Necessary Servile Work

What do you think? Moving the fridge and washing the floor underneath: would you consider that unnecessary, servile work, unsuitable for 730 AM on a Sunday morning? Aren’t Sunday mornings the best times for twice annual cleaning jobs?

If you have (or have ever had) little children, you might know that some chores are necessary or not depending on the situation.

Like when your toddler tries to pull out of the fridge a gallon pitcher nearly full of red Koolaid…and fails, because it’s so heavy…and spills the vast majority of it right there.

And half of it seems to get under the fridge, so that as you wash the floor in front, more seeps out from under in this angry, red puddle as though the refrigerator were hemorrhaging.

And you have to run to your bedroom to change out of your dry clean only church skirt because there’s no way to avoid getting down on your hands and knees to handle this job (and while on your knees you pause to pray, through gritted teeth, for patience).

So, sometimes, a seemingly unnecessary job is really a necessary job. Even for a Sunday morning.

Katie’s Birthday

Katie’s birthday was…quite a while ago (two Fridays ago). I’m just not getting to the computer much these days.

Oh, actually, I was waiting for my in-laws to come down with their presents so I could just do one birthday post…yeah…

Since Jenny’s birthday is only a few weeks away, Nana thought it best to just give both girls their presents at once. They already own the dolls but they got the desks and school supplies and school clothes for their birthday. Very appropriate for this time of year. They love the gifts, of course.

Katie took birthday money from my parents and bought this stuffed dog. Because she needed another stuffed animal. Of course. Every girl needs another stuffed animal.
She was thrilled when the delivery man arrived with her present from Daddy. Bill has decided to make himself a tough act to follow. Imagine her in ten years: “What? You didn’t get me flowers? My daddy always gets me flowers! You obviously don’t love me.”
It was difficult to beat the smiles generated by that present, but at least my gift is a bit longer lasting. We’re moving into the big girl years with pierced ears. Next, it’ll be high heels and make up…

Happy Birthday, Bill

Yesterday, Bill’s parents, the kids, Neighbor Girl and I went to Friendly’s for ice cream sundaes to celebrate Bill’s birthday. The kids have not been to a Friendly’s since we lived in New Jersey (2005), so this was quite a treat. Wish you could have been there, honey.

My sister sent this cute photo of her and her husband toasting my husband. She doesn’t say what they’re drinking, but I’ll guess some sort of Pale Ale for him and cranberry juice with vodka for her.

Thanks to everybody who has left comments on Bill’s blog. He has appreciated them.

Where Education Takes a Right Turn

My boys have been hard at work copying the schematics for the Battle of Balaclava as found in The Dangerous Book for Boys.


Well, Fritz is memorizing The Charge of the Light Brigade for school, and we just had to find out what the poem was about.

Every boy should know this poem. What fabulous lines:

…”Forward the Light Brigade
Charge for the guns,” he said…

…Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d

Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro‘ the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell…

Every parent’s child should know this poem:

…Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die…

Until your kids get so smart that they point out that blind obedience led to a disaster…

For history this year, Fritz is studying Ancient Egypt.

And the Crimean War.

Updated: Did I mention I’m not a student of military affairs? My husband emailed me to point out that the Americans weren’t at the Battle of Balaclava. I don’t think the Germans were, either. Hey, one battle plan looks like any other to me. Apparently, the boys are not studying the Crimean War as much as Military Science, and they’re just making their own battle plans for some imaginary war. I have just ruled out “spy” as a career plan for me once I’m done raising babies.

Mary in the Morning

Once she learned that certain shows could be viewed from my computer, she began demanding to watch the moment she woke up. She doesn’t care that there are emails from Daddy waiting to be read.

It’s OK. I’m forcing myself to pray and read first thing in the morning.

As an aside, my oldest son was also an early riser…and I mean early: before 5 AM and raring to go, just like Mary. I remember hearing the sage advice of an experienced mom saying that mothers needed to get up at least a half hour before their children to have some personal time. She, obviously, did not have really early risers. I am an early riser, but I draw the line at 5 AM. I think it is unreasonable for anyone to be expected to get up before then, and my advice to mothers in that position is to have patience and teach your toddler his numbers as soon as possible. When he can identify the number 6, get him a digital clock for his bedroom and forbid him to come out until the first number is a 6. There is hope; you just have to wait three years and pray the next baby likes to sleep late.

After she gets bored with “See Tee” – which I think means “See TV” – she wants “bubbles” in the sink. She makes a mess, but at least I get time to read the latest love note from hubby.

Usually she stands on the step, but she recently learned that she could get higher by standing on the handle. And she has learned that she can continue onto the counter this way. After 6 kids, I’ve seen it all, but that doesn’t make me much calmer when I look over and see her sitting 42″ off the ground.

A Guide for Spiritual Survival

Tracking Virtue, Conquering Vice: A Guide for Spiritual Survival by Rev. Joseph F. Classen is a book for nature enthusiasts who see God in the beauty of the world around them. Each chapter begins with a story, generally centered around a hunting trip, which serves as a platform to discuss one particular vice. Each chapter concludes with a virtue which serves to combat that vice, and Father Classen offers some general ideas on how to employ those virtues in a practical way.

Although I love, really love, the outdoors, I am not a hunter. In fact, I’m pretty squeamish about killing animals in general. Don’t get me wrong: I love to eat meat. I’m just thankful that I don’t have to personally kill it, dress it, butcher it. If I did have to do that, I just might eat more vegetables.

But I don’t think there is anything wrong with hunting. In fact, I agree that there is something wrong with me. Father Classen paints beautiful pictures of the areas where he has been hunting. I fully appreciate his joy in seeing God’s vistas. I, too, feel as though my heart will burst when confronted with a perfect blue in the sky contrasting with brilliant colors on changing leaves. But Father Classen goes on to express his appreciation for a deer or a turkey, a gift from God, which He has given to mankind to sustain our life. I do not have as much appreciation for my turkey bought at the grocery store, as Father Classen has for his Thanksgiving dinner. And that’s my problem. My homemade bread tastes so much better than store-bought, and my appreciation of homemade bread is deeper due to my personal labor. The more removed we are from the process of procuring food, the less gratitude we feel for it.

But I digress.

Reading this book is like sitting around a campfire listening to hunting stories with theology mixed in. The lessons are short, entertaining and easy-to-understand. These are not deep discourses in metaphysics, but rather clear and practical homilies.

I do think hunters and fishers will enjoy the book more than non-hunters and fishers. I did know what I was getting into when I selected this book; I picked it mostly for my husband, who wants to hunt but has always lacked time, opportunity, and/or equipment (I helped him out with some of the equipment not too long ago, the other issues will have to wait until after his deployment). The book went off to the Post Office today. I think he will enjoy it.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find out more about Tracking Virtue, Conquering Vice.

Birthday Blog Hijacking II

Last year, I hijacked Bill’s blog to celebrate his birthday. This year, I’ve done it again, but with a different assignment:

This coming Sunday, Bill turns 41. He won’t wake up in a soft bed next to his wife. His kids won’t charge in with homemade birthday cards. He won’t have good home cooking catered to his personal taste. He won’t go to Mass, and he won’t kick back with a nice cold brew on a hot summer afternoon.

But we can do all those things. So, sometime in the next week, have a drink and toast Bill and all the other soldiers who are away from home. Say a prayer for his safety, and for my sanity. And leave a note {at his blog} (it will go to his email) telling him exactly what drink you’re having in his honor. He prefers beer, but it can be whatever you like, even ice cold lemonade.

You can leave a comment on his blog, or you can leave it here. He’ll get them either way.


Adding Lysol to the shopping list

Today was a crappy day. Literally.

First, the dog went to the bathroom on the treadmill. This is not the first time. The first time, I felt bad for her. The second time, I felt bad for me. A friend called while I was in the middle of cleaning it up that second time and asked me how my day was going. When I told her what I was doing, she laughed excessively and thanked me for making her feel better. No matter how bad her day was, at least she wasn’t sanitizing her treadmill. I was so glad to provide such a day-brightening service for her.

This was the third time, and I did take her out before putting her on the treadmill, and she went. Then she loitered. I should have known she was loitering with a purpose. My 4 year old does the exact same thing. But I hustled her in, and then later paid for my impatience.

About an hour later, I heard Mary up from her nap, but she wasn’t calling to be rescued. Now I know, I know, I know that if a toddler plays happily in her crib after awakening from a good, long nap, it is a sure sign that she has a stinky diaper. Guaranteed. I’ve been dealing with toddlers for a decade now, and this is just the way it is.

But I was trying to get everybody organized and out the door for errands, and was just thankful she didn’t need my attention while I took care of things. When I finally told everybody to “Saddle up!” I went in to get her. Oh. My.

If I ever have grandchildren, I will hand back stinky babies to their parents.

And I will not own pets.

I’m pooped. Literally.

Real Food: Part II The Cake

When I was planning my wedding, I happened to be alone with the caterer to make the final selections on the food, etc. Bill and I had, of course, discussed everything, we thought, in advance. But somehow I was unclear what his wishes were for the cake flavor (the design we discussed, but not the flavor). At the time, I didn’t know much about cakes, and looked at the list of at least a dozen different combinations. I finally settled on one that included Grand Marnier as an ingredient. I don’t think I really knew what Grand Marnier was, but it sounded really grown-up.

“Unusual selection,” said the woman.

“Uh-oh,” I thought. I, myself, am an “unusual selection” sort of person. My husband is definitely not. My husband is a “traditional selection” sort of person. But I went with it anyway, and hoped for the best.

The cake was delicious.

Fast forward a dozen years, and I find a recipe in The Fannie Farmer Baking Book for a wedding cake that includes Grand Marnier. (If you do not own this baking book, I highly recommend it. It is to baking what Joy of Cooking is to cooking.) I resolved to make this cake for the next special occasion to see if it was anything like my wedding cake. But every special occasion (baby’s baptism, baby’s first birthday, child’s First Holy Communion) came at times that were stressful enough to not need to add elaborate cake baking to the mix. I am not a fabulous baker, especially not of cakes and pies (cookies, no problem). So when push came to shove, I just went with a box mix.

Fast forward again to last April and planning for Katie’s First Holy Communion. My friend, who came for birthday dinner last weekend (see Real Food: Part I), decided to join the celebration of her daughter’s First Holy Communion with mine. In divvying up responsibilities, she said she would make the cake. I told her about The Recipe and how I had wanted to make it for baptisms and how I wanted to make it for First Birthdays and how I wanted to make it for First Holy Communions. She didn’t get that I had wanted to, but that I, in fact, had not.

She agreed to make the special cake.
The afternoon before the First Holy Communion, she called and asked me a question about the icing on the cake. “I don’t know,” I answered, “I’ve never made the cake before.”
“What?!?” she spluttered. “I thought this was The Reitemeyer Family Traditional Cake used for your wedding and all special occasions!” I laughed, cleared up the misunderstanding, and assured her any substitutions she felt necessary would be acceptable.
The next day we all told her that it tasted exactly like The Reitemeyer Family Traditional Cake.
Her cake was delicious, and she had used the recipe for the batter. But she did not: split the layers in half, sprinkle one side with Grand Marnier and the other side with orange flower water, or use the orange butter cream filling suggested. It really is an elaborate recipe.
Fast forward to last week when my friend and I decided to celebrate her birthday here. “What kind of cake would you like?” I asked her.
“I want The Reitemeyer Family Traditional Cake,” she teased.

Well, okay then. I even went online and ordered orange flower water since I am 100% sure that the local grocery stores would carry no such thing.

I wrapped the batter filled pans with wet toweling to keep them flat when they bake. This is an excellent trick, and I’ve saved that old cut up dish towel to do this whenever I bake a cake.
I split the baked layers in half and sprinkled them. I made the orange butter cream frosting and filled the layers. I did substitute White Mountain Frosting for the Seven Minute Frosting because I don’t have a hand mixer (you’ll have to get the book if you want the recipes).
The result: interesting. Did I mention I’m not a fabulous cake baker? It’s a good thing I have many years to practice baking before any of my children get married and ask for The Traditional Cake.

I will try this recipe again. The flavor was quite good, and very sophisticated. Very grown-up. Definitely a special occasion flavor. I liked the Grand Marnier. The orange water is very distinctive, very noticeable. It was okay. I’d like to try it without to see if I prefer that more.

The biggest change I need to make is in the butter cream frosting. I made the entire recipe which is designed to fill a wedding cake three times the size. I really like butter cream frosting, but it is one of those things where more is not better. The filling was way too thick and made the cake too too buttery. It was like eating a stick of butter with a little cake on the side. Some people like that, but I don’t.

I would also like to try the Seven Minute Frosting to see if it tastes much different.

Lastly, I much prefer lemon to orange flavor, so I would try it with the lemon flavored butter cream frosting, omitting the Grand Marnier (which is orange flavored). The cake batter yields a dense, moist cake which is well suited to other fillings (my friend used jam for the First Holy Communion party).

So there is my long cake story. By the time I am a grandmother, I plan to be a skilled baker. They will never believe all these years of trial and much error.