yogurt.

It was quite apparent that someone was very, very spoiled.

I'm a lucky (perhaps even just a teensy little bit spoiled) mommy, aren't I?


I know the usual turn of events would involve me as a parent feeling proud for my children and their accomplishments as they grow. So, is it unusual for my cup of pride to be running over for my Dad, who was recognized by St. Joseph High School for his service and dedication to Catholic education for several decades!
If, like me, you missed out on the festivities, you can see an awesome slide show of the night here. Please note my brother introducing my dad and my stunning sister-in-law, who is just positively glowing with the look of an expectant mom. Oh yeah, and there are some other cool people in there, too. (They know who they are.)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Pumpkin Masters

Fortunately for my children, when their Auntie Faith isn't "playing work", she indulges them with elaborate pumpkin carving tools and templates. You know, the kind that turn any level-headed parent into a new breed of Smashing Pumpkins fan. So, after washing, drying, opening, scooping, scraping, washing and drying (again!), taping, poking, slicing, and lighting, I had to admit the results were quite spectacular. And maybe, just maybe, a little more interesting than my standard three triangles and a semi-circle model. But, don't let me tell you, see for yourself:

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Who knows?

How do you get a group of women talking?

Ask them how many children they have...or how many they want...or how many is too many...or too few...The topic of family size is one that touches all women, whether a mother of one or mom to many or even a woman praying for a child. And its touch is timeless. Women of biblical times bore the same exact struggles that are seen today:

Looking for a mother struggling in raising a large family? Read the heart-wrenching tale of the Maccabean mother.
Looking for a mother struggling to conceive a child? Read Hannah's or Rachel's story.
Looking for a mother struggling to understand the sole soul entrusted to her by God? Read Mary's story-remembering that this was the mother of our Lord-sharing our same struggles.

Amidst all their worry, when push came to proverbial shove, these women were united by one thing in their stories. Each one of them, in making their decisions, were driven to their knees in prayer to seek God's help in guiding their hearts and minds. We may find guidance and support from others, but ultimately, we need to stay close to God in prayer for these things to be revealed to us.

  • The supportive best friend with a houseful of kids may offer advice, but she doesn't know the answer.
  • The dedicated spiritual advisor may offer wisdom, but he doesn't know the answer.
  • The nosy store clerk who points out how "full" your hands are may point out the obvious, but she doesn't know the answer.
  • The well-meaning grandparents wondering about the number of branches on the family tree may express their concern, but they don't know the answer.

If we can learn one thing about the *correct* size of a family from the godly women who went before us, let it be this: God, and He alone, knows that answer. And in my Father's house there are many dwelling places--with rooms for families of all sizes.
For other great reads on the topic of discerning family size visit these three women who shared their stories in CCL's Family Foundations magazine.

And while these are all great stories, remember, one size does not fit all and if you're looking for answers--your answers--there's only One place to go.

Meditation: Thoughts in Solitude
My Lord God
I have no idea where I am going
I do not see the road ahead of me
I cannot now for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself. And the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may
know nothing about it.
Therefore, I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear for you are always with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

By Thomas Merton

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Giving Continues

While I haven't updated here recently about the PP clinic, the battle for the dignity of life continues. On the front lines this past weekend, our parish's mom's group held another pro-life baby shower and met with as much success as before. Here are a few of the stories shared from that day:

From the shower organizers-
Despite the cold, overcast weather this past Saturday at the FAPP Rally, my heart remained warmed by the generosity of so many who donated to our second Community Baby Shower. Once again, people opened their hearts to women and families in need and filled our playpens to the brim! We collected over 80 packages of diapers, 25 packages of baby wipes, 2 highchairs, 3 infant tubs, 3 bouncy chairs, at least 25 blankets (some hand knit!) as well as bags upon bags of clothing, sleepers, and onesies and many other baby care items. Although it was not requested that the gifts be wrapped – many items were beautifully and thoughtfully packaged in gift bags – a testimony to our belief that EVERY child is an amazing gift from God and is to be celebrated! I want to personally thank each and every person who donated to the baby shower. Every donation, large or small, makes a tremendous difference because collectively these items change lives.

And a couple of thank yous-

#1-From the Project Gabriel representative-

Thank you again for all your hard work. It is wonderful that we will be able to help many women and babies.
I truly believe in the power of prayer and there is a family we are helping that really needs it. Gabriel Project of Our Lady of Mercy is in the midst of a tragedy. Our newest mom, who delivered a beautiful baby boy on Oct. 20th, died yesterday morning. You may have heard of the story in the news. She was stabbed to death in her home. The two week old and her 1 year old are fine and with their grandma. Please, please keep the family and those precious children in your prayers. It is a horrible situation.

She was a kind and appreciative person who just wanted to take care of her family. We are looking to get extra help to the family when they need it. Some of the supplies we've collected with go to them. So please pass my Thank yous on again to everyone who donated.

#2--from the Pregnancy Information Center representative

I spent my last 2 hours at the Center yesterday sorting the things your shower provided and putting it away. There was so much I am still not finished. Many items are so nice we decided to put them aside to share at Christmas.

Thank you so much!

#3--from a conversation with the Catholic Charities representative

First, she (the Catholic Charities representative) mentioned how helpful these items would be since she is working with a lot of moms who are choosing to keep their babies (praise God!). Second, she also mentioned how she has 20 families on the wait list to adopt babies and how badly she feels that they are waiting and waiting meanwhile PP is all too quick to encourage women to abort their babies. CC is turning people away who want to adopt babies because the wait list is already so long. It is encouraging that she is working with so many moms choosing to keep and raise their children but why are we struggling so hard with the adoption portion of the equation? Why can we not get these women to see that there ARE countless families who are being called to adopt and are ready right now at this very moment to care for these precious little ones. It’s both interesting and baffling to me.

God Bless you all for your dedication to supporting life in our community!

"Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me." Matthew 25:40

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Reply to Anonymous

I absolutely wanted to make sure that Anonymous reads this reply so I'm posting it here rather than have it get lost in the "older posts" down below, thus perpetuating the myth of my super-human abilities:

Dear Anonymous,
Ha! If I could have lifted my sorry self off the couch on Monday, I would have taken a picture of my *exhausted* self. Alas, the spirit was willing but the body was---nearly comatose and I have yet to teach Baby T how to use the digital camera or how to upload pics to Blogger. Maybe next time (and trust me--there will be one!)

Your sometimes-even-I-get-tired friend,
Jane (aka mother of the ark)

Adoption Blogpost Round-Up

Heidi Hess Saxton, of Mommy Monsters, hosts the November edition of the Adoption Blogpost Round-Up. The theme is "Everything I Wish I'd Known About Adoption...but didn't think to ask!"
Whether you've adopted before, are considering adoption or are simply interested in the process-stop by to read some of the stories.
Feast of All Saints-November 1

A great reminder:

"Sometimes we forget that saints were ordinary people who lived the gospel in an extraordinary way."

From Fr. George's homily this morning during all-school Mass.

Feast of All Souls-November 2

In preparation for tomorrow, tonight we will be gathering photos of our friends and family who have died and placing them on our family altar. We will be borrowing the idea from church to have a Book of the Dead on the altar as well. We will be sure to include the family (especially H and T's birth mom) in Ethiopia.

***The Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions recommends adding the names of pets with loved ones as many children may have only experienced death involving a pet.***

Dear Lord,
Today we remember our loved ones, family and friends who have died and joined you in heaven. We are grateful for the joy and love these special people brought to our lives. With faith and hope we pray that our loved ones are at peace and enjoying eternal happiness in your loving care. Amen.