Sunday, January 31, 2010

Speech by Arch Bishop Chaput on the Modern Age, Art and the Nature of Man

It's long but so rich that I urge you to read it all. I'm going to have to check out the writers he mentioned. Click on the title and have a great Sunday.

Spahn, Sain and Pray for Rain*

I know why weather forecasters are almost always wrong.

It isn't the doppler radar.  It isn't because they aren't able to analyze patterns of high and low pressure.  It isn't global warming and it isn't because everyone talks about such things but no one can do anything about it. 

Predicting the weather is the simple correlation between the sport schedule of the plurality of children in a given geographic area, and the level of devotion of the parents overtaxed by their kids extra curricular activities. In short, Prayer.  

Back in the fall, my daughters played softball and I overheard many a folk sigh as they glanced at the blocked up weekends.  "What can we do?" one of them said.  "Pray for rain." I joked.  That weekend, it poured.   The next week, things looked worse.  "Should we pray again?" one of the moms asked.
"Yes!" was the emphatic response. A deluge ensued.

Things got out of hand when people began hoping to get out of practices.  It became one of the wettest autumns on record.  Games got cancelled on account of hail, lightning and cold misty black skies that seemed conjure themselves at the crack of a bat.  Practice was called once when a rainstorm literally had parked itself right over all the fields for play.  Everywhere else was cloudy but no precipitation. 

I bring all this up because today was supposed to be two basketball games and a dance.  We were expecting a light dusting and got 4-6 inches.  Not my fault.  I didn't ask but given the number of things on my schedule for next week, expect blizzard conditions. 

*Slogan for the Boston Braves in 1948 given the strength of their pitching line up.  If facing a double header, the best hope for the opposition was "Spahn, Sain and pray for rain."  Tip of the hat to my husband for the title and the trivia.  

Friday, January 29, 2010

Tebow and the Super Bowl and Commercials

Pro abortion advocates are going insane over a 30 second ad by Heisman Trophy Winner, Pat Tebow and his mom. She was counseled to have an abortion of her fifth pregnancy because of serious medical complications. Obviously, she didn't follow the Doctor's recommendations. Their family's witness to their faith is what would be showcased in this half minute advertisement.
From the Washington Post Jan 27th

"CBS's acceptance of the advocacy ad seems to mark a shift in network policy against airing Super Bowl commercials with divisive political or social content.”An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year -- an event designed to bring Americans together," Jehmu Greene, president of the Women's Media Center, said in a statement."
Personal snark, "I'm sure Greene and other members of the Women's Media Center just love to fire up the grill, cook some ribs, wings and pour cold ones while they watch the Super Bowl."

Now I love football. I like the Super Bowl and I admit I'd be upset if a Pro-abortion video came on during the game so I guess I can understand the ire. But banning ads and topics for ads because they are upsetting to some, smacks of intolerance, of a secular political censorship designed to dampen dissent, deny the existence or validity of alternative view points, and strikes me as a dangerous path for a network. If one witness is that powerful that it cannot be seen, no wonder the media never covers the March for Life as anything other than "There's an event that will affect your commute."

Some (Joy Behar in particular) tried to argue that Tebow could have been an awful person, and thus the fact that he is a talented and reverent football player should not be given any credence as an argument against abortion. Life may be about making choices, but the capacity to be, shouldn't be simply the whims of one over another, whether in war, in a laboratory, in a camp or in a doctor's office. The very existence of the possible as of yet unaired spot has already reminded people that abortion does limit the possibilities that life brings.

The arguments that having a controversial ad in the midst of a social cultural event like the Super Bowl detract from the experience smack of hypocrisy. Go Daddy Girl, Viagra and Beer for every occasion is fine family fare but a person who lived out their faith life and is willing to put dollars on the line to say that this is a good that came from being unafraid to be Pro-Life for a mere 30 seconds; that's worth a boycott, that's worth screaming and shouting.

Now, imagine all the 50 Million since Roe vs. Wade who were denied the opportunity to change the world. 1.37 Million Each year in the United States never got to have 30 seconds. That translates to 3,700 abortions a day.

One brave witness to life provoked all this with 30 seconds. Imagine what the 3,700 of just Superbowl Sunday would have done with lifetimes.


Family and Faith Live!

What am I doing and Why am I doing it exactly?

"Remember that thou art dust and to dust, thou shall return." Excepting I can't.  The upstairs machine awaits a belt and sits idle in the meantime while the dirt devils and dust bunnies breed.  As such, the "to dust" on my list remains undone.

I thought I could cope.  Then my shop vac quit.  My 12.5 horsepower 20 gallon wet dry industrial machine that is only six months old (bought it on Mother's day), couldn't cut it.  In mid cleaning of the kitchen, it just turned itself off.  I called it a cheater, a quitter and a lazy bum.  I kicked it, cursed it, took it apart and still, it sits like a large hunk of useless plastic, daring me to throw it out but it knows I don't want to, I want it to work.
There's a metaphore in there somewhere about government but like the dust bunnies, I'll just let it sit there waiting for pick up.
But because Nature adores a vacumn, the belts I ordered for the other machine arrived today.  It took all morning to disassemble and attach the new belt. 

Appliances in my home must age in dog years.  In terms of jobs created or saved, I'm not sure if the dishswasher, dryer, washer and stove are labor saving devices or not. 

 I think they freeze up to get a vacation, because my dishwasher also decided to lose a 99 cent pin holding the upper rack in place.  Having called the appliance store and then done that circuit route again to find the place that would have the part, I ordered it and the piece will arrive next week. I told my husband, it's like the cleaning machines are on strike.

He pointed out, "You could too you know."  They don't have to work if they don't work.

Now there's an idea....hmmmmm.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Small Success Thursday

Every week we pause to take note of the little victories of the week, whether they be folded laundry or a good report card or a trip to the hairdressers.  Family and Faith Live! celebrates the little things we do with great love and the little things we love to do.   Want to join? Click on the title and leave your list on your blog!

This week:

1) We went to the March for Life!  It feels like a cheat since it happened last Friday but it was great!

2) Got a shout out from three of my favorite internet sites: Pundit and Pundette and a second one from The Other McCain, both blogs I lurk on regularly and the blog roll of Creative Minority Report!

3) Had a piece run at Family & Faith Live! "A Little Bit of Romance."

4) Daughter that has struggled with reading got moved up into a different group because she has gained fluency.  Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

5) Paul pulled himself to a standing position and has gained two more teeth.

6) Saints made it to the superbowl.  Geaux Saints!

7) Made it to Confession.  Trying not to screw up too much too soon.

Stuck on the Odyssey of Politics

All politicians make promises they can't keep, it is par for the course with the electoral process. Promise gold on every street, except for that evil other guy. Deliver something, anything, an ostrich when you ordered a sofa, meatloaf when you wanted a polar fleece jacket, DVD's when you only own a VCR. Claim victory because it would have been much worse if nothing had been done. Mission accomplished.

When the first President Bush said Read my lips, the broken promise was obvious. When Clinton said, "I did not have...well, you know the rest," we wanted to believe he was telling the truth. We let ourselves despite all evidence to the contrary, hope he was being honest. When Dubbya told us about weapons of mass destruction, a very liberal friend called me in despair. I agreed, the only answer I could give her was, "He'd better be right." We all know how that turned out as well.

So when President Obama came along and in his first speech as President, promised a new era where we'd put aside childish things and have a new tone, once again, I wanted to believe this was true.
A year later, he offers the same siren call and I want to be moved by his eloquence not because I agree with his politics but because I really do want a government that doesn't think half the nation is evil and the other half are idiots.

But the tonic of past performance acts as binding as ropes on the mast, the words reach out but they can't grab me because I know, the deficit was bad under Bush, but it tripled in the first year under Obama. He can say he's bringing home all the troops by August, but those pronouncements are best made once the last soldier has deboarded the plane home. As witnessed by Christmas day, a lot can happen in a few weeks, let alone a few months. The President can say he hasn't raised anyone's taxes, but like Maureen Dowd, I hear hidden words unspoken, "yet."

He can say he's serious about deficit reduction, but it's more like he's the character from Popeye, Wimpy. "I will gladly reduce deficits tomorrow for some new taxes paid today." The healthcare if passed won't go into effect for several years, though the taxes are immediate. The freezing moratorium won't affect the areas it won't affect, meaning other parts of the government will still grow and expand and spend.

As a fiscal conservative, I can't say $250 Million is nothing, but it isn't real and it isn't serious since it won't happen for several years and won't be adjusted to ensure that it is an actual $250 million saved. He keeps talking about only taxing those who make more than 250K, but people who run small businesses and pay for their own insurance and all of that, often have books that say pre-tax, that they make that much.

What we need is the security to know, we can take home more, not less. People who hire, don't hire when more of their capital is tied up in taxes, even for a $2000.00 per worker tax break. Who hires someone who cost 20K or 40k or 65k to get a 2000.00 tax break? So when he talks about tax cuts for 95% of the people, it isn't genuine, because 95% of those tax cuts come with strings attached. You get it if you buy these windows or hire that worker or use daycare. They are not tax cuts tied to the bottom line, and that's the bottom line.

The one thing I do believe is he won't quit and he won't back down. All his history indicates when people disagree; he sticks all the stronger to his position. I also know his style now, to state what the opposition will criticize him with and declare it null and void with a preemptive oratory strike. The President talked about change and how this can only be done with all of us, daring me to refuse upfront to cooperate, turning me and anyone who disagreed with him into an obstructionist because I don't like what has been done and what is proposed. It was not a unifying speech because it only unified if you agreed.

This speech may have recaptured the hearts of those who truthfully, were in love with the policies he proposed and has of yet not delivered, but for those whose hearts were not won to begin with, this was the same song it always was; come dash yourself upon these rocks because I sing so beautifully.

Pass the wax plugs please so we can sail on by.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

And That's Why They Watch TV

"I don't believe in a no win scenario." --James T. Kirk.
Captain Kirk never was a Mom.  --me. 

My children can tell when I'm in one of these moods, when all screens are evil. I'll announce that I've changed the pass codes to all the televisions and disconnected the Wi-Fi except to my own laptop which has a password none of them know. In my zealous madness, I hide the remotes and batteries separately and have been known to unplug all the machines as well so that there is defense in depth against children getting to vegetate before a TV, computer or video game.

"Outside! or Homework! or Practice!" A choice of three very different hells born of boredom awaits my offspring. The older ones groan and take their pick, usually opting to get the school stuff out of the way, hoping to pacify my need to crack down with dutifulness. It's been known to work. Middles try to extract bargains. These get shot down but it does give them more stall time on starting their assignments.

Mom's dictatorial ruthless outlawing of all things on Cable, DVD's, Wii and DS never lasts long. It would be even shorter lived if those kids paid attention to the ones calling all the shots, the toddlers.

It was a warm winter day, the kind made for bike riding, for discovering the outdoors when there are no bugs and it isn't so unpleasant that you need gloves. Unloading from school, the olders scurried in for snacks but the 2nd, K and younger set pulled out the scooter and the trikes and the bikes and started drawing a road for traffic patterns.

Pleased as I unloaded the baby that they were using their imaginations and exercising and being outdoors, I smiled, filled with the pseudo virtue that comes from being a Mom, catching your kids doing something good, and having had nothing to do with it whatsoever. Inside the house, I started fixing snack. I wouldn't call them in I decided, I didn't want to interrupt the fun. That would be mean.
I fed the baby. I heard a few sounds of happy laughter. Silly laughter. By this point, my mom radar should have registered “check,” but I was still trying to pretend I was offhanded and relaxed, to bask in the coolness of having four kids outside playing, four inside doing homework, and a happy 15 month old working on solid foods.

Thwack! Slurp. It sounded like something was thrown. It sounded like something mushy hit something. More giggles. Thwack! Thwack! Slump. SLump. SLump. "WOW!" "MOMMMMM."

Racing and already knowing I'm too late, my son comes in, his white shirt doing a splendid imitation of a Dalmatian. He is covered, speckled with mud. His two sisters come after him, happy and semi-horrified respectively. They too are caked from the knees down. Squelch. Squelch. Squelch. My van is also spackled with mud balls.

A child is still playing. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" I try to just have volume, not irritation. It isn't very convincing.

"I'm making mud soup. Just like in that book." She explains. She is forking a giant puddle of mud with a large stick, stirring it to make even more.

"You're a mess."

"Oh. Does this mean I have to come inside?"

Three showers, a carwash and four loads of laundry later, exhausted, I handed my daughter the remote. "Dora the Explorer is on, channel 56. The code is 1441."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Burning Breakfast

I missed it. It's my biggest fear.

With nine children, I'm always joking that it's a juggling game in which you have to trust that the balls you drop will bounce back. But like any parent, I worry I'm being too cavalier with my children. I know that every moment is a witness, so when my kids are late, their tardiness might not be viewed through the lens of "Oh, well traffic or oh well, she's disorganized or oh well, one kid lost their shoe or needed to go the bathroom." but "She has too many kids." and that's why they're late. Paranoia I know, but it sits in my head like a little demon, pecking at me to stress over things that don't matter and over knowing when I should be stressing and I'm not.

The demon pecked all weekend. Both basketball teams lost. The Academic Contest didn't go well. There were projects that took most of two kids’ spare time and I had to practically sit on one to get his math done. They didn't practice their music. I didn't read to the youngers. The demon loves to point out how other kids play three sports or make all "A's" or seem to be planning for the future far beyond what strategies they'll employ in the next card game of Magic or which set to play on Rock Band.

Everything they do, they do well enough to impress a bit, like silver that hasn't been polished recently, but isn't tarnished yet. Is it my job to scrub them until they shine or to let them learn to want to shine themselves? I'm not always sure.
Do I want them to score points at the game or ace the test? Absolutely. I scream with everyone else until I'm hoarse from the sideline. I suggest practicing often. I demand they do their homework. Sometimes I'm dramatic and hand them the instruments.  I've even pretended to dust or stacked them in a crazy manner to get their attention.

But I wonder, because I don't check over work much and I don't jump up and down if they don't play, should I be demanding more? Should I be drilling more? How do I light a fire under them and not burn them away? How do I know if I'm using sloth to excuse my actions or inactions?

All these great ponderables were in my head as I made hot chocolate. Then I went to check the computer. One daughter asked for grapes. I started writing. My other daughter came to tell me the baby woke up and I walked away to get him. I came back to a large burned bubbly mess of milk. Wiping up the wasted breakfast treat, I felt irritated at myself for NOT PAYING ATTENTION. I'd multi-tasked myself into a kitchen disaster that could have been much worse. And the answer was there on the stove.

One thing at a time. Pay attention. Stay awake. Don't withdraw into the cyber world of emails, blogs and websites. There will be time to write. It's just not all the time. Here they are. Read to them. Be present. Don't burn the hot chocolate because you didn't pay attention. You'll lose out on good sweet things if you allow yourself to be distracted.

So I microwaved some tea and gave the kids some crayons. They asked for a bath afterwards. I agreed.

So I'm here, finishing this up while they color, not crying over spilled milk. Thanking God for giving this silly woman a burnt cup of cocoa, and turning off the computer for the day. I can already hear the demon giving me all kinds of reasons to stay online, but for the moment, I understand her ploys. I have to stay awake. I have to trust that God will give me what I need and will help me give them what they need. Pay attention. All good things require a sublimation of the personal will, exercise, music, homework, parenting, writing, prayer. If I want a real life for all of them, I must submit. I can't be a virtuous mom if I'm a virtual mom. So, with that momentary epiphany, I'm going to go feed the baby and color now.

Have a great day.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Don't Make Me Pull Over this Blog!

If you missed it, this week Hugo Chavez has declared that the earthquakes in Haiti are not the result of a bad deal with the devil or global warming, but the effects of a U.S. made "earthquake machine." To me, this is not just Sick. It's strange.

It seems to me as if the President of Venezuela has been listening to Hans Zirkoff formerly of Nasa. Cue Flash Gordon video...

His theory is bad as the French worrying that we're occupying Port-a-Prince.

The people of Haiti are suffering beyond anything we can imagine. Please contribute to the Red Cross or Catholic Relief Services or any charitable fund that will be able to distribute food, water, clothing and medicine to those who must cope with their entire infrastructure having been flattened.

For the sake of the rest of us, France, Danny Glover, Pat Robertson, Hugo Chavez and any others out there who think they have the answer as to why an earthquake happened, stop speculating and do something useful. Tattle tailng conspiracy theorists Danny and Pat, donate money and urge others to do so as well. Hugo, get some cheap fuel over there pronto if you're so capable and magnificient and concerned. You sound like cheap extras from a grade C- sci-fi movie...but I guess for Danny who'se career has been non existent for some time, that might be an upgrade.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Going to my First March for Life at 43

When we moved to Maryland back in the Winter of 1995, I wanted to go to the March for Life. It was a frigid January and with our only son not yet two, I let prudence dictate otherwise. There would be other years I thought. My husband agreed, "You won't always have a toddler." That statement satisfied me and so I didn't go.

For the next 11 years, toddlers continued to give me my out from signing up or even considering participation. Then my oldest entered 8th grade and I realized, he would make it to the march before me. I contented myself with having a proxy. Three years later, my daughter entered 8th grade. I would have two proxies.

But my 4th grader has a unique nature. Peter's spirit is like a rich vein of precious ore surrounded by massive amounts of heavy unyielding rock. I spend a lot of time going round and round with him, trying to blast through the rock. There is no child for whom I spend more time talking to God or going to confession to work on my patience, my charity and my endurance. He honestly knows how to push every button with everyone, every time. But sometimes, the ore reveals itself unbidden. He asked at the beginning of the week, "Are we going to the march?" I demurred without answering.

He asked again two days ago. I said "I'd watch the weather to decide."

Today, I woke up to him and his sister having a serious spat. It put me in the wrong place immediately. After getting everything sorted out, I began the routine of breakfast for everyone and checked my email. A friend had written a beautiful piece on her journal about the value and beauty of life and witness we are all called to show to the world to keep all children sacred. It was all the more poignant because she had lost her youngest to cancer back on October 14th. Her daughter would have been three two days ago.

My son asked quietly, "Are we going?"

And the answer had to be yes. It was ten thirty. We weren't dressed. We weren't packed. It was starting to sleet but the answer was yes. My silver ore child made peanut butter sandwiches and baloney ones, and packed apples and oranges. The sister he'd fought with, helped. I swung through getting the littles dressed. We roused the 12 year old who wasn't really moving yet to get herself going, packed the car and loaded the stroller.

All the time, I threw occasional prayer demands at the various saints. "If we're going to do this...we're going to need help." I explained. "Saint Rita of Cassia, patroness of the impossible task, this qualifies." "Saint Anthony, help us find a way to get there and be on time." I rattled off my stresses, my worries. Thousands of people and me. What if it's freezing? What if I lost one? How would I find them? What if one needed to go the bathroom? I thought of all the countless ways things could go wrong as I gathered up as many gloves as I could. They wouldn't match but they'd be warm.

But I'd also read a piece just that morning in the Catholic Standard asking us to meditate on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the "power" of the Holy Spirit, and knew that this moment, like saying yes to the first child, to every child, was one of those moments where one had to shut one’s mind eyes and free fall with God.

We went.

The sleet stopped and the sun came out. No one needed the facilities. No one got lost. There were squabbles. We saw priests and nuns and handicapped and young and old, long haired surfer type dudes from Florida, four bus loads from New Orleans, a couple with seven from Michigan, a mother of a daughter with Down Syndrome from Ohio. Countless people stopped to help us with the stroller or to hand back "piggy" who my daughter insisted come with us, or to count them or to ask how many. One guy took a picture. Paul, my youngest was blessed by almost every priest we passed, including a Bishop Benjamin who told me he had three siblings with disabilities. Peter handed out the sandwiches and held a sign until he got tired of it and started using it to tap his sisters on the head.

Pushing the double stroller through the mud and ordering my walkers to keep their hands on my shoulder, I wondered what my kids would take away. My first thought ran to "their mother was nuts. It’s crowded. I’m cold. I’m hungry. Why aren’t we riding the carosel?" My resolve at the march felt silly in light of the logistics. Then, the kids saw a banner held by two parents of a child with disabilities.

It read “90% of all Down Syndrome children are killed in the Womb through Abortion!” Even the seven year old looked at me and asked, “Is that true?” “Yes. It’s very sad.”

I could feel my sons and daughters close ranks with their baby brother at the thought. The speaker asked everyone to say the Hail Mary and the march started. We had come and witnessed but I felt I'd asked all I could of them. I told them we were going back to the car. Everyone cooperated with such lightning compliance, I knew it was the right call.

Walking back from the Washington mall, my kindergarten son chased squirrels, everyone remembered they were hungry and a few complained about all the walking they'd done. We went to a favorite chili bar for large late lunch. I thanked Peter for asking and asking and asking and he gave me one of those rare million dollar pleased looks he has, as he softly mumbled "You're welcome." and gulped down his cheese burger and chocolate milk. They each talked about what they liked best, of course for the five year old, it was chasing the squirrel.

Having gone and survived, I know that this will happen again and again. It will be part of the year because all the excuses have been taken away. I know it will happen because my richly veined son Peter loves it. Also, their mother is nuts.

Going to the march was like exercise or prayer or sacraments or anything else in life that is good. I often reject the opportunities to be present, for things less meaningful, less important. Grace waits for all of us to come around. I can't tell you how often I don't want it, I want to refuse it, put it off or ignore it as long as possible. But God waits. Once we go and say or do what God asks, we discover it was greater and bigger and more beautiful than we could have imagined, and we don't have the excuse anymore. We wonder why we put up such a fight in the first place. It's all that hard rock surrounding the ore.

Thanks Peter for being such a rich vein, and reminding me that all of this life is supposed to be a freefall with God.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Small Success Thursday

Family&Faith Live! does a send up of everyday victories on Thursday as you well know, so here's my recap of the week.

1) Did 20 push ups this week. It is admittedly a sluggish restart of my fitness regimen, but it's a start.

2) Wrote several pieces. Submitted a few too. Gave some contact information to a fellow writer for a good piece. Hope hers sees print soon.

3) Got two kids hair cuts and my own. (Huzzah).

4) Called and visited with several friends.

5) Planned out Date Night for next Wednesday. Hudson's --a good pizza place in DC that has Sinatra Night every Wednesday with live performances. Thought it sounded really fun.

6) Took down the tree and the outside lights.

7) Paul has really started eating solid food. So far, he loves peanut butter cookies, pork chops, toast with butter, soy sauce chicken, chocolate frosted donuts, banannas, oatmeal with cooked chopped apples, eggs, bagel pieces, oranges and orzo.
(Next week, we'll work on adding some vegetables to that mix).

Have some small victories to share? Click on the title and it will send you to Small Success Thursday! I'm getting more fluent at this bloggy thing....sorta.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Political Theory and Reality TV

Politicians and News Op-ed people keep asking:
Why have decades of sensible voters from Massachusetts suddenly switched sides?

Despite having an immunity token, the Democrats were voted off the island on Tuesday. How could this happen? Were there countless families in Texas using cell phones to dial in votes a'la Fantasia of American Idol? Do we just not know about the Republican version of Acorn? What moved the voters to do this?

It couldn't be the issues like an out of control Congress, the deficit, the sausage that is health care, no, there has to be an angle. Obviously, the voters of Boston and Hyannisport and all points in between were Sarah Palin style fooled by his truck, and memorized by the 20 year old Cosmo spread.

Some speculated on more sinister motives. Those pesky threatened sexist Yankees....I mean Red Sox Chowderheads. There just had to be a bigger reason for Brown's election. Maybe the big Republican machine....except the Republicans are practically endangered species in MA and I might add, what big Republican machine? Republicans have been on the ropes and in shambles for the past four years. The GOP barely has token party offices in Boston.

Apparently, the victory of Scott Brown in the bluest of blue states isn't a referendum on the President. It isn't a commentary on the bad bill for health care. It may reveal anger, but it's anger at the Republicans AND Democrats if it's anger. It's just a local fluke, the outlier from the standard deviation bell curve of voting that one just throws out when considering data.

Still, when something this big happens, people search for meaning, for reason.

Theory One: Scott Brown ran a flawless campaign akin to the President's own historic bid for the office, and his grass roots are just like Barrack's. Coakley made a horrible run and didn't hire the right people. (They didn't wait until after the election to tell all about her gaffes behind the scenes). The Electorate fell for the slick campaign. Right. This is Massachusetts. They vote Democrat in their sleep, reflexively. Poorness of campaign did not stop them from voting for Dukakis in 1988.

This one should be considered a stone thrown by a glass house owner. I wouldn't throw to many of them. Believe it if you want, but I wouldn't.

Theory Two: Coakley lost because she's a woman and Scott won because he's a white man. That theory doesn't mesh with Massachussett's long standing liberal policies and Democrat tradition. How did the state that houses Harvard suddenly become the mental, social and emotional equivalent of the middle ages? Answer: the unbiased media likes a horse race and allowed it to happen by making things seem closer than they actually appeared. Got that? The News manufactured Brown's victory by giving such fair and balanced coverage. Yeah. That's it.

Theory Three: Maybe the voters were upset and wanted a more liberal version of the health care bill. send a message to Washington and the President not to be so conciliatory to the Republicans, the voters decided to elect the Republican candidate. Leaving aside the laughable idea that the Democrats in the House, Senate or Executive branch have been TOO accommodating to anyone with an "R" next to their name, I still don't see how a Democratic state would teach the administration not to play nice with the Republicans by electing one. I don't know how you even get to think this theory but it's being put forth as why.

Alternatively, maybe it was something petty and simple like all those people who voted in the election felt they got ripped when Brown's daughter got booted from American Idol and Taylor Swift made it big.

I'm not saying that's what happened, but look for Democrats to be signing up their kids for "So You Think You Can Dance" and "America's Got Talent" before 2012.

Saint Anthony of Padua Speaks

I recently linked the Ironic Catholic and I love her blog. She wrote a piece that inspired me and so I'm linking it in the title so you can read the whole thing.

Thanks I.C.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Brown Wins Massachusetts

Even the President going to MASS couldn't turn the tide. A stream of stories have already begun saturating the Internet about why Coakley blew a 30 point lead in all of three months. I've read several. Some argue that this was not a referendum on anything other than local politics which in MA, has been Kennedy Kennedy and more Kennedy for several decades.

Some have argued that Martha was a dreadful campaigner and her series of last minute gaffes cumulatively did too much damage. There is some truth to this second arguement. To recap:

This past week she scoffed at shaking hands at Fenway, allowed a supporter to rough up a reporter while she watched, suggested that Catholics not work in the ER in an interview, stated that the Taliban were not in Afghanistan on the day of a vicious attack by said not there terrorists during the debate, misspelled Massachusetts on a last minute ad, put the World Trade Center in a second ad as a symbol of greed, wildly distorted her opponents record such that even Time magazine said it was vile, and called Curt Schilling of the 2004 Red Soxs, a Yankees fan on sports radio.

In fairness to all who supported her, who stumped for her, there aren't many candidates who could have survived this sort of self sabotage. Coakley's political imitation of Bill Buckner alone would have made anyone else come across as normal.

I rather think Brown is indicative of multiple factors, the high handed approach of the House and the Senate galvinized the sluggish and demoralized GOP. Spending without ceasing with the health care bill poised for passage roused those who might otherwise have sat this one out; making it a national race helped Brown.
Also, I think 40 years of voting for someone who owned the seat probably made the people of Massachusetts desirous of anything but the same old same old and Brown was willing to stick his neck out. Americans like courage, even more than they like anything else. We are the nation that created superheroes, we love underdogs and victories that are improbable at best.

There are already memos from the DNC, the White House, the Coakely campaign, the local Democratic machine and staffers and emails pointing fingers at who is to blame for Brown's election. They should stop, because at least publically, such behavior smacks of poor sportsmanship. It insults the voters by presuming that people decided to vote for Brown not because they wanted Brown, but because the party apparatus didn't properly manipulate the public into wanting Coakely.

Besides, it wasn't any of the above entities that caused Brown to win. There's only one group to blame. The Voters. They voted for this guy, even though he drives a truck. Even though, he's just a state senator and that hardly qualifies him to become the State's senator or anything higher than that...hey wait.

As satisfying and truthful as it might be, blaming the voters won't help.
There will be people who blame Bush, Beck, Limbaugh and Palin for Massachussetts; but I wouldn't if you don't want another day like January 19, 2010 in any of the other 49 states.

All I Really Wanted for Christmas was a Vacumn Belt

This past fall, we bought a new vacuum cleaner. My shop vac is awesome for the main floor but it stinks when it comes to carpet. So my husband obliged and purchased a new red dirt devil for me to leave upstairs. I assigned the kids to do their rooms. The machine lasted a week before the belt broke.

Naturally, there were no spares in the box. I penciled into my things to do, Home Depot for sometime that week and the belt number I'd need. I felt very savvy, having written down the pertinent information. As a double brainy bonus, I also noted the filter size. I could hear a prudent applauding me commending this forward thinking. "Might as well get the spare when you're there."

That Tuesday, my oldest had music lessons in the strip adjacent to the big hardware store. Again, the approving pragmatist persona gave a nod; merging a kid errand with an adult, how multi-tasking, how efficient, how marvelous. It was a great feeling. Then I walked in the store. They did not carry my vacuum's parts even though they sold my husband the machine itself. It was "too new." The helpful sales clerk offered to order me them but I'd have to buy a box of ten. The fiscally prudent me did not think this was wise. There were other stores where I could PROBABLY get the part. "But would I get the multi-tasking prudent bonus again?" I wondered.

It was Wednesday. One daughter and one son had basketball practice. Their gym was near my go-to store. Yeah! I'd have to get the kids to their team work outs on time but if I did, I could squeeze in a visit and still have that seamless parent thing going. Again, this store had many machines for cleaning floors, countless bags, filters and belts but mine was "too new." They could order me one, but it would take about three months. Visions of foot high dust bunnies creating an ethereal cloud of dander that would swirl about the ankles and choke off my toddlers filled my head. I'd try the third store. Going back to the car, the prudent me railed. "Two perfect errands ruined! Call ahead!"

I phoned information. I got the number. I called and spoke to a phone tree and then a human being who told me they did indeed have the part. Joyfully, I pressed forward, determined that this task would be completed today no matter what. I phoned my sixteen year old and asked him to heat up some potpies for dinner because I was running late. Virtue Mom was rolling. She'd directed dinner, she'd dropped off the kids for practice and she was going to get the belt.

I arrived at the store. The front was filled with beautiful glass chandeliers, this couldn't be the place for a .45 cent part for a hundred dollar sucking machine. A well dressed woman inquired my business and when I told her, she led me to the annex, where white pegboard covered the walls, and hooks were filled with every part for every dohicky imaginable. A man stood at the cashier with a phone. I asked if he was the one I spoke with just a few minutes ago. Blank stare. There were three other men stocking switches and tinkering with wires or working to fill orders on computers. I asked each of them. "You must mean Frank." one finally said. "He just left."

"Frank said you have the part I need. Belt 22 for a Dirt Devil."
"There's no 22."
"That must be new." was the chorus of responses.

One of them hefted a three foot thick notebook filled with punch hole tissue thin invoice forms. "You can look to see if we stock it through this." he explained. "But if it's new, I doubt it."

"Can't you do a search with your computer?" I asked.
"I haven't finished invoicing everything into the computer." one sheepishly answered. "We just stopped doing everything by hand this past year."

"Then how could Frank know you have the part?" I was feeling desperate.
"He doesn't, but he might be right." They nodded. One of them spit.

"Can we look at the vacuum belt section and just hope for the best?" I wondered aloud.

But alas, the search sans Frank was fruitless and I left defeated. They suggested I come back tomorrow when Frank was in but I was tired.

The Prudent Me got mad. "Sher, it's 2010. Order the damn thing online." I felt like the kid in Christmas Story remembering Santa; realizing his dream red rider bi-bi gun could become a reality.

Racing home, I helped the 16 year old take out the potpies and fired up the laptop. My fingers flew through the google to the first reliable large name brand store I could find that carried the part and ordered five but calmed down enough not to demand overnight shipping.

Three weeks passed. It got near Christmas. I jokingly and not so much, suggested that a working vacuum belt might be a good present. I made sure everyone knew the make, model and number needed but I didn't press the matter as I had already ordered five.

So now, it's January. The bill has come. The belts have not. The Prudent practical me and me are not on speaking terms and I'm considering purchasing another vacuum to act as the runner up to the Dirt Devil here that has failed in its duties. When I finally sucumb, when I finally do buy it, I won't leave the store without sixteen belts and five filters to go with it; and I know, the next day the parts will arrive at my home and Frank will call to tell me they have it in stock, because by then, the vacuum will no longer be "New."

*thought about calling this piece, "This really suc...but my mother reads this blog.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Professor Xavier, my son

Several children had gift certificates from Christmas burning holes in their pockets so I agreed after extracting a folding party, to take them to the stores where they could shop unrestricted.

Loading the car, the kids began a game called "Mind reader." One child, in this case the oldest, is the predictor. He then tells each sibling what they are thinking.

"What am I thinking?" his sister asked, she was fumbling with her wallet and looking out the window.

"That this isn't the way to Barnes and Noble, it's the way to Borders and you don't have a gift certificate for there but you want to buy books."

"Score one." I thought.

"What am I thinking?" his second sister asked while playing with her split ends.

"You're wondering if we're going to have time to get hair cuts or if Mom is going to make us go to the cuttery instead of going to Best Buy. You want to get a new game for your DS with the 42 dollars you saved up."

Okay, he's paying attention.

The ten year old had been snickering and now began kicking his brother's seat. "What am I thinking?"

"How can I annoy my brother?"

"Ummmmmmnnnn." his grin told his brother, he was indeed, the winner of this game.

"My turn." I grinned. "What am I thinking?"

My son smiled and thought for a minute, "Why is it that you are so dialed in that you can guess what your siblings are thinking, but you can't remember to study extra for German or clean your room or practice trombone."

Before I thought he was just using social cues to craft his answers but now I'm thinking, my son has a gift.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I Won!

Ironic Catholic is a favorite spot of mine. She had a caption contest and I won. Go, enjoy. Click on the title, I Won! It will take you right to it.

Peace on Earth to People of Good Will*

*Some reflections from some comments and several discussions.

Peace is the first gift offered man by the angels at Christ's birth, and the first gift offered by Christ upon his Resurrection. Peace is that warm sense of community that comes from knowing that all of us long for the hearth in our homes, that all of us hope to be part of the 5000 fed. Genuine Peace is freedom from sin, not freedom from want or need. We need only look at the lives of celebrities to see that theirs are lives full of everything, except peace or conversely at the women who join the Missionaries of Charity. Their lives intentionally have very little, yet they hold an abundance of peace.

Peace does not come simply from having a military that can take down opposition with force (power); that is the mistake of order for peace; or having a full belly and all physical needs accounted for; the error of satiation for peace, or from the knowledge that no one is better off than one's self; the error of equality for peace. Security, Order and Equality and peace are not synonymous, the three are reflective of peace, but not its equivalent.

Respect for others is insufficient as a means of deterrence when faced with real evil, real wrong; polite regard and courtesy are reflective of refinement, but they are dangerous if manners and good appearances prevent one from acknowledging truth, good from bad behavior. A person can smile and smile and still be a villain; so can a country or a government. Peace is not something we can manufacture with arms or austerity or government programs or extensive systemic charity. It is something we must seek with our whole hearts to receive. If we want peace on Earth, pray earnestly and do good to bring others peace for true peace can only come from the Holy Spirit.

Peace begins in each of our hearts, responding to the slights, insults, irritations and annoyances of others not with anger or hurt, but with humor, gentleness, listening, truth and generosity of spirit. It must be practiced fresh daily and with everyone, even our worst enemies, but most often, it's hardest when required with those we love most. It is easier to love in the abstract where nothing is required than to love in the actual, where sublimation must be practiced; or at least it is for me. Peace means becoming light to and for others.

Peace comes from knowing that our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, and that God loves us despite our incapacity to hold onto this gift He freely offers us, absent our cooperation with His grace. Confident of this, His Peace comes from going about our lives trying to live out some fraction, some snatch of the Gospels, what Jesus taught and urged and still asks us to do.

If you long for peace within and beyond your homes, pray the Rosary. If you want that peace in your hearts and in the world; practice the beatitudes, wash the feet, serve in the Calcutta that surrounds you, that you see. Poverty is everywhere, and not just in the form of physical dire need, but in the closed hearts, the darkened spirits of our family, friends, classmates, aquaintances and neighbors. Christ in disguise for one, is obvious to another; that is why we all are the body of Christ. And we should work tirelessly hoping that everyone we see, we will meet again in Heaven and greet as the true friends Christ intended us to be.

Wishing all of you His Peace.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Triumph is Not Mine

Every Thursday, Family& Faith Live celebrates the little victories that make life something beyond survival, that indicate the times when we come close to following Blessed Mother Teresa's mantra of doing the little things with great love.

Searching for something to say, I thought of my daughter being moved up in reading groups. I thought of my oldest son volunteering to take the bus in the morning so as to take the stress off of me this week when their dad is on a business trip. I thought of the financial aid woman who called me to let me know they were missing a paper I'd sent and to please send a new one, rather than simply discard my application for being incomplete.

Then there was the miracle of my youngest son, Paul. He has Down Syndrome as many of you know, and we just evaluated him for the upcoming year. Sometimes it seems to me as if he's listening in on the objectives and goals the teachers set for him. This week, he transferred a spoon from left to right. He also helped feed himself. He is pulling up in his crib. These were all things we were to be working on, and he has started without us.

My husband's cousin has been battling cancer for many years. She has suffered from the treatment greatly. Two days ago, she started bleeding internally. The ulcers in her intestine had ruptured. Prayers are still needed for her continuing recovery but the initial scare has passed.

So this week, there were miracles, big and small, even as there were failures and tragedies, big and small: a bad grade on a paper, fights and fits of temper, the devastation of Haiti, the madness that is politics, the tears of another mother as she struggled with her daughter's clinging at school, and fears of a friend over how out of control her life feels at the moment.

But I look at this past week, and how it has been. The Triumph was not mine; but I was blessed to witness them.

Have a Triumph to Share? Put it on your Blog, then link to Family & Faith Live, Small Successes Thursday.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Prayers for Haiti

By now you know a 7.0 earthquake shattered Haiti. Reports are coming in in dribs and drabs but the situation is grave. Early pictures show a lot of tilted and shaken buildings and indicate many injured and mass chaos.

Every once in a while, we get a nudge, a request to pray. It is a reminder that we can never pray enough. It's a funny thing about prayer. For me, when I claim I don't have the time, the day is hard, the tone is hard, the process of getting through everything is hard. Conversely, when I nag myself to make the time, even if things are difficult, they aren't hard.

Prayer doesn't always alter the situation the way we wish, but it always alters the one offering the prayer. We cannot seek God's aid or love or attention in our direct petitions and not be affected by that calling out or His answer.

In the past, I've asked for any number of things, most of them by the world's standard, probably silly. God has always answered with lavish abundance. It humbles, or it should.

We often wait to pray until life brings us a situation that pulls us to our knees. But these sorts of massive tragedies remind me that I ought to be willing to pray more often and that every day with all the people I know, is a gift and rare and precious.

What we should hope, is the mere knowledge of others suffering, is enough to bring us to our knees, and to ask, and then to listen to how we are to be of service. At times like this, prayer is not the very least we can do, it is the beginning of what we must do.

Then, if you feel called to do something more physical and fiscal in response;

They have a special fund already set up specifically for Haiti; and they are known to be good stewards to the sick, the poor and the suffering internationally.

Forget Superman, Where's Lois Lane when You Need Her?

My kingdom for an investigative reporter. The lack of one may eventually cost us ours.

In this day and age, a reporter should be savoring life. There are computers. There are countless ways to fact check. With blogs and twitter and syndicates and feeds, those who want to know and aren't willing to settle for spin, or pedal spin, should be at the top of their game.

And talk about job security, between investigating bills, investigating the campaigns and fact checking the materials put forth by our Congress, by our courts, by our entertainers and our sports heroes; there's scarely be time to eat. So I'm asking reporters to put on their walking shoes, not because I want to hold feet to the fire, but because we can't safeguard our liberties if we buy a bill of goods!

These days, reporters cover the story but they don't investigate. As a columnist, it seems dangerous to accuse a class of people I presumably long to belong to, of falling down on the job. However I see a pattern and it is disturbing.

Tiger Woods was a philandering cad for years and everyone in the sports world that covered him apparently knew it. Nobody reported it until it was revealed by Tiger's actions. Apparently, it was a gentleman's agreement to not reveal Tiger wasn't a gentleman, agreed to by those covering him from Nike to NBC to Sports Illustrated.

Anyone with eyes could see that the skinny speedy Mark McGuire of his early days transformed into a wall of highly stretched bulging flesh and that such a radical body change probably wasn't the result of mere diet and exercise. Steroid abuse in baseball was rampant. Yet it wasn't discussed execpt as a rumor, a vicious rumor, as the path of outsiders and cheaters. No one belled the cat until Canseco.

The Collusion in baseball by the Chicago "Black" Sox has nothing on the collusion by the current sports media to ignore both of these stories "for the good of their respective sports." What else aren't they telling?

Even a cursory glance at the book Game Change indicates there were many unreported stories about candidates that might have made a difference in the horserace of last year. Who knows what hasn't been reported?

The Edwards in the 2007-2008 election race were complete frauds and their staff knew it, and many in the media suspected it. No one investigated it. No one reported it until the National Enquirer brought forth pictures and proof. The stories of the dandy Edwards, of his affair, of his wife's meltdowns, reveal character. The omission of all these stories until a year after the election when a best selling telling book can be marketed, also reveals the lack of character.

Freedom of the press was designed to create a watchdog for the government and the public, not a lapdog for the former that viciously keeps the rest of us off the lawn.

The Acorn scandal has been swept under the rug. No one is seriously upset that tax payer dollars are funding a corrupt organization willing to allow for the immigration and prostitution of minors. No one feels troubled by the President's affiliation with such a morally bankrupt organization, just like no one should be troubled by the affiliation with Rev. Wright or William Ayers. There's no story because there's no AP reporter.

The Healthcare bill has been so clandestine and corrupt a process, it would not be believable as satire. But the cause, the need to create SOMETHING, trumps actual demanding of analysis by the media experts. They're just so happy there will be a bill, it doesn't matter what's in it or how much it costs or what it covers. Again, the power of the press to withhold is even more powerful than its power to expose.

For most of two weeks, the President stayed quiet about the bomber on Christmas day. No one has pinned him down about specifics that will be changed or actual mistakes that were made, they're just eager to say, "He said the buck stopped here! He admitted to the mistake." No one is asking what actually was the error, who made it, and why aren't they fired or at least questioned. The Washington Post went so far as to op-ed a piece anonymously about how the President should take questions from the press about these concerns, and that it is lamentable that he hasn't. But no one is asking any questions anyway. They're just hoping the commander in chief feels chatty at the next press gathering.

We live in an age of opine and talking points, where a clever blog with a crafty take can set the narrative template for political thinking. We pretend nothing is wrong if we can find someone on the dial or on the air we agree with in principle. The problem is opinions are not facts. When opinion substitutes for gumshoe reporting, the compelling story and winning ideology trumps character and trumps truth.

We can hope for the truth to will out, but I'd feel more secure about our political process, about our freedoms and about our government, if a few good reporters would deliberately go about the hard process of connecting the dots and informing the people in a timely fashion; long before writing a tell all book.

HSA Modest Proposal

With the Christmas scare of the undies wanta bomber, the Homeland Security Agency is searching for new strategies to safeguard the flying public. Specifically, they've called for suggestions on how to discern would be terrorists from the endless parade of grandparents with hip or knee replacements, honeymooners and four year old moppets with their parents on a trip to Disneyland.

How do we spot the man made disaster protagonists from the rest of the traveling people? It's not like these guys check in without luggage, pay one way in cash, have odd protruding bulges in the nether regions, or were disclosed to have become radicalized by their father. They haven’t traveled to places that are known to be chopped full of unfriendly types. They're not even Face book friends with Osama Bin Laden. Understanding Janet Napolitano’s quagmire, I am not unsympathetic.

However, I offer the following alternatives to the proposed full naked body scans currently being considered. It is my modest attempt to help tweak the working system so that those put in charge of maintaining our well being as a nation and safety in the air improve their chances of catching the bad guys. It will also hopefully mean I don’t have to hit the gym for six months before considering a trip.

1) Put the no-fly list on a computer database that is accessed each time a person checks in. They have these things called a "search engine." You type in the name and voila, it pulls up any matches. Now I know this is technical stuff, but you can even make partial matches so as to catch names even if someone misspelled something. I figure, if my dry cleaner can find my clothes by just typing in my name when I've forgotten my slip, the HSA can find the guys on that list if someone actually reads the darn thing and if a partial match comes up, maybe you know, do a pat down.

2) Stop worrying about kids with preschool scissors, toe nail clippers or sporks. As an alternative to stripping everyone down on what they can bring, go the opposite direction. Pretend it's Junior Louisville slugger day on every flight. A thug assassin from the Taliban would think twice about trying to overpower a plane full of 240 cranky tired and profoundly annoyed passengers armed with wooden bats.

3) The HSA and CIA and FBI had trouble collaborating, communicating and connecting the dots. May I suggest a few hours of Warcraft between the three agencies. In computer games, there are lots of quests. Because there are lots of quests, the computer keeps a tab of what you've done so you don't have to, but every once in a while, a good gamer stops to take inventory of what they have and what they need and what they're doing. It's as if the Warrior, Thief and Mage in a gaming party forgot to share objects so they could create the massive key necessary to open the treasure chest. As such, each has a useless object that they are just lugging around. A war party this stupid won't survive the game even on the easy level with cheat codes.

Alternatively, they need to go to the nearest pre-school, sit down at the crafts station and learn to connect the dots for crying out loud.

4) Everyone will be required to check all things at the gate. No carry-ons of any kind. All luggage will be sent on a second plane after being gone through by hand. Passengers will not be permitted to move or speak once they take their seats. Trained snarling Dobermans will be unleased on anyone that makes any funny moves towards the lavatory. The absence of shifted bags from the trip should make boarding and deplaning an exceptionally speedy process, though baggage claim may be something of an issue.

5) Incorporate healthcare and homeland security. When you arrive at the airport, you are required to strip down into a paper gown. The screening done for security will double as a virtual physical. Colonoscopies will be performed as needed. Blood pressure tests however will not be done for fear of skewed data.

P.S. If you implement #5, under no circumstances should you consider also going forward with the baseball bats. Good luck HSA. Hope these suggestions are helpful. Call on me anytime, I’ll be at the gym getting ready.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Foot Notes

My mom and dad came to visit last week and we talked systems. We brainstormed over how I could minimize the chaos and the clutter and the difficulties of getting six people launched in the morning with lunch.

The upshot of that discussion; six pairs of shoes are currently safely tucked in the shoe closet; kids have laid out their clothes for tomorrow, including mated socks! Banana bread and blueberry muffins have been made in advance of breakfast. The sink is empty, the dryer is finishing the last load and the refrigerator is stocked with the snacks and meals for the week.

It's ten-thirty p.m. I have nothing to do. I can write! Hot diggities.

Except, without the element of chaos from which to draw inspiration, I got nothing. The basement is in nominal shape. Coats are hung up. My five year old took on folding the towels and his bathroom is completely tidy. He's offered kindly to do mine. My daughter changed the sheets this weekend. My oldest did the dishes. Try as I might, there isn't a vignette to craft, a bon mot to share or a grouse I can nurse into a story. I'm stuck with the curse of a clean house and an empty mind.

Naturally, I turned to my beloved spouse who had aided in the clean up for the day by folding while watching the playoffs.
"I need your help." I started.
"Sher, I thought you were writing..."

"I can't. It's the moment every writer dreads. They look at the blank page. The blank page looks back and there is no love. Help!"

"When you can't fall asleep, giving me a rub always makes you yawn. So maybe, if you gave me a foot rub, you'd think of things to write."

"This is a con to get a rub."
"Yes it is; but it might work, it does for insomnia."

I went back to the page. The page was still dull as could be. I had the gift of time, but it seems the need to procrastinate was another source of inspiration. My husband helpfully presented his ankles for a good crunching.

The things I do for my art.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Say Cheese!

Back when my second son was in Kindergarten, he felt determined to distinguish himself from his older brother. So it was that he perpetually was the Calvin of the family, building fantastic worlds and also occasionally delighting more than was pure in pure mischief. A note came home from school about individual portraits the following week and being a dutiful mom, I took him for a hair cut, picked up a new shirt at Target and filled out the forms for the E packet, 2 5x7 and a bunch of wallets.

Driving to school that morning, my son seemed more pensive than usual.

"Mom?" his small high voice asked with all the seriousness of a big question to come.


"Today's school picture day."
"I know. I filled out the form..."


"Can I make a face?" It was a daring request. I mulled over the possibilities. This was a small deal. There would be other photos.

"Sure!" and I quick fired off an explanation note to the would be concerned parent volunteer/photographer and teacher. "It is okay if my son makes a silly face during his picture. I promise no matter how absurd it turns out, I'll buy it."

And he went into school happy.

When the photo came back, it was honestly the best shot the kid ever took. He smiled, he looked at the camera, he could have been the model kid used to convince others "Hey, I want a photo too."

Fast forward to present day. My son does not like hair cuts. One time he got a buzz because of an overzealous razor wielding Delilah and ever since, he fights anyone coming near his locks for as long as possible. It takes bribes. It takes demands. It takes dragging him out under extreme protests. I put it off as long as possible too as a result.

But the time had come.

I told him, you're getting a cut tonight while your brother is at Trombone lessons.
He protested all the way to the car and all the way there. Getting to the salon, I tried reason. "You can have input on what your hair will look like, or I can pick."

I thought I'd broken through when he sat next to me scanning the options. He picked a bright green Mohawk. But Mother is not an idiot. She remembered the face making request. He'd been dealt his hand, he was bluffing.

"Sure." and I signaled the woman who was standing waiting for his choice.

"No. No. No. No. No." He frantically scanned through the remaining photos and settled on arguably the most conservative cut in the whole book, and that includes the brides.

I kept offering to get the goo so he could have spikes. I told him I wore spikes back in high school. He couldn't get out of the store fast enough. I think he secretly feared the shears would follow him and start snipping more.

I know my decision could have resulted in a punk 4th grader, and his whole class or the Grandparents would have freaked at the sight but playing Texas Hold'em with my children over the years, I've learned that I'm the house.

And they should know, never bet against the house. House Rules. House wins.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Disciplining Cupie Doll

If children define themselves by what they are called most often, my toddler’s first name is No!

No! Baby! She just drew with blue marker on the walls in her room.

No! Sweetie! She tried to pick up her sister.

No! Stop. Bad Idea! She pushed a chair over to the refrigerator to get at the chocolate syrup.

No! No! No! No! She just unrolled a whole spool of toilet tissue and ran with it streaming behind her when I discovered her fun.

Fortunately, she still has that super cute toddler power to prevent parents from being too outraged, just overwhelmed.

The parent magazines say to try and catch the toddler “being good.” This is a silly statement. It’s not like I’m going to happen upon my two year old donating her piggy bank to the Salvation Army or find her on the phone soliciting funds for the March of Dimes. She’s two for crying out loud. She has two modes of operation, mischief and sleep. At least I think she sleeps sometimes.

That she sometimes doesn’t spike the wooden block on her brother’s head when they are playing together is not an incident of her “being good.” It’s the baseline. I expect them not to intentionally injure each other while playing.

These same helpful rags maintain that children this young don’t know what cause and effect is. So why does she run like lightning when she hears me start to yell NO! as she’s climbed up to the sink and turned on the tap? It seems to me she’s got a firm grasp on the boundaries of life she routinely exceeds. I’m not buying it. A kid that can climb onto the table to get the M&m’s and unwrap the rubber band holding them closed to get at the contraband chocolate she hasn’t earned because she didn’t potty, is sentient enough to be told “Knock it off!”

The discipline gurus stress that under two should not be put in time out for more than 2 minutes, as they have no sense of time. I need at least those two minutes plus to regain composure. I believe in punitive minutes for excessive destruction. I don't care if they're for me.

They also maintain that spankings are taboo and ineffective. So the kid can pull all the clothing out of a closet, pour grape juice on the carpet and push over a vase of flowers, and open the Oreos inside the pantry to feast before breakfast while I’m making kids lunches, and the proper discipline approach should be told ”No no no…” in an indoor calm voice. I don’t think so.

I’ve figured out a better way to discipline a toddler.

Sibling rivalry. I bet your brother can clean his room before you do….he’s so much bigger after all…off she goes…

Tom Sawyer rules. Scrubbing the colored walls with Mr. Clean sponges. “Wow, this is so much FUN!” “Let me! Let me! Let me! My Turn!”

Political spin: If only we could get this table cleared, we could play Candyland, but oh, woe, it’s just so much work. Put hand on head as if to swoon. “Help!” said with an overly dramatic helpless Southern accent, “What ever will I do?” “I’ll help Mom.” Says my son. “Help Mom.” Says my toddler.

And when they are engaged in a truly lethal action, like fencing on the pool table with the pool cues, I pull out the “NO!” that sounds vaguely possessed and is loud enough to shake the foundation of our home.

Oddly enough, they bug out fast to this sort of thing. Wonder if Parents magazine would be interested in my discipline tips for toddlers?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Ten Reasons Why I am Catholic

10) We have the most holidays with the best feasts. I mean, if Atheists really want to troll for members, they're going to have to create reasons to get together, eat, drink and be merry and give presents or provide excessive amounts of chocolate.

9) No one looks at you funny if you sing badly, they're still surprised you sing at all.

8) Closet lover of Filet-o-Fish.

7) Altar serving means you have three less kids to supervise during mass. You better believe they behave.

6) After 2000 years, we have a ritual and process and a prayer and a saint for almost every occasion.

5) We invented the golden rule.

4) Lent offers all those who broke their New Year resolutions a second chance to start over.

3) The Church recognizes that while all time is a gift and every moment infused with the presence, the whisper, the absolute love of God, much of what we do is mundane, and so we celebrate Ordinary time.

2) Purgatory, for all those grace procrastinators sure beats the alternative.

1) No magic, no crystals, no energies, no katra, plenty of grace, plenty of miracles.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!