Monday, October 31, 2011

ghosts of halloweens past

For years we lived in a place that never got a single trick-or-treater.  Ever.  And we trick-or-treated in other people's neighborhood.  But now we live in a neighborhood and got to do the trick-or-treat thing tonight.  (Note to self:  Buy some Halloween-themed items from the clearance shelf this week, so next year we don't have Halloween candy in an Easter Egg bowl!)  I felt a little old...not knowing who/what most of the costumes were.  There were a couple of Batmans and Iron Man's.  Lots and lots of princesses.  A handsome pirate.  A Buzz Lightyear.  More than a handful of devils.

It took me back a few years.  To the ghosts of Halloween's past...

This was 1998.  
Tinkie Winkie was about 18 mos and Barney was three.  My niece is a few weeks younger than Barney. 

Their cousin was Tinkerbell.
Cute x 3!
The Disney Store was all out of Captain Hook hats.
So Dad -ever creative - made one from duct tape!

SpiderMan and a Ninja.

Another Disney Store score!
This Halloween came just a few weeks after Hurricane Lili
visited our area and left us without power for a week.
 Have always loved this picture!

The Grim Reaper was 7 and Harry Potter was 9.  

 Our trick-or-treat days were coming to an end.
I think we did one more year after this one.
This foursome attended the National Boy Scout Jamboree together 3 years later.  

Thanks for walking with me down memory lane.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

air show!

Our new house is by the airport.  That's about all it's close to, it seems.

Every night at 9:50 and again at 10:50, I hear a plane scream down the runway.  But we must not be in the direct flight path, because we rarely see planes overhead. 

One thing I have been looking forward to is having a good view of the air show which visits our area every other year.

Surely, the scenes weren't as good as if we'd paid $25 a head to find a seat on the airport property, but we enjoyed the excitement today!

The boys' idea for a good seat.  It only lasted for a little while.

I joined them up there today.
 I, however, did not go all the way to the tippy top.

For some of them, you had to peer through the trees or over the houses...

And some were just impossible to get...they move so fast, and the sun was bright!

But we saw and heard some amazing things!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

locked down

Friday morning dawned with a cold, wet rain falling. 

One of my sons had an overnight guest because Thursday night was some kind of Beavis and Butthead great event.  (B & B can only be enjoyed by teenage boys, I think).  He did not have the proper documentation to ride the bus to school with my sons on Friday, and the cold wet rain really made standing at the bus-stop unappealing, so I told them that they could just come to Mass with me and I would drop them at school afterwards.

You can imagine how excited 3 teenage boys were about going to 6:30 a.m. Mass, but they knew better than to protest too much. 

They must have prayed, though, because when we got to church, there was no Mass.  Our sacristan was in the parking lot, sending people on their way.  Father was sick (food poisoning, my altar server sons told me tonight). 

So we continued on our way to High School.  I haven't dropped them off since the first day of school, and it was daylight then.   But at 6:30 this particular morning, it was dark, dark, dark, rainy, and cold.  (They start school at 7:05).

We noted a few buses arriving.  The gate in the front where I would normally drop off (I dropped off a lot more often last year, when we lived 5 minutes away) was locked.  So figuring that we were just too early, we pulled into the parking lot on the side where the teachers were arriving and decided to wait a few minutes.

After the requisite few minutes, I decided to drive them to the front and drop them off - there appeared to be activity there.  Imagine my surprise/aggravation to find myself locked in - a gate across the street - locked.  It's raining and dark, still. 

The boys and I made our way into the building.  The halls were patrolled by bright-eyed teachers directing the boys to go to the gym.  I explained my predicament and I was sent upstairs to the library where the administrators were holding forth for some reason.  I was met in the library by a posse of police and various school personnel who seemed to be on their way out and into action.  Something about a bomb threat.

The posse of police didn't really alarm me - I knew a couple of them from my own school - which is a really sad commentary right there.  They periodically gather to conduct random searches (another sad fact).  And a bomb threat - well, when  was the last time you heard about a school actually blowing up when someone called in a threat?  I just wanted to get out.

I explained my situation again, and they said they would send *someone* to unlock the gate.  When I got there, the gate was indeed unlocked and additional cars trying to drop off children had turned in.  But there was someone out there locking it back....telling those of us who were now locked in - that we would have to go out "the other way". 

What other way?  "Follow those cars," someone told me.  And all was well until 2 cars went straight and 2 cars went left.  I stopped and waited.  It was wet and it was dark.  Those that turned left seemed to know where they were going, so I eventually picked that.  Wrong!  Ended up on a soccer field or something.  Turned around and headed back the other way.  All the way to the back of the campus, around the back of the stadium, and back along the other side of the school.

I had thoughts of calling in sick if this was any indication of the way the day was going to go.  

By the time I was free, I had missed my chance for 7:00 Mass, but was able to make 7:15 at another parish.

Missed my workout.  Shucks!  Heard later in the day that our Curves is Monday.  :-(

Later in the afternoon, I crossed paths with the SRO at my school.  He said he had been at my sons' school for the operation there - someone had written a note the previous day threatening to come in and shoot up the place until they ran out of ammo.  They take such things seriously.  Had I known that was what the real threat was, I probably would have packed up my kids and taken them with me. 

Thankfully, the rest of my day did NOT go like the morning.  The rain cleared, though the sun never came out.  My fifth graders - who suck every ounce of patience from me on a daily basis -  were a pleasure to work with - rare occurrence that is! 

My children came home safely.  Life is good.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


That's how things have been lately...kind of random.

I went to confession the other day and started off by saying that I just had a collection of random thoughts.  My wonderful confessor shot back that was OK, because he could give me random absolution. 

He was on retreat last week.  So I attended Mass here in his absence.  It was echo-y.  But a nice change of pace, and another spot to put on my itinerary for weekday Masses.

I liked this picture because you can see the early morning blue sky and some of the outside lamps that are still lit.  

Work has been difficult.  I don't really like fifth graders all that much at all.  But I spend half of my day with them this year.  Whining doesn't really help.  I like that nothing is off the table for confession...all is fair game.  My kind confessor reminded me that fifth grade does not make up the sum total of my life...and that I have an oasis from that.  He is right, of course.

Distractions....they have been huge lately.  My mind feels like that butterfly in the tree.  Can you see it?  In prayer, my mind is everywhere.  Just like the butterfly - up, down, from tree to tree, eventually landing for a second....  And God?  I'm not sure where He is.  Intellectually, I KNOW He's there, but it feels like He's taken a vacation somewhere.  (The butterfly is a little northwest of center.)

More good advice....Sometimes all we can do is offer God the distractions.  He knows.  Sometimes God does "play hide n seek" with us.  He does that to draw forth fidelity from us, the Good Father says.  Fidelity that doesn't depend on feelings.  He plays "hide n seek" because He wants us to seek Him, to focus on Him.

Part of my morning routine....working out.  Not a favorite part, but a part.  I can still wear the same clothes that I wore when I started two years ago.  I guess you could look at that as a glass is half empty / half full kind of thing.  I do feel better, though, and have more endurance.  This T-shirt happened to be there the other day when I was there.  A sample?  It's mine now.  I have about 250 workouts. 

Pictures of the spiky things on the Bird of Paradise plant.  I have no idea what they are there for, or even if they are supposed to be there. 

Random.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Friday, October 21, 2011

warts and all

Another one of those posts from the archives of my mind...maybe if I get what is in the "archives" down on "paper", then new ideas will come....  Maybe.

Confession is one of my favorite topics to write about, but I've tried to limit myself lately!  ;-)  Probably the general public doesn't care to know each and every time I set foot in a confessional, though I'm more than happy to share my experiences if it gets someone else there.  But it's been a while, so maybe we can make room for a confession post!  Or more aptly - a confession analogy post.  A rewrite of something I wrote on another site.

About five years ago or so, I had a wart.  [sin]  At first, I didn't know what it was - I'd never had a wart before.  [sometimes we don't immediately recognize sin for what it is]

I thought it might be a splinter, and I tried to get rid of it myself [sometimes we try to get rid of sin on our own], but it didn't work.  Perhaps because I didn't really know what it was, I couldn't treat it appropriately.

Finally, I realized exactly what I was dealing with.  It was ugly [so is sin], and it hurt if I hit it just so [sin hurts, too].  I didn't want to spread it to others [our sin does sometimes spread to others], so I covered it with a bandaid.  [Sometimes we try to cover up our sin with attitudes, behaviors, blame, or excuses.]

I tried more over-the-counter remedies, but the roots were deep, and these remedies didn't work, either.  [same with sin]  I had heard it might go away on its own, so I didn't seek expert help immediately.  [We think we can make our sins go away, if we just ignore them and put off confession.]

But it didn't go away.  As a matter of fact, I had a lot of stress in my life at that time, and it started to get worse.  [stress makes just about everything worse]  It started to grow and to itch and it was painful.  [sin sometimes takes on a life of its own...]

One day I had had enough! [ever get tired of living with sin?]  I made sure that I could be at the doctor's office before it closed. [The 'office hours' for confession are not always convenient...sometimes we just have to make it a point to get there when it's open.]

This visit cost me - in $$, to be sure.  [There is usually a price to pay for confession, too...sometimes it's embarrassment or nervousness or the realization that we really aren't perfect.]

The doctor took a look at my finger and quickly diagnosed the situation and indicated what the treatment would be.  [This is what the priest does - you show him the spiritual warts, and he can give you advice on what to do about it.]

He gave me a shot in my finger - to numb it.  It hurt for just a second.  [Sometimes you feel a twinge with confession, but generally the priests try to make it as painless as possible.]  Then, when everything was numb, he proceeded to burn it off.  I could smell the burning flesh.  [Fortunately, there is nothing here really analogous to confession.  I have never had a burning flesh experience in the confessional.]

I was left with an open wound that I had to care for for a week or so, but the pain and itching was gone!  [It takes a little while for the pain to totally disappear, but in time, it does.]

I was left with a small scar on my finger, but I never regretted taking that trip to the doctor. [Our actions have consequences that aren't always erased, but confession is something that you never regret doing.]

Sometimes I visit the doctor, still.  Some visits are for "preventive maintenance" and some are for actual illnesses.  [The same can be said of confession.  It's not a one-time thing.  Sometimes serious sins are our reason for going, but other times, we just need to prevent small things from turning into big things.]

In the end, the Divine Physician reaches out to us.  He doesn't take a look at our warts and recoil in horror.  No, He tenderly takes them, heals them, and makes us whole again.  For that, I am very thankful.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

tales from the backyard

I love my new house.  I think one of the biggest surprises for me though has been how much I love my backyard.

At first, when we were thinking about buying it, the backyard was somewhat of a negative.  There is no grass. And we have a dog.  But she hasn't seemed to mind.  There are fruit trees and other foliage lining the perimeter, and sometimes she likes to pretend like she's in the jungle on safari.

And when she's had enough of the safari, she can take a dip in the pool.  She takes the same route every time.  Walks down the the end of a "bench" in the water and then paddles across the shallow end to the other end of the "bench".  Then out.

Of course she really prefers to swim when her people are in the pool with her.  Older son is one of her very favorite people.

Did I mention that there are fruit trees?  Several variety of citrus...grapefruits, oranges, lemons, tangerines/satsumas, kumquats.  I'm pretty sure this is dear husband's favorite part of the new home experience.  He reminds me every so often that he was perfectly happy in "the other house".   But I think he went outside two or three times today to see if any fruit had ripened since the last time.  :-)

Does anyone have any recipes for lemons?  Besides lemon-aid?  I don't often drink sugared drinks, and I think all of this lemon-aid cannot really be a good thing when it comes to my clothes continuing to fit.

Oh - and the dog (Sandy)....she likes citrus fruits, too.  At least the oranges and kumquats and tangerines.  The lemons....not so much.  We've caught her "picking" some from the lower branches.

Besides the citrus trees there are two rose bushes.  One is nearly totally eclipsed by a lemon tree, but the other produces beautiful long-stem roses that I cut periodically and put in a vase on the table.  

This flower showed up all on it's own about mid-summer.  My facebook sources say it is a Bird of Paradise.  I can see that.  But what I don't quite "get" are the green spiky cocoons around the base of the flowers.  Quite unusual.  

And that is that.  Nothing profound.  Nothing exciting.  Just some pictures from the backyard, so I can say "hi" and reassure my massive fan base ;-)  that I have not fallen off the face of the earth!

Friday, October 14, 2011


Pure craziness - that's what this week has been. 
And you know the cause of it? 

Any self-respecting teacher should know the cause of it. 
It's the full moon.
Perhaps paired with a slight change in weather temps. 
Oh my!  The results have been off the charts!

Most of the time you can spot the full-moon effects for a day or so, 
but this time I swear, it has lasted most of the week. 

I think it marked the second time in 20 something years that I have needed to call the SRO (School Resource Officer) so that I could do my job.  That we have a cop assigned to our campus is another sad commentary, but one we won't go into here.  Two fifth graders (both bigger than me) started pushing on each other and talking trash.  I called before it escalated and before someone got hurt. 

And I was not the only one with stories to tell! 
Next year, the powers that decide all things should plan our wimpy little "fall break" around the full moon.  And maybe the  next full moon belongs to the teachers.  
We can all come to school and act as if we've lost all of our marbles. 

(Thankfully, we have a "fall break" on Monday.  Parent teacher conferences are on Tuesday from 11-7.  Perhaps sanity will have been restored by the time we see them again on Wednesday.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Perhaps an almost wordless post...rare though they are!

He wants to grow his hair long.  Longer.  Slash is his idol.  Heaven help us.

This past weekend was a milestone.  "Encouraged" by his younger brother (who already had a date), older brother asked a young lady from CCD, whom he knew from their past years together and St. XYZ Catholic School to attend the homecoming dance with him at his high school.  Did I mention that younger brother's date fell through?  

This was the first "real" date.  Can you sense the anticipation?  He was so nervous. 

Posing for the obligatory pictures for the paparazzi parents.  A cute couple, don't you think?  According to Facebook posts, a good time was had.  Although my son is fairly certain that he will never completely understand girls. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

sometimes God uses pictures

                                                                                     Taking a step back into the archives here.....   Once upon a time, I took this picture in my backyard.  I thought it was a great picture, but it was especially special because of the story behind it. 
At that particular time in my life, April and May were e.x.t.r.e.m.e.l.y stressful, because at that time of the year, we would have to redo all of the IEPs on our caseload.  While still maintaining our normal teaching routine with kids who were ready for summer to begin.  I think at one point, that I had figured it took me an hour or so to gather the info I needed and schedule the meeting, another hour to type it, and then another hour to hold the meeting.  So every year, I would psych myself up.  I would do my best to avoid having any outside drama and trauma in my life during those two months, because I knew I would barely be able to survive with the IEPs/End of the School Year paperwork crunch.  The stress would creep into my shoulders and neck.  It would be hard to sleep, because I was afraid of forgetting something while I slept. 

But this particular year, the stress reached epic proportions, in spite of my plans.  I had a "situation" going on with the principal at my children's school.  My then-fifth-grader was having a very difficult year...all of the fifth graders were having a difficult year.  And I was just about over the top.  Then came the news that our priest was being transferred.  It was not expected, and I'd gotten to be quite fond of him.  I had a much-loved priest transferred before, and while I tried to like his replacement, I just never could.  I knew I would miss this one, and I was afraid of "what" we would get this time.  That was just "the straw".  

I felt like a rain cloud had found me and was following me around.  One afternoon, I was working in my backyard, and I asked for something to lift my spirits.  And I asked for God to let this change work out for all who were involved - for my dear priest who was leaving, for our little parish, for the parish where he was going, and for "whoever" we would get as a priest.  I was moving some branches when I heard a sound behind me that sounded like puppies,  I turned around, and there - in a tree - were the cutest little raccoons! I think there were 4 or 5.  I had my cell phone with me, so I called my child in the house and had him bring my camera!  

I snapped a few pictures.  

In the end, the dark cloud disappeared.  I did survive.  The priest who was leaving helped me to deal with the "situation" with the principal.  I survived the end of the year paperwork.  As I always do.  I think my dear priest did go to a better place, in some ways.  He had a gift for individual counseling, and he says he gets to do a lot of that where he is at.  Our "new" priest has different gifts, but is every bit as wonderful.   And the raccoons....they were gone the next day.  I never again saw animals in that little hollowed out part of the tree!  But they had served their purpose.

I was reminded that - without a doubt - God does hear and answer prayers...sometimes more quickly than we expect!

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Continuing on the "brother" theme from the last post, perhaps.

I have two sons...they are 16 and 14...born 19.5 months apart.  A year apart in school, thanks to the older having a summer birthday.

The other morning, as I dropped them off at the bus stop in the pre-dawn darkness, they got out of the car discussing the merits of some musical group.  As I drove away, I thought of how blessed I am to have children who actually like each other. 

Sometimes I would describe them to their teachers as "the same, but different".  One is the introvert; the other the extravert.  But they both shared an ADD diagnosis and horrendous difficulties with spelling - especially in the early grades.  Neither cares much for reading, but they are both working their way through the same library book - a biography of Slash - of rock band fame. 

They shared a room until a few months ago when we moved.  I sometimes wonder if that is why they are close.  (believe me - they didn't often sit in their room quietly playing Connect 4 with each other)  One night last week, I went upstairs to ask them something.  Each has their own TV in their own room now (a source of controversy for years...sharing a TV) but they were both in the same bedroom, watching the same (probably mildly inappropiate) tv show together. 

Most years, they have been at the same school.  Last year was an exception to that, as the older brother was in high school, and the younger counting the days until his freedom from Catholic school.  This year, I think it is a comfort to both of them to have the presence of the other at the same school.  They share friends, more often than they compete for them. 

Above is a picture from last summer...mine are the two on the left.  This was after the closing Mass of the Catholic work camp/retreat that they attended. 

Last year, they both took Algebra.  They called themselves the "Alge-brothers". 

Yesterday after school, there was a chill in the air, but the pool was still warm.  They started off, in the backyard playing with this....

a toy they discovered when we moved.  ;-)  Then they moved on to a frisbee...until one threw it over the fence and it landed in the neighbor's pool.  And they were both too chicken to go and ask for it.  (We have met our neighbors only about once.) *

Then they moved on to this.  Do you really think one is helping the other out??  Of course, you know that the one in the pools is trying to pull the other in.

It's not a hug, I tell you.   (and pardon the black garbage bag in the's the result of last weekend's unfinished weed-pulling efforts)

Of course it finally ended up in this...with variations of one trying to drown the other at various points.  But through it all, they were having a good time. 

In past weeks, I have listened to them discussing Homecoming preparations, dates, etc.  It has been neat to see them talk about double-dating, to hear one encouraging the other to find a date...that kind of thing.

Here's to brothers!  Brothers in Christ and Brothers-in-the Same House!

*The older child knocked on the door of the house next door to get his frisbee today and said that the neighbors were nice and showed them how to get into the backyard, in case they need to get a frisbee out of the pool again.