Friday, December 31, 2010

Resolutions 2011: How to make chore lists for kids

My final Examiner post this year is on How to make chore lists for the kids. Happy New Year and here’s to helping our kids to become independent contributors to society…starting at home.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Five Barbie Dolls

Every year on the Eve of the Feast of Saint Nicholas, the children write a letter to Saint Nicholas and put it in their stockings. This is an Austrian tradition I found in The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Van Trapp.

In the letter, they must say that they have tried to be good all year. Then they ask for their top five wishes, promising to be good in the future. Although they hand me a longer list around Thanksgiving (so I can get a jump on my shopping), this makes them really think about what they want the most, and why.

They also know they have to be reasonable. My second daughter would love to have her own real live African elephant; but she knows this is not possible, so perhaps she will ask for a stuffed elephant. This teaches them to really hone their expectations, a skill that will prove invaluable one day when they have to negotiate salaries or contracts. Most of the time they will get everything on their “top five”, as well as some of the things from the longer list.

My 12-year-old helped my 4-year-old to write her list. Top on the list was: “Five Barbie dolls”. When I asked her, “Why five?” she could not explain. Every day she would tell me to please make sure Santa got her the five Barbie dolls. “Nobody needs five Barbie dolls,” I thought, and bought her one Ballerina Barbie.

The week before Christmas, my 12-year-old was playing Santa with her. “Do you really need five Barbie dolls? Won’t one do?” she asked, at my request.

“Well, maybe two?”

“Okay. I think you can have two.”

The day before Christmas Eve, we were all hanging around, thinking everything was done. Then a story came out.

It sounded like a version of Agatha Christie’s murder mystery “And Then There Were None”. Apparently, over the summer, her five Barbie dolls suffered some rather cruel fates at the hands of some visitors, ending with the decapitation of the last doll, whose head our poor preschooler found floating in the toilet bowl. I was horrified.

“I have to run to the store,” I told my husband. He understood.

I walked into the store, cart-less, hoping to get through the crowds easily and get out of there. I picked out two more Ballerina Barbies…four sleds (“good sled” was on everyone’s longer list)…toothpaste, soap, a dog bone, and three other small toys.

So there I stood in line along with everyone else, shopping at the last minute, with exactly twelve items balanced in my arms on the non-moving 12-item Express Line at Wal-mart.

I entertained the women around me with my tale of why I was there.

“I hope she enjoys her Barbies,” said one, “My daughter used to make her Barbie be the teacher with a bunch of crayons being her students…now she’s a teacher.”

“She talks about me like I’m not even here!” her daughter exclaimed.

Christmas morning came and the three Barbies danced along with Angelina Ballerina and Strawberry Shortcake’s friend Rasberry Torte. They got along just fine.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Loren Christie's Blog

Today a local newspaper attributed my blog title to my good friend Loren Christie. Her blog is called Dude Where Am I? and can be found here. Loren recently put all her stories together into a book I hope God is laughing: Confessions of an imperfect parent that is now available on Loren is an excellent writer and her stories about raising three kids are hilarious. This book would make a great gift for yourself or any mother.

Celebrate the Whole Christmas Season

While Honey was at the vet getting spayed, Thumper got loose and explored under the Christmas Tree. Click here to see my Examiner column on how and why families can celebrate the entire Christmas Season (at least until Little Christmas).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

“Doing-it-all”: the Bare Minimum Approach

Today I am baking for my Christmas baby: a cake to celebrate at home, and cupcakes to bring to batting practice and school. With my four-year-old helping, I started pouring the first batch into the pans before realizing I had forgotten to put the eggs in. I went through a dozen eggs trying to make three batches of my egg white cake without getting any yolk in.

I didn’t make my Christmas houses this year – or my gingerbread – or my banana bread. And it’s okay. We finished our Nutcracker story ornaments and have been working on our Jesse tree symbols. Even that is touch-and-go. With sports after school, sometimes I can’t get the whole family together to do that, so on other days we will catch up by doing one scripture and symbol per child.

They also wrote their letters to St. Nicholas, which they put in their stockings on the eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6. Finally, we have our advent bead boxes. There are different colors to represent different types of good deeds; the children tell us what they did and they get beads to put in their boxes, which they offer to Jesus by placing them under the tree on Christmas Eve.

The older the kids and I get, the more I realize that you can leave a lot of stuff out – it is in the way that you do things that really matters. I can’t bake for every class party, but if I do I do it out of love. I can’t be at every one of their sporting events – now that they are all at different places doing different things – but they know I do my best to see each of them do their thing, and when I am there I am completely “present”, eating up every pitch, play, or move they make.

It’s also tricky toeing the line on how visible they want me to be, although they all want me there. My four-year-old wants me at the door of her ballet class watching every step, often photographing and videotaping. My nine-year-old is okay if I’m not there, but he prefers knowing that either his dad or I saw it if he had a good hit or pitched a great game. My twelve-year-old won’t admit that she cares if we are there or not, but she does. My fourteen-year-old can now go to sporting events on the school bus, but she begs me to go see her if I can. She smiles when she sees me show up, but then shoos me away, signaling for me to keep my distance.

“Doing it all” suddenly becomes a lot more doable when you aren’t really doing it all – just doing the really essential things right (or as close to right as you can make it).

Luke 12: 25-26
Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your lifespan?
If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?

Friday, December 10, 2010

“Little Star” by Anthony DeStefano

If you are looking for an original, Christ-centered Christmas picture book, then “Little Star” by Anthony DeStefano might just be the one for you.

A little boy is looking out his window for the Christmas star and his father tells him why he cannot see it in the sky. He tells the tale of a little star who is often overlooked by the bigger stars. They are all talking about the upcoming birth of Jesus. When the great event occurs, the little star puts forth all of his energy to cast light upon the infant Jesus to keep the baby warm and help others to find Him. He burns himself out in the process, but is remembered forever for his place in history.

You can look at this book at many levels. Behind the story in the forefront lies a loving relationship between father and son. Parents who have been sharing the lives of the Saints with their children might also want to talk about the way the little star gave his life for Jesus as did many of the Saints. Children can also be invited to discuss bullying (as displayed by the bigger stars) and using their little talents to glorify God in their own ways.

“My goal was to try to encapsulate the whole gospel message in a simple Christmas story,” said DeStefano. This he has done, and has received rave reviews on and elsewhere.

A few months ago DeStefano’s first children’s book was published - This Little Prayer of Mine. He has also written a couple of bestselling non-fiction books — A Travel Guide to Heaven, and Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To — both published by Doubleday. You Tube has a video of Pat Boone reading the new book to a group of children.

With realistic, colorful illustrations of the humans in the story mixed in with the fanciful cartoons of Little Star, Mark Elliott has captured the meaning of the story in a way that will be easily understood by children. My own four-year-old was a little scared of the pictures for some reason, but that is for you decide if you think the paintings will appeal to your children or not.

The author sent me his book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

10 Reasons to be Thankful for a Cold

Although I suffer from seasonal allergies, I very rarely come down with a full-blown cold. Although no one ever wants to have a cold, the relative discomfort has made me more thankful for my good health. I also felt grateful for the ability to work from home, where my schedule is extremely flexible during the school day.

Most days I keep myself busy from the moment I wake up in the morning until at least midnight. Being sick gave me a good reason to give myself a break, chill out on the couch with my pre-schooler, and treat myself to hot soup and lots of tea. It reminded me that I should really give myself some downtime during the day on a regular basis.

Here are the lovely things I enjoyed while recovering from my cold:

1. A variety of delicious, aromatic, hot herbal teas.

2. Hot, sleep-inducing chicken noodle soup.

3. A nap on the couch curled up with my pre-schooler and growing puppy.

4. Baking rolled shaped Christmas cookies with the kids on their day off for
the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

5. Watching Peanuts videos with the kids on their day off; laughing at Snoopy’s antics and trying to figure out why Charlie Brown always loses his clothes after every pitch.

6. Reading dog-training books.

7. Catching up on our Jesse Tree scripture readings.

8. Wearing comfy sweats and oversized sweaters.

9. Reading Christmas books.

10. Staying home from the stores.

Of course, the best part is the recovery: suddenly realizing I can breathe freely, that my head doesn’t hurt, not having to blow my nose every five minutes.

I wish my readers good health through Advent and Christmas. If you should come down with a cold or something worse, try to make the best of it!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Reaping What I Sowed

Writing is a tough way of life. Like motherhood, it is not something you choose for earthly riches. You have to really love doing it. Not just that…you have to feel compelled to do it.

Like many of my writing friends, I have been writing my whole life, mostly for free and occasionally for a few pennies. It is largely a thankless job, with the rewards being seeing my name in print, treating my kids to ice cream on occasion, and accolades from my good writing buddies and very close friends and family who know how important my work is to me.

I have been sowing seeds on all sorts of soil for many years. My blog has given me the joy of writing for myself while getting feedback from those who enjoy my kind of stories. Next came my Examiner column, which gave me the prestige of a formal title and a small paycheck.

For the past several months, I have been so busy with my children’s sports that I have only been doing maintenance writing…writing just enough to keep my blog and column up-to-date. Then suddenly some remarkable things happened.

My running poem was published in a “Chicken Soup” book. An editor from CBS news contacted me saying that she liked my style and would I be interested in writing freelance for them? A good friend helped me to get a freelance article into a local newspaper.

God has a great sense of timing. My goal has been to be writing full time by the time my youngest is in Kindergarten, and I seem to be on the right track.

“Look what is happening…and I’m not even trying!” I said to my husband.

Not exactly. It’s like planting a perennial or a flowering tree that doesn’t bloom for the first few years. You tend to it, fertilize it, maybe give up and forget about it for a while, and then suddenly you are surprised with some really beautiful flowers. They only last for a few weeks, but if you prune and tend to the plant it will come back again the next year, bigger and bearing more blooms.

Children are like this too. During the early years they need quite a lot of tending to. Sometime in the middle school years their talents really come to light and suddenly they can do the most amazingly things on their own. You wonder sometimes how it is possible that they can do what they do…they usually don’t give you any credit and often you yourself forget what you have put into them. They still need attention – not too much and of a different sort - to thrive, but keep up the good work because you are in for a bountiful harvest.

2 Cor 9:6-10
Brothers and sisters:
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.
Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you,
so that in all things, always having all you need,
you may have an abundance for every good work.
As it is written:
"He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever."
The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food
will supply and multiply your seed
and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Honey the Lion Hunter

“She’s out again!” my husband yelled through the front door on his way to work today.

I really don’t have the time or patience for this. For the third time today, I ran out and wrestled the dog to the ground, picked her up, and carried her into the house. Then I went out to inspect the fence again.

You really forget the troubles of puppy ownership when you have lost an old, tired dog and succeeded it with another. The housetraining, biting, jumping, whining, and escaping are all enough to make me not like the dog so much when she is misbehaving. Then she sits there cutely begging for a treat, or sleeping curled up on her doggie bed with her tongue hanging out, and she’s loveable again.

“Hound X” is the breed notated on her papers. Being a rescue dog, her exact origins will never be known to us. She has the qualities of a hound, Labrador, bulldog, with the webbed paws that only a few breeds boast of.

On Halloween, we had her walking with us when a neighbor stopped us.

“What kind of dog is that?” she asked.

“I don’t know. She’s a rescue dog.”

“I think she’s a Rhodesian Ridgeback?” she said.

“A what?” I questioned, and she repeated it.

“Your neighbor around the block has one. It’s huge. She has all the same characteristics – the markings, the ears, the webbed feet, and the coloring.”

I looked toward the corner just then and saw one of the hugest dogs I have ever laid eyes upon coming around with her owners. As they approached, I said, “Hey, someone just told me my dog is the same breed as yours.”

“Yep, she looks just like he did when he was a puppy. She’ll be a little smaller though – her paws are smaller.”

Their dog, besides being a male, was tremendously overweight. I let them sniff each other quickly and then, just as quickly, said goodbye. She hasn’t been spayed yet (a requisite for adopted rescue dogs) and I didn’t want to take any chances.

Once inside the house I looked up Rhodesian Ridgeback on the computer. This dog was bred in Africa to hunt lions. It is a brave dog and resistant to pests such as ticks. It is intelligent and great as an athletic trainer. The puppy pictures looked just like our Honey! The only thing she is missing is the “ridge”, which is a line of fur running opposite the rest of the coat on the spine. I read that this ridge is caused by a mutant gene but is a desired trait in the breed. The twenty-five percent that are born without the ridge are “culled” (sometimes that means “killed”) or removed from the breeding population.

So maybe Honey and her sister were purebred throwaways! Suddenly I saw her in a different light – she wasn’t just an unwanted mongrel but a potentially valuable dog. If she nipped at me I would say she was looking for a lion to hunt. I gave her some of the kids’ toy dinosaurs.

Why should her breed make a difference though? I started to get a little angry at whoever would get rid of a dog for the lack of a silly characteristic. A dog is a dog no matter where she came from and they all have lots of love to offer whoever wants to receive it.

"Also the animals possess a soul, and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren."
- Pope John Paul II

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monica and David: HBO looks at a young wedded couple with Down Syndrome

Isn’t it sweet? In one of its newest documentaries, HBO looks at a young couple in love during their wedding preparations and the early stages of their marriage. The bride and groom just happen to have Down Syndrome. The footage is taken by a cousin of the bride, so one would hope it would have a positive take on the situation.

Monica and David were each born to 20-year-old mothers who were left by their husbands within a year of the birth of the children; they remarried supportive husbands. Monica appears to be very high functioning, with a high level of understanding. David is also high functioning but does not have the depth of cognitive understanding that Monica does. They met in a seven-year-long life skills course.

David never had a girlfriend before Monica, and when they met he was jealous of her then-boyfriend. She has had several boyfriends, which he is not happy with. Eventually he won her over, and the two families worked together to allow the two to court and have a beautiful wedding.

The bride’s family took the couple into their home while refurbishing another home, where the couple would have their own wing. The couple hopes to eventually be able to live on their own, but their parents say this is an impossibility. Although they are able to work on the outside, the parents are very protective and do not let them go anywhere without supervision. The parents worry what will happen to Monica and David when they (the parents) are no longer able to care for them.

Early in the marriage, David is diagnosed with diabetes, causing him to be even more dependent on his in-laws. The couple expresses the desire to have children, and they are shown helping to care for a relative’s baby. This is the one piece I have a problem with.

Monica’s mother, who earlier on describes her daughter as “the light of my life”, comments that one of her responsibilities is making sure the young couple uses birth control (she does not say what kind). She says that, since they are just like kids themselves, they will never be able to bear the responsibility of a child.

Now, the first reaction I had to this statement was: how can you put two people in a situation where they can understand the meaning of love, and be fully intimate, and desire children, and forbid them from having children? I know the responsibility the parents of Monica and David is incredible and taking on the responsibility of grandchildren on top of that must be a consideration, but bear with me as I explore the meaning of this.

To treat people like they are capable of having sex without having babies is to treat them as less than soul-less animals. Even animals with little intellect have the intuition to know how to care for their young. To say these young people can love each other and marry but not bear children is demeaning to their humanity.

If indeed Monica’s mother believes her daughter is incapable of the responsibility of bearing children, another path she could have chosen was to steer her in the direction of lifelong virginity…preserving her innocence and protecting her from the heartache that comes with continual dating and breakups. A life without romantic love is not an unfulfilling one.

Other than this one digression, I thought it was a very nice documentary showing how adults with Down syndrome can lead a productive and happy life.

The topic of their childless marriage has been explored in Inside Catholic by Jason Negri – in a controversial post “Down Syndrome Couples” which brought on many comments.

Why not sterilize the inconvenient? by blogger Simcha Fischer is a commentary opposing the view taken by Negri.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Once upon a summer, a trucker was driving down the highway outside Fayetteville, North Carolina when something made him stop short. A pair of scrawny, copper-colored puppies was limping along the side of the road. He stopped, picked them up, and called the local animal rescue.

The loving people who came to pick them up nursed them back to health. Penny and Lacy had little burn marks around their paws from the hot tar on the road. They had to be de-wormed and brought up to a healthy weight. Then they made the long trip to Long Island, where they were fostered in a large house with the family’s four children and four dogs. One of the daughters of the house, a lover of designer labels, renamed them Gucci and Chanelle.

The foster parent put a picture of the puppies on Craig’s List. Chanelle was adopted first by a family in the Hamptons. Gucci was adopted by the Miller Family, which quickly renamed her Honey. Honey is sweet, a very feminine name, and the color of the dog.

The first time she entered the house, she had a ball. She ran all over the place, jumped all over the couches, and chewed on whatever she could find. The foster mother called, asking, “How is she doing?”

“Oh, she is having a wonderful time exploring her new home.”

“You didn’t let her have free reign of the house, did you?”

“Uh, yeah.”

What followed was basic instruction on crate training, which the Millers ignored.

Honey is about the same size as the four-year-old girl, and they have great fun snuggling up together. Sometimes Honey tries to eat the little girl’s clothes and has to be separated from her.

Once a day, she takes Honey for a walk around the block. Her mother has to help her a bit. Neighbors stop, asking, “What kind of dog is that?”

“I don’t know,” says the mother, “She is a rescue puppy.”

The nine-year-old boy loves to run, and when he gets home from school he has running races with her in the back yard. Then she comes in, exhausted, and goes to sleep in her doggie bed.

The eleven-year-old girl also loves to run, but she has school work to do when she gets home, so she just gives her loving attention while she does her work.

The thirteen-year-old girl runs so many miles a day for her cross-country team that she gives her a few friendly pats and throws herself on the couch to rest. In the morning, however, she is the first to rise and take Honey out in the yard, while she checks on the rabbit.

The mother in the house is very busy and Honey is eagerly trying to learn how to please her. When the father in the house comes home, she settles herself under his chair. She knows he is the master here.

Then there is the white bunny that lives in a cage outside. Honey isn’t quite sure how to deal with it. Sometimes she goes up to Thumper and gives it a friendly sniff and sometimes barks at it for a few minutes. They seem to get along.

That is Honey’s story so far. The Millers hope it is the beginning of a long and happy one.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How to Adopt a Dog

We adopted Honey Bear Miller from Save A Dog A Day in East Hampton. The process was rather complicated. Here is my latest article on How to Adopt a Dog. (Blog posts with puppy stories will be here soon!)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bear's Pet Memorial Garden and Stone Marker

Click here for a post on how to make this garden marker as part of a pet memorial garden. My 13-year old was artistic director for the garden marker and my 11-year-old for the seashell design. My 9-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter helped with both. This was an extremely healing activity for our family. Bear's gentle spirit will always remain with us.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bear Midnight Miller

"Also the animals possess a soul, and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren."
Pope John Paul II

“Bear is going to Puppy Heaven today,” I told my four-year-old daughter on Friday, “She will be able to go play with all our bunnies who are there - Hoppity, Peach, and Lucky.” She seemed to understand. She had watched me change bandages on her bleeding paws and carry her around because she was no longer able to walk, and she knew Bear was old and sick.

Bear, who has been in perfect health all thirteen years of her happy life, had a sudden decline over the past two weeks. Her had stopped eating and breathing was so poor that we knew her time was imminent.

“I can’t stand to see her suffer any more,” my husband said, and so we arranged to have a traveling veterinarian come to our house that evening at 7:30 PM, when we could have the whole family together. Still I hoped for a natural death for my gentle friend.

I carried her outside for some sunshine. At around noon, I went out and blessed her with holy water. “Please Jesus, take her home to be with you. St. Francis of Assissi, please help her.”

Although I had bathed her two days before, her smell was attracting flies, so I brought her in to the kitchen. I cleaned the house, put out freshly cut flowers and lit candles, to make the atmosphere peaceful for that evening.

Two of the children came home at 3:35. I explained to them what we planned to do and why. They were a little upset. At 3:40 I went outside to push my little one on the swings. At 3:45 I heard a yelp and the water bowl crash. I ran inside and saw that she had passed, her head on her paw.

I called the children and when they all met in the kitchen at once, they all started to howl. I tried to hug them all at once, and moved them into the living room. We stayed there for about 20 minutes and then moved outside to the deck. I was surprised that they were able to enjoy a goldfish snack, and actually play a little game with the goldfish crackers.

We had to pick up my older daughter from cross country at the high school. I warned them not to say anything to her until we got home. I didn’t want to cause a scene in front of the school or even in front of my house.

She came out of the school looking very happy. “I had a great day!” she declared.
Her sister and I exchanged looks when she was putting her stuff into the trunk.
We got home and I said we needed to go around back. I wanted to tell her in the back yard before going into the house.

Later she would say that she always knows what is coming when I tell them to sit down. We had gone through this with the bunnies.

“Come here,” I said, as I put my arms around her.

“Is it Bear?”

She looked at the other kids and knew. It was even worse for her. We had gotten Bear as a two-month-old puppy when she was a two-month-old newborn, and we celebrated their birthdays together.

Coming home to no dog was hard. . .

On Sunday morning I dreamt that Bear was playing with Alamo, the golden retriever of my childhood. I woke to the sound of giggling girls. I knew we were going to be okay. I went to Michael’s to purchase a garden stone kit. Together we made a garden stone for Bear, and planted mums around her grave.

"All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful:
the Lord God made them all."
Cecil F. Alexander

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This Old Dog

This week brought a new trial to the Miller household. Our black Labrador, Bear, who has been completely healthy for thirteen years, started bleeding from her paws. I originally thought she had broken off her claws and wrapped them up, thinking they would heal on their own. When the bleeding failed to improve, I brought her in to a veterinarian. I was in for a big shock.

Bear hasn’t left home in years, and she was shaking from the time I carried her out to the car to the time I lifted her onto the table.

I started by apologizing that she hadn’t been bathed recently; I hadn’t wanted to aggravate the bleeding and she has been spending her days outside. I also felt the need to explain why her claws hadn’t been trimmed recently. The assistant was very understanding. Again I felt apologetic as I removed her bandaging and she started bleeding all over the table.

“She has tumors in her paws,” the lady vet with the kind eyes told me.

My mind flashed back to my childhood dog, Alamo, a lively golden retriever whose life ended at the age of fourteen after we found tumors on her head. It was the first time I ever saw my dad cry; the second time was when his own father died.

Was she going to tell me to put her down? My eyes filled with tears.

I saw the doctor’s nose redden in response to my own show of emotion. “We can try an antibiotic for ten days,” she explained, “After that the only option would be surgery, which I wouldn’t suggest for a dog her age. Please call me by the end of the week and tell me how she is doing.”

I went home crying. I had to tell the kids what was going on with their beloved pet. As the days go on, they watch as I change her bandages. She doesn’t want to get up, so they have been bringing her food and water. She stopped eating hard dog food, so we bought her canned food. She even turns away from that now, and I have to force her to eat her pills, wrapped within deli meats. It feels odd now that I don’t have to watch the table to make sure she doesn’t jump up and eat my husband’s dinner.

Four days into the ten days of antibiotics prescribed, I wonder if she will improve; if she will pass peacefully; or if I will have to make a decision to euthanize my loyal friend.

Monday, August 23, 2010

"Parenting with Grace" by the Popcaks: A Book Review

Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising Almost Perfect Kids, 2nd Edition, by Gregory K. Popcak, PhD., and Lisa Popcak, and a foreward by Dr. Bill and Martha Sears, is an authoritatively written text outlining everything the authors believe a family should do in order to bring up their children in a Catholic way.

The Popcaks offer practical solutions to many of the difficult situations faced by parents, including sleep problems, tantrums, dating, and technology, within the framework of the Catholic faith. Every chapter has quizzes for parents to see how they are doing in a certain area, as well as suggestions for how to improve.

Integrating The Theology of the Body and the philosophy of attachment parenting into every chapter, the Popcaks make a good case for their method of parenting. They show us why Catholicism can and should be a part of how we parent, and how it should set us apart as a special breed. They argue that, because Catholics believe in learning by natural law, science and the Catholic way should work hand-in-hand to show us what is the best way to raise our kids, from breastfeeding in infancy to sending our teenagers off to college.

After outlining the basics of Catholic parenting, the Popcaks go into great detail on each stage of development: infancy, toddlerhood, early childhood, school-age childhood, and the teenage years. They talk about faith development, sibling rivalry, childhood fears, dealing with technology, and working parents. I thought it was amazing that they were able to touch on so many various topics. This book is in touch with the modern parent and issues of today, and yet the authors are not afraid to put forth opinions that many will disagree with.

The Popcaks never say any of this will be easy. Their suggestions for improvement are rather methodical and specific. While most of what they say resonates with my own family values, I think that it would be difficult for many families to follow their instructions on improving family life. However, I do think their methods would work for parents that are set on fixing the things that have not been working in their family.

Be forewarned that their point of view is Conservative Catholic; if you are not looking for this then you will not appreciate the book. If you disagree with the attachment parenting espoused by Dr. Bill and Martha Sears, which includes co-sleeping, breastfeeding, and carrying your baby in a sling, you might have a difficult time with the book; or, you might start to see these practices in a different light.

The book end with chapters devoted to natural family planning, motherhood, fatherhood, marriage, and family maintenance. Appendixes include “The Natural Institution of the Family” by Herbert Ratner, M.D., and “Ten Reasons We Can’t Spank: A Catholic Examination of Corporal Punishment”.

I highly recommend this book for all Catholic families with kids of all ages.
This review was written as part of the Catholic books reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Parenting With Grace, 2nd Edition.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Send-Off

“Promise me you won’t swim on the ocean side,” my husband warned our thirteen-year-old daughter. She was packing to visit her friend on Fire Island overnight.

A few days prior, we had a small scare with my son at the ocean beach at Smith Point. The kids were within yards of me and my eldest daughter yelled over that it looked like her brother was having trouble.

She came over to hold my four-year-old’s hand while I dove under the first breaking wave and got to where he was. He was swimming against the riptide, hard, and getting tired.

Another wave was coming. “Quick – dive under it” I warned. We both took a tumble under it – when we came up we were right next to each other and I guided him to shore. The lifeguard had us in his sights and was ready to dive in to assist if necessary.

I asked him to take a drink of water and lie down for a while. He was a little shaken, as was I. The rest of the time he chose to dig tunnels in the walls of sand, and I kept our little one busy making sand castles while watching my two older daughters and their friend like a hawk.

I worried about my daughter’s upcoming trip, knowing that the riptide would be worse on the barrier beach and I would be a ferry-ride away. As much as I love the beach, I was glad when it was time to go.

Monday morning I took her to the ferry. Her baby sister came to see her off. We were the first ones on line, and I had to fight not to cry as the time for her departure came upon us. She is a big girl, taller and stronger than I, with a good head on her shoulders. Yet sending her off to sea was a big step for me.

One of her friends was dropped off to leave on the same ferry, and I was glad she would have company on the way there. I gave her a big hug and asked me to please call me when she got safely to the other side. The gates opened, and they walked through, crossed the ramp onto the boat, and seated themselves on the top – on the opposite side, where I couldn’t see them.

My four-year-old and I waited for the boat to leave. We watched it as it got smaller and smaller, until we could no longer see it. I saw her going off to high school – which she will be doing in two weeks – and eventually leaving for college.

When I got home, my husband heard me sniffling in the kitchen. “What’s the matter?,” he asked.

“What – you don’t know?” I finally answered.

“Don’t worry – she’ll be fine,” he comforted me.

“No it’s not that so much – it’s just hard to send her off like that when I’m so used to all my kids being close to me.”

“She’ll always be our baby, no matter how big she gets,” he said, completely understanding my thoughts.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


“CAUTION STRONG RIPTIDES NO SWIMMING ALLOWED” the sign read at Smith Point, our nearest ocean beach. It was 5:30 PM; the lifeguards were just leaving and we were just arriving, avoiding the $8 parking fee that is charged until 5:00.

Walking along the boardwalk that is adjacent to the Flight 800 Memorial, lined with flags representing the countries of origin of those who went down in the controversial plane crash, we watched as the lifeguards waved all the people to shore. As soon as the lifeguards were off the beach, the people waded back in.

Looking down over the guardrails, we could see new fences that had been put around the boulders at the base of the boardwalk’s foundations. There was now a twenty-foot drop from the boardwalk to the beach below. Last year this time, those boulders were not visible and the sand had almost reached the level of the boardwalk. This was all the work of erosion, and it was fortunate for us beachgoers that the beach was even open for our enjoyment.

The kids were excited by the wild waves, which became deceptively calm as they came closer to shore. As a former lifeguard who has had herself to be assisted in the riptide at Montauk Point, I have a very healthy respect of the ocean. I held on tight to my four year old with two arms and watched my three older ones like a hawk – they were instructed to go no deeper than the knees and no farther than ten feet from me.

We all went together for a sandwich break behind a sandhill, which had been built by the lifeguards to keep their watch stand in place. They all began building a sandcastle, and I was able to lay there, admiring their youthful enthusiasm, with the backdrop of the blue sky and the awesome ocean.

The stress of the busy summer and decisions for fall commitments dropped away as we enjoyed the present. What had kept me away from my favorite place? How much more would I put on my plate so that there was less and less time to fritter away here?

Erosion is the wearing away of a natural surface by redepositing its particles elsewhere. It is a natural and inevitable process; the beach must be watched and seasonally built back up by transporting more sand to renew its levels. Otherwise, before you know it, it’s gone. We can allow our souls to be eroded if we don’t keep careful watch and allow ourselves to be renewed on a regular basis.

St. Paul knew what it meant to be worn down and he encouraged the first Christians at Corinth to be present to the everlasting renewal offered by Christ. Today’s distractions are very different from those of that time period, but the message is more apt than ever.

2 Corinthians 4 : 16-18
Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Living Deliberately

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

A long time ago, it seems – really just five years ago but it seems like a lifetime ago – I had a pretty quiet life. We were homeschooling, and took life one day at a time. I looked at some of my friends who worked and had their children in multiple activities and felt sorry for them. Their brains seemed so full of scheduling dilemmas that there was no room for intellectual depth.

Now, with three kids in school and all of them involved in travel softball and baseball, we are busy every day. There is so much activity packed into spring and carrying over into the first few weeks of summer that it takes a few weeks to catch one’s breath. I try to schedule some “down time” into every day, a few hours of swimming in the pool before dinner and that night’s ball games, but it is still mentally and physically exhausting when there is no break in the constant commitments.

Leisure is needed to allow for depth of thought. Why I haven’t been writing as much as I used to has as much to do with the state of my brain as with my schedule. I used to wonder why those busy friends of mine seemed so “shallow”. Was I becoming like them? If I kept up at this pace, would I become a thoughtless creature, going through the motions of life without the whole of my soul involved?

We finally had a few days with nothing scheduled, and I even turned off the computer, which often provides distraction from absorption into family time. We read books, played chess, watched baseball, and just hung around. It was great. After a full day of doing next-to-nothing, I sat down and did a long-put-off project and was quite pleased.

Summer is a time for rest and restoration. As the kids get older and are provided with more options for activity outside of the house, it requires much deliberation to balance purposeful activity (whether work/play, or a combination of the two, such as sports) with rest and thought.

Are you getting enough rest to restore your soul on a daily basis? Is there a deliberate purpose to whatever you have planned for your family this summer? Are you just keeping busy or are you living deeply, sucking the marrow of life?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Five Raccoons

Coming out of the King Kullen parking lot, a light blue Oldsmobile with Florida plates cruised uncertainly ahead of me. Was that an old man with a hat driving? Suddenly I was reminded of my Poppop, John S. Nagy Sr., my maternal grandfather who passed away a year ago, with the honors of being both a New York City Police Officer and Veteran of War. Not to mention world’s funniest grandfather who wore his old man’s hat with style.

The tears that came then were both of happiness and sadness – happiness that the memories of Poppop and the time we had spent together will always be with me – sadness that he is gone from this world forever, leaving his wife of several decades behind. I think of him whenever the Mets play the Marlins, because he was both a Mets fan (being a native New Yorker) and a Marlins fan (having moved to Florida in retirement).

Wiping away my tears, I was driving down the long country road that leads to my house, when my headlights shone on a family of five raccoons crossing a yard ahead of me. No one was behind me and I stopped short. I thought they had stopped right in the center of my front end. To be certain, I edged up and turned around.

No road-kill in the middle of the road. There was one raccoon on the right side of the road, standing upright and keeping watch as the other ones re-crossed in the opposite direction again. I watched as two cars sped by in the opposite direction. Why did I care?

My Dad would have said it was good riddance. In my childhood neighborhood of Bethpage, squirrels and raccoons were pests that were gotten rid of by multiple methods. Drowning, carbon monoxide, and bb guns were common methods of killing them off. A farming neighbor said that if you caught them and spray painted their tails and then drove them off to the state park, they would be back within three days. My Dad did that and sure enough there were blue-tailed squirrels running up the Maples in my backyard three days later.

The next day I went to carve up the watermelon for the kids as they swam. I searched the packed fridge and couldn’t find it. “Where did you put the watermelon?” I yelled to my son. “What watermelon?” he answered. I ran to the car and found it under the backseat. It hadn’t been fully ripe when I bought it – it was perfect now.

Why did I stop for those stupid raccoons? Again I asked myself, as I cut up the large, juicy fruit. I brought it out to my husband, kids, and nephews, who jumped out of the pool and eagerly ate it up, throwing the rinds into the woods. Some deer, or more likely a raccoon, would come eat them up, and then run out into the road on the other side. Would they make it?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review of “The Templars: Knights of Christ” by Regine Pernoud

The notoriety of the Templars has greatly increased in the current century, due to controversy-stirring portrayals by The History Channel and novelists such as Dan Brown (“The DaVinci Code”). Ignatius Press has done the public a great service by publishing this excellent book by Regine Pernoud, translated by Henry Taylor . An expert in medieval history, Pernoud has set out to set the record straight on the purpose and activities of the Templar Knights.

The order of the Knights of the Temple of Solomon was founded in 1119 by Hugh of Payns, a knight from Champagne in eastern France. A group of monk-knights took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and banded together to protect pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem from Muslim bandits. In 1128 the council at Troyes gave them official recognition and organization under the “Latin Rule”.

Pernoud quotes the Latin Rule in detailing the very strict rules that were followed in the daily life of the Templars, and the way novitiates were received into the order. She goes into their architecture in great detail. The great battles fought by the Templars, and the many men who gave their lives in carrying out their missions, are documented in the chapter ”The Templar Epic”.

The author explains how the Templars acted as the first international bankers, using their treasuries in various locations as credit for Kings and Queens. Their power and control of these great treasuries incited the jealousy of the French crown; Pernoud makes the case that monarchial greed might have been the prime cause of their ultimate downfall.

The Templars were accused of heresy and crimes of indecency; the French inquisitors tortured many into making confessions, and burned at the stake those who maintained their innocence. Most of the Templars were killed and their reputation was sullied for all future generations.

Pernoud makes a powerful argument for the innocence of the Templars, through great detail in documentation and explanations of how mistranslations and misunderstandings were carried through the centuries. The reader is left sharing in the author’s astonishment at the accusations that have been left standing against a group of Christians who gave up everything to defend the faithful.

This book was sent to me as part of the Tiber Review Program by Aquinas and More in exchange for my honest review. For ordering information please click here.

Review of “Sex au Naturel: What it is and Why it’s Good for your Marriage” by Patrick Coffin

Leave it to a well-informed Catholic to be able to write for 134 pages about sex without being “sexy”. Despite the romantic cover, this book is actually a rather technical and philosophical treatise explaining the true meaning and reasoning behind Humanae Vitae and other church documents pertaining to human sexuality and marriage.

“Sex au Naturel: What it is and Why it’s Good for your Marriage” by Patrick Coffin was written primarily for practicing Catholics but all Christians may benefit from it. Whether the reader believes whole-heartedly in the teachings of the Catholic Church regarding sexuality, dissents, or is confused either about what the catechism teaches or how he or she feels about it, this book offers rational clarification. One may disagree at the end, but with a better understanding of many different facets of the issues.

Coffin first explains the basics of the 1968 papal encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (“On the Regulation of Human Life”) and the world’s reaction to it, in the context of the 1960’s, the introduction of the Pill and the Sexual Revolution, and the Second Vatican Council. Other little known encyclicals are referenced.

The author explains the mistaken view of conscience that powers the movement of dissent against the Church’s sexual ethics. Then he delves into the scriptural basis for these teachings and the logic of natural law that coincides with the same. He explains how Protestant churches originally reached the same conclusions and why they diverged from them.

What does the marital act have to do with the Trinity? This section is mind-blowing in its comparisons of pro-creative sex with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The argument for “Sex au Naturel” from here on gets more and more powerful.

Proceed from there to the explanation of how contraception contradicts natural law. Coffin also goes into how exactly contraception is different, both physically and spiritually, from natural family planning, and how couples who have been sterilized can get a “second chance” in following Catholic teaching in their marriage. He also explains how reproductive technologies go against the grain of Christian teaching when marital love is taken out of procreation.

The appendix includes many informational references on Natural Family Planning, Theology of the Body, Catholic Teaching on Sex and Marriage, Educational Organizations, Sexual Addiction, and Marriage Counseling and Support.

This book is excellent reading for anyone who wants to be better informed about Catholic teaching on sex and marriage. It would be a great complement to marriage preparation classes or marriage counseling sessions.

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

Friday, June 11, 2010

Report of 2010 Memorial Day 5K Run/Walk for the Unborn

Our first annual Memorial Day 5K Run/Walk for the Unborn was a small success. We had a small group in attendance from our church's pro-life group. We hope with more promotion to get a bigger turnout for next year or for the Labor Day event. See my Examiner article for the report and links to sign up your local community for the Labor Day 5K Run/Walk at 9 a.m. Sept 6, 2010.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Where have I been?

“I’m so thankful for friends like you,” I told my friend over coffee the other morning, “I know I can always come back to you.”

When I took up the hat of Softball Director, I had no idea of how many other facets of my life would go by the wayside. Personal paperwork piles up while softball papers get neatly filed. Friendly emails go unanswered while queries from coaches are returned immediately. Writing my daily blog has been replaced by composing dozens of emails that get sent out daily.

I don’t get paid but the perks are priceless. Like having my kids get announced on the field at the Long Island Ducks game, and being involved in the decisions that affect how their season is run.

My husband is so easy-going; he picks up milk and cereal at the start of the day, and the toys in the living room at the end of the day. When I missed a wedding shower, my future sister-in-law acted like no forgiveness was needed. My kids don’t clean their rooms but get their homework done and are always ready to go back to the field.

I say no to most other social activities to give us time as a family. When the kids get home from school, we hop in the pool for a half hour, have dinner together, and then get ready to go to at least one game or practice. We get home, have ice cream, shower, and go to bed. How much room is there for anything else?

This weekend I threw my daughter a sleepover/pool party with 15 guests. Half of the girls were from school and half from softball. This was partly to make up for all the sleepovers and playdates I have had to say no to throughout the year due to our busy schedule. They had a great time and I enjoyed watching them enjoy themselves.

“To everything there is a season”. My father always talks about how our roles in life change from time to time throughout our life span. For a season of several years I was a very involved homeschooler. Now my children are independent learners and thriving in the organized school sphere. Outside of school they are learning things on the field that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. I am having the time of my life watching that happen.

“My brain isn’t going anywhere,” I told another writing friend, “My writing is still in there and will come out in due time.”

Thank you for your patience as my posts remain thin during this busy time. I know you are all busy too and I pray you can take a moment to feel blessed for all of those things that you are putting your time and energy into.

Picture is of my family at the Met game at Citi Field on Mother's Day.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


A birthday is always cause for celebration, but some seem so much bigger than others. As we come upon my eldest daughter’s thirteenth birthday, I find myself become extremely emotional, more so than for any other of my children’s birthdays that have passed.

The reflections I have in looking back on her life so far are as much about myself as they are about her. The studies I read about human developmental stage in earning my Psychology degree – especially those of Erik Erikson – make so much more sense now that I have lived through early adulthood and have a child entering adolescence.

To everything there is a time and season. According to Erikson, we must progress through stages successfully in order to go on to the next. It is our job as parents to help that happen, by encouraging them in the right direction. But the individual has to master skills on his or her own – if the parent does too much it stifles development. So parents are constantly weighing what is the right thing to do – or not do – as their children grow.

We see our children as a product of ourselves, so our own self-esteem is wrapped up around how we perceive our children. If we are happy with how they are turning out, we can feel good about that; if not, we are filled with waves of self-doubt. In both cases, we have to offer up our children to God, giving Him credit for who they are and asking for grace to deal with the challenges we face as their parents.

Being a parent has changed my whole perception of reality. I have learned exponentially with each year more about God, life, and myself. I see that I worried unnecessarily about little things years ago that don’t matter now. I see that you can direct your path to a certain degree but some things you can never predict.

I look with wonder and awe at a child who biologically is the product of me and my husband and who has been shaped to a certain degree by us, but who constantly amazes us with qualities that could only have been God-given. I think of all the choices we have made and the results of those and I am happy that God guided us; and that we listened.

I think with hope toward her future and pray God will continue to guide us in the right direction; that she will continue to listen to the Holy Spirit in all she does and constantly grow in her faith and as the person God has meant for her to be.

I pray for all the parents out there in whatever stage they may be, that they can be thankful for whatever it is they have been given, and put themselves and their children in God’s hands, accepting the past and embracing the present, always looking forward.

Pictured above: Audrey reads "The Weight of a Mass" by Josephine Nobisso to the Little Flowers group at Our Lady of the Island.

Monday, May 3, 2010


I finally learned how to keep the scorebook for my children’s softball and baseball games. That is, I got the basics down. My husband explained to me how it is a constant learning process because there are so many intricate rules to a ballgame that it takes a lifetime to fully understand them. Every ballgame he watches on television he says, “There never ceases to be plays that have never happened before.”

During a 20-inning Met game, I sat down with a scorebook and practiced. I had to keep asking my kids to explain what was going on and by the end I thought I had it. Then I tried to keep score at my daughter’s game and messed up the very first inning, after looking up and responding to someone’s question. My husband said it was virtually impossible to score a girls’ softball game because of all the errors that take place. It also goes much faster than a major league game - where you have like five minutes in between batters and replays in between.

I kept practicing and in the process have been given a greater understanding and appreciation of the game. Between scoring and calculating statistics for the league, I now see the game in terms of numbers. If my daughter gets an out going to first but brings in a runner, I can say, “Oh, that was a sacrifice…it’s okay because she brought a runner in.” I now have a grand slam recorded for each of my daughters and look forward to the day my son will hit one.

Finally I was ready and the coach surrendered his book to me. I stood way off from everyone and refused to acknowledge anyone who tried to talk to me, knowing it would throw me off. I like to keep track of the balls and strikes as well; but it is so easy to concentrate on the pitcher and batter and then lose track of stolen bases and errors. You have to constantly be scanning the field and noting where all the runners are as well. And because the plays happen so fast and you’re trying to keep track of where everybody is, sometimes it becomes necessary to ask someone else what just happened.

Parenting is like this too. The little things do matter – but you can’t lose sight of the big picture. Your big dreams have to be constantly kept in the background, knowing that it is all the small decisions you and your children make each day that will bring you there. Constant change in focus and perspective is necessary to keep it all in balance. And one person can’t possibly do it all. Husband and wife need to keep each other appraised of what is going on play by play, from different viewpoints. If a single parent doesn’t have that on a daily basis, the job is so much tougher; he or she needs to have as much support as possible from other trusted adults.

I Thessalonians 4 captures both the intricate and the life summation in one short passage. In Christianity every thought and action that takes place in your daily walk is of importance; it all leads to eternal salvation. We are told not to “fall asleep” – we must be constantly aware and ready. Like we tell our girls not to fall asleep in the outfield because when that ball comes to them they have to be in “ready position” or bad things happen (like homeruns being scored on errors).

1 Thessalonians
Chapter 4 (NAB)
Finally, brothers, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God--and as you are conducting yourselves--you do so even more.
For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
This is the will of God, your holiness: that you refrain from immorality,
that each of you know how to acquire a wife for himself in holiness and honor,
not in lustful passion as do the Gentiles who do not know God;
not to take advantage of or exploit a brother in this matter, for the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you before and solemnly affirmed.
For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness.
Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not a human being but God, who (also) gives his holy Spirit to you.
On the subject of mutual charity you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.
Indeed, you do this for all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Nevertheless we urge you, brothers, to progress even more,
and to aspire to live a tranquil life, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your (own) hands, as we instructed you,
that you may conduct yourselves properly toward outsiders and not depend on anyone.
We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together 4 with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Therefore, console one another with these words.

Picture is of Audrey playing catcher in a travel game October 2009. If you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy reading “Statistics: Who Needs Them?”

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Statistics: Who Needs Them ?

"A passion for statistics is the earmark of a literate people." - Paul Fisher

My newest project is that of calculating statistics for the softball league and posting them to the sports website. When I got the first batch of numbers, I had to ask my husband what they all meant and he happily brought me our huge hardcopy of John Thorn’s “Total Baseball: The Official Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball” so that I could fully understand and appreciate the history behind the stats tables.

I got the first table up and went outside, hoping I had gotten it right. I’m one of those people who can’t sleep if a little detail is wrong. “What’s the big deal – it’s just a little girl’s game, right?” I imagined what someone might say if they knew how worked up I had gotten about getting it right. Then I remembered back to the statistics courses I had taken, and eventually student-taught, as part of my psychology degree. “Why do we have to know all this? Of what use are all these calculations?” students would constantly moan.

One of the basic calculations is that of the average. Average can statistically mean one of several things, and if you don’t know that you will walk through life letting the newspapers report to you whichever of those fits the news they want you to believe. It can mean “mode”, or the most recurring number or other value, as in: The average person has brown hair. It can mean “median”, or the number that falls right in the middle, as in: The average person lives in a $200,000 house. The only type of average that mathematically means anything is that of “mean”, which is the sum divided by the number of values, usually resulting in a decimal, as in: The average person has 2.2 kids and half a dog.

Statistics can be as accurate as you want them to be. My professor used to tease me because I always liked to carry my calculations to the third decimal. The decimals can go on and on as far as you want to take them.

Statistics are used to objectify information that is used for decision-making. How do we know who is the best teacher, best student, or best ball player? By their statistics. This takes out the human factor so that everyone can see a rational justification for someone being appointed for a position or an award. Statistics make things fair.

Statistics are used by scientists to study the world. Every experiment is analyzed by statistics to come up with scientific conclusions. Lots of experiments are repeated and meta-analyzed to further generalize a theory. Statistics help us to discover and understand about God’s creation.

Little kids playing baseball or softball can look at their numbers and know that they can improve them through practice. As they see their decimals increase in value they can have the satisfaction that comes with improving their game, just as a runner strives to decrease the time it takes to run a mile.

Statistics speak the truth and enlighten us towards wisdom – and all that testifies to the light comes from God.

Chapter 8 (NAB)
Does not Wisdom call, and Understanding raise her voice?
On the top of the heights along the road, at the crossroads she takes her stand;
By the gates at the approaches of the city, in the entryways she cries aloud:
"To you, O men, I call; my appeal is to the children of men.
You simple ones, gain resource, you fools, gain sense.
"Give heed! for noble things I speak; honesty opens my lips.
Yes, the truth my mouth recounts, but the wickedness my lips abhor.
Sincere are all the words of my mouth, no one of them is wily or crooked;
All of them are plain to the man of intelligence, and right to those who attain knowledge.
Receive my instruction in preference to silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold.
(For Wisdom is better than corals, and no choice possessions can compare with her.)
"I, Wisdom, dwell with experience, and judicious knowledge I attain.
(The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;) Pride, arrogance, the evil way, and the perverse mouth I hate.
Mine are counsel and advice; Mine is strength; I am understanding.
By me kings reign, and lawgivers establish justice;
By me princes govern, and nobles; all the rulers of earth.
"Those who love me I also love, and those who seek me find me.
With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity.
My fruit is better than gold, yes, than pure gold, and my revenue than choice silver.
On the way of duty I walk, along the paths of justice,
Granting wealth to those who love me, and filling their treasuries.
"The LORD begot me, the first-born of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago;
From of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no fountains or springs of water;
Before the mountains were settled into place, before the hills, I was brought forth;
While as yet the earth and the fields were not made, nor the first clods of the world.
"When he established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;
When he made firm the skies above, when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth;
When he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command;
Then was I beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day, Playing before him all the while,
playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the sons of men.
"So now, O children, listen to me;
instruction and wisdom do not reject! Happy the man who obeys me, and happy those who keep my ways,
Happy the man watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts;
For he who finds me finds life, and wins favor from the LORD;
But he who misses me harms himself; all who hate me love death."

Picture: Audrey at bat at a travel game Columbus Day Weekend 2009.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Run/Walk for the Unborn Memorial Day Anywhere

This is a shadow event to raise money for the prolife cause. Register at the website and then organize your own walk or run anywhere at 9 AM on Memorial Day. I will be organizing one on Eastern Long Island. If you are interested please email me at

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Being the Underdog

“If you can accept losing, you can't win.” – Vince Lombardi

When watching a sports game in which none of our favorite teams are playing, Kevin always likes to root for the underdog. It is just great to see a small name team come out on top and surprise everyone. This takes on a whole new dimension when the underdog is your own child. Last year I wrote about how my daughter’s in-house softball team came back from a 0-16 season and beat the 16-0 team in the playoff game. Little did we know what a year we would be in for with travel ball.

Last summer our town league started its first travel softball team. The manager warned us that it would be a tough first season, with a new team playing against much more experienced girls. It was harder than any of us imagined, with our girls playing their hearts out and still losing with scores like 28-2, night after night and week after week.

I had to convince myself that I didn’t care about winning – I just wanted to watch my girls play their best and improve their skills. “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick” it says in Proverbs – so I just stopped hoping we would win and got used to losing.

By the end of the season, many of our girls had improved so much that they tried out for other more established teams and were picked up. We were left with a core group of loyal girls – girls that could have made it onto Division I teams but wanted to stay with their coaches – and parents who wanted to stay local and pay local prices. These girls and their coaches worked hard all through the winter.

The managers worked hard to organize a spring travel season – on top of in-house – putting on an optimistic air externally but secretly fearing another losing streak. These underdogs played their first double-header set of travel games on Sunday.

The pitcher in the first game was the same girl who helped us win that playoff game I wrote about last year. By the third inning we were so far ahead that we were sure we would “mercy” them by the fifth inning. (If a team is 12 runs ahead after the fourth inning, they win by the “mercy rule”.) But in the fourth inning our girls got sloppy and allowed the other team several runs. We thought our coach was going to have a heart attack. We caught up our runs and won 22-17.

The pitcher in the second game was my daughter Audrey. She shut them out from scoring any runs the first three innings. By the fourth inning she was tired and a few runs were allowed. We won 16-5.

What a thrill it was for all of us.

We don’t do our kids any favors if we make things too easy for them. The parents who stuck by the underdog team allowed their children the sweet taste of victory that is even sweeter when gotten the hard way.

Competition is a great way to teach important lessons about adversity in life and the strength we gain every time we put up a good fight.

Chapter 2
My son, when you come to serve the LORD, prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in time of adversity.
Cling to him, forsake him not; thus will your future be great.
Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient;
For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation.
Trust God and he will help you; make straight your ways and hope in him.
You who fear the LORD, wait for his mercy, turn not away lest you fall.
You who fear the LORD, trust him, and your reward will not be lost.
You who fear the LORD, hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy.
Study the generations long past and understand; has anyone hoped in the LORD and been disappointed? Has anyone persevered in his fear and been forsaken? has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Natural Woman

This is a guest post from Kimberly Zook, editor-in-chief at The Motherhood Muse. One commenter will receive a free subscription (see below).

In the first issue of The Motherhood Muse literary magazine, we published an essay titled “The Natural Mother onus,” written by Caroline Poser. This essay came from her book, MotherMorphosis, and after reading the essay and book I began to ask myself “How is a natural mother different from a natural woman?”

My first introduction to the idea of a ‘natural mother’ came well before when we were living in Canada. My husband and I arrived at our prenatal class reunion with our 1-month-old baby. The nine other moms and I were first shuffled onto a patio deck with our little ones to get a group photo. Every mom stood there beaming holding happy, quiet babies while I stood there smiling with uncertainty as I held on to my screaming, colicky baby. As we moved indoors to the next room our daughter’s cries drew curious, confused and concerned looks from all the newbie parents. My husband and I did not know any different as our daughter had been crying from colic since the day she was born. We left soon after arriving to calm our baby. On our drive home I looked at the photos in our digital camera, and that’s when it hit me: the other moms looked like naturals. I, on the other hand, looked like I was barely hanging on.

I still see moms at the playground who have it all together: polite kids in clean, matching clothes, a stroller packed with snacks and sippy cups, a humorous comment about last night’s date with her husband to another mom, abundant energy to chase the children, coordination to speak in coherent sentences while changing a diaper and keeping an eye on the other children, a body resembling pre-pregnancy, a face glowing of health, and an overall aura of togetherness. A natural mother.

I usually sigh, tuck my disheveled hair back behind my ears, avoid eye contact with the spit-up stain on my shoulder and bend over to continue digging in the sandbox with my two daughters. I’m lucky if I get a shower every three days, find matching socks for my daughters, remember to pack clean diapers before leaving the house, get my older daughter to eat any of the snacks I brought and recall what my husband and I talked about the night before. Motherhood is a work-in-progress for me.

I should be honest that parts of it have felt natural for me. Like nursing, cuddling, protecting and loving. But I struggle with everything else.

After reading “The Natural Mother onus” by Caroline Poser I decided to create the feature in The Motherhood Muse literary magazine called “A Natural Woman.” I created this feature for all moms who struggle with motherhood and feel unnatural at it.

I decided to call this feature “A Natural Woman,” because in the moments when I am feeling stressed, tired, or frustrated as a mom I often seek that deep, often lost and forgotten part of me that is just me. Me before children. Me as a woman. Who was I? Who am I now?

It is nature who helps me reconnect to that hidden, former part of myself.

After a day of tantrums, unfinished laundry, unanswered emails, crumbs stuck to the soles of my socks, no naps, a frozen dinner, and too much chocolate, I find the only way I can calm down is to open the front door and stand outside in the night air. Sometimes I only get the time and space to only think about nature, but in so doing it centers me. Nature still nurtures me, me as a woman. In the peace that it brings my mind and heart, nature gives me the chance to think about who I am.

The goal of The Motherhood Muse is to help mothers reconnect with nature for many reasons, one being for ourselves. The literature published in our magazine aims to do so by connecting readers to experiences of parenting and nature. Readers, however, may not always put themselves in the shoes of the author, which may not bridge a personal connection to nature. To do so, readers will find the feature “A Natural Woman” helps them to question how nature nurtures who they are and how being a mother influences their relationship with nature. I hope this feature will help every mother find a way to feel the natural connection we have with our environment.

“The Natural Woman” feature is open to anyone who wishes to write about themselves or interview another individual. If you are interested in being featured in this piece in our magazine or know of someone who might be, please email me at

Thank you for joining us here today and we look forward to your comments! One winner will receive a free subscription to the 2010 issues! To continue on this blog tour with us, please visit for our blog tour schedule.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Under the Boards

“If you don’t behave,” my Dad said to me sternly but half-jokingly, “We are going to cut your hair short, dress you like a boy, and have you come build houses for me. We’ll call you Lee.”

“Really?” I answered, thinking that would be great fun.

I was eight years old. I wouldn’t have a sibling until I was eleven, so my parents each imparted to me what skills they had, regardless of traditional gender roles. Mom taught me to sew; Dad taught me to cut wood with an electric saw. Mom taught me to be a lady; Dad taught me to think like a business man.

When I found out my first baby was going to be a girl, I decided she was not going to be a girly-girl. The woman who sold me a gallon of blue paint looked at my third-trimester tummy and knowingly commented, “You’re having a boy?”

“No, a girl. I like blue,” I said, defiantly.

Almost thirteen years later, I sat today watching my lovely young lady at the basketball awards party. She is two inches taller than me and absolutely beautiful. She carries herself with confidence. She is smart and athletic and knows it; yet she is too friendly for anyone to think she is conceited.

The coach introduced his award for Most Improved. “This player never played basketball before, and learned it fast. She took a beating under the boards, especially defending against those Southampton girls…” I knew he was going to say Audrey Miller.

I thought back to those big game moments that might have made a mother tremble with worry, or anger, or both; when she fought as if for her life under the basket to get the ball back to whoever on her team could get it down to the other end; when she was elbowed, scratched, and knocked to the ground, hard; and she retrieved that ball, held onto it as long as necessary, and expertly passed it off.

I was never worried because I knew she could take it; and I was proud of her for taking it; and I knew that every time she did this she would become stronger, both as a player and as a person.

I think of all the times people have told me that God gives us trials to make us stronger, and only gives us what He knows we can handle. Suddenly I realize that I have understood this along; that this is how I have been raising my kids because instinctively I knew this to be true.

James 1:2-4 (NAB) says: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Let us all take those beatings under the boards with strength and grace. The ball is in our court.

Picture above is of the girls' basketball team captains: Audrey is the first on the left.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy (A Book Review)

Father Donald H. Calloway, MIC, has written an autobiographical book about his conversion from a drug-addicted teenager with a criminal record to a well-spoken priest responsible for helping to form young men for the priesthood. He now travels quite extensively bringing the moving and inspiring story of “No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy” far and wide.

This book has an important message for a wide audience, both worldly and religious, but I will tell about reading it from a mother’s perspective. Father Calloway and I don’t have much in common except for being born in 1972 and loving the beach. I don’t as a general rule read autobiographies, books by priests, or conversion stories, and yet this narrative had me from page one.

Father Calloway introduces himself as a priest with an important testimony about the Divine Mercy and the radical changes it has brought into his own life. Then he dives into the midst of his teenage drama as he is being caught by the military police in Japan. He is a migrant military-child-brat who loves surfing, girls, and drugs; he will steal without compunction to get what he wants. The story is unbelievably captivating. As I read this I was thinking to myself that here is this now-very-educated, spiritual, and well-spoken man telling this story, relating the thoughts of his younger self that was so ignorant, worldly, and unsocial; and I was wondering how on earth this was possible.

As he relates the details of his upbringing, it is obvious that the constant uprooting from place to place and step-father to step-father has a great deal to do with his rebellion from his parents. Yet he never blames his mother for the hard decisions she had to make, and gives her credit for always taking him back with open loving arms, and patiently waiting for him to come back both to her and to God. He compares her to Saint Monica, who prayed endlessly for her son Augustine; he was a great sinner who eventually became one of the most esteemed of the Church’s scholarly saints. His mother’s present husband he compares to Joseph, who quietly and loyally supported Mary and Jesus.

About three-fifths through, after reading how he went from one rock bottom to another and wondering how low he has to go before he changes, the reader is hit by the same “Divine two-by-four” that hit Father Calloway in the head. One night he stays in his parents’ home alone and reads a book about Mary that they had in their bookshelves. He reads all night and then in the morning tells his mother he needs to speak to a Catholic priest. Seeing the extraordinary event that has happened to him, she tells him to RUN to the military priest. When he goes to Mass he miraculously understands the mystery of the Eucharist and that day is converted.

When I read this part, I was sitting on the beach watching my three-year-old play on the playground, surrounded by other moms and children. The way his conversion happens is so beautiful and amazing it was all I could do to not freak everybody out by crying right there. He makes it clear how a Catholic conversion through Mary and Jesus is fundamentally different from what is understood as the Evangelical-defined “born-again” experience. From that point, Father Calloway details the journey from his calling to the priesthood to where he is now.

The whole story was so compelling and insightful. I would recommend it to any teen or adult.

For more information see the author's website at

Father Calloway sent me this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Young People's Book of Saints

The Young People’s Book of Saints by Hugh Ross Williamson is a compilation of 63 saints of the Western Church from the first through the twentieth century. Originally published in 1960 by Hawthorne Books, it is now available as an ARKive Edition from Sophia Institute Press.

Starting at the year 58 A.D. with St. James the Greater and ending with St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in 1850, Williamson strings the stories along in chronological order, traveling from country to country and from the houses of kings to those of servants. He tells the essentials of their lives, not sparing the sorrowful details of their deaths, but in a matter-of-fact way that respects the way children can absorb this information. Many details and higher concepts are included that often are left out in more modern texts; the author realizes that children indeed are capable of understanding. The illustrations by Sheila Connelly are appealing to children and display the individual traits of each of the saints quite well.

I have taken my time in writing this review because I wanted to read it for myself, as well as present the material to children in different forums to see how they reacted to the stories within. I was pleased with the organization of its content, the selection of saints, and the way their stories were told. I used several of the stories in my Little Flowers group, which is a Catholic girls’ group composed of girls ages 5 through 12, in teaching about the saints and their virtues. I also had my eight-year-old son read some of the stories for his Blue Knights group, a Catholic boys’ group that also learns about saints and their virtues. The children both understood and enjoyed the stories.

Each chapter can be read on its own, as I did with my groups of children. When read from pages 1 through 239, however, this could be used as part of a Church History or World History course in a homeschool. The book would also make the perfect gift for a birthday, First Communion, or special achievement for a special child in your life.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. The company sent me the book in exchange for my honest review. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Young People’s Book of Saints.