Archive for October 2009

7 Quick Takes (v. 9)

October 30, 2009

7_quick_takes1.  I can’t decide if we’re being prudent or over-protective, but we decided to pull the kids out of gymnastics classes for the next session.  Until now I’ve been pretty much writing off all the Swine Flu talk as hype, but at this point I don’t really know what to think.  So, now are Fridays will be free.  I feel bad that they will be missing their classes when they were both progressing, but I’m also kind of relieved because Fridays were getting so crazy:  wake-up, gymnastics, lunch, Aldi, home, other grocery, gymnastics, dinner.  I’m thinking that when we do sign them up again we’re going back to having their classes on different days.

2. I had already kept our Friday homeschooling plans light, but sometimes we weren’t even getting to what little I had planned.  Forget about doing little extras like our Spanish vocabulary flash cards or math and reading activities to reinforce certain concepts.  I think Bailey really needs extra work with math facts through ten and making ten as well as letter blends.  So hopefully we can take some time on Fridays to go over those things.

3.  As part of our plan of avoiding places where large numbers of children might spread germs, we also decided that we would break our tradition of taking  Bailey to Chuck E. Cheese for her birthday next month.  She was upset until we told her that she could plan her own party at home.  It will still only be family, but she’s been scouring the Party City website and discerning which Hannah Montana plates and balloons and such that she wants for her party.  I’ll have to start scouting out the local bakeries soon about the cake (we usually just bought one at Chuck E. Cheese), and we’ll probably order some Pizza Hut.  All in all, we probably won’t spend too much more than we would at Chuck E. Cheese on food and tokens.  And who knows?  We may even be starting a new tradition.

4.  The girls are looking forward to Halloween.  They’ll be having their own Halloween Party early in the day at Granny’s after spending the night there.  Then we’ll pick them up and take them trick-or-treating around 5:00.  The official time for our village is between 4:00 and 7:00.  That seems so early, and I have to admit that I’m not real keen on it being controlled by the government.  Then again I don’t want kids knocking at my door at 10:00, either.  At least our village has never tried to move trick-or-treating away from Halloween just because it fell on a weekday.  That’s really taking things too far.

5.  This year we luck out with the Feast of All Saints, though.  It falls on a Sunday, so we don’t have an extra day that we’re required to be at Mass.  I know that is the completely wrong attitude.  And in fact I really like going to Mass, but it is also really stressful with the kids sometimes.  I think I am still traumatized from having to attend the Easter Triduum last year.  It was a very long three days at the Church, even though it was totally worth it.

6.  For the past few months we’ve hit about three or four different churches besides our regular parish.  Ok, mainly we’ve been hitting the ones that have an evening Mass on Sundays.  What has really amazed me, though, is the high quality of homilies I’ve heard at almost everyone.  (Sure, the last priest should have stopped after point two or three, but it would have been an excellent homily if he had.)  I don’t know if the quality of homilies has gotten way better since I was a kid or if it’s just a symptom sign that I am getting old more mature.

7.  We finally dropped our land line and switched to cell phone only two weeks ago.  The biggest problem is that the cell phone just isn’t as loud as our land-line phone was (and we used to have two land-line phones).  I pretty much have to carry it on me all day long because I can’t hear it at all if I’m upstairs doing something and I can barely hear it over the usual din of three children when I’m on the same floor with it.  I definitely need to get a belt clip for those days when I don’t have a pocket to put it in.  I also need to find a higher place to keep it when I’m not holding it, because Katie keeps scooting a chair over to my spot on the counter so she can grab it.  She’s the queen of scooting chairs around to get into stuff that she shouldn’t.  This is what I get for not having a kitchen gate in place before she became mobile.

Catholic Bones

October 22, 2009

For those of you who haven’t seen the show Bones, the basic premise is that the forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan and FBI agent Seeley Booth work together to solve murders.  One is all brain, and the other is all heart.  Together they make an unstoppable team.  The two characters represent the battles between evidence versus intuition, academic intelligence versus social skills, and reason versus faith.  Because we know that in today’s society the two things are considered mutually exclusive.

It’s this last battle that I find particularly interesting, as Agent Booth is a Catholic.  It is always interesting to see how Catholics are represented on television.  Like most  people who adhere to a religion, they are not usually portrayed in a flattering way.  The underlying assumption is that a person of faith is either a fool or a hypocrite.  Overall Bones does a better job of handling religion than many other shows.  For instance, a recent episode centered around an anthropology intern who has been faking an Arab accent so that the other scientists won’t harass him as much for being a devout Muslim.  He makes the very good point that you can still believe that God created the world in all of its mysteries and and also believe that science can help us to understand His work even better, sometimes.  Even science doesn’t have all of the answers.

I find Booth’s Catholicism particularly interesting, because in some ways he represents the “average” Catholic.  You know the kind that would probably be referred to as Cafeteria Catholic, one who picks and chooses which tenants of the faith they want to follow.  For instance, he doesn’t  seem to follow the Church’s teachings on chastity.  He has a son out of wedlock and there are references to other non-marital liaisons.  And in a last season episode, he is willing to be a sperm donor for his work partner Dr. Brennan even though the entire process goes against Church teachings.  However, you get the impression that he does attend Mass somewhat regularly.

Since Dr. Brennan is atheist, she often makes comments about Booth’s faith.  The most recent one that inspired this post revolves around the vow of poverty.  Brennan and Booth are riding along when she makes a reference to a long standing argument they have been having about the Pope’s hat.  I was just waiting for some crazy reference to it being designed to represent an obscure fish god, but instead Brennan offers the just as misguided, “I’m just saying it’s pretty ornate for someone who made a vow of poverty.”

The fact that Booth didn’t offer a rebuttal just goes to show that he is as ignorant about it as she is.  You just don’t know if this ignorance is intentional or reflects the ignorance of the writers.  Many Catholics today are very ignorant when it comes to the tenants and inner-workings of their faith.  They don’t know which things are essential to know and believe and which are optional.  They don’t really understand Church history or what things are or mean.  Welcome to the break down of Catholic religious education since the 1960’s.

Now, despite the deficiency of my Catholic religious education in some areas, I would have at least been able to point out one thing her comment.  She is misunderstanding what a vow of poverty is.  It does not mean that you can not own any possessions.  As Sister Rose explained it to us, due to her vow of poverty her paychecks went directly to her order where it was redistributed based on need.  She then received a stipend each month to cover her rent, food, and any other minor expenses that she might have.  If she needed extra one month in order to replace clothing or some other necessity she would have to apply for it.  Anything left over each month was hers to do with as she wished, and she was also allowed to keep presents.  She was always given enough to live comfortably but not extravagantly.

Last year I learned of a second misconception in Dr. Brennan’s comment.  Not all priests or religious women make vow of poverty.  Diocesan priests in fact do not make a vow of poverty.  They get a small, regular paycheck to do with whatever they wish.  As a diocesan priest Joseph Ratzinger (aka Pope Benedict XVI) would not have made a vow of poverty.  This is a very common misunderstanding out there that I regularly came across while doing research to verify my knowledge on the subject.

Now as Pope, he probably does not have to live off of his paychecks.  As a head of state, his personal needs and expenses are probably taken care of much in the same way as those of the President of the United States.  Also, like the President of the United States, there are probably many extravagant things in his keeping that do not actually belong to him personally but to the office he is fulfilling.

Personally, I think it was a rather idiotic statement for Dr. Brennan to make and not just because it was based in ignorance.  Of all the things to criticize for being too costly, she chooses the Pope’s hat??  The Pope most often wears a zuchetto or a mitre, which are both made from cloth.  It’s not like those things are encrusted with priceless jewels.  Unless she is making a reference to the now defunct Triregnum, or papal tiara.  Either way it seems like a rather silly criticism for someone of her purported intelligence and reasoning skills.

I will continue to watch and enjoy Bones despite its sometimes anti-Catholic banter.  I understand that this is sympotomatic of media in general.  And I will not hold Booth’s “cafeteria” Catholic ways against him.  Because, you see, you just can’t see inside a person’s heart.  I don’t know if Booth disobeys Church teachings out of ignorance, misunderstanding, willful disobedience, fear, an inablility to resist temptation, misplaced priorities, or more probably because he is written that way so that on one hand he can represent a religious viewpoint without crossing that line of being considered kooky.  Because the general assumption is that anyone who truly tries to allow their religious beliefs to guide all aspects of their life must have something wrong with them.

Life Unplugged

October 13, 2009

About two months ago, my husband and I started looking at some ways to shave some money off of our expenses.  Some unexpected repairs and expenses over the summer prevented us from putting as much back in savings as we had intended.  One of our goals is to have all of our credit card debt paid off by the end of 2010 and keep it off, so we were just looking to build a little cushion in our budget to avoid using our credit card if possible.

I started by suggesting that we cut back on our cable package.  My husband wasn’t keen on that idea.  He suggested getting rid of our land-line and switching to a cell phone, but I wasn’t keen on that idea.  And once he realized it would mean giving up our alarm system, he wasn’t either.  Once he started looking at the cable bill and realized how much we were paying for cable television and how few channels we as a family were actually watching, he suggested that we completely dump our cable, land-line, and alarm system.

I had secretly been wanting to ditch the cable for awhile.  And we were both having concerns about some of the attitudes the girls were picking up from Disney and Nickelodeon shows.  We started looking into how much an antenna would cost and what to expect from it.  After a experimenting with three antennas, we found success with this Clearstream 2 Long-Range HDTV Antenna by Antennas Direct.  It’s an indoor/outdoor antenna, and after a few different scans found a good place for it near a living room window.  We get all of the major networks (although CBS and NBC are more finnicky), WGN, Fox, all four PBS stations, a few other local channels, and three channels out of Chicago that feature old television shows and movies with awesome picture quality.

How are we all adjusting to life without cable television?  Much better than I would have expected even six months ago.  Rick realized he mainly used the television as background noise while he worked on other things, and he now fills that void with DVDs, podcasts,  and music.  The girls have been rediscovering PBS Kids, but they have also been learning about “new” shows like Star Trek and The Munsters.  The first week Bailey and I watched Ed Sullivan music highlights on PBS.  They have also been getting more use out of their DVD collection and enjoying a big box of VHS movies my parents passed on to them.  We also have the entire library system to tap as we catch up on our VeggieTales viewing.

As for me, the biggest thing I missed at first was the DVR.  It was a bit of an adjustment for the girls to not be able to pause in the middle of a show for dinner time or a bathroom break.  However, I almost never watched any of my shows when they aired.  And my biggest concern about getting rid of the cable was losing the DVR and making myself a slave to the television schedule.  Let’s just say that Hulu has become my new best friend.  It offers me the same flexibility to keep up with Bones and Hell’s Kitchen as the DVR did.  Come January/February Lost may be a whole other story, though.

Overall we’ve been watching less television, which can only be a good thing.  The first few weeks we spent a lot of time outside enjoying the last of the warm weather.  A recent visit from my parents kept us busy and introduced some new toys.   Internet use has been on the rise, but it can be more easily regulated.  And being able to access Disney.com has eased Bailey’s withdrawal from the Disney Channel.  For me and Rick it was worth it just to avoid watching five hours of Hannah Montana, Zack & Cody, and Wizards of Waverly Place every day.

We are still in the process of getting our phone situation straightened out.  We get a great cell phone deal through a good friend who works at Sprint, but we’re being held up by the process of switching our land-line phone number to the new cell phone.  I know it will be a bit of an adjustment using a cell phone in the house.  My biggest concerns have been keeping the cell phone charged, keeping the cell phone on, and keeping the cell phone where it can be found easily at all times (with three small children this last one really concerns me).  I will probably need to get something to keep it on my body most of the day as I work on different floors of the house.

We were less sure about getting rid of the alarm system, and we had heard that systems with a cell phone back up were available.  So I called our security company and asked about cell phone-only systems.  They said the technology was available but would cost $230 for installation and raise our bill about $25 a month.  There were no discounts for loyal customers.  Rick and I talked about it and agreed that was too expensive and counter-productive to our goals.  So I called them back in order to cancel our service.  However, this time I got a different representative who offered us free installation and only a $1 increase on our monthly bill if we signed a five-year contract.  Since our chances of being here and wanting an alarm for the next five years were high we took the deal.  It just goes to show how much these things can depend on catching the right customer service representative.

So these days we’re feeling kind of smart.  We’re getting high quality television for free.  We’re off the grid a bit and saving some money.  Next thing you know we’ll be hooking up gas-powered generators to supply our electrical needs, growing our own food, and trading in our car for a horse and buggy.  NOT!!  And as you can tell, giving up our high-speed internet was non-negotiable for both of us.

Piper on her 4th Birthday

October 6, 2009

Piper Princess Puffy

Today we are celebrating the 4th birthday of my second daughter, Piper.  Our big plans for today include swimming at Memaw and Papaw’s hotel and going to Chuck E. Cheese for dinner when Daddy gets home from work.  These are two of her favorite things to do.  Piper has many other favorite things, though, like butterflies and flowers and rainbows and unicorns.  (She describes such things as “Princess Puffy” and “Girl Techie”.)  She loves pasta with tomato sauce and anything involving chocolate or peanut butter.

It’s been an interesting year for Piper.  This time last year she was still in diapers until she decided on Christmas that she was pretty much done with them.  It was about a month after she turned 3 that I realized that she could write most of the alphabet.  Now she likes to practice writing words.  She’s very good at counting and even some simple addition (even though she doesn’t know what addition is).  She is so smart, and has an excellent vocabulary.

There were some rough periods, though.  She definitely went through the Terrible Threes. For close to six months, Piper became very picky about every little thing and expected me to be a mind reader.  There were many temper tantrums, and many trips to time out for hitting, rudeness, and general kid craziness.  Thankfully, most of that seems to be behind us now.  She’s even starting to warm up to a few hugs and kisses on the cheek after denying us these things for almost two years.

Piper loves her sisters.  She and Bailey play together a lot, and she and Katie are always hugging and kissing on each other.  Piper enjoys playing with other little kids, too.  I’ve noticed that she seems to prefer small groups, though, and gets a little overwhelmed in large ones.  This may be because Piper also likes her quiet or “peace” as she calls it.  But she is not shrinking violet.  She can be just as loud as the rest, especially when she is singing her favorite songs or making up her own in her deep voice.

She still loves the drums, and Ringo is her favorite Beatle.  She enjoys gymnastics classes and riding her bike and going to and in places with Mommy and Daddy even if there is nothing there for her.  And everywhere she goes she brings a smile to people’s faces.  She is just so adorable with her big, expressive eyes and long eye-lashes.  Even when she is angry, she looks so cute.

I can’t wait to see how she grows and develops over this coming year.  She won’t be a pre-schooler for very much longer.  The thing that is scariest about Piper turning four is that next year she’ll be turning five.  My girls are growing up too fast.

7 Quick Takes (v. 8)

October 2, 2009

7_quick_takes

1.  Every where I go I see signs to get flu shots (only $24.99).  I am not a big fan of flu shots, and not just because I don’t like being stuck with needles.  From what I understand is that the flu shot makers take their best guess as to which strands will be going around and use those for the vaccinations.  However, there are many other strands out there that you can still get after having a flu shot.  And it always seems like every person I know who gets a flu shot ends up getting the flu anyway and infecting people around them.

2.  Speaking of needles, it’s amazing to think that non-tattooed people may be the minority someday soon.  It seems like everyone has a tattoo these days.  I am not anti-tattoo, exactly.  Actually, I probably have more reverence for tattoos than the average person.  My feeling is that you should not have anything permanently tattooed onto your body unless it has deep personal meaning and long-lasting significance.  So, I just can’t personally understand cartoon characters as having deep and long-lasting personal significance.  I love Belle from Beauty and the Beast but not enough to have her inked onto me.  I always thought that if I ever did get a tattoo it would be a small Chi Rho on my inside ankle, where it could easily be covered with long pants or socks.   Maybe  I’ll get one when I’m 70, so I won’t be like a plain-bellied Sneetch in the old-folks home.  By that time they can work with the wrinkles and saggy skin to make a more lasting image.

3.  Speaking of needles yet again, Bailey bravely endured two shots of Novocaine to have that front snaggle-tooth pulled last Saturday.  Bailey looks absolutely adorable without those two front teeth.  She keeps getting mad that we just stare at her mouth when she talks.  Within a few days of having that tooth pulled, though, her adult teeth really started coming in.  We totally made the right decision to get that tooth pulled, even if it did set us back $30.

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4.  There are two dentists in our office.  One checks for cavities after the hygienist does cleanings and handles adult tooth issues.  Dr. C. ,who has pulled three of Bailey’s teeth, mainly handles the kids’ issues.  Apparently when she had her check-up three months ago the other dentist couldn’t be bothered to examine her mouth for anything but cavities.  Dr. C. took me aside, though, and said that Bailey should probably see an orthodontist soon because her bottom arch or palate or something is not growing enough to handle all the adult teeth.  He wasn’t sure what exactly an orthodontist could do at this point, but they might be able to come up with a game plan before big issues arise.  Small mouths tend to run in my family, but so far she doesn’t seem to be getting my buck teeth (knock on wood–can we do that as Catholics?).

5.  Of course, as you may know, I am not really keen on our dental office and had high hopes of switching from the HMO to the PPO next year and finding a dentist closer to home with more accomodating hours.  After talking to the human resources manager at my husband’s job it looks like we’ll be staying where we are.  It turns out that the PPO not only has a higher premium, but it also has a one year waiting period for major work and doesn’t cover any orthodontics.  (Banging head against desk!!)

6.  I didn’t go back with Bailey when she had her tooth pulled; she usually prefers her Daddy for that.  Apparently, as soon as she hopped in the dental chair she informed everyone that she had some “concerns about her molars”.  They had been sore on and off, and she didn’t know if one of them could be just rubbing a “mouth ulcer”.  Dr. C. told her that it was probably her adult molars trying to break in.  However, the dental assistant asked my husband, “Is she homeschooled?”  When he answered in the affirmative, she replied, “I thought so.  No kid her age talks like that.”  I’m assuming that is a good thing.

7.  Speaking of homeschooling, I learned a new word this week.  Have you never heard of a word before in your life to have it pop up twice in a matter of minutes?  I went to one of Catholic websites that used the word narthex withing 10 minutes.  A few minutes later got around to reading the weekly parish bulletin and came across the same term.  I had gone through 32 years of my life, 12 years of Catholic school, and 4 years of college focusing on Christianity in my major without coming across the word narthex once.  It’s really just a fancy name for the lobby before you enter the nave of a church.  I had heard the word nave before, but I had to look that up to.  (sigh.)