Monday, June 30, 2008

Trip in Pictures

For those who are interested in some of the trip highlights, here is a pictoral recap!

The JSIFS Road Trip 2008 Begins. Note the smiles all around (Sarah has already found Muffet's dress-up box, and is loathe to leave it behind.)

While the grown-ups are chatting over dinner, these Three Musketeers did their level best to give the other diners indigestion. (Kate's well-behaved daughter and her spotless pinafore on right.)

Sarah actively resists the pigtails Mom wants to put in her hair ... except the "unicorn" tail in the middle of her forehead. DMR (A.K.A. "Big Sarah") tries to put a positive spin on things. Looks like it's working. (Two seconds later, all pigtails were OUT.)

Heidi and Mark Shea mug for the camera at the Catholic New Media Celebration. (Though I'm not given to gushing, I'd have to say meeting Mark was one of the highlights of the event for me, along with meeting the CE/Canticle/CM crowd over Italian margueritas the night before ...)

Day at Lake Altoona with my parents and youngest sister (and her brood). The view from the porch in our cabin was the perfect combination of trees and lake.

A nearly perpetually contented Meredith contemplates the SPF in the sunscreen. Five minutes later, she is decidedly LESS contented when she drops her hat in the lake and gets her toes sandy. Poor M.
At this point, my camera seems to have gone on strike. There are NO shots of the tire incident, visit with Kitchen Madonna, or my sister's house. I think I was feeling a bit shell shocked, to be honest. So I'm hoping Sarah has those pics to share. I'll just finish up our tour with a shot of my partner-in-adventure ... who looks amazingly svelte, don't you think?

Last day in Norfolk at Virginia Beach before the Twelve-Hour "Midnight Madness" trip home begins. Like I said ... we're still friends!

Thanks, Sarah, for joining me on this wild adventure. So where we going next summer?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Home Again

The Road Trip is done. Hubby is back from California. Kids are tucked away in their little beds, visions of "Wall-E" floating through their heads.

I still have to clean up the remains of dinner (barbecue ribs, mashed redskins, purple slaw, and pumpkin pie). And do one more load of laundry. But first I wanted to stop and thank all of you who prayed for us during that final leg of our marvelous road trip.

Sarah and I are still friends. Better than before the trip, even. That in itself is a miracle. Three thousand miles and four small children can wreak havoc on the most intimate of relationships ... but somehow I know that the memories of this trip will stay with both of us for a long time. We've met each others' families, including parents and siblings, and now we know a dozen little details about each other that you simply can't discover without extended time together.

Sarah taught me that I can't hope to be a good podcaster unless I actually listen to podcasts (what a concept!), anymore than I can be a good writer without reading.

I taught Sarah that any bad situation can be made a little more laughable with the right song, especially when you improvise ridiculous lyrics.

Our children taught us that everyone needs a bit of space from time to time in order to maintain a positive outlook. And that traveling with four children (unrelated ones, that is) is not as easy as traveling with two of them. I'm working on a CE article about this even now entitled "Can't We All Just Get Along?"

Of course we can. We're already talking about our next road trip ... Not the same one, of course. Next year, Craig will be joining me at the Celebration! (Maybe we'll meet the Reinhards and the rest of you there!)

"The Tenth Circle": A Movie Review

Last night Craig and I watched The Tenth Circle, which was the first of Jodi Picoult's novels that I've seen in movie form. I was disappointed that they didn't work more about the sled racing in Alaska into the story line, until Jodi kindly reminded me how difficult it is to fit a 500-page book into 93 minutes. Then she said something to me that put things in perspective...

"... I've already had a dozen emails today from girls who were date raped who are telling someone what happened ... so it's raised the conversations I'd hoped, too!"

This, I understand. While many parents would find Jodi's portrayal of teenage sexual experimentation more than a little unsettling, I'd contend that it's closer to the truth than most parents would believe. (The movie cut out some of the more explicit examples, such as the lipstick game.)

What I appreciate about Jodi's stories -- and I've found it to be true in every book of hers that I've read to date -- is that she embodies in her characters true-to-life choices and consequences that reflect not life as it ought to be, but as it is. They do not walk away from their bad choices unscarred ... and yet, we sense that the healing is not far behind.

If not for the characters, at least for ourselves. In this case, the possibility that a teenager watching the movie will relate to Trixie's character and see how her own brokenness, her own emptiness, made her vulnerable. How both mother and daughter, in their quest for love, sought to fulfill that need in ways that brought destruction and pain for all concerned. And how one young man's callous, impulsive actions had life-altering consequences.

Sex is good. God created it. And yet, when this desire to know through self-donation becomes a desire to use in self-gratification, evil triumphs by turning a life-giving gift into a deadly counterfeit.

Friday, June 27, 2008

JSIFS Road Trip 2008: Day 8

Day Five: Norfolk, VA to ???
Miles Covered: Too soon to tell.
Weather Outside of Van: 90s, restless.
Weather Inside of Van: Empty. But not for long.

Yesterday was a day at the beach. Virginia Beach, that is. Meredith had another chance to check out the sand, and my son tried his hand (and other parts of his anatomy as well) at body surfing.

This morning I woke up with a full-on, stars-and-stripes, head splitting at the seams migraine. It's time to go home.

As is happening more and more often this week, DMR read my mind. "So ... now that the kids are rested, how about we start out for home? We could drive though the night ... I feel rested, and you could totally sleep in the car if you felt like it."

So ... if you're reading this, say a prayer for us as we conclude the final leg of our JSIFS Road Trip 2008. I'll tell you about it when we get home.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us
Until we reach the Promised Land ...
Or Columbus, whichever comes first.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

JSIFS Road Trip 2008: Days 6 and 7

Day Five: Mebane, NC to Norfolk, VA.
Miles Covered: 210 miles. Four hours.
Weather Outside of Van: Blazing in the triple digits.
Weather Inside of Van: Cool and collected ... with only three occupants, everyone has their own row.

"Post two days together," DMR suggested helpfully.

"Uh-uh." I was adamant. No shortcuts, not on the road and certainly not in Cyberspace.

"Oh, c'mon. No one will care," she wheedled.

"Oh... kay." After all, we were stationary (for the most part) yesterday, and after our excursions of the past week, a three-hour car trip hardly seems worth mentioning.

So today, I'm going to share a few pointers for those of you who are seriously contemplating a similar roadtrip with four children (including one infant) and no husbands.

* Dollar Tree is your friend. Squirrel away several bags of treats, to be doled out hourly or so, depending on weather changes on the interior of the van.

* Don't believe "Gertrude" (the GPS device), who doesn't allow for unsynchronized potty breaks or periodic meltdowns. Sarah says there must be an equation to figure out the actual arrival time, based on the GPS estimate. By the end of the trip, we simply ignored the lower left corner of the screen and told people we would get there when we got there. People were incredibly understanding.

* Don't plan to travel more than 5-6 hours a day, unless you can guarantee the following...

-- Indoor pool for children
-- Freely flowing libations for the adults
-- At least a day of minimal car time the following day
-- Tranquilizer darts and/or round-the-clock videos for all occupants for the duration of the car ride. (Yes, we know there was a time when children entertained themselves by staring out the window for hours on end. This isn't like that.)

Happy riding!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

JSIFS Road Trip 2008: Day Five

Day Five: Two undisclosed locations in South Carolina to Mebane, NC.
Miles Covered: About 350
Weather Outside of Van: Hot.
Weather Inside of Van: ARE WE THERE YET?!?!?

Tuesday morning we waved goodbye to Kitchen Madonna and headed out into the wild blue yonder, braking briefly for ducks. DMR pelted the kids with colored pencils and gum while I punched the address into Gertrude. (NOTE TO SELF: Send a memo to Garmine to include a "family trip" mode, which adds 15 minutes per child to each leg of the journey to allow for unsynchronized potty breaks and general orneriness.)

The next leg of the trip was, like so much of life, unsettling joy. A while back a childhood friend Googled me, and we've been in touch via e-mail. When we had an opportunity for a short visit, she welcomed us into her home for a kid-friendly meal of chicken nuggets and we had almost two hours to visit while DMR ran the children outside.

Wendy is my age, but her body is slowly falling apart. Diabetes. Stroke. Stage four kidney failure. Her children are grown and leaving the nest; her husband left her for a younger model (what an incredible idiot) years ago. She needs a kidney transplant. She misses her daughter, who is riding motorcycles and conducting children's outreaches in Zambia. And yet, I didn't detect a single iota of pity or anger about any of this in her. We talked about suffering, how God can use the pain we offer back to Him for His glory. And I marveled at her faith. And despite the fact that we hadn't seen each other in almost 25 years, I found it very hard to leave.

Please pray for Wendy. For her marriage and her family. For her daughter in Zambia. For her health. For the person who is going to donate the kidney she needs. While you're at it, pray for me, too ... That I would be the kind of friend Wendy needs right now.

Three hours later, we arrived at my sister's house ... and DMR's brother arrived to pick them up and take them the next four hours to Norfolk, VA. We'll meet up again tomorrow ... but this way the Reinhard clan will have a couple of days of Saxton-free R&R. And I suspect we'll all be much better off because of it.

My niece Holly is getting reach to head out on a mission trip of her own. My nephew Ryan will be arriving on Saturday for what may well be his last day of leave before heading off to Iraq. Chris says she has asked him NOT to give her the details of his training. "I started doing that when he told me they were training him to go in and 'clean buildings' by shooting anything that moved ... and that he was being trained as 'first one in.'"

Lord, today I'd like to say a prayer for soldiers everywhere. For my nephew. For other friends and family members as well. That whether they are the first in, or wait on the sidelines to clean up the aftermath, that their bodies remain safe, and their souls be unharmed.

St. Michael the Archangel, patron of soldiers, send your armies to do what must be done, that all war might cease, and justice prevail. Mary, Mother of us all, pray for us.

Monday, June 23, 2008

JSIFS Road Trip 2008: Day Four

Day Four: Lake Altoona, GA to undisclosed location in South Carolina.
Miles Covered: About 360.
Weather Outside of Van: Overcast and spitty.
Weather Inside of Van: Is that a hurricane coming? Sunny baby sinks her nails into my nail beds each time I reach back to retrieve her binky.

After a brief excursion to Lake Altoona (pictures will be forthcoming), we loaded all four children back in the van and headed for Kitchen Madonna's house. Thirty seconds later ...

*Oh, (*^&(^!*

One of our brand-new tires met its match. A silver-dollar sized quarter in the sidewall.

That was the bad news. The good news is that we were still on the Army base, and in short order had my doting mom and dad plus several strapping soldiers to the rescue. Which was a good thing because (true confessions time) I had no idea the spare was UNDERNEATH the van. Much less how to assemble a jack. Fortunately they did ... and just as fortunately my Dad is on good terms with Mr. Goodyear.

The tire guy didn't have our model in stock, but he obligingly set off to the next town to get it for us while Mom and Dad joined us for lunch at a Chinese restaurant next door, plus a trip to Dollar Tree to restock DMR's prize bags.

Finally, we got back in the car and headed for KM's house. I was unprepared -- and so very grateful -- for the luxurious Southern Hospitality that washed over us like so much Jasmine-scented bath oil that evening. I was feeling exceptionally brain dead, and dear Virginia did not bat an eye as my daughter (A.K.A. "Mother Mary") attacked her cosmetics counter and accessories drawer with breathless abandon. Nor did she blanch when I begged to get said children in bed before we attempted anything like normal adult conversation over the sumptuous feast she had spent all day preparing.

Clearly, this was an Extraordinary Mother. Whose Extraordinary Husband and Son took my son out back and DIDN'T shoot him, but rather let him release some energy by firing Roman candles at the pond. (I felt sorry for the ducks.)

I bundled them into their bunk beds, and five minutes later heard A Mighty Wail. "WEEEEE WANT DAAAAAAAAAADDY!" *sob*

Another hour passed before we got them actually asleep so we could sit down with those lovely pomatinis (I drank two, without apology), homemade lasagna and bread, and salad with tomato and basil fresh from her garden. (It amazed me what a garden she has on her back porch. My black thumbs couldn't produce a crop like that if my life depended on it.)

It was just the break I needed. Lots of girl talk. Lots of good food. Friendships forged. Feminity affirmed. I even picked an apron even though it seems a bit hypocritical to me to beautify my "work uniform" when I know good and well I spend far more time at the computer than with a vacuum cleaner. But maybe it will inspire me, after all.

Thanks, Madonna. You are truly an Extraordinary Mom.

JSIFS Road Trip 2008: Day Three (So, you want to PODCAST?)

Day Three: Atlanta Georgia to Lake Altoona, GA. All day. Thank God.
Miles Covered: About 5, mostly by stroller.
Weather Outside of Van: Sunny and air conditioned. Thank God.
Weather Inside of Van: Hot enough to fry an egg ... but since we were in the air conditioning, not a problem.

The actual Celebration was smaller than I thought it would be, but I came away with some useful tips that have really helped me to be thinking about doing a real, live podcast in terms that seem if not easy, at least doable. Father Roderick's seven points about how to podcast were particularly helpful:

* Pick your passion ("... where your treasure is, there will your heart be also") was summarized nicely by Mark Shea (whom I finally got to meet in person), who said: "When you're blogging, write about what you're interested in .. and nothing else."

* Find your followers (Mk 16:15). In other words, figure out your core audience, and tweak your message for that particular audience.

* Learn the language (Mk 4:11). He pointed out that Jesus spoke differently to his disciples than to the crowds, whom he addressed mostly in parables. Bloggers and podcasters also need to be able to speak the language, in terms of culture and commonalities, as their core audience.

* Take your tools (Exodus 4:17). With Moses it was a staff ... with us, it's the equipment we need to do the job. So now I'm praying for my guardian angel (or St. Nicholas, or my husband, I'm not picky) to arrange a drop: a ZOOM H2 Handy Recorder, Sennheiser HD280 Pro headphones, Podcast Station software, and a subscription to

* Start to speak (Ex 4:12)

* Post your podcast (Luke 5:4)

* Create community (Acts 2:42). Within the podcasting community, voice feedback is to podcasting what comments are to blogging. And, as Sarah kindly pointed out to me, one of the most important things to do if you want to create a podcast is (duh, duh, DUH!) listen to good-quality podcasts. Here is a short list of Sarah's favorites (in no particular order).

Catholic Moments
The Classic Tales
Story Nory (for children)
Forgotten Classics
Daily Breakfast
Rosary Army
Catholic in a Small Town
Catholic Family Podcast
Pray as You Go
Daily Mass Readings
Cardinal Arinze (Disciples with Microphones)

For more about the Road Trip, click here!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

JSIFS: Day Two (Florence, KY to Atlanta, GA)

Day Two: Florence KY to Atlanta GA
Miles Covered: Non-stop travel from 8:22 a.m. to 6:38 p.m., followed by dinner at Tony Carino's in College Park.
Weather Outside of Van: Fair to moderate; heavy traffic congestion in some parts of 75. Brief patch of stormy weather.
Weather Inside of Van: Amazingly temperate. Thank God.

(Pictured, top row L2R: Pat Gohn, Heidi Saxton, Kate Wicker, Sarah Reinhard, Stan Williams. Bottom row L2R: Tracy "Sister Spitfire", Baby Wicker, Lisa Hendey, Sweetie Wicker, and Mary Kochan. Not pictured: Two little girls who shall remain nameless, and who were singlehandedly attempting to level the place after ten hours in the car. Also the very tall Italian Margarita I was sipping all night to fortify me for the night ahead.)

Today was undoubtedly the most difficult day of travel that we have planned this week. Not counting potty breaks and leg-stretching opportunities, we were on the road ten hours today. Thankfully, the kids took a good nap in the mid-afternoon, which gave them energy for our get together that evening.

Blogging is a lot like online dating: You get to know someone really well (ideally) on the inside before you get to match up their outsides with their insides. After three years of working with these talented, articulate ladies (and Stan too, of course, though not as long), it was a tad surreal to have a chance to actually meet these women: Kate Wicker and Tracey "Sister Spitfire," Mary Kochan and Pat Gohn ... and, of course, Lisa Hendey. Each of us had successes and opportunities to share.

By the time dinner was over, the girls were bouncing off the walls, so we had to call it a night without breaking open the pound cake. At least in public. When we got back to the room, however ... well, that was something out. We broke out the good tea and poundcake and fancy teacups, and debated breaking out the Mikes as well ... But then, there IS such thing as too much of a good thing!

JSIFS Road Trip 2008: Day One

Day One: Saline, MI to Florence, KY
Miles covered: 135 (Milan to Columbus) plus 182 (Columbus to Florence)
Weather outside van: partly cloudy
Weather inside van: mostly sunny, occasional outbursts of shrieking (kids)

It’s been some time since a road trip has involved straying from the Interstate and out into open country. Most of our vacations involve pilgrimages to family members in distant states. In my family, anything under 500 miles is a day trip.
But as we strayed from I-75 to pick up Dear Mrs. Reinhard (hereafter DMR) & Co., we had an opportunity to slow down a bit and take in the scenery. Holsteins luxuriating in the sun just a stone’s throw from a full-sized tee-pee parked in the middle of a trailer park; a few miles down the road, a Supersized ceramic chicken perched on the front lawn of a convenience store.
Then, we pull up at the farmhouse. I was prepared for the lines of laundry gently swaying in the wind (her last article in “Canticle” gave me a fresh appreciation for sun-dried sheets). What I did not expect was the wide expanse of lawn dotted with netted trampoline and lavender dotted with butterflies. In the charming old farmhouse with friendly eat-in kitchen and adjoining playroom, my daughter discovered an oversized trunk full of princess togs with squeals of unabashed delight.
A little over an hour later, we set out again for our first stop of the trip. I marveled at what a good-natured child Sarah’s youngest is, alternately chorbling and dozing in the seat behind me. The two girls are clearly having the time of their lives, squealing and tormenting my son … who for the most part is taking it with admirable restraint.
Finally arrived at the hotel. Outdoor, unheated pool … but a promise is a promise, and we go in while Sarah gets the baby down. Teeth chattering, lips turning blue … but the merest hint of returning to the cozy warmth of the room is met with protests. “A few minutes more! Just a minute!” the chorus goes up. “OK,” I say, “But only if you float.” Little Miss E (LME) screws up her face with brave determination, leans back far enough to get the tips of her hair in the water, and bolts upright, beaming.
“See? I swimmed.”
Christopher (whose name I am thinking of changing to “Jack” because of someone’s recent comment that I have “Jack Russell Terrier Children”) cast a longing look at the high-school kids who were splashing in the deep end. Finally unable to restrain himself a moment longer, he dived into the pool with his best caveman yell, cannonballed his way into the middle of the group, and surfaced again grinning widely.
Seconds later, the pool emptied. No way was a group of cool high school dudes going to swim with a minnow. But Chris didn’t care. He’d had his moment in the sun.
Tomorrow is the marathon trip to Atlanta. We leave at 8.
Pray for us.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Jet Setting Is For Sissies: Road Trip 2008. Day -1

Less than 24 hours from now, we (minus one) will be embarking with Sarah and her kids on what I've come to call the "Jetsetting is for Sissies: Catch Us If You Can" Road Trip 2008 (see map).

Seriously. Pray for us. Mapquest tells me it will take 38 hours, 11 minutes to drive the 2247.24 miles it will take to get to Atlanta and back (by way of my sister's house in NC). Along the way we'll catch up with virtual friends old and new, as well as a few other favorite people.

And we're not even going to think about the gas. Well, not often.

We're both bringing our laptops and our digital cameras, so those of you who like to live vicariously, feel free to click on either of our sites for the latest news. It should be almost as fun as actually being there ... and a whole lot cheaper! (Except for those poor, generous souls who have offered to feed and shelter us along the way.)

Let the fun begin!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Catholic Newletter for Thoughtful Women of Faith

The other day Kristen West McGuire got in touch with me about an online magazine she's created for women who are interested in cultivating a deeper spiritual life. "Secretum Meum Mihi" (My Secret is Mine) was the response of St. Edith Stein, when asked why she converted to Catholicism (from Judaism).

A convert to Catholicism (like me), Kristen has a heart for women who believe in God and want to understand why Catholics believe what we do ... or are confused about how to live out the teachings of the Church in everyday life. Not every article will appeal to everyone ... but a lot of good stuff nonetheless.

I encourage you to check it out!

Success Story: "Behold Your Mother"

This has been a hard week ... VBS and getting ready for a week-long trip at the same time. Predictably, today I was struck with a migraine, making my outlook that much brighter.

As always, God came through for me. When I got home, I found a note from my online publicist Cheryl Malandrinos, with an unsolicited (my favorite kind) review of "Raising Up Mommy."

This is a woman who reads piles of books for a living ... and even though it wasn't part of her job (she did a great job of promoting "Behold Your Mother," but I hadn't hired her for my other book yet), Cheryl found time not only to read RUM, but write about it. She writes...

As parents, I believe we all suffer through moments of self-doubt. This past Sunday was Father's Day. After getting four hours of sleep, I crawled out of bed and began getting me and my girls ready for church. Services were followed by a trip to McDonald's for lunch and the rest of the time was spent trying to make it a relaxing day for my husband and entertaining the kids, while attempting to complete household chores.

By 9:30 PM I was ready for some down time, but my daughter couldn't sleep. To say that I was less than sympathetic would be a major understatement. I still had several things to do--which included frosting cupcakes to bring into school the next morning--and I wanted the kids out of my hair so that I could get my work done and jump into bed before 2:00 AM.I told my daughter that she had to stay in her bed and try to sleep. After she called me several more times and an exasperated and angry reply came her way, I told her she could read for a few minutes. Eventually she drifted off to sleep and I breathed a sigh of relief...until she woke for a second time, claiming she had a belly ache.

Once again, my state of exhaustion and the late hour left me more concerned with getting my work done than in coddling my child. After several terse moments, I agreed to rub her belly and again she drifted off to sleep. In the hours that followed, as I struggled in a distracted state to complete my work, I knew that I was an uncaring, insensitive mother who failed to put her child's needs ahead of her own.

Turning off the power on my laptop, I reached for Raising Up Mommy and shut the light off in my office. I brewed a cup of tea and slid into a bath of steamy water to ease the tension.Heidi's words touched my heart as she shared what it was like to become an instant mommy to her foster children. It changed her life, and admittedly, Heidi wasn't always prepared for the demands her new role placed upon her. The "Mommy Monster" came out and she struggled with a way to tame it.

Thank you, Cheryl, for taking time to tell me your experience. For those who want to place an order, click here.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

All Aboard!

This week I was forced into a technology fast when our phone, e-mail, and cable were all on the fritz for a week. Yes, a week. A week without Internet. A week without anyone being able to call (apart from the few who have my cell phone number, and thought to use it). A week without my favorite blogs.

While in some ways it couldn’t have come at a worse time (I had to lean on my fearless #2 gal, Amelia, to take care of the bajillion phone calls and e-mail messages that go with planning a week of Bible school), in some ways it was also a blessing.

This was Chris and Sarah’s last week at school, each day fuller than the next with parties and special (e.g. “parental attendance required”) events. In my spare time, I’m putting on the finishing touches on the VBS program I wrote for my parish, “S.H.I.N.E. for Jesus: Parable Power.” Each day we focus on a different parable, Gospel story, and a corporal or spiritual work of mercy.

My favorite day is Thursday, when we talk about Peter’s boat (e.g. the “Barque of Peter”) as a metaphor for the Church founded by Christ. As Peter (the Apostle, who is also host of this week’s game show “Name That Parable!”) rows his boat, we sing:

Peter, row that boat ashore, alleluia!
Peter, row that boat ashore, alleluia!

All those folks want in the boat, alleluia!
Those that know it and those that don’t … alleluia!

Then Peter dives in to an explanation of the Reformation we hope K-6th graders will understand.

Boys and girls, the Boat of Peter is the Church founded by Christ. As the first pope of the Church, I was like the captain of a ship. This great ship has guided the people of God safely to heaven for more than two thousand years.

Unfortunately, about five hundred years ago, some people in the boat decided to rock the boat! They thought something smelled fishy, and were afraid the boat wasn’t going to make it to shore … and so they jumped out!

They took pieces from the boat, fashioned a few rafts, and started paddling, along with their families. They rowed and rowed, and in time some of the people on those rafts forgot what it was like to be in that great boat of grace. They told stories about that mysterious ‘Barque of Peter,’ and turned it into a ghost ship!

But that’s not the way God wants it to be. He wants us to stay in the boat, His Church … to shine the light of truth out onto the waters, and show people the way to safety. Because God loves those people who are out there in the water, lost and confused. He wants them to be safe. He wants them to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. He wants them to be part of the Church. And he wants YOU to help them!

The next day, the kids are challenged to invite a friend along with them to the last day of Bible school (getting Mom and Dad’s okay, of course). This is the second year we’re doing “Bring a Friend Friday” … and so far the results have been terrific. At their age, they’re not worried about “pushing their beliefs” on other people (like we adults can be at times). They just want their friends to share the fun!

Me, I just get excited to see kids enthused about sharing their faith. As a convert who was once “in the raft,” I know from personal experience how meaningful these casual invitations can be in the grand scheme of things. And I want my kids to experience the joy of reveling with their brothers and sisters in faith … all together in the boat.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Caring Bridge: Helps You Stay in Touch

Today I received word that Ronald Asmus (the father of a friend from my days at Bethany) has been hospitalized with leukemia. It came on very suddenly, and his friends and family are still reeling from the news as he is fighting for his life. Please say a prayer for Ron, and for his wife Sharon and their family.

The other reason for this post is to alert you to a non-profit service that helps family and friends stay in touch with one another when someone is suffering a chronic or terminal illness. Caring Bridges offers dedicated pages on their site so that family and friends (especially those at a distance) can keep up-to-date with their loved one's progress/prognosis.

Does someone you know need this kind of assistance?

Finally, Lisa at asked me to help spread the word about a wonderful give-away that is going on right now ... an exquisite amethyst necklace with a Mary pendant. Click here to sign up!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

"Adopting the Hurt Child": A Review

Right now I'm reading Adopting the Hurt Child: Hope for Families with Special-Needs Kids by Dr. Gregory Keck and Regina Kupecky, LSW. This book, an especially helpful resource for those who are working with kids with attachment issues, includes a number of suggestions to help adoptive families form strong attachments, and help the children overcome the trauma of their past.

Today as I read, one passage struck me as being profoundly insightful ... especially in relation to fostering or even adopting older children, whose complex histories often cause them to make decisions that have long-term effects for the whole family.

Parents of hurt children need to focus on being happy with what they have been given, rather than sad about imperfect results. The "might have beens" must be grieved, but with the knowledge that their child now has a forever family. He has a home where he can leave his yearbook, bring his children, and spend holidays. He has a history and fond memories. He has a family that loves him and serves him -- a model of behavior he has internalized that will aid in his own parenting one day.

Many times, parents who adopt a hurt child find themselves doing it again. "It's like cross-stitching," a single adoptive mom of six said. "It's kind of addicting, and you never know how it's going to come out until it's done."

For all the tears and trials of parenting a hurt child, the payoffs can far exceed the heartache. As a society, we owe these parents a debt for all they have invested and endured. While their children may not be perfect (none are), they have been given the tools to become competent, responsible, loving adults who will be contributing members of society. That is a tremendous gift to the child ... and to all of us.

In case no one else tells you this today ... You are a gift! To your child, and to the world!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Adventures with Friends

Sarah at "Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering" has done her usual outstanding job with this week's "Catholic Carnival." Be sure to check it out!

When Sarah missed her friend Lauren's birthday, we decided to take the girls to Sarah's favorite lunch place ... "Sweet Aftons" Tea Room in Plymouth, Michigan.

Sarah has caught my "tea bug." About once a week we'll have a special time with my best tea pot and pretty china cups ... and c a k e. Cake is not optional, where tea is concerned.

When I arrived at the school to pick up the girls and head for the tea room, another friend was standing there looking sad. So in the end, it was the four of us: Arianna, and Lauren, and Sarah and me. All off for tea.

Then, there was one more wrinkle: It seems that Sweet Afton's is closed on Mondays. So we headed for my next favorite place, Cafe Marie's. The teapots were of stonewear instead of china, with mugs instead of delicate tea cups for the apple juice. But it was fun!

Watching Sarah with her friends, I was struck by how much more ... active ... she is than her little friends. While they sat quietly in their seats and ate French fries, or carried on conversations about earth worms and fairy princesses (with equal seriousness), Sarah was hopping up and down, turning her fuzzy purple hat (her favorite) around and around and inside out. She is a wash of kinetic energy ... screeching and singing and blasting her flute. Twirling and spinning and twinkling like an imp. Oh, how I love that little girl.

I'm sure the mothers of those other little girls are proud of them. They can read whole books, and sit quietly for more than two minutes at a time. They put on one outfit and it stays on their bodies all day. My daughter doesn't do any of these things ... at least not yet.

But I wouldn't trade her for a library of books. Her brother, either.

In a few weeks, I'm going on my own adventure with a friend and her children. Sarah and I are driving to Atlanta, then back through South and North Carolina before winding our way home. Both of us are a bit nervous about how the rhythms or our respective families are going to affect each other ... and ultimately our friendship.

Yesterday's outing reminds me that adventures with friends can be a great way to rediscover ourselves.