Monday, February 28, 2011

Horrid Example!

Lovers of language will remember the late James Kilpatrick whose syndicated column, The Writer's Art, was both entertaining and informative. Jimbo, as we called him, provided a little Saturday morning levity as Dave and I would take turns reading his column aloud. With his acerbic wit and ear for language, Mr. Kilpatrick could by turns make us laugh and teach us something about writing mostly by using Horrid Examples sent in by alert readers.

Agreement errors, over-cooked cliches, misused homonyms -- Mr. Kilpatrick would summon his Court of Peeves, Crochets, and Irks and render judgment.

In my sorority days, my friends and I would pour over Glamour magazine. Our favorite feature was The Glamour Don't. A roving photographer would snap pics of Horrid Examples in the fashion world. Errant bras straps, panty lines, a peasant blouse paired with a tailored skirt? Glamour Don'ts and Horrid Examples, one and all.

I always felt a bit sorry for the women in those pictures. I mean, did they buy Glamour? Imagine the shock of seeing your backside held up as a Horrid Example!

Seared deep into my psyche is the time I myself provided a Horrid Example, this one of the academic variety.

I was a mere first grader sitting at my desk in my green plaid jumper. We were finishing worksheets. The directions were straightforward: Color the picture and write the word below it. I came to a picture that had a round/oval shaped object with lines running through it.  

Lettuce, I concluded, thinking of my favorite food. I pulled out my green crayon and got to work.Writing was a little trickier. I was six! What six-year-old can spell lettuce? I gave it my best shot. Just imagine my shock when a visibly agitated teacher held up my paper as a Horrid Example and began lecturing about the hapless student who had colored a nut green and thought it began with the letter "L." Oh, the pain!

Forty years later I find  myself once again providing Horrid Example.

Kolbe spent Saturday afternoon at the local food bank sorting food. Their service project began with a review of what food was good and what food was bad. Bulging cans, ripped bags, moldy fruit - Horrid Examples! The most egregious example was an opened jar of peanut butter that  had several bites taken from it.

"Mom, you're not going to believe what some people do," Kolbe shared in a tone that spoke of dark  scandal. "They taste the food and if they don't like, they donate it to the food bank!"

"Oh, is that ever gro..." I started to concur with Kolbe's shocked assessment, but suddenly I was going back in time.

The Cub Scouts were going door to door collecting non-perishable goods. I rifled through the pantry trying to find items that were both nutritious and tasty. I wasn't going to be the Horrid Example who used a food drive to get rid of stewed tomatoes and canned okra. I found macaroni and cheese, peanut butter, and a few other items.

Later that day I grabbed a jar of peanut butter. I pulled off the lid and was surprised to see the safety seal intact.

"Oh no," I groaned to myself. "I gave the open jar to the Cub Scouts!"

I hopped in my car and tried to track down the cache of goods, but it was gone, baby, gone. Gone to the food bank. Gone to one day provide Horrid Example to young Cub Scouts.

I am happy to report that this was not nearly as humiliating as my rear end appearing in Glamour nor as traumatic as my first grade misstep. In fact, when I realized that I was quite likely the source of the Horrid Example, I excused myself and laughed until I cried.

Friday, February 25, 2011

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Happy Weekend to you!

See Soulemama to play along.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Women Do

Faith and Family Live! is running a piece I wrote about my women's prayer group. Some of you know Amy who blogs over at Click here to read the whole thing.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Faith and Little Children

My friend Sarah is a mother of three darling boys. She is an ultra-couponer extraordinaire and blogs about her strategies over at One day she's going to stop by my house and give me a remedial class. I have clearly failed to grasp the essentials.

Sarah recently sent me an email wondering about resources we've used to introduce our kids to the Catholic faith. Here are few things that our kids have enjoyed:

1. Catechesis of the Good Shepherd - While I am wholly biased, having poured my life's blood into this program for years, truly nothing beats this for bringing the faith to life for very young children.

2. The Donut Man – Can't say enough about his CDs and DVDs. Biblical, liturgical, and fun.

3. Little Acts of Grace 1 and 2, Mass Book for Children, Living the Ten Commandments for Children, Just Like Mary – This is a seriers of kids’ books you can find on Amazon. They are beautfiul and simple.

4. Saint Books - My kids have enjoyed these from about age four and on.

5. Bible Stories - Lots of options. Boys love those battle scenes!

6. Faith and Life Series - For Kindergartners and up. Some parishes use this series for PRE. The lessons are clear and basic. You can find the books on Ebay or Amazon.

7. Magnifikid - This is a weekly magazine that follows the order of the Mass plus adds some interesting extras.  For kids of reading age and above. We have given this to our Godchildren at different ages.

8. Prayerful practices - We say simple prayers like "Jesus come into my heart; take over my life." We encourage good behavior in church by letting John light a candle and pray for his grandmother after Mass. We have a prayer table in our living room. We rotate the color of the tablecloth based on the liturgical season.
Piety reigns during evening prayers!

With Tim and Kolbe, who were not close in age, I attended weekday Mass. We would sit close to the Altar so the kids could hear. The Mass was short so they could pay attention better. We would visit the tabernacle after Mass. It was a special time to introduce them to prayer. With John and Ainsley being closer in age, I haven't mustered the courage to try this much at all. Other people manage to bring stair-step kids to Mass. It's not for the faint of heart, but it is definitely worthwhile.

These are a few ideas we have tried off and on. Short and simple has always trumped complicated and lengthy.

I have to pull this back into edit mode to emphasize that the main way we share our faith with our kids is by living it fully and imperfectly. My kids see everyday, in numerous ways, that 1) I love God and 2) I am a flawed human being. In this area, as with so many other aspects of motherhood, it's easy to try to "keep up with the Jones." I do well to meditate on Micah 6:8 which reads, "What does God ask of You? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."

All that said, I would love to hear ideas from readers. Do you have books your kids have loved? Ideas for prayer or Mass participation?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Happy Weekend to you!

See Soulemama to play along.


Years ago my sister glanced across her living room to see my niece toddle over to a small metal table, lift a cap off one of the legs, deposit Kate's keys into the hollow tube, and thoughtfully replace the cap. Had Kate not been looking, those keys could have been missing until the table was hauled to Goodwill a decade later.

My mother-in-law says we always have something new going on. With some things-- Kolbe's funny quips or Ainsley's emerging speech -- new is entertaining; new keeps us laughing. But with other things--I'm thinking of toasted cell phones and broken arms--new yes, fun no.

We do our level best to keep the not so pleasant New from involving permanent damage to life or property. I remember scouring the house just before John made his debut taking mental note of items that would need to beat a hasty retreat before he became mobile.

The list was long.

We had marbles and magnets, 144 piece erector sets and Snap Circuits. We couldn't overlook the veritable sea of Legos. As John began to crawl, the top of the fridge became the repository for all things verboten--gum and marbles, finger paints and random dice, glitter and Easter candy. There we ensconced the granddaddy of all off limits items - the permanent markers.

Over time John proved far more enterprising than his older brothers. Soon the top of the fridge was overflowing. After a while I wondered if I could get away with stowing Ainsley up there, and I lamented the fact that the nice couch wouldn't quite fit.

Now we have Ainsley on the move. As I was emptying the trash the other day, there amidst the diapers and the coffee grounds, I spotted her shirt, onesie, and pants. Okay.

This morning Dave''s wallet went missing. I discovered this because I needed $5.00 cash. It is one of Dave's ongoing crosses to bear that I never have cash. After hitting up the older boys with no luck, I scouted out Dave's wallet and instead spotted Ainsley carrying his pager, watch, Chapstick, and rosary. Dave, the man who never leaves anything out of place, had emptied his pockets on the living room end table. Ainsey spotted the stash. Treasure!

A quick run through the house turned up all items except for the wallet. The search was on. We dug under cushions. We pulled back ugly couch. I searched the trash. I peered into vents. I sorted all the toys.

No wallet.

We unearthed a battalion of Lego guys, odd socks innumerable, and a bunch of change. I lost track of the pacies we found. It was either nine or ten. I figured this was worth a good $10.00, maybe $15.00, at least enough to cover the driver's license fee. Dave opened a cooler and found a diaper that had long been fermenting. (If we invite you on a picnic, better offer to bring your own food.)
All of this brought up a little PTSD stemming from a fruitless and highly frustrating search way back when. I was determined not to repeat the error of my ways.

Dave couldn't go to work without his driver's license. I was hosting a meeting with six women. I had planned to blitz the bathroom and run the vacuum before their arrival, but instead spent every spare second pulling the house apart. Despite all this, we remained calm.

Hours into the search Dave asked a key question. Did I actually see Ainsley with the wallet? Hmmmm. I had seen her with all the other paraphernalia. We checked Dave's coat, his dresser, and the clothes he had worn yesterday.

And found the wallet.

We apologized to Ainsley for besmirching her good name. Sticky fingers ran off to have fun (probably involving her brother's science fair project or my purse).

Innocent until proven guilty, no matter how long her rap sheet is.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Full Disclosure

Valentine's Day poses a bit of a dilemma for a nine-year-old boy. There's the lure of the candy, of course, but then one has to contend with all that distasteful business about Love.

In designing his Valentine's Day bag, Kolbe left no room for confusion.

Translation: P.S. (I don't really love you. You are just a friend.)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

That Lovin' Feelin'

As we are wrapping up Valentines. . .

Me: Is this one done?

Kolbe: I just have to finish drawing the guy with the nunchucks.

Funny I don't recall this being a part of my childhood Valentines.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Be My Valentine

My first Valentine arrives. "Happy Valentine's Day," it reads. "Hugs and kisses for you. I love you. John"

I cry when I open it.

Does it matter that this is all his teacher's doing, that John is three years old and no way did he cut out the heart, draw the smiley faces, or even fold the construction paper?


He did trace the "I love you. John," and he probably stuck the X and O stickers onto the page. That works for me! I am a true sucker when it comes to kids' crafts. I may get all maudlin about my birthday, but Mother's Day is a cinch. One hand print and a dash of illegible writing, and I can feel the oxytocin coursing through my motherly veins.

No doubt the entire blogosphere has heard of Amy Chua, the now infamous "Tiger Mother." I haven't read her book, but I did hear that among other draconian parenting practices, she would routinely return her daughters' homemade birthday cards if she didn't feel they were well executed.

Not this Mama.

Love that messy writing. Love those tiny hand prints. Love the fact that for years Tim would sign both name and age to everything. Timmy 5! Timmy 6! Timmy 7!

Then again, I like baby talk and think John's lisp --which may cost us a fortune in speech therapy--is nothing but pwecious.

The boys' first grade teacher scored big with her Mother's Day gift. She recorded each child reading a book and had the children give the cassettes to their mothers.  Capturing the voice of a six-year-old--so special.

 At the end of second grade, the boys' teacher bound every piece of writing they had done that year. Flipping through them brings back Tim's ardent desire to explore Mars and Kolbe's love of espionage. Archiving the dreams of a seven-year-old--irreplaceable.

After he hands me the Valentine, John sees that I am mixing up a nutritious lunch of boxed macaroni and cheese.

"Let me spill the cheese! Let me spill the cheese!" he yells.

John never uses the word pour or even dump; it's always spillLet me spill the milk. Let me spill the waffle mix. I find this both appropriate and hilarious.

Instead of correcting him, I am overwhelmed by everything that makes three so imperfectly sweet.

"You are so cute, John," I tell him.

"Yeah," he laughs, "I am."

And I am his Valentine.

Small Successes


Join the readers of Faith and Family Live! as we encourage one another in our successes both big and small. Here are a few of mine:

1. I removed the staples holding together the backside of my son's basketball uniform and replaced them with honest-to-goodness stitches. This is big, very big.

2.  In light of the fact that Ainsley has a surplus of dresses (including one that is a 5T), I exercised heroic self-control and did not purchase the cutest dress in the history of Hanna Andersson. Even though it was a great price (for Hanna Andersson). Even though I could sell it on Ebay and probably get more than I paid  ('cause, really, what are the odds that would actually happen?). All you mothers of girls, please buy up the limited supply before I weaken. Click here to view. It's gone. Crisis averted.

3. I am finally off to a good start on a writing project I have been ignoring for several months. I am a person who thrives on deadlines (and penalties for missed deadlines). Alas, in the grown up world one has to rely on self-discipline.

How about you?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Amid the Myriad Messes Brought to us by One Ainsey-Girl . . .

Tim: Why don't we buy one of those play pens?

Me: Ainsley's kind of like a free-range chicken. . .

Friday, February 04, 2011

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Happy Weekend to you!

See Soulemama to play along.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A Better Finish

Last year we experienced a Pinewood Derby debacle we didn't care to relive. Happily, we didn't.

A smiling Kolbe and that elusive trophy.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

No Contradiction Whatsoever

John, barricading the doorway: What's the password?

Tim: I don't know.

John: It's love, you idiot!