Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Beached Whale at Sunken Meadow State Park ?

Yesterday my two older girls ran two races in a row at Sunken Meadow State Park. That they were allowed to do this was purely by accident of the officials. However, I am proud of their courage to do it, as well as their stamina.

Once a year the middle schoolers are offered a chance to run the high school course. The middle school course consists of a one mile run around a moat, often called “the mouse hole” because the trees bend over the path to look like one. The high school course adds another loop to this, which includes “cardiac hill”. This is a very rough, very steep hill, followed by a rather scary steep drop down the hill, for an added 0.4 mile.

The official failed to inform the children that they needed to choose between the two courses. So my girls wound up running both, one right after the other. They needed to do the middle school course so that the girls’ team could get a team score; so I gave them that choice, knowing that it would be difficult but that they were up for the challenge.

When they got back from the first run, my older daughter said, “I felt like I was having an asthma attack – and I don’t have asthma.” Neither of them felt up to the second race, but on they went. They completed it a little slower than normally, but they did it. I was so proud of them both.

After the race, my twelve-year-old daughter said, “I saw something weird in the water. It looked like a dead whale! It was white with speckles. I really want to see what it was. Can we go back and see it?”

So our family retraced the path. I was amazed at the conditions of the hill they had run.

My three-year-old walked the whole thing, propelled by her interest to see the “dead whale”.

“This is really dangerous!” I exclaimed.

“That’s cross-country, Mom,” said both the girls.

Then we came to the “dead whale”. It was a giant white rock, on which were perched several water birds. We all had a good laugh. I realized then that the reason she had never noticed this before during previous races was that the foliage had been thicker, hiding the rock from her view. Now that the leaves had been stripped away, you could see more of the water. I could see how, speeding by, out of the corner of your eye it could look like a whale.

So many things, as well as people, are not what they seem at a cursory glance. It is often worth taking a second look.

*I have entered this photograph into a contest! Please vote for me at http://photocontest.examiner.com/bin/Rate?image_id=1008902316

Chapter 11(NAB)
1 The poor man's wisdom lifts his head high and sets him among princes.
2 Praise not a man for his looks; despise not a man for his appearance.
3 Least is the bee among winged things, but she reaps the choicest of all harvests.
4 Mock not the worn cloak and jibe at no man's bitter day: For strange are the works of the LORD, hidden from men his deeds.
5 The oppressed often rise to a throne, and some that none would consider wear a crown.
6 The exalted often fall into utter disgrace; the honored are given into enemy hands.
7 Before investigating, find no fault; examine first, then criticize.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Morning Run

Morning Run
Elizabeth K. Miller

I awaken with thoughts
of things to do today
I try to shut them out
but sleep will not return
I look out through the blinds
The morning star is visible
In the dark sky turning pink
I stretch on several layers
of comfortable clothing
Pull on my favorite old sneakers
Take from a drawer my MP3
Open the front door
Step out into the cold air
and stretch
I start immediately
Up a hill
And feel the exhilaration of adrenaline
Pumping through my body
Towards the top of the hill
My calves begin to burn
But no matter
The pumping music
Keeps me going
Around the block
And to the second hill
Now I feel like I can
Keep going forever
The week ahead of me
Beckons with hope
It feels great to be alive
Then around the last bend
Where I start to slow down
Just in time,
I think,
My body can’t take much more
And home again
To the smell of
Freshly brewed coffee.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

First week of Facebook for my pre-teen

It has become quite clear from listening to my twelve-year-old’s friends that just about every middle-schooler has a Facebook account. Most of my daughter’s friends are too impatient to use old-fashioned email.

I was hesitant about letting her have one until after having “friended” a few of my daughter’s real friends and seeing that this was actually a great way to keep a hand in your child’s social life. Was I going to be the only dinosaur that kept their daughter from socializing the way kids do it today?

She has demonstrated responsibility with the use of her email and computer time. Having skipped a grade, she is accustomed to acting more mature for her age. After she was invited to play in a 16-and-under softball tournament, I finally decided to let my twelve-year-old daughter turn thirteen in the cyber-world and have a Facebook account.

Rules include:
1. I set up the account with a password I can remember.
2. I am her “friend” and can see everything she posts.
3. No “friending” anyone she doesn’t actually know.
4. No “friending” any adult without my explicit permission.
5. No status updates that tell people too much personal information.
6. No mentioning of her siblings’ names.

After one week, the positives include:
1. Computer time is a great incentive to get her to clean her room.
2. I can see what kind of things her friends are talking about.
3. She and I can play online games together.
4. We can “chat” between floors without yelling.
5. I can forward her all kinds of information that she is more likely to read because it is in email format.
6. Her little sister, who is ten, has two years to show responsible use of the computer time to earn the privilege of her own Facebook account. In the meantime, she can maintain my “Farmville” for me.
7. It is easier for her to keep in contact with relatives and out-of-state friends.
8. I am happy to see how many friends my daughter has.

The negatives include:
1. Exposure to “text” acronyms threatens the development of English skills.
2. Computer time encroaches on reading time.
3. Status updates encourage the focus on “me” and attention-getting.

So the positives outweigh the negatives. This is the simplest decision-making-algorithm, which I was fortunate to learn early in life.

* Author's addendum:
My new third-person version of this article is published at Examiner.com
I offer some suggestions to alleviate the negatives:

1. Encourage the use of journaliing.
2. Encourage the regular sending of hand-written thank you notes and letters to older relatives.
3. Encourage community service outside the home.
4. Speak about your internet rules to the other adults in whose homes you child spends time.

With the proper precautions, you, the internet, and your pre-teen can all get along.

Part II of my guest post at New Parents Guide

I promise to get some original material up here soon! Part II of my guest post mini-series on jobs that should not be attempted with your toddler around is up at The New Parents Guide here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blog Giveaway: the new aboutBaby.mommy bibby

New moms may want to read my article at Examiner.com about the new aboutBaby.mommy bibby and the story of its founders, two moms from Long Island. This bibby is ideal for both formula feeding and breastfeeding. For a chance to win a free bibby, please leave a comment here with your first and last name and your email address. On November 1, 2009, one winner will be chosen at random and aboutBaby LLC will contact you to send you your bibby.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pure Love by Jason Evert

“Love between man and woman cannot be built without sacrifices and self-denial.” – Pope John Paul II.

When Evert wrote this 60-page booklet, he was a 27-year-old virgin engaged to Crystalina, who was what we in high school used to refer to as a “born-again virgin”. He wanted to reach out to young people with the message that sex is a beautiful gift that married people should give to each other – after the wedding.

“Why should I wait?” is the question he addresses to both young men and women, in a way that can be discussed in a mixed audience. He talks about rules you can set down so that courtship is conducted in a way that is respectful to each party. How do you avoid temptation? Is there really any such thing as “safe sex”? Why is the manner of a girl’s dress so important?

After they were married, Crystalina Evert wrote her own book, Pure Womanhood, that addresses young women; Jason wrote Pure Manhood specifically for young men. Pure Love is appropriate for both audiences. This is the book that started the Pure Love Club. Members of the club sign the "Pure Love Promise" (included at the end of this book) and wear a purity ring (which has become popularized by some teen stars) that shows they are saving themselves for their future spouses.

Evert brings up points that ideally would be a part of the continual conversation between parents and their children in the years leading up to and through the onset of dating. Both guys and girls need to know why they should wait, and tools they can use to help them to remain pure. They need to know that birth control does not offer complete protection from sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy; and that there is no protection from the emotional and spiritual damage that comes from premarital sex.

For young people who have not received the message that the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, this little book might be the eye opener that helps to save them from the heartache that comes with empty sexual experiences and the possible consequences thereof. I would recommend putting this book out among teenage youth groups, as well as singles groups for adults in their twenties, in conjunction with the availability of a counselor who could talk about the questions they might have.

For teenagers who have received all this information from their parents already, this could be used as an added reinforcement. For pre-teens who have not yet been exposed to the dating world, I would recommend previewing the book to decide if the material is appropriate.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. I received the book for free in exchange for my honest review. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Pure Love.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Our Whirlwind Cross Country/Softball Week

It has been a whirlwind of a week, followed by a tornado of a weekend! Last week we had two cross country races and five softball tournament practices. This weekend my girls each played in four softball tournament games. My older daughter then played a doubleheader for another softball team. Just when I thought I might have to go through softball withdrawal, she was recruited by the opposing team to possibly play in their tournament next weekend.

I could sit and write a whole chapter about each of the past seven days but I will just highlight some of the funny or poignant things that happened.

Last Tuesday, my eldest daughter came in first place at Belmont Lake State Park. ( My second daughter came in at number eleven, which is really excellent for a sixth grader. ) The previous race at that same course she had come in at number three. She was out front for most of the race, and then two runners were able to overtake her at the end. This time she had the stamina to keep up her pace to the finish line.

At both those races, when I saw her come out of the woods in front, I was so proud and joyful I thought I would burst. At the second one, I wanted to give her that last boost and I was jumping up and down cheering for her. My cell phone fell out of my pocket and I didn’t have time to look for it because we had to get to softball practice.

When we got home, I called my phone and a guy named Tim picked up. He was the gym teacher for one of the schools we had raced and was on his way to see the secretary of that school, who is the mother of one of my daughter’s best friends. So I had my phone back the next day. It just shows you don’t have to panic about every detail of your life. If you stay calm things have a way of working out.

Wednesday we went to Sunken Meadow State Park for another race. I had the entire girls’ team in my car and we got stuck in a traffic jam due to a car accident. I thought for sure that everyone else would be stuck in it and the race would be delayed. When we arrived two minutes late, the girls had just started their race and our coach was very worried about us. I had asked my daughter’s friend to take the battery out of my cell phone so she wouldn’t get in trouble for having it in school, and hadn’t yet reset it.

He talked to the officials and they allowed our girls to run with the boys, with our times being tabulated with the rest of the girls. So that all worked out and we continued on to softball again.

Saturday was a really long day. My daughters played in 10U and 12U teams for the SYAG Columbus Day Bash tournament of around 30 teams that were all playing each other. They each had three games that day. I had to sit in the bleachers from 8 AM to 6 PM; let me tell you, it hurts!

Sunday was busy too but more fun for me. They each had a game at 8:30 AM; the fields were about 30 seconds running distance from each other. I left the younger children at home and just kept running from field to field with my video camera. I was able to catch all the best plays of each game!

Then we went on to my older daughter’s 14U softball team. There was some kind of mix-up with the schedule and we wound up scrimmaging against a 16U softball team that is associated with our local school district. When we talked to their coach after the game, it turned out that he was looking for girls to play in his tournament next weekend and he said he might be able to use my daughter. He also handed me his card and told me about a tryout for a boys' baseball travel team for my son.

My head is full of decisions to be made about softball teams and high schools and all the decisions that are to be made when you’ve got a kid with a lot of potential, as well as how to balance what is best for each individual child with what is best for the family.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Small Successes Double Sports Edition

It has been a while since I participated in the Thursday Small Successes at the Faith and Family blog.

1. This week, for two days in a row, I managed to car pool the entire girls' cross country team from school to the cross country meets, get home to serve leftover chicken for dinner, and get the girls to their softball tournament practice, without losing my mind. My eldest daughter came in first on Tuesday at Belmont Lake State Park. Yesterday we got stuck in the parkway due to an accident and showed up at Sunken Meadow State Park 2 minutes late. They let our girls run with the boys, so I will not know their actual placement until the official times are in.

2. I got to the Third Annual Stand Up for Life on Eastern Long Island and wrote about it on my Examiner column, where it was the most popular article for the day.

3. I actually got some reading done. I finished reading Ellen Gable's second book and reviewed it here.

This all feels like bragging but I hope it is inspiring to some. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

Click here for Small Successes Volume 38

My Guest Post at New Parents' Guide

I was invited to submit a guest post at New Parents' Guide. This is part I of a miniseries on things that should not be attempted with toddlers around.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"In Name Only", by Ellen Gable

Last year I reviewed Ellen Gable’s first book, Emily’s Hope , which won an Honorable Mention Award for religious fiction in the 2006 Independent Publisher Book Awards. I asked her to send me her second book, In Name Only, when it came out.

In 1876, Caroline Martin’s father has just passed away and she is on the train with her chaperone to Philadelphia, where she will be taken in by relatives. Here we are first introduced to two brothers, and the stage is set for a romantic courtship. It is difficult to talk about the plot without giving away the many surprises that happen during the story. The book is a very enjoyable read, neither predictable nor formulaic.

There are so many things I love about this book. Gable takes great pains to describe her characters and settings with original metaphors. The heroine Caroline is described by her suitor: strong emotion makes her freckles darken on her pale skin, and her eyes are “the color of Christmas holly”. Caroline reads some of my favorite books: Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre”, Jane Austen’s “Emma”, and Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women”. One can see the influence of traditional courtship and style of writing from these classics.

Like the strong, traditionally feminist characters Jane, Emma, and Meg who struggled with social mores and doing the right thing, her character flaunts convention. She refuses to wear a corset, insists on speaking to servants like they are people, and will discuss “inappropriate” topics when necessary. Her actions demonstrate that doing the proper thing is not always the same as doing the right thing.

Through her complex characters, Gable addresses some tricky subjects for couples who are either engaged or married: chastity, honesty, and obedience. For single people, she shows that someone who has made poor choices in the past can choose the right path and stay on it. For all people, death is a part of life and how we deal with it has a big effect on both ourselves and the people around us. Gable says, “ I wanted to write a story that was entertaining, and at the same time, I hope that they will learn lessons about self-giving love, marriage, sacrifice, life and death.”

In Name Only is definitely geared toward adults. Married couples struggle with bedroom issues. One of the male characters is addicted to gambling, sex, and pornography. Midwives assist in abortions (back then referred to as “bringing on a period”). Some of the characters die.

Gable shows the dire consequences of sinful behaviors; but also that it is never too late to turn your life around. The healing power of forgiveness will not bring back the lives that are lost, but it will help the survivors to move on. Gable’s tale is no Pollyanna story. The ending is both uplifting and realistic. I can see it as a good book to read in conjunction with a marriage preparation course.

Ellen Gable lives with her husband and five children in Pakenham, Ontario, Canada. She and her husband James Hrkach have been active in the last 25 years in Catholic apologetics, teaching Natural Family Planning, participating in Marriage Preparation, and promoting chastity. You can order her book or find out more about the author at her website, Full Quiver Publishing.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The FTC Now Regulates Blog Reviews!

This just in: The FTC is now requiring bloggers to disclose if they have received a free book or other payment in exchange for writing a book review. I find this to be absolutely ridiculous. Since the beginning of publishing, authors have been sending free copies of their books to reviewers for publicity. So I am now disclosing, to cover myself for my past reviews, that any books I reviewed for The Catholic Company were given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. I was also given a free book by Ellen Gable in exchange for my honest review of her first book, and am in the process of reviewing her second book, which she also sent me for free.
Thus ends the ridiculous item of the day. Click here for the story from Fox News.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Third Annual Stand Up for Life on Eastern Long Island

Today I went to the third annual Stand Up for Life prayerful vigil in Manorville Long Island. I spoke to several old-timers about why they regularly go to these events. Please read my Examiner article here!

Thursday, October 1, 2009