Thursday, January 31, 2008

Excellence Award

Fortunately for me, perhaps not so fortunate for the rest of the internet, there are a few people who encourage me to keep my fingers clicking on the keyboard writing post after post of scintillating depth and insight. But the more likely scenario is that they are good enough friends to let me think so...and for that I thank them.

So, here's a big thank you to Michelle, Barbara and Lisa for this award!!! It goes without saying that they deserve it right back!

And here's my shout out to some other E-rated bloggers!

In no particular order:

Eileen, Cathy, Becky, Denise, Laura, Rachel, Jena, Renee, Kathy, Barb and Anne

Each one of your blogs has a special place in my heart! If you'd like to share the award, here are the rules:

The rules: By accepting this Excellent Blog Award, you have to award it to 10 more people whose blogs you find Excellent Award worthy. You can give it to as many people as you want but please award at least 10. Thank you out there for having such great blogs and being such great friends! You deserve this! Feel free to award people who have already been awarded…

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Polling Station

Here's an interesting link
to help you select a presidential candidate for 2008 whose views best align with yours.

Were their views what you thought they were?

Was your candidate the one you expected?

H/T Amanda
Works for Me Wednesday!

Shannon, who writes at the incredibly popular Rocks in My Dryer, has hosted WFMW (Works for Me Wednesday) for as far back in blogging history as my memory goes--okay, I realize that's not saying much, but suffice to say...a long time. This is, however, my first time participating.

There are many helpful household tips my Ethiopian born daughter has shared with me since her arrival here on the Ark.

Practical tips such as "Don't go to fetch the water at night. That's when the hyenas come out." Living in a small, suburban town in the midwest, you can well imagine my fear when it comes to hyenas.

Sensible tips such as "When you go to kill the chicken, make sure you take off all the feathers before we cook it." You should have seen the look on the face of the teenaged-help in the meat department when I inquired about the plucking of his employer's chicken.

So as she stood by me in the kitchen insisting again that she knew a trick from Ethiopia to stop my eyes from watering as I chopped an onion; I must admit I was a bit skeptical. But she persevered. And the next time I chopped onions and my eyes began to tear up, my daughter reached over and grabbed a piece of the yellow onion skin and tucked it behind my right ear.

Instantaneously--my right eye stopped leaking! I was amazed! So much so that a few moments later, I reached for a second piece and hooked it over the back of my left ear. Sure enough, the tears dried up.

Onion skins behind my ears to stop my tears. Works-for-me!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Who's that knocking?

Tap, tap, tap...

In the middle of an overcrowded school gymnasium, with five of my six children nearly indistinguishable from the throngs of like-minded, donut propelled mini-shoppers; a tiny-but powerful-voice beckoned me, "Mommmmm!!!" "Just a minute!" I called over my shoulder, without looking up.

Then, nearly a whole TEN seconds later--

Tap, tap, tap...

"I said, 'Just a minute!'" I called out over the din of the junior high marketplace, which was now in full swing. The room was swimming with crazed children, clutching lengths of tickets as long as themselves, hopeful that there would be one last Popsicle-stick wishing well before inventory ran out. Trying to hear myself think, I took a deep breath, and was aiming to formulate a battle plan when, much to my chagrin, I again felt--

Tap, Tap, Tappity-tap!!!

With eyes blazing and completely devoid of grace, I spun around and barked, "WHAT?" at the face attached to the hand behind me. The face, I suddenly realized, that was not one of my children (who had all scattered like rats at that point), but another mother from the school, who looked at me wide-eyed and said, "Hi. Umm. We met before and I, well, I just wanted to say hi."

Embarrassed beyond all belief, I apologized for my behavior and explained that I don't normally greet people so rudely--even those I don't know. Fortunately for me, she had done that mile in my moccasins before and graciously accepted my apology. As we parted, I scanned the room for my kids. Olive branch in hand, I located them and we kissed and made-up, literally.

Out of my embarrassment, however, came a valuable lesson in humility. Would I have been so quick to ask forgiveness of my children had I not spoken so callously to another adult? The answer is not one I'd like to share, but I bet you can guess. The path to humility, as I am painfully learning, is paved with awkward situations such as these; but, through them, God seeks to awaken my humble spirit asleep inside.

If we were humble, nothing would change us-neither praise nor discouragement.

If someone were to criticize us, we would not feel discouraged.

If someone were to praise us, we would not feel proud.

-Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Monday, January 28, 2008

Loveliness Fair 2008

I've been a longtime fan, but never a participant, in the Loveliness Fairs hosted by some very lovely bloggers for quite some time now. This year's focus is on achieving Loveliness in our own Domestic Churches in simple ways and then sharing our thoughts and ideas with one another.

This month's theme, Simply Lovely Soups, starting tomorrow at Blueberry Cottage, was one I just couldn't pass up.

I mean it's Chicago...and it's winter...and there are eight cold, hungry folks here on the Ark, ever ready to indulge themselves in a warm, cozy soupfest!

Besides, I owed Anne this soup recipe.

This Italian Sausage Soup is courtesy of my mother-in-law, who has been living and sharing a life of simple loveliness with me for nearly two decades!

Italian Sausage Soup

1 pound Italian sausage, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 c. broccoli flowerets
1 c. uncooked mostaccioli pasta
2 1/2 c. water
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. fennel seed, crushed
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can (28 oz) Italian tomatoes (preferably diced)
1 can (10 1/2 oz) beef broth, condensed

Cook and drain sausage. Stir in remaining ingredients, breaking up tomatoes. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mostaccioli is tender.

This recipe is great served with a fresh, tossed, green salad and a warm loaf of fresh-baked bread. (Laura, if you'd like to share yours, I'm all ears!)


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Word to the wise

This morning, at the Mass that "kicked off" Catholic Schools Week, our pastor spoke about the very important role that our school-church family plays in educating our children:

"If we do not take seriously the responsibility to teach our children about God, then the world will do it for us."
Techie Stuff, or "Does anyone have the number for the Geek Squad?"

Slowly I've managed to find my way around the blogosphere. With a couple of nudges I ended up on Facebook. I've even taking a real liking to Google Reader, which with practically no effort on my part, presents all of the new posts from the blogs I most frequently visit. Given my recent technological advances, I even *claimed* my blog on Technorati in the hopes of adding one of their supercool "tag cloud-a-ma-jiggies." I followed what I thought were the explicit directions for making the elusive cloud appear, but when all was said and published, sadly, no cloud could be seen.

Am I missing something? Or is the reality that I am just computer literate enough to be dangerous?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Valentine's Day Request

I received an email requesting help in putting together Valentine Party activities for a fourth grade class:

I'm looking for some advice and ideas for a 4th grade Valentine's Day classroom party. The Christmas party was ... fun and loud. There's 17 boys and 9 girls in the class. Several of my game ideas just didn't work, like running and shouting activities. The Play Doh charades (like Cadoo, if you've played it) worked well. They sat in three circles and played quietly. Do you have any game ideas for an active class? I've tried looking on the internet and just haven't found much. Or, do have some fun websites that has game ideas? I'd really like to do something or give something to bring in the original meaning of St.Valentine. Our society is just so far away from the origins of St.Valentine and his message. Any thoughts on that one?

Here are just a couple of ideas that seemed like they might be of interest--

  • Heart Hunt: Decorate the classroom with hidden red heart cutouts (if the weather was nice, I suppose you could even do this outside?) At the end of the hunt, have a special treat for the children. To keep it quiet, insist that they do it on their tiptoes!
  • Love Match: Gather scripture verses including chapter and verse or quotes about love from the saints. Then, on two pieces of paper, write the quote/verse on one piece of paper and the author/chapter and verse on the other. You can tape the papers into manilla folders turned on their sides (so that the opening is on the bottom) and number all the folders on the outside. Then you get to play the hostess and students take turns (alone or on teams) guessing which two match together. I've used this before with all ages of students. It was great fun and you could adapt it to either small groups (use index cards instead of folders) or as above for use with the whole class.
  • Give A Little Love: Have students create valentines to send to a local charity, another group of school-children or to a nearby nursing home. (Don't forget your local religious priests and nuns.) We've made some cute Valentine's projects with mini bags (local craft stores carry these for next to nothing) of Valentine colored M & Ms, goldfish crackers, cinnamon red hots, or conversation hearts. Then, we created toppers with rubber stamps and markers or colored pencils and wrote a little note on the back. Staple the topper to the little mini-bag and voila--a project with heart! I've done this with kids from kindergarten up through high school.
  • Life is Like A Box of: CHOCOLATES!!! What Valentine Day would be complete without a serious helping of chocolate? You might want to try your hand at Chocolate Modeling Clay. Or using the little melty chocolates from the craft store, being sure not to confuse them with these, have students pour them into heart-shaped molds, make lollipops or simply dip pretzel sticks in any color of melted chocolate and roll in red, white and pink sprinkles for a festive touch.
You can also find information on Saint Valentine's Day here and here.

And when the kids are all tucked in for the night, check out these "True Romance for Couples with Kids" ideas from Catholic Mom's site.

Based on your note, I think I'd shy away from any Valentine pinatas or the reenactment the martyrdom of the saints celebrated that day! In the meanwhile, I'll keep looking through my Valentine resources for any other suggestions, but as I've said before, most of *my* great ideas aren't even mine! So, if any Ark readers have any super suggestions, feel free to leave a link or an idea below.

***UPDATED***SC Mom has done it again! She's got the quintessential Valentine's Day ideas post up now. Definitely check it out!

And, you can now find Laura's Bingo Cards online here. They are simply divine!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

From our couple's study book...

come my three sentences answering Therese's tag:

"Paul probably did not mean these lists to be complete or exhaustive, but representative of the wide variety of the Holy Spirit's gifts to believers. Paul teaches that the main purpose of the gifts of the Spirit is to build up the Church--the body of Christ. 'To each is given the manifestations of the Spirit for the common good.' 1 Cor 12:7"
from the book Catholic and Christian: An Explanation of Commonly Misunderstood Catholic Beliefs by Dr. Alan Schreck

If you'd like to play, here are the rules.

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

If you decide to post it on your blog, leave a link in the comments or feel free to post your quote there, too.
Out of Control

There's no shortage of support groups when it comes to addictions. From one corner of the internet to another a bumper crop of sites exist to help you stop smoking, lose weight, deal with grief and loss or endure through illness--and, don't get me wrong, these are all wonderful, necessary groups.

But I'm having difficulty finding one for struggling control freaks.

(Now, if you happen to have knowledge of such a group, please direct it Arkward so that I can once and for all control this ever-so-annoying personality quirk. And please do it quickly. I really need to take care of this soon. Actually, I'd like a big ol' check mark next to it by sometime tonight...Oh man, listen to can see how dire the situation has become.)

It's so bad that I've stopped with the prayers of, "Dear Lord, please help me to let You be in control." Not because I don't believe in the power of prayer, quite the contrary, that prayer has been so powerful that on several occasions God's given me exactly what I prayed for...

Way back in early 1995, when the Boy was just a wee Boy, and after a textbook pregnancy and delivery and recovery, MY plans included another baby post haste. And then nearly four years later when I was finally pregnant with baby number two. I thought I heard a quiet Voice whisper, "You know, you're not in control." But I brushed it off. And after a very difficult delivery and recovery, it occurred to me that perhaps this timing was better than what I had been thinking after all; but after a minute that thought flitted to some little used part of my brain not to be heard from again. Not until baby number three decided that not one, not two, not three, not even four-but nearly five years later she would make an appearance; which was not quite what I had pictured. As I held that not-so-tiny baby, I was quite certain that same voice spoke again, louder and more firmly, "You know, you're not in control." Finally, I thought, "Okay, God, I get it. I'm not in control."

Check that off the list--

God = control
me = notsomuch

But my understanding was short-sighted, as only five months later I stood inside church, talking to a newly pregnant friend saying, "Charts, schmarts...what do I need those for? I simply don't get pregnant." Two days later, staring incredulously at a little white stick in my bathroom, amidst what sounded like laughter, I very clearly heard, "You know, you're not in control..." pause "and you're one of My slower learners," followed by more chuckling.

Why then, should it surprise anyone to know that I assumed that compared to pregnancy, childbirth and recovery that the adoption process would be a snap. Why? Well, because--finally--I would have control. (Can't you just see God shaking His mighty head?) As we're back in the process again, knee-deep in paperwork, finances and the like, the landscape of adoption is changing in Ethiopia and I'm cringing, as off in the distance, I think I hear that voice calling to me again.
She's #1!!!

Using the extremely scientific method of, "Hey kids, somebody tell me their favorite number between one and ten," to select the winner of this giveaway Mary will be happy to know that my four year old chimed back, "I really like the number one!" So, Mary, who was comment number one on that giveaway post email me at patjrsmom at yahoo dot com and I'll get the book out to you soon! A little something to enjoy as you await the birth of number six (your other lucky number!)

Thanks to everyone who shared their stories. I was so touched by all of them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Only one day left!

As we speak, the Boy is still the Boy, but a few other names are being flung from stem to stern on the Ark in preparation for a naming ceremony. If you haven't given your opinion yet, (and really people, what good is the internet if we aren't all out there giving our unabashed opinions on everything?)

insert sarcastic smirk here

then be sure to do so, or at the least cast your vote in the sidebar before time's up!
A little encouragement

If you haven't been back to Lysa TerKeurst's blog to see the winner(s) of her contest (of which, unfortunately, I was not one...cue sympathetic violin solo); you simply must head back to read the winning entries. They were absolutely fabulous and inspiring and encouraging and--don't listen to me anymore--go see for yourselves!
Fun and Games

SC Mom shared some great links in her Feast Day Activities-week 4. I shared these two specifically with my kids and they had a blast playing them. Once I got off the computer long enough to let them, that is...The entire site is full of faith-based games that were a blast to play and actually taught something, too. What a novel concept!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Remembering the "lasts" and a giveaway!

I promised a giveaway was coming, so before this weekend is history, here it goes...

First of all, I've had this particular item in mind as a giveaway for a while now. But with the rash of stories about tiny bundles full of new life and promise giving way to the wonderment and mommy-love of toddlerhood, followed close on the heels of the magical preschool years, which suddenly morph into an out of control snowball effect of elementary-then junior-then senior high school until-with barely a moment's notice--the once tiny, helpless person, who now stands a head taller than you, waves as his car heads off to college or beyond; well, it was obvious the time for this giveaway was now.

For it was yesterday, literally, that the Boy's 7th grade basketball season ended (with first place trophies in both the championship game and the regular season, if I might brag on him for a moment.) We drove home, as we have each Saturday morning since early November, with every seat in the vehicle occupied by a game-wearied child; some coming down off snack bar sugar rushes, while others regrouped from their roles of cheerleaders-at-large, and one, in particular, who had, in both sweat and smiles, played to his heart's content. My husband turned to me with a sudden realization and noted sadly, "Next year, when basketball season ends, it really will end...And football season...And track season." Next year, if we aren't careful we'll miss celebrating these "lasts" with the Boy before our foray into the world of high-school sports begins. Dear God, I hope we don't miss it.

And I'm hoping we won't, thanks to a lovely book, called Let Me Hold You Longer, given to me by another dear mommy-friend, trying desperately not to miss any "lasts" herself. I've given copies to other mothers before and, this week, I'll give away a copy to another mom, who between furiously taking mental notes and pictures of her children's youth, might enjoy the message this tender story sends.

The book is by highly-accomplished author, Karen Kingsbury, who in addition to her writing accolades is also mom to six children, three of whom are adopted from Haiti. From the book jacket:

Karen Kingsbury has created a touching reminder that the years of childhood fly too quickly by us. Most of us faithfully remember and capture our children's "firsts." Karen encourages readers to try to recognize and savor the often fleeting "lasts"--those milestones that so easily go unnoticed.
The giveaway is open to everyone. Simply leave a comment and tell me about the "last" you remember best. It can be one of your children's lasts or one from your own childhood. I'll choose a winner at random on Thursday, January 23rd at noon CST.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

How'd You Get Here From There- Part IX-
The Reluctant Spouse

I've had a number of people ask me about how my husband and I came to a joint decision on adopting. Our story isn't particularly exciting in that aspect as we were both ready and "on board" with the decision to adopt at the same time.

That being said, IF one of us were struggling with our decision or IF our decisions were not in sync, what has always, 100%, every.single.time, worked for us was prayer. Now, that is not to say that the formula went something like this:

a. I decided something and dug my heels in about it (not that this EVER happens)

b. My husband decided the absolute polar opposite (not that we aren't always blissfully united on everything)

c. I decided to pray and said something along the lines of, "Hey, God! Would you just please show my husband how completely wrong he is and how brilliantly correct I am? Thankyouverymuch!"

d. Seconds later a lightning bolt was visible over my beloved and his heart was changed that instant. And I got exactly what I wanted.

Not exactly how it works. It takes prayer AND time AND an openness to the will of God, which may or may NOT be exactly what I want. It may, in the end, be what neither of us want, but it also may be better than we could have even imagined. When we are faithful and trust God, He, in turn, is faithful right back--ten times over.

But while you are prayerfully waiting, with a reluctant spouse, trying to discern whether adoption is right for you and your family; I suggest reading this article from this month's Adoptive Families magazine. Your decision and the struggle many couples face is not yours alone.

God bless you on the journey.
Spelling Lesson

After singing "Old MacDonald Had a Farm", CB asked, "Mommy, how do you spell E-I-E-I-O?"
Spreadin' the Love

If you've heard it said that with friends, you get back more than you give; I'm here to tell you it's true! My three blogging buddies: Lisa @ Unexpected Journey, Eileen of Eileen on Him...or at Least I Try and Easter of Mostly Prayers all sent a little love in my direction. What a wonderful gift to be given. Right back atcha ladies---you are all good people!

And now I have the honor of giving a love-filled shout out to others! So, I'm sending some love to:

to the Elm City Mom--because what new mom couldn't use a little love!?!

to The House of Payne--because her recent post about taking her baby on a date touched me--so much so that I'm going to do a giveaway of a favorite book because of it!

to Becky of Wild At Heart Family--because of the exponential multiplying of love at their house coming soon!

to Barb SFO, Mom--because of her unwavering commitment to live out her faith and see Jesus in everyone she meets. I am always inspired by her.


to Faith at Musings of A Road Warrior--because she never turns away from a challenge. She "just does it!" I want to bless her extra-specially as she embarks on her biggest travel adventure yet--heading to Africa (although visiting us in the backwoods of Georgia would give Africa a run for its money)!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Repost and a contest

I did a quick cut and paste and submitted the following post to Lysa TerKeust's blog for a writing contest. There are tons of great posts over for you to peruse when you have the time!

You can find the original post and comments here.

Passing it On

This morning, we decided to be a bit ambitious and attend Mass with everyone in tow. The two little ones are not real keen on the nursery at this point anyway, and we were up for the challenge. Besides, Sunday is our "Family Day" so why not actually be in church together, right?

Well, I can give you a few reasons.

For example, before we were even seated, the baby had begun digging through her bag looking for her juice cup. This was followed by numerous pleas of "Pick me up!" or conversely, "Put me down!" or someone deciding to swipe the. very. last. tissue. and hold it just out of my reach to wipe her own snotty nose with it. I am sure there was a wonderful sermon today and fortunately, I had read the Gospel reading ahead of time because I'm also sure I didn't hear a single word of it. But the final straw came just as communion was about to begin; (you saw this coming, right?) Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the baby had unzipped my pocketbook and was trolling through it. No wonder she was so quiet. I signaled to my husband and we quickly grabbed receipts from Walgreens and the grocery store; the Blockbuster card and tube of lipstick--oh, and of course, the offending child. Fortunately, her dad picked her up at that point, because quite honestly, I was done. I felt tears beginning to well up in my eyes (must be those adoption hormones) and was about to lose it when I remembered something.

It was a conversation I had with my Grandma, shortly after my second child was born. I had gone to visit her and have lunch. She was pretty much homebound at that point and I lived out of state so opportunities to visit were rare. As we sat in her kitchen, I struggled trying to fix our lunches, carry on a conversation and keep two small children occupied and, more importantly, out of trouble. I persevered until the baby began to cry, actually it was more of a shriek; which in turn sent her overly anxious preschool brother running amok leaving me standing not knowing which way to turn first. Again, I was ready to throw in the towel, but when I forced my self to raise my head to mumble some sort of an apology---I noticed that Grandma was smiling.
Now, I didn't know what to say, and I certainly was not smiling; but then she spoke--

"You know. I remember these sounds in this house when your dad and his brother and sister were younger. Oh, and I remember what it felt like to stand in the midst of it all; but I'm telling you right now---I wish every day to hear the sounds of them running through this house again."

And then she smiled again.

So, after communion, while I sat snuggling my toddler, I didn' t even bat an eye when our three-year old insisted in a rather loud voice that she had to go potty not in a minute, but RIGHT NOW! I reflected back on the words of my Grandma, who passed away the week after that very same three-year old was born. Quickly, my thoughts shifted, and I thought about a time when my husband and I would no longer occupy an entire pew at church, but sit together, in a small, quiet (except for the bustle of young families around us) side pew. And as I sent our 8 year old to the ladies room with her younger sister, I smiled. And from somewhere, not so far away, I got the feeling that my Grandma smiled, too.

"Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited." Titus 2:3-5 NRSV

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A really important vote

I must admit, I'm feeling quite a bit more comfortable with the whole being *out there* on the internet with our family's journey than I did when I first started this blog. That being said, and not withstanding the wonderful people I've *met* and continue to *meet* online, I still have a little weariness about sharing too much information.

Is it overly cautious to be this way? I can't say for sure, but I'd like to think that a little well-placed discretion on the internet wouldn't be a bad thing. So, that being's the $64,000 question...

How do you handle the names of your immediate family online?

Up until now, I've referred to our children by initial only, with the exception of the Boy, who is now, and always will be, known IRL and to the web at large as the Boy. I'm placing a brief poll in my sidebar, where you can cast your vote for helping name the Ark crew, or not---depending on how pressing this issue is to you compared to say the US economy, the war in Iraq and such other banalities.

And if you want to delve really deeply into this topic, let me know in the comments how you handle such an important issue yourself.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Planning for Lent

I realize we've not even reached Candlemas yet, and some of you are keeping your nativities out until that time not yet peeking ahead in the liturgical year, but...the inveterate planner in me can't stop myself. Besides, I saw that Laura had some really cute decorations up for St. Valentine's Day and, well, that was all it took.

I'm talking about Lent here, people.

In something like 3 weeks from today, Ash Wednesday arrives! There are a few ideas starting to form here on the Ark, some of which were done last year, but I'm wondering what else is out there. Michelle posted a lovely write-up of her Lenten preparations. And we want to continue the Blessing Box idea during Lent, but with a twist. The Blessing Box originally encompassed the time between Thanksgiving and Epiphany; during which we systematically donated the amount of money required by each daily reflection--amounting in nearly fifty dollars in *spare change*! Our parish food pantry, the poor box and the local animal shelter were each the recipient of a third of our collection. It was a wonderful family activity and really blessed us all tremendously. So now, we want to repeat it---but we don't want to re-do the original set of questions again.

What are good reasons to put money in an old coffee container, decorated with fading yellow construction paper and LOTS of scotch tape? Should we put money in for doing something? How about for NOT doing something? I'm at an impasse here.

I'm also putting together an activity on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy for Lent (which I'll post when I have pictures), so I'm thinking maybe somehow I could tie the two together? Hmmm...can you smell the wood burning yet?

Any great Lenten suggestions out there?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


*What Would Hilary Have Done?
I'm not sure, but as her fellow sister in Christ, I sure hope she heard what she and her hubby are willing to commit to the 100%-100% school of thought---not a bad idea even if you don't wish to consider its scriptural etiology.

H/T AnneMarie
Helpin' Miz

My extremely talented-- read Mensa high-score holding--*baby* sister is working on a worthy project for her school, where her moniker, Miz, is now starting to grab the attention of not only her students, but also academia at large. I KNOW that many of you Ark readers are well-versed in a multitude of the areas about which she needs information.

She writes:

The quick of it:

I have received funding to create a project from GlobalKids - a community based organization that is attempting to infuse global perspectives to curriculum design and promote developmental assets amongst NYC youth.

I am attempting to create a "green" project at my school with a focus on sustainability education, environmental/social justice and community dialogues. Since we are a high school for the arts, it is also essential that I infuse arts projects into the action plan to focus on talent development and the giftedness of all students.

At this point, I hope to create a "sustainability concert" in late May/early June in cooperation with Fordham University and the Bronx Botanical Gardens. To create a final project, I must attempt to highlight the interdisciplinary possibilities for a school wide project that can manifest into something of value this spring.

How you can help:

To offer up palpable curriculum suggestions to my colleagues - brilliant (and occasionally jaded) educators, I am asking for contacts/links/reading-viewing materials on the following topics:

  • working artists/arts-history related to social & environmental action and awareness
  • green building/green business/urban gardening
  • 21st century economy & media studies connections
  • 20th century (or earlier) social/environmental turning-points and uprisings - essential content in recent American/world history
  • nonprofits, CBOs, businesses, freelancers, organizers, political leaders interested in working with youth
  • other schools that have taken environmental/social action
  • any articles/essays/websites of high recommendation

Thank you in advance for your input and your brain!
Track our 'progress' here and forward this plea freely.

So that's my big ol' family-style bleg. Please post a comment in the com box if you know of any great resources that she might tap or feel free to email me offline at patjrsmom at yahoo dot com. And please, do feel free to link back to this post and/or forward this request on to anyone you think might be full of suggestions!

Blog Blessing! (Final Edition)

Thank you to Michelle, for blessing me with this! May God bless her right back!


The idea… it’s a game of tag with a difference, rather than looking inwardly, we look outside ourselves and bless, praise and pray for one blog friend. By participating in this endeavour we not only make the recipient of the blessing feel valued and appreciated, but we are having some fun too. We’re going to see how far the bloggin’ blessings can travel around the world and how many people can be blessed! Recipients of a bloggin’ blessing may upload the above image to their sidebar if they choose to. If you recieve a bloggin’ blessin’ please leave a comment on this thread here so that we can rejoice in just how many blessings have been sent around the world!

I bless...Eileen, Denise, Laura W. and Cathy (I especially bless Cathy because she tolerates the high levels of brain damage I exhibit on a fairly regular basis...but hey, what do you expect from a company grade officer's wife anyway?)

I bless Eileen, Denise, Laura W. and Cathy because. they each bless me with their stories of what faith looks like when it's lived out in real life.

A Prayer for Eileen, Denise Laura W and Cathy. may the blessing of almighty God, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, come down upon you and remain with you forever. Amen.


and that’s it, nearly…

So, now my three four blessed buddies have to:

a) bless 3 blog buddies each.
b) Include the ‘God Bless you’ image in their post.
c) Explain briefly why they are blessing the people they are blessing.
d) pray/include in the post the prayer for the recipients of the blessing.
e)The recipient/sender of a blessing should type in the com box of this very post that a blessing has been sent to them to keep track of how many blessings are being given.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The nose knows

Once the three little ones were in bed tonight, we sat down with the older kids to play a game of Yahtzee. The Boy wandered into the kitchen, as teenage boys are wont to do, in search of food. Exactly two-and-a-half minutes later, bowl of Movie Theater Butter in hand, he settled in on the couch for his pre-snack snack. Suddenly, the cherubic, fair-haired little N, appeared on the balcony above--acting as resident spokesperson for the pink bedroom. Peering through the railings, she explained her impromptu visit:

"Mommy. Daddy. We can't sleep. The smell of popcorn is making our nose wake up."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Word on Fire!

A friend of mine passed along this website containing Father Robert Barron's homilies (which are also broadcast on Relevant Radio very-very-early in the least for this night owl). If you haven't yet heard him speak, he is engaging and is not afraid to tackle contemporary media or current events, among a host of other topics, in light of Church teaching.

From his website:

“Word on Fire” is a program of Catholic evangelical preaching. It is evangelical in the measure that it proclaims Jesus Christ boldly in the hopes of bringing men and women to conversion and new life in Him. It is Catholic inasmuch as it utilizes the tremendous resources of the Roman Catholic tradition – art, architecture, poetry, philosophy, theology, and the lives of the saints – in order to explain and interpret the event of Jesus Christ. It is my hope that this radio outreach can draw people into the body of Christ, which is the Church, and thereby give them access to all the gifts that Jesus wants his people to enjoy. -Fr. Robert Barron

Don't miss his discussion on the Sopranos. Or if it's can watch it right here---

H/T Teri

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ethiopian Christmas aka Epiphany

This time last year, we were just welcoming home our newly arrived Ethiopian children when the full blown Americanized version of Christ's birth hit them square between the eyes. In an effort to minimize this secular holiday bombardment, we went about celebrating the season in our typical quiet (okay, friends, I use the term quiet loosely when referring to the Ark) family way. But knowing that in Ethiopia, Christmas was celebrated on the Epiphany we purposefully transitioned some of our traditional Christmas customs to January. It was one of those times when I thought I was doing something so great and wonderful for my children, but, in the end, the one who really benefited from this change was me. I had, if you'll pardon the pun, my own little epiphany about the whole season and the ebb and flow of the Christmas season at large in the Church.
So this year, we made certain to repeat some of our Epiphany activities from last year, and the favorite one (I'm thinking because fire was involved and the Boy, fresh off his altar serving tour, came match in hand ready to help).

Here below, you can see the pictures of our house blessing, whose tradition commemorates the visit of the Magi to the humble dwelling of the Lord. With the blessing, we show our desire for the protection and the presence of Jesus in our homes, and our intent to reflect God's openness and hospitality to others.

Gather the family at home to share this home blessing:

Let us pray: O Lord, almighty God, bless this house that it may become a shelter of health, chastity, self-control, humility, goodness, mildness, obedience to your Commandments, and thanksgiving to God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Upon this house and those who dwell here may your blessing remain forever, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Here is the blessing that was read by B, at the main doorway of the house, while the Boy marked the slate:

Let us pray: O Lord, God, through the power of the priest you blessed this chalk to make it helpful for us your people. Grant that we who use it with faith and write with it the names of the saints--Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar--upon the entrance of our home, may through their merits and petitions enjoy physical health and spiritual protection, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

On the slate write the year and the initials of the names of the Magi, separated by crosses, in this manner:

20 + C + M + B + 08

Once all of that has happened, then comes everyone's favorite part. Together, we walk through the entire house, carrying the incense to bless each room. Usually the older kids take turns holding the incense (It gets VERY hot!), but we do help each of the little ones to bless their rooms. The smell of the incense is mild, but just strong enough to linger in the air for the rest of the evening, reminding each of us of the great gifts we have been given and the responsibility we have to share them with those around us.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Scheduling Crisis

"I just don't know about this half day kindergarten bit," I overheard a young mother lamenting to her friend. "He comes home from school and eats lunch, but then the afternoon just stretches out in front of us forever," as she feigned a dramatic collapse. Her friend smiled and nodded sympathetically, "I know what you mean. There are a few library programs or occasional swim lessons, but really, what are we supposed to do to keep our kids entertained for all that time between lunch and dinner?"

I looked around at my own three little ones wandering about my feet. One was busying himself with the contents of the diaper bag and the other two had created an impromptu game involving princesses and some derivation of ring-around-the-rosy. Was I, or more importantly, my children missing something in the afternoon hours spent at home with me, their pint-sized calendars full of white space?

As I gathered my brood to leave, I overheard the son of the distraught mother whining to her, "Mommy, what are we going to do now???" And my heart went out to her as I saw her shrug her weary shoulders and gesture to her friend, "See what I mean?"

When did it become our role as parents to also act as cruise directors for a ship ready to mutiny if our activity schedule doesn't entertain 24-7?

My older children recall not the time spent with me at some exotic location or trendy kidspot, but the memories born of a lazy afternoon where boredom provided inspiration. They remember walking through our yard, barren but for a dozen or so young saplings to check on their growth and discovering--much to our surprise--a family of birds nesting within. They remember their decision to hand wash the car on a hot summer's day that turned into a full-blown water fight. They remember the time we opted to take all of the recycling boxes in the house and turn them into makeshift doll (and in the case of the larger boxes-people) houses. There have been tea parties, picnics, story times and containers of play-doh that have wrought bonds stronger than any super-glue could ever hope to do. And there have been quiet times talking, sharing memories or poking around my old jewelry drawer as they tried on their great grandmother's engagement ring and pondered their connection to someone whom they only know from pictures.

Have my kids missed out? I don't think so. And when they get older, I hope they'll look back and say they agree.

Don't miss this!

Many of you have probably seen or already subscribe to this gem of a magazine. For those of you who haven't, here's an opportunity to page through the new January/February issue and see what you're missing. Here's a recent advertisement, including the link to preview the new issue...

As a new year unfolds, many of us have our good resolutions to honor for the coming year. For Catholic parents, and especially for mothers, some of those resolutions undoubtedly have to do with the challenging task of raising happy, wholesome, and holy children and fostering a happy marriage.

What better resource than Faith & Family magazine for a year-round source of inspiration and guidance? This beautifully presented magazine has won the 1st place General Excellence Award from the Catholic Press Association for the past 6 years in a row for its content and layout. Just click here to preview a few pages of the current Jan/Feb 2008 issue.

Each issue has specific sections designed to help couples with tips on marriage and parenting, resources and guidance for the spiritual life, tips on how to live Catholic traditions in the home, positive testimonials about real people who share their triumphs and struggles, entertainment guides for all ages, delicious recipes, practical household tips, and much more.

In collaboration with Catholic Radio International, Faith & Family Magazine has also sponsored a series of Christmastide reflections on the family, available for instant listening here.

For subscription information click here.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What's in a Name?

Apparently quite a bit if you ask Maryanna Korwitts, who is a self-proclaimed nameologist. An article ran in our local paper about her work yesterday. Besides reading about the anatomy--or history--of your name, or trying name *therapy* for a name that has just never quite suited you well, you can plug in your name to find out what personality traits are associated with your name. And if that wasn't enough, she even offers psychic intuitive readings.

How did I ever survive this long without knowing that instead of Jane I might make for a better Janie or Janel or Joan? Better still, how could my parents in all decency give me a name that might sway my personality one way or another before I even had a chance to offer my name suggestions. And what about that kid who changed his name to "Trout Fishing in America"? Where do you think he falls on the nameagories scale?

Stay tuned, dear friends, these and other questions along with the announcement of my new--and improved--name, still to come.

Tongue inserted firmly in cheek here. I mean you can't really believe I'd do a psychic intervention, could you? Now a chocolate intervention, that's a whole different story...
Please pray...

for the repose of the soul of David Eversole, who together with his wife owned and operated the amazing Catholic Christian store On A Wing And A Prayer. Their store has blessed many families in our community and the outreach that Dave's Daniel's Den provided was second to none. His family and friends and the Catholic Christian community at large will miss him greatly.

Also pray that their store's ministry and evangelization continues. Dave will be smiling from heaven to see that even in death, the work he began continues to bring others closer to Christ.
At Home Date Nights

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my husband and I enjoyed a wonderful time together in Chicago last weekend. It was so great, in fact, that we're walking around the house now saying things like, "Gee. That was really fun." "Yeah, we should do that more often." But the reality is a big weekend like that isn't in the cards (or the Ark's budget) for a weekly date night. It left us thinking about when we were newly married, stationed in Germany, with a newborn in tow. Wanting desperately to have occasional date nights, we resorted to taking turns planning "at home" date nights once the Boy was asleep. Themed dates like Poker Night, Home Brewed Coffee Shop and Movie night-in were created--and enjoyed--very much. We've decided to try and resurrect this ancient Ark tradition, but I thought I'd ask for a little assistance.

So, friends, any great date night ideas out there? I know that Laura has been doing a series on frugality and I think the "at home" date night idea scores big points in that category. Perhaps there are some frugal, yet fun, and still romantical (as Paula Deen says) ideas out there? Suggestions, please---Date night is less than a week away!

Monday, January 07, 2008


Wake early and congratulate self on crawling out of bed before kids leave for school.

7:00am Plan to change out of pajamas and into *grown-up* clothes. Wonder why we decided against homeschooling.

7:30am Thank God for husband, who is driving the early morning altar serving Boy and his sisters to school on this first day back.

8:00am Get online to respond to email and update blog just as three little voices called, "Good Morning."

8:30am Fix breakfast and vow to change out of pajamas right away at least by noon. Notice that laundry has not folded itself overnight and prioritize folding it-AFTER suitably dressed for the day.

9:00am Talk to Mom on phone, discuss important current events--primary in NH, unseasonably warm weather, and the "Look at the purty, tall buildings" look on my face that evoked smirks from the two young ladies (who would never believe that I spent much of my senior year in college running around NYC) followed by a mournful "When did I get old?"

10:00am Call for the big girls to help dress the little kids. Wait in silence for response. Curse the end of Christmas vacation.

11:00am Finish cleaning up kitchen from breakfast and wonder why the little kids are already asking for lunch. Look at clock and sigh.

11:30am Finish household administrative tasks, phone calls and paperwork. Worry that tomorrow is not looking promising for any major accomplishments.

11:31am Decide that getting dressed qualifies for major accomplishment.

12:30pm Throw hands up in air and laugh. Attempt to document this first morning back to school--because when I'm having a TRULY bad day--this is one that will make me smile.

Happy Back to School!
Get Away!

For his Christmas gift this year, I opted to schedule a get-away mini-weekend for my husband and I. (Yes, I know, this ranks right up there with giving him a copy of my favorite book or movie as we both enjoyed it tremendously--but hopefully, he was enjoying himself too much to notice...) Regardless, we spent a lovely evening in the city at a historic Chicago hotel and dined at one of our fair city's famous steakhouses, where we were thrilled to realize that the "smoke-free" restaurants rule was now in effect. (There really is nothing like eating a meal that has NOT been sauteed in someone's second hand smoke!)

Much to my surprise, when we arrived a bottle of champagne was chilling in our room and a complimentary breakfast for two delivered via room service was scheduled to arrive the next morning. Honestly, I don't know how that happened, but I must admit I was quite happy it did!
Needless to say, having an unlimited amount of time in which to shower, dress and get pretty (minus the standard interruptions of "Can you wipe me?", "Can you sign my homework?", "I neeeeeeed more fill in the food/drink favorite of the day," or my favorite, at 7 in the morning, "I have to ask you something important---what's for dinner tonight?") left me feeling refreshed and ready to head back to the troops waiting at home. It also reminded me that it is possible that my husband manages to see the leisurely showered hotel woman through the pony tails and sweat pants that usually greet him at the end of his day, but for good measure, I suggested he snap a mental picture--just in case.

But the best part of leaving, as always, was coming home. Remembering that the little ones who waited there for us were the actual, physical examples of all that was good about being away.

(A few of the photos of the hotel lobby--I couldn't get a good picture of me with my jeans and well-worn shoes from Target clutching my enormous Mom-purse and looking like the suburban mom I am spending a night in the big city)

Thanks and Praise

for another precious soul welcomed by the Elm City family. If you have a chance, stop by and wish them all well.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Thumbs Up!

Found all over the little corner of the blogosphere I haunt is the announcement of the new Catholic Media Review blog. A group of bloggers, including Julie D., from Happy Catholic, will provide their take on current releases with an eye toward Church teaching. Looking for a place to see if a movie would be a good fit for your family? Look no further, here it is. Don't forget to bookmark it!

Much success, ladies. And a great big thanks for taking on this endeavor!

Online Bible Study

Beginning Monday, Catholic Exchange starts "Renewing Your Christian Self" a ten-week, online study designed for women, who may be unable to attend a regularly scheduled study.

From their site:

From the website: "Are you interested in participating in a bible study but don't always have the time to attend a regularly scheduled meeting?

Would you like to connect with women around the world and share insights, support, encouragement, and opinions?..."
For more details go here.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

On Looking Good Enough To Eat

Have you ever made those cute little chocolates that you can form into a million different shapes? Craft stores everywhere sell molds for every occasion and every holiday (and I think we may own them all).
And then there are the chocolates--dark chocolates, milk, light, and white chocolates in every shade of the rainbow. All so delicious that it is an effort to keep them in the cupboard long enough for their intended use.
Well, my kids know their homemade, multi-colored, thematically shaped chocolates--and so do I. Or so I thought. When these beauties (featured right) appeared in festive bags as Christmas gifts. I encouraged them (You can start cringing now, Dawn) to grab one out and take a big bite of the new treats. I stepped out of the room for one second--and suddenly a panic was ensuing behind me. Children were running amok everywhere I looked. Screaming and yelling that they had soap in their mouths. Guzzling water straight out of the water cooler as bubbles flowed down their chins. Soap? I was dumbfounded. Where on earth could they have gotten into, let alone eaten soap in the mini-moment I turned my back. Then it hit me. (I'm a little slow on the uptake in some of these situations.) Our beautiful, sea-shell shaped chocolates were--you guessed it--beautiful, sea-shell shaped SOAPS.
So, minus the bite-marked ones, these lovely gifts will be located in our girls bathroom. Just so you know. In case you ever visit. And were thinking about tasting one of our conveniently located bathroom chocolates.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year's Eve Countdown In Word and Pictures

At 6pm, our small crowd of guests arrived for dinner. But before we ate, each of us wrote one thing we want to improve or change or a bad habit to stop from 2007 on a small slip of paper and sent it into a roaring fire. Then, we each lit a candle, off a tray of votives, as we said a silent prayer for the coming year.

At 7pm, for the fourth time in as many years, we wrote our Ten Year Predictions with sometimes humorous (the invention of Baby T's new line of hair products--Fro and Go) and sometimes sweet (CB's prediction that in ten years, Mom and Dad will still be loving us just like today.) Then, despite the blowing snow coming down, everyone traipsed out onto the front porch to blow bubbles in the dark.

At 8pm, mini bags of M & Ms revealed our Sweet Fortunes and we began the first of several rounds of card games (Spoons, Go Fish and Scr*w Your Neighbor--which I'm sure must have a nicer name) provided lots of laughs.

At 9pm, the Boy cranked up the ITunes CD he made for our "Blast from the Past" Dance Party. Everyone tried their hand at guessing which decade the songs came from, while the youngest revelers cut some serious rug. By special request, the last song was The Chicken Dance, which provided background music for many rounds of musical chairs.

At 10pm, we lit the sparklers on our Confetti Cake and enjoyed our final dessert of 2007. We also watched Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest (along with Hannah Montana and co.) at the ball drop in NYC.

At 11pm, we chose from a list of games and played until just before midnight. Santa's gift of the popular dice-rolling game, Yahtzee, was chosen hands down over "Memorable Events Charades" (charades of defining moments of 2007).

At 11:50, we donned party hats and scrambled for noisemakers and party poppers. As the Boy dropped balloons (decorated with fortunes for the New Year) from the balcony, we raised our glasses and toasted one another---even the little ones stayed awake!

From all of us on the Ark,
May God fill your 2008 with abundant grace and blessings!

Remember us, 0 God; from age to age be our comforter. You have given us the wonder of time, blessings in days and nights, seasons and years.

Bless your children at the turning of the year and fill the months ahead with the bright hope that is ours in the coming of Christ.

You are our God, living and reigning, for ever and ever. Amen.

Blessing for the New Year from Catholic Culture

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Betcha Didn't Know

Ordinary, everyday rubbing alcohol will remove the contents of an exploded red ink pen from neutrally-colored berber carpeting.

Don't ask me how I know, just trust me when I say it works!
The Ocean Called...

it's out of---

Don't say the people at the SHRIMP Company, who packaged this bag of cooked SHRIMP, didn't warn you that there might be--you know--SHRIMP in the bag, which could be dangerous if you were allergic to SHRIMP and unaware.