Tuesday, March 31, 2009

These mids will be the next Mars Rover scientists

When other moms find out I have a blog, the typical question I get is, "WHY?" or, "How do you possibly have time?"

As for the first question, one of the answers is, "Because when you have your own blog, you get to write about stuff that is really, really interesting to you, but probably fewer than 0.01% of the population finds interesting." Example below. But first, an explanation.

From the Youtube website, here's what Curtis, age 18, writes:

"At 1815 on 12MAR09 the class of 2012 successfully placed a blue-rimmed cover on the gold obelisk that is atop the Naval Academy Chapel dome. This uncanny tradition dates back to the early 1970's where midshipmen have been caught climbing the chapel dome. Tradition states that, if successful, the fourth class will receive "carry-on" for an unspecified length of time. The task was accomplished utilizing a helium-filled, weather balloon attached to lines. The cover was then placed and released on the dome via a radio controlled device. Please join us in support as the class of 2012 carries on tradition and promotes esprit de corps."

To read more about how he did it, read Hometown Annapolis news.

As for the second question, "How do you possibly have the time?" The answer is, "My house is a mess...my kids are watching television...and the dog needs to be walked."


Monday, March 30, 2009

Blog Dog

Blog Dog here.

I feel the need to correct some misperceptions that may have been caused by the last couple of blog postings. I am not, nor have I ever been in charge of paper delivery. Nor am I in charge of estimating snowfall.

There are a few things I excel at, among them, cleaning under the radiator while acting as a cushion for a small child.

I also excel at lying around on a cushy chair with my chew toy while shedding hair.

See the ripped-up upholstery? That wasn't me! That was the cat!

I'm also really good at smelling stuff. See the big, wet nostrils? I can smell about 1,000 times better than the people in this house!

So next time you want to go around believing bad stuff about somebody, just remember, dogs have feelings too!

Oh...that reminds me of a joke that my people really hate, but since I've hijacked this blog, I might as well go for broke:

Did you know that dogs can smell fear?

There must be a lot of fear coming out of people's butts!

Oh, man! I think I've been caught...gotta go chase the cat!

Spring Blizzard, part 2: digging out

Day 2 of the Great Spring Blizzard:
We sent the dog out again to look for the Wall Street Journal. He found it! And he brought it to the house! But then he tried to bury it in the snow. Isn't this fun?!Next, dear husband goes outside to shovel the driveway. (This actually occurred about 30 minutes after Yours Truly went outside to shovel, in order to clear a path behind the car to drive Lizzy to work. Nevermind that there were drifts over 2 feet high behind the car and that the snow weighed approximately 25 lbs. per shovel-full. I'm a devoted mother and that's what I do. But I digress).

Yes, here he is, in all his manly splendor! Ya' gotta love a man that can look manly while shoveling a 50-foot driveway with a little-bitty shovel while his neighbors get out their man-toys (aka John Deere tractors with snow plow attachments) and rev up the engines and plow their measly 20 foot driveways in about 5 seconds flat.

Let me tell you, that snow was HEAVY! Yep, it was the heaviest snow we've had to shovel here at Casa Nostra since we've lived here (that'd be about 6 years). We couldn't use our patented "snow plow" technique, which involves pushing the snow shovel back and forth across the driveway about 50 million times. No, we had to go with the old back breaking "lift and toss" technique which the Nazis banned years ago due to it's inhumanity.

It took three of us (dear huband Giuseppe, 15 year-old Edmund, and moi) THREE AND ONE-HALF HOURS to clear the driveway. As you can see from the pictures, the sun aided us by melting the snow as we were shoveling it, which caused it to stick to our shovels, necessitating a pounding action on the driveway with each shovel toss to knock the remaining snow off the shovel, only to be shoveled again with the next "lift and toss." But when it was all done, we were proud of our handiwork and vowed to look for a new man-toy next time Sears has a sale.

Yes, this is me smiling. I'm actually saying, "Could you hurry up and take the picture? I want to go inside and collapse!"

Spring Blizzard, part 1: the snowluge

We had a whopper of a blizzard last week. It began snowing Thursday morning and ended sometime early Friday morning. As they say in Colorado, "We really needed the moisture," and this was a moisture-packing blizzard.

The local public schools heard a big one was coming down and they cancelled school before the first flake ever fell.

Shortly after the white stuff appeared, we sent the dog outside to investigate and bring back an olive branch. He came back sans olive branch, but looking rather mournful that we'd sent him out on such hazardous duty.

My dear husband decided to forego the long trek across the metro area to work, and we declared a snow day! First order of business was to find the Wall Street Journal hidden somewhere at the end of the driveway.
There was no paper to be found...though we searched diligently for the better part of 5 minutes.

Yes, things were looking pretty bad out there.
I called the piano teacher to say we wouldn't be driving to her house that day.

The view of our street looking one way...

and then the other...

We couldn't even find our street in the white-out. And 15-passenger vans don't handle slippery streets very well!

So we decided to stay inside and wait out the storm.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Barfing and Breastfeeding

Monday mornings the kids are all at school, so I have a few free hours to spend perusing blogs I don't usually get to read. This morning I came across Kat's blog, and it reminded me of my own experience with kids barfing at Mass.

Maria was probably only 2 or maybe even not quite 2, so we really can't blame her. We were in the old chapel at Bolling AFB, in DC, where we lived during my last year and a half in the Navy. The chapel had lovely red velvet-covered cushions on the pews. And she barfed all over them.

At least we were in the back pew and we could make a quick escape. A nice older lady helped us clean it up. After that, I think we stuck to the new chapel, which had smooth, wooden pews. (Much easier to clean up messes).

That same daughter is now 21. She informed me this past weekend how glad she was that I never breastfed her...I then offered to get out the old slides and have a slide show. She was quite horrified at the prospect of seeing herself breastfeeding with her boyfriend watching.

Good thing there were no digital cell phone cameras back in the old days when I breastfed a newborn while in uniform on a 14-hour military flight from Naples, Italy to Washington, DC! I must've looked pretty sloppy, but then again, my baby didn't cry for 14 hours straight like the poor toddlers on that flight.

Nothing like being a mom to give you a large dose of humility.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Marian shrines in England book is published!

The actual title is The Blessed Virgin Mary in England: A Mary-Catechism with Pilgrimage to Her Holy Shrines, Volume Two. It was published by iUniverse.

You may recall I blogged about Volume One back in December. Br. Anthony assured me Volume Two would be out soon, and now here it is!

I have six chapters in the book, about some of the shrines my family and I visited when we lived in North Yorkshire, England, from 2000-2003. The shrines I wrote about are: Walsingham: Our Lady's National Shrine; Our Lady of Glastonbury; The Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Simon Stock in Aylesford, Kent; The Shrine of Our Lady of Grace in Osmotherly, North Yorkshire; and The Shrine of Our Lady of the Crag in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. The sixth chapter I wrote is about the shrine of Saint Margaret Clitherow in York.

Three of the chapters previously appeared in issues of the National Catholic Register. They would be the articles about Walsingham, Our Lady of the Crag and St. Margaret Clitherow. I wrote the other three chapters especially for this book.

Br. Anthony asked me if I would help him write this book about Our Lady in England as an offering to Our Lady and to the Franciscan Missions. He writes, "All proceeds from this book [and Volume One] go towards the worldwide Mission of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (FI) for use in Africa where poverty is dire and widespread."

If you would like to donate further, or for more information about the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, see their website: http://www.marymediatrix.com/; or their blog: http://www.airmaria.com/.

Ave Maria, Brother Anthony!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Just another day shopping with four kids

Yesterday morning while I was in the throes of frustration trying to teach JP to read--yes, even into my 18th year of homeschooling, I still find teaching reading one of the most frustrating things I have to do--I got a phone call from a homeschooling mom friend. She was calling to invite JP and DJ to her son's 7th birthday party, which is this afternoon.

"If you don't finish reading this, you're not going to the birthday party!" I told JP.

He finished reading the page in record time, then we had lunch and decided to head out to Target to look for a birthday present for his friend.

"Can I go too?" asked 11 year-old Bernadette. "I've finished my school work and I'm bored."

"Okay. As long as you don't ask for anything," I said. Famous last words.

"Me too!" said 9 year-old Paul.

"Promise me you won't ask for anything," I said, knowing full well that that's what 9 year-old boys do when you take them to Target.

"I promise!" he said.

And of course I had to bring both DJ and JP since it is their friend who's having the birthday and they had to be a part of selecting the present.

Since we were going to Target, I thought this would be a great time to look for some proper Easter clothes for the little boys since they'd either outgrown or destroyed everything they own. Just to make sure we didn't already own some nice sport coats that would fit them, we pulled out our entire selection of boys' sport coats. We had one that fit Paul nicely and one that fit JP nicely. "Great!" I said. "We'll look for one for DJ. And we'll find some new pants that fit and some shirts and ties."

So off we went to Target. Shopping for boys is WAAAYYY easier than shopping for girls. (See Twitter postings from last weekend, when I was trying to find Easter dresses for some of the girls). Navy blue blazer, navy blue trousers, blue buttoned-down shirts and sportive clip-on ties. Mission accomplished in less than 5 minutes.

On to the toy section and here's where it gets really fun. The boys immediately began asking for things:

"Bionicles! I just need one more to add to my set of 145!"

"Why can't I have this Star Wars Lego set? It's only $199.99?"

"But I really NEED this Super-Soaker Water Blaster Hydro-Sonic Extreme Fun Gun!"

Then Bernadette started in:

"Can you buy me a CD player? I really need one. And it's only $20."

"No. I thought you said you weren't going to ask for anything?"

"Yeah, but it's only $20 and I thought you were going to pay me for babysitting."

"I don't have any money right now."

"Then how come you're buying all this stuff?"

"Because this is stuff we need."

"But I need a CD player."

You kinda get the drift. This is how all my shopping trips with kids seem to go. It doesn't matter if I have one with me or half a dozen.

I finally picked out the present myself. A Nerf-blaster gun. I know this little boy. He's definitely a Nerf-blaster gun sort of kid. And they were on sale. And he doesn't have a dog who would inhale the Nerf balls like ours would.

Next, I needed to make a quick trip to the grocery store. I decided since it was St. Patrick's Day that I would make something special for dinner. No, not corned beef and cabbage. My husband, who is 1/4 Irish hates corned beef and cabbage. No, I decided I'd make something green for dinner and something green for desert. I made chicken enchiladas with green chile sauce and easy-peasy frozen limeade pie for desert. (The pie was a fave when I was a kid, but now as an adult, I think it's pretty ghastly. Still, it's green and the kids love it. And I even ate a piece last night!) To wash it all down, I bought some Guinness stout. Boy, was that good! And due to St. Paddy's Day, it was on sale.

Getting back to the shopping ordeal: the kids behavior was deteriorating rapidly in the grocery store as they realized that I wasn't buying the green frosted cookies, donuts or cakes. Nor was I buying any toys, movies, candy, chips or sodas. By the time we got to the check-out, I was ready to sell them all to some rich Arab. I decided to skip the line in the regular check-out and go to the self-service. It said "15 items or less," but, hey, who's counting?

I warned the kids, "Stand back and don't touch anything!"

"Can we ride the horses?" Paul asked.

"NO! Don't talk and don't touch. I'm tired of you asking for things. And stop touching things. Just hold onto the cart and don't MOVE!" I sneered.

Just then, an elderly gentleman walked up to me and said, "Are all these kids yours?"

I replied with a rather annoyed tone and a tense smile, "These are SOME of my kids." ("Now go away and leave me to my misery," I thought).

He walked away, only to return 30 seconds later. I was still trying to scan my groceries and keep the kids from "helping" me. He pulled out his wallet and said, "Here's something to help you out."

I looked at the 50-dollar bill he was trying to hand me and I felt horror-stricken that he would think I needed help.

I don't usually wear sweat pants and a t-shirt to the store, but I was wearing that yesterday and JP had ripped pants because they were the only green things he could find to put on that day. Was it because I looked so annoyed and frazzled at my kids? Or did I just look poor?

"Please," I said, "give it to someone who really needs it."

"Oh, no," he said. "I want you to have it."

I insisted, "That's very generous of you, but you should really give it to someone who needs it. But thank you very much for your kindness."

He finally put the money away and said, "It's the Lord's money. I'm just trying to help out."

"Wow, Mom," said Bernadette. "He thought we only had four kids! Imagine what he would've wanted to give us if he knew we had ten!"

"Oh, Mom!" said Paul, "you should've taken it! We could've bought the Special Edition Super-Duper Bionicle Goes to Mars Mind-Blaster!"

Now my kids are plotting how they could convince me to take all the kids to the grocery store so some nice elderly gentleman would give us lots of money.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Race: My Conversion Story

…Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

My conversion story begins with my first remembrance of God, when I was about 8. But my conversion is still ongoing. I’m still running my race. I’m still struggling to live the Christian life and still hoping for the ultimate prize: eternity with Jesus in Heaven.

When I was quite young, my parents decided it was time to take me to church. I have vague memories of other young children in the Sunday School and sitting on the hard, highly polished wooden pews while my parents sang hymns and being very bored during the sermons. But I loved Sunday School and I especially loved hearing the stories about how much God loved me. I remember the grand, white church, Wellshire Presbyterian, which still stands on Colorado Boulevard in Denver, in a posh neighborhood next to a golf course. I don’t know if any of my grandparents attended church on a regular basis. Religion was not a topic in our house, but my parents taught me not to lie, cheat or steal and to be kind to others.

I loved going to Sunday school. The teacher told us we would get our own Bible if we attended for a set number of Sundays. Since I am a very goal-oriented person, I was up for the challenge. I think we had to attend for a minimum of 8 weeks in order to get a Bible. I still have my first Bible, inscribed to me on October 3, 1971, from Wellshire Presbyterian Church. I think my family stopped attending that church shortly afterwards, but the seed of faith had been planted in my heart and I started praying to Jesus, as our Sunday school teacher had taught us. She told us there was nothing we could do to separate us from the love of God and that if we confessed our sins to Him and asked Him to come and live in our hearts, He would. I followed her advice and from that moment on, my life was His.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

When I was about 10 years old, we moved from Denver to a small town in southern Colorado. Around the age of 13, I began going to church on my own. I was able to walk or ride my bike or catch a ride with friends. I chose a church that was a combined Presbyterian and Methodist church because I figured I was Presbyterian. I especially enjoyed going to the youth group meetings in the evenings where we learned more about the Bible and I heard a youth leader talk about a personal God who had a plan for my life. I remember that as an epiphany in my life. Not only was God a God who would save me from my sins, but He also cared enough for me to have a plan for my whole life!

In high school I excelled at academics and sports and I asked God fervently to show me the path He had for me. I was growing restless to leave the small town where we lived and to see the wonders of the world He made. I had a strong desire to serve my country in gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy. For these reasons, I applied to and was granted an appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. It was about as different a place as I could imagine from the small, isolated town in a remote valley in southern Colorado.

I arrived full of hopes and dreams and a desire to know God better. After the initial summer training period, the academic year began and we had a few moments of free time. I was invited to attend a women’s Bible study sponsored by a Protestant para-church group. I accepted the invitation with eagerness. I spent that year growing in my faith by leaps and bounds. The mental, physical and academic challenges were far greater than I had ever imagined and I clung to God for dear life. He was my port in the storm.

…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)

During my second year at the academy, I did a topical Bible study on baptism. I kept reading about people who were baptized. Even Jesus was baptized. I became convinced that I needed to be baptized, so I sought out the Baptist chaplain, Capt. Larry Ellis. I figured Baptists must know something about baptism. He kindly asked my reasons for desiring baptism. My answers must have satisfied him, so we set a date for the great event; at my request, by total immersion. Since the Academy had no baptismal font large enough for an adult to be immersed, we decided to use one of the indoor swimming pools after hours. I invited about 20 close friends to come and witness my public declaration of faith. Chaplain Ellis and I both wore our white Navy uniforms, without the ribbons or shoulder boards. I wore my Navy issue swimsuit underneath. The chaplain and I stepped in the pool, and I was immersed three times while he intoned the ancient words: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…”

Fast forward to after graduation. I was stationed in Naples, Italy, as a communications officer for Naval activities in the Mediterranean, the Eastern Atlantic, the Red Sea and the land areas in and around them. In Naples I met a handsome young naval officer who was stationed at the submarine command. He and I met a few times and chatted, until one day he asked me out. I accepted and we soon became close friends. After only three weeks of dating, I felt strongly that this could be the guy. The only problem was, he was Catholic and I was most definitely a Bible believing Christian. Several of the people who led me in Bible studies had been Catholics who had left the Church because they believed the truth lay solely in the Bible and not with the Catholic Church. It all made perfect sense to me and I wanted to know how an otherwise intelligent and apparently God-fearing young man could believe such poppycock put out by the priests and popes of the Catholic Church and their “traditions of men.”

Joe very patiently tried to answer all my questions one by one, even when some of those questions sounded more like accusations. The smartest thing he did was when he didn’t know an answer to one of my questions, he would say, “Let’s go ask the Catholic chaplain.” As a result, we spent many hours conversing with the priest, asking questions, getting answers (and many books to read) and unbeknownst to us, beginning our marriage preparation classes. We sometimes would go to one of the Protestant Navy chaplains, just to compare answers, but somehow I ended up being more spiritually satisfied with the answers we received from the Catholic chaplain.

Since we were falling in love, Joe and I wanted to spend as much time together as possible. We were both standing watches at our separate commands, which meant long hours, often working through the night. As a result, we would try to go to church together. The base chapel had Protestant worship service followed by Catholic Mass. Joe would attend the Protestant service with me and I would stick around to attend Mass with him. People would sometimes give us funny looks as they were departing the Protestant service. “You’re not staying, are you?” their eyes would ask.

But we did stay and I was surprised to hear the same readings at the Catholic Mass that we heard at the Protestant service. I wondered why the Catholics were copying the Protestants, until Joe showed me the schedule for the cycle of readings the universal Church uses. I was mildly shocked to learn the Protestant chaplains were copying the Catholics! I never asked the Protestant chaplains, but since they shared office space with the Catholic priests, they probably saw the schedule of readings and thought, “That sounds like a pretty good idea--why reinvent the wheel?”

I began to wonder if there was anything else the Protestants might have copied from the Catholics.

I noticed more similarities between the liturgical Protestant service and the Catholic Mass. Four years of Protestant worship services at the Naval Academy with Chaplain Ellis, his daily communion service by intinction, Maundy Thursday washing of the feet, even Ash Wednesday service and Lenten meditations, helped prepare my heart for the Catholic liturgy.

The one aspect of Catholic devotional life that was most difficult for me to accept was devotion to Mary. I had been taught that God alone was sufficient for our needs and if we showed devotion to any other being it was idolatry. Of course, it never occurred to me that I had shown devotion to my own mother or other family members all my life, but this was perhaps the biggest obstacle for me in becoming Catholic.

After several months of attending dual Sunday services, I was getting tired of hearing the same readings, so I asked Joe if we could alternate Sundays; one Sunday at the Catholic Mass and one Sunday at the Protestant service. He said, “Nope.” I thought he was incredibly unbending and stubborn on this point, as he was on many others, such as not eating meat on Fridays in Lent, even if he was hungry and there was a tasty lasagne just sitting there that nobody was eating. Neither would he entertain my idea that we both just become Episcopalian, then he could further explore this idea of being a priest, which he told me he still thought of from time to time, and we could be married. He even had the temerity to laugh at that idea! Anyway, I decided he won this round and I stopped going to the Protestant service altogether because I would rather spend my Sundays with Joe. We went to Mass together every Sunday after that.

When it looked like we were seriously considering marriage and I was seriously considering becoming Catholic, I consulted my dear friend, Chaplain Ellis. He came into Naples when the aircraft carrier to which he was assigned pulled into port. I introduced him to Joe and he seemed to approve. I told him I was thinking of becoming a Catholic and he told me he thought that was a good idea. “It’s good for a husband and wife to share the same faith,” he told me. “And besides,” he said, “the Catholic Church has the Eucharist!”

Coming from the man who had the most devout communion service I’d ever attended, this meant a lot. Chaplain Ellis had daily communion services while he was senior chaplain at the Naval Academy. I didn’t go as often as I would have liked, but the few times I went, they made a big impression on me. Chaplain Ellis would explain the method of receiving communion was by intinction, the dipping of the host into the wine. It was then placed on the communicant’s tongue due to the fragility of the dipped host. And this was merely a symbol; it wasn’t even a consecrated host.

When we were engaged, I became aware of the tug at my heart by the Eucharist. I believed it was the actual Body and Blood of Christ, but I couldn’t fully comprehend the meaning of it all. The Eucharist was Jesus, but He couldn’t come to me yet. My favorite line of the Mass was, and still is, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.”

We were married in a Catholic wedding, but since I wasn’t yet Catholic and more than half of the people attending our wedding weren’t Catholic, we had the ceremony outside the Mass. The priest celebrated a private Mass for us earlier that day, with just Joe, my mother, father, sister and me in attendance. Joe and the priest were the only Catholics there.

Finally, on our honeymoon, I realized I couldn’t live without Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. We attended a Sunday evening folk Mass in Dublin, Ireland. The church was packed and it was standing room only. We got there too late to get a seat, but the usher motioned us to sit at the altar rail. Honestly, I can’t remember if we sat or knelt the entire Mass, but I have vivid memories of the moment the priest held the Eucharist up before me while I knelt at the altar rail. I wanted to receive Jesus that very moment, but it became clear to me that I couldn’t until I decided to give Him my whole heart and mind in acceptance of all the tenants of the Catholic Church, even the ones I couldn’t yet understand. I left the Mass in tears that night. Tears for the Jesus I couldn’t yet receive, but also tears in gratitude for the graces, which had been poured out on me that evening.

Nine months later our honeymoon baby was born. She was baptized and I made my first communion and was confirmed in the Catholic Church at the same Mass. It was Sunday, January 24, 1988. Years later I discovered January 24th is the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, who converted tens of thousands of Calvinists, i.e., Presbyterians, during his lifetime. Maybe he’s been watching over me all these years?

Jesus’ mother had been a stumbling block for me. She has become a quiet friend, advocate and mother to me now. She doesn’t overshadow her son, as I was afraid, but she points the way to Him. She tells us, “Do exactly as He tells you.” Now that I am a mother, Mary is an important part of my life. How can I deny one whom Jesus must have loved most devotedly? As our family has grown over the years, and there have been days when I felt overwhelmed, I would sometimes get angry with the Blessed Mother, or those who would recommend I look to her for guidance. How could I look to her for advice? After all, she had only one child and He was perfect! But Mary gave me the example of humility, obedience and love I must try to give my children.

After 21 years as a Catholic, I’m still learning my faith and I still struggle to follow the Blessed Mother’s example. I often fail miserably. Our children are beginning to venture into the adult world and I pray they make wise decisions and listen to God’s plan for their lives. Most of all, I pray we may finish the race and spend eternity together in heaven.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Love Story

Taylor Swift recently sang this on SNL, but she seemed really nervous in a young, innocent sort of way. Her music video of this song is one of the sweetest, most romantic music videos I've seen. Hope you enjoy it!

Catholic Homeschooling Mother of Two Prepares for 2010 Olympics

29 year-old Rebecca Dussault isn't your average Olympic athlete. She competed in the 2006 winter Olympics and caused a bit of a media stir when her husband and young son accompanied her to all of her prepatory races (approximately 60) and the Olympics in Turin, Italy.

Now Rebecca has her sights set on competing in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. With two children, she is now competing in many races without her family cheering section, but so far she is doing quite well. She already has a World Championship under her belt, as well as several other huge victories. Her prospects are looking very good.

Rebecca (like her husband, Sharbel) is a practicing Catholic and homeschool graduate. Rebecca and Sharbel plan to homeschool their children as well.

Rebecca and her family live in Gunnison, Colorado when they're not traveling across the globe preparing for the 2010 Olympics.

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati

Rebecca and Sharbel have a strong devotion to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who was a young Italian outdoorsman, mountaineer and faithful Catholic who performed many great works of mercy. He died of tuberculosis at a young age.

On the official Dussaultskis website, Rebecca lists her ambitions:

• To live heroic virtue and become a Saint
• Have several more children and educate them at home
• Become an oblate of the Community of St. John
• Become a midwife
• Own a small farm/ranch
• Grow and shoot my own food. Live nearly self-sustained
• Learn to knit and sew

To read more about this amazing young woman, see videos and pictures of Rebecca's racing victories, learn more about Bl. Frassati or to subscribe to their email list for updates on her Olympic progress, visit their website: http://www.dussaultskis.com/

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Fray's Next Venue Should Be My House

It was autumn 2005. The Grammy nominated rock band played a concert at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. My eldest daughter was a volunteer student helping to organize the concert. After the concert she helped them load their equipment into their truck. A large amp fell on her, trapping her ankle beneath its tremendous weight.

The guys were nice. Hey, here's a cute young co-ed helping to load their cheesy equipment into their U-Haul and she gets hurt. Maybe crippled for life. What could they do? They didn't have health insurance or even workman's comp. They were all still living with their mommas or living in a tent at Boyd Lake and dining at 7-11.

They did what any self-respecting rock band does when a pretty young co-ed is maimed helping you load your junk into the U-Haul. They signed her leg with a Sharpie and gave her a free CD.

Well, now that my daughter has suffered through four years of hard labor, toiling as a Physics major, hobbling along on crutches while carrying her 50 pounds of textbooks through the sleet and snow of Greeley, Colorado, don't you think you owe her a little more?

Her real friends drove her to the emergency room that fateful day that will forever be burned into her memory. They held her hand as the doctors and nurses examined the x-rays and pronounced her fate. "Severely strained ligaments," they said, fighting back tears while heroically doing everything in their power to save her life. Her real friends comforted her and helped her find her cell phone after she got back to her room after the quick pit stop to Blockbusters to check out "Batman Begins" for the umpteenth time, so she could phone her poor mother and inform her of the tragic news.

Mr.'s "How to Save a Life," went on their merry way, giddily going through the rest of the year singing at venue after venue, never once phoning to see how this poor, crippled girl was doing.

Perhaps we could find it in our hearts to forgive your insensitivities and bad manners, if you would but do one teeny tiny itsy bitsy favor for me: play your next venue at my house.

I have it all planned out.

We'll set up the awning out back and cook brauts and even buy a keg. We'll invite the people we like and not invite the people we don't. You'll turn your amps up really loudly and we'll sit there drinking beer and singing along and watching the kids splash in their wading pool while the dog tries to eat it and all our neighbors will be sooooo jealous.

Let's do it on the fourth of July. I will even cook some baked beans. See you then!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Debbie Creatures

Debbie Reynolds (aka Lilith 'Lily' Prescott) was the reason my mother named me Debbie. I've met a few other Debbies my age who tell me similar stories.

Last summer, my namesake came to the Arvada Center for an outdoor concert, so I booked tickets and invited my mom and mother-in-law to join me with requisite spouses. Turns out I was the only one eager to see Debbie Reynolds. She still looks amazing at 77 and puts on a rather ribald show, poking fun at her ex-husband, Eddie Fisher, but also at herself.

But I digress...

The term "Debbie Creature" was actually coined by an elderly relative of mine (whose name will not be mentioned to protect me from harm).

I used to find it offensive, but have since learned that once a person reaches a certain age, they can say whatever they damn well please and you'd better just smile and put up with it. Debbie Reynolds can verify that for me.

For example, when I was expecting my fourth child (and looking pretty darned good, thank you very much...wasn't even in maternity clothes at my fourth month of pregnancy!) I was at my sister's wedding with my husband and three small children (ages 3 1/2, 2 1/2 and 1). My grandmother shouted from across the large, open room, "HOW MANY CHILDREN ARE YOU GONNA HAVE?!"

I answered with a dry mouth and short, clipped words, "Twelve, I think."

That shut her up for the rest of the evening.

Anyways, back to Debbie Creatures.

My PhD friend with the nine kids, otherwise known to the blogging world as The Philosopher-Mom, alerted me to the story of one of the current Survivor castaways...Debbie Beebe.

She's your typical Debbie...blonde, gorgeous, fit...not tall though. Her bio says 5'2". Should be taller to really qualify for a true "Debbie Creature."

Special thanks to the Philosopher-Mom for NOT suggesting ME to the casting agent. She did that once before, you know. It was 1993 and I had just had my 5th baby. The Maury Povich Show was looking for real-living parents who actually thought having children was a good idea. They had to call someone in the state of Virginia 'cause they evidently couldn't find any in New York. They already had a bunch of folks who were "childfree by choice," from New York. In fact, that was the name of the episode, "Childfree by Choice." My husband and I were dimwitted enough...Okay, maybe I should re-phrase that...I was dimwitted enough to convince my husband that we would be great for the episode. I was certain we could convince the free world that parenting was wonderful and children were great and see how much fun we're having?

Anyways, PhD Mom didn't take the bait for either Maury Povich or Survivor. She knew enough to leave it to the Debbie Creatures.

Thanks, Kalynne!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

See The Priests Live in NYC, March 16

The Priests will be taping a show for the Eternal World Television Network and want you to be there! Admission is completely free and open to the public. If you would like to attend, please send an email to: thepriests.ewtn@gmail.com.

The event has limited seating and all seating is first come first serve.

Concert Details:

Monday, March 16 Doors at 2pm (show up early!)
St. Malachy's Church
239 W 49th St
New York, NY 10019

The Beatitudes: Dynamic Catholic A Cappella

The Beatitudes is a men's a cappella group who aim to bring the love of Christ to people through their music. They are all students at Franciscan University of Steubenville. They'll be on tour in Providence, Rhode Island, and Boston, Massachusetts starting next week, during their spring break. They'll be in Providence March 15-17 and Boston March 18-20.

Can you recognize my son in the promo picture? (Hint: he's the one without a tie...)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Twitter is stealing my life!

The best way to learn a new skill is to jump in with both feet and just give it a try! Or so I thought with some of the new technology that keeps flirting with my time.

Not too very long ago I signed up with Twitter. Not a big deal, the sign up takes just a couple of minutes. I had one friend already on Twitter. From blogs I found a few more friends.

Then I discovered Tweet Catholic. From that list I found some really cool Catholics that I started following. One such guy, is Paul Camarata, his bio states, "A family man, neurosurgeon, and Catholic podcaster." He sounded way too cool, so I decided to follow him. He runs an amazing website, The Saint Cast, which has podcasts about the saints and a really awesome youtube video called "The Saint Song."

Once I started adding a bunch of folks from that list, many of them started following me! The busy rambling of everyone's Tweets looked incomprehensible at first. Then I began to see that some of them were responding to other's Tweets, signified by the @ at the beginning of the Tweet.

Not sure if anyone is actually reading your Tweets? I found out if you ask a question, you can often get an answer, to which the polite Tweeter responds with a "Thank you!"

Still, there are confusing combinations of letters and symbols, and I noticed the hash symbol, #, appearing quite frequently before the letters "tcot." What could that mean? Some secret language? I Tweeted and asked the question and was told it means "top conservatives on Twitter." They also have their own list, which I scanned for people I'd either heard of or people who sounded interesting. I preferred to find people with whom I had something in common, so I looked for those who listed "Catholic," "homeschooler," "stay at home mom," "humor," "veteran." I found some really interesting people there too!

I tried to resist the urge to follow tons of celebrities that I really had nothing in common with, though I did break down and follow Tony Hawk. Don't ask me why. I don't skateboard and none of my kids do either. I've never played any of his video games or worn any of his clothes. (Does he design clothes?) But when I read his bio: "...professional skateboarder, dad, videogame character, husband, ceo, kid chauffeur," I thought he sounded like a fun guy to follow. I especially liked the part about being a dad and kid chauffeur. Likewise, I followed the two creators of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, and Biz Stone, because I figured they could give me some hint of how this Twitter thing is really supposed to work. It still feels like speaking a foreign language to me.

From the tcot list, I found some interesting conservative celebrities, like Gov. Mike Huckabee, Dick Armey, Newt Gingrich, and Karl Rove. I felt a rush of adrenaline when Karl Rove started following MY updates. Heady stuff, this Twitter. I must've gotten a bit carried away with all the celebrity following, or perhaps I just thought it was a Pepsi logo, but I clicked on "Follow" Barack Obama. A couple hours later, I had second thoughts and decided to "unfollow" him, but only after BO had started following me! Hmmm...maybe he'll learn something from my pithy political commentary. (Dream on...)

I gotta go now...Pope Benedict is following me and he just asked what #tcot means.

You can follow my twitterings at http://twitter.com/militantmom.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Win a Free Trip to Europe!

Yes, it's true, and no, I'm not getting anything out of it. In fact, I've entered the drawing myself, so anyone else who enters is competing against me.

For all the details and to enter, go to The Catholic Traveler.

When things are looking bad, remember the good

Thanks to MacBeth for posting this computer animated graphic of Capt. Sullenberger's auspicious Hudson River landing.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Gardening for Fun and Profit

Time to think about putting in a garden!

If you've never had a vegetable garden, here are some ideas to get you started.

Find a sunny windowsill where seedlings won't be disturbed and you can check on them daily. Or, you can set up some grow lights (pictured here using shop lights with full-spectrum fluorescent lights installed).

Before you go out and buy seeds, plan where your garden will be and how big it will be. Keep in mind, once summertime heat kicks in, you'll be out there tending to the weeds that inevitably grow several inches overnight! Carefully read the planting instructions for the vegetables that you decide to grow. Some do well in short, hot summers (like we have here in Denver). Others do well in cooler, more temperate weather. Some vegies really need to be started indoors due to their longer maturity time (like tomatoes, peppers and some herbs). Other vegies like to be planted directly into warm soil outdoors (like squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, carrots, radishes), while others need to be planted before the temp gets too warm (like peas and lettuce).

Last year I tried to plant my sweet peas around St. Patrick's Day, even though, here in the 'burbs of Denver, we are hardly out of the winter season by that time. It was the first time I tried something so daring. I even threw out a few lettuce seeds, just to see what would happen. Lo and behold! They sprouted and I actually my first decent crop of sweet peas since I began gardening in the harsh climate of Denver.

Soon I'll be getting out my shop lights and setting up the grow area in the patio room. Last year was the first year I tried this set-up. Our patio room isn't insulated and the temps can drop to freezing or below until around Mother's Day. Nevertheless, the patio room was temperate enough to keep my young seedlings from freezing. It probably helped that I had a warming mat, designed especially for starting seedlings, under one of the trays with tomato seeds, and the grow lights provide some warmth. I had the lights on a timer, so they go off at night to give the seedlings some rest, but I kept the mat on 24/7. It was only under one of about twelve trays, so it was only a slight help.

Once the soil warms and the danger of frost is past, the kids help me plant a sunflower house. Here are some pictures chronicling the growth of our house a couple years ago. I was afraid we'd started the house too late, since we started in on Memorial Day weekend, and it seemed to grow very slowly in the beginning. After about 6 weeks it looked like this:
About two weeks later it looked like this:

And by late summer, we could go inside our sunflower house and find a cool retreat from the day, like this:

Happy gardening!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Why You Should Consider Having Another Child

If you are in a stable marriage and are physically and mentally healthy, now is a great time to consider having another child.

Don't have a child to make someone love you. Have a child because you have love to give. When two people are married, they do things for each other. They carry around pictures of each other. They write love letters to each other. A child is a physical expression of that love that a married couple has for one another. It is a concrete way of saying, "I love you and I want part of you to continue to live and grow as a sign of our love for one another."

A child is also a sign of sacrifice. Why would otherwise sane people bring another child into this world of economic crisis and instability? Because love sacrifices. Love endures hardship. New life is a sign of hope in a world desperately in need of hope. Children are a sign of contradiction to the world of grown-ups which says, "Don't trust. Don't risk. Don't run with scissors."

Children do all this and more. They teach us how to ask questions. They teach us how to trust. They teach us how to love unconditionally.

My youngest, DJ, has neurofibromatosis (NF), which is an incurable genetic disorder that causes him to have benign tumors throughout is body. He has had two surgeries in his first 6 years of life to try to "debulk" some of the tumors which were pushing on his eye and causing vision problems. He also struggles with some learning difficulties, which may be a result of the NF, or it may be a result of being in foster care in Guatemala for the first two years of his life with very little stimulation. Nevertheless, he is the most loving and affectionate child I have. He is constantly saying things like, "I love you, Mom!" at the most unexpected times. He takes special care to help his Grandma when we're at Mass by holding her hand while they cross the street and opening the door for her. He teaches me things about love and kindness that I need to know, since many days I just feel like a grumpy old grown-up.

If you are comfortable with your life and feel your love and life are complete, now is a great time to consider having another child.

When we make room for "just one more," God sees our generosity and will reward us beyond our expectations. I have met so many older moms (and some dads) who were surprised by a new baby later in life, after they thought their families were complete. Often times, these unexpected pregnancies bring new fears of being an "old" parent, having a child with a disability, or being ill-prepared for midnight feedings when planning for early tee-times. Yet I have never heard any of these parents complain after the child is born. They seem to be renewed with youthful vigor and hope, and speak of their late-in-life child as a special gift from God. They speak of being a more relaxed and thoughtful parent. They appreciate each first event in this child's life with even greater joy than they did with their first born children, perhaps because they realize that these children will all too soon be grown and gone.

If you have ever thought about adoption, and have love to give, now is a great time to act.

There are always children in need of loving homes. Don't discount adoption because of the paperwork, the cost or the intrusive social-workers. There are real children in need of real homes and someone to love them unconditionally. Adoption surveys show that many people consider adoption at some point in their lives, but very few go through with it. If you are considering it, pray about it. Talk to someone you know who has adopted. Sign up for an adoption seminar. Read books about adoption. Offer your love to a child in need.

But I don't have a big enough house, or enough money, or enough time...

When we come to the end of our lives, we will look back on the time we were given and we will probably not be thinking of our house, bank accounts, cars or jobs. We will probably be thinking of those we love and asking ourselves, "Did we show them enough love? Did we give them enough of our time? Did we appreciate them?" Having "just one more" child helps us to think about the most important things in life by keeping us just a little bit uncomfortable. We can't give our kids everything they want. We give them the necessities, and try to give them some luxuries, but mostly they don't have a lot of "things." My kids don't have IPods, cell phones or their own cars (unless they buy it themselves). Until their roommate leaves for college, they haven't had their own room.

Having "just one more" mouth to feed, means fewer outings to restaurants; more meals at home. When we were first married, I enjoyed dining out a lot. We lived in Naples, Italy, and the food there is some of the best in the world. I couldn't replicate it at home. But my husband seemed to enjoy my cooking and encouraged me to cook for him at home. Now, of course, there's no question that we primarily eat at home. But family meal times are not just about putting food into our bodies, but also about spending time with each other. This is the most important part of family meal time.

Having "just one more" person in your family may mean fewer expensive vacations; more family outings close to home. We've been very blessed in that we've had the chance to travel with the kids to some pretty exotic locations. But the things the little ones always remember about vacations are things like feeding the pigeons, walking on the beach, building sand castles, sleeping in a tent; things that don't generally cost a lot of money. Teenagers may think they need the European vacation or the cruise ship to the Caribbean, but after they leave home the things they seem to miss are bike rides with the family and ice cream at Dairy Queen.

Isn't there room for one more in your family?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Lenten Journeys: Finding Joy in Adversity

The other night I happened to turn on the television, and I watched the tail-end of a true-life disaster played out in high drama. It was the story of the Silverwood family from California, and their boating accident in the South Pacific that nearly cost the life of the father, John Silverwood.

I was able to piece together the beginning, based on the stories being unraveled by the Silverwoods and their 4 children. They were sailing in the South Pacific, and something went terribly wrong. A freak storm hit and their catamaran was pounded by a huge wave against a razor-sharp reef. The mast fell on John and gave him a severe wound on his leg, which resulted in a massive loss of blood. If he was going to survive, they would have to get him medical attention quickly.

You can read their first-hand account in their book, Black Wave: A Family's Adventure at Sea and the Disaster that Saved Them.

The way they see it, this disaster saved their family. By suffering together, it caused them to grow stronger together and helped heal some wounds in their family. They chose to give thanks for each other and for life, which, prior to the accident, they just took for granted.

In the same way, Greg Mortenson's story, Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time, tells the story of his personal disasters: his sister's untimely death; his failed attempt to conquer the world's second highest mountain, K2, in his sister's honor; his failure to even live a stable life; and how these failures led him to tremendous success at building schools for the poorest of the poor in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Neither of these stories would have had the same joyful endings if they first hadn't experienced adversity. While neither of these stories mention a Christian belief or motive, they have strong parallels to the life of Christ. First comes suffering. Then death. Finally, resurrection.

These two stories, in particular, have gotten me thinking about how I can use my own disasters and failures to grow stronger, to embrace life and family, and to promote peace in my own world. The fastings and deprivations of Lent aren't just about denying ourselves or losing a few unwanted pounds. The fastings of Lent are supposed to help us see what is really important in life. To know, love and serve Him who created us, and by doing so, to better serve those around us.