Small Success: Summer of Life Skills

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

As of this morning, I’m happy to announce that my weight has finally dropped below a certain number that I hope never to see on the scale again. (Now to keep it that way!)

And in the Department of So Far, So Good, my Evil Plan™ seems to be working.

I’ve been holding TheKid’s internet access hostage until he has completed his chores, including Duties As Assigned, and read for 30 minutes.

He’s not getting just any old chores, either. In addition to the things he does every week, like dragging the trash cans to the curb and vacuuming his room and the family room, I’m giving him the kind of chores that I could complete in no time at all, but which he needs to learn to do on his road to becoming a self-sufficient young man. He’s also being assigned cleanup chores when he’s the one responsible for the mess.

So yesterday he had to Drano the bathroom sink to unclog the drain (I suspect the hair putty he uses, and he’s the only one who does his hair in that bathroom). This included remembering to come back in 30 minutes and run water for a minute to finish clearing the drain. It’s a life skill–and a consequence.

He also learned, yesterday, what happens when you vacuum before making sure the floor is clear of wires for electronics. Fortunately I was nearby to remind him to unplug both the electronic item and the vacuum before trying to disentangle the partially-vacuumed wire.

“This is hard work,” he commented. Well, yes. Yes, it is. And maybe he’s learned, without my needing to tell him, that it’s a good idea to patrol the area a bit before running the vacuum.

Today my resident microwave-popcorn-eater will learn how to clean that appliance inside and out. He’ll discover just how much gunk spews out of those popcorn bags as they spin around for two minutes.

One of my summer goals is to begin teaching him to cook simple meals, but I’ve put that on hold until my extra editorial job is complete.

Slowly but surely, he’ll get a handle on how to do some small but necessary household chores.

If only he’d start noticing that the trash can is full and empty it without being asked. A mom can dream…

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On Barb’s Bookshelf: Keep Your Kids Catholic

Exactly whose job is it to teach your children about the Faith? Is it your parish priest’s responsibility? The second-grade catechist? The parochial-school teacher?

While all of these people have a natural hand in passing on the faith to your children, Marc Cardonarella maintains that you are the one who is your child’s primary catechist in his new book, Keep Your Kids Catholic.

keep your kids catholic

I love the subtitle of this book: “Sharing Your Faith and Making It Stick.” Just sharing isn’t enough.

Faith should lead to changed lives and changed behaviors–new life in Christ. Children need other types of formation in addition to education for Christian faith to be sustainable, and parents are the only ones who can provide it (104).

There is one teenager remaining in my household. He was just confirmed two months ago. Now is my chance to examine what I can do better as I strive to pass along the faith, to help him stay Catholic despite the influences he faces from his peers, the media, and adults who don’t always set the best example.

I remember a post-soccer-practice huddle one evening, when Coach announced that he’d rescheduled a rained-out game for the following Sunday morning. My kid spoke up: “Um, we go to church…” and after a few seconds of silence, several other boys chimed in to say the same. Coach found another time to play that game. Now is my chance to make sure he continues to speak up for what is right and begins to take ownership of his life as a Catholic.

I am grateful for the faithful priests and teachers in my son’s life, but Marc Cardonarella’s book drives home the point that I can’t leave it all to them. It is my job to examine the example I set, the conversations I have, the way the faith is lived in my family. Cardonarella shares concrete ways parents can secure their own faith, then structure their lives (and their teens’) to support growth in faith.

The Fine Print:
Your purchase of Keep Your Kids Catholic through my Amazon affiliate link supports!
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Ave Maria Press, for the purpose of this review. Opinions expressed here are mine alone and I received no compensation for publishing this review.

“Don’t Criticize What You Can’t Understand”

I wish that no one had to understand what it’s like to have a kid with diabetes. I really do. Because that would mean that there would be no kids with diabetes. Maybe some day that will happen, but in the meantime, my challenge is to graciously handle public situations in which people clearly don’t understand.

They don’t understand that my husband wakes up several times a night to monitor TheKid’s blood sugar so that he’ll have a Good Day and be in the best shape possible for school and activities. It’s hard to learn when you have a stomachache because your blood sugar is over 300, or when you’re woozy because it’s 50.

They don’t understand that I obsessively count pump infusion sets (please, God, let there be enough until the insurance company lets us buy more) and insulin bottles and boxes of test strips and ketone test strips and (please, God, let these expire before we have to use them) emergency glucagon kits. (I’ll gladly pay $75 twice a year for the privilege of buying these, God, if you’ll guarantee that I don’t have to use them. Because those are only used in a severe low-blood-sugar crisis.)

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Enough insulin to keep him going for 2 months.

They don’t understand that before TheKid leaves for the day, I have already had him test his blood sugar and calibrate his continuous-glucose monitor. I have counted the carbs in his lunch and snack and packed a note with that information in his lunchbox. I have taken inventory of the diabetes supplies and the snack box he carries in his backpack everywhere he goes because that’s not a juice box–that’s something that could save his life.

They don’t understand that during certain times of day I am hyperfocused on the display in my phone that shows his blood sugar, because certain times of day are tougher than others, and I need to be sure he’s OK.

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Caught me checking my phone? I’m probably looking at this.

They don’t understand because they don’t have a diabetic under their care.

They don’t understand the time it takes and the money it costs.

They don’t understand the mental energy we expend to keep our son as healthy as he can be.

They don’t understand the tug-of-war we go through with a 14-year-old who just wants to be independent, but who needs us for much more than cash flow and taxi service.

They don’t understand that there is no remission, never mind a cure. It’s just a relentless disease that wears you down with constant maintenance.

They don’t understand. And sometimes that’s the hardest part of all this.

(Title courtesy of Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A-Changin'”)

#WorthRevisit: Redirection

For Worth Revisit Wednesday today, I’ve dipped into the 2007 archives for a little attitude adjustment.

Little Brother and his friend Adventure Boy are busily playing with Legos and having a snack of popcorn.

Of course, two five-year-olds generally spill at least as much popcorn as they eat. Between the popcorn and the Legos, I could barely tell what color carpet they were sitting on.

Neither of them was too keen on the idea of picking up that spilled popcorn, until I suggested that they put it into a bowl and then take it outside and dump it out under the bird feeder so the squirrels could have a snack too.

Suddenly the two boys were quiet as could be, picking up every tiny speck of popcorn off the floor so they could feed the squirrels. They proudly went outside to dump the bowl.

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Photo via Pixabay (2014), CC0 Public Domain.

What an instant change in attitude! Cleaning up for the sake of cleaning up is not fun at all, and I often resist doing it just as the two boys did. But if cleaning up means that someone else benefits, it becomes less of a chore. Sometimes it even becomes a pleasure.

I’ve noticed this myself as I do a morning sweep through the house. “I love you,” I think to myself as I pick up someone’s dirty socks that are hiding under a chair. Remembering that I sweep the floors, wash the socks, and scrub the sink because I love my family can help me get past the “I don’t want to” attitude that can easily overtake me.

An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31: 10-31)

This is a tall order, for sure. (And I’m certainly guilty of “eating the bread of idleness” more than I should!) But I think that part of the secret of this “excellent wife” is that she is doing her work out of love for her husband and family. The hard work of running a household goes a little easier when you focus on blessing the people you love.

worth revisit

I’m 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!



It’s been a long 10 days.

17 shows in 7 days, Living Stations, Confirmation, a birthday, and I don’t even know what else anymore.

I’ve done early-morning Wawa runs for theatre-lunch hoagies.

I’ve baked and cooked for the cast party–and organized the donations. I worked the box office for 15 performances (2 more today).

Hubs has driven to (and bankrolled) at least 3 post-performance “Happy Hours” featuring mozzarella sticks, ice-cream sundaes and root beer–plus one ticket to watch a fellow actor in another show.

Middle Sister has been home from college this week for spring break and we’ve barely had any time to spend with her.

This morning I went around the house and updated all the clocks that don’t automatically update themselves.

At the same time, I woke up TheKid, whose insulin pump needed replacing, and faced The Wrath of Teen.

He had to get up anyway, because we have 10:00 Mass this morning–and we can’t go to a later one and make it to the theatre by 11:30.

But he’s gone from this:

Cogsworth (the clock) is mine. The mustache is fake. The pendulum is not. We have geniuses creating costumes at this theatre. I am not one of them.
Cogsworth (the clock) is mine. The mustache is fake. The pendulum is not. We have geniuses creating costumes at this theatre. I am not one of them.

to this:

By Image taken from, Fair use,
By Image taken from, Fair use,

We’re both tired. We’re both in the throes of seasonal allergies. His blood sugar’s still off, thanks to that bad pump site. It’ll take a little while to undo that.

I’m sticking by my response to his uber-grumpy protests about going to 10:00 Mass. Being tired and diabetic is no excuse for rudeness. He was told that he’s going to church and that if there’s much more rudeness, he’ll be dropped off at home afterward instead of taken to the theatre to hang out with his friends and help where necessary (it’s not a performance day for him). I’ll leave him here, with no internet access until I return from the box office for his show.

I guess age 14 is kind of young to expect a little gratitude for the sacrifices we have made as a family for his participation in this show.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go cancel out my healthy breakfast of oatmeal with almonds and dried cranberries with a handful (or three) of M&Ms.

For medicinal purposes.

The Example We Set

A friend of mine emailed me the other day to find out TheKid’s performance dates in the upcoming musical at the community theatre.

Her own kids had also auditioned for the musical but were not cast.

And that’s a hard thing to live with, as it is, when you’re 9 years old–and when you’re the parents of those 9-year-olds.

I didn’t expect my friend to bring her kids to see TheKid in this particular show. I’d have totally understood why they’d all want to sit this one out. I let her know that, too, when she emailed me again to tell me she’d purchased their tickets.

“Thanks for supporting TheKid,” I replied. “You are teaching your kids about graciousness in a way many parents wouldn’t bother or be able to do.”

These boys are learning how to rise above their own disappointments and support their friends who were not similarly disappointed. It’s a hard lesson–at any age.

How many adults have not learned such a lesson? How often do we let our own wounded pride stand in the way of enjoying an experience or supporting a friend?

Small Success: New Strings for Christmas

Small Success dark blue outline 800x800Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

For the Christmas-music version of Teenage Musical Torture, I’ve been waking TheKid with such gems as “Dominic the Donkey,” Bob Dylan’s version of “Must Be Santa” (complete with accordion–it’s a real treat) and the barking-dog cover of “Jingle Bells.” Because laughing in the morning is way better than shouting.

On Sunday at rehearsal for the Festival of Lessons and Carols, I noticed that my guitar strings were in terrible shape. I’m really bad about changing my guitar strings. It takes FOR-EV-ER, and I suppose that if I did it more often, I’d be quicker at the job. But I have a 12-string guitar, so that means the job takes twice as long.

IMG_0039But since the strings were actually starting to unravel, I had to do something about them before one of them decided to break in the middle of Mass or that concert.

Amazingly, I managed to get all the strings changed out in 1 hour and 15 minutes, shaving 45 minutes off my Best Time Ever–and the new strings nearly held perfect tune during folk-group practice last night (I was still restringing the guitar when people arrived at practice.) Maybe next time I won’t wait so long to do this job.

During yesterday’s Epic Burst of Productivity (really. It was insane.) I dug through the freezer and inventoried the meat. I also sorted it out, as things tend to get shoved in there without regard to putting like items together. And unless there is a Sale of Epic Proportions at the grocery store, I won’t be buying any more meat until mid-January.

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


#WorthRevisit: Playing with (Advent) Fire

When you’re in the thick of minute-by-minute parenting and corralling little kids, there’s always that one sage parenting veteran who observes, “You’ll miss this one day.” And usually your first impulse (which you resist with all your might) is to punch that person in the face.

I am now that person, missing the crazy of Advent with 3 kids who enjoyed their Advent wreath a little TOO much.

It’s easy to tell that whoever thought it was a good idea to observe Advent by putting candles on the table, in the reach of children, never had children themselves. Year after year after year I threaten to toss the regular candles in favor of the battery-operated variety, because in my house, Advent is where table manners and fire collide.

At my Advent table, you’re likely to hear:

  • “Where are the matches? These candle lighters are for WIMPS.”
  • “Finish chewing your food before blowing out the candle.”
  • “Stop warming your food over the Advent candle!” / “Awesome! It really toasted the bread!”
  • “I like to put the candle out with my spit.”
  • “I wonder if I can sneeze the candles out tonight.”
  • “No spitting on the Advent Wreath!”

And once in a while, you’re likely to see this:

advent match 2

The newest Candle Game involves sitting in your seat without leaning forward and blowing as hard as you can to extinguish as many candles as possible. Each person gets one chance, then it’s the next person’s turn. Asthmatics are definitely at a disadvantage in this game. (Ask me how I know).

If you need some tips for keeping a relatively-safe Advent (fire and all) with kids underfoot, I’ve got you covered.

But clearly, I didn’t miss my calling as an instructor in Charm School.

A very wise woman from my parish (and the Secular Franciscans) who was herself the mom of 6, once told me I shouldn’t worry when stuff like this happened. “At least you know they’re normal,” she reminded me. Martha was one of those people who could find humor in any situation. And that’s what gets me through Advent, year after year after year.

(Reposted from 2013)


worth revisit

I’m 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!

#WorthRevisit: Mrs. Quimby’s 6 Best Back-to-School Tips for Parents (and one from me)

Worth revisiting today: a back-to-school article I published at earlier this year. Two months in, this is a good time for students and parents to evaluate those homework habits.
Back-to-School-Tips-from-Mrs-Quimby-@realhousemagEven though my personality has always been way more Beezus than Ramona, I’ve always loved Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series. Now that I’m a parent, I notice the many ways Ramona’s mom has been a sort of parenting mentor for me.

Mrs. Quimby is absolutely not a helicopter parent. She fosters independence in her children when it comes to schoolwork, helping around the house, and entertaining themselves. Here’s how she does it:

Set clear expectations. In the Quimby household, everyone knew what was expected of them regarding homework, study, chores, and behavior. There were no surprises, and routines were in place to make sure things got done.

Hold firm. Mrs. Quimby, while compassionate, stuck to her guns regarding things that mattered: respectful behavior, schoolwork, chores, and saving money. Temper tantrums did not sway her. Once, when Ramona squeezed an entire tube of toothpaste into the sink, she made Ramona spoon it all into a container and use it until it was gone.

Be prepared. Ramona’s parents always made sure she had plenty of paper and crayons—the supplies she needed as a primary-grade student. I take my cue from Mrs. Quimby by stocking up on extras of the items on my children’s school supply lists, and I make sure to lay in a supply of poster board at the beginning of the school year to avoid those Sunday night runs to the office supply store.

Step aside. Mrs. Quimby knew that schoolwork was not her job. She created the environment for study, made sure everyone was prepared, then required her children to do what was assigned them. No hovering, no hand-holding, no nonsense.

Allow for a mess. She stepped over a large sheet of paper stretched across her kitchen floor for a couple of weeks while Ramona, along with her dad, illustrated a map of the state.

Leave room for kids to learn from their mistakes. Mrs. Quimby wasn’t one to hover over her kids, protecting them from ever making a wrong decision. She knew that mistakes can lead to learning experiences, and she (wisely) didn’t make a huge deal about it when they did. There was the time that Beezus, wanting to avoid a home haircut, saved her money to get a new salon ‘do…which wound up going very wrong, Mrs. Quimby offered a shoulder to cry on and a closed mouth. No “I told you so” lecture; just a listening ear.

I get the feeling Ramona’s mom would wholeheartedly endorse my own homework policy: “It’s not done until it’s packed!” I’ve been repeating that sentence several times a week for nearly two decades now. It’s all about the follow-through, kids!

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worth revisit

I’m 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!

Late for Mass: Have I Missed the Boat?

get me to the church on time

Tomorrow will be the last day for 5+ weeks that I can get to daily Mass on time.

That’s because The Kid will be attending theater camp, which begins at 9 AM (the same time as Mass), 3 towns away.

Last summer I tried going to Mass at one of the 2 parishes close to the camp, but I was late getting there, and I didn’t feel comfortable walking into an unfamiliar church after Mass had begun.

Punctuality is a thing with me. I hate to be late. I hate when others are late. And now I have to choose between being late to Mass or not being there at all. I hate that idea even more.

So today I asked Father what he thought about me slipping into Mass late. Yes, I would be later, even, than if I attended Mass at one of those other churches, but I’d be at my “home base” and I felt better about approaching the issue this way.

Father assured me that because I wasn’t going to be late because I was too busy hitting the snooze alarm, but rather because I was doing something my child needs me to do for him, I’d be OK.

I will make a special effort to read the daily Mass readings ahead of time, because I’ll probably miss some of them. Fortunately I can go to each morning for the Daily Gospel Reflection and catch the readings there.

And if I get The Kid to camp a bit early, I can send him in as soon as the adults arrive. That will get me on my way a little earlier.

Finally, I’ll slide into a pew in the way back, rather than my usual spot nearer the front, so I won’t be as much of a distraction.

I’m thankful for the reassurance I got this morning about my plan to try getting to Mass after the camp dropoff each day. And that reassurance I got today will help me remember not to judge others who don’t arrive on time. Maybe they’re taking care of a family member’s needs too.

I guess the only thing I still need to know is: who’s the patron saint against getting speeding tickets? I’ll have to put him on speed-dial!