Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa Tracker

Wondering where Santa's sleigh and reindeer are right now?  Grab your kiddos and check out this nifty site from NORAD (yes, the air defense people) and see how much longer until Jolly Old St. Nick is in your neck of the woods!

"For more than 50 years, NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa’s Christmas Eve flight.
The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief's operations "hotline." The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born."

And if there's a skeptic in your midst, have he or she check out Virgina's famous letter to the Chicago Sun-Times from over a century ago.  It still rings true today, doesn't it? 
If there is one thing true about Christmas it is that it was, is and continues to be a time for miracles--beginning with the birth of our Savior.  Wishing you all the joy of the miracle of Christmas--today and always!

What to do with the Egg-stra Eggnog

There's an extra half-gallon of egg nog in my fridge since the night of the adult Christmas party.  I'm thinking that making these muffins might be a wise use of my surplus, but Candace had another plan.

Me:  What am I going to do with all this eggnog?

Candace:  Daddy loves eggnog.  Let's give it to him.

Me:  But Daddy is the ONLY person in our house who will drink it and there is a lot left.

Candace:  (grinning the wild grin of a child on Christmas Eve) No, mommy.  Daddy and Santa like eggnog.  They can share.

How can I argue with that sweet logic?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Next Stop Bethlehem

Subtitled: Will I even stop re-running this when she's a teenager?

Next Stop--Bethlehem

Not only does this time of year leave me feeling a bit nostalgic and melancholy for warm family memories, it also leaves me reminiscing around my previous years' Christmas posts, which leaves you, dear friends, the bearers of my jolly finds.

From the Christmas ark-ives...


The vacant nativity scene should have been my first clue...

But sometimes, you just have to see things to believe them...

Could it be? Rather than the traditional long-eared donkey, Joseph high-tailed it into town driving Mary, the animals and the three kings on--dare I say--a big yellow school bus?

And how did the mother from the Fisher-Price family doll house get on board?

Look out, Oliver Stone. You've got nothing on a three-year old left to her imagination.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Fun and Make Ahead Breakfast Dishes

We've been up to our ears in Christmas fun these past few days.
We had a family photo session and actually have a family photo with everyone in it for Christmas this year! 

 (This one's for you Becky...although you'll get one in the mail soon!)
We hosted a grown-ups only Christmas party on Friday night, which was a blast. Clearly we all don't get out too much because the overwhelming response was, "We shouldn't wait until Christmas to do this again!" Maybe over the summer?
We also hosted a Christmas Tea Party for Beulah and Hannah's friends this afternoon. Such fun. We played the Left-Right Christmas Nativity Story Game and Christmas Carol charades. We also found some great games here--although we only used the Candy Cane Pass. Then, while we listened to the Nativity soundtrack, each girl recounted her favorite Christmas memory. What a joy it was to hear all of their special remembrances! I even shared a favorite Christmas memory from when I was their age. After each person shared their memory, they lit a little tea light, which they then took home with them to remember this Christmas memory.
Tomorrow morning, we are gathering with several other families for the culmination of a special sort of "secret Santa".  Throughout the Advent season, families were given the name of another participating family to pray for and tomorrow we are all meeting for a potluck-style brunch and the big "reveal" to meet our secret "Advent Family".  Each family will present the family they prayed for with an ornament.  We can't wait--although I was just informed that The Boy has wrestling practice smack dab through the whole thing.  Sigh.
We're also preparing our menus for Christmas.  We traditionally don't cook on Christmas Eve, but eat only an assortment of appetizers and other fun finger foods.  Christmas morning we always do a brunch after presents are opened and I like the ease of make ahead breakfast dishes.  Our two favorites are Paula Deen's Baked French Toast (although we omit the nuts in the topping) and my mother-in-law's Cheese and Egg Bake (commonly referred to as 'the egg dish').
Paula Deen's recipe (and all its sinful, rich, fattening goodness) can be found here and the egg dish recipe follows:
Cheese and Egg Bake
1 1/2 lbs sausage (either links or ground--but you'll have to brown the ground kind ahead of time)
9 eggs
3 c. milk
1 t. salt
6 slices bread, cubed
1 1/2 t. dry mustard
1 1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese
Mix egg, milk, mustard and salt in a large bowl.  Stir in bread cubes, cheese and sausage.  Pour into a sprayed 13 x 9 inch pan.  Cover.  Refrigerate overnight.
On Christmas morning, uncover and bake for 1 hour at 350F. 

Hope you are all enjoying these last few days of Advent!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fourth Sunday in Advent Reflection

rom the ark-ives

Advent and Giving

Mrs. Testosterhome has a beautiful post
about her work with the Poorest of the Poor alongside Blessed Teresa of Calcutta's Missionaries of Charity. Her blog is worth reading anytime, but today, it's a must.

Her story reminded me of our Women's Scripture Study last month. We'd been discussing the virtue of Justice, which wound around to the topic of charity and the beatitudes; of following Jesus' command to care for those in need. As Advent was nearing, we discussed how many of us choose this time of the year to "clean house" and donate toys, clothes or other *stuff* to local shelters. Someone offered to be a drop-off location for donations as the St. Vincent DePaul truck was scheduled to pick-up donations at her house the following week.

I shared with the group how my own love of donating to charity was a bit jaded by the guilt I feel when said charity pulls up in my own driveway and (sometimes) even loads my boxes and bags of excess onto their truck for me, leaving me to simply stand aside and accept the tax-deductible receipt for the following April.

As we moved on to the final portion of the study, to read the story of "The Widow's Mite", suddenly a great spiritual fog lifted for me. Jesus commended the Widow for her giving because it came not from her excess, but from her need. Of course, my giving was charitable, but it was also a little selfish, if I was being honest with myself. True charity, real generosity, as illustrated from Mrs. Testosterhome's powdered donut story, must come from giving fully of ourselves--even to people whom we decide "don't deserve" it, just as God gives freely to us.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Clear The Roads

And make sure your insurance is up to date. I've just signed The Boy--who I was quite sure was just in Kindergarten!--up for this.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Third Sunday in Advent Reflection

from the ark-ives

Advent and Perseverance

Another mile on the bumpy back of a barnyard donkey.

Another knock on the door of an occupied inn, followed by further rejection.

Another cry into the darkness--My Lord, my God, where are you? This can't be Your plan--or can it?

How different would the story of salvation be if the Holy Family decided to pack it up 10 miles shy of their holy destiny? Faced with obstacles, uncertainties and disappointments could you honestly blame them? Certainly not by today's standards, which say--Don't wait...Have it all...Hey, why not have two...right now.

Fear and doubt may be the Devil's two best known tools, but he's got another trick up his sleeve that requires less perspiration on his part and gets the job done just as well. The Devil's not stupid. Why do something to us that we could ultimately do ourselves? Using our human tendency to need instant gratification, he has but only sit back and wait for us to give up and throw in the towel admitting defeat. Saves him time and effort and the end result is the same--a change in God's holy will for us.

This week in Advent, take a moment to think about those things that aren't going as smoothly as possible, that might be taking a little longer than previously planned or that might be requiring some extra effort. Then, think about what the implications might be if you abandon it because it isn't happening just as you had thought. It may be something small or it, like the actions of the Holy Family on their journey to Bethlehem, may have eternal consequences far beyond your wildest dreams. We need only to look to the example of the Holy Family's journey to help us stay the course.

Bonum certamen certavi, cursum consummavi, fidem servavi.
I have fought the good fight. I have completed the course. I have preserved the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

Friday, December 11, 2009

What a Show for Gaudete Sunday!

Make hot cocoa. Bundle up. Tell your friends. The best meteor shower of 2009 is about to fall over North America on a long, cold December night.(Read more here...)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Advent Plan--Part III

Join me and grab a steaming hot mug of peppermint mocha coffee to learn more about the O Antiphons and a clever, old idea for an O Antiphon House.

Not so much interested in that, set the timer and give yourself a few minutes to peruse the wealth of information collected at O Night Divine.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Second Sunday in Advent Reflection

From the ark-ives:

If there was ever an Advent when hope was first on my wish list, this one would be it. Hoping for a miracle end to Baby Girl's sickness, hoping for a doctor hand chosen by God to greet us tomorrow at the doctor's office, and all the while holding myself up on the hope that God will provide and see us through this.


Advent and Hope

On the first Sunday in Advent, my husband and I were treated to an impromptu nativity play, performed by the Ark's own junior thespians. At showtime, we were escorted to a quiet corner of the playroom, where two seats had been reserved specifically for us. We sat front and center while the narrator/director/producer cranked up the Christmas Cat Chat CD kicking off a rousing rendition of O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

CB dressed as an all-purpose angel took her stage direction well. Suffice to say that N and Baby T performing the roles of Mary and Joseph might have benefited from an additional dress rehearsal or two. As the music morphed into an uptempo version of Gloria In Excelsis Deo, we-in the audience-noticed that Mary had taken off her serene covering revealing (big surprise here) her much worn cheerleading dress. Joseph, meanwhile, was alternately trying to turn a bright blue bowling pin into a Louisville slugger and getting down with his bad self to the new song. The angel persevered, but it wasn't enough to keep the play's creator from having an artistic "moment" before calling the troupe back together for a retake.

After a few false starts, Mary re-cloaked. Joseph stopped dancing. And the narrator was able to lead the audience through the final words of St. Luke's version of the first Christmas to the ebullient shouts of the whole cast as Joy to the World played on. At that very moment, watching my children dance and sing around the tiny baby in the makeshift manger, under the computer desk serving as a stable, I smiled.

For with all its flaws and errors, with all its imperfections and miscues, the show went on and the Savior arrived. It was the essence of the Incarnation played out in my basement. Regardless of our sins, despite our weaknesses, our failings and foibles; He came anyway.

Hallelujah! Today we can rejoice---He comes anyway.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

What's the Big Deal With Cohabitation?

"Cohabitation is bad for men, worse for women, and horrible for children. It is a deadly toxin to marriage, family, and culture..."(read more)


An interesting article discussed by Fr. Rocky on his wonderful show--Go Ask Your Father!

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Advent Plan--Part II


Finding a balance between "doing" Advent and "living" Advent is tricky business. Inspired by the Church calendar, we're seeking to live out the liturgy each day during this season, which means the opportunities for prayer, reflection and growth are endless. Sounds great, right?

It's all ready prepared. People have followed this rhythm for thousands of years. And secular it is not. It doesn't even call for a single present bought or wrapped. There's no party invitation to send or appetizer to prepare. You don't even have to mix a drink. (Although, a nice hot mug of gluhwein sounds pretty good right now.) It just couldn't get any easier.

Then why--oh, why--do the most well-meaning, faith-filled and God-fearing people find themselves stressed out during Advent? Our intentions (yes, "our"--I may well be leading this brigade of Advent do-gooders) are so pure, our hearts so humble, where could we have gone wrong?

The answer is so simple, and it's repeated over and over again (now available on 300 HD channels 7 days a week beginning the week before Thanksgiving) in our treasured Christmas programing.

The Grinch knew it, "Maybe Christmas", he thought, "doesn't come from a store."
"Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!"

Charlie Brown knew it, ""Aaaaaugh! Even my dog's gone commercial!", he hollers after seeing Snoopy's prize-winning light display

and again when he announces, "“Linus is right. I won’t let all this commercialism ruin my Christmas..."

We watch year after year, with our eyes misting up at the pure truth behind the sentimentality of it all and then we develop a sudden and acute short-term memory loss:

"If you're to be "doing" Advent," our mind hisses, "you'd better get to doing it soon. You only have four weeks--aka 28 days--better still 672 hours--or more precisely..." You shake your head to rid it of all the small talk and decide to get to "doing" Advent right away--before it's gone.

And in the rush to do so we buy into the commercialism, the consumerism, the need to fill our every day with more. Only this time, it's with something good and deserving of our want--it's Advent. But looking for one more Advent song to sing, buying one more Advent calendar or craft, searching for that perfect prayer or story to read in order to "do" Advent simply misses the point.

In our society, one of rampant consumerism, we aren't only avid consumers of material goods. We're consumers by nature of information, of ideas and of goals. In the rush to be the one with the most, or the best, we may find ourselves so busy trying to consume Advent that we don't allow it to consume us. Against the tide of the culture, we need to step aside while the frenzy of clever thoughts and activities pass us by and we do nothing more than watch and wait.

It is in those moments of waiting, for which this Church season is specifically designed, that allow us the opportunity to step away from the rush of the secular season and into the beauty and the freedom of the One who is to come.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Sunday in Advent Reflection

Last year, I wrote a post for each of the Sundays in Advent. I'll be re-running them again this year and looking at them with new eyes. Mostly the eyes of a mom who is feeling overly grateful this holiday season for all of the many blessings that God has given me--most specifically the gift of His son.

Should it surprise any one of us mothers to find that such a great blessing was given to us in the form of a precious, little child?

From the archives:

Advent and Waiting

TO DO THIS ADVENT

#1--Wait in a frenzied fashion for the birth of our Lord.

That's not quite what I had in mind, but somehow that's what it seems to wind up feeling like. Advent is not the peaceful, quiet preparation for the illumination of the world with the Greatest Light ever known, but rather a litany of baking, parties, shopping and visiting.

Don't get me wrong, those are all fun parts of my pre-Christmas calendar; but they are the side dishes, if I can keep my focus clear, not the main course. Last year, exactly one year ago today, we welcomed home our two Ethiopian born children, which put an end to a waiting that was so tangible it sometimes hurt. This year, we are all beginning our anticipation of Christmas together, but I can't help but miss (just a little bit, mind you) the visceral feelings that last year's waiting offered. It was a small, but effective glimpse into the reality of what years of expectation of the King, trust in the darkness, must have felt like for the Israelites.

Especially, it seems, this is true of those who still wait. And I know they're out there. I remember them when I see the face of an orphaned 10 year old girl, who is brushing away tears as her "segment" on the Waiting Kids video begins, while the voice in English says, "She's just a little emotional. She's done this several times before." It's in the voices of parents with referrals whose children, whether 10 or 10,000 miles away, cracking when they wonder, "Will they be home this Christmas?" In the parent whose child is alone, estranged, detached who longs for reconciliation, and for the child who feels the same. The mothers who wait expectantly, quite literally, to welcome the new soul they carry, and for their children waiting for them in heaven, whom they never *met* in this life.

And yet, in their suffering, they are blessed. Their waiting allows for a most precious, intimate chance to unite with Christ, turn their sorrow to Him and be ready--truly ready--this Christmas to accept the gift in the manger. And God-willing, I will remember, if only vicariously, what it means to truly wait for that which matters most.

Matthew 5:5. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Beati qui lugent quoniam ipsi consolabuntur

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Advent Plan--Part I

This Advent, in what can only be described as Spirit-led schooling, I--yes, I the inveterate planner--am throwing caution to the wind and abandoning the tightly constructed school schedules to spend more time focused on the season.

Last Advent, I decided to try and swim against the tide of a baby who was so sick she spent a week in the hospital all the while ambitiously trying to maintain the status quo of "the holidays" and school and life in general for all nine of us here on the Ark.

That was, in hindsight, a bad idea.

Regardless, God, who takes even the worst of ideas brought good out of that time. The seeds were sown in my heart for the Advent season for years to come.

Don't worry, however, I can't operate without any plan so we'll have one--just a more flexible, forgiving one, which will take us through the month of December, following the rhythm of the liturgical year and an underlying purpose to fix our eyes on that which really matters. My hope would be to maybe even have some time to document our days here with more regularity. But we'll see. As far as that plan goes--there isn't one.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Still True Today

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Five Kernels of Corn and Other Thanksgiving Plans

We're wrapping up school this week for Thanksgiving.  Today will be filled with a combination of our typical studies as well as a few extras tied into our study of Colonial America, which culminates with the study of the Plimouth Plantation.  Make sure to visit their site this week for a great, interactive program on life as a Pilgrim.  After learning about the struggles of the colonists--particularly of the Starving Time-- we're planning to add the tradition of the Five Kernels to our holiday celebration.

In Math, a few fun Thanksgiving word problems (yes, my children, too, think it odd that I refer to word problems as "fun".)  We'll also be planning a Thanksgiving menu for 12 (any arbitrary number will work, but this requires the doubling of most recipes).  The big girls will create their guest lists and select their menus.  Then, using the grocery store circulars--and a budget of $75--we'll see if we can make our planned feast happen or not. 

We've also acquired several favorite DVDs (and one VHS tape) to view between now and Thursday.    From the Inspiring Animated Heroes collection, we'll learn about William Bradford and the character traits of sharing, gratitude and leadership.  From the Dear, America series we'll watch the movie that corresponds with the diary Journey To A New World, which the big girls and I read this month.  And, of course, it goes without saying that we'll watch the classic A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, but did you know that there is a wonderful version of the journey on the Mayflower also starring the Peanuts cast?

Tomorrow, we'll be joining with several other families for a Thanksgiving prayer service and luncheon.

Wednesday is reserved for preparing the house, stringing cranberries, making butter, last minute shopping and a few favorite Thanksgiving stories:

Run, Turkey, Run
Mousekin's Thanksgiving
Cranberry Thanksgiving
Saying Grace

and a final school project using a favorite family book, 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving.  Each of the children will receive a plain, paper cut-out turkey with the instructions to disguise their bird before he becomes dinner the  next day.  Their clever ideas always make me chuckle. 

Then, finally, on Thanksgiving (which this year is also The Boy's 15th birthday!) we'll rise early to attend Mass and begin the day with a sense of gratitude and thankfulness for all our Lord has done for us. 

Wishing you all a blessed Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Home Again

The Boy's surgery went well. He is home and resting. Thank you to all of you who called, emailed and prayed for our family during this event. If there is anything scarier than having surgery yourself, I believe it is for your child to have surgery.

Not to mention that it's even scarier when his religion teacher makes a flip comment to the class about receiving Anointing of The Sick before surgery-even minor surgery-because "sometimes people just don't wake up from it."

Yeah, that's helpful.

But, Thank God, he woke up and is feeling much better today.

Our Thanksgiving starts now.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What a Week!

Please keep our family in your prayers. Our oldest, The Boy is having sinus/adenoid surgery tomorrow morning and we have had a nasty virus run through our house the past few days.

Specifically, pray for safe, uncomplicated surgery for The Boy and for God's wisdom and guidance for his doctor and the team who will care for him during the surgery and for a return to good health for the rest of our household.

Finally, I couldn't not let you all know of the wonderful addition to our extended family this week--my brother and his wife welcomed home their second daughter! We are so thrilled and just praise God for this blessing on our family.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tonight's Big Show

Brought to you by God!

Willy Wonka JR. Wrap-Up

Beulah did a wonderful job in her oompa loompa role! We are so proud of her. So much so that I may actually break down and post a picture of her here...we'll see. This week is her class showcase and then we have Thanksgiving week off--only to start up again the following week. This time we're off to see the Wizard! The Boy has surgery this Friday, please keep him (and us) in your prayers. Until then, here's a clever quote to close out this weekend's show:

"A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men."
— Willy Wonka

Saturday, November 14, 2009

From Last Sunday's Sermon

Our new pastor, raised in Eastern Poland, shared the story of Irena Sendler with us last week at Mass. Do you know her story? I am embarrassed to admit I had never heard of her. An amazing group of students in rural Kansas are working hard to make sure that everybody knows her name and her heroic story:

"Fate may have led Irena Sendler to the moment almost 70 years ago when she began to risk her life for the children of strangers. But for this humble Polish Catholic social worker, who was barely 30 when one of history's most nightmarish chapters unfolded before her, the pivotal influence was something her parents had drummed into her.

"I was taught that if you see a person drowning," she said, "you must jump into the water to save them, whether you can swim or not." · Irena Sendler

When the Nazis occupying Poland began rounding up Jews in 1940 and sending them to the Warsaw ghetto, Sendler plunged in. With daring and ingenuity, she saved the lives of more than 2,500 Jews, most of them children, a feat that went largely unrecognized until the last years of her life."
Read more...


He also shared the story of Abby Johnson, former director of a Texas Planned Parenthood clinic(who just recently denounced the abortion industry of which she was a part and joined a pro-life group to pray outside the very same clinic).

The two women both worked diligently at their tasks--one saving children and one destroying them--until the latter woman watched in horror a child being aborted and had a major conversion.

Each of us are given a chance everyday to choose the right thing. Will we be for God or against Him? But God has faith in our choices because God's goodness, God's love has been inscribed on our hearts. Like the women above, each day we make choices. Remember that it is never--never-- too late to choose God.

"Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth," she said, "and not a title to glory."-Irena Sendler

Friday, November 13, 2009

Oompa Loompa Song

Oompa Loompa Doompa Dee Do
I've got another puzzle for you...
Oompa Loompa Doompa Dee Dee
If you are wise you'll guess where I'll be...

This weekend.

For several shows.

With many small children.

By the Charlie actually owns the chocolate factory, I may fall into the 'bad egg' category.

Or be pushed---by Beulah---if I don't stop reciting lines, singing songs and rehearsing choreography from the show.

And here's the tune to the song (as if you didn't already know it) It wouldn't be right to let you out of here with out leaving this song to play over and over and over again in your brain.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Free Great Saints Coloring Book

Download our special "Great Saints Coloring Book" for your kids and tune in to Relevant Radio for our special radio event "Great Stories about Great Saints"!

Kids can learn about the great Saints of the Catholic Church and have fun coloring. Plus as an added bonus you can listen to a great, faith-filled, radio show! You can even listen online if they aren't on your local radio dial!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Advent Adventure

Did you sign up for Advent Adventure last year? We did and we LOVED it! Just fill in your email address and they'll do the rest--everything is delivered right to your computer. It just doesn't get any easier!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Colonial New England

As if I didn't need another reason to miss my native New England this time of year, we've just completed a unit on the novel The Witch of Blackbird Pond in conjunction with our history studies of Colonial America.

Fortunately, I get my monthly Yankee (no, not these guys!) fix from the magazine of the same name, which I just discovered has a wonderful website full of recipes, stories and photographs capturing the heart and soul of my beloved birthplace.

Serendipitously, we were wrapping up our unit with a discussion on the Salem Witchcraft Trials and the various theories behind the hysteria, when this month's copy arrived in my mailbox. Wouldn't you know that there was a cover story on the "Colonial Meetinghouses of New England"--exactly like the one in TWOBP and the site for the infamous trials. If you share my interest in colonial New England--or are studying this time period for school--be sure to check out the story here.

Monday, November 02, 2009

El Dia De Los Muertos

Tell me how you die, and I will tell you who you are...To the inhabitant of New York, Paris or London death is a word that is never uttered because it burns the lips. The Mexican, on the other hand, frequents it, mocks it, caresses it, sleeps with it, entertains it; it is one of his favorite playthings and his most enduring love.
-Octavio Paz, The Labrynth of Solitude

Sunday, November 01, 2009

From Sunday's Sermon

"Senator Mark Hatfield tells of touring Calcutta with Mother Teresa and visiting the so called “House of Dying,” where sick children are cared for in their last days, and the dispensary, where the poor line up by the hundreds to receive medical attention. Watching Mother Teresa minister to these people, feeding and nursing those left by others to die, Hatfield was overwhelmed by the sheer
magnitude of the suffering she and her co-workers face daily. “How can you bear the load without being crushed by it?” he asked. Mother Teresa replied,

“My dear Senator, I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful.”"

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Therapy and the Therapist

In any other normal time, I would not have missed an opportunity to give in to the nostalgia of Baby Girl's one-year homecoming anniversary.

This last year has not been a normal time.

Baby Girl (and her parents and siblings, too, I might add) suffered through month after month of doctors visits, hospital stays, specialists, lab work and tests that I am quite certain
did little, if anything, for creating an ideal bonding experience.

Finally, sometime in the spring, we noticed the fog lifting. We were no longer on a first name basis with the pharmacy people at Walgreens and it seemed appropriate to discard at least two-thirds of our accumulated plastic medicine dropper collection. (Which still left us with several dozen. You know, just in case.)

And as her health dramatically improved, we began to relax. Just long enough for her doctor to notice that she (at 19 months old) was still cruising around the furniture and not standing unassisted.

Thus began our foray into the world of Early Intervention. Have you been there? It's a nice place to visit, but I'm keeping my passport close at hand, in case of a speedy departure. We've been evaluated, re-valuated, and screened. We've been classified, qualified and certified. Which won us two weekly hour long therapy appointments--one in Physical Therapy and the other in Developmental Therapy. The P/T therapist had one session with Baby Girl (who at 34 lbs and 3 ft. tall probably needs a new name...) and she started walking. Success--more so for the therapist's stats than for us as we knew she was close.

The D/T therapist was another story.

Little happened during those sessions that wasn't happening in our home already. And, truth be told, when a woman a decade younger than me with two children whose ages together don't total the number of arklings around here; I am a bit of a cynic.

Turns out that it wasn't just my cynicism at work, however, Baby Girl (who in addition to her physical stature also wears a plus-sized streak of stubbornness and strong will) had the therapist figured out at 'hello'.

And while Baby Girl's expressive language is clearly lacking, her receptive language more than makes up for it. Particularly when she heard the aforementioned D/T therapist's story about her own toddler's strong will:

D/T therapist: What's the matter Baby Girl? You don't want to play put the ball in a cup?

Baby Girl proceeds to pick up cup and ball and bails.

D/T therapist (to me): It's okay. My two year old is just like this.

Me (I don't think I said this out loud): I am just shocked.

D/T therapist (to me again): No seriously, (maybe I did say that out loud?) Why just the other morning, we were sitting at the breakfast table and my husband went to get something out of the freezer and my daughter saw ice cream.

Me: wondering aloud if this story is going where I fear it is.

D/T therapist: So, of course, she starts screaming for ice cream.

Me: Of course.

D/T therapist: Well, I looked from her to my husband and said to him, " Why on earth would you tease her with ice cream in the morning?"

***I'll insert here that I'd like to think that my expression may have mimicked the husband's because she scowled a bit at me and continued.***

D/T therapist: And I just thought to myself, 'You know, you have to pick your battles.' And I dished her up a bowl of ice cream.

Me: ?

D/T therapist: She did stop screaming.

Baby Girl (who has been within earshot this whole time) sauntered back in, dropped the ball in the cup and then looked at me--as if to say--"I am so done with her."

Needless to say, we have stopped D/T. And replaced it, with a more appropriate course of Speech and Language Therapy. Which was the intent of this post in the first place. I've found some fascinating information regarding adopted infants/toddlers and speech and language delays.

But I'll have to share it with you next time. Baby Girl is screaming. I need to go fix her some ice cream. ;-)



Halloween Fright

Now this is scary.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Yummy Coffee Cake

When we went on our apple picking adventure, the lovely people at the orchard gave us a pamphlet with some of their favorite apple recipes. We've tried a few, but by far, the recipe below has been the Ark's favorite.

Quick Apple Nut Coffee Cake

1 tube buttermilk biscuits
3 T. melted butter
1/4 c. sugar
2 peeled, sliced apples
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 c. chopped nuts

Dip biscuits in melted butter. Lay in 9 inch round cake pan. Lay apples on top biscuits. Mix cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle over apples. Sprinkle nuts over top. Drizzle with remaining butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

***Note***
Since this recipe as written would barely serve as a snack for The Boy, necessity warranted that I triple it. And, as is typical around here, the children all vetoed the use of any type of nut. My simple solution to these two problems? Grease a 9 x 13 pan and triple the recipe. And, most importantly, drizzle a liberal coating of cream cheese icing (homemade or this one will work fine) to the top of the coffee cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. Simple and delicious!

Unfortunately, there are no pictures to document this scrumptious cake. Not because there is never a crumb left (although that's true), but because my digital camera has developed a nasty case of interference on the screen and I can't get any pictures!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

From Sunday's Sermon

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it." -- Helen Keller

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Seven Minutes of Flu FAQs



This video was created by the Will County Health Department. H1N1 Clinics begin this week in the Fox Valley. You can find more information at the Kendall County Health Department and the Kane County Health Department.

We're definitely planning to get all the arklings in for the vaccine asap! How about you?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What About God's Will?

Did any of you catch Jen's post about God's will? If you didn't head on over and read it--even the comments.

I'll wait.

As a mother, but more specifically as an adoptive mother, the scenario she describes caught my attention immediately. I read it and re-read it while somewhere in the recesses of my mind a thought continued to escape me. Until now.

What I find so interesting is not the question that was posed, but the narrow scope of response to it. I'm beginning to think that the devil straps blinders on to Christians as soon as the waters of Baptism have dried. Not that the responses were narrow-minded, mind you. The comments were categorically in support of the caller. And it is a good thing to see Christians encouraging and supporting one another--looking for the silver lining, as it were, to her dark cloud. There are plenty of Christian circles where the bus doesn't even make that stop.

But still. About midway through the comments I had a feeling that I just couldn't shake. The responses felt lacking. There was a quality of falsehood or impossibility or maybe they were, in my mind, simply inadequate. But why? What was it that continued to nag at me? I attempted to put the thought out of my head, but to no avail. Until finally something clicked. There was a cavernous gorge that refused to be bridged in this situation. In my situation. In any Christian's situation.

The disconnect comes with the presumption of this caller and the subsequent comments that a life lived in line with God's will equals a life void of struggle and suffering. There's the rub, eh? No wonder the woman caller was beside herself with worry about her situation. People mistakenly believe that a Christian life, lived according to God's will, is a cake walk. Particularly Christians.

I won't do anyone the disservice of pointing out the times--especially online-- where people have publicly declared that the unraveling of their lives was a direct result of their not following "God's will". The beautiful scripture from St. Matthew's gospel is often quoted to illustrate their point:

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." Matthew 11: 28-30
The conclusion reached by some, then, is that being in accordance with God's will means a life of ease and lighter loads. And if you're not. Well, then, look out.

But does it really?

Have you ever seen a yoke? The kind a farmer might have used to harness a pair of oxen together? The yoke alone might weigh roughly 100 pounds. But compared to the approximately two tons of oxen hitched to it, it seems small--almost insignificant. Its significance, however, is integral to the success of the difficult work the oxen must do.

And right there, in the seemingly irrelevant yoke referenced by St. Matthew , is where those two polar opposites of suffering and joy intersect with God's will.

The farmer yokes his oxen together by virtue of the fact that if they were left to themselves the difficult task at hand would be nearly impossible to accomplish. As a matter of fact, the oxen will be completely dependent on this piece of equipment throughout their work. If it breaks, it could endanger the people with the oxen as well as the oxen themselves. Not to mention that there will be great stress on the yoke as the work progresses and the oxen themselves grow in size and stature. A good farmer (and probably anyone with an 8th grade physics education) knows that a longer yoke is necessary for pulling simple loads while the difficult work of pulling a heavy burden requires a short yoke, where the animals are yoked closely together for greater combined strength.

What would I have told the woman caller?

I think I know now.

I would have offered her encouragement of a different kind, I think. I would have reminded her to pray for God's will and then to yoke herself tightly--with the shortest yoke possible--to God. Because the Christian journey isn't always easy--even when we are following God's will. And it is always in God's will to drawn us ever closer--and yoke us ever tighter--to Him.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

One Benefit of Being Busy

I would never have tried out this recipe if I wasn't so pressed for time. It just sounds wrong. But it was right. Oh, so very, very right!

Want to make it even simpler? I browned over 5 pounds of ground beef at one time and froze 1-2 pound bags of it. Not even a greasy skillet to speak of for my troubles. Now, if I really wanted to get all high-speed, I'd enlist the help of one of these bad boys to help my clean-up!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

From Sunday's Sermon

On the authority of the Church:

It is as with the cemetery worker who once stated, "I've got all these people under me, but none of them will listen."

Friday, October 16, 2009

New Adoption Book

How have I managed to miss this one? It's a pairing of two greats, in my opinion. Dr. Ray Guarendi (adoptive father of 10 and psychologist whose words still echo in my head from time to time) and adoption. Dr. Ray's book Adoption: Choosing It, Living It, Loving It is now available! A few reviews of the book are posted here.

I especially like his motivation for writing--that "Maybe some couple will adopt because of something they read here," he writes. "Maybe some child unknown to me will get a mom, dad, family, brothers, sisters, and more."

If his book does that for even one child, it will be a runaway success!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Natural Garden Control

I am happy to report that all of your suggestions were as helpful as they were effective--which is more to the point!

I'm not sure what finally put the little leaf munchers over the edge--but something did.

We ended up using a combination of Japanese beetle bags, coffee grinds, and soapy water (thanks, Denise, Michelle, and Rhonda!)

Unfortunately, once we had taken care of the pests, our garden was hit with late-season blight and we had to pull every.single.one of our nightshade veggies out of the garden. Fortunately, most of my non-blighted tomatoes were ripe enough to go from green to ripe on my kitchen counter. After all our garden plagues this summer, I'd say it's a good thing we don't need to rely on our own abilities for sustenance.

All these early Americans we've been reading about? It's a wonder to me that they didn't all starve to death--or at least the line of gardeners I'm descended from!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Early Explorers

Our past week has been a whirl wind of explorers of early America. Beginning with St. Brendan, the Vikings (what exactly was so great about mead, people?) and following through Christopher Columbus to the early colonial settlements.

It's one of those occasions where I find myself pining for the, relatively-speaking, ancient history of my New England youth. I tried and tried to find a wonderful colonial village in the Chicago metro area but to no avail. There were people here at that time, don't let me mislead you, but they were not the colonial people with whom I associate the 17th and early 18th century. (Oh to live within driving distance of the Plimoth Plantation again!) I am, however, trying to embrace my mid-western history and discovered an interesting little game on the early exploration of Illinois. It's brief, but worth a look.

Plus, now I have even more reason to extend my stay on the East coast next summer....Field trips!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Reason Number 2

The other day I was feeling overwhelmed. Too many appointments, too many commitments. More than enough of everything to go around--except me. How could I possibly meet all those needs for all those people? I hadn't a clue, but I knew Someone who did so I asked for help. And as is always God's way, a simple request is often met with joyful abundance.

Extraneous commitments were dropped. A few appointments were rescheduled. Priorities were rearranged and the tide began its easy ebb out to sea. Sighs of relief were breathed. Most of all by a grateful me.

But, God wasn't finished yet.

In my inbox came an email--a totally random, out-of-the-blue email. With the subject line: The 10 Most Important Things You Need to Know About Homeschooling and a suggestion to "check out #2". So, I clicked through and found The 10 Most...article and had to smile as I read number two:

"2. You are qualified to homeschool your children if you love to read to them, love to spend time with them, love to explore the world with them, love to see them learn new things and, most importantly, love them. Again, don’t doubt your ability! "

One more wink from God, I'd say.

And, just in case you're interested, the rest of the Top 10 Reasons can be found here.

Friday, October 09, 2009

At Long Last!

I only "discovered" this show (and by default, this wonderful story line about Pam and Jim) last year. It's been the date night show of choice for the Captain and I ever since. And even though we're not finished watching the final episodes from last season, when I heard that a wedding was in the works, I set my DVR and cried right alongside Andy Bernard as the whole staff joined in the festivities.

I don't think I was ever any happier at a wedding.

Okay, maybe my own.

But this one runs a close second.

Pumpkin Carving

It's that time of year again.

Oh, alright...it's almost that time of year. Cut a fall loving girl some slack, won't you?

Besides this pumpkin or this jack o'lantern might actually make it all the way to Halloween without rotting.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Drive Thru History

As a part of our American History studies this year, we are entrenched this week in the study of the explorers of Early America. On a whim, I picked up a copy of Drive Thru History: Episodes 1-3 from our local library (my favorite place to shop).

I couldn't have been more surprised (or pleased!) when I arrived home and noticed the Focus on the Family stamp on the back of the DVD case. We settled in at the end of our school day to view the first episode, which covered Christopher Columbus, the Khan-Polo Connection, Florence and Amerigo Vespucci.

It was even better than I had hoped.

Not only was the content thorough and well-presented, but the series manages to weave the importance of Christian figures throughout. What a pleasant surprise!

Sure, everyone recognizes the names of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. But do you know what motivated Columbus to choose the name Santa Maria for one of his vessels?

And, if I remember my own school days correctly, our great land derives its name from the explorer Vespucci. But do you know where he got his name?

The people at Coldwater Media are on to something good. Take a look and see.

From Episode 1-The Discovery:

DTH :: Episode 1 INTRO from ColdWater Media on Vimeo.



From Episode 2-The Pilgrims

DTHUS :: Episode 2 INTRO from ColdWater Media on Vimeo.



From Episode 3-Boston and the Revolution

DTHUS :: Episode 3 INTRO from ColdWater Media on Vimeo.



Additional trailers and discussion guides are available at the Drive Thru History site.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

From "All Things Girl"

This weekend, I was again delighted and encouraged to spend time with my eldest daughters and a multitude of faithful mothers and their daughters continuing our study of the All Things Girl book Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...What is Beauty After All?

We shared these two clips from the Dove "Campaign for Real Beauty". Take a look at them if you've never seen them before. They are quite illuminating. And, of course, I couldn't let the opportunity to let this timely article, written by Elizabeth Foss, pass by our topic of "Dignity, Self-Image and the Media".



Monday, October 05, 2009

Blogging In Morse Code

As the new school year started, I had been contemplating how (if at all) to make use of the blog throughout the year.
I had already dealt with the creepiness of total cyber-strangers leering at the photos of my children on here and (as you may have noticed) removed most of the arklings' photos.
I knew that I still wanted to have a place to document our days and memories that would be easy for me to maintain. But, and most importantly, I wanted to make sure that my time here did not detract from my primary vocation as wife and mother (including teaching!)

My solution?

A style of blogging I'm calling "morse code".

When I have time to sit and write something well thought-out, carefully edited, particularly poignant--I will. These longer posts are important to documenting our journey, but the reality is that I can't do that often if I'm living intentionally offline--where eager learners beckon me to teach and God's call to ministry is firmly on my heart. Where providing for my family's needs are a light yoke when I don't overburden myself elsewhere--including online. Where I can delight in the trials and tales of my children without the concern or need to share every single anecdote with the world wide web. Some of those moments, while possibly perfect for a journal, will be kept not on a keyboard but in my heart instead.

When I don't have the time to write it all down, but have a few minutes to share an interesting link to a place we've been, an article I've read or a recipe we're eating (and, oh my, there are a few out there right now!)--I will. These shorter posts fill in some of the details of our life and never required a lengthy diatribe anyway.

Short--short--long. Short--long--short--short.

Morse code blogging.

I think I like it.

Friday, October 02, 2009

A Day of Astronomy

For my local readers...A Day of Astronomy is an event you might like to take advantage of tomorrow. Our upcoming science unit is Astronomy--and this event is FREE! I don't think you'll have to ask us twice.

A Little Something on the Side

In my spare time, (insert maniacal laughter here) I've been helping our local Catholic family network hop on the information superhighway. Stop by and check out our new site. If you live in the Fox Valley area-- check back often. There's quite a bit going on!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Absolutely Advent!

I wanted to let you all know about a resource we're going to be using this Advent for our children. It's called Absolutely Advent and is published by Pflaum Publishing. We use a very short devotions booklet for each day of the year called Living Faith for Kids(which we also love!), but this is a little different. It is a chance for the children to make their own personal journey through the Advent season. In addition to focusing specifically on the gospel reading for the day, there is an age appropriate activity for children to complete on their own. We used their Totally Lent! books last year and were very satisfied with it. If anyone is interested in ordering these for their children (homeschooled or not), let me know. I don't profit from the sale of these books personally, but we all profit (through a group discount rate) the more people who order. You can check out Absolutely Advent here.
My goal would be to place an order by the end of October, so let me know by then if you are interested.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Media Play

Everyone knows the media has a bag of tricks that distorts reality and changes the images that we see. As a part of our All Things Girl group, which just started on Sunday (and I LOVE!), we'll be delving into the media and its effect on self-image in young girls.

Nothing to talk about there. Ahem.

While doing some of my research, I stumbled upon a site that is absolutely age-appropriate for our 8-13 year old audience (and would certainly be of value to any older kids), created by PBS Kids called "Don't Buy It! Get Media Smart!". Check it out, it's worth it!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

From Sunday's Sermon

"True discipleship requires following the true leader."

Lost and Found

Lost:

One small, speckled bullfrog froglet. (Yes, one of these bullfrogs.)

Found?

One very unhappy Captain.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Homecoming

It's homecoming weekend around here.

As if I were old enough to have a child old enough to be going to homecoming.

But apparently I am...because I do.

So, I've been spending this week trying not to have acid-flash-backs of my own high school homecomings tying up the loose ends of a teenage boy preparing for his first semi-formal dance. You know little things--like making sure he has pants for the occasion--which he does. Now.

Then there was the little matter of the purchasing of dance tickets, the reservations for dinner and not-to-be-forgotten wristlet corsage to be tracked down to match a dress that required top secret clearance to find out its color.

Check. Check. Check.

If you're in the area and you're planning to attend the game, be sure to come dressed in blue. There is a "blue out" planned to clash with the visiting "green wave".

Unfortunately, Beulah will miss the festivities, as she has her first rehearsal. But fortunately for the Boy, we'll all be around on Saturday before the dance. ;-)

Stay tuned for more homecoming news later this weekend.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

From Sunday's Sermon

"So many Christians want to help God out---but only with advice."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dear Hollywood...

Our children deserve better. We know it and they know it. And now YOU, dear Hollywood, KNOW we know it, too.

From the Project Chase website: "The media today would have us believe that it’s impossible to be abstinent, that we have no control over our passions and desires. It’s “unnatural” to wait for marriage to have sex. We’re nothing but slaves to our hormones. "


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gone Pickin'

Today is our homeschool group's first nature club outing. We're heading off to a local apple orchard for apple-cider donuts a fact-filled tour. The weather is supposed to be unseasonably warm and hopefully the rain will hold off until our tour is finished.

Since we just completed our unit on Amphibians--frogs, toads and tadpoles--last week (and, no, they have not outgrown their frog bog yet!) and we aren't starting our next unit on early America until next week (Witch of Blackbird Pond, anyone?); we'll be spending this one week on a mini-apple unit.

Fun and delicious. Have I mentioned the apple cider donuts?

One of these days, I'll have to gather together all of our units and post them here. In the meanwhile, however, I've got to dig out a few favorite apple recipes for later this week.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Prediction--Who is this guy?

Cast List

After sitting on pins and needles the better part of Saturday, late last night the cast list was posted! We are simply thrilled to announce that Beulah will be (much to the delight of The Boy) one of the Oompah-loompahs! in the fall CYT production of Willy Wonka Jr!

Let us know if you want tickets. I'm quite certain part of the glory of the stage involves hawking show tickets to friends and family. ;-)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Callbacks!

I guess Beulah's tryouts went well. She got called back! Parts should be listed by tomorrow morning. Not too shabby for a first-time audition.

I'll have to think back to my days as one of the postulants (or was I a novice?) in my high school production of the Sound of Music.

Maybe I can offer her some pointers? Then again, maybe not.

Food For Thought on a Saturday Morning

Not only are we on the sidelines. This year, we're the ones blowing the whistles and holding the clipboards. Today, I think, this article will be clipped right on top.

H/T Real Learning

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mom! Can I have a snack?

Check out these great after-school snacks courtesy of Martha Stewart.

When she's not busy brokering deals with the Home Depot for designer prison tools, man can she still cook!

H/T Mom via email

Five In A Row

Do you use the Five in A Row series in your homeschool?

We haven't actually used this series ourselves, but the books present a novel (no pun intended) literature-based curriculum that can be used with children who are simply pre-3Rs. I do, however, love their book list and refer to it regularly when planning my studies--even for a story time which includes my older children.

No one--and I mean no one--is ever too old for a good book.

But I digress.

There are a few families in our midst who are anxious to begin homeschooling their little ones. Many of them want advice. As it just so happens, the authors of the Five in A Row series have summed up nicely my thoughts on educating preschool children (and this absolutely applies whether your preschooler will be educated at home or in a traditional classroom setting.) Head on over and read this or one of their other interesting articles. Trust me, your preschooler will thank you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Do Your Homework!

This is one of those "Do as I say, not as I do" parenting/homeschooling/teachable moments. No one will be any more disturbed than I (okay, maybe The Captain) when they find out about our lovely little educational science project gone awry.

It appears that the breed of tadpole contained in the kit we purchased is that of the African Bullfrog persuasion.

And it also appears that some of these little fellers can grow pretty big.

Don't any one of you remind me that I ordered said kit of my own free will.

Please.

I will have enough explaining to do (not to mention worms to dig) should our frog grow to its maximum size.

Tryouts

Beulah's Beginning Musical Theater class with CYT started with a bang! She has decided (at the 11th hour, mind you) that she wants to audition for the show the group is performing this Fall. Tryouts are Friday night! Wish her (and her nail-biting stage mom) good luck! Now I'm off to buy the karaoke (no vocals) version of this song.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

From Sunday's Sermon

"Going to church doesn't make you any more a Christian than standing in your garage makes you a car."
James 2: 14-18

Oh how we will miss you, Father George! Your new parish can't even begin to know what a blessing you will be to them!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Full Fall

There's a full range of activity going on here on the ark this fall.

From our busy Friday nights to our school days--deliciously full of faith, learning and fun. It seems the ark has got its groove back.

As a part of our homeschool curriculum, we have several children active in the performing art. Some take piano, while others belong to a choir and still another is beginning with the Christian Youth Theater (CYT).

We also want to develop healthy, strong physical bodies as well. So, there are gymnastics and soccer lessons (which yours truly is helping to coach--but that is post for another day!)

Spiritually, we've selected a few targeted activities which will be aimed at specific children. Naomi and Candace will be part of a budding Little Flowers group and Beulah and Hannah will be part of a brand-new mother-daughter bible study group created around the delightful All Things Girl study series. Both of these will be hosted here on the ark, so we also have a tremendous opportunity to practice hospitality. We've also arranged to join another homeschool family for some monthly volunteer work at the local nursing home.

All in all, a season full of excitement and challenge for all of us!

Not to mention, our school plans--which have involved the addition of two amphibious creatures to our classroom. If you know me as a teacher--you know that I'm obsessed with partial to creating thematic lesson plans. Homeschooling has only fueled that fire. With something akin to gasoline, as I have free rein to design curriculum totally around my themes. But as you might imagine, when you fuel that type of fire, it can burn out of control. And so today, I am heading out to the bait shop to purchase some feeder fish. Despite my lesson planning moxie, I can't quite yet bring myself to walk into a store (even a bait shop) and request "pinhead crickets".

Oh, and I can't let pass by an opportunity to share two wonderful resources that the Captain and I are using for our own faith journeys. Once a month, I enjoy the company of a lovely group of ladies at my home for "Mother's Circle". The circle represents our friendship as well as the prayer circle we support one another with. The devotional book we are using is called All Earth Is Crammed with Heaven by Mary van Balen Holt and is a perfect length--ie-brief!--for a group of mothers meeting while children play at their feet. Finally, the Captain has spent nearly the last six months waking before dawn to attend planning sessions for a new men's prayer group that our parish has started. If you've never heard of the That Man is You! (TMIY) program, it is worth a look--especially to share with the men in your life!

And now, Saturday begins. See you next week!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Void The Abortion Mandate Virtual Rally

From Eric Scheidler and the Pro-Life Action League...

Last night, President Obama spoke to the nation about his plan for
a national, government-run healthcare system. But he STILL hasn't
come clean about whether his plan will fund abortion.

Make no mistake about it: Abortion WILL be funded by the government
through the new healthcare plan.

For years, Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby have been
working towards the day when abortion would be included in
comprehensive healthcare reform -- the day when abortion coverage
would become mandatory and paid for with your tax dollars.

That day is here.

If the healthcare legislation President Obama wants passes,
abortion providers will get their wish.

The federal government will
fund abortions across the country with our tax dollars.

We must redouble our efforts to stop this plan. That's why I'm
inviting you to join me and pro-lifers across the country in the
VOID THE ABORTION MANDATE virtual rally and grassroots campaign.

President Obama and your representatives in Congress need to hear
from you NOW that "Abortion is not health care!"

Our pro-life voices ARE getting through! The media have covered
town hall meetings all across the country and reporters are finally
asking about abortion funding in Obama's health care plan.

Now it's time for a new wave of activism to stop President Obama
and the abortion industry from mandating taxpayer funded abortions.
That's what the VOID THE ABORTION MANDATE "virtual rally" is all
about.

Here's what you can do:

* SOCIAL NETWORKING ACTIVISM:
Download the new "Void the Abortion Mandate" logo and sample
status messages
and post them on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace
and other social networking websites.

* CONTACT YOUR SENATORS AND CONGRESSMAN:
Visit StopTheAbortionMandate.com and click on the "voided check"
logo
to send a message to your elected representatives that you
don't want the government funding abortion:

* LEARN HOW OBAMA'S PLAN FUNDS ABORTION:
Having a hard time explaining how the healthcare plan cover
abortion? Get the new chart that shows how it happens:

* GET ALL THE FACTS:
Learn about the Hyde Amendment, government funding of
abortion, and other important topics surrounding the healthcare
reform abortion mandate
.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Strong Pro-Life Catholic Candidate for Governor in Illinois

Do you live in Illinois?

Are you planning to vote in 2010 for our new governor?

Are you a practicing Catholic Christian?

Have you been looking for a candidate who brings true "change" to the party?

Please take a look at Adam Andrzejewski, brother to one of our very own moms in our local Catholic Mother's Group.

You may find just what you've been looking for! And feel free to spread the word!

3 Years Old and then some...

Happy Birthday!

To my little blog.

I can't believe how old you've gotten. Where has the time gone? I can't remember a time when you weren't a part of life here on the Ark. Thank you for three great years!

And to my dad.

(I'd repeat, "I can't believe how old you've gotten" but I'm confident it would be met with a reminder of just how old that makes me...)

Happy Birthday! We love you!

And dear Mary.

(The same Mary who when I announced her birthday yesterday, two of my older children scrunched up their brows and said, "Mary who?")

Today we're hosting a birthday party for you with a few of our friends. We will celebrate your perfect example of motherhood and discipleship.

(I also told The Boy that Jesus kept Mary's birthday in his Outlook so He wouldn't forget to buy her a gift. The same-scholarship-having-Boy again looked at me and asked, "Are you being serious?" Remind me to sign him up for a computer class.)

Today is a great day for a celebration! Be sure to join the fun!

Monday, September 07, 2009

From the Press Box

The JV football team won--AGAIN--on Saturday! There's no article up yet, but I'll link to it when there is. Unfortunately the Varsity didn't fare so well. But our Freshman...many of whom play on the JV team, captured their first win last week. Not only that--it was the first shutout win in 8 seasons!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Pests

This is our first year with a vegetable garden in Illinois. The garden has been abundant.

Unfortunately, so too are the weeds and the garden pests.

The weeds are at least manageable. The pests? Not so much.

Sadly, everything growing on a vine is being consumed by voracious Japanese beetles and (here's a new one for my science collection) the striped cucumber beetle.

Since we eat out of this garden, I am apprehensive to try chemical insecticides; but I am at an impasse for what to do to be rid of them.

Perhaps some notes left in the garden explaining my position will encourage them to move along.

Friday, September 04, 2009

First Homeschool Mass

We usually begin our school day at 8am.

So, naturally, I usually begin waking up my children/students around 7am.

Why then was this morning's wake-up call so very rough?

No kidding it was...rough.

Every body had a bed (or two) strewn across it. Rumpled sheets across cherubic looking faces. Warm and cozy bodies snuggled tightly into their beds. When I arrived a mere 15 minutes early to gently rouse my troops for our parish's first-ever homeschool Mass (isn't that cool?) where Beulah and Hannah would do both the reading and responsorial psalm, did eager faces meet my "Good Morning"!

In a word, no. Although, in their defense, I will say that Beulah and Hannah were already awake when I peeked in their room this morning. Candace and Naomi, however, were not. It took all sorts of cajoling and lofty promises of food and drink from a wonderful place that rhymes with Danera to elicit even a slight rapid-eye movement.

I knew I would need to bring out the big guns.

"Girls," I whispered as I gently rubbed their heads, "do you want to go down and watch a kid's show before we go? You can bring your blankets with you?"

A grin appeared on Candace's face and without opening her eyes she mumbled back, "Can we bring the bed?"

Suffice to say, we made it to Mass on time. And my girls, both of my girls, did a marvelous job with their readings.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Getting Closer

...to a blog resolution. It looks like the status quo will be victorious. Until an official re-launch happens, this blog remains "public" and comments (although moderated) are back on.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

600 Down

And nearly 600 more to go...renovations continue here on the Ark. Who knew blog ownership could be so time consuming?

Sigh.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Change of Plans

Lots of behind the scenes blog work going on here on the Ark. If you've emailed me about the launch of the "private" Ark blog, I apologize for not yet responding...but consider yourself on "the list".

In the meanwhile, there are a few changes going on here on the "public" Ark, which will allow me to keep it open while protecting my family's online security.

Comments, however, remain closed at this time. But feel free to e-me. ;-)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Amidst Our Suffering

God gives us people like Mr. Spivey.

In Which I Make A Decision

Thanks for the emails wondering what prompted me to abruptly shut down comments. I admit it was a bit of a rash decision, but where my family is involved, I can be like that.

I've been waffling back and forth since with the bigger question. If some internet cretin can come on my blog and randomly make comments that leave me uneasy about sharing my family here, can I truly share them here without concern?

I felt like I had two options:

1---Keep the blog.

2---Dump the blog.

I love writing here and having this keepsake of our family's story. I'd love to pass a copy of it along to each of my children someday (Heaven knows, they won't have any hand-crafted scrapbooks left by me). But I won't put them at risk (or my mental health worrying about their safety) to do so.

The thought of completely erasing our memories with a single keystroke just kills me.

Which left me with one final option: take this blog private.

This is not my ideal solution. I've appreciated new visitors (and most) new commentors and old friends who catch up with me via this funny little medium.

So, I'm leaving this post up for a few days. If you'd like to keep reading here as a member, please feel free to email me at patjrsmom AT yahoo DOT com and let me know. Probably by the weekend I'll have made the switch.

If our paths diverge here, let me thank you for visiting and for riding along with us for a while.

God Bless,
Jane