Friday, June 26, 2009

A Seven-Star Vacation ...

Have you ever looked at hotels at or, and wondered what the difference is between a three-star or four-star hotel is, really? After this trip, I can tell you! We stayed at the three-star Courtyard Marriot Marketplace in San Antonio, after spending two nights at the four-star Hote Felix in Chicago.

Now, I realize that comparing a hotel in Chicago with one in San Antonio is not exactly comparing apples to apples. In Chicago, space is money -- and so perhaps it is understandable that the rooms even in a four-star are less spacious than in the grand ol' state of Texas. (Although I recently discovered that San Antonio is the seventh largest city in the U.S.). However, I did expect that I'd be able to walk from the bed to the bath without impaling myself on the corner of the bed, or tripping over a suitcase. In any event, here's what we discovered about the stars ...

* The four-star room was dominated by the extremely comfy queen-sized bed -- all white, lots of pillows, the kind you didn't want to get out of once you were in. Which was a good thing, because you'd whack your shins on the wall getting in and out of bed -- better just to lie there quietly. Three-star room -- which my husband says is only twice the size of the one in Chicago, not four times per my original estimate -- has a KING bed AND a couch AND a refrigerator. And I still didn't whack my shins even once ... which brings me to my next bullet.

* The four-star room has no microwave, refrigerator, or coffee maker in the room. (They assumed you'd want to avail yourself of room service or restaurant, instead of "camping out.) On the other hand, they do bring you as much ice as you want. And my husband says the decaf in the lobby was exceptionally good. Even after the lid came off as we were dashing down the sidewalk to catch the bus, and he spilled half of it down his shirt. ("At McDONALDS they give you spill-proof lids!" he grumped. Poor dear.)

* The service in a four-star hotel is extremely attentive. They even called to check on us in the middle of our afternoon nap to see if we needed anything else. (Craig had on his c-PAP machine, but the desk staff didn't seem the least surprised when Darth Vadar answered the phone.) The extra star intimidated me into being a bit more generous with the first housekeeper -- but the $5 I left for the three-star maid produced a hand-written thank-you note!

* Bathrooms were a wash, so to speak. The sink in the four-star kept splashing the front of our pants every time we turned it on (it being a "green" hotel and all); no bathtub, but shower was nice and roomy. The three-star bath was larger -- but the soap and shampoo not quite as luxurious.

For the money (including the fact that it cost $42/day to park at the four-star, parking was free at the three-star), I'm probably a three-star traveler overall. Frankly, if I'd paid the rack rate at the first one, I'd be pretty disappointed ... but at the special summer rate of $85/night, it was not a bad deal for Chicago. (We took the train, so parking was a non-issue.)

Next time I think we're going to stay a little closer to Midway, and not shoot for (so many) stars! Of course, now that we're here at the Catholic New Media Celebration, we can star-gaze all we like! Father Rod, Lisa Hendey, Danielle Bean, Julie Davis, Pat Gohn -- now THERE'S a little star-power worth paying for!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Make a Movie!

Today I discovered this cool website ... Something fun to do with the kids on a rainy day. Help them release their inner movie director!

Click here.

Friday, June 05, 2009

"UP" with Fathers!

Sometimes when I speak or write about adoption, people approach me and ask me what to do when one half of a couple (usually but not always the husband) isn’t open to raising an adopted or foster child. Usually I say something about a marriage being a partnership, how each partner needs to trust God to work through the other person to reveal His will and His timing.

While these things are true, after seeing Pixar’s latest offering today I will add the following caveat. “Take him to go see UP.”

As an adoptive parent, I was deeply moved by the irascible Carl’s character – grieving over the loss of his beloved Ellie, he strives to carry out her wishes as best he can, in her memory. What he doesn’t count on is a little stowaway named Russell – a boy with a deep need for a father figure, someone who can show him how to be a man. What touched me so deeply about this movie was Carl’s emerging need to father, to protect and guide the boy as only another man can.

Why Carl and Ellie had no children of their own is not fully explained. Together they dreamed of babies, and even decorated the nursery. And yet, for many reproductively challenged couples, the “why” is never fully explained – and even when it is, is seldom satisfying.

Faced with the devastating loss of his wife, and the prospect of losing even the home that contains his memories, Carl shuts the world out . . . Until young Russell comes knocking, then stows away on the floating home. As the adventure progresses Carl recognizes in the boy a kindred spirit. And in their quest – an adventure marked with great personal self-sacrifice, which is the essence of true fatherhood – the pair formed an extraordinary bond.

Why do I find this movie such a compelling argument for fostering and adoption? Carl does not formally adopt Russell, whose father’s absence is never fully explained. However, in reaching out to the boy, a most remarkable transformation occurs in the man. This movie reminded me that, just as God has placed in every woman the need to mother (which each of us expresses a bit differently), so he places in every man the desire to father. Not simply to provide, as the drive to father can never be fully satisfied in acquiring things (as demonstrated by the Charles Muntz character in the movie). It must be lived out in relationship with other people, and in a particular way with the next generation – whether or not they share a biological connection with those they mentor.

In my blog for adoptive, foster, and special-needs parents, the Extraordinary Moms Network, I frequently write about the natural need God places in women to nurture and protect human life, whether or not they become biological parents. Like extraordinary Eucharistic ministers (who come alongside the ordained minister), Extraordinary Moms come alongside biological mothers – sometimes for a short time, other times for a lifetime – for the sake of the child, to help her raise him to responsible adulthood. In this movie, I saw a poignant image of Extraordinary Fatherhood – a bond very different from a mother’s, but no less important.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

So I'm Part of the Problem . . .

Note for pet owners: Did you know that Heartguard now comes in a six-month shot -- so you don't have to remember to give your pooch his monthly pill? Ask your vet about it! Alternatively (or in addition), try one of these Tick Keys!

Two days ago, I found a tick in Maddy's fur -- fully engorged body, head was firmly attached to the skin under her arm. Carefully I tweezered the little pest, but then Maddy flinched and blood spurted everywhere. I couldn't get to the head, but could still feel something just under her skin.

Today we went to the vet. Maddy was NOT happy, though she obligingly gave each of the technicians a full tongue bath after we lifted her to the table. They took a blood draw -- which took two tries and much pitiful yiping -- to be sure there was no lyme disease or heartworm. Then they gave her two other shots, which made her cry some more. I stroked the hair on her back and murmured gently, trying to calm her down.

I had mentioned her tendency to "teeth" (usually gently) on my arm, and the nurses said he would give me some pointers. Soon the vet made his entrance, and began to examine Maddy. At one point he flicked off the rest of the tick, which had attached itself to the blood clot. This was the final straw for Maddy, who began thrashing around and yiping. Instinctively, I threw myself over her and tried to calm her in my most soothing voice. At which the vet backed up a few steps, fixed his eyes on mine, and said to me, "You know, YOU'RE the problem."

Me? What problem?

"You said she's biting, right? Only you, and not your husband? Even though you say "No," and yipe like a puppy, and put her in her crate if she doesn't stop? Of course . . . She sees herself as a person, and you as her sister. Not an authority figure. Because of this hugging business -- you're rewarding her for bad behavior."

I couldn't believe my ears. Two other nurses had been holding her -- including one of them that had actually picked her up and held her like a baby while the other one clipped her toenails. Was he serious?

I felt myself getting more and more upset, and I searched for the words to adequately communicate my displeasure. To my horror, I felt tears stinging my eyes. Oh, great. THAT'S great, Heidi. You big baby. I sat down and pretended to search through my purse.

Hurridly the vet left the room, followed by his two (female) technicians, who quickly reappeared with deep apologies. "He shouldn't have lectured you like that. I told him that I'd wanted to kick him when he went on and on like that . . . He feels terrible, and sent us to tell you how sorry he was . . . "

In truth, I'm sure that he had a point: When dogs forget they're dogs -- and think they're people -- chaos inevitably ensues. With two small kids at home, we can't just let this go. And so, our "puppy" has been banished from the family couch, and is spending longer periods of time in her crate. It's not as much fun, of course -- but then, it's better than another lecture from the vet!