Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Towards a Better Resolution

I have been making birthday and New Years’ Resolutions ever since I started keeping journals, at the age of eight. Although I have been refining the process through my lifetime, they tend to always be formed along the same theme. Since I keep doing it, and enjoying it, I think I have a pretty good system in place. Here are the parameters for my resolution-making formula.

I make 10 general resolutions. These address all areas of life: spiritual, physical, psychological, and social. They also cover the JOY spectrum I learned in Sunday School: my relationships with Jesus first, then Others, then Self. They tend to cover the same areas of priorities and personal development that have been important throughout my life: family, prayer life, personal fitness, housekeeping projects (gardening, building, decluttering), skills development (piano, art, writing), and career advancement (publishing).

Making general resolutions is important in defining what is most important to me at this moment in my life, before making more specific ones. The more specific goals are those that outline exactly how I am going to meet each resolution. For example, here is one item that appears on most adults’ list: personal fitness. How many minutes per day will I exercise? What forms of exercise will I use? In looking back on the year, one might say, “Okay, I can still stand to lose 5 pounds, but I did manage to weight train twice a week and increase my muscle to fat ratio.” So even if you have to work more on the same resolution next year, you can say you did not fail. You were successful in part of the goals.

Always on my list is Writing More and Getting Published. Under that goal, I can say: write x minutes per day, submit one proposal per month, submit to y publisher of z magazine, etc. If I fail at publishing in print, at least I can say I wrote everyday and self-published on my blog.

Sometimes I can kill two birds with one stone. The specifics of two different general goals can work toward both ends. Decluttering has been quite popularized of late. Last year, under the general resolution of “organize house”, I made it a sub-goal to donate one-third of my books to my public library. I did it, and was able to use my new-found shelf space to organize our home office, which was another of my sub-goals. (In all fairness, I must admit that my garage is still a mess; however, I did take 5 minutes per day throughout the fall to organize small sections of it.)

On my birthday, Aug. 30, I revisit my goals. I put a check mark under the ones that I have made progress on, making notes on what I have done and what could be done better, and refine. Then I make a new list of goals, building on the ones I had made earlier in the year. I keep my resolutions in my journal. Others might find it easier to keep a notebook just for this purpose. A mini-notebook can be used for a daily log of exercise to keep you on track.

Do you keep your resolutions private, or make them public? This depends on you. Some people find that confiding their goals in someone help them to keep them better. Others find this a hindrance. I have a few writing friends that I have confided my publishing goals in, but in general keep those private. My spiritual and personal fitness goals are completely private. My organizational goals are public; they make for good conversation.

Obviously, resolutions must be reasonable, or they will be given up within a week. Only you know what is possible for you.

Happy New Year to you and yours, and if you make resolutions, resolve to keep them!

Where Have I Been?

All six members of my family, in addition to my houseguests, succumbed to a stomach virus, in various forms, over the weekend. ‘Nuff said. (Although our dog was not sick, we all felt the way Bear looks in the picture above.) Everyone is on the mend now, in time to go out and enjoy a beautiful snow that is presenting falling in my yard. Once I get all the kids out and the baby napping, I will be able to clear out my inbox and take out my journal to work on my New Years’ Resolutions. Do you have trouble making, or keeping, your resolutions? If you have time, please come back for my next post, “Towards a Better Resolution”, which I expect to publish over the next few hours. (I will also be consulting a grammar book to see if I should be using “toward” or “towards”.)


According to Dr. Grammar,
Toward(s), Forward(s), Backward(s)?
"No final s ('towards'), although that's how they say it in Britain. Similarly, in American English, standard practice is not to add a final s to forward, backward, upward, onward, downward, and so on.
[Example:] George and Karmer were last seen heading toward the buffet." (O'Conner, Who Is I 117-118).

But according to English Chick,
These two words are usually considered to be alternate spellings of each other. Mostly, it's a matter of personal preference. In case you care, my own personal preference is to leave the "s" off, just because it can be confusing, seeming to imply plurality where there is none. (Incidentally, the same applies to "anyway/anyways.")

Since I grew up reading classic English literature, I lean towards keeping the s as my personal preference.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Company, and a Birthday Party

Things are usually pretty quiet in my house, taking into consideration the four kids who live here. This week I hosted Christmas as well as a birthday party for my daughter. I have had company every day, with more expected through the New Year! It has been very exciting, albeit quite the whirlwind.

My daughter’s ten-year-old “Design-your-own” celebration with her friends was a success. We designed our own pizzas, designed our own cupcakes, and designed our own gingerbread houses. The pizzas were made of Boboli crusts with pizza sauce, cheese, and various toppings of their choosing. The cupcakes were plain vanilla with vanilla icing and lots of fun toppings. The “gingerbread houses” were composed of graham crackers, royal icing, and a variety of candies.

The kids had just arrived when I heard a cell phone blip. We don’t use cell phones in our house, so I knew it was one of the children receiving a text message. The texting continued halfway through the party. I wondered if we’d ever be able to fully engage Phone Girl in the present.

When the makings of a house all came out, suddenly the texting stopped. These maturing girls were not too old for gummy bears and gumdrops. When the first girl finished hers, she announced proudly, “Momma, Poppa, and Baby Bear have moved in!”

When there was a pause needed so I could clear and reset the table, they decided on their own that they wanted to play musical chairs. They took them from the kitchen into the living room, and my daughter played Christmas Carols while they tripped around the chairs.

Today there was a breather, and I decided to take the three older ones to the movies, leaving the toddler with my husband. We waited on line for The Tale of Despereaux, only to find it was sold out. I decided at the last moment to buy tickets for Bedtime Stories. To my surprise, I was given four free First Priority tickets for next time we come in! And we really enjoyed the movie- some tiny little improprieties that probably went over my kids’ heads, but altogether a good time, with the nice guy having his dreams come true in the end.

I skipped over the date my husband and I got to have last night, the first in quite a long time! We had a beautiful dinner, followed by a movie. We saw The Day the Earth Stood Still. My husband is not one for save-the-earth moralizing, so he did not like it, but I found it to be entertaining. We actually came home in between the dinner and the movie because there was too much of a gap before the next showing. I told the kids to go to bed and realized the next day that I had inadvertently sent them to bed without a dessert – the highest form of punishment in my house! I hope I made up for it today.

Painting: Nativity. Master of Hohenfurth, c. 1350, Web Gallery of Art

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve at the Miller Home

Although a light rain is falling, there is enough snow left on the ground from the weekend that it will still qualify as a White Christmas. I am thankful to have some time to write as the kids watch a movie in the living room.

Since my daughter’s birthday is so close to Christmas, we traditionally allow the children to open one gift early after the opening of birthday gifts. I gave them their movies, to keep them busy as I prepare for company: Prince Caspian (for my 11-year-old), Kit Kittredge (for my 10-year-old), Wall-E (for my 7-year-old), and Tinkerbell (for my 2-year-old).

Today is a relaxed day. The ham for tomorrow is out of the freezer and all I have left to do is supervise the children’s cleaning of their rooms before company comes. My bedroom looks like a storage room at the North Pole; I look forward to having it back!

Tonight we will have an early dinner at around 4:00, before we go to the Family Mass at 5:00. When we come home, we will have Christmas cookies and leftover birthday cake for dessert. The children will get on their Christmas pajamas. My husband and I will exchange gifts. (I am still “hinting” at what I want; he always goes out on Christmas Eve to get the one gift that is his responsibility.) We will finish up our Jesse Tree. They will go to bed.

Then all the presents come down and get placed under the tree. There will be one pile for each child. Using a spreadsheet program, I have kept track of all my purchases so that each child gets the same number of presents, valued at approximately the same total. For the little one, I have removed tags and packaging as much as possible, to make unwrapping easier for her.

In the morning, my oldest will come to me to let me know they are ready to go down. I’ll get my camcorder, run down to turn on the lights, and call them down. They will take turns opening, helping each other as needed. After breakfast, we will clean everything up and then get ready for company.

My in-laws will be coming for dinner at 2:00. On the menu are ham, potatoes, and lots of vegetables. I have a chocolate house and chocolate mousse pie for dessert, with a pumpkin pie that will be brought.

It sounds so nice now that I have it all written down. I will be sure to treasure every moment and be thankful for all we have.

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Nativity, Giotto di Bondone, 1304-06. Scenes from the Life of Christ. CGFA.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Duggars Welcome Child #18

"In this Aug. 2, 2007 file photo, Michelle Duggar, left, is surrounded by her children and husband Jim Bob, second from left, after the birth of her 17th child in Rogers, Ark. Michelle Duggar gave birth to her 18th child, a girl named Jordyn-Grace Makiya Duggar, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008." (AP Photo/ Beth Hall, File)

Congratulations to the Duggars on their newest edition! Thank you for being a shining light for a Culture of Life. Thank you also to the Learning Channel and Discovery Channel for bringing us the beautiful stories of the Duggars and other large families.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Urgent Action Needed!

President Elect Barack Obama has a new website in which you can post your comments on his proposed policies. Please go here to voice your opposition to the Freedom of Choice Act.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tips for Staying Sane This Week

I am not sure how much writing I will be able to do this week. On the flip side, my readers may be too busy to read my blog this week! So I will keep my posts short and sweet.

Today I had to go food shopping with several major events in mind, other than our normal meals. My daughter’s tenth birthday, Christmas, class parties, and guests expected to drop in. Today I had to bake cupcakes for two of my children’s classes. (I hear public schools no longer allow sweets of any kind, so I am thankful that I am allowed to send them in!) I still have to go downstairs and ice them and figure out how best to pack them.

We had to get ready all the little cards and (handmade) gifts for all the teachers. Tomorrow I will make my famous Hershey's chocolate cake for our own family to eat on my daughter’s birthday. It takes a bit of time but is outrageous. Then I will do a really good cleaning and waxing of my kitchen floor. That will do it for the week, other than the sweeping that is necessary twice a day.

Tips for Staying Sane Include:

1. Posting detailed lists on the fridge and checking off items when they are done. This gives me a great sense of satisfaction.

2. Lighting my Advent Candles every night at dinner. It makes the mood festive and peaceful.

3. Keeping reasonable expectations of myself and my children.

4. Getting enough sleep.

5. Eating enough fruits and veggies.

6. Taking a B-complex vitamin for energy.

7. Having stuff done ahead of time, as much as possible. If you didn’t do that this year, vow to do it next year.

8. Saying no to unreasonable requests.

9. Rewarding the kids for being good. If they have been good and have cleaned their rooms, St. Nick leaves candy canes or chocolates in their stockings that night.

10. Taking time for yourself at the end of the day. Do whatever makes you feel relaxed.

God bless you as you enter the final days of preparation!

Christmas Scene, 1820, Franz Xaver Frh vom Paumgartten

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Last night we were up to the Cross and Snake symbol on our Jesse Tree. That was to represent the story about God’s sending vipers to punish His people for complaining. I remembered writing about that same story last December.

Complaining is one of my biggest vices. Today I continually saw that Cross and Snake symbol in my mind as I griped. The kids were outside having a splendid time and I was moaning and groaning about having to mop the floor every time they came inside, dropping gobs of snow through the kitchen, to get new gloves. I was running to the dryer with armfuls of wet hats and gloves every fifteen minutes.

Meanwhile, I was missing out on enjoying the beauty of the ever-falling snow. The sweetness of my two-year-old getting rides on a sled from her older siblings. The cute little voice that came into the backdoor every five minutes holding out wet gloves, her pink little face saying, “It’s too wet.”

Okay, so I didn’t totally miss these things, but I could have gotten more out of it without my dissatisfaction.

I think they included that story in the Jesse Tree because it is part of the human condition to complain, to never be satisfied, to yearn for something better. And it is exactly at this time of year that we mothers are pulled by all the demands of preparing for Christmas, while the Christmas songs tell us to be “jolly”. It is God who tells us 800 times in the Bible to “be glad”. To be thankful is to be happy.

This is my sister’s favorite scripture:

"Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens.
This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live." -1 Thes. 5:16-18

The picture above is of the trees in my backyard Saturday at 1:00; compare to Friday's at 1:00 (yesterday's post).

Will there be a Bailout for the Abortion Industry?

Read the article here from World Net Daily.
Click here for an easy-to-fill-out form petitioning against such a bailout.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Half Snow Day

“It’s gonna snow tomorrow!”

“School’s gonna be canceled!”

The kids all came home yesterday carrying notes to the effect that a school closing was highly probably today.

“Should we bother making lunches?”

My eleven–year-old applied Murphy’s Law. “If we make lunches, it will snow and school will be canceled. If we don’t make lunches, it won’t snow and we’ll need them.”

“Hmm,” I responded, “You’d better make the lunches then.”

So they made the lunches. I promised to wake up at 5:00 to check the news for school closings. I did, flipping from channel to channel as our county was continually left out. The forecast now called for snow to start mid-morning. From the weather maps, it looked like Long Island was going to be spared much snowfall. I told the kids to pack their snow boots.

“What for?” they wanted to know.

“You’re probably going to have early dismissal because the snow is going to start after you get to school. Buckle up on the school bus and be careful!”

I warned my husband to try to get out early to get some work done. He is self-employed and works on the road. I also tried to get him to take a hat and gloves, but he did not believe that they would be needed. I’ll be kind and not say “I told you so” when he gets home. I am sure he can hear me saying it in his head right now.

By mid-morning, my toddler was excited to see a nice fluffy snow falling. She can now pronounce all of her syllables. “Snow,” she can say, replacing her former “No”. (No also used to mean “nose”, as well as No, which demonstrates the importance of context in listening to a toddler.)

She lifted up her Minnie Mouse to see out the window. “Snow car,” she says, meaning that the snow was starting to cover the car.

Having faith in more to come, I took out some butter and eggs to soften. We will make some chocolate chip cookies together.

I got a telephone call from the school nurse, letting me know that early dismissal was underway. She wasn’t exactly sure of the time, but she wanted to make sure we knew.

I can just see all the kids in their classes now, looking out the windows, letting words bounce off their ears. I hope the teachers are nice enough to keep the blinds open. When I was teaching, the principal said to close the blinds so the kids would not be distracted by the snow. How mean!

I’m excused from cleaning the floor today. Soon the kids will be tracking snow in and out of the house. Coats, scarves, wet mittens, and boots will be strewn all over the kitchen and laundry room.

The high school kids are home already. I see one on a skateboard, hitching a ride in the back of a car. Those fool kids!

It looks like it’s going to be a white Christmas for most folks this year. Especially in tough times, what a welcome treat that will be for all.

Above is a picture of the snow falling on the trees in my backyard at 1:00 this afternoon.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I'm Giving My Bathrooms a White Christmas

One week before Christmas. It is too early to do the regular cleaning for Christmas, but there are some deep cleaning chores that can be done to spruce up the house. When houseguests are expected, I make a conscious effort to organize my linen closet and bathroom cabinets. I also see the bathroom through a guest’s eyes and think, “Hmm, if I was a guest here, would I want to take a shower in there?” I keep a clean bathroom, but old tile and grout will never give you that satisfying bright “clean” look.

Every five years I use grout whitener to brighten up the look of the bathroom. You apply the whitener to the grout, let it sit for four hours, polish it, then apply the sealer. These results could not be gotten through scrubbing.

About once a month I throw the shower curtain in the bleach wash. The liner can go in there as well. After the washer is done, simply hang it back up on the hooks to dry.

If you have those crystal-looking sink handles, you can remove them and let them soak in an ammonia and water solution for about an hour, scrub with a toothbrush, and replace. You won’t believe how shiny and new they look! This I do about once a year.

This is how the tile and grout in my shower looked before.

This is the product I used to whiten the grout. It is available in Walmart and Home Depot, and comes with a sealer in a similar bottle.

This is how the tile and grout look after. All the kids noticed immediately.

This is how the faucet looked before.

First, use a flathead screwdriver to take off the little pieces that say H and C. Holding the knob to the right to keep the faucets from turning on, use a Phillips head screwdriver to remove the screws that hold on the handles.

This is how the faucet looks without all the handles, after I have cleaned the gunk off with some CLR and a toothbrush.

This is the faucet after all parts have been cleaned and shined.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Elizabeth’s Thrifty Quick-Wrapping Tips

I have no empty closets in which to hide Christmas gifts. Therefore, I am forced to wrap my gifts as soon as I get home from a shopping trip. I keep a store of wrapping supplies handy in my bedroom for this purpose. I turn over the top gift in each pile so the kids don’t see their names on anything.

Clear tape: Walmart brand is about one-third the price of name-brand and works just as well.

Christmas wrap: One huge roll, purchased last January at one-tenth the seasonal price

Black permanent ink calligraphy pen with two ends: One thick nub for labeling gifts and cards and one thin nub for inscribing books – available at Michael’s or Walmart. This eliminates the need for annoying, time-consuming tags.

Book of Quotations: For inscribing books.

Bows: One bag of about 25, purchased at the end of the season. I do not put bows on during the initial wrapping. This enables me to lay all the gifts flat for more efficient storage, and carry them in the car if necessary. On Christmas Eve I first lay out all the gifts, then strategically place the bows. For gifts that will be transported, I use ribbon if anything.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Carol Meme

I got this from MacBeth’s Opinion.

1. Love 'em, hate 'em, tolerate 'em, or...?
Love them! All of them!

2. Policy: none before Christmas, none before Thanksgiving, or...?
None before Thanksgiving. I take out my "Book of Golden Christmas" to start practicing the day after Thanksgiving.

3. Favorite? Favorites, if you've got more than one?
Any of the ones I can play on the piano. I like all the classics. O Holy Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, Silent Night, etc.

4. Least favorite? Drives you batty/hate it/turn it off if it comes on the radio?
Santa Got Run Over by a Reindeer (Of course, this does not constitute a Christmas Carol – songs that are not hymns are referred to as Christmas Songs. I like many Christmas Songs from the kids’ Christmas specials.)

5. Caroling door to door in neighborhood? Ever done it/would do it? Wouldn't even consider it?
Have done it and would do it again. I keep cookies on hand in case they come by, which is seldom.

6. Funniest kids' rendition, if any?
Kids used to add “like a lightbulb” at the end of every phrase in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. I never really understood why this was funny. I don’t like the “Batman Smells” version of “Jingle Bells” because I think it’s disrespectful.

7. Most inappropriate carol ever heard in a church setting (Catholic or otherwise)?
I can’t think of any.

8. The one foreign language carol I know (or know best) is...?
Does “JOY / Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by J.S. Bach count? (There are no words but the title was originally foreign.)

9. Carol that perplexes you the most?
The Twelve Days of Christmas. I know they were supposedly code for the catechism at a time when Christians were being persecuted. I need to educate myself on the meanings of these verses. There is a thorough explanation here.

10. Carol your whole family will sing?
Any and all.

Consider yourself tagged if you’d like to copy this and post your own answers to your blog.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What is Your Brain's Pattern?

Your Brain's Pattern

Structured and organized, you have a knack for thinking clearly.

You are very logical - and you don't let your thoughts get polluted with emotions.

And while your thoughts are pretty serious, they're anything from boring.

It's minds like yours that have built the great cities of the world!

For Goodness Sake, Enjoy Those Christmas Cookies!

One of our favorite pastimes in December is the making and eating of cookies. We have been making batches of cookies daily this week, a different type each day; and I keep meaning to make some dishes for the neighbors. After dinner the entire plate disappears like magic. “Oh well,” I say, “I guess we’ll have to make more tomorrow!”

I went food shopping this afternoon and became very angry when I saw the headlines on almost every one of the women’s magazines featured at the checkout line. “Lose 10 pounds by Christmas, Is Stress Making You Fat?, New Miracle Fat-Burning Food, Eat More and Lose Weight, What Happened to Oprah?”

It seems very strange that these titles would be so heavily featured between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the time that most adults tend to gain a few pounds. Women are stressed out, trying to prepare a nice Christmas for their families. This stress is increasing their cortisol levels, which causes them to gain weight. It is making them tired, which causes them to gain weight. Then they see these titles, which increases their guilt at eating delicious food, which increases their stress while eating, which causes them to gain weight.

Dieting right now can actually be dangerous. Cut out the carbohydrates that your brain needs and you will suffer headaches; the hormones needed to keep your mood stabilized will be short-changed, making you irritable or depressed. Resetting your metabolism to using less calories now will cause you to retain the calories when you do let yourself eat at a party.

Most of the editors of these magazines are women, and I am quite surprised that they can purposely do this to other women. I don’t know how they can sleep at night.

Advent is supposed to be a time of feasting and joy. We are supposed to sit by a fire, or on the couch under blankets, enjoying the warmth and the plenty of our tables. Our bodies are made to naturally conserve a little fat over the winter, to keep us warm. I say, enjoy those Christmas cookies, and forget about your weight until New Year’s.

“Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
Psalms 103:5

Today we light the pink candle for the third week of Advent.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What Movie is Your Christmas Most Like?

Your Christmas is Most Like: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Each year, you really get into the spirit of Christmas.

Which is much more important to you than nifty presents.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Did Adam and Eve Exist?

We are a little behind with our Jesse Tree this year. Normally when we trim the tree we would have a large fir branch we could use for this purpose. This time, the branches were cut at the nursery and my husband had not thought of bringing one home. I brought out our box of Jesse Tree ornaments and started today, with one scripture story per child, until we catch up.

During our reading of the story of Adam and Eve, my 11-year old daughter told me that everyone in her religion class, including her teacher, says the story is not true! It is just a story to teach a lesson, not to be taken literally, they say.

I informed my children that of course the story is true, the all of God’s Word is true, and that people have been trying to say otherwise since the dawn of time.

I teach my children not to believe everything they hear, whether it be in a textbook, in the newspaper, on television, or from their teacher.

But the Word of God is one thing they can always put their faith in.

Adam and Eve. Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1526. Courtauld Gallery, London

A Volcano Erupts in my Sink

“And now, for something completely different.”

If you’re easily grossed out, don’t read this post.

I’m working at my computer this afternoon when the front door bursts open. My son pounds up the steps. “I feel like I’m gonna throw up,” he exclaims.

“Try to make it to the sink,” I say.

Two steps more and he is in the bathroom, throwing up.

Within an hour, he is feeling much better, but the question still remains: how do I get this stuff to go down the drain? So I bring up a gallon of vinegar, pour it on, and let it sit for a while. It does some magic, but it needs more help. Four hours later, I have poured the entire gallon into the sink.

“Hmmm, how about baking soda?” I think to myself. This is normally what I use to clean out drains. I get the baking soda out of the fridge and sprinkle a little in. There is a satisfying fizz. What the heck, I think, and pour the rest of it in. Suddenly I remember that this is the way we make mud volcanoes in the backyard.

“Oh no!” I yell. The fizz is coming up and is halfway up the sink. My daughters come to see what is going on. It is grosser than gross, and I’m laughing hysterically. It comes right up to the rim of the sink and stops.

Five minutes later, the liquid settles, leaving only the molted lava at the base of the sink. Phew, that was a close one.

“The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.”
Psalms 97:5

Photograph by Carsten Peter.
“Perched above the lighted city of Catania, Italy, Mount Etna hurls a fountain of fire skyward as rivers of lava spill down its flanks. In spite of its dazzling displays, Mount Etna is a relatively safe volcano with rare, compact eruptions and slow-flowing lava that gives people a chance to escape.” – National Geographic

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ruth’s Legacy: The Calling of a Wife and Mother

I started my notes on this post on Nov. 5, while at my daughters’ cross-country meet. I had actually felt called upon to writing about Ruth while doing a mini-series on Callings back in September. I have to admit I was not very excited about the prospect. Ruth was a good girl and nothing very exciting happened to her. Unlike Esther, whose tale is highly dramatic. (She has always been my favorite – but I’ll have to save her for another post. See how I really don’t want to write about Ruth? And yet I feel compelled to.)

Wait just a minute here. Did I say nothing exciting ever happened to Ruth? How about becoming a widow, leaving your country with your mother-in-law, changing your religion, being thrust into a totally new culture, and then having to find a husband to take care of you and your mother-in-law? All this is told so succinctly, in such a matter-of-fact fashion, that you have to stop and re-read to let it all sink in.

After re-reading Ruth’s brief biography – which is only four chapters long – I knew I was going to need some time to thoroughly dissect it. For she was simple and good, and yet so much complexity lay underneath her actions, which were further complicated by distinct cultural morays. And her life account ends immediately after she gives birth to Obed, as if that was the sum total of her existence. Not exactly what we modern mothers want to hear, is it?

Then I thought of my own family tree. I have the advantage of having had young parents and grandparents, who could remember several generations back. I have recorded their names, countries, and careers, if any. What stories have I heard about them? Most of them relate to the romance that led to the marriages, and the subsequent children they had. After all, that is what a family tree is.

I believe Ruth’s place in the Jesse Tree is the primary reason for her inclusion in the Old Testament. She most likely had a wonderful life, having a loving husband who held a good position in the community. She may have gone on to do many fulfilling things. We don’t hear about that because it is not pertinent to her role in the ancestry of Jesus.

There are many days when we mothers may feel as if we were cut out for much more than picking up after the house, breaking up fights between siblings, and making dinner. It is then that we must freeze that moment in time and fit it into a larger timeline. Imagine that one day on the timeline of your whole life, from birth to (hopefully) old age. How many years out of your life will you actually spend caring for children? Perhaps 20 – a quarter of your life. Now imagine that upon this quarter of your life rests your legacy – what your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will be told about you. The other three-quarters can be used as you wish. That sounds like a real bargain.

Suddenly, I no longer feel the need to dissect the story of Ruth any further. I have gleaned from her story all I need to at this point in my life. Perhaps when I am older I will read it again and find something else.

Ruth and Boaz are symbolized on the Jesse Tree as a symbol of wheat. The suggested readings are Ruth 1:16; 2:2, 8, 10-12; 4:13-14

Painting: “Ruth Gleaning.” James Tissot, 1896-1900. Christian Theological Seminary

Monday, December 8, 2008

What Kind of Intelligence Do You Have?

I got this off my friend Loren Christie's blog. These are my results. Click on the picture to take the test.

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence

You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.

An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.

You are also good at remembering information and convincing someone of your point of view.

A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Elizabeth’s Baked Chicken with Paprika

This comes from my Hungarian background. Basically you take any kind of meat, sprinkle it with salt and paprika, and you have a Hungarian dish! Paprika comes in sweet and hot varieties. (Sometimes I use the hot variety instead of pepper in dishes such as meatloaf.)

The Hungarians, being landlocked, had to use many foods that were preserved. But most of their livestock was grown fresh by the housewives. They grew their own chickens and other fowl, killed them, and prepared them. Fortunately I am spared the trouble. But did you hear that chicken producers clean the chicken pieces with bleach after chopping them up? Make sure you clean your chicken thoroughly and cook it until it is really done.

Lay chicken pieces out in your pot. Sprinkle with salt and sweet paprika. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.

Elizabeth’s Rice with Spinach

This is a great way to get some fresh spinach into a dish. Small families will need one cup of rice with two cups of water. My family needs two cups of rice with four cups of water. In a large pot, add some salt. Bring to a simmer. Put large bag of washed spinach on top of the water and cover. Lower heat to its lowest setting, so that water continues to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Do not open the lid to test the rice – this will release steam and interfere with its proper cooking. Only when the timer goes off should you test it. The rice should be puffy but with a slight bite. Not crispy. It should have absorbed all of the water. If it has not, you have another 5 minutes to go. When rice is done, remove from heat, fluff with a fork and recover for 5 minutes to let the steam continue its work on perfecting your rice.

Elizabeth’s Simply Steamed Brussel Sprouts

Cover bottom of a Corningware dish with a small amount of water. Cut off ends of fresh brussel spouts and place in dish. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with glass dish. Steam in microwave for about 7 minutes.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Which Narnia Character Are You Most Like?

Ode to an Old Wreath

The first thing I hang the day after Thanksgiving is this old wreath. Now that I see it in the picture, I think it is looking a bit asymmetrical. It needs to be turned a bit; the poinsettias and leaves need to be more properly placed. But I love it.

I have had this same wreath for ever so long, and like it much better than the standard green wreath that must be purchased new each year. I like it because it is old, and because it says so much about us.

It says, hello, greetings, and Merry Christmas! We love teddy bears because we are friendly and snuggly and loveable. We were recycling way before it was popular because our great-grandparents lived through the Great Depression, reused things out of necessity, and passed on their stories through oral tradition.

My great-grandfather used to go to the dump three times a day to pick up re-usable items. My favorite thing in his house was a tarnish brass frog with a wide open mouth that served as a pencil holder. That came from the dump. I would love to have it on my desk top to remind me of him.

The doorknocker, inscribed MILLER, was a gift from the real estate agent (who also was a family friend) who helped us find our house. We moved in one month before the birth of our firstborn. The gold wreath used to hang on my parents’ front door before they moved off Long Island, the same year we married. The ribbons came off of gifts that were given to us. The poinsettias were left over from a Christmas project my mom and I did when I was a teenager. The bear was a gift topper from way back when.

The little bears were purchased from a little boy named Kevin. Kevin came knocking at our door the first year we lived in this house. He was selling Christmas ornaments as a fundraiser for school. We were the first door he had knocked on. He wore glasses and was so shy that he did not know what to say. I took the brochure from him and picked out the set of miniature teddy bear ornaments. Kevin joined the Marines this fall.

They repeatedly say on all the purging and organization shows that you don’t need things to bring back memories. They say you can take a picture of the item if necessary, and it will serve the same purpose. I have plenty of pictures of my Christmas trees in photo albums, but nothing is so powerful as opening up the boxes of ornaments and holding something you have not seen for eleven months. On the bottom of these boxes I have handmade ornaments that have long ago fallen apart. I do not hang them – I glance at them once when taking out ornaments and once more when putting them back. I wouldn’t throw them out for anything.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Traveling Jury

Today my eldest daughter was tried and found guilty by a traveling jury.

I was snug in my bed as the house repeatedly shook early this morning. The kids were going in and out of the house, slamming the door behind them each time. Then my eldest daughter burst in, exclaiming that her sister had fallen and the bus was coming!

I ran down the stairs as my middle daughter fell through the open door, crying that her big sister had tripped her. “Show me, quick,” I said. No blood. Then I saw the bus coming around the corner. I ran to the freezer, popped out an ice cube, and handed it to her. I gave her a kiss, wiped away her tears, and gently nudged her out the door. Then I yelled to my eldest, “You’re in big trouble when you get home!”

When just-been-crying Nine climbed onto the bus and just-got-into-trouble Eleven climbed on the bus, all the kids knew something was up. They soon got the brief story out and, deciding a fair trial by jury was appropriate, appointed attorneys for each of them.

“Why did you trip your sister on her way to the bus?” demanded the attorney of the victim.

“It was her job to make sure everyone was wearing the appropriate coat,” explained the attorney of the defendant, “The supposed victim was not wearing a warm enough coat and my client was trying to get her to put on her winter coat.”

Surprisingly, no argument was made about the temperature, which was slightly under 40 degrees.

This explanation was not deemed acceptable to the jury. The accused was found guilty by the majority.

But when the case went to Supreme Court, Mommy gave the final ruling. Innocent, by reason of trying to do the right thing.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Elizabeth’s Divinely Simple Cooking

I cook from scratch every night. If you are thinking of the recipes in magazines with their complicated lists of ingredients and multiple steps, you might think this to be daunting. But my meals are very simple, often a variation of the same theme, yet never quite the same twice. I like things that can be thrown together very quickly and left to cook while I tend to the children.

I use mostly fresh produce, with a moderate dose of olive and/or canola oil, salt, and pepper. (I keep an oil dispenser handy in which I make a mixture of about 20% olive oil to 80% canola oil.)

My method of choice for cooking meats and fish is baking, because once it is dressed you can basically ignore it until you smell that it is almost done. I love to use glass Pyrex baking dishes for this. For fish and thinly cut chicken, I cover the dish with aluminum foil to keep the meat from drying out.

I like to steam my vegetables in the microwave, in a glass corningware dish.

On the side, I usually make pasta, rice, or potatoes.

Elizabeth’s Simple American Lamb Chops

Coat glass baking dish lightly with olive and/or canola oil
Place lamb chops in the dish.
Cover the lamb lightly with oil.
Sprinkle with rosemary and marjoram.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until slightly browned and cooked inside.

Elizabeth’s Simple Quartered Potatoes

Coat the bottom of a glass baking dish with olive and/or canola oil.
Wash and quarter potatoes.
Place potatoes in a single layer in dish.
Spray generously with canola or olive oil.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake at 375 degrees for about one hour or until lightly browned and fork tender.

Elizabeth’s Simply Steamed Asparagus

Put a small amount of water in the bottom of a corningware dish.
Wash asparagus; cut off the woody ends.
Place asparagus in dish.
Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Cover with glass cover.
Steam in microwave on high for about 7 minutes.