Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent craft

The front of our house is fortunate enough to have a very large picture window composed of a middle section that is about nine feet high and four feet wide.

The first year we lived in this house -- it's been nearly four years now -- the girls and I invented a craft involving our window and it's one that pleased us all so much, we have repeated it every year since.

Our craft is this: We turn the middle section of our picture window into an Advent wreath. We put this up on our front window a couple of days before Advent starts.

Here are the materials we use to accomplish this:

12 pieces of 8x11 purple cardstock

4 pieces of 8x11 rosy pink cardstock

8 pieces of 8x11 dark forest green cardstock, folded in half

8 pieces of 8x11 green cardstock in a slightly lighter shade, folded in half

1 piece of 8x11 yellow cardstock, folded into fourths

1 piece of 8x11 orange cardstock, folded into fourths

four four-inch strips of white paper to serve as wicks



First, make the "wreath"

Take the green cardstock (already folded in half) and, on the fold, cut out an approximation of a "fir branch." I cut out something that is the basic shape of a loaf of French bread. When you've done that, use the scissors to snip-snippety-snip along the unfolded side, you're going for kind of a Frasier fir look with this. Don't be too meticulous, because you're just going for an approximation, remember. People passing by in cars or on foot are going to get the idea.

After you've snipped the green paper, open it up, cut it in half, and there you have it! Two fir branches. Carry on until you've cut up all your green paper. Tape all the fir branches to the bottom of your window, overlapping to make sure there are no holes. Tape the pieces on so that they'll stick up randomly, like you'd expect evergreen branches to do. Now you have your base.

Second, make the "candles"

Our window is very tall, so our candles are quite large. Each "candle" is four sheets of paper high. If your window is shorter, you might just want to make each candle two sheets of paper high, cutting your two sheets in half before taping them to the window (you'll see why cutting them in half is important later.) Tape the paper candles to your window in order from left to right as seen from the street, two purple candles, then the rosy-pink candle, then the last purple one.

Note: When you tape the candles together, just use SMALL PIECES of tape, because you're going to be taking them apart as the season progresses.

Third, add the "wicks"

Tape a white paper strip to the top of each candle to serve as a wick.

Fourth, make the "flames"

On the fold of your yellow paper, cut out the approximation of a candle flame. If you're uncertain you can do this with your scissors, then draw the shape you desire with a pencil first, then cut. You'll be making four flames, remember, since your paper has already been folded into fourths. When you've finished, open up the paper and cut your four flames apart.

With your orange paper (also previously folded into fourths), cut a smaller version of the flame you just created with the yellow paper. Open the paper and separate into four pieces, then take the smaller orange flames and tape them to the larger yellow flames. This gives you a two-toned flame that has a better visual depth and dimension to it than just a plain yellow flame. Or at least that's the way I see it.


Now you're ready to light your first candle!

The first Sunday of Advent, take the white wick off the first purple candle and replace it with a flame.

The second Sunday of Advent, take the white wick off the second purple candle and replace it with a flame. Then take the first piece of purple paper off the FIRST candle and discard; place the flame on the first candle's second sheet of paper. The idea is to make the first candle look as if it has burned down a bit.

The third Sunday of Advent, take the white wick off the pink candle and replace it with a flame. Then take the first sheet of paper off the second candle and the third sheet of paper off the first candle. They've both burned down a bit by this third week, after all!

The fourth Sunday of Advent, take the white wick off the last purple candle and replace it with a flame. Then remove the first sheet of paper from the pink candle, the second sheet of paper from the second candle, and the third sheet of paper from the first candle and tape their wicks back on.

By the time you get to the fourth Sunday, the passage of time should be evident on your "wreath." The first candle is a mere stub, the second one definitely short, the third one has melted quite a bit, and the fourth one is there to lend its brightness to the approaching holy day.

When we get home from midnight Mass, we tear the whole shebang off the window and there's our Christmas tree shining through for all the people passing by to see.

We really enjoy doing this every year, and maybe your family will, too.

First Sunday of Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent and a happy day it has been.

Yesterday, Aisling got out the Advent calendar, a wooden one shaped like a stable with little pegs inside where you can hang twenty-five little pressed pasteboard figures -- Joseph, Mary and the Baby Jesus are the last three to go on. This is a family rite that Aisling takes very seriously every year.

We also got out the Advent wreath, which we used for two years before we even became Catholic. I ordered it online from the grandaddy of all online Catholic gift shops, Catholic Supply of St. Louis, Missouri. It makes me laugh (in a wry kind of way) to think how nervous I was about ordering from them, not because I was afraid they'd mess up my order or steal my identity, but because it was a Catholic store and I was a Protestant. What if they found out?!?!

We said the prayer for the Advent wreath. There are lots of prayers like this, most of them centering around the idea that we are preparing ourselves for the coming of the Lord Jesus, in awaiting Him at Christmas time, and also in His second coming. We wait. We prepare. We hope.

Aisling, as the youngest child, has the honor of being the one to light the first candle on the Advent wreath, but this year, the Aim-n-Flame ran completely dry and the only thing we had left to light was a match from one of those flimsy cardboard matchbooks. That is the LAST kind of match in the WORLD I would ever let Aisling light, short of a military ordnance flame-thrower. So I lit the candle this year, although Aisling hovered by my elbow.

The Advent candle burned while we prayed the rosary tonight, and it was very sweet to look at the burning flame while meditating on the events of Jesus' life.

Advent appears to be off to a wonderful start this year.

Pure selfishness

Kieren, Dayden and Kiersi came to spend the afternoon, after we all ate brunch with Grandad and Mary Liz at the assisted living center in New Castle. The kids and I all piled into the van and drove home, singing Christmas songs in a silly way, especially the ones by B-B-B-Bing.

My husband just left with Meelyn and Aisling to take them home and the house seems very empty.

As I was kind of feeling out this empty feeling, I realized something. Since I am normally a person who doesn't mind being the only person in the house, I was surprised that I felt a little lonely, especially since they've only been gone for ten minutes as I type this.

What I realized was this: I can say that I invite the kids over to give Pat and Angie a break, because they are so good and generous to us and taking their kids for the day or the afternoon is one way to repay them for their many kindnesses. And I can say that I have my nephews and niece over because it is good for all the cousins to be fond friends with one another. And those things are both true.

But the biggest reason why I like to have the boys (and now Kiersi) here at my house on Sunday afternoons -- or all day during the summer, as many days as they want to come -- is because I love them and it makes me happy when they're here. I'm glad as soon as they walk in the door and I miss them when they leave. It's pure selfishness, the desire I have to be with my nephews and niece.

I hesitate to relate this next story because it may give away the level of committment I have to my housekeeping (think "shallow puddle" and you will have adequately plumbed that depth), but last August, the last day Dayden and Kieren were here before school started again, Dayden left a pile of action figures in a pile near my husband's dresser. He'd been playing up in my room when I called upstairs to tell him his dad was here to pick him up and he was sweet enough to put them all in a heap.

I saw the heap of toys when I went up to bed that night and got the Rubbermaid storage box that the action figures usually live in, but I stopped with one of them in my hand, poised for the drop. Instead of putting it back in the plastic box, I dropped it back on the pile with the rest of of the things and just left it. I couldn't find the heart to pick them up and put them away, because it made it such a certainty that Dayden wouldn't be coming back soon. And the certainty made my heart hurt.

So I left them. And they're still sitting there, months later, waiting for Dayden every time he comes over. I imagine they'll still be there next May, perhaps, when the last day of school comes along and they come over for the first time to spend the day -- when we're all delirious with freedom and ready to go to the pool.

This is a kind of selfishness I think is a good thing to cultivate in my life.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Please, NOT in church

Meelyn and Aisling may never be the same.

Last Saturday, we were at the 5:00 Mass, sitting in the rear section of the small nave where Aisling plays the piano. Also in our section were Karen, the cantor, and a mom with her two young daughters.

I couldn't help but notice -- I COULDN'T HELP BUT NOTICE -- that there was a teenage boy sitting with his parents in the last row of seats in the main part of the church, whose pants were sagging at half-mast (perhaps mourning the loss of suspenders?) so that we were in plain, full view of his blue underpants. But it was one of those times when I was at least grateful for the underpants, because those jeans were so low, we'd have been able to see half his rear end if he'd gone commando.

As I stood there, I found that it's nearly impossible NOT to look at someone's butt when it is hanging out of their pants, especially in a place like a church. Maybe at the mall, it wouldn't attract so much attention. Or there was this boy mowing a lawn last summer with his jeans belted around his thighs so that his entire butt could be seen; I drove by with the girls and started laughing hysterically at the ridiculous sight and when they asked what's so funny, I simply turned the van around and drove by again; this time as the boy's pants went around his ankles as he was pushing the mower and we got a clear view of his tartan boxers. The girls both screamed and I groped around in my handbag for a tissue to mop the tears from my shining face.

The boy pulled his pants up to his waist, and, after glancing furtively at the van, which was positively rocking with snorting laughter, had the grace to look chagrined.

Actually, Angie and her uncle Steve (the age-teaser; see the Thanksgiving post) both asked me, why did you look? My answer was, you can't NOT look. Seriously.

So we all stood there, looking, and the more I looked, the more offended I was. I mean, the kid mowing the lawn was a brief glimpse and I viewed it as a teaching moment, i.e. "Girls, SHUN BOYS WHO DRESS LIKE THAT." But to have to stand behind him during an entire Mass with my teenage daughters on either side of me, gawping, was not something I was prepared to do.

So when the offering was being taken, I slipped out of my chair and went up and tapped his dad on the shoulder and leaned down to whisper, "I am so sorry to be a bother, but when your son stands up, my two teenage girls and I, plus all the other girls and ladies in the rear section of the church, can see your son's underpants and half of his rear end."

The dad gave an embarrassed chuckle and said, "Ohhhh...." but before he could say more, I went back to my seat.

The next time we stood up, the boy pulled his pants UP and his shirt DOWN and we saw no more underwear.

Meelyn was wild with embarrassment and hissed like a little goose, "He is in my CONFIRMATION CLASS. How am I going to face him tomorrow? I am SO embarrassed. How could you DO that?"

I don't often get upset with Meelyn because she is a very level-headed girl, but this was too much. "Meelyn," I said firmly, in a voice which Aisling usually hears, "that's the problem with things today. The WRONG PEOPLE are always the ones to be embarrassed. How about we let the RIGHT people be embarrassed for their bad behavior, like that boy, showing such disrespect in church, and his parents, for letting him dress like an idiot. What, is it too hard for him to belt his jeans around his waist for ONE HOUR A WEEK? Does he have such an urge to catch a draft that other people should have to see his UNDERWEAR?"

Oh, I could have gone on forever. It made me want to gather all the dopes I've seen in church over the past forty years of my life, all the way from the Episcopal priest in my childhood years whose wife wore miniskirts so brief, it looked as if she'd sewed four washcloths together, to the lady at our current church that we call "Boobula" because of her propensity for Wonderbras combined with low cut shirts, and just SMACK EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.

Black Friday, in more ways than one

Good heavens. I have never been one to participate in the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving shopping spree known as "Black Friday," mostly because I hate shopping to such a degree that I feel indignant, defensive and put-upon, even when I'm in a practically empty store, sipping champagne and sitting on a sofa, while store employees do my bidding by bringing me different items that they think will please me.

That's never happened, by the way.

But today I'm listening to the news and hearing reports of a Wal-Mart store employee crushed TO DEATH when manic shoppers outside the store completely knocked the doors down; a pregnant woman sent to the hospital for observation because she was so battered in a wild, heaving crowd, she was in danger of miscarrying (later news articles are reporting that she did actually lose her baby), and two shoppers shot dead in a Toys "R" Us in California after their wives got into a screaming match. In another Wal-Mart, shoppers fought all the way down to the ground to gain possession of the remaining few X-Box 360 game consoles.

That is so crazy. I can remember in the 1980s when those hideously ugly Cabbage Patch Kids dolls were popular and mothers were screaming and yanking boxes back-and-forth between one another, trying to score a dolly in the way that meth users try to score a hit, apparently, but I can't remember people dying because the urge to get a great deal overcame their humanity.

What is wrong with people? This level of consumer greed is just freaking insane. And it's wrong on the part of the stupid stores to encourage man's inhumanity to man just to boost their sales. When we lived in New Castle some years back when the girls were tiny, there was a post-Thanksgiving sale at the local Wal-Mart that featured some redneck man PUNCHING A WOMAN for possession of a Holiday Barbie.

I've been thinking it over and I can't think of one single gift item my family wants bad enough that I would be willing to push and shove and scream and knock people down for. My philosophy is that they'll just have to deal with the disappointment and wait until January. I'd much rather pay more and live to tell the tale. Geeez.

What an awful way to start the season. I hope all those idiots are ashamed of their violent, crappy behavior. YouTube videos taken from people cell phones show them acting like frikkin' savages. And I hope the police find the people who broke down the door and killed that Wal-Mart employee and that those freaks get to spend next Christmas in prison. And I hope those two women from the Toys "R" Us are happy that they both lost their husbands because they, the women, didn't have the self-discipline to just shut up and calm down inside the store.

And oh dear God, I feel so sorry for the woman who lost her baby.

PRODUCT REVIEW: Knifty Knitters

A few years back, one of the moms in our homeschool group opened up a little summertime class at her home to teach girls in grades 4-6 how to use a Knifty Knitter. Aisling and a number of her little friends bought a skein of yarn and a set of the Knitters and they were off to the races, churning out some very nice items with great ease.

A Knifty Knitter, you ask? What is such a thing, and what can you make with it? How do you use it? Is it expensive? Can you make a scarf, some mittens, a knee length wrap sweater dress à la Diane von Furstenberg?

Wait, wait, whoooaaaaa....Don't ask so many questions so fast. You know I don't sleep much, and therefore am in a constant state of grumpy befuddlement. Okay, here you go.

1. Yes, a Knifty Knitter. There are a whole line of Knifty Knitter products, in fact.

2. Knifty Knitters are looms upon which one can produce knitted items.

3. Oh, can make scarves and hats and afghans and dishcloths and all sorts of cute things. Probably not a sweater dress, unless you were very, very clever and patient.

If you'd like to see these knitting looms of different shapes and sizes, click here and here and here.

The Knifty Knitters are manufactured by ProvoCraft and they're very inexpensive. And if you are a non-crafty kind of person (which would be like me) or a semi-crafty person (like Meelyn and Aisling), you can really get a lot of pleasure out of making cute stuff with these things. Aisling bought some chunky yarn in sherbet colors and knitted up a sweet little toboggan hat for Kiersi, which she presented to her yesterday; Kiersi, not quite three, looked like a darling little pixie in it and Aisling was very pleased.

If you'd like to see some things created by Knifty Knitters that weren't created by us (well, I say "us," but truth be told, I've yet to produce a simple scarf...), you can click here for a pet sweater worn by an embarrassed Maltese, here for some sweet little Halloween treats (black cat, ghostie and wee Jack-'o-lantern), here for a precious Easter bunny posing with a daffodil, here for some really nice hats....

There's so much more, it's impossible to list links for them all, but when I did my Google search, I found amazing things like sweaters for adults and children, baby bootees (so cute!), Christmas stockings and ornaments and all sorts of things. And none of them looked like the kind of thing produced for Gifte Shoppes, the kind of places where you can buy toilet roll covers that look like a knitted hoop skirt with half of a generic, cheap plastic "Barbie" sticking out of the top and ribbon candy in unappealing flavors and pine bread boxes with bloated strawberries done in tole painting on the lids, nothing like that.

If, in these uncertain economic times, you'd like to (quickly) make a few little gifts for people, the Knifty Knitters are a great way to start. Aisling and Meelyn can make nice hats in one evening, a scarf in an afternoon. There are so many beautiful, cozy yarns out there just demanding to be done up in a simple gift that will please, surely, any girl or woman on your Christmas list.

Happy Thanksgiving (a little late)

I couldn't post on the actual day of Thanksgiving because yesterday morning, I indulged in a little late sleeping, which meant that I had to frantically plunge into the kitchen with a frantic look in my eye, sending celery, onions, butter, bread crumbs, chicken stock, eggs and the like whirling through the air like a Looney Tunes feature. I assembled my dressing in a very large buttered baking dish and slid it into the oven with precious little time to spare.

The dressing, made from my own recipe cobbled together from what everyone could remember of my grandmother's recipe (which was sadly never written down) and my mother-in-law's (which was), tasted so much better than Martha Stewart's recipe did, I just can't tell you. Mine was somewhat marred by the fact that, in my rush, I shorted it two eggs, which led to a more crumbly texture. My family prefers dressing that comes out in slabs.

Here's what was on the buffet at Pat and Angie's house yesterday:

1. turkey
2. ham
3. mashed potatoes
4. dressing
5. green-bean casserole
6. candied sweet potatoes
7. gravy
8. deviled eggs
9. vegetable tray (celery, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers, etc. with dip)
10. cranberry relish
11. dinner rolls
12. cheeseball with crackers

For dessert:

1. Pecan pie
2. Pumpkin pie
3. Pumpkin cheesecake
4. A creamy-looking mousse-type dessert that looked wonderful
5. Orange Jell-O with a cream cheese layer, garished with mandarin oranges

There were a lot of us there, a very nice mixture of my brother's family and Angie's family, whom we all like very much, although Angie's uncle Steve, who turns out to be a mere eighteen months younger than I am, twitted me unmercifully about my age, the little whippersnapper. One retort that I never thought of until just now is that I could have told him that it doesn't matter if he's younger than I am because men have a shorter life expectancy than women do ANYWAY, but of course I never think of witty rejoinders like that the next day. Humph.

The humor highlight of the entire day, though, was provided by eight-year-old Dayden, who went through the buffet line with a plate that was just as empty at the end of the line as it was at the beginning. He went away to the kids' table and we saw him no more until he crept back to whisper in his mother's ear that he didn't like any of this dumb food and was wondering if she'd want to make him a cheese taco.

I thought that was hilarious. A cheese taco!

Meelyn and Aisling went home with Nanny and Poppy to spend the night, so my husband and I were left alone to fend for ourselves. We drove to the nursing home and visited with Grandad for about half an hour and I was gratified by the fact that I was able to make him laugh out loud about three times; he professed himself to be just too tired to get up from his bed, get dressed and ready and driven out to Pat and Angie's house to spend the day, and I was worried about him.

My parents have been very comforting about this, explaining that at nearly ninety years old, he gets tired and it would probably take him three days to recover from spending one afternoon out of town with the family, and I understand that. Intellectually, I understand it. Emotionally, though, is another story: This is my Grandad, after all, who read endless books and told endless stories and bounced me on his knee like a trotting horse all the way to Boston and back and bought me a pretty little pearl ring for my eighteenth birthday.

This was my second Thanksgiving in a row where I was able to stay away from the sugary HARD, but I just had a doctor's appointment regarding my blood sugar and she expressed satisfaction at the fact that I am still in a condition known as pre-diabetes instead of the real thing. She told me to keep up the good work, so I tried valiantly, serving myself a plate of dinner with proteins and carbs nicely balanced and turning my head sadly away from my mother's delicious homemade pecan pie. Ouch!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Big surprise

Meelyn is sitting in here doing a biology experiment while I type and she remarked that the set of prepared slides is so much better than the slides we tried to prepare ourselves, on which we could see nothing of biological interest except perhaps for a piece of hair we accidentally trapped between the slide and the cover.

She is viewing slides from the Algae kingdom and has decided that she actually likes Biology class now that she's not helplessly twiddling dials and crossly saying, "I thought I actually HAD something for a minute, there, but it turns out that it was just one of your AIR BUBBLES."

Nothing in my life either before or since college prepared me for the fact that, someday in my future, I was going to have to be able to assemble biology slides like a professional slide-assembler-type person. If only I'd known, I would never have been without a microscope and a little case of glass slides for these past twenty years.

I've just been eagerly asked to come see some spirogyra. Must go!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Best husband

I was very sad a few months ago when I turned on the television to watch EWTN and found that Comcat's channel sixty, where I've prayed the international rosary so many times, enjoyed the stories of fellow converts on The Journey Home, listened to Father Mitch Pacwa and Mother Angelica, Jeff Cavins and Scott Hahn on EWTN Live and watched one beloved pope slip away and another greatly admired one take his place, was gone. Just gone. I was desolate, really.

But the other day I came home from our trip to the museum and my husband said, "I've got something to show you."

I said, "I beg you, please no sports highlights. I don't know what I'm looking at even when I'm not tired and haven't been lost for forty-five minutes in downtown Indianapolis"

"No, really. Watch!"

And the he turned the channel to 275 and there was EWTN as I live and breathe, in HIGH DEF!

You will never again hear me say that it drives me crazy when my husband flicks maniacally through the channels at each commercial break. Because if he didn't do that, I would still be EWTN-less. Amen.


I thought of a fun experiment to do yesterday morning involving my face, my bulging makeup bag and my cell phone camera.

I took a picture of my face before makeup, smiling brightly as I snapped my own picture. When I looked at the image on my phone, I couldn't prevent a full-body shudder from wracking my ample frame, or maybe it was a dry heave.

Anyhoo, I quickly applied my makeup, evening out my blotchy, age-spotted complexion (because I was one of those smart girls who tanned with baby oil and iodine and then with Hawaiian Tropics, which in those days was completely innocent of any sun protection factor; you could have fried tomatoes on my back), highlighted my eyes with plenty of shading since I wear glasses, and delicately tinted my lips and cheeks. Then it was time for Photo #2.

Side by side, Photo #1 and Photo #2 appear to be of two different people, the first one being pale with indeterminate eyebrows, with a drinky sort of look about her. The second was the one that I would actually be willing to acknowledge was a picture of myself, although it stil wasn't great, truth be told. I'd like to blame it on my cheapo GoPhone, but I'm afraid it's just my face.

At any rate, the conclusion I drew from my experiment is that the general public, going about their business with no knowledge of my un-made-up face assaulting them as they do their grocery shopping, go to the bank, et cetera, is very lucky that my mother taught me to never so much as step out on the front porch to pick up the morning paper without mascara. Because, yeeeeesh. fcr

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Silver linings

My husband and I were watching the financial news last night with white lips and wide eyes and he looked at me and said, "Boy, it's a good thing we had to cash out our (401)k a few years ago to buy food and pay the electric bill or we would really be frikkin' screwed about right now."

Hostage crisis

I have been held hostage by the city of Indianapolis twice in the past two weeks and God and all the holy angels and saints have turned a deaf ear to the sinister demands for ransom.

I got lost with Meelyn and Aisling and their friend Theresa on foot in downtown Indianapolis while looking for the Indiana Repertory Theater where we were supposed to see Macbeth, which I could not find even though we walked eleven blocks and were never more than three blocks away from the theater at any given time. The problem wasn't the driving -- I got there just fine, having used a series of index cards to make complicated instructions to myself; also pencil-drawn pictures of the city's grid of streets.

I should have known that this would fail me somehow, because what else can you expect from a city where the street named East goes north/south?

No, the problem with finding the theater is that we turned right instead of left when we left the parking structure and we were then off with a brave tantivvy to go around and around and around and around and around and....excuse me...until we finally wound up on Monument Circle where I sat on a bench, gazed for a bewildered moment at the pigeons doing their funny, jerky walk on the pavement, and then proceeded to have an anxiety attack which featured:

1. snuffling sobs

2. an inability to draw a deep breath

3. a crashing feeling of impending doom

4. a certain feeling that I was going to faint

I told Katie later that I did have the presence of mind when I started seeing those weird electric gnats that signify a fainting spell to lean back; we recently had to cancel our dental insurance and with my luck, I felt that it was all too possible that I might pitch forward and break out my two front teeth. Meelyn called Katie's house and Katie's daughter Mary called Katie at the theater and Katie asked the group of concerned friends and students who were apparently gathered around wondering WHERE THE HECK I WAS if any of them had my cell phone number. Jane did. So Katie called me on Jane's phone and when I answered, gasping, she said worriedly: "Are you laughing or crying?"


"Oh, dear.....Are you going to be all right?"




"Are you in your van?"


"Do you know where you parked?"



Katie asked Meelyn if she needed to dial 911, but Meelyn told her I was okay (she's never seen me having a panic attack before, and truthfully, I don't have them often anyway, so in her way of looking at things, I was just tired and stressed out and worried and frustrated, which pretty much describes the reason why people have panic attacks in the first place.)

Katie and Melanie left the theater and came and got me; I managed to force myself to breathe deeply and suck my tears back into my eyes (thankfully, it was a sunny day, so I was wearing my great big sunglasses) but I was so glad to see them, I started crying all over again. Katie and Beck walked us back to the parking garage after the play and every time I tried to thank Katie, I kept bursting into tears all over again and the parking cost $14.50 and Theresa probably went home and told her mother that Mrs. McKinney is a lunatic.

So today, Virginia invited us to go to the Indiana State Museum with her and her kids. She told me it was easy to get there and I was very excited to go, so I voluntarily turned myself loose on Indianapolis once again, as if I hadn't learned my lesson the first time.

Everything was fine on the way there, since I was following Virginia. We had a great time walking around the museum and we had a fabulous lunch (best pastrami we've ever had). Virginia and her kids are lots of fun to spend time with, so everything was rosy until it was time to leave. Virginia and her three little ones were headed for home in Greenwood and Meelyn, Ailsing and I plus Virginia's two older kids were going to go north to the Indianapolis Museum of Art where we were going on a tour at 2:00.

Keep in mind that the trip from downtown Indianapolis to the museum of art should have taken roughly ten minutes, even with traffic lights. But I somehow goofed up Virginia's directions and wound up heading south on Meridian Street, winding up in a neighborhood that even discerning meth cookers and crack dealers would eschew. They would eschew it, but I was schewing it all over the place, trying to find somewhere to turn the van around where it seemed the least likely that we would make the evening news for being shot.

"Well!!!!" I said brightly to the children, "look at all the pretty colors that gang tagger has painted on that house! That certainly looks bright and cheerful!" I gulped and stepped on the gas, heading back north at a smart pace, trying to make my head look as much unlike a target as possible.

When we got back inside the confines of the city, I instructed the children to look out for Monument Circle, because if I knew where Monument Circle was, it would be a lot easier to know my way out. Monument Circle is pretty hard to miss, mostly because of the big honkin' MONUMENT in the middle of the CIRCLE, but do you think any of us could see it? No, we could not. So we went on our merry way of criss-crossing the entire metro area with no hope of getting out, passing the same landmarks first from the south and then from the west and then from the east and then from the north until I finally tossed Meelyn my phone and begged her to dial Katie.

Katie, thank heaven, was at home. She got out her city map and presumably spread it across her kitchen table, where she talked me out of the city. It grudgingly let me out of its clutches and we arrived at the art museum a mere forty-five minutes late. Since we'd only been driving in circles instead of walking, I had no need for an anxiety attack, even though I am the world's biggest hypochondriac. I had already done my share of walking for the day at the museum, however, so my cane and I limped into the cafe where I spend a few moments looking at the menu, trying to figure out if there was any way to order two Tylenol and a shot of Jack.

I am SO getting a Garmin for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I am sitting here in the house alone, listening to talk radio on my city's admittedly podunk attempts at broadcast journalism. The guy who comes on at the top and bottom of the hour to read the news ("Several cows escaped from a farm enclosure on county road three-hundred north early this morning, blocking the passage of a school bus...") and every time I hear him, I wonder where on earth they found him. He has cultivated the ability to unaccountably emphasize random words and pause in extraordinary places in any given sentence, rendering his speech patterns to resemble nothing remotely close to modern English.

For instance, he just read: "Light snow OVERnight caused.....bridges, interstate onRAMPS....and other roads TO freeze. Causing......TRAFFIC mishaps during THIS morning's rush...... HOUR commute."

I like to play a game, a sort of solitaire, when I listen to the news, counting both pauses and oddly overemphasized syllables in each news bits he reads. It makes it even more fun that he has a pompous and nasally speaking voice. You just can't get this kind of premium entertainment on the bigger Indianapolis radio stations. They're all professional and never seem to feel the need to hit the cough button multiple times in one five minute segment to emit slight burps, courtesy of the onions and peppers on their lunch sandwich from Mancino's.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Perfect November

It's Monday, which is usually a sucktastic kind of day, but this particular Monday is perfect: temps in the high thirties, lowering gray skies, flakes of snow dancing through the air...time to break into that holiday classic, you know the one, called "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Thanksgiving."

Our family has Thanksgiving dinner at Pat and Angie's house. They have an open floor plan that makes it easy for members of his family and her family to all mingle together - we're in the same basic room, even if we don't all fit at the same table.

Everybody pitches in to bring a couple of dishes. I am Dressing Girl, as always, although this year, I plan to go back to the old tried-and-true recipe. Those three of you who have been reading at this blog since last Thanksgiving may remember that I made Martha Stewart's dressing recipe and it was so bad, even the dogs wouldn't eat the (massive amounts of) leftovers. It was....wet. The mouth-feel was mushy. And as much as I like to eat, a fact which no one who has ever seen me in person will dare to argue against, I couldn't even eat that crap. It was too bad, too, because you know how frikkin' Martha is about things: Those two 9x13 casserole dishes of wet, mushy dressing cost about $20 to prepare.

I'm also supposed to bring some caramel corn. You know, just in case anyone gets faint from hunger and needs a snack to sustain them.

Friday, November 14, 2008

First quarter grades at Our Lady of Good Counsel

A week ago Friday was the final day of the first quarter grading period here at Our Lady of Good Counsel Junior-Senior Hight School, just as it was with many of the other schools in the area.

There is both good news and bad news, but I'll leave you to ascertain which is which by posting the girls' grades below:


Spanish 94% A-
Biology 83% C
Pre-Algebra 88% B
Grammar 87% B
Vocabulary 9 82% C
British Literature 97% A
Composition 94% A-
Phys Ed 99% A
Religion 97% A


Spanish 90% B
Pre-Algebra 86% B
Grammar 85% B
Vocabulary 8 87% B
British Literature 90% B
Composition 93% B+
Phys Ed 93% B+
Religion 73% C-

Several of my friends (and a couple of my daughters) have chided me for using such a hard grading scale, but I like to hedge my bets. Different colleges use different grading scales, so my feeling is that, when it comes to admissions and grades issued later on, we might as well start out really tough and that way, we'll all be pleased if it turns out that college grading scales are less stringent. But I'm thinking that most universities, both state and private, would be much more likely to use the harder scale.

I'm really pleased with MOST of their grades: there's one in particular that makes me flinch, I'm sure you'll know which one it is if you look for it. Aaaaaggghhhh!!!! This marks the first year that this particular daughter has done this particular subject all by herself, so I'm sure that's part of the reason for the low score. I'm hoping for better things by semester's end.

The only subject Meelyn is behind in is Biology, but she's ahead in Vocabulary and Spanish and exactly on course in all the rest, so I feel content. The high school thing is overwhelming, but I'm happy to report that it is much less overwhelming than it was in September. I hope that we'll feel that it's all old hat by the time January rolls around.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nine days....

GAAAAAAHHHH!!!! It's now been NINE DAYS since my last post and there have been some loyal readers telling me that unless I get crack-a-lackin' with some recipes or stories about awkward situations that we have found ourselves in or some snarky comments about banks or Democrats, they are done with me.

Here's one reason I haven't been posting: We're busy. (Omigosh, that was so funny just then...I typed the word "busy" but my untalented finger accidentally came down on the "t" and "y" keys at the same time, leading to a declaration that the reason I haven't been posting is because we are BUSTY. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA....!!!!)


Anyway, another reason why I haven't been posting: It's cold. The weather has finally changed and now when I wake up at night (and I'm on a cycle where I've been up for a couple of hours every night for about the past five nights, stupid PMS) I throw a scarf over my bedside light so that the brightness is muted and stay snuggled under the blankets, reading while my husband snores energetically. The computer is downstairs next to the really big dining room window, which happens to be a window that is not particularly well insulated and it only takes a few minutes to get freezing cold, even bundled up in jammies, robe and slipper boots, when the furnace is set on its nighttime temperature.

So. I am still here and we are all fine. Don't give up. Be thankful that I'm so dedicated to making sure that Meelyn is on track with her freshman year studies, I don't have time to post much now.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Have you voted yet?

My husband and I went out early this morning to vote. There was one time, when the girls were very small, that I didn't go out early to the polling place, and ended up not being able to vote because the day got crazier as it progressed with a sick kid and various other contingencies popping up like daisies in a field. Thank goodness that was just a primary election; I've never voted past 8:00 a.m. since then.

Today we're due at the church at 3:00 for an hour of Adoration - Father's having parish-wide prayer from 6:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m., which are the hours that the polls are open in Indiana.

Should be an interesting day!