Friday, February 29, 2008

Forge Ahead!

I mentioned to my husband that it seems like half of my writing critique group is going on retreats or writing conferences in the next couple of weeks. (I'm so jealous)

He said: It's no time for retreating. They shouldn't give up. They should forge ahead!

So - while everyone else is retreating - I shall forge ahead.

(I'm still jealous)

Poetry Friday

Once again it's Poetry Friday. I suppose I could have tried to find a poem that celebrates Leap Year or February or Winter or something, but the poem that leapt to my mind today was this one by A. A. Milne. No particular reason for it - but when a poem leaps to my mind I figure I better use it - it doesn't happen that often (and did you notice my judicious use of the word Leap on this Leap Day?)

Us Two
by A.A. Milne

Wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
"Where are you going today?" says Pooh:
"Well, that's very odd 'cos I was too.
Let's go together," says Pooh, says he.
"Let's go together," says Pooh.

"What's twice eleven?" I said to Pooh.
("Twice what?" said Pooh to Me.)
"I think it ought to be twenty-two."
"Just what I think myself," said Pooh.
"It wasn't an easy sum to do,
But that's what it is," said Pooh, said he.
"That's what it is," said Pooh.

"Let's look for dragons," I said to Pooh.
"Yes, let's," said Pooh to Me.
We crossed the river and found a few-
"Yes, those are dragons all right," said Pooh.
"As soon as I saw their beaks I knew.
That's what they are," said Pooh, said he.
"That's what they are," said Pooh.

"Let's frighten the dragons," I said to Pooh.
"That's right," said Pooh to Me.
"I'm not afraid," I said to Pooh,
And I held his paw and I shouted "Shoo!
Silly old dragons!"- and off they flew.

"I wasn't afraid," said Pooh, said he,
"I'm never afraid with you."

So wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
"What would I do?" I said to Pooh,
"If it wasn't for you," and Pooh said: "True,
It isn't much fun for One, but Two,
Can stick together, says Pooh, says he. "That's how it is," says Pooh.

Kelly Fineman is hosting the Poetry Friday Round-up this week. And next week the round up will be here! (I better get ready!)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Inappropriate for who?

I was watching a clip of something on YouTube the other day and when Harry came up behind me I turned it off - it had some off-color language and I didn't want him seeing it. "Is that inappropriate for children?" he asked.

"Yes it is."

"Then it's inappropriate for everyone," he answered, "because we are all Children of God."

Okay, then. I guess that straightened me out.

I Guess That's Why It's Called A Yarn

Pippi explaining the stories she writes (while watching me struggle with tangled yarn on a crochet project): I like to write adventure stories. But after awhile they get silly. They start out okay. It's kind of like the story is a thing of yarn. It starts out all nice and straight - but when you get to the middle you have a messy tangle you have to unravel.

Yup. That about sums it up.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tuesday's Proverb

Men despise not the thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry; Yet if he be caught he must pay back sevenfold; all the wealth of his house he may yield up. (Proverbs 6:30-31)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Snowboarding and Snowbabies

This is what Harry did with his snow day/birthday.

While Pippi played with her baby snowman. You don't usually see someone walking around with a snowman.

And then they had a big snowball fight.

And then it started to rain and they had to come inside. (Harry says it hailed first.)

Poetry Friday - George Washington's Birthday

My son is very proud to share a birthday with George Washington. He says when he's old enough he will vote for him for president.

In trying to come up with a poem for Poetry Friday today I was in a quandary, should I find a poem about snow, in honor of our first real snowfall of the winter, one about birthday's in honor of Harry turning eight, or one about George Washington?

In searching I found this delightful poem by Bobbi Katz.

George Washington's Birthday: Wondering
by Bobbi Katz

I wonder what I would have said
if my dad had asked me,
"Son, do you know who cut down
my pretty cherry tree?"
I think I would have closed my eyes
and thought a little bit
about the herd of elephants
I'd seen attacking it.

read the rest of the poem here. Visit Bobbi Katz's website here.

Kelly is hosting the Poetry Friday round-up today over at Big A little a, be sure to stop by for a visit.

Snow Day!

What better present could a newly eight-year-old boy ask for on his birthday than a SNOW DAY! The first one of the year too.

Not that we got to sleep in or anything. Harry was ready to open his presents at 6:15. I made him wait until at least 7.

Of course by not going to school he can't play his guitar there today - I'm sure he can bring it in sometime next week. And he said the girls were planning a surprise for him. Perhaps they'll give him his surprise on Monday.

We have several inches of snow right now - and it's snowing pretty steadily.

The official automated call that school was canceled came at 4:15 AM. Does any one really need to know that early?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Birthday Parties in School

When Pippi was in pre-school I thought it was great fun to bake cupcakes and bring them to her class. She's in fifth grade now. And I'm over it.

Our school instituted a policy last year of no junk food in the schools. This basically means they don't want cupcakes and cookies and candy to be a part of children's parties during the school day. My husband thought it ironic that they announced this to the parents at an open house where the PTO was busy holding a bake sale - but whatever. The policy is widely ignored. Class moms still bring in cupcakes and other treats for class parties. And kids still bring in cupcakes for their birthdays.

However, I know the school really doesn't want this. They want either healthy snacks or non-food treats. At which point I begin to wonder: why am I supplying treats to my children's classmates on my child's birthday? Call me mean and curmudgeonly but really. Non-food treats - even cheap gimmicky stuff are going to start to really add up when you multiply by 20 or 25. It really is easier to stop by the Dunkin' Donuts on the next corner and pick up a box of munchkins before school.

So, here we are in the midst of winter and our own little birthday season. Last month Pippi brought pencils in to distribute to her classmates. They were colorful and useful and fat free.

Friday is Harry's birthday. Do I go out and look for some more cheap pencils? Do I ignore the rules like so many others and bring cupcakes or Munchkins? No. I got a better idea.

On Friday - as a treat for his class - and in honor of his birthday - Harry is going to bring his guitar to school and play for his class. I checked with his teacher and she thinks it's a great idea. The class gets a treat. Harry gets to shine for a while and no one has to wipe icing off the desks afterwards.

The Next Blockbuster Hit

Harry had a great idea for a book/movie title.

The Divine Mercy Code (instead of The DaVinci Code, you know)

I like it. Now someone just has to write it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tuesday's Proverb

Lust not in your heart after her beauty, let her not captivate you with her glance! For the price of a loose woman may be scarcely a loaf of bread, But if she is married, she is a trap for your precious life. Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his garments not burned? Or can a man walk on live coals, and his feet not be scorched? So with him who goes in to his neighbor's wife-- none who touches her shall go unpunished. (Proverbs 6:25-29)

I almost didn't post this proverb. Like some of the other recent ones it's not exactly cheerful and uplifting; besides who wants to think about adultery and stuff like that. But I'm posting these in order - so there it is - and also, just because we don't like to think about something doesn't make the problem imaginary. Real people struggle with things like this all the time. I guess it doesn't hurt to look and see what God has to say on the subject.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Lenten Challenge

Okay, I haven't actually forgotten about this. Really. And I've been starring things that I want to link to - I just haven't put it all together.

As far as our Lent goes - saying the rosary together as a family was a non-starter. We just haven't made the effort to build it into our day. Which is a shame - and my fault, because I never pushed the issue.

I have been praying more, and I know the kids are feeling the pinch of the sacrifice to give up candy for Lent. Valentine's Day was particularly difficult.

For places that are wonderfully consistent with Lenten thoughts please visit Danielle Bean and A Catholic Mom in Hawaii.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Poetry Friday - Love

In honor of Valentine's Day (yesterday) here's a little poetic quote from Shakespeare.

No sooner met but they looked;
No sooner looked but they loved;
No sooner loved but they sighed;
No sooner sighed but they asked one another the reason;
No sooner knew the reason but they sought the remedy;
And in these degrees have they made a pair of stairs to marriage...

William Shakespeare - from As You Like It

HipWriterMama is hosting the Poetry Round up today. Be sure to go over and visit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Multi-Cultural World

It's not unusual to find people who have multiple ethnic backgrounds. This can sometimes mean interesting mixing of cultures. My daughter has a friend whose mother is from Brazil and whose father is from Taiwan. Our neighbor is from Bolivia; her husband is a north Jersey Italian.

My children have an ethnic background that spans most of northern Europe from England to Poland with many countries in between. But one nationality they can't count in their background is Italian.

Maybe that explains why when we have ravioli for dinner my son says "Yay - Pierogies!"

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Snow - for real this time

Or as real as it might get this winter for central Jersey. The ground is actually white. A snowplow came down our street. And the schools have a delayed opening tomorrow. The wintry mix is supposed to turn to rain - and it will all melt - so I made sure the kids got out and played in the snow when they got home from school today.

It was movie snow. Big fluffy flakes falling from the sky - almost didn't look real. Harry had his snowboard out before the grass was even fully covered (when the snow isn't predicted to last long you can't afford to waste time.)

I know that some areas of this country have had more snow than they know what to do with and I feel for you, really I do. But the kids just wanted to be able to play in snow at least once this winter - and they did.

Tuesday's Proverb

Observe, my son, your father's bidding, and reject not your mother's teaching; Keep them fastened over your heart always, put them around your neck; For the bidding is a lamp, and the teaching a light, and a way to life are the reproofs of discipline; To keep you from your neighbor's wife, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. (Proverbs 6:20-24)

Sunday, February 10, 2008


It's snowing out. Actual honest to goodness snow! And some of it is sticking to the ground.

Now, I realize some parts of the country have gotten more than their fair share of snow, but here in New Jersey we've been rather lacking in that department this winter. Whether it will even be enough to have to shovel remains to be seen - but at least for now it looks like winter.

I'm not sure if it has to do with this.

Or because I saw my crocuses starting to come up yesterday.

Either way - it is definitely snowing - at least for now.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Fish on Fridays

It's Lent. And back to meatless Fridays. Tonight it was fish sticks -- not fancy but it kept the kids happy.

When I was growing up we had meatless Fridays during Lent, but also if my mother was planning a meatless dish - pizza, tuna fish casserole or whatever - she would tend to plan it for a Friday. The rules were not as stringent as when she was growing up - we were allowed to eat meat on Fridays (except during Lent) and sometimes we did.

By the time I was married I didn't worry about meatless Fridays (except during Lent, of course), but over the last few years my husband and I realized that although the official rules were that you could eat meat on Friday it was with the provision that another sacrifice be given in its stead.

Hmmm. Another sacrifice. Well, we weren't exactly making any specific sacrifices, we were just eating whatever we darn felt like.

Maybe that wasn't the way this was supposed to work, maybe more thought was supposed to be given to what we were doing on a Friday. So, a couple of years ago we decided to go meatless on Fridays all year long. Fish on Fridays: It's not just for Lent anymore.

Since a lot of people only worry about fish on Fridays during Lent, it's not always easy to adhere to when we eat at someone else's house. And if we are at Grandma's house and she's serving pork chops or whatever on a Friday - we eat them. We just try to remember to say an extra prayer - do an extra sacrifice instead.

Have we gotten anything out of it? I don't know. I do know that sometimes when the kids want something with meat on Friday - we just have to remind them of what day it is - and they're okay with it. And we've discussed why we do a special sacrifice on Friday (in honor of Good Friday and the sacrifice Jesus made for us.) So at the very least we're recalling Good Friday more than once a year. And we know we're doing this in honor of God. And that is a good thing to know too.

Here are a few Lenten Links for the day:

Food for thought from Danielle Bean.

A hopeful Lenten post from Hope-full Signs.

Easter offers a meditation on Fasting.

Jenn muses on how Lent offers us an ending and a beginning.

Letitia at cause of our joy offers ways to simplify during Lent.

Holy Cards for Your Inspiration offers a lovely card for of a child Jesus with a tiny cross.

Karen Edmisten tells us what her daughter plans on giving up for Lent - and offers a great idea of a sacrifice jar - I think I'm going to have to incorporate that into our Lenten season.

Esther speaks of dying to self.

And Jean at Catholic Fire offers a Lenten meditation.

If you have something inspirational you'd like me to link to - let me know. Or just leave a comment.

Poetry Friday

It's Poetry Friday and I didn't have anything specific in mind for today's poem, so I perused a bit and found this one by Robert Louis Stevenson. It just seems to capture so perfectly those adventures of childhood.

In Port
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Last, to the chamber where I lie
My fearful footsteps patter nigh,
And come out from the cold and gloom
Into my warm and cheerful room.

There, safe arrived, we turn about
To keep the coming shadows out,
And close the happy door at last
On all the perils that we past.

Then, when mamma goes by to bed,
She shall come in with tip-toe tread,
And see me lying warm and fast
And in the land of Nod at last.

The round-up today is at AmoXcalli.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Offering It Up

I've heard the phrase "offer it up" my whole life. But what does it really mean? Other than as a more religious way to say "quick your belly-aching."

So I did a little research.
I found this by Scott P. Richert
and this over at Fisheaters.

And what it comes down to is that when we are suffering - either through our own sacrifices (my that chocolate looks good, why did I give it up for Lent?) or through daily annoyances (aches and pains, rude people, alarm clocks that go off too early - even if that's the time they're set for) - we accept these things without complaining and ask God to use our suffering for the benefit of others.

This can be done through a formal prayer or informal prayer.

Jesus offered his suffering for all our sakes. We can imitate Jesus in this small way - and also offer our suffering for the sake of others.

Will it make the suffering go away? No. The aches and pains will still be there. The bad drivers will still be there. The chocolate will still be there (and not being eaten). And morning will still come when we want to sleep. But we can pray and God will allow these sufferings to be redemptive for ourselves and others.

Something to think about.

As far as Lenten Links - today I found:

Danielle Bean with more food for thought.

Esther at A Catholic Mom in Hawaii
has a Lenten resolution for the day.

Easter has a beautiful prayer posted.

And I found this article about why we give things up for Lent at Ignatius Insight.

If anyone else would like to join in this Lenten Challenge and post about something that helps bring you closer to God - please let me know - and I will link to you - or just leave an inspirational comment. I can use all the inspiration I can get!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A Recipe From My Grandfather

I looked at the date and realized that today would have been my maternal grandfather's 99th birthday and I needed to do something to honor him. And for no particular reason I thought of his recipe for Hot Pepper Jam. Now, I don't particularly care for hot pepper jam, but I know, that of people who do they consider this quite a treat. But what I like about the recipe are my grandfather's directions. He was a scientist to the core and very precise. There was no pinch of this or a bit of that in this recipe. His personality shines through in this simple recipe and that's why I share it today - because in sharing the recipe I share a little bit of what my grandfather was like.


Hot Pepper Jam

4 lb sweet peppers
4 lb hot peppers
1 lemon
6 c vinegar
5 lb sugar
2 pkg (1 ¾ oz each) Sure Jel

I prefer red over green peppers – better flavor and more appealing color. These are available in late Sept. and early Oct. at the Public market.

Quarter the sweet peppers and remove stem and seeds. Cut tops off red peppers and leave seeds in. Quarter the lemon and use it all. Put peppers and lemon through coarse food chopper. Some juice may run out; catch it and add it to the ground mix. Place in a large pan or kettle with a heavy bottom.

Add vinegar and bring to boil.

Add sugar and bring to boil

Add Sure-Jel and bring to boil (about 102 degrees C or 217 degrees F) and continue to boil until the thermometer reaches 104 degrees C or 220 degrees F. while stirring. It is important to stir occasionally at the beginning and more often near the end. If you don’t, it might stick to the bottom or boil over and make a mess you will never forget. This will take about an hour, depending on the heat setting.

At this point put a test portion in a small container (bottle cap or milk carton cap) and cool it in refrigerator. If it is too runny when chilled, boil it a little longer. With practice you can tell by the consistency when it has been boiled down enough.

Pour into sterilized jelly jars and cover with melted paraffin wax. If the jars have screw caps and take dome lids, wax is not necessary.

You will love it or hate it. You can adjust the “hotness” by varying the amounts of sweet and green peppers. You might want to use half or quarter of the above amounts for a first trial, but if you like it make a big batch and give some to your friends.

by Leo J. Tanghe
(Originally appeared in the St. Charles Cook Book of St. Charles Borremeo Parish, Greece NY)
*photo from

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of my Lenten Challenge.

As a way to get started with posting inspirational things I thought I'd post the Daily Decalogue of Pope John XXIII - every time I read it I am inspired to be a better person. I don't always do everything on it - but it inspires me all the same.

The daily decalogue of Pope John XXIII:

1) Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.

2) Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behaviour; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.

3) Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.

4) Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.

5) Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.

6) Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.

7) Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.

8) Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.

9) Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.

10) Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for 12 hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.

I've also noticed - while browsing through my feed reader that many people have up inspiring Lenten posts today. These people don't necessarily know about my challenge - but I'm going to link to them here. If you have a post you want me to link to (and I didn't find it yet) let me know about it in the comments. If you have something inspirational to share - but don't want to post it on a blog - just leave a message here. Thanks all.

Some Lenten Links:

Danielle Bean has some food for thought on this day of fasting.

Karen Edmisten has a psalm to get us in the mood.

Sarah, at just another day of Catholic pondering has some thoughts on Lent from a sermon by Peter Chrysologus.

Esther at A Catholic Mom in Hawaii has a some beautiful thoughts on fasting and feasting by William Arthur Ward.

Jennifer at The Pfaffl House has some wonderful thoughts on what she's going to do for Lent.

And Leticia has a Holy Sonnet for Lent by John Donne over at causa nostrae laetitiae.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Getting Ready For Lent

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. We begin the church season in which we prepare for Easter. We prepare ourselves through prayer and fasting and penance.

Traditionally people give something up for Lent. As children it is often candy. It is candy for my children. I decree it so. When they are old enough to make reasonable sacrifices on their own - they may. Pippi actually can now. Harry wants to give up school.

But it's not just about giving something up. And it's not just about doing something extra either. It's about a way to bring ourselves closer to God. Which, is a pretty worthwhile goal.

So - what are we doing about Lent? There will be a general giving up of sweets - because the main grocery shopper (that would be me) will refrain from buying them. There will be exceptions. Harry's birthday is in a couple of weeks. There will be cake. Though Pippi asked that I please not give her candy for Valentine's Day.

And I'm going to try once again to institute a family rosary. You know - my kids have no objection to it. If I suggest it, we say the rosary. If I don't suggest it; we don't. And sometimes I get busy and don't suggest it. I'll make an effort to remember during Lent.

This year Harry is also getting ready for his First Communion - so maybe one of our goals for Lent will be to make sure that we all approach Mass more reverently, and less like just another part of the week.

A friend challenged me to make a Lenten challenge - inspired by HipWriterMama's thirty day challenges, but I wasn't quite sure what to do. I think I came up with it though.

For every day of Lent I'm going to try to post something that is inspirational in nature and that serves the goal of bringing me closer to God. I challenge anyone who is interested to do the same - either on your own blog (with a comment to me, so I know to look) or else in the comments here.

Let's help each other make this a holy and reverent Lent.

Tuesday's Proverb

There are six things the LORD hates, yes, seven are an abomination to him; Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood; A heart that plots wicked schemes, feet that run swiftly to evil, The false witness who utters lies, and he who sows discord among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19)

Another cheery and upbeat proverb for today. But I find this one interesting for the things it doesn't mention as well as for the things it does.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

... and another thing

He didn't just try to give himself an "accidental" haircut with the nail scissors, he went for additional grooming as well. He cut half of one eyebrow away. Pippi was the one who noticed that his eyebrow looked funny. No idea what possessed him. We may have to remove all sharp objects from the house.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

And if you believe that....

The clues: - some clips of hair in the sink
- a boy who earlier said he wanted to get his hair cut today (a boy, who by the way was at the barber last week)

The question: What scissors did you use to cut your hair? (forget the did you cut your hair - that part was obvious from the above clues)

The answer: I accidentally cut my hair with a nail scissors.

Yeah. Right.


Friday, February 01, 2008

This Made My Day

I was so touched to see that Esther, A Catholic Mom in Hawaii awarded me this new award created by Deb of Ukok's Place. It's a lovely award, letting people you think they make the world a better place. Well, I certainly think that both Esther and Deb make this world a better place.

Here are the rules for this award (more details are available at Ukok's Place):
1. use Ukok’s ‘You make the world a better place’ image in your post.
2. link to Ukok’s Place.
3. Award 5 bloggers.
There are so many bloggers that I read and enjoy and wish I knew personally and could sit down with a cup of tea with, but I will limit myself to five.
So - to you: I think you make the world a better place.

Alice at Cottage Blessings

Vivian at HipWriterMama

Tricia at Roots in Myth

Kelly at Big A, little a


Lissa at Here in the Bonny Glen

Poetry Friday

On an August Morning
by KRM (age 11)

Green tree tops,
Astounding August morning
Cool babbling waterfalls
Wish we could stay
Simply splendid seats
On rock ledges
Easy to fall
Off slippery rocks
With water rushing down them
We might be the only
Ones who know this place
Birds twittering
High above
Us, lounging in
Our Emerald City
Basking in the
Sparkling sun
Hard to forget
This place
Wish we could stay

I know it's February. That's why I think it's a perfect time for a little reflection on summer. Besides, my daughter wrote this poem the other day and I wanted to share it. As you can see from the picture - she really did seem to capture the essence of the ravine on an August day.

The Poetry Round-up is over at Karen Edmisten's place.