Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reclaiming Time

I must reclaim my time. That is my first resolution for the New Year.

Every year, I think things will get so much easier. Then I am shocked when I feel busier than ever. “After I stop homeschooling”…nope: our life filled up with extra-curricular activities. “After the little one goes to Kindergarten”…nope: my life filled up with coaching and volunteer activities at school. “After the cross country season”…nope: I took on so many freelance assignments I barely had time to floss my teeth. Not to mention travel softball which never stops, and Little League planning that goes on year round.

Now that my Christmas preparations are done and I decided not to take on any more work during the vacation, I am feeling so much more like myself. I hate rushing around! I hate crowds, I hate traffic, and I really hate having my life scheduled to the second. I really love just hanging around the house in comfortable clothes, letting it get a little messy, baking and enjoying my kids.

It seems to me there has got to be a problem when a stay-at-home mom has no free time. Is it society that pressures me to do more, or is it me? I’m sure it’s a whole lot of both. There are all these people who kept asking me what I was going to do with my time and, although I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to them, maybe I am still trying to prove to myself that what I do is valuable.

So somebody asks me to do something at the school and I think, well I have lots of things to do but no good excuses why I can’t come in…and there is one full afternoon gone. I get offers for work and I think, yes I have two unscheduled days so I can bid on two assignments…then both bids are accepted and I am rushing to meet deadlines, getting nothing done around the house.

Lack of boundaries is a big problem for many mothers. In the work place it is easy to set and maintain boundaries, but at home everything blurs together. When your work place is at home, and you have no defined office space or work hours, your physical and mental spaces are both going to get disorganized and difficult to maintain.

In spite of my love of spontaneity, to maintain my sanity I am going to have to lay out a weekly and daily schedule. Weekends belong to the family. One day a week I can volunteer at school. Then the school/workdays have to be subdivided into household chores, errands, and work. If I can do this then I can greet the kids with a smile every afternoon and enjoy my time with them, without worrying about all the stuff I still have to get done.

I’ll have to say NO much more often so I can say YES to my life.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers. If I meet this resolution you will be hearing from me much more often in the New Year.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Triple After Midnight: Extreme Sports

Halloween Weekend, 2011. My 14-year-old daughter was scheduled to play in the season’s “last look” collegiate softball showcase in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. First game was set for 8 a.m. Saturday, so we had to be there Friday night. I was taking my 5-year-old, who loves taking these trips with me, and leaving my 10- and 12- year-olds with my husband, who would be taking them to their local games on Long Island.

I wasn’t rushing to get out of the house. There was no point in trying to get through New York City before 7 p.m. Then I got a text from the coach: “Snow expected tomorrow. We have been offered a game for tonight at 9:30 or 10:30 p.m. How many of you can get here on time?”

“Are they crazy? Don’t people work? This game will never happen,” I said to whoever would listen. I texted back, “We can’t leave until 6 and she has a cough so I’d rather she didn’t play tonight anyway.”

About an hour later I get another team text, “Game is on for 10:30 p.m. 25 college coaches are there to see the game.”

I really didn’t care about the college coaches. While many parents are investing their time and money into this sport depending on the slim chance at an athletic scholarship, she is there for one reason: she really loves this game. But I really didn’t want her playing in this game tonight. She was running for the cross country state qualifiers the following week and I wanted her to get rid of that cough beforehand. There had been no response to my individual text so I assumed she was off the hook for that night.

So we’re driving through Brooklyn and I get another text. I threw the phone back to my daughter so she could read it and answer. “What is your ETA?”

What the heck is an ETA? Does he mean GPA? Then I realize he means estimated time of arrival.

“Tell him 10:30,” I said, assuming he wouldn’t put her in the game with no warm-up time. My GPS was set for the hotel – not the field.

“We are short one player. We’ll delay game and wait for you,” he answers.

Shoot. Now we were under the gun of a whole team depending on her so they could get this game in. I redirected the GPS to the field. We’d be there at 10:15.

We got to the field and it actually was not too cold. My 5-year-old woke up. “Are we at the hotel yet?” she asked, sleepily.

“Believe it or not, we are at the field for a game tonight.”

She reconciled herself to this news pretty well, perked up, and decided she would brave the outdoors to go sit and watch the game.

Game started at 11:15. The girls were playing well, and my daughter was happy with her plays at shortstop. The highlight of the night, for me, happened at 1 a.m., when my daughter hit a triple. That started a rally going, but my little one and I were cold and I watched the last inning from the car. We got to the hotel at around 2 a.m. The 8 a.m. game was canceled, with most of the Sat. games probably off. They were planning on putting a tarp down on the field.

“What about the outfield?” mused the father of an outfielder.

We woke up at 9 a.m. to take advantage of the hotel’s all-you-can-eat breakfast. I looked out at the falling snow and, worried about snow getting in the car window that doesn’t shut completely. Everybody figured it was canceled for the day but the Sunday games were still on. We wondered if they planned on bulldozing the fields. After breakfast I settled the girls back into the room and went out to wipe down my car and park it under a tree.

I came back in and was informed that the whole weekend was now off. Half the team was staying the night, to travel on dry roads tomorrow, and half was going. What drove me crazy was that people were standing around pretending like this didn’t really STINK. I missed my family, so chose to go.

It took a total of 7 hours to drive back – what had taken 3.5 hours the previous night. I averaged around 30 miles per hour.

How many times over that long drive over snowy, icy, sleety roads, did I wish we had stuck with cross country? How many times did I wish that, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I had red, magical shoes that I could click together to get myself home?

When I was finally home, warm and cozy with my family all around me, I decided I was not going to leave the house again until I absolutely had to.

“How did it go?” asked my husband.

“That was a fun game,” my daughter replied.

And THAT is what it is all about. When you have a kid who is passionate about something, you do all that is in your power that allow them to do that thing that they love.

Parents who are just getting into travel sports, or contemplating taking their kids to tryouts, know what you are getting into. There are many highs, and more lows. It is extremely time-consuming, and expensive. If you have more than one child enrolled in a sport, it gets very tricky to plan out your nights and weekends. Your own social life will be confined to teammate’s parents on the field.

But if you can bear all that, and you want your child to learn about strength, dedication, time-management, and sacrifice (all the same things that parents will have to learn more about during this journey), then go ahead and start out on this adventure they call TRAVEL SPORTS. You will never be the same.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Why I Feel $26 Richer Today

“I wonder what would happen if I lost this ticket?” I said to myself more than once this weekend, driving back and forth on the New Jersey/Pennsylvania Turnpike for a series of college softball showcase games. I placed the ticket sticking out toward me, in between the CDs that sat in a little nook right beneath the stereo.

Then it happened. My five-year-old was whining for her Winnie-the-Pooh songs and she had been so good all day. I took it out of the small pile of CDs, ejected the Second Chapter of Acts’ “Roar of Love”, and placed the old CD in the same case. Then she asked to see the case, so I handed it back to her.

We got to our exit and I looked for the ticket which should be sticking out conveniently for me; it wasn’t there. I got off the exit and pulled off to the side, looking all over the seat next to me (which was piled up with an accumulation of traveling stuff), and on the floor between me and my little one.

Did I forget to take the ticket? This had to happen once in a while, right?

I gave up after 5 minutes; found my $1.10 receipt from the reverse trip I had made from same exit that morning; and drove up to the right-most toll booth. I handed him $1.10 and the receipt.

“I lost my ticket,” I explained, “but here is my receipt from where I went this morning.”

“Where did you lose it?” he asked.

“In my car.”

“Well, I can give you a paper to fill out and mail in, but you will have to pay the full price.”

“What is that?”


That is not the kind of money I can afford to throw away, so I asked, “Can I pull over and look again for the ticket?”

He said I could, and informed me that he would be writing down my license plate.

So I looked again, and just as I concluded that I had been daydreaming at the ticket-taking booth and never had the ticket in the first place and that I would have to fork over $26 for my stupidity, I saw the ticket under my foot.

I ran back to the booth and paid. The driver who stopped to let me cross smiled, as if he knew exactly what had happened.

So that’s what happens when you lose your ticket on a toll road.

Do I have a moral to my story? Not really, except that busy moms sometimes make dumb mistakes, and we really shouldn’t get upset when there is no harm done. Somehow, I feel $26 richer now.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Wednesday, September 7, 2011, 6:30 A.M. I woke up my five-year-old with a gentle hug. “Rise and shine. It’s time to get ready for school.”

She had been looking forward to this day for a few years now, as she watched her siblings leave for school and come back every day. Now it was the dog’s turn to watch the kids all leave, forlorn, wishing she could go wherever they went all day.

She was so sweet and cheery all morning as she got ready. She wanted me in the same room with her as she got dressed, had breakfast, and brushed her teeth, although she needed no help doing those things. Yet she seemed to have no problem leaving me for the day.

Fortunately for all of us, she has two of her older siblings on the same bus with her, as they all attend the same Catholic school this year. So I had no concerns about her being on the bus by herself. The bus driver seemed like a very kind woman. Her older sister held her hand as she got on the bus. She helped her to buckle her seat belt, something we never had on the bus when I was little. She looked out the window at me, smiling, as the bus pulled away. I stood there, waving, until the bus disappeared down the block.

And I smiled. I never cried when my other kids went to school for the first time; I was always too busy with other little ones. I had thought I would be a little sad when my youngest one went, but I felt content. Not giddy, as in, “Oh I’m so happy to get rid of the kids so I can have some peace and quiet,” but satisfied that things were as they should be.

I really like how the Catholic schools start off the first week with half days. It really gives both the parents and the kids time to adjust to the new schedule. For me, I think it really made that first day a breeze.

I went inside, had my coffee and breakfast, then for a brief moment said to myself, “Now what?” Not that I didn’t have a ton of chores to tackle – I didn’t know where to start. “First things first,” I answered myself, and started by cleaning the floor. I proceeded to the most obvious things, and before I knew it I was rushing to finish up what I had started before the bus came back.

My husband missed her – as did the dog. Honey moped around the house, roaming from room to room, aimlessly going in and out the back door.

My eighth grader has a phone now, and she texted me so that I knew when to come outside and wait for the bus. My littlest one came back off the bus, smiling. The dog went crazy, jumping happily inside at the sight of the children.

I laugh when I think of the nosy cashier at King Kullen who commented last spring, “You’re not going to know what to do with yourself when she goes to Kindergarten.”I responded back to her, “I was thinking about taking up golf,” facetiously.I didn’t feel I needed to justify to her what I really was planning to do with my time: write full time, get the house in order, and do some home improvements.

Now we are almost done with September and I didn’t even notice when autumn had officially begun. Time just has a way of filling itself up, especially when you juggle multiple children, sports, volunteer activities, and freelance work. I have been in the kindergarten a few times, and am happy to see how well she is adjusting socially, emotionally, and academically to her new environment.

My life is full. My heart is full. My cup runneth over. To everything there is a season.

Those of you who would like to become a Kindergarten teacher can learn about classes for an online masters in education via this resource.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Review of “Stealing Jenny”: A Novel by Ellen Gable

I have reviewed Ellen Gable’s first two novels “Emily’s Hope” and “In Name Only” on this blog, and have eagerly awaited her third novel. Ellen is a pro-life writer who writes in an engaging manner, with keen personal insight and always a hopeful and pro-life message.

After enduring three miscarriages, Jenny is expecting her sixth child. Denise is her neighbor, who secretly envies Jenny her ability to pro-create and watches her and her children from across the street. She is plotting to kidnap Jenny and steal her baby.

Unknown to Denise, Jenny has a complication that requires a caesarian section. Although the title gives away the main event of the novel, the reader is kept in suspense, as the well-being of Jenny and her baby are held in the balance.

At home, Tom takes care of his five children, praying and hoping that Jenny will be found and returned before she goes into labor. Kathy is the police detective who follows the scanty clues to try to find her whereabouts.

“Stealing Jenny” departs from the Ellen’s previous novels in style in that it is modern, without historic elements, and more of a thriller in its genre, with out-of- the ordinary events happening to the heroine. However, the undercurrents of faith, hope, and marital love present in the first two novels are the same here.

The self-analysis that the characters go through in her first two novels is also a big part of the book. Ellen writes in the omniscient third person, bringing the reader into the thoughts of each of her main characters. At times, the characters reminisce, letting us know what has happened in the past to cause them to act or think the way they do in the present. Ellen does this skillfully and seamlessly.

Why anyone would be so ignorant and blatantly disregarding of human life to try such a scheme, Ellen explains by giving Denise’s history. Ellen’s attitude toward the protagonist is a Christian one, hating the action but showing sympathy toward the sinner.

Any woman who has ever really wanted to conceive; any woman who has been through a miscarriage; and any woman who has been through a difficult pregnancy, will sympathize with Jenny, even before she gets kidnapped. Her condition adds a heightened dimension to the plot of a kidnapping.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes suspenseful novels. If you are going to give this to a teenager, you should read it first. The book deals with such topics as premarital sex, abortion, and labor in an unusual situation. The moral viewpoint is Catholic and pro-life.

“Stealing Jenny” will be available from Full Quiver Publishing and on September 15, 2011.

Look for my review of “Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship”, edited by Ellen Gable, in the coming weeks.

For more information about the author Ellen Gable and her books:
Editor, Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship
Author, "Emily's Hope" (Honorable Mention 2006 IPPY Awards)
Author, "In Name Only" (Gold Medal winner 2010 IPPY Awards)

Sunday, August 28, 2011


The impending storm barely blipped on my radar earlier this week. I received an email from Examiner asking for articles relating to “Extreme Weather” in connection to Hurricane Irene. In recent years we have had so many tropical storms come our way that I don’t give them much notice. “Every family should always be prepared for an emergency,” I wrote in my column, “If you have all the staples in your house you won’t have to run out and buy batteries, bread, and water.”

On Thursday night, I had a list building up, and finally decided to take a trip to Wal-Mart. The bunny and dog needed to eat, and I recently noticed the family’s underwear was getting a little threadbare. My twelve-year-old tagged along, wanting to buy some new material for a project she wanted to sew.

Rolling around the store with a cart filled with socks and underwear, I felt amused looking at the things other people were buying. Stacks of water bottles. I made a mental note to start filling empty jugs with tap water.

“Sorry, ma’am, we’re all out of batteries. Flashlights too,” an employee explained to a customer. I wondered, why did people need all these batteries and why did they not have an emergency supply at home? How many people did not already have a flashlight at home?

I felt proud of myself as I checked out. I had none of the mundane supplies other people were buying. We had materials for a weekend project, our pets would be fed, and if we had an emergency we would not be caught with holes in our socks or underwear.

Friday I saw the Red Cross signs outside of our local high school and I started to get nervous. I went back to Wal-mart to buy tape for my windows. I noticed they had restocked their batteries.

On line with my three rolls of Duck brand strapping tape, I stayed quiet as a large, rough-looking man in front of me waved his arms and declared, “All this … for Irene…. BAH!” and he threw a small piece of rolled up paper into a side display. “After I check out I have to take care of the a—hole in the auto department. He told me he was all out of batteries and I said, ‘Show me where they used to be,’ and he pointed, and there they still were, and I said, ‘What do those look like, a—hole?’… I know a shyster when I see one and I knew he was a liar...A real con artist…You’re pretty quiet aren’t you?” [I nodded.] “You don’t let much bother you do you?” [I shook my head.] “Yeah I can tell about people.”

I looked away, hoping he would stop talking to me, and fortunately he was swiftly taken care of. I noticed a big supply of batteries behind the counter. He had told someone else he only had AAA and AA so I asked him for the largest package of AA. Not that I didn’t have them at home; it is the size we most frequently need. I scanned the display for flashlights. I didn’t see any and didn’t ask. I knew of at least one working flashlight in the kitchen drawer.

As I walked out, I passed the man at the courtesy counter, complaining about the a—hole in automotive.

When I got home, there was a message from the Town of Brookhaven. “This storm will be a historic one of epic proportions,” it said, and listed all the important things to do. [Note the current advise is NOT to tape the windows, but my dad was a builder and he still says tape them, so I do.]

The kids asked me why I was taping up the windows. I remembered asking my parents the same thing before Hurricane Gloria in 1985. I remembered their answer. “It keeps the glass from shattering if it breaks,” I answered.

“It’s not even going to be a big storm,” my eldest said.

“You have never seen a real hurricane honey, you are in for an experience,“ I said.

“Didn’t you write in your column you were supposed to tell your kids not to be scared?” she challenged.

“That is true. But I also want you not to be blasé about it and help me to prepare,” I answered.

We walked around the yard, picking up toys, furniture, flower pots, garbage pails, and other loose items. We secured them all in the shed and garage. After swimming, we secured all the pool stuff in the pool storage unit.

I went food shopping, not because of the storm, but because we were out of food. I planned on having the electricity go out on Sunday. So I bought enough perishables to last through Saturday night and got lots of bread, nuts, fruit, vegetables, and cereal. I remembered my need for coffee and picked up some instant coffee. Three gallons of milk and six cans of evaporated milk.

A man behind me had a shopping cart filled with beer and iced tea. A Hurricane Party?, I wondered. The lady in front of me had a cart filled with junk food. People don’t even buy healthy food when they’re not in a hurry, I thought.

Saturday brought a little rain and kept my husband home. “I’m going for a swim,” he said. We pulled out a couple of pairs of goggles and all did our laps. I showered, my last shower for the week, I thought. I made dinner, my last fully home-cooked meal for the week, I thought. I filled the washer machine with water for flushing toilets and washing hands in case the water stopped pumping.

Then we waited. The kids wanted to stay up for the storm. We told them they would miss it if they slept too late. We stayed up and watched the coverage.

I didn’t sleep well. There is a very tall pine tree behind my bedroom, and I was worried it would crash through the roof and land on me while I was sleeping. I kept waking up, and turning on the television to make sure we still had electricity and satellite service. At 3:00 a.m. there were young men walking around in the streets of the evacuated town of Long Beach with a blown-up dolphin. At 4:00 a.m. there were people swimming at Long Beach. At 5:00 a.m. the eye was coming into the tri-state area. At 8:00 a.m. it passed over New York City. It was downgraded to a tropical storm.

At 10:00 a.m. the phone rang. My little brother had called to check up on me. “We’re fine,” I answered groggily, “We were sleeping.” I went back to bed, and when I woke up at 11 the storm was over.

The kids woke up and looked out the windows.

“We told you it would just be a little rain,” my daughter said.

“You did say that,” I responded.

“And you said it would be a big storm,” she prodded.

“None of us is the expert. You made a lucky guess,” I said.

I was thankful we were okay and that everyone we knew was okay, but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. I had kind of wanted my kids to experience a real storm – but safely. One of these days there really will be a direct hurricane hit here, and nobody will believe it.

Upon further inspection, I discovered my gutters had come a little lose in three spots. That will require some tacking down. Maybe we did have enough of a storm after all.

My daughter and I made a pillow together – so the weekend wasn’t a total loss. I drove to the library to return a movie. The traffic lights were out. I passed three uprooted trees.

On the radio, a meteorologist stated that this year several hurricanes will follow the same path. The next one is due in 15 days. “Consider this last one a dress rehearsal for the direct hit of a real hurricane,” said another of my favorite meteorologists.

I have a full stock of batteries and water, a roll of strapping tape, and five loaves of bread. Maybe I should leave the flowers in the garage.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Welcome to the Texting World

“Give me your cell number so I can text you the information,” the coach said over the (home land line) telephone last week.

“We don’t have texting,” I replied.

He laughed at me. “Well, texting is how we get information to the parents during our away tournaments,” he explained, “so it really is necessary.”

The next day I was on the phone with my cell phone company adding texting to our family plan.

My husband and I have resisted this for several years now, seeing no “up” side to the ability to text information to people, when email and phone calls can do the same job. Everywhere I look I see people looking down at their phones, their thumbs going crazy. Up to this point, I have been happy to be relatively immune to the outside world when I am out with my children. The cell phone only rings if one of my children needs to get in touch with me. I can enjoy the here and now.

I started to have second thoughts while at Pony Nationals in North Carolina two weeks ago. I was at a park in the middle of nowhere at 7 a.m., my 12- and 5- year olds in tow. I was carting a medium-sized cooler full of ice and water bottles. I was on foot when I realized I was at the wrong field, and there were six other fields in the park. Then I was told there were copperhead snakes in the woods.

I called one of the other mothers on the team, who picked us up, brought us back to our car, and had us follow her to the correct field. When I got there, the other parents said that the manager had texted them the correct field number.

So I thought maybe, just maybe, I would add it on to my plan before the next school year started. My older daughter has been missing team texts for cross country, and my son’s baseball team now uses texting as its primary form of communication. I also get bad reception on the phone and can hardly hear the person on the other end.

I tried to send my husband my first text. “I” I wrote and hit send by accident.

He called me back. “Did you try to call me?” he asked.

“No. I tried to write I love you.”

“Why don’t you just call me?” he stated, annoyed.

“I’m sure the office will appreciate you have texting now,” I offered.

“The beeper works fine,” he insisted.

Friday found us on the way to Massachusetts for the tournament with this new team. My 12- and 14- year olds were pretty quiet in the back seat, giggling once in a while about something someone had texted them. They were communicating with every girl they knew who had a cell phone, even the ones they don’t usually talk to.

We got to their cousins’ house and found there was no cell phone reception in the house. I was slightly relieved. Until that evening when I was still waiting for a text from the coach about what time to meet for breakfast. I had to go out in the middle of the street, being eaten by bugs, to find a signal.

They locked up the house, not knowing I was out there. I rang the doorbell. My brother-in-law opened the door, surprised. “I was trying to get a text,” I answered, embarrassed.

“Welcome to the texting world,” my friend texted me.

“Thanks,” I replied.

“Yeah,” she wrote.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Full Count

Ball one. Outside.

It is a stressful evening, getting four kids ready to go out the door for our typical evening of sports. Dinner is on the table when they get home from school. Three of them play for travel ball teams, and they all have to be in different locations at 5:30 for games or practices.

Strike one. On the swing.

I drop one daughter to her coach’s house at 4:30. She has a 12U softball game at 6:00. The older daughter will get picked up by a teammate for her 14U softball practice, also at 6:00. I decide to go with my son for the emotional support he needs as starting pitcher on his baseball team.

Ball two. A little high.

My four-year-old looks frantically for all the little things she must have in her backpack. I question my son: Do you have your sports goggles? Water bottle? Athletic cup? Glove? Cleats? I double check the location of the game. We get out the door, carefully, making sure our big naughty puppy doesn’t get out with us.

Strike two. Looking.

In the car, I am feeling really stressed out. “Just a little more grace, Lord. I just need a little more grace to get through this evening.” Once I get to the game, I feel much better. I clear my head of where everybody else is, what has happened earlier, and what will happen later. My daughter finds other little girls to play with. My son goes to warm up. I say hello to the other parents.

Ball three. Inside. FULL COUNT.

We’re up one run, top of the sixth inning, and my son is on the mound. Three boys are in scoring position. The rest of the world disappears. My heart pounds. “Take your time, walk around,” I tell him.

Strike three. THE BATTER IS OUT.

The boys run out to the pitcher’s mound and pile on top of each other. In a ten-year-old boys’ world, a win is the happiest moment of his life. And for me, nothing else matters.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Dream Worth Keeping

The day of the rehearsal for my daughter’s first dance recital, the rain was as close to a monsoon as it gets on Long Island. My 14-year-old put her 4-year-old sister’s hair up into a bun and arranged her tutu just so. We left an hour before our assigned rehearsal time; with a seldom-used umbrella I carried my little ballerina to the car so she wouldn’t have to step in any puddles.

With my windshield wipers on their highest setting, I could barely see. A truck threw gallons of water on my windshield. “Freakin’ truck!” I complained.

In her toddler seat, my little girl repeated, “Freakin’ truck!” The kids laughed as I reprimanded myself.

I found the entrance for the Stellar Arts Center and entered the parking garage, much dismayed to see that I would have to pay $4 for the privilege of parking. I sent my older daughters ahead to look at the sign which mapped out the university’s buildings. Once they were sure of the path, they led the way and I carried our little girl to the proper doorway.

The dance teacher was a half hour late, which gave more latecomers time to get into their places on time. The studio owners grumbled about how their schedule had been jumbled by her lateness. We all knew she had been suffering adversity other than the weather. The girls played about happily in the front row, the last time they would be able to see each other all together other than at the actual show.

Finally they were ready for us. The girls went up, ages 2 through 5, with no problems because they were so comfortable with their teacher. They took their places, laying in a sleeping position. They danced to a number from one of the original save-the-rainforest animated movies, “Fern Gulley”. I was glad this class got to do a real ballet number, because the other “combo” classes were doing tap, and my daughter wants to be a prima ballerina.

My other children were with me, partly as a way to save money so I wouldn’t have to pay $25.50 for each of them to see their sister’s number on Saturday, partly because I was not sure if their ball game schedule would interfere with their ability to come that day. They got to see it twice, and were happy with that. I got all the pictures I needed.

The studio owner came to the edge of the stage and said, “They could use a touch of color.” To me, a touch of color means a little sun. She meant makeup.

“My daughter can’t wear makeup,” I said, “She has allergies.” The other mothers knew what I meant, because it had come up in conversation recently. Some of us were okay with a little makeup and some of us were adamantly against it for girls so young.

“Well, for those of you without allergies, I recommend a little blush and lipstick. Their faces get washed out onstage and they come up better on the video with a little makeup.”

A video I would not be buying anyway. The recommendation made me a little upset.

Saturday came, and all their games were canceled, but we decided just Kevin and I would go with her. Audrey did her hair again. Sans makeup, I thought she was the most beautiful ballerina I had ever seen.

It was a beautiful day, and parking was free that day. We walked to the center together. I was forced to hand her over to the studio owner backstage. “Will she be okay?” my husband asked.

In the dance arena, she is totally at ease. I knew she would be fine.

The show opened with a ridiculous “artistic” number; then the curtain opened on the little girls. The audience oohed and aahed at the precious little ones “sleeping” on the stage. They “awoke”; the littler girls followed the older girls, who were following the dance teacher offstage. They missed a few steps (I had seen this in practice many times in the studio) and came off their assigned places, but that did not detract from the performance. I cried of course.

I had to go back to retrieve her. She was all smiles when I handed her a light pink carnation. Most of her friends were going home, and she wanted to do the same.

“But I thought you wanted to see the rest of the show,” I protested, “Daddy is waiting for you in our seats.”

She got increasingly upset as we entered the dark theatre. She insisted she wanted to go home. The music was too loud, she said. She was obviously overwhelmed at the enormity of the experience. So we went home.

And she slept, this time for real, wearing her purple tutu.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Book Review: "The Invisible World" by Anthony DeStefano

If you ever doubted the existence of God, the supernatural, angels, the devil, or Hell, this book will give you pause. Not only does DeStefano give a compelling argument for their existence; he argues that the devil tries to convince us of their nonexistence as one of his tools to win over your soul. Within a general traditional Christian framework of doctrine that both Catholics and Protestants can agree upon, the author offers ways that an openness to the spiritual world will enrich your life.

Did you ever feel the need to pick up the phone and call someone, and it turns out they were thinking about you and/or really needed your support at that exact moment? Did you ever wake up in the middle of the night and feel something was terribly wrong, and pray, and find out the next day that someone you loved was in a crisis? Did you ever have a terrible tension headache and find out that a family member was in trouble? DeStefano calls this “The Haunt Detector”. It could be the Holy Spirit was speaking to you.

Did you ever escape an accident by the most unusual of circumstances? Your guardian angels were looking out for you. DeStefano discusses “The World of the Angels” in his chapter “Invisible Helpers”. On the other hand, are you wondering why you or a loved one has fallen victim to a terrible illness? The author explains this in his chapter “The Power of Suffering”.

The author discusses the nature of the Invisible World including God, angels, demons, the soul, spiritual warfare, grace, suffering, your eternal destiny, and finally how to see the invisible. DeStefano is here to tell you to be open to God’s presence, in its many forms. Don’t be an impractical mystic, but live your life, while continually looking for the little ways He is present to you. Don’t ignore your gut instinct, which is actually the Holy Spirit, guiding you on the right path.

You might not need this book if you have already been reading the works of great spiritual writers such as St. Thomas Acquinas, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Theresa of Avila, and St. Therese of Liseux. I highly recommend this book as an introduction to the spiritual world for the general reader.

“The Invisible World” by Anthony DeStefano was published by Doubleday in 2011. It is available on at and at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. For more information see the author’s webpage at or see the video trailer at

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Parenting to Potential

May 19, 1997. 3:14 a.m. In the months, hours, and minutes leading up to that life-changing moment, I knew I was going to have a blessed addition to my life. What I didn’t know was that my life was about to change at the most fundamental level.

All my preconceptions about God, my life plans, parenting, relationships, and who I was as a person went out the window that day. Like my figure, there was the pre-baby me and the new me.

Having a baby caused me to trust God more; examine my relationships with self, God, and others more; and live in the present. As I rocked my baby to sleep in the early morning hours, the past and the future melted away. During the daytime, lack of sleep made me feel like my neurons were shriveling away; instead, new connections were building, making me smarter in the ways that matter. I felt weak but in that humble state asked for grace...and that grace made me stronger.

In a few hours my baby girl will be 14. When I look at her, I see myself in many ways, but I see other things that just amaze me. I don’t know what God’s plans are for her, but I know she is using the gifts He gave her to become what she is meant to be. At every stage of development, it is like watching a miracle happen.

As we approach each stage for the first time, nothing in the books can fully prepare us to handle them. It is only with the support of family, prayer, and quiet listening for the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we can get through it with grace. And, like with every child’s stage of psychosocial development, when we get through that stage with him or her, we become stronger too.

Not only does God have a plan for every child; He also uses them to help their parents fulfill their own potential. Love them at every stage!

It is you who were the author of those events and of what preceded and followed them. The present, also, and the future you have planned. Whatever you devise comes into being;
the things you decide on come forward and say, 'Here we are!' All your ways are in readiness, and your judgment is made with foreknowledge.
- Judith 9:5b-6

Monday, May 9, 2011

Every Day is Mothers’ Day

My Mom
Nice, loving,
Hardworking, moneymaking, caring,
Very nice to people
Happy Mother’s Day 2011

This was the card my ten-year-old son gave to me the day after Mother’s Day. He had written it in school, of course, as the teacher has them do every year, but had forgotten to give it to me, as I knew to be the case.

I was just as pleased to receive this on Monday afternoon. The adjectives I knew came straight from his heart, and I was pleased to see how he saw me. It was nicely balanced between the characteristics of the traditional mom and those of the modern mom. My Monday was much more relaxing than my Sunday, and I soaked it all in.

Mother’s Day started at 7 a.m., when I was woken by my alarm and repeatedly went to my twelve-year-old daughter’s room to wake her up for her softball games. It was a lovely 70-degree-day with sun and a breeze; it was warm enough to wear shorts and cool enough to wear a sweatshirt. I scored the full fourteen innings of the double header, during which my daughter’s entire team played great.

At home, my husband went food shopping, tended to the younger kids, and then took my eldest daughter to her softball practice. We finally met up at the latter practice, where I opted to stay and bask in the sun and other mothers’ company while he took the younger ones home.

Once home, I took a nap while dinner was cooking. (The previous day had been even busier and I had opted to order dinner out that night instead.) After dinner and coffee, I got to work on a 3,000-word essay that was due Monday morning. I finished that up around 2 a.m. and slept until 10.

It is my freelance writing job that has taken me away from my blog lately. I take what jobs I need to pay for our growing sports bill and the gas to get to all the games. I opt to work at night so I can concentrate better and free up my days to do all the things we do.

The kids like to look over my shoulder. “What are you working on today, Mom? How much are you getting paid?” I like that they take an interest in how I make a living. I think that my husband and I set a good example to them of how a couple can and should cooperate as equals, sharing in household and family duties, while budgeting according to the family’s priorities.

The kids need me less in some ways, but more in other ways. They force me to toe the line on a daily basis. Comment too much on my almost-14-year-old’s Facebook page and she tells me to stop it. Fail to comment for a few days and I get, “Why didn’t you say anything about the drawing I posted?”

Mostly they just need me to wash their uniforms for their daily games. On Friday I neglected to do the laundry and Saturday was yelling at them because they couldn’t find their uniforms. Right before game time I found them on the bottom of the laundry basket. I took them all with the appropriately colored shirt minus the proper logo.

The drier stops. Gotta go fold that right away because this mommy doesn’t have time to iron.

Every day is Mothers’ Day.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


What do you think of when you see a fence? To me a fence represents a challenge, something blocking my way from where I want to go, something to be climbed.

In my lifetime I have climbed many fences, both metaphorically and physically. The first time I climbed a fence that I remember, I was eight years old. I was in the yard of my elementary school and saw the tops of trees from the neighboring sump. I was so curious I had to climb the chain link fence to see. My adventure ended in the nurse’s office with butterflies on my left hand. I still have the scar.

Flash forward thirty years.

I am at my daughter’s softball practice and a ball goes over the fence into the neighboring golf course. This time it is a seven-foot tall chain link fence. But no matter. Thrilled to have something to do, I jump over the top of the fence. As I bring my left leg over, I discover that I am caught in some brambles. I try to disentangle myself and wind up putting my hand through the top of the fence. This time it is my right hand. It has gone straight through the webbing between my thumb and forefinger, and I can see the muscles in my hand.

One of the coaches is trained in first aid, and wraps up my hand. “Do you need a ride to the hospital?” he asks.

“No, I’ll be okay,” I say, trying to put a brave face on things.

I leave my one daughter in the coach’s care and stop home to tell my oldest daughter what has happened. I ask her to let her daddy know what happened but not to alarm him. I am feeling a little light-headed. Attributing it to my lack of dinner, I grab a canister of almonds and make my way to the hospital.

On my way, I yell at myself for being so stupid. The pain is really getting to me. I start shaking and I don’t know why. About halfway there, I feel really woozy. I think I am going to pass out. I signal to the driver to my right to let me in, drive myself off the road, and call 911.

So the ambulance comes and I humbly repeat my story several times, although I can barely speak. On the way to the hospital, the shaking gets worse. My blood pressure is up to 160. “What is happening?” I ask the kind EMT.

“You are going into shock. You have to think happy thoughts. Put yourself in a good place.”

Shock? I don’t even really understand the concept, but it sounds scary. “Can I die from shock? I have 4 kids at home!” I exclaim. I am making things worse, knowing (with my psychology degree) that I am making things worse, and I feel helpless to stop it.

Now I’m in the emergency room, and several professionals take a look at my hand before I get the same doctor I had four years ago when my infant scratched my cornea!

“Have you been here before?” asks the tall, gaunt Russian doctor.

I nod.

“I never forget a face…you had a corneal abrasion.”

I’m impressed.

He inspects, confirms no nerve or muscle damage, and guides the physician assistant in stitching up my hand. Seven stitches (and four hours) later I am ready to go but still haven’t been in touch with my husband. My cell phone won’t work and there is no public telephone. I walk to the lobby, where someone lets me use the courtesy phone.

“I need you to pick me up,” I say.

“Didn’t you drive?”

“I’ll explain later.”

A half hour later, my husband is relieved at my explanation, and I am relieved that the reason he hadn’t come was that my daughter had misunderstood the story and told him I just had a small scratch from a rose bush!

“What, do you think you’re 14?” he jokes.

One week later, I am on the mend, now able to type again. The stitches come out in another week. Over the weekend, I resisted the temptation to go over a few other fences to fetch errant balls, finding my way around or through a few.

Romans 8:38-39
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

**These are the times when you hope that your doctors are well-trained and the nursing assistants have completed CNA certification courses.**

Petition against Statue Offending Our Blessed Mother

Mary was pure and courageous enough to give birth to Jesus, who gave his life that we might live.

Along comes artist Soasig Chamaillard who blasphemes the names of Mary and Jesus, turning Our Blessed Mother into a vampire. Vampires represent the anti-Christ; they suck the blood and life out of people while he gave his blood that we might live. In the form of a statue, Mary is also represented as My Little Pony and Superwoman.

Note that while I am for free speech and expression, we also have the right to express outrage when Our Lord and Our Lady are attacked. If you are horrified by these misrepresentations, please take a moment to sign a petition to remove this exhibit from the Albane Art Gallery in the city of Nantes, France.

Monday, March 14, 2011


I felt the pain when I tried to cut my daughter’s English muffin in half. As I brought my arm back to perform the cutting motion, the ache throbbed from my neck to the back of the upper arm.


How many grounders had I tossed during the live draft of the minors baseball division the previous day? Three to a boy, for about 90 boys…270. That could do it.

The most fun was when my own son came into the gym. I grinned wide.

“Watch, I’m gonna throw them really fast to him,” I said to his friend, who was catching the balls that the boys would throw back.

“Don’t throw it too hard!” his friend called across the gym to my son.

I threw the first one really hard, and bouncy, so he’d have to watch for the hop. Then one fast to the right, so he’d have to shuffle his feet and move to get it. The last one was fast to the left.

I threw them like that to all the boys that came out looking confidently athletic. Slow to the boys who seemed hesitant or undeveloped.

When they were all done, I drove my son home, took the temperatures of two daughters who were not feeling well, administered medicine, made sure my eldest daughter was ready to be picked up by her teammate for travel softball practice, grabbed a handful of almonds and a banana, and drove back to the high school to sign in the boys in the majors baseball division.

The inclusion of women in sports can only have a positive effect on society. Males admire athletic females; today they are not afraid to admit if one is stronger, faster, or more skilled in a sport. At the leadership level, they respect their input, organizational skills, and the “female intuition” they can bring to the table.

As a mother, getting involved in your child’s sports beyond the spectator level can be extremely rewarding for both you and your child. Your child knows that you share his passion; he learns more about you as he sees how you interact in a different sphere from home; and he may admire and respect you even more as you surprise him with what you can bring to his favorite sport.

“Because of the global dimensions this activity has assumed, those involved in sports throughout the world have a great responsibility. They are called to make sports an opportunity for meeting and dialogue, over and above every barrier of language, race or culture. Sports, in fact, can make an effective contribution to peaceful understanding between peoples and to establishing the new civilization of love.” – Pope John Paul II, Jubilee of Sports People, Homily, Oct. 10, 2000

I came across a terrific document, a special edition of “The Living Light” that includes several essays about “Sports as Religious Education”. You can download it here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gnomeo and Juliet: A Movie Review

Who could forget the story of Romeo and Juliet? Anyone who had this story overanalyzed in their high school literature class will remember the tragic events leading to the deaths of both young lovers. Here we have a retelling with a happy ending. The other major difference is that the characters are played by garden gnomes.

With very little prologue, the audience is taken to the front yards of the Capulets and Montagues. The owners of the houses hurl insults at each other as they leave for work. Once they are gone, the garden gnomes come to life, revealing the materialistic and antagonistic tendencies they have inherited from their owners. The Blues (Montague) and the Reds (Capulet) are obsessed with outdoing the other’s gardens.

While on a mission to obtain a beautiful flower from the top of a greenhouse for her family’s garden, Juliet Capulet meets with Gnomeo Montague. He is on a revenge mission and they are both in disguise. It is love at first sight, and they play-fight over the flower until their disguises are removed and they discover they each come from opposing families.

With the help of a frog gnome, who plays the nanny to Juliet, and a pink flamingo, who serves as a sort of chaperone during their trysts, Gnomeo and Juliet meet several times. In the meantime, the war between their families continues. Ben Montague loses his tall blue hat in a fight with Tybalt Capulet. Gnomeo attempts revenge through a mower race with Tybalt. Tybalt loses, crashing his mower into a fence and getting smashed. An angry crowd chases Gnomeo into the street.

It appears that Gnomeo has gotten crushed in the street, but actually what they see is a broken teacup that has fallen out of a truck. With Gnomeo missing and taken for dead, the war between the houses escalates, with the purchase of an upscale tractor mower. Juliet’s father glues her to a pedestal at the top of a fountain so she can stay “safe” at home.

I love the part where Gnomeo converses with a statue of William Shakespeare, asking him how his story ends. Shakespeare found it both suitable and satisfactory that they both die in the end. Gnomeo is determined on a better fate. He returns just in time and, although both gardens are ruined by the upscale tractor mower that has gone into “destruction” mode, the two families decide to end their feud and forgive one another.

The movie ends with a wedding. The flamingo finds his long-lost love. Tybalt even gets glued together and is seen dancing at the wedding.

A few parts that parents may find objectionable include a garden gnome in a revealing bathing suit that shows his entire backside, a joke about a squirrel losing his “nuts”, and a flashback scene in which the flamingo is showing how he lost his true love due to the separation of the couple who owned their house. In my opinion these are trivial issues that don’t take away from the overall charm of the movie. Parents may want to discuss the fact that Gnomeo and Juliet sneak out to court without the permission of their parents.

The message of the movie is a Christian one of love and forgiveness. Courtship and matrimony are also shown in a positive light.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Review of “Song of Renewal” by Emily Sue Harvey

Emily Sue Harvey published her first novel, Song of Renewal, in 2009. Apparently she thought she could do better, because she went on to add 35,000 words for the paperback version, which will be released in February 2011.

Song of Renewal is the character-driven story of a nuclear family, each member described in great depth with third-person omniscient narration. Liza, a prima ballerina, gives up dancing to be the devoted stay-at-home mother of her little ballerina. Garrison, a gifted painter, puts his artistic dream to the side so he can better support his family through his commercial art business.

At age 16, Angel is struggling with living up to her mother’s dream for her to be a dancer, while she wants to be a doctor. She is in love with the boy next door, and one fateful, rainy night they go off to a show. Troy is killed and Angel is left in a coma.

The couple is left to pick up the pieces of their marriage, once passionate in their early and idealistic years, now in a cold stand-off. Liza struggles with feelings of abandonment, based in childhood trauma; Garrison is unable forgive her for letting the couple drive that night. Angel’s thoughts, as she lies in a coma, reflect the experiences of coma survivors, well-researched by the author.

Later in the novel Liza’s hard-as-nails-on-the-outside sister Charlcy enters the picture, with her own marital issues to resolve. Other secondary characters include Penny, Angel’s best friend from cheerleading, who seems to be ever at Angel’s bedside and a great support to Liza; and a doctor who has herself recovered from paraplegia.

Harvey knows how to choose her words. She uses the language of artists and dancers to describe the passions of her main characters. She is able to speak about marital sex in a dignified way that preserves its holiness. And she is able to explore the depths of each character’s soul in a way that makes the reader feel the character is real and knowable.

She also knows how to carefully construct a story, using preludes, flashbacks, personal thoughts, and dramatic conflict. When you reach the climax chapter, you will know you are there, because the emotional tension is as tight as it can get before it is released, and you cannot remain unaffected by it.

Although never preachy, the values of this book are thoroughly Christian, maintaining the importance of a whole marriage, and demonstrating the healing power of forgiveness. Both Old and New Testaments of The Bible are referenced with the characters’ thoughts. The chapel is an important room within the hospital.

Song of Renewal is a delicious read from cover-to-cover, extremely well-written, with a satisfying ending.

The book was originally released in hardcover in 2009. The new paperbook version, which has 35,000 additional words, was released on Feb.22,2011.

For ordering information please visit the publisher’s website “The Story Plant

Emily Sue Harvey hosts her own website, “Renewal Stories”, which offers some of her own short stories and allows readers to share their own stories of renewal.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Being a Model for the Pro-Life Cause

Phil. 4:8 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

The purpose of my blog is to highlight the blessings that come from motherhood. It is easy to get bogged down by the hardships of everyday life. Sometimes that just comes down to the monotonousness of doing laundry and endless cleanups after small children – or growing children who should know better. Add in the stress of finances, jobs, household maintenance, illness, and death, and sometimes the joy gets lost in the mix.

I try to portray a realistic picture of my family, so you know I am just like you, doing my best to be the best mom I can be to my little blessings. But I also don’t dwell on the negative. A thankful heart is a happy heart. I hope that my readers come away from my blog with a little ray of sunshine that will help with the rest of their day.

I don’t talk about abortion on my blog very much but it is always on my mind. I was horrified to hear the statistic that 41 percent of babies conceived in New York City are aborted. There is genocide going on every day in America, and our leaders are condoning it.

I also bear in mind the sobering statistic that shocked me when I was in my early twenties: one out of three women has had an abortion by the time she reaches the age of 40. Statistically that means that, perhaps unknown to you, out of your three best friends one has probably had an abortion.

What does that mean to me in the way I go about my life? For one thing, it means that I don’t go around bashing people who have had abortions. I believe that most of the mothers who have lost their babies go through a lifetime of mourning and what they need is forgiveness and healing. They don’t need to be reminded on a daily basis of the decision they made, most likely under the worst of circumstances and without the positive support of loving family members and friends willing to help save two lives.

My husband once commented, “We don’t need a pro-life bumper sticker. People can see the four kids getting out of our mini-van.” The way to be a model for the pro-life cause is to show people that kids are wonderful to have, not burdens. Go around and treat people nicely. If you see another mom having trouble with one of her kids, show her some compassion; don’t give her a dirty look. If someone you know is thinking about having a baby, give her encouragement.

Many of my friends on Facebook are pro-life and put up pro-life messages every day. Most of these are informative and supportive of the cause. Sometimes they go a little too far and put up pictures of aborted babies. When I see this, it is like getting a knife in the heart. I am on Facebook trying to communicate with my friends, and without warning I am faced with a picture portraying “excessive violence”, which happens to be against the rules on Facebook.

So I put up a status update stating: “I am 100% prolife but am offended by pictures of aborted babies posted on FB. I have hidden posts from anyone who does this.”

A good friend of mine from high school commented, “Omg who does that?!”

I am still waiting for a good explanation.

There are people on the pro-life side who don't realize that these kinds of techniques are hurtful to the pro-life cause making us look like radicals. Take the PETA people and their in-the-face commercials and advertisements. If you like to eat meat, what they do is not going to change your mind. However, if someone presents evidence in a civilized manner that cows are mistreated, perhaps I will go out of my way to purchase meat from a farm that practices humane care of their animals. Throw paint on my fox fur coat and I will not think kindly of you. Tell me nicely that you once had a pet fox and it hurts you to see me wear that kind of fur, and I might take it off.

Besides the fact that it makes good business sense to treat people with dignity and respect when trying to influence the way they think about an issue, we are Christians. Christians always act out of love, using gentle means toward their positive goals.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine’s Day: Slices of Life

St John The Evangelist Teaching The New Commandment 'That Ye Love One Another', 1861 Canvas Painting by Valentine Cameron Prinsep -

Valentine’s Day 1991. I was lifeguarding during the evening swim hours at a local public school with a couple of my guy friends. They sent me out to buy a pizza at a fancy Italian restaurant that just happened to have a good deal on takeout pizzas. Waiting for my pizza in the lobby, I watched couple after couple come in and sit down at a cozy table for two.

I’ll never meet anybody worth spending time on, I thought. Maybe I am supposed to be a nun. Such hopelessness from a usually-optimistic 18-year-old !

Valentine’s Day 1992.
After dinner with my first boyfriend, he said to me, “I love you.” Other than my Daddy, he was the first man to ever speak those words to me. Taught not to ever take or speak those words lightly, I said, “Thank you.”

I don’t remember when I finally said it back to him, but it was after much long consideration. Once we both knew we were meant for each other, we didn’t wait long to marry. We tied the knot on July 23, 1993.

Valentine’s Day 2011. He’s working, and I’m taking the girls to their evening travel softball practices. There are homemade paper valentines and chocolates on the table for our four little valentines. There are no candles in the house. A left-over manicotti casserole is defrosting on the kitchen counter.

There will likely be valentines and small gifts exchanged later…but it’s all just icing on the cake of life. Every day is Valentine’s Day when there is love in a family.

I John 4:7
“ Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.”

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Contraception Commercials

What’s worse: a broken watermelon in your living room or a perforated uterus? If the latest Mirena commercials are to be believed, the first one is horrific; the second, just one of many possible side effects. This new series of commercials features a mother with two children, sometimes adorable, with a nice house and plans to travel. Suddenly they make a mess and she is saying, “Maybe I had enough”. Then there is another sweet moment, followed by a “…or maybe not.”

This whole picture of family life is totally jaded. When you marry someone it is “for better or for worse”. When you have children, it is for all of those moments of all kinds. It is the whole experience of what God is going to give you in that little mystery package you carry for nine months.

People don’t believe that a contraceptive mentality leads to abortion. Why, then, does New York City, which boasts high availability of family planning, have a 41 percent abortion rate? It is this very picture that is presented in the commercials. You can keep your perfect life with your well-formed plans, or you can throw caution to the wind…and something unpleasant might happen to your off-white parlor.

I, for one, try to keep a neat living room, but wouldn’t trade cleanliness or a bigger bank account or a trip to Europe for less kids. Finger paint on the walls, moldings eaten by the dog, red ink that exploded on the piano, muddy cleats on the front porch…these to me are the marking of a happy life, filled with the love of a husband and four kids…and all their pets.

Natural family planning has the same effectiveness as the birth control pill. In its practice, the difference is the trust factor. NFP fosters trust in God, your partner, and yourself. In the outcome, it can also mean the difference between “oops” and “a blessing from God”.

If you enjoyed this post you might want to read an older post of mine, “Our Little Observers: Talking to Kids About Contraception and the Media”.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blog Giveway to CSN Stores

It's a blog giveaway! One lucky winner will be awarded a $55 gift certificate to CSN Stores, a group of online stores selling everything for the home from baby cribs to adjustable bar stools. The certificate will cover anything in the stores except for shipping. To enter just email me your name and email address. The winner will be announced on Valentine's Day.

Saints for the Sick

I was contacted by Zac Brakefield, Video Director for TAN Books and Saint Benedict Press, who has begun to produce book trailers for some of their most popular books. He asked me to post this trailer for Joan Carol Cruz's SAINTS FOR THE SICK, "a book that reinforces our Catholic faith and gives renewed hope to those who are dealing with bodily struggles". This title appealed to me as the daughter of a man who has struggled daily with multiple sclerosis from the age of 40. While I have not read it yet, it comes highly recommended by a good friend of mine. I welcome comments from those who have read it and I promise to post a review when I have read it myself.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids" by Alexandra Robbins

If you have a college-bound teen in your house, then “The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids” (Hyperion, 2006) is a must-read for you. In this 448-page book, Alexandra Robbins delves into the lives of several high school students to disclose what parents need to know about the pressures kids are under today to get into prestigious colleges.

Robbins went back to her alma mater, Walt Whitman High School, and followed several students as they went through the college application process. She detailed their heavy schedules and included portions of their personal diaries and online discussions with friends. She talked about how much (actually, how little) sleep they got and how their interactions were with their friends and family.

The author followed the applications as they went through the hands of high school counselors and college administrators. She went into New York City pre-Kindergartens and revealed the shocking imbalance of supply and demand and the effect it has on parents bent on getting their youngsters into the right pre-K program. Finally, she spoke to students of other schools around the country to make sure the experiences were not based on one school or area.

Some of Robbins’ points include: the need for teens to get more sleep; the stress of having too many activities; and the dangers of being too focused on entrance to a school based on its name. She claims there are many excellent schools out there where the students are happier overall and have equal success in life with those who graduate from Ivy League schools. And she reveals the way statistics are twisted so that the top colleges stay on top of the charts year after year.

The research that went into this book is obvious, and the evidence to back her conclusions well-documented.

I picked up this book because I was amused by the picture. My ninth-grader balances school cross-country/track and travel softball as well as a few advanced courses. Missing from our picture is music: although we have a piano, we never had time for me to give her lessons and she lost interest. I thought she had enough activities and that she was happy and well-balanced.

One of the reasons I opted for public over Catholic school is I noticed how much pressure I thought many of the parents put on their children to be perfect on paper. Some of the kids would cry if they came home with a 99 on an exam. I was criticized for putting sports over academics. In the end, she came out in the top of her class with several scholarship offers from local Catholic schools. I turned them down and so far we are both happy with this decision. Reading this book clinched that for me.

While Robbins was focused on academics and school sports, I have been part of the world of travel softball as well, and could write a whole book on the politics of this sport. Girls now play four seasons per year, with games in indoor sports domes in the winter. Elite softball teams abound, promising college commitments to their top girls. We turned down the elite teams in favor of a small, local team that has talented girls who play for fun. Reading this book made me happier about that decision.

I am glad I read this book because it made me more aware of the dangers of putting too much on a kid’s plate and forcing them to live up to expectations that will not help them with their personal goals.

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I obtained this book from my local public library and as of this writing have had no correspondence with the author.