Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rain over Snow

It’s a child’s worst nightmare: After a freshly fallen snow, it rains before they get to play in it. School goes on as usual, and there is nothing left with which to make a snowman when they get home. Ugly piles of dirty ploughed snow line the streets. Boots step into piles of slush rather than soft white fluffy stuff.

My eldest daughter woke me up at 6:00 yesterday morning, announcing a still-falling snow, with significant ground cover. Rather than rise to power up the computer to check the online status of school cancellations, I turned on the local news channels. I impatiently flipped from channel to channel, waiting for the byline to get through all the New Jersey school districts. Finally I found Suffolk County and was disappointed that our district was not listed. I told the kids to go on and get ready.

The school bus comes to our driveway, so the kids were able to play in the snow while waiting. It was a dress-down day, so they did not have to wear their uniforms. After a half-hour, my daughter came in. “We’ve been waiting out there for an hour! Can you check again?”

So I fired up the computer and found that there was a two-hour delay. I told the kids to come on in until the appointed time. They got another twenty minutes of snow play while waiting.

Later that morning, the rain started; it kept up all day long. I was so glad we had made the mistake of going out twice that morning while the snow was still fresh!

They were disappointed that afternoon, but today made up for it. My backyard was paved with pools of ice, and they got to go ice skating in their boots!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Elizabeth’s Turmeric Chicken with Vegetable Medley over Rice and Pasta

I have been looking to incorporate turmeric, used in Indian dishes and widely touted for its anti-oxidant properties, into my cooking lately. I came up with this. You can use more turmeric for a spicier dish, or less to let its taste be overtaken by the brown sugar. More turmeric makes the dish yellow, like in my picture. Less makes it brown. This combo will have you using your entire kitchen to capacity.

1. Prepare chicken tenderloins in a glass baking dish. Cover tenderloins with olive oil. Sprinkle first with kosher salt (which makes the meat more tender), then with pepper, then with desired amount of turmeric (a little goes a long way!). Finally, cover with a generous amount of brown sugar. Cover dish with tin foil to lock in the moisture. Bake at 350 degrees for about a half hour or until completely cooked through.

2. Meanwhile, mix a cup of rice with 4 cups of water, a tablespoon of kosher salt, and a generous amount of olive oil in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Add a pound of macaroni, lower heat to allow it to just simmer, and cover. Cook for 15 minutes, until both rice and pasta are tender.

3. Cut up green and yellow squash into a microwave-safe dish. Top this with red onions and sliced cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Steam in microwave for about 7 minutes.

4. Layer the dish with pasta/rice combo on bottom, then vegetables, and finally the chicken. Drizzle the pan juices from the chicken over the entire dish. Kids are suspicious at first of the color of the chicken, but tell me it is delicious!

5. This is an original recipe. Please share and enjoy, but remember it is under copyright.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Lovely Award

I have been awarded the Lovely Award by Charlotte at Cheeky Pink Girl.

“These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”

I award the Lovely Award to

1. Leticia Velasquez at Cause of Our Joy
2. Loren Christie at Dude, Where am I?
3. Macbeth Derham at Macbeth’s Opinion
4. Heather at Doodle Acres
5. Alice Gunther at Cottage Blessings

Thank you for your lovely writing.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." Proverbs 25:11

Monday, January 26, 2009

Goodbye Lucky

This past Thursday, we said goodbye to yet another rabbit, Lucky. We had adopted him just two months ago. He was at least five years old and we knew his time would be limited. Yet my eldest daughter says it was the most difficult for her.

I have a feeling that, in the long run, this was the best experience for us when it comes to our small pets’ dying. The other two rabbits were still young and we were unsure as to whether we could have prevented their premature deaths. This one was being cared for in its old age. He was warm, well-fed, and loved. It was simply his time to go.

At 9:00 Thursday night, normally my children would all be in bed, but my eldest daughter was up late finishing up a research assignment. She happened to look at Lucky and thought it was moving strangely. She yelled to me, “Mommy, come quick!”

I reluctantly put down my dark chocolate Klondike bar and went into the laundry room, where Lucky resided. He appeared to be having a seizure of some sort. I picked him up and his body was limp. He was still blinking and occasionally twitched his legs.

We took him into the kitchen and laid a cotton shirt on him to make him warm and comfortable. The other two older children were called down. I knew he was near his end and thought this was an opportunity to teach about caring for someone in the last moments of life.

We took turns holding and stroking the rabbit. After an hour, I sent the 8- and 10- year olds to bed. My 11-year-old had done her crying and sat at the kitchen table copying out her report as I tended to the rabbit. Near 11:00, the rabbit made a sound. “Meep,” it said. It was the first time it had opened its mouth in the past two hours. It started moving again.

I picked it up and my daughter dropped some water into its mouth. It repeatedly opened its mouth and lapped up the drops of water. Then I saw its eyes glaze over as it stopped breathing. I laid it down again, and covered it up.

The children still went to school the next day. My toddler looked at the rabbit, unmoving in its cage. I told her, “Lucky’s sleeping. He was sick and old and now he is gone to heaven.” She repeated, “Bunny…heaven.” She did not go back to look at him the rest of the morning.

Later, while she was napping, the kids came home from school and we buried him in the backyard corner garden, next to Peach and Hoppity. It was a little difficult for me, with a frozen, snow-covered ground. I had already blessed him with holy water during his final moments, so we simply said a prayer and laid him to rest.

My 11-year-old was upset that our toddler would be asking for Lucky when she woke up. She did go to look at the empty cage. “Where bunny?” she asked. Again I explained, “Bunny went to heaven,” and she repeated, “Bunny…heaven.”

She made the connection later, when I was talking about eating a peach. She said, “Peach…bunny…heaven.”

“Yes, honey, Peach is in bunny heaven with Lucky and Hoppity.”

Picture is of St. Francis of Assissi, patron saint of animals.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Little Lover of the Rosary

My littlest one, now 2 ½, is already a great lover of the rosary. We went to the church to pray the rosary this Thursday during the March for Life. My friend’s three-year-old was sitting next to her. I gave my daughter a rosary, which she put around her neck. She then proceeded to collect everyone else’s rosaries.

First she went to her little friend, putting her hand out and saying “Peeeeeez” (please) until she relinquished her rosary. This she put around her neck with the other.

After she got mine, I thought she would be happy. But she then saw my friend’s rosary. I warned my friend not to give in to her, but she soon surrendered hers as well.

When it was my turn to lead the prayer, my friend gave me another rosary from her stash to help me keep count. This also was taken. (From time to time I straightened out all her rosaries to make sure they were in a safe position.)

By the time we had finished, my daughter had about ten rosaries around her neck, and we were all counting decades on our fingers!

The Virgin and Child with a Rosary is one of Bartolome Murillo's most beloved works. It was painted in 1650 and is part of the permanent collection at the Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I Have Walked in Many Shoes

25 Random Thoughts Game

I was tagged for this meme by Loren Christie.

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about yourself. At the end, choose people to be tagged. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you. (copy this paragraph to start your note)

Call me a conundrum if you like. Although I consider myself to be a traditional sort of person, I also eschew having to play by strict rules. When I thought of a list of 25 things, what first came to mind was a list of all the types of jobs I have held in my lifetime. So here is a list of 25 jobs I have held. They are also not random. I have put them in chronological order, starting with the first job I ever had. For temporary jobs I have put the length of time in parentheses. For jobs I still hold in some capacity, I mention no time period.

The only one of my readers I can think of who might want to carry on this meme is Leticia. If any other bloggers read this and think it might be fun, consider yourself tagged.

My 25 Jobs:

1. Babysitter
2. Birthday party puppet show entertainer (self-employed, 6 months)
3. Chocolate house maker
4. Leaf raker
5. Religious education instructor
6. Lector
7. Piano accompanist at a ballet school (3 months – they neglected to tell me it was a non-paying position)
8. Lifeguard and swim instructor (3 years)
9. Bank teller (2 years)
10. Chimney company dispatcher/office manager (2 years)
11. Pizza delivery-person (1 week – they only paid you if you got sent out on a run)
12. Research assistant (2 years, during my MA at SJU)
13. Aerobics instructor (3 months – to pay bills in between semesters)
14. Door-to-door environmentalist (1 hour – I had no idea what this job entailed. They dropped me off in a random neighborhood; I found the nearest telephone and called my husband to pick me up.)
15. Teacher’s assistant (1 year, during my post-MA credits)
16. Junior High School Teacher (1 year – I left to be a stay-at-home mom)
17. Stay-at-home mom
18. Daycare teacher (1 month – they thought the program I put together was too advanced for little minds to grasp)
19. Church nursery coordinator (6 months – I was expected to tolerate children kicking me)
20. Bookkeeper (for my husband’s business)
21. Notary (for my husband’s business)
22. Home school teacher
23. Leader of homeschool field trip group (2 years – until I sent my kids to Catholic school)
24. E-bay seller
25. Freelance writer!

Friday, January 23, 2009

From the American Family Association

"President Obama has lifted a ban on federal funding for international groups that promote or perform abortions, reversing a policy of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Obama's actions mean that hundreds of millions of your tax dollars will go to help groups like Planned Parenthood perform abortions around the world.

His actions came one day after the 36th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in all 50 states.

Please take the actions suggested below. It will not cause Obama to reverse his decision, but it will send a notice to him that unborn babies are human and deserve the same rights as the born.

Take Action!
· Send President Obama an email, asking him to stop funding the killing of unborn children.
· After you send the e-mail, please make a phone call (202-456-1414) and leave a message that you strongly disagree with Obama's using tax dollars to fund abortion."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Elizabeth’s Most Chocolaty Pudding Pie Ever

Pre-bake pie crust.

Melt three squares of semi-sweet bakers’ chocolate. Spread on crust. Coverage does not necessarily have to be complete or even. Let cool until chocolate has solidified.

Prepare chocolate instant pudding mix according to pie directions on box. Pour into pie shell.

Top with lots of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Refrigerate for time suggested on box. Do not cover until pudding has set.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Of Children and Peasants – Part IX

Excerpt from “Anna Karenina Comes to America” by Leia Tolstaya*, Millerskaya Ltd., New York, 2009. For earlier installments please click on the keyword phrase “Of Children and Peasants”.

“Are you crazy?” William whisper-yelled, late that night after the children had gone to bed and Levin had left.

“You have no imagination,” Levina said, sulking. She hated it when she got all excited about something, only to have him void out the opportunity.

“You think I’m going to allow you to leave our kids to go into another place and time, to save some woman who couldn’t save herself?”

“It’s not like it’s going to take anything away from our family. I’ll be there and back before you can say boo.”

William was silent for a moment.

“I can see you’re determined to do this thing, although I don’t know why. It’s kind of like how I don’t want to put you alone on an airplane. If one of us is going down, we’re all going down together.”

“You mean…?”

“If you’re going, we’re all going with you.”

To be continued…

*Leia Tolstaya is a pen name for Elizabeth K. Miller, and as such her works fall under the same copyright.

Picture from the 1997 film "Anna Karenina".

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Sandwich Cookie Personality Test

You Are Traditional and Dependable

You are optimistic, friendly, and cheerful. People appreciate the hopefulness and good vibes you bring to any situation.

Your life is all about change. Right now, you may be going through some changes you really don't like.

You're easy going and easy to be around. You aren't picky or high maintenance.

You seek security in your life. Feeling safe is important to you.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Of Children and Peasants – Part VIII

Excerpt from “Anna Karenina Comes to America” by Leia Tolstaya*, Millerskaya Ltd., New York, 2009. For earlier installments please click on the keyword phrase “Of Children and Peasants”.

Levin, William, and Levina had moved into the living room with their tea.

The front door burst open again. In burst the three older children: Katrina, age 12; Becca, age 10; and Zachary, age 8.

“Great-Grandpapa!” exclaimed Zachary. They dropped their backpacks, ran into the living room, and smothered him with hugs and kisses.

Great-Great-Great-Grandpapa sized them up and quizzed them on their scholastic knowledge.

“When can we meet your kids?” asked Katrina.

“That’s a very good question.”

“Do you tell them about us?” asked Becca.


“Do you eat cats or dogs?” asked Zachary.

“That one’s easy. No.”

“Will you be staying for dinner?” asked Levina.

“Why not? I have nowhere else to be right now,” jested Levin.

“That’s part of the problem,” grumbled William under his breath. Levina threw eye-darts his way.

Over the baby monitor, they could hear Leia waking up. “I’ll get her,” offered William.

“We’ll continue our conversation after the kids have gone to bed,” Levina said quietly to Grandpapa.

To be continued…

*Leia Tolstaya is a pen name for Elizabeth K. Miller, and as such her works fall under the same copyright.

Above, a scene from the 1997 film "Anna Karenina".

Sunday, January 18, 2009

National Sanctity of Human Life Day

“The sanctity of life is written in the hearts of all men and women. On this day and throughout the year, we aspire to build a society in which every child is welcome in life and protected in law. We also encourage more of our fellow Americans to join our just and noble cause. History tells us that with a cause rooted in our deepest principles and appealing to the best instincts of our citizens, we will prevail.”

- President George W. Bush on Thursday, declaring Jan. 18 to be “National Sanctity of Human Life Day.”

Of Children and Peasants – Part VII

Excerpt from “Anna Karenina Comes to America” by Leia Tolstaya*, Millerskaya Ltd., New York, 2009. For earlier installments please click on the keyword phrase “Of Children and Peasants”.

“Let’s just say that I decide to come to your time and help you bring Anna Karenina here to avert the tragedy she brought on herself,” Levina mused.

“Yes?” prodded Great-great-great-grandfather Levin.

“What’s to say she won’t do the same thing here?”

“That is a very good question. And that is one of the reasons I am going to put her assets in trust to you.”


“Well, she will need a place to stay, right?”

“And not here, to be sure.”

“There is a nice starter house in foreclosure down the block from you. I can purchase that and set her up with a nice bank account.”

“And where would that money come from, and how would you set up owndership without the proper papers?”

“I go talk to Karenin and Vronsky, separately. They both feels terribly responsible about what happened. They can give me money to put in trust for her. Let it grow a century or so and she will be independent and comfortable.”

“As she is used to.”

“Yes. And as for the papers, remember there is no limit to where and when I can go. I can procure the necessary papers for her identity and citizenship, and set up her accounts so it will look like she has been a long and established citizen here.”

“It looks like you’ve got things worked out. Of course, William will have to approve of the plan.”

“Of course. I wouldn’t have you going against your husband’s wishes – even though you are free to do so in your time, it is never the right thing for either husband or wife to do.”

Just then she heard the key turn in the front door. William was home for a late lunch.

“Hey, looks like the house down the block finally got a buyer,” he said, cheerfully kissing her on the cheek. Levina gave her grandfather a suspicious look.

“Hi Grandpa, good to see you,” said William, giving him a friendly hug.

To be continued…

*Leia Tolstaya is a pen name for Elizabeth K. Miller, and as such her works fall under the same copyright.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Of Children and Peasants – Part VI

Excerpt from “Anna Karenina Comes to America” by Leia Tolstaya*, Millerskaya Ltd., New York, 2009. For earlier installments please click on the keyword phrase “Of Children and Peasants”.

“I’m sure you’ve heard about the tragedy of Anna Karenina,” began great-great-great-Grandpapa Levin.

“Yes, Grandpapa, I have heard about it in great detail. I know it weighed heavily on the whole family.”

“I have never stopped thinking about it, Levina. You know she wasn’t Kitty’s favorite person, but when she heard about it she cried for days.”

“I can only imagine.”

“And while I can’t say she was a good woman, I did feel an affinity for her during our brief introduction. And I couldn’t help feeling that she was a woman born in the wrong time.”

“I think I see where you’re going with this.”

“Now I know I’ve said a lot about faith guiding us in the right direction, in God’s way, so that we can be happy, but what if there are so many obstacles to your faith that you can’t even get that tiny mustard seed to take hold?”

There he was taking the farmer’s view of things again. Levina merely nodded and listened.

“Anna was coerced into marriage at an early age, by parents who valued their status over Godly values. Her married brother also never got the right start in life, and wound up straying from his good wife instead of appreciating her and the children as he should have. And her bachelor brother never had the courage to choose the good wife he could have had. All of them unhappy but her most especially; why?”

“Because she was a woman?”

“That’s right. She was trapped in all ways a woman can be. If her mind could be trained at one of your universities, she could have the discipline of thought to really do something with herself.”

“And what of all you’ve said about taking a person out of his or her own proper time?”

“It’s all too late for anything to come of her in her own time. We could give her a second chance. If we could just get her before she left for that train station, convince her to come with us…”

“Us? Why do you need me?”

“You understand, of course, it would be improper for me to spend any kind of time with this woman, for one thing. For another, why would she trust me – men have taken all she has. If you, a modern woman, could speak with her, she would understand what she must do.”

To be continued…

*Leia Tolstaya is a pen name for Elizabeth K. Miller, and as such her works fall under the same copyright.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Of Children and Peasants – Part V

Excerpt from “Anna Karenina Comes to America” by Leia Tolstaya*, Millerskaya Ltd., New York, 2009. For earlier installments please click on the keyword phrase “Of Children and Peasants”.

Grandpapa Levin rested his chin on his hands and look pensively at Levina. “Are you happy, my dear?” he asked.

“Happy? Well, I do get irritated at the kids and their messes. Things aren’t perfect but all in all, yes, I think I am happy.”

“I’m so glad. That’s all I ever wanted for you. Happiness isn’t about things being all peachy all the time. It’s a state of being, deep in your soul, that is always there, no matter what happens.”

“I wish I could feel more content and satisfied. I do appreciate all I have, but I can’t seem to help complaining about things. But when I can make myself cut it out, I can return to a state of happiness.”

“Happiness, like love, doesn’t require that you are perfect either, granddaughter. Do you know how often your great-great-great-grandmother and I get into fights, and about the most insignificant of things? Then we kiss and make up and are happy again.”

“I wish I could meet her.”

“As do I. In the past, I thought it might present too many problems to bring you to my time, or her to yours. But, I may need your help with something, in which case you might have to come and meet her after all. But first, let me ask you this: Is this a good time to be a woman?”

Levina laughed. “Absolutely! We’ve come a long way, Grandpapa! A woman these days can do just about anything she wants. Of course, that presents its own problems, but like we’ve talked about, with faith guiding your choices you can choose a good and happy life.”

“I’m so glad to hear you say that. Let me tell you what I have in mind.”

To be continued…

*Leia Tolstaya is a pen name for Elizabeth K. Miller, and as such her works fall under the same copyright.

Photo is of the happy couple Levin and Kitty, from the 1997 film “Anna Karenina”.

Life at Conception Act

Please pray for the future of this act, which is not going away. I found this text at

Text of S.3111

S 3111 IS


2d Session

S. 3111

To implement equal protection under the 14th article of amendment to the Constitution for the right to life of each born and preborn human person.


June 11, 2008

Mr. WICKER (for himself, Mr. BROWNBACK, Mr. BUNNING, Mr. BURR, Mr. DEMINT, Mr. ENZI, Mr. INHOFE, Mr. MARTINEZ, Mr. THUNE, Mr. VITTER, and Mr. VOINOVICH) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary



To implement equal protection under the 14th article of amendment to the Constitution for the right to life of each born and preborn human person.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the ‘Life at Conception Act’.

To implement equal protection for the right to life of each born and preborn human person, and pursuant to the duty and authority of the Congress, including Congress’ power under article I, section 8, to make necessary and proper laws, and Congress’ power under section 5 of the 14th article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the Congress hereby declares that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being.

For purposes of this Act:

(1) HUMAN PERSON; HUMAN BEING- The terms ‘human person’ and ‘human being’ include each and every member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including, but not limited to, the moment of fertilization, cloning, and other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.

(2) STATE- The term ‘State’ used in the 14th article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States and other applicable provisions of the Constitution includes the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and each other territory or possession of the United States.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Of Children and Peasants – Part IV

Excerpt from “Anna Karenina Comes to America” by Leia Tolstaya*, Millerskaya Ltd., New York, 2009. For earlier installments please click on the keyword phrase “Of Children and Peasants”.

Levina was scrubbing potatoes at the kitchen sink, looking out the window at the family of deer in the woods, when she saw someone. She looked for the orange marks of a hunter. None. Could it be he? She studied his posture as he came closer.

“Grandpapa!” she exclaimed.

Levin was Levina’s great-grandfather several times over, but she simplified it with this tender term. He and his scientific friends had together invented a time machine, and he often paid visits to his heirs to see how they were doing in their own times and places. He had a particular fondness for Levina, his namesake. She was like him in so many ways.

At one point in time (his own, to be exact), he had thought he might find a better time and place in the future in which to bring up his own family. However, he had soon found that each time and place has both its advantages and drawbacks; and God had placed him in his for good reason. He did not see anything amiss in his curiosity, however, and continued to travel as time allowed. Now, he definitely would not have been in Europe for the Plague; but, apart from that, he could not see why a family could not be happy in any particular time.

He had not given up on his book devoted to Russian worker and his relationship to the land. Originally he had been traveling about Europe to prove no one had come up with a system that worked better than his. The time travel experiment had begun as a mission to see if anyone in the future had come up with a workable system. So far, no one had solved the problem. This was greatly pleasing to his ego.

Levina quickly dried her hands, put on a kettle for tea, and opened up the back door as he strutted across the yard and onto her back deck. They embraced and he nonchalantly sat down at the kitchen table, ready for a chat with his great-great-great-granddaughter. (As I have said, they long ago lost track of how many “greats” that was.)

“I have so many things I want to discuss with you,” he said, his mind obviously bursting with thoughts.

“And I have been storing up many questions I have for you,” said Levina, grateful that her little one was sleeping and the older ones in school.

“But the little ones – how I longed to see them!” he said, looking around for signs of young life.

“Oh, they’ll be soon be stomping through the front door – they’ll be so excited to see you – but now we have time to talk alone – so what is on your mind, Grandpapa?”

To be continued…

*Leia Tolstaya is a pen name for Elizabeth K. Miller, and as such her works fall under the same copyright.

What Font Are You?

I got this quiz from my friend Loren’s blog.
My results were fitting, as this is the font I always choose.
“You Are Times New Roman. Some call you timeless - others call you a snob. Either way, you’re a class act all around. Just don’t take yourself too seriously.”
Take the quiz here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Novena to Fight FOCA

Dear Readers,
I received the following email from an unknown source and think it is worth publishing here. Please remember to also contact your senators, congressmen, and President-Elect Barack Obama over the next week, if you have not already done so. It is a matter of life or death.
God bless you,

“Dear Friends,

If you are apposed to abortion then there is bad news on the horizon.
For those of you who do not know, the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) is
set to be signed if congress passes it on January 21-22 of 2009. The
FOCA is the next sick chapter in the book of abortion. If made a law
then all limitations on abortion will be lifted which will result in
the following:

1) All hospitals, including Catholic hospitals will be
required to perform abortions upon request. If this happens Bishops
vow to close down all Catholic hospitals, more then 30% of all
hospitals in the United States.

2) Partial birth abortions would be legal and have no

3) All U.S. tax payers would be funding abortions.

4) Parental notification will no longer be required.

5) The number of abortions will increase by a minimum of
100,000 annually.

Perhaps most importantly the government will now have
control in the issue of abortion. This could result in a future
amendment that would force women by law to have abortions in certain
situations (rape, down syndrome babies, etc) and could even regulate
how many children women are allowed to have.

Needless to say this information is disturbing, but sadly
true. As Catholics, as Christians, as anyone who is against the
needless killing of innocent children, we must stand as one. We must
stop this horrific act before it becomes a law.

The Plan :

To say a novena ( 9 days of prayer ) along with fasting
starting on January 11th. For Catholics, the prayer of choice will be
the rosary with intentions to stop the FOCA. For non Catholics I
encourage you to pray your strongest prayers with the same intentions,
also for nine consecutive days. The hope is that this will branch and
blossom as to become a global effort with maximum impact. We have very
little time so we all must act fast. Just do three things:

1) Pass this letter to 5 or more people

2) Do it in three days or less

3) Start the novena on January 11th and pray for nine
consecutive days.

(please also fast for at least two days during the novena)

Remember that with God all things are possible and the
power of prayer is undeniable. If you are against the senseless
killing of defenseless children then the time is now to do something
about it!

May God bless you all!!”

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My Friend was on Television!

I am so proud of my esteemed friend and colleague Leticia Velasquez for appearing on the television show "Faces of Pro-Life" to talk about the upcoming March for Life. View it here.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Of Children and Peasants – Part III

Excerpt from “Anna Karenina Comes to America” by Leia Tolstaya*, Millerskaya Ltd., New York, 2009. For earlier installments please click on the keyword phrase “Of Children and Peasants”.

Levina woke up on the late side, dreaming about making a stir-fry, which she rarely did. It was such a deliciously pleasant dream that she had several times half-woken and purposely slipped back into it. Now she could hear the baby stirring, and she woke herself up for good.

There were 100 ways in which she could spend her day. She felt so fortunate. Although she had imposed on herself a schedule of sorts, including meals and naptimes, she could get her work done at her own leisure and still have some time for optional activities that also contributed to the household – reading the newspaper, playing games with the baby, doing a crossword, baking a cake.

Although she loved to read Victorian novels, she was often puzzled about how the nobility passed the time. They seemed to do no real work. Maids cleaned the house and nurses took care of the babies. They went visiting from house to house, to the opera, and hunting. If they were bored in their present location, they would up and leave for a season, sometimes imposing themselves on friends or family without notice. (And it was the host’s obligation to take care of these visitors, wanted or not, for as long as they wished to stay!)

While they would never seek to lower themselves to the position of a peasant, they also occasionally confessed to being jealous of their carefree ways, of the pure love between husband and wife, and the richness of the relationships they had with their children.

Not so in her time. People - rich, poor, and middle-class alike – all had full-time jobs with very little free time. Many people were unable to get a full eight hours sleep, or sit down for three square meals per day. Those who worked outside the house during the day might have others to care for their children part-time, but usually they took that back up upon their return home. Only the very wealthy had nannies caring for their children full-time; and some, although they could hire help, chose not to, because of their intense desire to be with the children as much as possible.

Considerate people would never think of just dropping in unannounced. Of course, there were no telephones back then. Now, the telephone seemed to be a constant intruder in her house. But at least they would give notice or make an appointment.

All except for one special time-traveling relative. At first, his sudden appearances had been a bit disconcerting. But his presence was always welcome, and she soon got used to his random visits. He always came ready to burst with thoughts he just had to share with her.

To be continued…

*Leia Tolstaya is a pen name for Elizabeth K. Miller, and as such her works fall under the same copyright.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Can a Toddler Learn to Play Checkers?

I bought my two-and-a-half-year-old a Mickey Mouse and Pluto checkers set for Christmas. One morning, with a whole morning of quiet in front of us, I sat down to try to teach it to her.

First I set up the pieces. She got all the Mickeys and I got all the Plutos. I showed her how her pieces could move forward and diagonally.

She went to move one of my Plutos. “No, sweetie, the Plutos are mine. You have to pick a Mickey. Which Mickey do you want to move?”

She picked a Mickey and moved it directly forward. “No, you have to move it here or here. Where do you want to move it?” I say, pointing to the two choices.

“Okay, it’s my turn now. Which Mickey do you want to move now? Oh! Don’t bump the board!” I exclaimed, fixing pieces that had fallen off.

She picked a Mickey off the board. “No, honey, you have to move it on the board, like this. Where do you want this Mickey to go?”

I let myself move into her way a few times, showing her how her Mickeys had captured my Plutos. Finally, she had one piece one move shy of being kinged. “If you move this Mickey, he wins and gets kinged. You can move him here or here,” I said.

She moved and I kinged her Mickey. “Yay! Mickey got kinged!” She threw her arms up into the air, saying “Hurray!”

Then I started to lose her. I had to keep directing her attention back to the game. I quickly made myself lose so we could bring the game to a conclusion.

So is it a fruitless effort to try teaching a toddler a game like checkers? I don’t think so. She learned about taking turns, having patience, keeping her attention attuned, and following rules. And she kept her Mommy’s attention on her. It might be the best thing I did all week.

Painting: Checker Mates by Susan Rinehart

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Not-So-Divine Moments

From time to time I’ll make a comment that make my husband remark, “Would you put that on your blog?”

We all have moments when we forget to be thankful for what we have. That is one of the reasons I write this blog: to remind myself – and others – of the gifts we have been given.

Thank you again for the support of my readers. I welcome any and all of your comments. A blessed Epiphany to you and your families!

Picture above painted by Hans Multscher, 1467, The Adoration of the Magi

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Elizabeth’s Fennel and Flax Vinaigrette

This is a very light, yet extremely healthy and satisfying dressing. I wanted something that would pour more easily than my Fennel Parmesan Vinaigrette , and one that would not spoil easily. So I came up with this, and loved it. Hours later, I still felt satisfied. If you are trying to cut out late-night snacking, this just might help you to do it.

½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 ½ cups 100% virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or regular salt, or sea salt)
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon flax seed, milled or whole

Funnel ingredients into a jar and shake to mix. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

All the above ingredients, excluding salt, are excellent for cholesterol levels – bringing up the good and lowering the bad. The fats are all good ones, which help to burn “bad” fat, and help to keep you feeling full longer. Vinegar and pepper both help to burn both fat and calories. Fennel seeds are great for the digestive system. (Fennel seed tea was part of the cure for my bout with morning sickness a few years ago.) Flax seed is excellent for the circulatory system; milled has more calories but a greater positive overall effect on the body, while whole is recommended for those trying to lose weight.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Ordinary People

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

This is the opening sentence of “Anna Karenina”, by Leo Tolstoy.

I have often heard complaints about the similarities of blogs circulating among Catholic Mothers Online. Everyone wants to paint her life in a positive light. She leaves out the dirty details. We all talk about the nice little family traditions we have. Most of us eat dinner with our families. We try to make nutritious meals and homemade items whenever possible. Many of us are stay-at-home moms, or work-at-home moms with flexible schedules, or moms who work outside the home but have found a wonderful way to strike a happy balance between home and work. If there is family drama, it is rarely mentioned in public.

All is as it should be. We come to this circle for support. We need to know that there are other moms out there who march to the tune of their own drummer, who uphold traditional Catholic values, who aren’t afraid to run counter-culture. In every day life, we are surrounded by those who are driven by pop culture – even in our Church and Catholic schools – even among other homeschoolers, sometimes.

I am in the heart of reading Anna Karenina with some other avid readers, and will have much more to say about it in the future. (There will be no spoilers here, my dear friends!) The lengthy novel is quite complex, with several threads running through three main characters and their significant others. Anna escapes a loveless marriage to an aristocrat by running away with a lover; the signs point to a tragic end. Dolly, the mother of several children, has an unfaithful husband, also a member of the aristocracy, who sees nothing wrong with his hypocrisy and deceit. Levin is the one likeable character who seems destined for happiness.

Levin is a landowner, also part of the nobility, who takes a personal interest in the well-being of the peasants who labor in his fields. On occasion he will take part in the dirty work, just because he enjoys the physical labor, which relieves his emotional and intellectual tension. He sees the beauty in the lives of these peasants. He watches the way a newlywed couple looks at one another and, for that, would readily give up all his wordly possessions. Unlike his city-dwelling peers, he sees the extraordinary qualities of ordinary people. He shuns the hypocrisy of the aristocracy, as well as the inequalities that exist between men and women, longing for a good wife who will complete him.

Through the eyes of Levin, Tolstoy lays bare all he sees that is wrong in his contemporary Russian society: especially the unfairness of how women are treated, as well as the contempt the upper classes have for those they see as beneath them.

Comparing the lives of women in nineteenth-century Russia , modern American women have it made. We have legal rights: civil rights, marital rights, rights to property and to our children. We have the right to pursue an education if we wish. We can pursue just about any job a man can do if we wish. We can also choose to stay at home and run the household. We can even do a little of both.

Do I feel lucky to be an ordinary woman living in an ordinary place, in an ordinary time? You betcha.

I guess I could count myself as a “woman of leisure”, as well, as I have been able to find the time to read Russian novels!

The picture above is a movie still from the movie “Anna Karenina” (1997). Could it be Levin and his beloved Kitty? I haven’t seen the movie (nor have I finished the book) so I don’t know.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Of Children and Peasants – Part II

(To read Part I click here.)

Excerpt from “Anna Karenina Comes to America” by Leia Tolstaya*, Millerskaya Ltd., New York, 2009

Levina had thrown in her lot with the children for a day, thrilling in the physical labor of shoveling snow. “Hot chocolate with marshmallows for all if we reach the street by dark!” she had hollered.

On the skirts of her enthusiasm, the children had cleared the entire driveway. Levina had slept well that night, dreaming of leading the simple life of a child again. She was tired of intellectualizing all the time.

But waking up with her husband next to her, knowing all they shared in their happy responsibilities towards each other and their children, she also realized that the simple bliss of a childlike mental life was neither possible nor to be desired.

So she returned to the puzzle of how to get the children to work more efficiently while making it worth their while.

She had given them each their own room, thinking that naturally pride would cause them to care for their own space. If she told them to clean them, they would disappear for hours, without accomplishing anything that could be seen. They were so easily distracted.

“Give them a good education,” she had been advised by her elders.

That gave them even more to distract from their duties! Reading, writing stories, and illustrating could wile away the hours, as could chess games and backgammon.

All they wanted to do was have fun! She could not fault them in this, which was their natural inclination. She needed a better system, one which would work in accordance to their natures.

To be continued…

*Leia Tolstaya is a pen name for Elizabeth K. Miller, and as such her works fall under the same copyright.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ordinary Time

Despite my desire to keep all the Christmas decorations up until January 6, my husband insisted that they come down today. Kevin went out and took down the outdoor lights and then brought from the garage all the boxes in which to put our indoor decorations.

“It’s too early! Look, I have proof!” I went over to our new Church Calendar and found nothing printed on January 6. Instead, Epiphany Sunday was written in. I saw that next Sunday started Ordinary Time, starting with the celebration of the Baptism of Our Lord.

“See, and it’s after sundown, so it’s okay,” said my husband.

Still, I felt depressed. I always feel this way when it comes time to take down the Christmas decorations.

“What’s wrong?” Kevin asked. And, as he has said many times since our First Christmas together, “Christmas only comes once a year. That’s why it is so special. It has to come to an end sometime.”

“But it’s the end of a celebration, and once it’s gone all that’s left is the bleakness and coldness of January”, I said, still moping.

My attitude continued as I put ornaments away, one by one, in a lackluster fashion. Most of our ornaments come in their own special boxes, and the task is enormous. Empty old boxes lay all around me. I found a little comfort in replacing some of the old boxes with newer ones.

We seemed to have found just about every ornament. Some little books were missing from our Nutcracker Advent calendar. They were in a hole in the bottom of the couch, where the remote control sometimes disappears to. (Kevin had seen them earlier, while searching for said remote.) When I find them, they will go into a little drawer in the dining room into which I squirrel late-found ornaments that turn up through the year.

I reluctantly helped him to drag the tree out the door. It was a really good tree and dropped few needles. He helped with the vacuuming and put the boxes away. After a dinner composed of leftovers, I dusted off the surfaces and replaced our picture frames. Suddenly I felt a whole lot better.

There is something about the term “Ordinary Time” that I do not like. But it is for the joy in ordinary time that Jesus came for us. As I settle into the new year, I will take comfort in the relative peace that comes during this quiet time of the year.

Painting: The Adoration of the Magi, 1385-88, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena

Friday, January 2, 2009

Of Children and Peasants

Excerpt from “Anna Karenina Comes to America” by Leia Tolstaya*, Millerskaya Ltd., New York, 2009

Levina stared out the kitchen window as her children played in the lightly falling snow. She’d been trying to work out a new system whereby the children would get their chores done quickly and efficiently, at the same time seeing that such a system was for their own betterment.

Her new Kitchenaid whirred, stirring a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough. Levina sighed. She’d been told to invest in new and better technologies to improve the production of her household. But leave this new appliance in the hands of her children and they’d throw rocks in it, then say, “Oh well, you should’ve let us do it the way we’re used to.”

Little Katrina came in, looking at the blue monster in disgust. “Ugggh,” she grunted, “the Kitchenaid is taking over our job. We could’ve mixed that for you.” They reluctantly admitted the appliance was more efficient at mixing, and even did a better job, but would rather do it the old-fashioned way. Levina couldn’t understand why they didn’t appreciate all she had given them, in the hopes of making their own little lives easier, as well as her own.

To be continued…

*Leia Tolstaya is a pen name for Elizabeth K. Miller, and as such her works fall under the same copyright.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Resolutions for the Kids

We rang in the New Year with little pomp and circumstance. What a meanie I am: I made the kids go to bed at 10:00. Our friends who were going to come over canceled due to the icy road conditions, and I thought we might as well rest up after the illness we just went through this weekend. My husband and I watched an hour-long drama and I switched over to Dick Clark’s Rocking New Year at 12:01.

“I missed the ball dropping!” I exclaimed, waiting for a replay.

“They don’t replay it – that’s why you’ve got to watch the countdown,” my husband teased me.

Watching Dick Clark was very strange. He looked so unreal it was scary. I turned it off, wished my husband a happy new year, and went to bed. We slept straight through almost to noon and missed Mass. “We’ll have to do a family rosary later to make up for it,” I mused.

Today is a leisurely day spent at home, with a backyard beautifully covered in snow. The littlest one is on a Madeline kick, snuggling on the couch with Madeline videos and her new Madeline doll. She is now recovered from her stomach virus, but has a sniffly nose and is not allowed out in the cold with her older siblings. They were irritable, repeatedly opening the door to let me know of their squabbles. One was wearing the other’s new gloves. My son was putting snow on the girls’ faces.

I cleared out all the leftovers from Christmas dinner from the fridge. Then I made a chocolate pudding pie, and easy and scrumptious dessert. Just beat up the pudding mix with milk and pour it into a chocolate graham crust.

My resolutions are neatly laid out in outline-fashion in my journal. This is the most organized list I have made so far, and I promise to revisit it on a monthly basis.

One of my goals is to keep the kids on target with their daily chores, so I don’t have to nag them, constantly check up on them, or deal with the chaos that results from not following up on them. I have written several posts on various systems I have tried: the demerit system and the FLY system were two.

The checklist was another, which always did work, until I got tired of making the weekly printouts for each child. Since that worked as long as I kept up with it, I am going to go back to it. Disciplinary systems for children are just like the self-displinary systems we set up (as in dieting); just pick one and stick with it, and it will work.

I use a spreadsheet program to create a list for each child. It has the child’s name on top, in his or her favorite color. The columns read Sunday through Saturday. The rows identify the child’s chores, divided into morning, afternoon, and evening. The bottom rows are reserved for chores that only need to be done once per week. There are also “bonus rows”, which allow the children to earn extra rewards for over-the-top duties performed.

If all the required rows are checked off, the kids receive a reward for that day. If not, they can make up for it by doing extra the next day. They really enjoy checking things off on their lists! The thing is to have a store of sheets made up. Otherwise, if you are too tired on the weekend to make it up for the next week, the whole family will fall off the bandwagon.

Here’s to Family Resolutions That Work, and Sticking To Them!

Painting of Nativity by Unknown Flemish Master, 1400s