Sunday, December 31, 2006

Jeff got them the Cars video game for Xbox 360 for Christmas.

He's been letting them play Xbox since the summer time, on weekends and vacations. It all started with the Lego Star Wars game for Xbox (yeah, alright, we have both consoles, so what!)

And I bought them sets of Legos, the X-wing, for instance. So, it's tiny Lego pieces all over the house this Christmas.

And they're always asking us stuff like, "Mom, where's Luke's lightsaber?"

As if I know.
Yes, I did get this for Christmas.

Of course, I did.

And I've even listened to it, over those few days last week when I was schlepping back and forth to the hospital to feed Ella before they released her.

I think that George is finally taking the substances that he denounced or denied in his protégés.

Well, I'd have to hear it in context, I suppose. With the show.

I'm not sure whether being intimately familiar with their music and other recordings (Christmas radio specials, for instance) is such an advantage. I mean, some pieces that he's combined ... uh, I just don't hear sufficient synergy to justify mixing them.

It's only been one hearing, so I ought to try again.

But, then, I'm afraid of confusing my memory with this strong variation.

I mean, I know their songs. I remember them being a certain way and here are these new arrangements. It's different from hearing a band in concert, you know, when they may ad lib, making familiar songs come out fresh, because there's nothing original here.

George's voice on one of them, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," I think, is really perfect.
As a child, I took the line from a nursery rhyme to heart, in a theological sense: "Tuesday's child is full of grace."

Kenny has far to go, but the other three are Monday's children, "fair of face".

It wasn't so much that it was Christmas morning.

It's that it was a Monday morning!

What a geek.
Got around to shifting sleeping arrangements yesterday: Chris to our room and Ella in Chris's room.

It's not the ideal. But the ideal requires twice as much work.

The addition gives us another bedroom.

We are hearing back from the town on the building plans, little by little.

I think of all the great, clear, warm weather we've enjoyed through fall and into winter.

I see frames going up on other homes around town.

And I wonder why that can't be us.
"How Common Is Your Birthday?" - NYT, 12/19/06
The following table ranks every day of the year, from 1 to 366, in descending order of the number of babies born on that day from 1973 to 1999 in the United States.

Sept. 16, for instance, was the most common day for a baby to be born. Feb. 29 was the least popular, of course.

Christmas and New Year's Day were the next least common days.

362 1/2
363 12/24
364 1/1
365 12/25
366 2/29

Source: Amitabh Chandra, Harvard University
See NYT article "To-Do List: Wrap Gifts. Have Baby" in previous post.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

It's amazing what you can dig up on the Internet:

Grand Duchess Elizabeth "Ella" Fyodorovna - Wiki:
Elizabeth was affectionately called Ella by her family.

Grand Duchess Elizabeth became a nun, and gave away her jewelry and sold her most luxurious possessions.

Her remains were buried in Jerusalem, in the Church of Maria Magdalene.

She was canonised by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2001
I remember walking past an Orthodox church as we descended the Mount of Olives but couldn't recall its name and certainly didn't know who might be buried inside. Nothing like being buried in the Mount of Olives ... should be everyone's aspiration.

My abiding concern is what challenge their given name brings to research efforts during their religious instruction, especially at confirmation.

A common assignment is a one-page biography of one's patron saint. And, as an elementary-grade Sunday School teacher, I know the frustration of some students whose given names don't conjure up immediate association with a universally acknowledged saint of the Church.

Our newborn is not named after this obscure Russian saint.

Jeff chose the name because he loves the movie Ella Enchanted.

But, I'm relieved that she won't come up empty on the "saint search".

Friday, December 29, 2006

"What's the Apgar?" "9, 10."

"Who called it, the EMTs?" "Yeah."

"Oh, those guys."

Holding my newborn in my right arm, I offered my left to the yarmulke-wearing EMT early Christmas morning for an IV stick.

After delivering my baby at home, I told him that sticking my arm in a moving ambulance would not even phase me. He did a bang-up job. No really, he did alright. 'Though the spot was sore later. I was sore later ... in many spots.

Jeff has more commentary with pictures here at flickr.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas cookie decorating pictures at flickr.

Tim rolled out the dough and used muffin cutters instead of Christmas shapes.

The round cut-outs, though boring, worked well with young helpers: no edges to tear or break.
Christmas Eve isn't too late to make cookies, is it?

I hope not because I got the bug.

Grandma sent a variety of her best in the mail and succeeded in whetting our appetite. We usually travel at Christmas, so making cookies isn't a tradition.

Fortunately, baking cookies is easier than I imagined because my husband keeps the pantry stocked with the essentials: confectioners sugar, condensed milk, sprinkles and food coloring. I am wanting for nothing in this spur of the moment endeavor.

Keeping it simple: rolled sugar cookie cutouts with homemade butter cream frosting and those peanut butter cookies with Hershey kisses. Kenny appreciates the twist on an ol' favorite, as he's usually the one working the fork in a criss-cross pattern.
Who Was Against Christmas?
We have forgotten that there was a time when much of European and American Christianity thought that Christmas should not be celebrated.

The Calvinists in Switzerland banned all Christian holy days not mentioned in Scripture. That approach meant that the Sabbath was acceptable, but nothing else.

In Boston, the Puritans outlawed Christmas in 1659.

The last state, Oklahoma, did not join in until 1907.

So next Christmas, 2007, will be the centenary of Christmas being the first religious holiday whose celebration across the United States is sanctioned by law.
Let's hope it doesn't get outlawed between now and then.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

My mother permitted me to play with the family nativity set when I was young.

I used to knock the fake snow off the stable roof. Not that I knew the snow to be historically inaccurate, in Israel, in August.

But it flaked off easily enough.

In turn, I let my boys play with the nativity, a replica of the one my mother had, albeit without the fake snow. A fairly common one of resin by Fontanini.

A boy from the neighborhood visited last week and they took to playing with the figures.

Holding the baby high, Tim announced to our guest, "This is God."

Our guest was skeptical of the claim but checked himself and replied, "I'm Christian. Are you guys Christian?"

I didn't have to answer on their behalf; they said, "Yes."

I also have the Fisher Price version but it's less popular with them.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Photos of today's Christmas show at school: HERE at flickr

The weather has been so mild, I didn't even think to dress the boys in sweaters! Sloppy, sloppy.

Kenny's class sang "All I Want For Christmas". Losing baby teeth is a sensitive topic for Kenny since he hasn't lost any yet!

Timmy's class sang "Jingle Bells". He enjoyed being on stage.

I was happy to hear Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmas Time."

The second graders performed it.

It's such a wretched song, you know? Like most of his solo stuff.

But, it's "different" from the usual Rudolph, Santa, dreidel stuff.

And did you put the envelope in your pocket?

Yeah... yeah... maybe... maybe...

Maybe – maybe! I don't want any maybe. We've got to find that money!

I'm no good to you. I...

Listen to me. Do you have any secret hiding place here in the house? Someplace you could have put it? Someplace to hide the money?

I've been over the whole house, even in rooms that have been locked ever since I lost Laura.

Where's that money, you stupid, silly old fool? Where's the money? Do you realize what this means?

It wasn't $8,000.

Simply a year-end gift for my housekeeper plus her weekly wage that I had misplaced between Tuesday and Thursday. I looked in every reasonable place, more than once.

Restless, I woke up often last night trying to recall where I had placed the envelope. Half-asleep, my mind sometimes works better but, in this instance, my subconscious gave no revelations.

Tonight, Jeff talked me through my steps between then and now and reminded me of the missing piece in the puzzle: I had his car on Tuesday, getting his engine immobiliser fixed. I had stashed the money in his glove box instead of mine.

What a relief to locate it, albeit too late for my housekeeper's holiday!
"Millstone middle school project hits costly snag: Twp. Committee, Board of Ed. members point fingers at each other" - The Examiner, 12/20/06:
Orleans Development Corp.’s original proposal to take soil off the middle school site in exchange for grading the property is no longer feasible.

Orleans Development Corp. also said it would dig the drainage ditches on both sides of the school property. However, the company would no longer do that either.

“Why are the board professionals now telling us that we need to spend an additional $1 million over and above the original plan to establish and grade the athletic fields?”

The middle school’s construction manager said he does not believe the $1 million cost the contractor estimated for the grading work is a fair or equitable estimation.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

You probably saw this in the news ... what a great prank!
  • "Baby Jesus Tours New York" - WGRZ, 12/19/06:
    A statue of the baby Jesus is back where it's supposed to be this Christmas, in North Buffalo.

    The statue was taken from a lighted manger two days before Christmas, 2005.

    The statue showed up on the doorstep eight months later, along with a small book entitled The Baby Jesus Chronicles.

    The booklet contained pictures of a road trip that the statue had been on all across New York State.

  • "Baby Jesus returns after road trip" - Buffalo News, 12/19/06:
    Someone had posed the statue in front of Thruway signs in Binghamton, Rochester, Albany and Poughkeepsie.

    The statue was photographed at the Rip Van Winkle Bridge south of Albany and at a psychiatric center in Rochester - on the campuses of Rochester Institute of Technology and Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
My husband sent me a link to this NYT article:

"To-Do List: Wrap Gifts. Have Baby." - 12/20/06

Instructions he's been giving me for two weeks!
There is a good chance that National Birth Day will take place a week from tomorrow, on Thursday, Dec. 28.
That's my due date!
There has been a huge increase in the number of births that are induced with drugs or come by Caesarean section. Parents or doctors can often schedule a baby’s arrival on a day of their choosing.

They tend to avoid weekends and holidays, when doctors have other plans, hospitals are short of staff and the possibility of an unfortunate birthday — Christmas Day, anyone? — looms. During holiday weeks, births have become increasingly crowded into the weekdays surrounding the holiday.

Over this same period — since the early 1990s — the federal government has been steadily increasing the tax breaks for having a child. For parents to claim the full amount of any of these breaks in a given year, a child must simply be born by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31. If the baby arrives a few minutes later, the parents are often more than a thousand dollars poorer.

September has lost its unchallenged status as the time for what we will call National Birth Day, the day with more births than any other. Instead, the big day fell between Christmas and New Year’s Day in four of the last seven years — 1997 through 2003.

“It’s phenomenal what’s happening in late December,” said Amitabh Chandra, a Harvard economist.
I must say that the economics of it all, the "tax break", wasn't even a consideration.

Now, I gotta finish wrapping presents!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

"Grand (Central) day for LIRR riders" - New York Daily News, 12/19/06:
The feds cut a $2.6 billion check yesterday to build the Long Island Rail Road extension into Grand Central Terminal

The MTA built the 63rd St. tunnel under the East River for the LIRR extension in 1975. The project, however, stalled.
The summer after my freshman year, I took Amtrak from Rochester to Grand Central in Manhattan1 to meet my freshman-year roommate at her home in Medford, LI.2

Amtrak doesn't go to Grand Central today?!

That would have made my life easier then.

Because I remember walking from Grand Central to Penn Station, following some directions I'd received along the way. And then, standing, bewildered, outside MSG.

Finally, I asked someone selling flowers at the curb, "Where's Penn Station?"

"Right downstairs, sweetheart."

And, downstairs, I met a friend of my friend who lived in Manhattan and had agreed to meet me at Penn Station and get me on the right train.

But, she didn't care much and put me on a local instead of an express. Which meant that my friend in Medford wasn't sure of my whereabouts.

But, eventually I showed and we had a great long weekend, at Jones Beach and Port Jeff and she showed me Manhattan, including the observation deck atop WTC. I went up there many times since.

And when it was time to leave, my friend took me back to Grand Central and put me on my Amtrak train. She returned to Penn Station and went home on the LIRR.

1 Passenger Rail Service in New York State

Let me tell you 'bout a place
Somewhere up-a New York way
Where the people are so gay
Twistin' the night away-ay

Sam Cooke - "Twistin' The Night Away"
Jeff had a good idea: print copies of a snapshot of the three boys taken in November to include in this year's Christmas cards.

We've printed from flickr to Target a number of times over the past few months with only a couple of glitches.

Primarily, the "glitches" seem to be staff too lazy to look through their drawers for our pictures.

Instead, it's easier for them to conclude, "They must not have printed out. Just resend them." I mean, there's no film, no negatives to claim. There's nothing on the hook and no responsibility.

But, this time there were some real problems with the prints.

Well, first, there was the false problem of "Oh, they must not have printed out, please resend them." That was Sunday afternoon.

Next, Jeff didn't position the text heading and footing on the photo properly, so it was cropped off the print. I bought them anyway, on Monday morning. Better to have something than nothing.

Then, I sent him the file at work so he could fix it in Photoshop.

He fixed it and sent it to Target. When he tried to pick up the prints on Monday night, he learned that the printer was down. He said that a woman was standing there at the counter, crying inconsolably at the news.

Stacks and stacks of photo cards were piled all over the place.

He was told that the printer would be repaired by late Tuesday afternoon. So I picked up the prints around dinner time yesterday. And, lo and behold, the first set of prints from Sunday afternoon was also available.

"Oh," I said, "these are the ones you claimed that you couldn't find a few days ago and told us to resend. Well, I'm not buying them, sorry."

I mean, eventually the cost of such laziness must catch up with them.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The two-year old chants, "I want Grinch! I want Grinch!"

When it was on TBS several weeks ago, I saved it to TiVo.

We watched it last night in response to Chris's chant.

All day long, Chris had demanded the program. He was satisfied with my oral recitation during our driving time together.

I've had the poem memorized since Kenny was three months old.
Kenny announced to his classmates yesterday that he's Jewish. When he told me of his announcement, I asked how his classmates reacted. "They were shocked," he said. Hmmm, wonder why.

"Aren't any of them Jewish?" I asked. "Nope."

"And, so, what would you like about being Jewish?" I continued the exercise in imagination.

"Celebrating Hanukkah," he said. "Lighting the menorah, getting presents every night, playing dreidel1. 'Though, Mom, you'd have to learn the shapes, you know, the numbers!" he chided. A regular admonishment of his since I admitted to him two weeks ago that I don't know the Hebrew letters very well.

"Numbers, letters," I said, "yeah, I do."

So, after a snack at home, I dropped him off at CCD at church and begged him, "Please don't announce to anyone in your class here that you're Jewish."

He agreed that it could cause some confusion.

1 Dreidel - Wiki
Jeff had trouble starting his car. I don't like the idea of that, so I had no reservations about taking it to the shop for him.

The shop warned me that they had a full schedule of repairs already and certainly couldn't offer me a loaner car. All understood, but I would be there shortly after 9AM anyway with the hope that someone else was late, cancelled or simply failed to show up.

The diagnostic revealed that the engine immobiliser was misbehaving, resulting in a hard start or a stall after start. Confirms the popular perception that, 9 times out of 10, the rightful user is inconvenienced by the security system enabled for their protection. And it cost $160 to repair. Plus two hours. Not bad, actually, even though I was just there getting tires on Friday.

I took Chris to the train station in Red Bank afterwards. It's just a few blocks from the dealership.

I knew that they were building a platform but didn't realize that it was finished! The station looks totally different with a platform. More formal, more intimidating. Platforms make me nervous. And there were tons of people milling about. Not just day laborers, either. All kinds of people.

The northbound tracks were closed. Workmen had some heavy-duty machinery on the tracks but I can't imagine what they were doing. Maybe they were moving the tracks closer to the platform for the sake of the "gap." But, in a way, I was relieved that no trains would be rushing by directly in front of us. I'm neurotic that way.

So, almost immediately, a northbound train came through, on the other set of tracks, across the way from us. At first, Chris was elated. Then he buried his face in my shoulder and refused to look as the huge train lumbered into the station and stopped with hissing and squeaking.

He wanted to board the train and I asked him where his ticket was and he offered, "In my pocket?!" But he came up empty.

As we started to walk away, I heard the signals again and saw the gates come down, so I carried him back up the platform for the southbound train. The schedule there in Red Bank is back-to-back near the top of the hour. Again, he wanted to ride. And, again, as the train departed, he called after "Bye, Henry. Bye, Edward. Bye, Gordon. Bye, Thomas."

The hardest part for Chris yesterday in daddy's car was the absence of the DVD player. ('Though we have two portables, it didn't occur to me to bring one!) Chris repeatedly tapped the car's interior immediately above his head, obviously trying to locate the screen and controls. By the end of the day, he had given up demanding "On! On!" as he does in my car.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

When Tim was out of school sick last Tuesday, I took him, at his request, to Jenkinson's Aquarium in Point Pleasant Beach. He wasn't that sick. I took him to the doctor's office afterwards to be sure.

Kenny was a little jealous but not much. Still, I agreed to take them again soon. I'm not in a position to make long-term promises these days as all heaven may break loose at any time! So, "soon" was today.

And it was the day: balmy, sunny and relaxing. I took all three and left Jeff to tinker around at home. No, he didn't put up the outdoor lights, so what?! But I think that he did a ton of online ordering in our absence because he warned me, "By Wednesday, things are gonna start arriving!"

The parking lot was fuller than on Tuesday but the aquarium was just as empty. More employees than patrons. The boardwalk was fairly busy for a Sunday in December. Things were open. I guess Pt. Pleasant doesn't completely shutdown at Labor Day. Good thing because my kids were hungry.

But, discipline: we walked the aquarium first. It's small, I mean, "manageable". But, lots to see in each tank, things kids love - sting rays, sharks, alligators, seals, penguins, snakes and tropical fish. The poison frogs are so adorable. Every time they moved, Chris squealed.

The staff had the python out for "exercise" in an area upstairs. That made me nervous but my kids kept their distance. Afterwards, another employee had a box turtle out for the same purpose. The kids were less afraid of a puny turtle and I reminded Kenny of the time that he rescued a turtle from the roadway.

I had planned on lunch/dinner at the McDonald's on 9 in Howell because of the outdoor playground. But the boys wanted local fare. Kenny's favorite is chicken parm and, fortunately, in NJ, chicken parm is always on the menu, no matter what. The other two wanted pizza. The prices were steep, no off-season discount here. $6 for the frozen and fried parm and $3 for a slice. Sure, the slice was nearly a quarter of a pie but it's cardboard. I mean, also previously frozen, not fresh-made.

Nonetheless, I can see why Jenkinson's is so popular.
Read the Athanasian Creed afresh, as if you are reading it for the first time:

Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic faith.
Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally.
Now this is the catholic faith: We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being.
For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another.
But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty.
What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit.
Uncreated is the Father; uncreated is the Son; uncreated is the Spirit.
The Father is infinite; the Son is infinite; the Holy Spirit is infinite.
Eternal is the Father; eternal is the Son; eternal is the Spirit:
And yet there are not three eternal beings, but one who is eternal;
as there are not three uncreated and unlimited beings, but one who is uncreated and unlimited.
Almighty is the Father; almighty is the Son; almighty is the Spirit:
And yet there are not three almighty beings, but one who is almighty.
Thus the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God:
And yet there are not three gods, but one God.
Thus the Father is Lord; the Son is Lord; the Holy Spirit is Lord:
And yet there are not three lords, but one Lord.
As Christian truth compels us to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords.
The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten;
the Son was neither made nor created, but was alone begotten of the Father;
the Spirit was neither made nor created, but is proceeding from the Father and the Son.
Thus there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three spirits.
And in this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other;
but all three persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal; and so we must worship the Trinity in unity and the one God in three persons.
Whoever wants to be saved should think thus about the Trinity.
It is necessary for eternal salvation that one also faithfully believe that our Lord Jesus Christ became flesh.
For this is the true faith that we believe and confess: That our Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son, is both God and man.
He is God, begotten before all worlds from the being of the Father, and he is man, born in the world from the being of his mother --
existing fully as God, and fully as man with a rational soul and a human body;
equal to the Father in divinity, subordinate to the Father in humanity.
Although he is God and man, he is not divided, but is one Christ.
He is united because God has taken humanity into himself; he does not transform deity into humanity.
He is completely one in the unity of his person, without confusing his natures.
For as the rational soul and body are one person, so the one Christ is God and man.
He suffered death for our salvation.
He descended into hell and rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
At his coming all people shall rise bodily to give an account of their own deeds.
Those who have done good will enter eternal life,
those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.
This is the catholic faith.
One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully.

CCEL - Symbolum Quicunque: The Athanasian Creed
In the mail last week came a beautiful post card of my neighbor's house, courtesy of the local real estate office. Using the MLS number printed on the notice, I checked the offer online.

At one time or another over the past 18 mos., all of our immediate neighbors have had their homes on the market.

None of the families have lived here more than three years. And none of the homes have sold.

It's hard to generalize about their motivation to sell their homes. It's tempting to think that they are out to capitalize on their investment. But these families have children. I've been led to believe that moving has a negative impact on children.

The occasion to speak with my neighbor doesn't arise with any regularity and, even if it did, I don't think that I would ask her about her decision to sell her home. She's made only positive comments about living here. Her husband has a long commute, just like everyone. Being from LI, things here may be too rural. She's found the hike to the private day schools in Princeton too far.

They're asking high 7's. They paid 6 but have renovated about 100 grand worth. Factor in the commission and they don't stand to make much. It's a cute house. I'd like to see it sell.
Teresa S. says: (5:08:41 PM)
got in at 4:15

Jake the Snake says: (5:09:00 PM)

Teresa S. says: (5:09:13 PM)
mr. b tried opening the garage door for us but couldn't

Teresa S. says: (5:09:26 PM)
we just had to wait until the power returned

Jake the Snake says: (5:30:31 PM)
glad you made it in

Jake the Snake says: (5:30:52 PM)
i was going to suggest just going to mcd's to wait it out

Teresa S. says: (5:31:04 PM)
well, sure, we could have done that

Teresa S. says: (5:31:29 PM)
He told me that the power had been out already for 30 minutes

Teresa S. says: (5:31:40 PM)
so i figured it would be restored soon

Teresa S. says: (5:31:47 PM)
it was out for about an hour total

Teresa S. says: (5:31:55 PM)
i reckon

Teresa S. says: (5:32:19 PM)
we could have imposed on J.G., too

Teresa S. says: (5:32:34 PM)
i mean, i almost took tim over there to use her w.c.

Teresa S. says: (5:32:47 PM)
because the prospect of peeing outside didn't sit well with him

Teresa S. says: (5:32:57 PM)
he looked downright shocked when i suggested it

Teresa S. says: (5:33:00 PM)
has he ever?

Jake the Snake says: (5:33:23 PM)
i'm trying to remember if he did in the woods at your reunion

Jake the Snake says: (5:33:30 PM)
i know josh and daniel did

Teresa S. says: (5:33:36 PM)
kenny had no trouble

Jake the Snake says: (5:33:54 PM)
i'm sure paul has had them "out" many times

Teresa S. says: (5:33:41 PM)
hey, i thought that I was gonna have to

The original post.
I gave Kenny's CCD teacher her Christmas gift last week, early. From Lenox, one of my favorite things to give (pictured above).

And I added that Kenny may miss class next week, the final class before Christmas, because of our particular family situation.

She was quick to say, "Oh, that's ok. We're only having a party. He won't miss anything really."

Now, admittedly, I am probably a novice CCD teacher's worst nightmare of a parent: a former veteran, certified catechist with a MA in theology. But I wanted to ask, demand really, "How can you afford to blow off an entire class period with a party?! Does the director know you're doing this?!"

But I let it go. For now.

I guess my problem is that we parents are told again and again by Father and the DRE that attendance is imperative, that the diocese tracks program class time down to the minute and that there's no slack in the schedule.

Myself, I never spent class time on parties. I guess that sounds rough.

I would bake cookies for Halloween and St. Valentine's and hand them out as the children left the classroom. The difference may have been that I taught on Sunday morning and, early on, a parent reminded me that some children hadn't attended Mass yet. Eating party treats beforehand would spoil their eucharistic fast.
Two Christmases ago, my son's pre-K class held a gift exchange grab bag.

Frantic with a two-month old and a family trip to Florida looming, I was caught off-guard but, between Jeff and me, we had purchased a duplicate gift.

Rather than return one, then, I submitted it for the gift exchange. Yes, it was well above the price range of $10 but so what? I made some kid's day.

Last Christmas, with two children in school, I didn't dare get caught off-guard, so without official prompting, I purchased two grab bag gifts. The notice of the gift exchange never came home, so I asked my sons' teachers about it.

"Not having that this year," came the reply. I dropped the inexpensive gifts at a local firehouse's toy drive.

This year?

I completed my Christmas shopping very early for a couple of reasons, fear of crumby weather among them. The crumby weather has yet to materialize. The very possibility of a gift exchange at school slipped my mind!

Until late last week when the cheery notice came home. Drat!

As if I feel like waddling around a toy store at 38 wks.
I'm tying up loose ends. I had the car's interior detailed last week. I recommend it.

I bought four new tires Friday. Much more expensive than you can imagine. With the temperatures as they've been, it's tempting to think it'll never snow. But even on rainy days, the handling is sloppy.

Dreading the January bills, Christmas gifts and tires! But I am sitting on top of a sizable service warranty rebate that offsets the tires mostly. Another loose end, getting that in the mail. Fear of January bills is simply an old habit that, in recent years, is without any just cause.

Yet I whisper "Merry Christmas" to Christopher as I sign the credit card receipt for the tires.

Friday, December 15, 2006

"School guard charged for setting fires" - The Examiner, 12/13/06
"A security guard who was hired to protect the new middle school has been arrested for setting fires there.

Timothy Myers, 22, of Nickel Avenue in Sayreville, was arrested and charged with three counts of arson and criminal mischief on Dec. 8 after the New Jersey State Police and the Monmouth County Arson Task Force concluded an investigation into three fires that were recently set in the school being constructed off Waters Lane in Millstone Township.

Myers was previously charged with arson and criminal mischief in July 2005 for setting fire to two dumpsters at the Oasis Chevrolet dealership on Route 9 in Old Bridge.

Myers, who was 20 at the time and was working as a security guard at the dealership, was arrested on July 30 after Old Bridge Fire Marshal Brett Schulmeister discovered that a flammable liquid had been used to start the blaze."
And here I am suspecting neighborhood kids. Sorry, kids, I guess you're not as bad as all that.

A friend of mine who jogs past the construction site on weekend afternoons has mentioned seeing the security guard asleep. I guess he sleeps when he's not setting fires.
I saw one of those "Fermez la Bush" bumper stickers for the first time today.

How funny!

The phrase is years old ... but new to me!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Now, I probably imagined it.

I have a tendency to do that, Expectant Mommy Syndrome notwithstanding.

But I visited St. Anthony's in Hightstown to check out their just-completed renovation. My parish doesn't have a Thursday morning service because my pastor visits his mother on Thursdays. Generally, I'm not available on Thursday morning anyway because of a weekly Bible study at a C&MA church in Plainsboro. But we are on Christmas break right now.

The renovation was not what I expected. It seems as if a chunk of the sanctuary was converted into a chapel. 'Though I guess an addition was made. I presume that the chapel is for daily Mass, since that's where we sat. It makes the daily service more intimate, I guess, but attendance was way down. So, either people feel cramped or they don't like the presider. Fr. Miguel Valle's accent is very thick.

I peered into the sanctuary and could have gone in to check it out further since the doors were unlocked but I didn't want to loiter. I just can't imagine, with every other Catholic church in the neighborhood expanding, shrinking the sanctuary. But, until I step inside, I can't tell for sure whether that happened.

So, anyway, the disturbing thing to me is where the priest stood when he proclaimed the Gospel.

I mean, the first reading and the psalm were spoken from the ambo, on the right side of the altar.

Then, when Fr. Miguel read the Gospel, he stood sort of in the center of the chapel, which happened to be left of the altar. And, even though that's flip-flopped from the positions of the Tridentine Mass, it's too close for comfort.

But what am I talking about?! I'm the pot calling the kettle "black", because my home parish, built in 1998, has two ambos!

Under Fr. V., the Epistle was read from the left side of the altar and the Gospel was read from the right. So, I've already "been there, done that" ... I just didn't recognize it. Fr. Mike has not continued that old practice. Instead, the cantor / music leader uses the second ambo.

Moreover, Jeff reminds me that my former parish in Eatontown, St. Dorothea, constructed in the late 60's, also has two ambos ... but the second was used by the cantor / music leader and also during the reading of the Passion when every available microphone was employed for the various speaking roles.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

This is a great pot.

Jeff got it for making that "NYT bread"1.

The no-knead bread turns out just fine but maybe spreads out too thin.

I mean, maybe the pot is too big. He's gonna double the batch and see.

But, for other things, the pot is a marvel to cook with. It heats evenly so I don't worry about the center burning while the edges go cold. And cleans up great. We've had pots that pass themselves off as "Dutch ovens" but this one truly deserves the name.

1 THE MINIMALIST; The Secret of Great Bread: Let Time Do the Work - reader subscription required

Other references:
Jeff follows this photographer's photos at flickr and sent me a link to this one:

"Cheers" Gone Terribly Wrong

Check it out.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The hardest person to buy for is the one I know the best. Because I know what a mystery he is.

In years past, we used Amazon Wish Lists religiously to facilitate the gift giving process. But I've fallen out of the habit.

For one thing, I've noticed that the Wish List doesn't keep good records. That is, items bought from the Wish List don't disappear and many, many times I've received duplicates! I've reported it and Amazon tells me that there's no problem.

Anywho, for one reason or another, my Amazon Wish List is out of date and is fairly useless.

Jeff said that his is in good shape, so I just looked it over for ideas. He's got a $6500 camera lens attachment on his wish list, marked down from $10,900!

Good gravy!

I'll stick with the Michael Crichton books, in paperback and maybe some video games!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Jeff was offered tickets to this game but he declined because Jets fans are generally rude and obnoxious.

Dumping beers on fans of the opposing team, crass junk like that. What a shame.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Ich träumte von bunten Blumen,
So wie sie wohl blühen im Mai;
Ich träumte von grünen Wiesen,
Von lustigem Vogelgeschrei.

Und als die Hähne krähten,
Da ward mein Auge wach;
Da war es kalt und finster,
Es schrien die Raben vom Dach.

Doch an den Fensterscheiben,
Wer malte die Blätter da?
Ihr lacht wohl über den Träumer,
Der Blumen im Winter sah?

Ich träumte von Lieb' um Liebe,
Von einer schönen Maid,
Von Herzen und von Küssen,
Von Wonne und Seligkeit.

Und als die Hähne kräten,
Da ward mein Herze wach;
Nun sitz ich hier alleine
Und denke dem Traume nach.

Die Augen schließ' ich wieder,
Noch schlägt das Herz so warm.
Wann grünt ihr Blätter am Fenster?
Wann halt' ich dich, Liebchen, im Arm?

Wilhelm Müller

Schubert's - Winterreise

Saturday, December 09, 2006

J. O. L.

When I woke up that morning, I didn't want to go to school. Even before I heard the news, I didn't feel well. My older sister announced the news to me while I lay in bed. It was enough to keep me there all day.

Friday, December 08, 2006

You let her share beforehand in the salvation Christ would bring by his death ...

The image of the Virgin is found in the Church. Mary had a faith that your Spirit prepared and a love that never knew sin, for you kept her sinless from the first moment of her conception ...
"Her liberation was achieved by God who blessed her 'in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.'

It was God who chose her in Christ, 'before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.'

The grace that was Mary's from the moment of her conception became ours at the time of our Baptism.

This is possible because the old enmity that entered the world when sin did has been overcome by this woman's offspring, who is none other than the Son of God."

Vatican II Sunday Missal, Millennium Edition, Daughters of St. Paul.
Bible Readings for Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Genesis 3:9-15, 20, Eph. 1:3-6, 11-12, Luke 1:26-38

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thank you to the ladies in the Thursday morning Bible study ... you know who you are ... for hosting a baby shower for me today.

The decorations and food were just wonderful ... especially this handmade cake!

We are overwhelmed by the generous and thoughtful gifts.

Too funny that my fourth baby sparks a shower when none of the earlier babies did. But, a girl is different ... yes, yes.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The deer are running.

I think of it as an "after dark" problem and saw plenty of them last night. But they are also a daytime problem.

Still, certain, notoriously busy intersections seem unlikely places for encountering deer. At least, that's what I would have thought about the intersection of state route 33 and Sweetmans Lane (cnty. route 527), until this morning around 9.

I can't remember whether the light was red or green. It might have just turned green. I was heading east, in the rightmost lane because I was taking the jughandle around Millhurst Mills to go north on 527. Near the Manalapan Engine 1 and the ever-popular Gus's Diner.

If it's true that the light had just turned green, then it's likely that westbound traffic on 33 approaching the intersection did not start from a full stop. And the intersection is at the crest of a hill.

The most difficult adjustment for me as a driver when I came to NJ was the "high speed" intersections: traffic signals at 50 or 55 m. p. h. As I wrote to my friend who was visiting NJ from Western NY last summer:
when your red light turns green, look both ways before proceeding through the intersection. Lots of people in big heavy trucks run lights. Also, yellow lights are about twice as long here as in upstate NY (which probably contributes to people running them!), so don't stop short at a yellow light especially with cars tailing you.
So, high speed may explain why the deer sailed clear across the divided highway into the leftmost eastbound lane! I saw the impact and the "brown flimsy thing" fly and bounce around. It looked almost like a brown piece of paper but I could tell that it had considerable mass or weight by the way it moved and fell.

The dead deer landed in front of a car which might have been stopped or slowly rolling, anticipating the light change. The driver quickly applied the brakes and cars behind honked and swerved. I was afraid that cars would come into my lane from two lanes over but that didn't happen. There were two other deer running around the intersection, quite disoriented and scared. One ran clear across Gus's parking lot and the other zigzagged through the jughandle, right in front of me but I was cautious, before following the other deer. It's hard to say which way they were originally headed. I almost suspect that they were headed north but got turned back by the accident. I guess I say that because the first one got as far in that direction as he could before getting clobbered and the other two did an about-face.

So, I got through the intersection and, quite frankly, wondered what happened to the car that actually hit the deer. I saw some windshield glass on the eastern edge of the intersection and looked westward as I passed through. I saw a minivan / SUV type of vehicle on the side of the road quite a distance from the intersection. Another reason to believe that the car had entered the intersection at full speed, i.e., at least 50 m. p. h.

I thought that I ought to drive down that way and make sure that everyone was alright. I felt as if I was in the best position, having seen the accident and traveling a route that put me in their direction. But my reflexes weren't quick enough to make the turn. Besides, I reasoned that the careful way that they pulled off indicated that they were ok. The deer itself got the worst of it. Probably someone on their way to work; 33 West is a major route to the NJ TP.

But, next time I should have my wits about me and instead of just sitting back, thanking God that I missed any damage, I need to check out the people who were affected.
I took a close look at this year's Madonna & Child stamp from the USPS. It's the one that I opt for every year, no matter the design.

And, I gotta say, the faces are identical.

"Spittin' image," as they say.

And my wild imagination starts thinking about DNA and cloning and ... other strange stuff.

I'm usually not this rationalistic!
Now that I'm visiting the doctor every week, the wait time bothers me.

Last week, I spent 75 minutes, only to see the doctor for less than 2. Yesterday, it was an hour.

All along, my appointments have been late morning Wednesdays, but after last week, the scheduler suggested a mid-afternoon Tuesday appointment.

I thought the switch was for my sake, to reduce my waiting time. But, no, the waiting room was as crowded as usual. It seems the switch was only so that the "lead" doctor could see me, a man whom I haven't seen since the beginning.

Mid-afternoon Tuesday is a bad time for me.

I picked Tim up from school fifteen minutes early. A friend took Kenny home for quick snack and homework, then shuttled him over to the after-school religious ed. program at church. I picked him up from there after my appointment.

So, when the scheduler said, "Does next Tuesday afternoon, same time work for you?" I said, "NO WAY! I had to jump through hoops to get here today!" She put me back to Wednesday, late morning.

The doctor said, "Now, when would you like to deliver the baby?" And I said, "By the 19th." He said, "Well, we'll make plans when we see you next week, then." Of course, the doctors have holiday schedules of their own to think about. Frankly, I would be surprised if induction were necessary. I can already tell that the baby has "dropped," as they say. Breathing and driving are easier now and that annoying pain on my left side has lessened.

So, Tim came with me to the doctor's office which is located in a building adjacent to the hospital.

Tim wanted to know whether we were going to "the children's hospital" or "the adults' hospital". You see, he's had some experience with "the children's hospital". From my perspective, his experience was very, very good. But children usually have their own perspective and simply being in the hospital is often not good.

Hopefully in a few weeks, he won't mind visiting me in the hospital. I know that Kenny will love it!

Monday, December 04, 2006

If you get a chance, watch this program:

"Buffalo's Houses of Worship" - WNED documentary

Buffalo, New York possesses a remarkable number and variety of architectural masterpieces from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The city can boast of secular buildings designed by three of America's greatest architects: Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and Henry Hobson Richardson.

However, the city's sacred architecture, representing the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Unitarian Universalist and Jewish faiths, is equally as impressive.

BUFFALO'S HOUSES OF WORSHIP is a grand exploration of 12 sacred Buffalo landmarks. From Gothic to Byzantine, Romanesque to Arts and Crafts, and Baroque to Modern, this program reveals the various architectural styles of Buffalo's houses of worship.

The documentary features the tallest openwork spire ever built completely of stone, the church that housed one of the first men and boys choirs in the United States, an ornately decorated church built using medieval methods and tools, and the historic Centennial organ, originally built for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.
My favorite appears towards the end of the program, Blessed Trinity.

St. Stan's was an early "mega-church," it seems, with a congregation of 20,000 in 1904!

Most of the churches featured are Roman Catholic. Does that surprise anyone?

And, seeing these majestic buildings, is it any wonder that I'm "high church"?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Fox's 11 o'clock news last night alluded to a strangler in Buffalo making America's Most Wanted:

"Buffalo Bike Path Rapist - Fugitive":
For 20 years detectives in Buffalo, NY have been hunting for a predator.
"Bike Path Rapist Investigation Attracts Hundreds of Tip Calls" - WGRZ, 11/17/06:
"The first case was in June of 1986, when a 44-year-old woman was attacked in Buffalo's Delaware Park.

In May of 1990, a woman in her 30's was attacked on the Ellicott Creek bike path in Amherst.

In September of 1990, 22-year-old University at Buffalo student was attacked on the Ellicott Creek bike path."
Delaware Park is a very open and public area.

The bike path has some remote, desolate spots, especially closer to the 990. This isn't a bad map, if you zoom in, like, to 150%. Scroll down and scroll right. The bike path is the green dots.

I'm sure that I ran alone along the bike path from time-to-time.

Everyone thought that the daylight hours were safe times.

Sometimes my hallmate would ride her bike along as I ran. And, when Jeff visited, he would also ride a bike as I ran.

Jeff says that he remembers me mentioning the attacks at the time, but none of the women had been murdered until after I graduated and left campus.

"Warning Issued About Traveling Alone on Bike Paths" - UB NewsCenter, 11/16/06:
"With the establishment of a link between a recent homicide involving the wife of a UB faculty member on a bike path in Clarence and a series of attacks on women in the region more than a decade ago, including one on the bike path near the North Campus in 1990, members of the university community are again reminded that they should not travel alone on the Ellicott Creek bicycle path near the North Campus or on other Western New York pathways.

There is always safety in numbers. If you intend to walk, jog or bicycle on a bicycle path or in other areas, please do so with a friend."
Bike paths are so popular. There was one in Ohio that my brother and I would run along.

And, you know, when you live on a college campus, you just come to expect things like this happening. That's the reality.

One evening after practice, I had a male teammate escort me to my dorm and, during our walk across campus, he was like, "How do you know that you can trust me?!" And I was like, "What? I know your name!" What a doof.

Then there's the time that a deranged young man was hiding in our dorm suite bathroom, in a shower stall. He was apprehended later that day by campus police and all manner of dangerous stuff was found in his car's trunk. Me, when I saw him cowering there behind the shower curtain? I just thought he was someone's boyfriend and I planned to lecture my suitemates later in the day about making their boyfriends use the showers in the next suite, a male suite.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Jim told us about this on Tuesday:

"In the Beginning-Bibles Before the Year 1000"

He attended the SBL's annual meeting in D. C. two weekends ago (11/18 - 11/21) and toured the exhibit, I guess.

I don't have a hope of getting there before the exhibit closes in January.

Jim said that someone tried to make the case that the "Codex Washingtonensis" is first-century instead of fourth or fifth-century but most were not convinced.

That would be something if it were true.

Just the fact that the document is in codex form precludes it being first-century, doesn't it?
One of my acquaintances is upset about this:

"Extraordinary ministers of Eucharist barred from purifying vessels", Catholic News Service, 10/24/06.

It would trouble me greatly if it results in communion under only one species.

Yet, think about it: Extraordinary Ministers of Eucharist function in the first place to distribute communion whenever a shortage of ordinary ministers, namely priests, deacons and acolytes, exists. So, a shortage of ordinary ministers for distribution is likely to translate into a shortage for purification, right?

Truth be told, I have not seen my parish's deacon for months and months.

Prior to the '02 indult, I was purifying vessels under the watchful eye of a deacon. I'm not sure what the direction was in those days. I never asked. I just did as I was told.

Tuesday morning after Mass, the extraordinary ministers, two laywomen, cleared the vessels from the sanctuary to the sacristy while Father Mike took his usual position in the narthex to greet exiting parishioners. In my opinion, pastor "face time" is more important than "cloister time" doing dishes.

But, still, things have changed, so how come the laywomen are still cleaning up?

An article in this week's diocesan newspaper holds the answer:
"Reviewing the directive and its potential impact in the diocese, Father Sam Sirianni, director of the diocesan Office of Worship, said the diocese is awaiting further clarification from the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy. Meanwhile, he said, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion will continue to assist the priests and deacons of their parishes with the purification of the vessels.

'Until the proper catechesis has been prepared and disseminated by the Office of Bishop John M. Smith to all parishes on how this regulation will be implemented in the diocese, no practice in the diocese should be changed.'

With regard to the reception of Holy Communion by the faithful under both species, Father Sirianni said that in the diocese the option continues to be 'encouraged and highly recommended.'"
I'm actually surprised by this. What "proper catechesis" would be necessary? It's straightforward: hey, you laity, stop doing the dishes. Am I missing something?

Our bishop is progressive but orthodox. Fr. Sirianni is a stickler. Yet this seems like open disobedience. What's happening on the national level? What's the American bishops response in general?

It could well be that the change will take effect this weekend, the First Sunday of Advent. It's a behind-the-scenes change; only extraordinary ministers themselves are affected. Provided that the pastor doesn't forego greeting parishioners after Mass or fall back to communion under one species. Those sorts of things would impact all of us detrimentally.

The bishop is scheduled to be in Highstown tomorrow to bless the new addition at St. Anthony's. Maybe I'll attend the blessing Mass and ask him what's up with all this. He'll have to talk to me; I'll bring my receipt from his most recent annual Bishop's Appeal!
Now, why didn't I think of this:

"Rubbed the wrong way, mother invents solution", The Examiner, 11/30/06
... when her child, also a lefty, began coming home with the smudges as well, she knew that something needed to be done.

"He was all, 'Mommy, my hands are all dirty,' and, you know, I told him that's part of being left-handed. That's a problem, and he wasn't happy about this."
The better pens don't smear as easily but when I'm careless about it, it's still a problem.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Small talk with the contractors before my husband's arrival on the night we signed the paperwork revealed to me that both men are Christians.

The first baited me casually with a passing mention of an early stint in California at a Bible college. I made a mental note without seizing upon the disclosure. Even to inquire which school would have been idle curiosity on my part because I haven't any familiarity with California Bible colleges.

The second man hails from New Orleans, so adherence to the Christian faith is safely presumed.

Neither man carried business cards, so in jotting down their contact information for me, I made available a handy piece of scrap paper from a scratch pad for an Exodus study. I didn't realize until after the paper was returned to me that, during an earlier study time, I had scribbled on the paper a list of the ten plagues. Before writing out his reach numbers, one of the men studied the page carefully but made no comment. I was not embarrassed too much except for the final plague listed, "first born," due to its potentially negative connotation where human contracts are concerned.

The second man returned tonight to complete the permit paperwork.

Again my husband was delayed in arriving home, so again, we were forced into small talk as we waited.

The man took a close look at our Israel pictures hanging on our great room wall. He couldn't be sure of the location, so I informed him of their origin as I quickly identified each place. He wasn't familiar with my favorite, the mosaic at Tabgha, an image I have had on this blog. The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes apparently not significant for him.

I had been working on a study of Revelation 7 when he arrived, but I had placed my Bible and paperwork aside on a nearby table. He asked whether I had been studying the Bible just as he arrived and I said that I do a number of studies throughout the week.

He mentioned that he has recently heard the Mt. of Olives referred to as "the mount of corruption" in 1 Kings. I showed him our picture of Jerusalem as seen from the Mt. of Olives and explained the messianic tradition of the Eastern or Golden Gate. But, off-hand, I was unfamiliar with the mount's association with corruption.

After he left, I tracked down the references with ease: Solomon's high places in 1 Kings 11:7 to honor of his wives' pagan gods and Josiah's reforms in 2 Kings 23:13.

What's more interesting to me than calling the Mt. of Olives "Mt. of Corruption" is the Valley of Hinnom's reputation as a place of human sacrifice and a trash heap and how that reputation works its way into the New Testament language as "Gehenna".

Still, what a curious thing to mention, "Mt. of Corruption"? Talk about biblical minutiae!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Why was the world created with the letter bet?

Why does the Torah's first word begin with the second letter of the Hebrew aleph-bet?

I can't say that I ever noticed.

Yet, insightful answers range from the simple to the complex.

Midrash B'reishit Rabbah theorizes that, "Just as the bet is closed at the top and at the sides, so one may not inquire what is below, what is above, and what is before, but only what is in front." In other words, we are not to inquire before the moment of Creation. The Torah beings with the letter bet instead of the letter aleph to teach us that something always comes before the beginning.

As satisfying as such a simple answer is, there's a more profound suggestion still.

God reserved the aleph for a higher purpose than physical creation: the giving of the eternal Torah at Mt. Sinai. The Decalogue begins with aleph. (This is something that I had noticed before.) So, as beautiful as the created world is, it is not an end in itself but simply the setting for God's eternal plan of salvation.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

You know that things are convoluted when an outsider like me has to explain their eschatology to them.

One of our study group provided us with colorful charts of the end-times.

In analyzing the illustration, a younger woman expressed her frustration in reconciling the timing of the rapture on the diagram with the expectations of the on-video teacher. Specifically, the timeline reflects a belief in a pre-tribulation rapture and the on-video speaker leans towards mid-tribulation.

I recalled to her that, on a number of occasions, the video speaker admits that she taught pre-trib formerly, but a close study of Scripture has altered her beliefs in support of mid-trib.

The shift accounts for the irreconcilable differences.

My explanation apparently made sense because the young woman accepted it.

Most of them favor pre-tribulation rapture. But the video teacher is influencing them gradually to think otherwise.

Monday, November 27, 2006

"Two plead guilty to setting 2000 fire at SHU dorm" - CNS, 11/27/06:
Former students Joseph Lepore and Sean Michael Ryan, both 26, pleaded guilty Nov. 15 to arson and witness tampering surrounding the January 2000 fire in the freshman dormitory that killed three students and injured more than 50 others.
See previous blog entry.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Christmas Mass schedule was made public this morning. Let's see how well I remember it from Father's announcement:

Sat. Vigil (for Sun.): 4 PM and 6:30 PM
Sun. morning (for Sun.): 10 AM

Christmas Vigil (on Sunday):
4 PM, 6 PM and Midnight

Christmas Morning (on Monday): 9 and 11 AM

The conundrum this year is that Christmas falls on a Monday. And the concept of "vigil" complicates things. This all may be moot for me anyway, as I may be in the hospital.

Last year, as Christmas was on a Sunday, I remember that most Protestant churches in the South, where we were visiting family, didn't have services that Sunday at all. I was actually quite shocked by that.

But they made up for it on January 1, 2006, another Sunday, with SRO capacity, as people's New Year's resolutions of "attending church regularly" kicked in.

Of course, for us, 1/1 is a holiday whether it falls on Sunday or not. But I was happy to see Protestants in church on 1/1, even if it happens only every five or six or seven years (but the last time was in 1995. The next time is 2012, 2017).

Father says he needs time to get the church ready on Sunday for Christmas Mass. I don't know what that entails. The banners and other linens need to change from purple to white. But, I imagine that he'll have decorated trees up already and a nativity / crèche. So I can't think of what else needs to change.

I can't remember the last time that I was in town for Christmas because we usually travel.
Somehow we got on the subject of sterilization, my mother-in-law and I, Thursday. I'm not sure how. She isn't the type to say "Four is enough, sweetheart!"

But, anyway, her comments were interesting.

I told her that after I delivered Christopher, the hospital staff asked us, "Tubal ligation, so long as we're all here?"

Jeff and I were like, "Uh, no! No thank you."

And she said that in her day, nearly 40 years ago, sterilization wasn't permitted unless the family already had six children or the mother underwent a psychological profile to determine her mental state and ability to make such a decision.

That blew me away. I mean, in a lot of ways, I feel as if we are legislated to death in this country but here's an area were "freedom" if you want to call it that, has actually expanded. Was it all in reaction to the reproductive craziness of the eugenics era in the 30's? How would I know?

But, today, if a couple never wants children, there's no one to stop them in that. Even socially, most people would leave them alone and not pester them about their decision.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

I have fallen into the habit of buying them new slippers for Christmas.

I've had the catalog for weeks but sat down with them to look at it yesterday. I let them pick which ones they like.

Kenny wants camouflage. I can tolerate that so long as it's blue instead of green or sand.

Tim wants the fire truck ones again. And, even though I have hand-me-downs that would fit the baby, I'm getting him his own new pair, penguins.

There was some confusion with Tim convinced that I would pass his slippers onto Chris without replacing them. I assured him that, yes, he has outgrown them but they are still too big for the baby.

I went to the online store and panicked because I didn't see the styles they wanted. I was afraid that they had sold out and I was too late.

I called the catalog number and discovered that the items were in-stock. I ordered robes as well, since the kids hardly ever have robes. A neighbor gave us her son's old one a couple of years ago and it got passed down but presently nobody has a robe that fits.

And, for the life of me, I can't keep Timmy in socks. I bought him a dozen pair at the beginning of the school year and they are already worn out and dirty. I blame his leather penny loafers for discoloring his white socks. Besides, he has to share with his younger brother who since the end of a sock-less summer is wearing socks regularly.

So, I ordered some packs of socks, too. The operator sounded concerned.

"Everything will ship next week but the socks are backordered until 12/8."

Then she perked up.

"Still, they ought to ship in time for Christmas!"

Sounds like they can't keep themselves in socks either. But I already knew from my online shopping that the socks were backordered, so I was prepared for that.

I replied, "Don't worry. I'm not getting my kids socks for Christmas!"

But I am getting them slippers. Isn't that just as unimaginative?!

Friday, November 24, 2006

2006 NYSPHSAA Football Championship, Class D.

The football team from my high school is in the state meet today at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.

I don't know whether they have a chance. They are ranked 5th and are up against the number one team. But they have upset teams all along the way.

I'm sure it's the game of a lifetime just being there. I can't remember whether I ever ran in the Dome. Jeff would remember but I'm too embarrassed to ask him. I remember running in Manley Field House, that's about it. But he took me to a basketball game there once. I think that he always got season passes, student discount. And a lacrosse match.

A number of years ago, the high school was reclassified and dropped down a class in competition. Consequently they have done quite well. For instance, the Cross Country team wins Sectionals regularly and goes to States as a team. In my day, only individuals ever went to States. Jeff went for discus one year.

UPDATE: Obviously, the number one team won!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Do you want a gift receipt for these baby shower items?"

"I'm the one havin' the baby, Sister! Did my gray hair make you think that I'm too old?"

Picked up a few, last minute items. A winter baby is different from a summer baby. And a girl is different from a boy. So, pinkish, warm receiving blankets.

On fair weather days like today, it's imperative that I do some Christmas shopping. Procrastination means that I must dash out no matter what the weather!

There's an efficiency dictum in Jeff's family that Christmas gifts are delivered personally between family members who gather and share the Thanksgiving holiday.

To fail in this regard, to be unprepared in the Christmas dept. by Thanksgiving and, instead, to ship packages, i.e., to pay postage, is wasteful and a tad callous.

It's taken me some time to grasp this, as my family was and continues to be the antithesis to thrift and prudence, especially where gifts are concerned. Last minute extravagances are the norm, practically expected!

But, with minor exceptions, not the least of which is the act of gift-wrapping the purchases, I am prepared for meeting with Jeff's parents and our nephews on Thursday.

Monday, November 20, 2006

"Doctor, it hurts when I do this."

"Well, then, don't do that."

Such was the gist of this afternoon's OB/GYN appt. At some late point, I get side-splitting pain. On one side. But this time it's so intense that I am compensating to such a degree and straining my back as well.

I can't lift my four-year-old out of the bathtub without sensing a "pop" on my left side. I can't move my two-year-old into his crib without a painful stretch.

He told me, "You shouldn't be lifting anything."

"Or anyone?" I clarified.

About two weeks ago, I turned over the toting of laundry baskets up and downstairs to Jeff. And last weekend he did the laundry for me.

But I stopped into a medical supply store after the doctor's visit and purchased one of those maternity support belts.

I need some practice putting it on correctly and tight enough, but I think that over time, it will relieve most of my pain. The reviews that I read at Amazon indicate that the belts take a few days to start working ... the muscles involved need some time to heal, recovery, whatever.

The doctor thinks that the pain is due to the baby's position which is still breech ... at this late date!

But since I have always had this pain no matter what the baby's position, I think he's mistaken about the correlation. And I hope that he's mistaken about the baby's position! It would be a shame to bypass the well-broken-in route this last time 'round!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I've said before that I suspect my sons' school will close next year. Even though the administration denies it.

I can't get caught in that sticky place of having no school for my boys. Timmy and I attended an open house for a school in Howell this afternoon.

It's about the size of their present school, maybe smaller. It doesn't have a "school" feel to it. The two buildings comprising upper and lower schools are basically a central hallway running the length with classrooms off either side. The buildings have a "trailer" feel to them and the classrooms themselves are very cramped.

If Kenny stays at his present school next year, I expect his homeroom size to drop in half, maybe to 6 students total. This other school maxes out at 16 students per homeroom. And they achieve that larger class size by combining two grades in one room: K & 1st, 2nd & 3rd, etc. Every year, the make-up is different. Some years the mix is most uneven one way or the other. But every child seems to work at their own pace, so placement doesn't seem to be very crucial.

What I like: the teachers and the administration. Monthly field-trips. Personalized curriculum. The opportunity to learn two of three languages: French, Spanish and modern Hebrew instead of only Spanish. Did I mention that this school is located near Lakewood?

What I don't like: cost is the same (no savings). Three-times the drive time (10 mins. vs. 30 mins.) - so wear & tear on my car, gas money, increased risk of accidents, plus later start time (9 AM instead of 8:30 AM) together with being so far from "my element" (in Howell instead of in Manalapan) that I'll have trouble making any of my morning activities: swimming, Bible study, daily Mass. The bus starts at $3800 and, since I'm not saving anything on tuition, I can't swing the cost of the bus. I don't want my kids on a bus anyway. I like taking them to school.

So, as I told my husband after the open house, if I could figure out a way to get them there, then it's their next school. I'll put the application in, schedule their "visit days" for early next month and see how things progress, especially at their current school. I still have time to make a decision, I think. And the dean of admissions there told me that there are still openings in the grades that I am interested in for Fall '07.
Birthday party at a tae kwon do place. IMO, martial arts for children does not deliver on its promises of physical restraint and self-control. Instead, youngsters who train seem more aggressive than those who don't.

The other parents thought my Kenny a "natural" on defensive moves. I attributed his mastery of blocking motions to "rough play" with his younger brothers.

Ten minutes were spent on "stranger danger" tips and techniques. I was uncomfortable with the hypothetical scenarios and the play-acting attacks.

One little girl who appeared to be about three years old did not want to participate. She did not want to act the part of "the bad guy", placing her hands around another child's throat, neither did she want to be "the victim", laying on the floor with another's hands on her throat. The instructor and his assistant forced her to participate, through her tears, all the while telling her, "This is fun. This is fun." If she had been my daughter ...

One of the hypothetical scenarios involved a grandmother-y type lady asking the child to help her find her lost kitty. The children were instructed to not help her, to not talk to her, to yell and scream and run away to mom and dad. Yes, to act so deranged that no one would want to abduct them ... they'd be too much trouble to keep. And I thought to myself, how long ago was it that boy scouts were helping these seniors across the street?! What types of children are we producing? Unhelpful and disrespectful. A couple of instances when I helped someone here.

The other scenario was a male stranger attempting to pick the child up from school with some cock-eyed story of taking the child to see injured parents in the hospital. Now, I don't know how most schools work, but my children are not waiting on the curb for me to drive by and pick them up. They wait inside the building and I either go in and get them or a teacher calls them out to me. I have never put the school to the test, but I doubt very much that they would release my child to any unauthorized person.

I realize that the gym is located in Jackson. I have gone over before how we reside between Hamilton and Jackson, gruesome endpoints for anyone who knows anything about recent cases of violence against children. But the Jackson case does not fit the "stranger danger" scenario, not really. The poor kid was going door-to-door and the predator was another child. Of course, the Hamilton case is classic, hence the law on it. I'm actually more concerned about my children visiting homes of handgun-owners or being injured in a car crash.

It's important education. I'm sure they get drilled on it in school. It had no place at a birthday party and frankly, it wasn't conducted very well. Alright, 'nuff said.

They played a version of "Simon Says." None of them were any good at it. I asked Kenny afterwards, "Do you ever play 'Simon Says' at school?" He said no. That was very, very obvious because none of the kids could do it.

They played a variation of "Four Corners" and I detected Kenny's strategy immediately: he would run to the corner that had been picked most recently! Consistently, every time. Sometimes others would follow him but not always. He ended up winning the game!

I asked him whether he plays that game at school and he said yes. I asked him to explain his strategy and he told me that the one who is "It" is not likely to pick the same corner twice in a row, so he always goes to the corner picked last! But, when he's "It" at school, HE does sometimes pick the same corner twice in a row and once got out Amy and Catherine and Denise and Sabrina all at the same time! I think that he enjoyed getting out the girls ... girls who were trying to imitate his strategy.
I love the readings at the end of the church year: they turn so apocalyptic!

Remembering Christ's first coming during our observance of Advent and Christmas, we keep our eye out for Christ's second coming.

Depending on the cycle, then, the Gospel selections for the end of the church year could be the so-called "mini-apocalypses" either from Mark or Luke, or Matthew 25.

Curiously, we do not read Matthew 24, except on the optional memorial of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome on June 30th.

Anyway, it's just a nice bit of Scripture, Mark 13:

Jesus said to his disciples:
"In those days after that tribulation
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from the sky,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

"And then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in the clouds'
with great power and glory,
and then he will send out the angels
and gather his elect from the four winds,
from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.

"Learn a lesson from the fig tree.
When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves,
you know that summer is near.
In the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that he is near, at the gates.
Amen, I say to you,
this generation will not pass away
until all these things have taken place.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass away.

"But of that day or hour, no one knows,
neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

And I happened to be reading from Bart Ehrman's book, Misquoting Jesus, last night to my husband.

Dr. Ehrman tells of a careful biblical scholar from the early 18th century who had pinned down the date of Jesus' return.

The scholar dealt with the passage (above) on no one knowing the day or the hour by saying that Jesus' words apply only to his immediate audience of disciples, on that side of his Resurrection. According to this 18th century scholar, Jesus' faithful followers in possession of the completed word of God could figure out the date of Jesus' return!

My husband's reaction to that deranged notion was simple: "WHAT?!"

Friday, November 17, 2006

The metal frame of the wall clock at the barber shop features cut-outs of Roman numerals with those at the bottom displaying upside down.

Kenny read the numbers 'round the clock face with ease, even the "V" that looked more like a pointy pylon.

Losing interest in the clock but not in the concept of Roman numerals, we moved onto constructing whatever numbers came to mind.

"What's '64'? ... What's '22'? ... What's '47'?" Then, curiously, he asked, "What's '90'?"

And I replied "'XC' - you know, like my car, XC 90." Now, that coincidence blew him away with its coolness. I teased, "Whaddya think, that the model number had some greater significance?!"

Entre nous, as an old cross-country runner, "XC" has never meant "90" ... before today! And the NCAA Championships take place in the next few days. Let it snow!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Just saw this story on the 5 o'clock news:

"Wild Turkey Crashes Into, Trashes Boy's Bedroom" - WNBC 4 NY, 11/15/06.

First reported in the Asbury Park Press: "Home-invading turkey creates flap" - 11/15/06:
MILLSTONE TOWNSHIP — The Lane family is going out for Thanksgiving, so they do not need a turkey.

But, need one or not, the Lanes got one — the wild turkey that flew through a second-story bedroom window, right through two glass panes and a screen.

"It was very exciting," said Lisa Lane, 41. "What's so funny (is) it's around Thanksgiving, and I have this wild turkey in my house."

I regularly see a few turkeys near Scooter's Corner, where Stage Coach, Paint Island Spring and Millstone Road intersect but I can't imagine a whole flock in the backyard.

I hope they don't migrate to my side of town. It's all I can do to keep out the Canada Geese!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

We looked at a smattering of chapters from Leviticus with a focus on Jewish festivals. The assignment was to locate New Testament mention of the prominent celebrations: Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles.

References to Passover abound in the New Testament and everyone found at least one. References to Pentecost, too, while not plentiful, were well-known from the Christian Pentecost liturgy: Acts 2:1.

Mention of Tabernacles proved scarce with some among us coming up empty.

But a few diligent souls found John 7:2. And among those who did, some read beyond verse 2 and encountered the reference to "Jesus' brothers" in verses 3 and 5.

"Who are these brothers? Are they cousins?" one sweet lady asked.

One participant, a former Lutheran, shared that she had always been told that Jesus was Mary's firstborn, that the firstborn was special to God, but that Mary had other children after Jesus.

I said to her, flatly, "Well, we aren't Lutheran."

Then I suggested that "brothers" in this passage, especially "unbelieving brothers," may refer to fellow Jews. In other places, especially in the rest of the New Testament outside of the Gospels, "brothers" may mean believers in Jesus, sometimes Jew and sometimes Gentile.

But I concluded by saying that there are a couple of instances in the Gospels where "brothers" means blood relations of Jesus. I took them to Mark 6:3 where Jesus' brothers are named and, of course, their mention in Matthew 12:46-49. There are parallels; I didn't cited every Gospel occurrence, just representative passages to give them a sense of how the term αδελφος is used.

When our leader joined us, we put the question to him and he went into the classic explanations, recalling also the designation of James as "the brother of the Lord" which I had failed to mention. I suppose the Orthodox "widower" position is more tenable than the Catholic "cousins" view.

Yet, I still wonder why polygamy isn't proposed. It's the first thing that I think of. Jim said such an arrangement is an argument from silence but that's not an accurate assessment. It is a speculative arrangement, but no more speculative than the idea that Joseph was a widower.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Your Linguistic Profile:
55% General American English
25% Yankee
15% Upper Midwestern
0% Dixie
0% Midwestern

I grew up saying "quarter to some hour", but after a couple of years in southern Ohio, I adopted their time expression of "quarter till ..."

I also said "catty-corner" for a while, but lost that ... 'cuz it's just stupid ... and eventually went back to "kitty-corner." Better?