Advent Wreath 2016

Our Advent wreath is the same one that Hubs had when he was growing up. My mother-in-law gave it to us several years ago. I add a white pillar candle in the center for Christmas, and place it on a red charger. This year, I decided it needed a little something, so my daughter wrapped the wreath in string of golden berries. Basically, it’s pretty simple.

We only have one child at home most of the time now, and he’s 14, so our issues with Advent fire are different now than they were when the kids were preschoolers. (Now it’s all about re-lighting the candle and seeing how far away one can stand and still manage to blow the candle out…)

If you’re worried about combining lit candles and small children, those LED candles are a terrific substitute. I wish they’d been around when my kids were small. Back in 2005 I offered some advice to parents who worried about combining toddlers and flaming objects on the dining-room table:

Don’t skip the Advent wreath just because you have young children. The Advent wreath has been great for our children during this season. Three times now, we have been through the Tremendously Terrifying Twos at Advent wreath time and I’m pleased to announce that no one has been hurt yet. However, now that we have a Teenager in the house, I’m thinking it might be a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher at hand.

Maybe you have one of those cake plates that sits high off the table. Set your wreath on top of that, if you need to keep it away from the little one.

I wish you and your family many blessings this Advent!

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I’m linking up today at CatholicMom.com for the Advent Wreath Linkup!

I’m also linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

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Small Success: Season’s Over

Thursdays at CatholicMom.com begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

We have officially reached the end of the two seasons that sucked the life out of our household routine: sports and theatre. The show closed Sunday, and yesterday was the final soccer practice (an anticlimactic one, since the last game was played Tuesday. But there was a pasta party scheduled, so they practiced. Anything for spaghetti, when you’re a high-school boy.)

Lessons were learned.

  1. Playing a sport at the high-school level and participating in community theatre is going to have an academic impact. Which, of course, we knew, but we didn’t know to what extent.
  2. With a lot of careful advance planning, a home-cooked dinner can be had by all on nearly every evening.
  3. There is no shame in grabbing a drive-thru dinner for your Renaissance Kid when you’re en route to the theatre on a performance night, directly following an away game that’s 45 minutes from home.
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I spent almost as much time admiring the fall foliage as I did watching soccer last Thursday! (That’s TheKid in maroon, in the center of the photo).

This week, my success is that we all survived the last week and its 2 soccer games, 4 performances, 1 music rehearsal (that was mine), Mass on Sunday and a set strike after the final show.

Now it’s time to settle in, to vacuum up the dirt left on the floor of my car by the soccer cleats, to make a new menu plan for November that leaves me some wiggle room to cook things that take longer than 25 minutes, to put away the Oxi-Clean and the bucket where I soaked the white home-game uniforms, and to hassle TheKid a little more about studying his algebra.

TheKid is sorry that his seasons are over. Don’t tell him, but I’m not. Sports and theatre are good for kids, but they do have a cost, and that’s measured in more than sports fees and show tickets.

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Share your Small Successes at CatholicMom.com by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

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This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.

Small Success: Harbor View Edition

Thursdays at CatholicMom.com begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

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Just a random list for today:

Middle Sister was home from college for a short fall break. It was nice having her around. The other day I was super tired and couldn’t concentrate, and she had nothing to do for a couple of hours, so we found a place to go get brunch–someplace neither of us had been before. It’s right in a harbor in our hometown, and we didn’t even know it was here. Since it was a beautiful day, we elected to eat on the waterfront deck. While we enjoyed our meal, we got to look at the fall foliage (just beginning to turn here in southern NJ) and admire the various boats, debating which boat we’d like to have if we were ever going to have a boat.

@Franciscanmom
Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

I haven’t had any cola in a month. My house is free of Pepsi (my cola of choice) and Coke (which is a backup when Pepsi’s not available). Except for one ginger ale one day when my stomach was upset, I have had no soda since 9/21. I’d like to know when the weight will start coming off…I still crave it, but I’m not drinking it.

–TheKid’s show opens tonight (and closes Sunday) which means we’ve almost survived the Fall of Soccer and Theatre. Today is a big push: it’s an away game, almost an hour from here, that begins at 4. He’s supposed to be at the theatre by 6. THAT’S not going to happen, but they know he’ll be running in late, and it’s not like he has makeup to worry about. After today there are 2 more games on the schedule. I don’t know how postseason works. But I have been there for every minute of every game; the past couple of weeks we’ve teetered right on the edge of diabetes drama for several games. Fortunately he’s been OK, but it doesn’t do much for this mama’s blood pressure!

–Today’s fun: chasing down medical referrals for Hubs’ upcoming checkup at the cancer center as his 4-year cancer anniversary just passed. It’s always fun when you get different answers from different people. I have one more phone call to make before I can call the primary doctor and request all of these, but I can’t do that until after 9 AM.

Share your Small Successes at CatholicMom.com by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

 

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This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.

#SmallSuccess: On the Menu

Thursdays at CatholicMom.com begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

T.S. Eliot wrote, “April is the cruellest month.” But T.S. Eliot was never a soccer mom whose Kid was also involved in community theatre–during soccer season.

I’m doing more driving now, just for one child, than I did when I had 3 kids without drivers’ licenses at home.

I saw October coming and it wasn’t going to be pretty. It was, however, going to be predictable. I had schedules for rehearsals, performances, soccer practices and games, a whole month in advance.

So I did something I haven’t done in quite a while–not since TheKid was involved in his first community theatre productions, way back in 4th grade. I made a meal plan for a whole month. Christine does this all the time, and it was her mention of it that made me realize that this was something I needed to do.

A previous year's meal plan calendar on my trusty clipboard.
A previous year’s meal plan calendar on my trusty clipboard.

I use pencil for a reason, because things DO happen. I filled in (in pen) the commitments on the calendar so I’d know when it wouldn’t be a good idea to make a new recipe that requires several hours of simmering. Then I got busy filling in the blanks with the dinner plan.

not so spicy peanut chicken

I hung up the menu on the inside of one of my kitchen-cabinet doors. I check it in the morning to find out what to defrost. I tried to put items that use similar ingredients together–so the stir-fry that contains red bell peppers was planned in the same week as the sausage-and-pepper sandwiches. This way, nothing would be wasted.

We’re only 2 weeks into the month, but that plan has saved my bacon. It’s been one less thing to stress over.

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The show closes in 10 days and soccer has only 2 or 3 more weeks to go. November should be easier. But I’m going to make the time to put together a meal plan anyway. These past 2 weeks have shown me just how worth it this effort is.

Share your Small Successes at CatholicMom.com by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

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This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.

Small Success: Perfect Joy!

Thursdays at CatholicMom.com begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

On Monday, the Secular Franciscans celebrated the Transitus of St. Francis, marking his passage from earthly life to eternal life in heaven. It is a solemn moment with a prayer service that includes readings from a biography of the saint along with the Gospel, Psalms, prayer and music.

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Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS. All rights reserved.

I spent the day Monday putting out all kinds of fires, some related to the Transitus and others completely separate from it, but all serving as a distraction from what was about to take place. From missing copies of the readings to sheet music that didn’t include all the verses to a soccer practice that ran late and a request by someone I respect that I do something that would compromise my integrity (I declined), by midafternoon I was DONE and tweeted:

Via @franciscanmom
Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS.

In the end it all turned out fine, at least as far as the Transitus was concerned. We were happy with the turnout and participation. The parts of the song I messed up because I was trying to track lyrics and guitar chords for a song with 7 verses went unnoticed by the assembly, who knew the song so well and sang so enthusiastically that I was basically drowned out.

As we enjoyed light refreshments and conversation after the Transitus, I observed to one of my fellow Franciscans that it had been a crazy day. She said the same (she was on the other end of the missing-readings problem, and had other things happening as well.) Later she emailed me and said that she remembers this happening every year. All The Things seem to go wrong on Transitus day.

Here we are, trying to remember one of the holiest people who ever lived, someone after whose example we wish to model our lives, and things are just a mess.

Maybe that’s what St. Francis meant when he talked about Perfect Joy.

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Share your Small Successes at CatholicMom.com by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

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This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.

Monday Recap: October 3, 2016

It’s the first Monday of the month, so I’ve gathered up links to the work I’ve done in other spaces.

At CatholicMom.com

shrimp-fra-diavolo-for-2Meatless Friday: Date-Night Shrimp Fra Diavolo. My recipe makes just enough for a fancy dinner for two!

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Book Notes Goes to Middle School: 7 Riddles to Nowhere. Are you wondering if 7 Riddles to Nowhere is appropriate for your middle-schooler? I asked author A.J. Cattapan some insider questions about the book.

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Intercessory Prayer Gets Behind the Wheel. Emergency vehicles don’t have to be the only things that move you to intercessory prayer while you’re driving. Any car on the road can be a reminder to pray.

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Book Notes: Works of Mercy Coloring & Activity Book. I reviewed the Education in Virtue Works of Mercy Coloring & Activity Book, which will appeal to parents, catechists and Catholic-school teachers who’d like to supplement their children’s religious instruction with fun and worthwhile educational activities.

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Book Notes: 2 Coloring Books for Prayer from Pauline Books & Media. I reviewed two new coloring books for adults. Pauline Books & Media publishes “Our Lady’s Garden” and “Windows into Christ.” How can you incorporate prayer into the coloring craze?

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Book Notes: Feeding Your Family’s Soul. Has family dinnertime gotten lost in the shuffle of your busy family schedule? I reviewed a new book by CatholicMom.com contributor Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle that aims to give family dinners pride of place.

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St. Jerome, Doctor & Curmudgeon. On September 30the Church celebrates St. Jerome, patron of librarians, scholars, students, translators…and grumpy people. I shared how St. Jerome’s story gives me hope.

At Cook and Count

Giant Double Chocolate Cranberry Pecan Cookies by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom

Giant Double-Chocolate Cranberry Pecan Cookies

Cheesy Potato packets by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom

On the Grill: Cheesy Potato Packets

Pork Lo Mein by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom

Pork Lo Mein or Stir-Fry

Pork Scaloppine by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom

Simple Pork Scaloppine

Roasted Broccoli  by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom

Roasted Broccoli

 

Monday recap 2016 edition

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This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.

Small Success: Resurrection Mile

Thursdays at CatholicMom.com begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

Still plugging away at making a routine happen around here. I went to the gym (once) and did a Resurrection Mile (twice). What’s a “Resurrection Mile”? I go to Resurrection Parish, and on one of our two church campuses, there’s a parish center with a gymnasium. The building is open weekdays from 9 to 3 for people to come in and walk laps around the gym. Our parish has daily Mass at that location 3 days a week, so I’m trying to go over and walk my mile (20 times around the gym) after Mass. I listen to a podcast on my phone while I walk! I’m catching up on Among Women and Girlfriends this way.

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I have officially run out of Pepsi and decided that I’m going to use this opportunity to try to give up soda. More water, iced tea and iced coffee using my super-duper iced-coffee-without-ice-cubes cup*–that’s my plan.

I stuck to the meal plan and tried a new recipe.

Pork Scaloppine by Barb Szyszkiewicz for CookandCount.wordpress.com

One thing I did that I never do: stayed up to watch a TV show that started at 10 PM. Actually, the fact that I intentionally watched a TV show is astonishing enough. But “Designated Survivor” hooked me from the promos and did not disappoint. Did you watch? What did you think?

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Share your Small Successes at CatholicMom.com by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

*The fine print: Link to the iced-coffee maker is an Amazon affiliate link. Your purchase of any items using that link supports this website! Thanks!

Small Success: Unscheduled

Thursdays at CatholicMom.com begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

So far this week, it’s been one unscheduled thing after another.

I don’t usually do schedule changes well. I like to know when things will happen. And yes, I do have a Google calendar so colorful that my older son compared it to a quilt:

Here's what this week looks like. Some colors are for work. Dark red and orange are TheKid, and light blue is mine.
Here’s what this week looks like. Yellow and green are for work (there’s also purple for work, but that’s for unfinished articles and I’m done with everything for the week). Dark red and orange are TheKid, and light blue is mine. Dark blue is the Notre Dame football game (GO IRISH!)

Things that happened that weren’t on my color-coded calendar: my daughter’s car wouldn’t start on Sunday and had to be towed to our mechanic. She had a doctor’s appointment Monday to finish an immunization series required for her nursing-school clinicals. So I got to drive back and forth to LaSalle twice on Monday, because the car wasn’t ready yet and she had to get back to school to study for a test.

Fortunately I knew on Sunday night that I’d need to do this, so I was up and working early Monday morning. I managed to get my work done for the day, get to Mass, do a load of laundry, clean both bathrooms and make a good dinner in addition to all the driving.

On Tuesday I spent an hour or more preparing for a meeting, but the others who were supposed to attend the meeting were no-shows. I spent another hour or more stressing about that. I also baked some cookies.

Double chocolate-peanut butter cookies by Barb Szyszkiewicz for cookandcount.wordpress.com

I was doing pretty well with all that unscheduled stuff until this morning when TheKid missed the bus. He’d made the bus for 6 school days in a row and I was hoping this was a trend; now we’ll need to figure out how to get him back on track for tomorrow. I tried not to yell and poison the morning. I didn’t raise my voice, but we didn’t part on happy terms today. (I know I’m breaking the Small Success “rules” by saying this here, but here I am, back to trying to figure out how to get TheKid to build good habits and respect other people’s time.)

This week I also created a new recipe for pork stir-fry/lo mein. It came out really good!

Pork lo mein by Barb Szyszkiewicz for Cookandcount.wordpress.com

And yesterday I had the chance to meet my parents for lunch; they were on their way back from vacation, so we found a place along their route that was only about 30 minutes from me.

I made a resolution this summer to learn something new every week. I managed to create sidebar widgets for the two books for which I’m a contributor! (Purchase your copies today!)

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Share your Small Successes at CatholicMom.com by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

Small Success: Summer’s End

Thursdays at CatholicMom.com begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

At long last, summer is over and everyone is back in school. TheKid had his high-school orientation day yesterday. They toured the school, got their school-issued tablet PCs, learned about their options for extracurricular activities, had a picnic lunch, went to Mass and had pictures taken.

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“Mom, do you REALLY have to take my picture?”

He was out of bed before Barry Gibb got to the part in “Tragedy” where he sounds like he’s being tased (this song is the current musical torture device I’m using to wake him up.)

And he made the bus.

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He’s too old to acknowledge my presence at the bus stop.

This is only the second time in 9 years that the bus (provided by the local public-school district) has actually showed up on the first day of school. I didn’t have to call the transportation office and pester them about why there was no bus.

Tuesday he had a soccer game, and I drove 45 minutes to the hosting school only to discover when I got there that their athletic fields are 2 miles away from the school. That wasn’t fun. I have a plan in place now to double-check all soccer-game directions by visiting the host school’s website. And scrolling all the way to the bottom of the very long home page, because that’s where they hide this information.

I don’t know what most parents do about going to their kids’ games. I never made it to too many games or track meets for the older kids, because TheKid was in grade school that dismissed at 3 and he wasn’t home until at least 3:35. We went to the local games and home games, but that was it. They’ll probably complain that it’s not fair that I go to all his games now. Honestly, driving an hour each way to a game (like I’ll do today) and sitting outside for over an hour in 95-degree weather (like I’ll do today) isn’t super high on my list of fun things to do.

But I’m worried (maybe needlessly, but I worry) that TheKid will have a blood-sugar issue during a game, and the coach might not be ready to handle that. The parents’ meeting the other night didn’t help reassure me on this matter–the varsity coach told parents that if our child is injured at a game or practice, he should see the trainer before we take him to a doctor. Well, that’s fine if it’s a home game, but if the game is an hour away (like today’s game) and the trainer is gone by the time the team bus returns to school, I’m not going to wait until after school tomorrow to get the trainer’s opinion on whether my injured child needs medical attention–just because the trainer will “make sure the players get back on the field quickly and doctors make them wait weeks to return.” I feel like we were being told that the athletes’ health is less of a priority than a winning record. Maybe that’s not the case, but that’s how I interpreted it.

So I struggled about deciding to make it a priority to attend the games. Right now, for my own peace of mind, I’ll drive the hour and sit in the heat and be there, checking that glucose-monitor app and just keeping an eye on my kid. Once the game is over and I know that all is well, I’ll leave in my car, because he has to stay and watch the end of the varsity game and then ride the team bus home.

In other news, I have a couple of articles up at CatholicMom this week that you might like:

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Book Notes Goes to Middle School: 7 Riddles to Nowhere

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Intercessory Prayer Gets Behind the Wheel
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Share your Small Successes at CatholicMom.com by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

Small Success and Chocolate Therapy Cookies

Thursdays at CatholicMom.com begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

Honestly, I kind of feel like I’m spinning my wheels right now. Or maybe “running around in a hamster wheel” is a better way to describe it. Either way, I’m just feeling scattered. I took my scattered self to Adoration today and left after an hour, no less scattered than when I’d walked in.

A couple of things I’ve gotten right:

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  • I invented some new cookies yesterday. Chocolate cookies with bittersweet chocolate chips, pecans and craisins. 6 inches across (I don’t mess around.)
  • I made the cookies to cheer up a friend who’s grieving the loss of one of her good friend’s husbands.
  • I baked a double batch of those cookies.
  • I was able to say “yes” when my cookie-receiving friend mentioned that her friend could use a dinner for tonight (guess what’s for dessert?)

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Share your Small Successes at CatholicMom.com by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!