Friday, October 31, 2008

Heavenly Home for a Bunny

Today was a sad, sad day. When I woke up my husband told me that the rabbit had died.

“What! No! How!” I exclaimed in horror.

“It got really cold last night. It must have frozen.”

I felt really, really terrible. Every day I check the weather to make sure it is safe for Peach to stay in its outdoor cage. If a thunderstorm is predicted, or temperature under 40 degrees, we bring her in to its cage in the garage. In really cold weather, the cage gets brought into the laundry room.

That one day we did not check the weather, and there was a sudden cold snap. It was so warm today – I was outside in a t-shirt – that it seamed really unbelievable that it could have happened.

But it did, and I just dreaded having to tell the children, especially my eldest. She had been distraught after the death of Hoppity, and Peach had been a great solace to her.

Someone suggested waiting until tomorrow – but that just would not be right. We could not just leave her out there for another day and night. They had a right to know.

I put off visiting the cage until after noon. Knowing I would have no stomach to eat afterwards, I made myself eat lunch. I put the baby in for a nap and got out a nice shoebox. I went to the shed for a shovel.

Peach was still soft and fluffy, and I hoped she had died in her sleep and felt no pain in her hypothermia. I dug a hole for later and tried to lose myself in the swing set construction project for a while.

Later, I called my friend with whom we had plans to trick-or-treat. “Not to put a damper on your day, but I just wanted you to know my kids might be a little sad when we come over later…” I asked her to say a little prayer for us around the time my kids were to get home.

As they got off the bus, I greeted them at the door. Their bright and smiling faces ripped through my heart. They were looking forward to some fun trick-or-treating with friends. How much worse would their disappointment be when expecting something good?

I directed them all into the living room and they knew something was up. I had my eldest sit next to me. When I got to the part about there being a “cold snap”, her eyes widened in realization of what I was getting to. The other two needed it spelled out for them. Then there were shrieks and tears and running outside to check and then up the stairs and a locking of doors.

I left them in peace for twenty minutes. My eldest came to me and said she never wanted another rabbit again. She let me hug her. I keyed myself into my nine-year-old’s room and found her still crying on her bed. I put my arms around her.

I asked the girls if they were ready to go outside and say goodbye. They were and we went. I told my toddler the bunny was sleeping.

“Bunny weeping,” she repeated.

Using a small towel, I picked up the rabbit and placed it in its box. They all petted it. I said a prayer. I waited until they were ready before I closed the box. Then we carried it to the corner garden where I had dug the hole, next to where Hoppity lay. I placed it in the hole and covered it up.

“Where’d bunny go?” asked my toddler.

“Bunny went to heaven,” I told her.

“Bunny gone,” she said.

“Do you still want to go trick-or-treating?” I asked.

“Yes,” they all said unanimously.

So we went, and they had a surprisingly good time.

But after we had eaten loads of candy and it was time for bed, they became very sad again. We read “Home for a Bunny”, by Margaret Wise Brown. In the story, a bunny is looking for a home. He finally finds it with another bunny, in a burrow under the ground. The picture reminded us of Hoppity and Peach, who are now sleeping together under the ground. My nine-year-old read it to the baby, replacing “the bunny” with “Peach”, and in the context of Peach finding its home in Heaven along with Hoppity.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween Costumes for the Frugal

My sewing machine is broken and I refuse to spend valuable time and resources on a fake “holiday” like Halloween. I try to focus on the positives of this day, like creativity and resourcefulness. How much mental capacity does it take to go to a store and plunk down good money for a prefabricated costume?

For the past week, my kids have been wondering what they were going to dress up as. Not wanting to take time away from all of my outdoor projects, I told them they were smart enough to come up with something. I had a ladybug costume for my toddler that someone had given me secondhand – I am not averse to recycling costumes and this one is cute and warm. That’s one down.

Walking with an old homeschooling friend on Tuesday, I discovered that she had taken the same tack with her children. The oldest daughter is helping the other three come up with costumes, and my friend really had no idea what they were going to be. She trusted they would dress up as something good and wholesome. As in our family, it is understood that the horrific or occult are off-limits on all days. My daughter later reported that my friend’s daughters are all going to be American Girls.

Their ideas have come together. My son is going to be a baseball star. That is no big stretch for him. He has several baseball uniforms from past years, and aims to be a baseball star when he grows up.

My middle daughter is going to be a football player, padding her shoulders under one of Daddy’s RAIDERS jerseys, and wearing a baseball helmet with a protective face piece across the front. Again, this part is reflective of the example I have strived to show them, that girls can be strong and athletic.

My eldest daughter is going to be Joan of Arc, and I am so proud. When she showed me her outfit she had such a look of valiance. She beamed in the part of the female saint warrior and martyr.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sarah Palin and Nancy Reagan: High Fashion for Women in Politics

I had to laugh when I saw the first editorial criticizing the high cost of Sarah Palin’s campaign makeover. All that time I thought she had done her hair and makeup herself! Certainly a woman who can literally hunt for her own family’s dinner didn’t need any help in that arena! Then I thought this little fact should endear her even more to American women. Most of us need a little help to look absolutely fabulous. You can almost see yourself being put into her position, becoming a surprise vice-presidential nominee, with a newborn baby and nothing appropriate to wear. You know your looks are going to be scrutinized from head to toe and all around. Considering that the entire budget spent on her behalf actually could have been spent on one outfit, by some of the rich elite, I think she was her frugal self.

What comes to mind most easily is a similar controversy over the pricey, high fashion clothing worn by the elegant Nancy Reagan. Most of the clothes were borrowed, and some were donated by the designers. Many of the pieces were in turn donated by Nancy, as is the intent of Palin.

In searching for a picture, I found that the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley will open a new exhibit, on Nov. 10.

“Resembling a Camelot-styled vignette of the late-20th Century, the exhibit will showcase more than 50 years of Nancy Reagan's fashion, beginning with her 1952 wedding dress and concluding with the suit she wore for President Reagan's funeral in June 2004.”

Read the story by Margie Ann Clark here.

Said Nancy Reagan, "I am delighted that these designers are being recognized for their incredible talent. It was an honor to wear each of these pieces, and every gown, dress and suit brings back wonderful memories; moments in my life that I will remember and cherish forever."

For more information about the Nancy Reagan - A First Lady's Style exhibit at the Reagan Presidential Library, call (800) 410-8354 or (805) 577-4000.

I also found this paper doll book honoring the fashions worn so well by Nancy, sold at

Monday, October 27, 2008

After-School Projects

We were expecting flurries this week, but the cold weather went south instead, allowing me to continue my outdoor projects. When the kids walked in the house today, I had a flurry of projects waiting for them to help me with.

As soon as my 11-year-old walked out onto the deck, I asked her for help screwing in some hardware. I have been putting together a new wooden swing set for them, one phase at a time, with her help at the steps that say “a helper is vital at this stage”. I will put together as much as I can during the baby’s naptime, saving those parts for when they walk through the door.

I always think of working with my father when I am doing such activities. Together we built a deck and a table. I still have the table and it is as sturdy as ever. I am going to use it as a template for a larger one that is needed for my son’s upcoming First Communion. I suppose if I had an older brother, I never would have had the opportunity to become comfortable with drills and ladders. I am thankful for how things worked out.

We finished one “phase” and put our tools away. The baby was due to wake up, so I put dinner on and pulled out something for my 9-year-old to do. More bulbs! I have been purchasing new species at the rate of two boxes per week. So I had four more boxes of early-blooming bulbs, which hopefully will come up at the right time to add some color to the yard for the First Communion next spring. Together we picked the right spots for them and planted them, sprinkling cayenne both in the holes and on top of them this time, to repel both moles and squirrels from eating them.

My son was busy climbing trees. I felt I had to get him involved in something now. I got out the muffin mixes that he has put together quite well in the past. But he decided he would rather stay in the trees, and the girls were glad to have a turn making the muffins.

The baby’s project was easy: to eat eight out of the twenty-four muffins we had made!

I asked her, “Do you remember going food shopping with Mommy today?”

She nodded her head as far as it would go, her mouth full of muffin, humming an affirmative “Um hmm”.

“Do you remember helping Mommy pick out the mixes for these muffins?”

“Um hmm”, with another big nod.

“And do you remember hugging them and saying MINE?”

“Um hmm”, nodding and smiling even bigger.

Life is never boring here, and my children are always industrially busy, learning skills that will help them to be fruitful and independent adults. In the meantime, I am training them to take over many of the jobs that used to be solely mine. In a few years, who knows? I can orchestrate all the household projects from my desk while putting the final touches on my now-oft-neglected novels.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Random Confessions of a Little Girl

My little one was off and running during every softball game last season. At one field, there was a huge jungle gym of sorts, off-limits except during the gym period at the junior high school. A sign said to keep off unless under official supervision, but we went on it anyway, rolling balls up and down the ramp.

Two little girls joined us, a few games in a row. I wondered which mom they belonged to. One told me she was five, the other six. They told me about their big sister, who went to the high school, and their other big sister, who went to the junior high school. Once I actually saw them. They looked like nice girls.

One day the littlest girl kept scratching her rear end. After she had been playing catch with my son and holding hands with my daughter, she told me she had an infection. “You should really keep your gloves on, then,” I said. (“Ooh”, I’m thinking, saying a prayer to chase infectious germs away.)

The second littlest left her notebook open – right in front of me, mind you - so I could see. When her back is turned, I read the freshly written page, which is face up.

Dear Daddy
I love you and Im not really mad at ziggy I just miss you cuz I wish you still lived at home with us and not with her
Love me

Now I am thinking, no wonder I never see their mom. She’s raising four sweet girls all on her own because of this rotten father who abandoned them. My heart is breaking for them and I wish I could make it better but I can’t. I wonder why me? Why did she leave her notebook out for me to see? So she could be heard by someone? So I could pray for her? So I could be thankful for what I have at home?

Maybe all of the above.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Parents of Therese the Little Flower Beatified Today

Story from RTÉ News:

"St Thérèse's parents to be beatified
Sunday, 19 October 2008 12:34

The parents of St Thérèse of Lisieux are to be beatified today in the French basilica dedicated to her memory.

The move leaves Louis and Zélie Martin one step short of sainthood.

About 100 Irish pilgrims will occupy a place of honour at the Mass in Lisieux among an expected crowd of about 15,000 people.

The Rector of the basilica in Lisieux has said the Irish were at the forefront of promoting the couple's cause and they will feature prominently in the ceremony.

Last July, Pope Benedict formally approved the miracle cure of a young Milanese child, Pietro Schillero, through the couple's intercession.

His lungs were so deformed that he seemed destined to die. During the mid-19th Century the Martins had nine children, four of whom died as infants and the five others became nuns.

The best-known was St Thérèse - often called The Little Flower. She was canonized in 1925 and, in 1997, named a Doctor of the Church, an honour she shares with just two other women.

The ceremony is taking place on Mission Sunday, underlining that St Thérèse and St Francis Xavier are the patron saints of the missions.

The Potuguese Cardinal Saraiva Martins, former head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, is to preside at the ceremony.

Last May, the couple's bodies were exhumed and examined to reveal that Zélie had died of cancer. Yesterday they were placed in a new reliquary which has been donated by an Irish family who have requested anonymity. It has formally been named the Irish reliquary.

Solicitor Noel Smith and his wife Ann Marie will help carry the remains of the Blesseds in a procession around Lisieux to the crypt where they will lie.

Among the readers during the Mass, Dubliner Celine Chisolm and Kildare-man Pat Sweeney.

At 4pm this afternoon in Dublin's Whitefriar Street Church, a Solemn Concelebrated Mass of Thanksgiving will be led by the retired Laois-born Papal Nuncio to New Zealand, Archbishop Thomas White."

Picture above of Theresa Martin at age eight.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Bake Sale that Almost Broke the Camel’s Back

I love to bake. I love to bake from scratch. Most of all, I love it when I bake something from scratch and it comes out perfectly.

I love to know that I lovingly prepared something delicious and special for my family, from the best ingredients I could afford. I love that they appreciate the time it took, and that it tastes better just because I made it.

I love to learn new recipes from my beloved cookbooks, and to teach the skills to my children so they can do the same for their own families.

There used to be a Holly Hobby plaque hanging in the kitchen of my childhood home. It said the “secret ingredient” was love. Scientific studies have actually shown that, given all the same ingredients, positive emotion put into baking actually has a healthy effect on the receiver!

I love to bring cakes for family birthday parties. I am known among my in-laws as the cake baker, and they love both my Hershey’s Cocoa Chocolate Cake and my white angel cake. I make the same ones for every occasion, with a variation on the decorative icing, and they never tire of them.

I enjoy sending my children in to school with cupcakes on their birthdays. I usually make these from a mix, for a number of reasons. First of all, I have to make several batches of cupcakes, and it just is not feasible time-wise for me to do these all from scratch. I will save that time for making the cake we will eat together as a family. Second of all, most children really cannot differentiate between a baked-from-scratch cake and one purchased from a store. So, while I know they are receiving superior ingredients, they do not, and so part of the pleasure is lost.

Several times a year, I am called upon to bake something for a bake sale. If I have the time, I really do not mind doing this. However, very often it happens to be at the very worst time for me. I just know that it will be something I will regret having committed to. They also expect you to write down what you will be making, and I really do not bake that way. I do not have the time to select a recipe and go shopping for the specific ingredients required. I keep a well-stocked pantry and bake according to what ingredients I have available. What if I say I will make chocolate-chip cookies and someone eats the chocolate chips the night before? And if I happen to have enough frozen bananas I might feel like making a huge batch of banana bread – if I do not have enough, I am not going to go buy over-ripe bananas for the occasion. So I really dislike having to commit to making a specific item.

There was one time when I signed up and had such a busy day that I was still whipping it up at midnight. Then, after I had carefully wrapped up the box of goods, my child forgot to bring it to school! I received a telephone call from the bake sale coordinator, asking if I could bring it in. I really did not have the time to drive to the school that day, and had to apologize. From that day on, I decided never to sign up for a bake sale. If I had the time, I would make something and they would be pleasantly surprised. If not, no harm done.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to bake for the track bake sale. It happened to be on a Sunday, right after we had planned on giving out baby bottles after church for the Pro-Life cause. We were going to have to rush home, do a quick change, and rush back out to the track meet. I just knew it was not a reasonable thing to expect of myself to (1) bake something and (2) remember to bring it.

After I explained all this, the lady told me that if I did not have time to bake I could just go to the store and pick up some cans of soda. I said I would keep that in mind, but what I was thinking was: “Is she crazy? I just told her how busy I am. Does she think I have time to make another trip to the store with four kids in tow? It would take me less time to bake something! And what makes her think I can afford to buy even more food when I have six mouths to feed?” I wound up avoiding her and the whole bake sale table on the selected day.

After track practice on Saturday, I went home, made dinner, put the baby to bed, and went food shopping. After all this, I had a varicose vein that was bothering me. This tends to happen when I am under a great deal of stress and do not take extra vitamin E (which helps keep the circulatory system healthy). I put my legs up and asked my husband to put the food away. “Thank God I said no to that bake sale!” I exclaimed. It was really the bake sale that would have broken this camel’s back.

This was really what set into motion my series – which I shall continue – on hearing God’s call and staying true to your specific call. There are so many good causes, and only so much of you to go around. Your number one priority is your own family, and you are doing them a disservice if you exhaust yourself doing too much. Remember the basics of decision-making. Every “yes” is a “no” to something else.

I was called again to bake something for a meeting, this time by a lady who was very understanding as to how busy I was. I also explained that I would be hard-pressed to even get to the meeting on time, given my husband’s work schedule, so the promised goods would not even be there for the pre-meeting social time.

After I said no to that, I hung up and my husband walked in the door.

“I was just asked to bake something for the meeting tomorrow night,” I said.

“You don’t even bake for us any more,” my husband complained.

(This, by the way, was not true. I supervised the baking of chocolate-chip and blueberry muffins two nights previous, but they disappeared in one night. I also promised to bring a cake to the next family birthday party, coming up soon. It is true that I have not baked much lately, and probably will not pick up the pace until winter.)

“That is precisely why I said no,” I said, matter-of-factly, making a mental note to make something yummy just-for-us as soon as possible.

In the picture above are the cakes I made for the double celebration party we had in August. On the left is a white angel cake with white frosting, topped by our original wedding cake topper, to celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary. On the right is a Hershey’s Cocoa Chocolate Cake (see recipe on the container of Hershey’s Cocoa, in the baking aisle), to celebrate our baby’s second birthday. In the middle is a flower centerpiece that I was given to take home from our friends’ wedding, which we had all attended the day before the party. In the background is a line of white chocolate heart-shaped lollipops, which I gave out as favors.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Holiday Decorating on a Dime (Or Less!)

I have to put on blinders as I walk past the Christmas displays already up in department stores. It is too early for me to consider Christmas shopping.

Not that there is anything wrong with shopping early, especially if the intent is to make Advent a holier and more peaceful time. I used to do that until more recent years. Now, if I buy something really special for one of my kids it is too difficult for me to hold onto it, and will find some reason to give it as a reward. I also have no room to store gifts long-term. Finally, I have too many other responsibilities at the time and think my brain cannot handle the organizational energy it takes to shop for four children meaningfully, fairly, and equitably.

However, for those of us who like to give homemade gifts or make homemade decorations, preparing for Christmas can be a yearlong process. Therefore I am going to start putting up some homemade ideas from time to time.

You can use these decorating ideas for any holiday throughout the year – just change the colors to match the season!

1. Gather acorns.
Put them in a decorative bowl unadorned; or have your kids paint them first.

2. Make popcorn strings.
You can use food dye to make them more colorful. Add cranberries for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
For instructions see Wikihow.

3. Create pinecone animals.
Glue googly eyes and pipecleaners on pinecones to make your own pinecone critters. Spray silver or gold, or glue on multi-colored glitter; use string to make into an ornament for the Christmas tree, or hang from the ceiling for a festive look.
For instructions see Enchanted Learning.

4. Make cookie cutouts.
Use a recipe using basically flour and water – no butter or sugar. These are not meant to be eaten. Cut shapes to fit the holiday, paint with tempera paints or permanent markers, and put on a clear protective coat. These can be personalized to give as a gift. (My sister Joanna makes really cute ones every Christmas!)

5. Make construction paper cutouts.
This is so cheap but is quite effective when seen from the street. Make a series of uniform-looking cutouts in the same colors – hearts for Valentine’s Day, pumpkins for Autumn, trees for Christmas, snowflakes for Winter – and tape them up in all the windows facing the street. When I first drove up to this house while seven months pregnant with my first child, the pink hearts in the light-blue trimmed windows of the all-white house combined with the snow-covered ground to charm the socks off both of us. They will fade from the sun, so throw them out after the holiday season is over. Snowflake cutouts work well on the Christmas tree as well.

6. Make macaroni strings.
Drop food coloring into the water while cooking to color the pasta. Try different shapes – as long as they can be strung.

7. Gather your own fir.
Use a branch from a pine tree to make into a garland for your front door, Advent wreath, Jesse tree, or Advent tree. Use pieces of any evergreen to decorate railings, mantel pieces, or tops of picture frames.

8. Use your button collection.
Make a string of buttons in various shapes and colors. Hang in doorways, around lamps, or on a tree.

9. Make use of your half-completed projects.
A square of crocheted yarn can be hung from a tree, or placed under a decorative vase. No one will be the wiser.

10. Make use of your baby socks-without-a-partner.
These can be hung from the tree, or from an Advent tree, where your loved ones can find small surprises waiting in the morning.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fast for Hope!

My Own Personal Rainbow

“I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”
Genesis 9:13

Over the weekend, the History Channel had a special about the end of times. Since the time of Jesus, people have been reading into their own modern times and seeing the end as drawing near. The current financial crisis has made many fearful, and putting our troubles into the hands of big government yet again seems to draw us nearer to that end. On Saturday, the paper read, “Can the G7 Save Us?”

Happily, the History Channel ended with a scripture that my mother-in-law had quoted to me just last week: “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”(Mark 13:32)

Then the Sunday readings spoke of God’s grace that will provide, and dealing with times of lean and times of plenty.

Philippians 4: 12 - 14, 19 – 20
12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want.
13 I can do all things in him who strengthens me.
14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.
19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Everyone feels the economic crunch on some level, no matter what their tax bracket. God promises to provide for our basic needs, and to give us the grace to deal with times of difficulty.

But then comes a promise of plenty for those who have faith in end times. Here I think is a scripture to give us hope, rather than fear, if we should live to see the Day of Judgment.

Isaiah 25: 6 - 10
6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined.
7 And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken.
9 It will be said on that day, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation."
10 For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain, and Moab shall be trodden down in his place, as straw is trodden down in a dung-pit.

This rainbow appeared directly above my house today, making me lean toward dwelling on the promises of a kind and merciful God.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Updated Report on UNICEF for this Halloween

"Life News - October 2008
It’s that time of year again – those little
orange boxes carried by children or
positioned at the check-out line in the grocery store—
asking for donations to the United Nations Children’s
Fund (UNICEF). Years ago, UNICEF was created to
address the issues of poverty, clean water and education
for the world’s children. Today, the organization is heavily
involved in promoting abortion in developing countries.
A UN-sponsored conference was held last October in
London entitled “Women Deliver.” Out of the 98
scheduled sessions, 35 focused on abortion and 2
addressed newborn health. Each of the three daily opening
plenary sessions highlighted ‘reproductive rights’ with
leading abortion advocates. None of the sessions
addressed primary child health issues such as vaccine
availability, clean water, safe sanitation, availability of
basic nutritional supplementation, training for village
health workers in identifying calorie malnutrition, or
provisions of foodstuffs to combat protein calorie
malnutrition. Child mortality was minimally addressed as

A 2004 United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
report acknowledged that the best way to reduce maternal
mortality was through the presence of skilled birth
attendants and emergency obstetrics. These issues were
minimally addressed at the October 2007 conference.
Caesarian births, peri- and post-natal care, stillbirths and
related complications were also downplayed at the
conference. Obstetric fistula, the subject of a UNFPA
awareness campaign, was only addressed twice.

Over the past few months, UNFPA and other UN
agencies have been pushing a new target of “universal
access to reproductive health by 2015.” In 2000, more
than 150 heads of state met and developed an agreement
consisting of eight broad goals (Millennium Development
Goals, MDGs) such as eliminating poverty and hunger,
achieving universal primary education and reducing child
mortality. None of these goals mentioned ‘reproductive
health’—a term that is used to promote abortion. The UN
General Assembly has never agreed to such a definition.

Prior to the five-year review of the MDGs in 2005,
pro-abortion advocates including the International Planned
Parenthood Federation and UNFPA launched an
aggressive campaign to adopt a new goal on ‘reproductive
health.’ This effort failed. A political declaration
endorsing ‘reproductive health’ was issued, but it is
non-binding and has no force in international law.
Abortion promoters have been trying since then to attach
‘reproductive health’ to the existing MDGs.

At the board meeting of UNICEF in June, 2008, the US
delegation took issue with the latest UNICEF report which
included a reference to a ‘reproductive health’ target under
the MDGs. US representative to UNICEF Bill Brisben
stated that the US is committed to achieving the core
MDGs agreed to in the Millennium Declaration and
reaffirmed the 2005 Outcome Document of the World
Summit. He continued, however, that the US “does not
support the addition of new goals, targets, or indicators to
the internationally-agreed Millennium Development
Goals…neither we nor other UN Member States have
agreed to the creation by the UN Secretariat of a new
MDG target on reproductive health.”

Last month, the US rejected an invitation to join a new
Danish campaign calling on governments to “accelerate
implementation of Millennium Development Goal 3”
calling for “gender equality and women’s empowerment.”
Many believe this campaign is intended to go beyond the
mandate and will be used to promote a new MDG on
reproductive health supported by abortion advocates. The
Danish government initiated the “Torch Campaign” to
encourage governments and society to “Do Something
Extra” to accelerate achievement of MDG 3. The
campaign calls on governments to ensure women’s
“sexual and reproductive health and rights” by claiming
that “access to services and information on sexual and
reproductive health will empower women to make their
own choices about the number of children they have, safe
pregnancy and delivery.”

Abortion advocates have been attempting to attach
‘reproductive health’ to MDG 5 which focuses on
improving maternal health. The Torch Campaign is
attempting to raise $500 million to improve the lives of
women through the Thematic Fund on Maternal Health. In
addition to focusing on the reduction of maternal death
and disability, this fund also addresses “adolescent sexual
and reproductive health and the prevention of unsafe
abortion and the management of its complications.”
UNICEF is one of the “torch bearers” in this campaign,
along with the World Health Organization and the United
Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

Pro-life UN watchers remain concerned that the
disproportionate focus on unsafe abortion based on
questionable maternal mortality figures detracts from
addressing the major health risks to pregnant women in
the developing world, including severe bleeding,
eclampsia and obstructed labor. A representative from a
pro-life NGO (Non-governmental organization) stated at
the 2007 conference in London, “If UNICEF and the other
organizers cared more about maternal and child health
they would focus on the top killers of women and
children. It is clear to us that this conference is more about
promoting abortion than it is about dealing with the issues
that most women face every day.”

Sources: 10/12/07, 10/4/07, 7/10/08, 6/19/08
Regina Carbonaro—516-795-7568—

Reprinted with special permission from Life News - October 2008; publication of the Long Island Coalition for Life "

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The BOGO Dilemma

I went to Payless Shoe Source today to get my toddler a pair of black dress shoes for the winter. She was really excited when I walked her into the toddler section and she realized the shoes were for her. Actually, every time I go shoe shopping she is usually one of the recipients, as the shoes have invariably been worn out by the first two girls. Either that, or I have saved them so long that I no longer can locate them.

Whenever there is a “buy one get one free” offer I intend to take advantage of, I always search for two of the same exact price so I can get the full value of the deal. (With meats, I am willing to risk frostbite so I can find a package with the same exact poundage.)

After finding exactly what I was looking for, a size 8 black leather “Mary Jane” type of shoe for $12.99, I started looking for another shoe of the exact same price. For some reason, the same style shoe in the next size up was marked $14.99, so I looked in the women’s department. There was nothing I could use in that price range. So I went back and agonized over the choice.

There was another size 9 shoe for $12.99, but it was not real leather and not as nice a style as the first shoe. Finally, I decided I liked the first pair enough that I would like to have them in the next size, even if there was a $2.00 difference between the two. I brought up my twin pairs in sizes 8 and 9.

Oh, no. The customer in front of me was returning a pair of shoes and started an argument with the store manager. Apparently she had used the BOGO deal on her purchase and did not understand why she was not getting the full value of the shoe back. This went on for a full ten minutes. Now I started looking at my watch nervously, because I had to get to a cross country meet.

My toddler had been good long enough, and wanted to “go go” and “walk”. I struggled with her as she tried to get down. Seeing no one else ready to get in line, I took her to sit on a chair. She flopped off it and sat on the floor.

Now a pregnant-looking woman was headed toward the line. I scooped up my little one and high-tailed it over there. “Excuse me, I’m sorry, but I’ve been waiting for a while and had to chase her over there. She’s at the end of her rope.” She gave me an understanding look and waved me ahead.

The manager ended the argument by giving in. “Look, I just want you to understand that it’s not right, because you’ve gotten three pairs of shoes at half price and that’s not the way it’s supposed to work, but I don’t want to lose customers so I’m going to give it to you this time.”

By this time, the baby was shrieking, “Down! Down!”

Whenever I see a customer being difficult with a cashier, I try to go out of my way to be extra nice to the employee. There is much to be said about civility, and a kind word or sympathetic look can go a long way to make up for the irritations that may be building up throughout their shift.

I arrived at the counter, apologizing, “I am so sorry, she has lost her patience,” knowing full well that the manager was on the edge of losing hers as well. She probably identified with my toddler, wishing she could throw a tantrum.

“That’s okay, I have kids too,” she said.

I saw the lesser pair of shoes ring up at $7.50 and quietly asked, “Excuse me, but was that shoe not $12.99?”

“Actually, they were mismarked. The price has gone up to $14.99,” she replied.

“Oh,” I said, hardly caring anymore.

Then she did a quick recalculation and rang up a new number. “I’m going to ring in both shoes at $12.99,” she said, and I got the second pair for $6.50.

So I got my full value of the deal plus a few dollars off, just by being nice. The other lady got what she wanted as well, but only by leaving bad feelings all over the place.

*By the way, be careful of breast cancer awareness bracelets, which are sold at Payless at well as many other distributors. Carefully research the company before contributing; many times much of the funding goes towards “women’s reproductive health”, which includes abortion.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I went outside this afternoon to water my baby fir trees and found the telltale signs that a MOLE had visited my newly planted bulb garden! I just had to laugh at this – what else could I do? I am used to being disappointed in my gardening efforts. (The chrysanthemums that I planted on the south side of my fence – lavendar, yellow, and burnt red – faded within days.)

We have always had moles in our backyard, leaving tracks throughout the lawn. My husband just steps over their paths while mowing. He thinks them a good joke, and it brightens up his time cutting the grass.

After 9/11/01, I decided to plant a victory garden in one corner of the backyard. With the bulb planter, I spelled out U.S.A. in six-inch-deep holes and dropped in multi-colored tulip bulbs. My letters were promptly eaten, but a few tulips were left in a haphazard fashion.

However, the bulbs I have planted in the rock gardens out front have gone untouched through the years. This led me to believe the front yard was safe. (This, by the way, flies in the face of the theory that dogs will keep moles away. Our labrador lives in the backyard and is not allowed in the front yard.)

Now I am under the impression that moles will avoid rock gardens and only visited this new garden because it contained only freshly aerated dirt. Hopefully they missed a few. We shall see next spring!

I was thinking all day about various moles that visit us and undo our hard work. My list is too long to delve into here. But what they have in common is the resulting feeling, “All that hard work for nothing!”

We Catholics are taught that how we get through the journey is everything. As in my case of planting the bulb garden, the process was more important than the end result. Or, more to the point, the meaning of the activity shared with my daughter was more imperative than how my garden looks next year. (I have not told my daughter about the mole that visited, and if nothing comes up next year I suspect I will go out and purchase nursery-grown bulbs in their place.)

I could hardly believe it, but my Nave’s Topical Bible did contain two references for moles. One was a caution of their uncleanliness for eating:

“Of the creatures that swarm on the ground, the following are unclean for you: the rat, the mouse, the various kinds of lizards, the gecko, the chameleon, the agama, the skink, and the mole. (Lev. 11:29-30, NAB)

The other was a prophesy of the Day of Judgment:

“On that day men will throw to the moles and the bats the idols of silver and gold which they made for worship.” (Isaiah 3:19)

It is a sinful world, and all we can do is keep on sowing and planting, knowing that the moles will not get all the bulbs, and the weeds will not choke all the seeds.

One question is left unanswered. My bulbs were labeled “deer resistant”. I wonder if predators will avoid eating the moles that ate my bulbs.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sick Day

“Mommy, my tummy hurts,” my nine-year-old came to me saying, early this morning.

My kids would not dare to play sick, so I say, “Okay, tell your sister you are staying home and to get some ginger ale from the garage for you.”

I let her lay around until noon before declaring she needed to get outdoors. We took the baby around the block in her red wagon. For some reason, she insisted that her big sister pull her. Every time I tried to alleviate her burden, she would holler until I gave back the handle.

Once the baby was in bed, I made some chicken noodle soup. That did wonders for her constitution. Then I took down my dutch bulbs and put them in front of her. I had been purchasing one box of bulbs each week for five weeks, waiting for the perfect time. Now that the white picket fence has its new coat of paint (which took me a full four weeks) it is the perfect backdrop for a colorful spring display.

“Can you help me figure out a planting pattern for these?” I asked her.

We divided up the north side of the fence into sections. I have been planting baby fir trees there for several years now, so that there is one evergreen per post, and one at the center of the pickets between each post. We called the area in between two fir trees a “section”, and counted up ten sections. We divided our bulbs into early-blooming and late-flowering, and came up with a plan.

In the middle of each section would be one late-flowering drumstick alium

with an early-blooming wild tulip directly on top of it.

Flanking that would be two Grecian windflowers. We had a few left over of each of these types of bulbs to put in other areas of the yard.

Six white daffodils obdam went around a lamp-post by the street. I have been trying to plant things there for years and my husband keeps mowing over them. (These should come up before the mowing season, and will be obvious enough to leave alone.)

Four English wood hyacinths went in a border garden on the south side of the house.

I showed my daughter how to use the bulb digger, and reviewed the plan for our planting pattern. I prepared each section by ripping out the grass and she followed me with the bulb digger, bulbs, and water. When we were done, she deadheaded the marigolds and sprinkled the seeds on top of the fresh dirt. If we are lucky, they will germinate there, for a real show of summer color once the bulbs are done.

I washed my hands just in time for the school bus to arrive and the baby to wake up. My daughter, upon seeing her makeup work, promptly returned to the couch for a well-earned nap.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

How to Hear that Still, Small Voice

God calls each of us in a unique way because we are that special. Here are some ways that have helped me to be spiritually “still” (even while busy running a family) and hear His voice.

1. Don’t create your own noise! Don’t yell or be a motor-mouth. Work on your listening skills.
2. Limit usage of telephone, internet, radio, and television.
3. Establish a “quiet time” during which children read in their rooms.
4. Work outdoors: garden, walk, run, bicycle, paint, mow the lawn.
5. Establish a regular bedtime so you know when you will have peace and quiet.
6. Establish a time after which you no longer will accept telephone calls.
7. Learn, and encourage in the children, individual creative activities that keep the hands busy while the mind can be active and open: knitting, crocheting, painting, cross-stitching, embroidery, wood-carving.
8. Read the Bible.
9. Write in a journal.
10. Learn to “tune out” extraneous noises.
11. Listen to classical, orchestral music with no words.
12. Read spiritual, uplifting, thought-provoking literature.

Picture above: Elijah in the Desert, undated icon from Northern Russia.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Tiny Whispering Sound: Elijah’s Call

I Kings 19:11 (NAB)
Then the LORD said, "Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by." A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD--but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake--but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire--but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.

I have been thinking about this particular scripture for two days, while waiting until I had ample time to turn on my computer and write about it. During that time, two people wrote to me about this same passage! That is one way in which God confirms a step we should take: if we don’t hear Him the first time, or are unsure how to interpret a sign, or delay, or even refuse, he repeats like a broken record (yes, I still remember those) until we get it.

I think people today are so tired of being constantly bombarded by information, bad news, personal calamities, acts of nature and acts of war, that the notion of hearing God in the silence is a real comforting one. My days can sometimes feel like a hurricane and I crave the silence of the evening, or naptime while the older kids are in school. The telephone and television often seem like intruders. Four children make enough noise without piling more on top of it. Try listening to three of them practice the piano every day!

Now these two verses alone speak volumes (no pun intended), but the context makes them even more fascinating. Here is the entire chapter from which they come, along with some of my thoughts on how one man’s call pertains to us women today.

1 Kings
Chapter 19 (NAB)
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done--that he had put all the prophets to the sword.
Jezebel then sent a messenger to Elijah and said, "May the gods do thus and so to me if by this time tomorrow I have not done with your life what was done to each of them."
Elijah was afraid and fled for his life, going to Beer-sheba of Judah. He left his servant there
and went a day's journey into the desert, until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death: "This is enough, O LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers."

Elijah had been doing some important work for the Lord and fled to the desert in fear for his life. But then his fear left him, and he began to feel depressed and worthless. How often do women feel so oppressed by their daily responsibilities, which do not go away when dealing with death, illness, and calamity? They may feel like running away. Where to? A desert would probably be attractive at such a time. In the desert you could truly get away from it all.

He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree, but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.
He looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again,
but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and ordered, "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!"
He got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.

He fell asleep and was wakened and ordered by an angel to eat for the strength he needed for his journey. He did not feel like eating. This happens to women all the time. Probably a full third of women fail to eat breakfast. They need this to sustain themselves for the work they will do that day. If they do not take the time to eat, they probably also do not take the time to pray or read the Word of God. How reasonable then that so many women should be feeling tired all the time – not taking the physical or spiritual food they need for their important work of nurturing others. Depression, too, hits the majority of women at least once during the course of their lives. When we feel like doing nothing but sleep, we are ordered to get up, eat, and take up our journey. Here again is another mention of forty days and nights, repeated throughout the Bible as a time for fasting and prayer.

There he came to a cave, where he took shelter. But the word of the LORD came to him, "Why are you here, Elijah?"
He answered: "I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life."

We all feel alone against the world from time to time. We get so sick of fighting in a sinful world. We are fighting to keep our children pure and innocent in the culture that would corrupt them. The public schools have torn down God’s altars. The media puts up false gods for our children to emulate and idolize. Some of us just remove the television, radio, and internet entirely and replace them with good literature. But we cannot keep them away from the pop culture everywhere they go. If our families and friends do not support our effort we really feel that we have nowhere to turn. Then, when we really need it, if we look for God’s word to help us through it, it comes.

Here comes my favorite part…

Then the LORD said, "Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by." A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD--but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake--but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire--but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.

This is a stunning display of contrasts. The funny thing is that all the acts of nature were actually created by God – so of course He was in them – but the voice Elijah was looking for was not. All of the storms in our lives are permitted by God, while we ask continually, “Why? Where are you?” But if all was calm, would we hear the particular whispering that is the Lord speaking to us? Would we even be listening for it?

When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, "Elijah, why are you here?"
He replied, "I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. But the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life."

Of course, the Lord knew why Elijah was there, but He needed him to voice his concerns aloud. Sometimes our concerns are so pressing that it seems superfluous to express them in prayer. But God needs us to ask so He can answer.

"Go, take the road back to the desert near Damascus," the LORD said to him. "When you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king of Aram.
Then you shall anoint Jehu, son of Nimshi, as king of Israel, and Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, as prophet to succeed you.
If anyone escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill him. If he escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill him.
Yet I will leave seven thousand men in Israel--all those who have not knelt to Baal or kissed him."
Elijah set out, and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him.
Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, "Please, let me kiss my father and mother good-bye, and I will follow you." "Go back!" Elijah answered. "Have I done anything to you?"
Elisha left him and, taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then he left and followed Elijah as his attendant.

Here are multiple calls in one. God calls Elijah to annoint several people, including Elisha, for God’s calling . All had to say “yes” in order for the work to be done. Why was it necessary for Elisha to deliver these messages? Why could not God speak individually to each of them? Surely God was not lazy, or trying to save time. Maybe God was sending Elijah on this mission just to prove to him that he was not alone; there were holy men to help in serving the Lord. Whatever his reasons, we have to be aware that sometimes God is going to speak to us through other people.

In my next post I will list ways in which we can hear that still small voice amidst the constant noise of small children and our busy lives.

Painting by BOUTS, Dieric the Elder
”Prophet Elijah in the Desert”