Neighborhood Parade

St. Patrick’s Day is BIG in the Savannah area.  Our neighborhood held it’s annual parade yesterday.

Lining up to march
Dressed in green
The fire truck leads the parade
Everybody seems to own a golf cart.  There is no golf
course in my neighborhood.  It’s just what you do.
Bill says it’s because it’s so hot in the summer that you
need a golf cart to get to your mailbox.  You have to experience
the heat to really understand what he means.
I don’t know this child, but he’s really cute.
I DO know this kid, and think
he’s really cute too.
After the parade.
Mary was posing in an arabesque, of sorts.
If you look closely, you can see Peter’s green shirt
and head peeking from behind.  He wanted to be in the
picture, but she did not want him to.  She would stop
her pose to push him out of the way.  It’s the dual
nature of little girls: grace vs. grit.
Enjoying the after-parade picnic.
A private repast in a shady locale.

Thinking about Lent, Part 3 (The Last): Change

Happy Ash Wednesday.  I did not get the chance to write this yesterday.

Besides extra prayers and developing fortitude, Lent would not be complete without an attempt to change something undesirable about myself.

I’ve got plenty to work with.

Naturally, as sainthood should be our goal, no bad behavior should be intentional.  There are plenty of things we all do as easily as we breathe: complaining, nagging, wasting time, buying things we don’t need.  It is too much to expect near perfection, even for the relatively short duration of Lent.  If I target just one thing, perhaps by establishing good patterns in my life, that change will continue on well past Easter Sunday.

I’m going to work on tardiness.

I used to be really good at being on time, all the time.  Most of the time.  In the last year especially, I’ve noticed a huge decrease in my punctuality.  I seem to be surrounded by people who do not begin things on time.  It is frustrating to be on time and then have to wait.

Oh, well.  This is not about them.  It’s about me.  Punctuality is a habit.  If I allow myself to develop a bad habit (as I have), then at some point, I will be the one making others wait.  Besides, if I am running late, the mood in my home, my car, and my family is not good.  Anger, frustration and impatience dominate as I hurry hurry hurry the children along.

There are techniques to be on time.  It doesn’t just “happen.”  I know what they are; I just need to do them.

How to be on Time Almost all the Time

1.  Set the most of the clocks in your house to the correct time.  Use your computer or cell phone for an accurate time.  Don’t try to set them forward to fool yourself into being on time.  You will only say, “Oh, that clock is 10 minutes fast,” and quickly learn to ignore it.

2.  Set one or two key clocks 2 minutes fast.  For me, this is the clock in my bathroom.  Two, or perhaps three minutes, is just fast enough to hurry you up, but not fast enough to make you start to ignore it.

3.  Set the clock in your car 2 minutes fast.  This is just enough for you to say, “No, I DON’T have time to run that side errand along the way.”

4. Know the time.  Not paying attention will make you late.  Have clocks predominant in your home.  Use your kitchen timer if you are working and may get distracted.  Wear a watch, especially one that has a timer or an alarm.

5.  Know how long it takes to get somewhere, and add 20%.  It’s easy to think, “Oh, it only takes 5 minutes to get to church,” when it actually takes 6 or 7.  The 20% fudge time will help account for unexpected traffic or other things that come up.

6. Add time to get yourself and your children in and out of the car.  Depending on the age of your children, this could be as many as 5 minutes on both ends.  Even if you have helpers to carry out the library books or buckle younger siblings, some ages are prone to dawdle and other ages have a tendency to daydream.  And if it’s you and 4 children under the age of 5, the whole process of traveling, even for a short drive, is quite a production.  Account for it.

7. Be ready to go.  Shoes on, hair combed, clean shirt.  Then check the kids.  Have things you need to take piled at the door.  Put the 3 year olds’ shoes at the door and not on her feet or they will be lost by the time you leave.  I won’t let my children watch videos on Sunday mornings until they are ready for Mass.  I can do the breakfast dishes, in my apron, until my kitchen timer goes off knowing that when I say, “GO!”, everybody can go.

8.  Keep things in the car.  I have a bag in the car with some extra sweaters and a change of clothes for the youngest one.  It used to hold diapers and wipes.  In summer, it will have sunscreen and bug spray.  Not having to assemble the same basic supplies before every trip saves time.  I also keep a crossword puzzle book in the car to make the waiting go faster.

9.  Store your purse and keys in the same place all the time.  I am bad at this, and it makes me run late.  Searching for necessary items at the last minute is never fun.

10. Plan to be early.  My husband says, “Five minutes early is ten minutes late.”  It’s an Army thing.  I’d be happy if everybody were 5 minutes early; I think 15 is excessive. 

Be sure to bring something to occupy yourself while you wait for everybody else.  Perhaps spend the time praying for a terrorist.

Thinking about Lent, Part 2: Penance

“It is well to deny ourselves that which is permitted, in order to avoid more easily that which is not.”  — St. Benedict

That quote, sent to me from Jenn Miller, has been in my inbox since September of 2009.  It’s the oldest email there, and now I can delete it, since I’ve been waiting to do a post on it for that long.  Thank you, Jenn.

St. Benedict sums up one purpose for “giving up” something for Lent (or any other day of the year).  It would be difficult not to accuse most Americans of being overindulged.  Not when 1 in 4 Americans is obese

Several years ago, our pastor gave a pre-Lenten homily suggesting a mortification of the senses.  Pick something to give up that targets each of the 5 senses.  For example, sight: to give up a favorite TV show; hearing: to give up the radio in the car; taste: to give up a favorite food; smell: to give up scented candles; touch: to set the house temperature a few degrees off from where we normally would.

I’ve been discussing penances with my older children, asking what they plan to “give up.”  I have one kid who has a long list of things he plans to do.  The others are very reluctant to sacrifice things they enjoy.  It’s too hard to give up chocolate in their milk; they don’t like it plain.  It’s too hard to give up time on the computer.  It’s too hard to give up treats and snacks.

As adults, we say, It’s too hard to give up smoking.  It’s too hard to lose ten pounds.  It’s too hard to get up on time.  Or stay married.  Or live within our means.

It is hard.  But not too hard.  We must practice.  Now.  When it is easier.

Thinking about Lent, Part I: Prayer

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”  Matthew 5:44

It’s not politically correct to wish the entire Muslim world would convert to Christianity, but it is something I pray for most days.  It’s better than wishing for their annihilation, a thought I frequently forbear to have.

For 9 1/2 years, I have been praying for those in the military in harm’s way.  Most of that time, I have had specific names and faces, friends and family, included, making it a very personal intention.  And every year that it goes on brings me closer to the possibility that my children will follow in their father’s footsteps, join the military, and become one of those names on my prayer list.

I’m tired of it.  I want it to stop.  I don’t want the US to become isolationist – that isn’t going to help.  Then I will have to worry about everybody, especially those who live in populated areas of our country.  We can’t just turn our backs and walk away.  They will simply follow us home and do more damage.

So I pray that they will convert…God is love, turn the other cheek, etc etc etc.  Then perhaps they won’t feel the need to force women accused of adultery to be suicide bombers.  Just a thought.

My sister found this website: Adopt a Terrorist for Prayer

Why Pray for a Terrorist?

Why Pray for a Sponsor of Terrorism?

Where is the Christian response to terrorism? If the struggle against violence done in the name of Islam is primarily spiritual, then defeating it requires a spiritual response.

This site features FBI and State Department identified terrorists and terrorism sponsors. Terrorism inspires fear. According to Jesus, the antidote to fear is love.

When we hate, we are reactive victims. When we love we seize the initiative. Love for country helps soldiers to risk their lives. Love for children enables parents to discipline them without being intimidated. Love for us took Jesus to the cross. Love for enemies will give courage to face, overcome, and transform them and the environment that breeds them.

I love it.  This Lent, besides praying for my own sorry soul, I’ll be praying and sacrificing for the soul of an enemy.

Amusing Me

My babysitter is moving, and I’m searching the names at to find a replacement.  I have one meeting every month in the morning, I can’t take the kids with me, and it’s really too long for Fritz to be in charge.  Maybe if he were a girl…

Anyway, lots of teen girls…not available during the day…

…some SAHMs who want me to bring the kids to them…

…lots of people willing to babysit 2 or 3 children…

…some fine with littles, but not the big-uns…

…and one woman who made me laugh out loud:

I have a 2-year-old of my own so there isn’t much I haven’t seen or dealt with before.

She’s only comfortable with littles and only up to 2, so I can’t even give her a chance to see exactly what she hasn’t seen or dealt with before.

Ears on the back of her head

Most mornings, Mary makes her way into our bed between 5 and 6 am.  Sometimes she goes back to sleep, sometimes not.

Some mornings, like this morning, she comes in much, much earlier.  I don’t kow what time she came in, but around 430 am, Fritz came in because he had heard screaming outside.  Bill got him back into bed and assured him he likely heard a possum and/or cats fighting. 

When he came back to our bed, he commented on Mary’s ragged snoring, which I was desperately trying to ignore.  I scooped her up to take her back to her bed.

“Oh, no, she’s fine,” he said.  He hadn’t meant for me to have to get up.

“No, she’s driving me crazy,” I said.

I carried the girl, still snoring, back into her room.  As I gently set her down, her eyes opened.

“No,” she begged, “I won’t drive you crazy, Mom.”

I smiled, kissed her, and then took her hand and led her back to our room.

Beware the Bradford

We have a Bradford pear tree on our property.  It’s very pretty.  And an early bloomer.

The blossoms are quite lovely…to look upon.

One tiny problem.  The blossoms, though lovely to see, have a rather unpleasant aroma.

In fact, they smell like rotting meat…or dead fish.

Ours is not the only Bradford pear in the neighborhood.  There are quite a few.  One property has at least a half dozen.

Yes, 12 or 15 or more trees all filling the air with the stench of road kill.

This plant is not native to North America.  Do not plant it

This is the crab apple tree near our home in Kansas (2008).  Gorgeous blossoms.

Pretty.  Not as shapely as the Bradford pear, I’ll admit.

But it doesn’t make you want to vomit.