Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Honey Do

I read the other day in Family Fun magazine that children tend to mirror their parents moods.

The author of this particular article is a mom of two girls. She lamented upon how crazy things get at her house when she is in a bad mood and how her girls tend to emulate her crankiness. Her simplistic reminder for us readers is that "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar". She writes, " When you or your children are acting like vinegar, ask yourself...where is the honey?"

I wonder how she would handle four crying out loud when she became grumpy.

I am sitting in my parents upstairs office trying to change my mood. We leave for Mississippi tomorrow and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by all that needs to be packed for our 14 hour road-trip. My kids definitely picked up on my stress. Jack and Gus were screaming loudly at each other for some mundane reason, Rebecca was yelling at them to be quiet; Nick had decided to ignore my third command to take a bath, and my husband was taking a nap through it all. Grrrrrrr. Meanwhile, I'm working up a sweat doing the laundry, packing suitcases, folding sheets and finding Playmobil pieces that have been dropped all over the house.

"Where is the honey?", I ask myself.

I packed it in the suitcase.

If you want to see God laugh, tell 'em your plans.

A year of preparation and the big day came to celebrate my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. My mom did a fine job in coordinating all the details of the event: the D.J. was there, the food was yummy, cousins were laughing as we all reminisced about our younger years, the reception hall was decorated, the lights sparkled and even my younger kids stayed dressed long enough for pictures! (Gus and Jack have NO patience for dress clothes...I have about 5 minutes to take pictures and then they start stripping!) It was all wonderful and well-planned except for the part we did not expect: Dad was deathly ill and mom wasn't far behind him.

Me: (2 days before the party, en route from N.C.) Mom, are you ready for the big night?

Mom: Yes! But your dad is sick.

Me: What! You've got to be kidding! How bad is he?

Mom: (trying to sound upbeat.) Oh, he'll be O.K., he just has a sore throat.

Me: (interpreting her tone and diagnosis) Mom, get him some anti-biotics and Gatoraid. This is NOT good.

Mom: All he needs is some rest, he'll be just fine.

Well, mom tried to stay positive, but as soon as I arrived and saw my dad's lethargic body and "out of it" facial expression, I knew we needed to change the day's schedule and shorten the celebration. We called all of our guests and informed them that we had to cancel the Mass, but to meet us at the reception hall as planned. God bless my mom and dad. As sick as they were, they slowly dressed themselves for the big event and hauled their sick bodies in the car. My siblings and I pretty much propped them up in their chairs at the reception hall so that they could watch the dancing and tribute we had created for them. They smiled and laughed, but only my siblings and I knew how sick they really were.

The next day, my parents felt sick enough to call the the ambulance. They refused to let Chris drive them to the hospital because they felt they would get immediate care going in that way. They lay in two different rooms in the emergency room. "In sickness and in health", I thought to myself, "50 years together and there they were...sick as dogs."

My parents are fine now. They both had suffered viral infections that had zapped their energy and enthusiasm on their big day. They are not fully 100% a week after their celebration, but they are still smiling and loving each other as on every other day. The important news is that they have officially made it! 50 years of marriage, commitment and faith in God. Sick or not, nothing can change the power of love (or Gatoraide!) Below are some pictures from the reception:

My mom and dad have a small kiss before they drink wine.

The couple of honor after 50 years!

Rebecca and Chris during the father/daughter dance part of the evening.

Here are some of the grandkids with grandma and grandpa before we leave for the 50th anniversary reception. Jack and Gus are pictured up front, Nick is on the far right, and Rebecca is in the back row in her RED dress.

Jack in front of a knight in shining armor. Sooooo handsome!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Glory To The Newborn King!

Merry Christmas to all and may we always hold the Christ-child in our hearts forever!

Jesus Under Wraps

When I arrived in Texas with my family a week ago, I noticed that my mom and dad had decorated the house beautifully for Christmas.

In the formal living room there stood the Christmas tree. My parent’s artificial tree was illuminated with colored lights and decorated with red and white ornaments, candy canes, icicles and pearl garland. There were very few Christmas presents under the tree, but that would soon change.

Underneath the tree is a ceramic foot-long baby Jesus laying in his crib. His arms are outstretched as if he were reaching for his mom. He has a smile on his face and his head lays on a bed of straw and cotton. Wrapped in his swaddling clothes, that ceramic baby reminded me of the real reason we celebrate this season. I was glad to see Him there when I came home to Texas.

As the week progressed, more family arrived and placed gifts under the tree. I noticed that Jesus was looking a bit cramped underneath the tree. I thought, “hum, maybe I’ll put a gift in his arms so that we don’t accidentally cover him up with gifts.” And so I put a small box in his outstretched arms and was satisfied with my attention of Him.

Alas, more family came and generously brought gifts. In no time, Jesus was completely covered up and forgotten under the tree. I happily ran off to visit, eat, play, and plan for the big day of Christmas! The big day came with all the fanfare that accompanies the day: Mass, family, gifts, mounds of wrapping paper, food and laughter. It was a wonderful celebration of Christ’s birth, but as I look under the tree at the end of the day, I see that He is back….uncovered again…sitting in the same spot… still smiling…arms outstretched….waiting.

I learned a good lesson about human nature today that I think symbolizes our human relationship with Jesus. We cover him up when we are busy or concerned with worldly things but there He remains under all the ‘stuff ‘, waiting for us to reach for him. My prayer for all of us this Christmas is that we be more conscious of Christ in our lives on the good days when we tend to forget that His is there…waiting for us to notice.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Money well spent.

There are many gifts to wrap before Christmas Day. Having four kids with at least 4 gifts each makes for at least 16 gifts to wrap. Add to the equation gifts for grandparents, brother, sister, nieces and nephews there must be at least 30 gifts that await a lovely wrapping paper and bow. As I ran errands today with my mom a sense of dread overcame me and I realized that I still needed to wrap all those gifts. I thought to myself, Do they have to be wrapped? Would it be THAT bad if some of the gifts were simply creatively placed under the tree without wrappping?

Later my sister and her daughter came over to my parents house to visit. After a few hours, Rebecca and her cousin, Kelcie decided that they were bored.

Then the idea struck me....I said, "Girls, I have an idea...how about I pay you guys $5.00 to wrap some of my Christmas gifts?"

The girls excitedly ran off to find tape, scissors and paper. I left to sing for a wedding and to pick up a few things from the grocery store. When I returned, everything was wrapped and placed under the tree ready for Christmas. Thank you God! As I looked closer, I noticed the girls used duck tape on the gifts instead of scotch tape, but hey...it worked.

Money well spent.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Until the hour of our death...

There are some things that will always remain a painful mystery.

We were informed this morning that a well known family from our parish tragically lost their oldest daughter in a car accident yesterday. While this is tragic in itself and an unbearable pill to swallow, it is partnered up with the fact that this same family lost their youngest son to cancer a year ago after a long battle against the disease. Just when the family was beginning to heal and smile again, this bitter news comes from behind and kicks them back down again.

Please pray for the Minta family and their remaining daughter. They will need as much of God's grace during this time of trial more than ever. Pray that their faith stays strong and that they feel God's presence during this painful time. Mother Mary hold their deceased children in your arms and send your angels to the ones left behind.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

File Under: You got TOLD!

We are in Texas enjoying family and friends. As we enjoy our dinner, Gus, who is five, decides that he would disobey his father. Here is the conversation between the two:

Chris: (half-joking, half serious)Gus, since you disobeyed me, Santa will take one of his presents back and you get less for Christmas.

Gus: (snidely) That o.k. 'cuz I'll still get alot.

Chris: No. You were only getting FOUR presents and now you'll get THREE.

Gus: Oh yeah? Well, you are not going to get any presents either 'cuz you spank us with the belt.

Chris (realizing the logic in Gus's argument says jokingly): Well since I'm not getting any presents I can spank you all the time then.

Gus: (totally silent)

I think Chris won that debate.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Visit With Cooter

Sorry I have been gone for a while, but we’ve been traveling to from Chapel Hill, NC to New Braunfels, Texas by car for my parent’s 50th Wedding Anniversary. Here is one of many stories from the trip:

Day 1:

The kids love to travel by car. They are well equipped with their favorite toys, a VCR and screen to watch movies, a game cube complete with 4 controllers, MP3’s and gameboys. They create little nests around themselves with all their gadgets and gizmos ….most of which need to be plugged into the electrical outlet in the car. I even had my computer adaptor so that I could work on my parents’ 50th anniversary slideshow. (I had promised to have it done 2 months ago, I now have two days before the event and am under the gun to finish it.) My four children rarely “cry out loud” when they are enjoying the magic of so many options for entertainment all in one spot. That is, until the electrical system fails in the car and you are stranded between nowhere and nowhere.

To be exact: The Conoco Truck Stop at Exit 69 off of Interstate 65S, Alabama, US of A!

All in all, this place is a lovely place to be stranded. There are gas tanker trucks all around, mangled trees left over from Katrina, piles of rocks 20 feet high, and truckers. Not only that, the Conoco has a small dining area with two tables featuring “delissio pizza” and “dogs and burgers”. The lucky family stranded here have ALL their needs met with an array of items including beef jerkey, hunting supplies, confederate flags, bumper stickers that say, “ BEER, allowing ugly people to have SEX since 1821”, (Nick: Mom, what does that mean?) and baseball hats advertising Viagra. It’s a one-stop bonanza where you can have your ‘delissio’ pizza, have educational moments with your kids AND do your Christmas shopping. How did we get so fortunate?

In what seemed like no time, a mechanic (we’ll call him “cooter”) and his sidekick arrive driving a beat-up pick-up truck looking like they had pieced it together with pieces of other cars. I said to Chris, “ Well, if they keep that hunk of junk running, they must be good mechanics.” Our saviors are bedecked in cammo suits with long filthy hair, a shotgun rack in the back of the truck holding a twelve gauge shotgun for “protection”, tool chests, and the one guy was missing his front teeth and wore a hat that said: Why can’t I attract women like crazy instead of attract crazy women.

They inform us that the alternator is dead;which is what we suspected, and that the only place to find one is 1 ½ hour way in Mobile. Well, we had no choice but to trust those guys and wait. So we did.

Seven HOURS at that truck stop = a bill for $650.00 and a fixed car.

It was worth it when I saw that truck stop in the rear view mirror.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Just one of those days...

Ever have one of those days where numerous things happen worthy of writing about? I'm telling you, TODAY was one of those days so I'll try and give you a taste of what went on:

Gus has been so hyped up about our impending trip to Texas, that he packed himself (well, his toys) two days ago. Today was his last day of school before the trip and he WAS NOT happy about going to pre-school. Normally he is eager...

Mrs. Brown (his teacher): Um, Georgie, does Gus not want to go to school today?

Me: Why he does, Mrs. Brown, but he is really excited to get to his grandparents house in Texas.

Mrs. Brown: Oh. Well. UM, see. We've been wondering if he has a hearing problem because he has been speaking really loudly in class lately and has been having problems following directions.

Me: (trying not to laugh) Yes, well, he IS a loud child and he IS a boy. But I'll talk to him about his voice volume and behavior when he gets home.


A couple of neighbor friends and I decided to visit a local Craft Store for last-minute gifts and have lunch afterwards. I'm not big on local artisan craft stores mostly because the pottery bowls and other items are high priced and mostly kind of ugly. I went along because I'm an optimist and thought that I MAY find something that someone on my list would like plus...I'm always up for lunch with the girls.

As I entered the store, I noticed that it had a variety of items, but as I suspected, nothing interested me at all except for one thing: a spoon. It was not any ordinary spoon, it was embellished with stones and silver wire. Very unique, somewhat expensive, and heavier than I thought when I picked it up. Before I knew it, the spoon slipped out of my hand into a pottery bowl displayed on the FLOOR. (O.K. why would anyone display pottery on the floor? sigh.) Well, my heavy spoon severed the bowl in half with a mighty crash. The store employees looked at me in pain knowing I would have to PAY for the item even though it was an accident.

My friend Nancy said, "OH, you know, I have some great glue that could patch that bowl right up."

Me: Nancy, I don't like the bowl. It's brown and ugly.

Nancy: (laughing) OH I like it! In fact, I have 3 bowls similar to it.

Store attendant: Yes, you know, you could glue it and place it high on a shelf and no one would know.

Me: But it's ugly. I don't want it in my house.

Defeated, I paid for my ugly brown bowl. They were nice enough to charge me the wholesale price of $21.50, but it was still a painful sale. I told myself that I was DONE with craft stores and when they gave me a coupon for 20% off on my next visit, I gave it to Nancy....along with the broken brown bowl. She was delighted!


I had explained to Chris that Mrs. Brown had mentioned that Gus was really loud at school and was having trouble following directions. Gus sat there sheepishly wondering what Dad would say about this problem.

Chris: Gus, have you been having problems in school?

Gus just stared at his dad wondering if he was going to get another spank from Dad's belt.

Chris: Why would you behave like that?

Silence. All the kids were staring at Gus. Finally Jack spoke up....

Jack: (matter-of-factly) 'Cuz he's a devil.

Everyone burst out in laughter.


We are off to Texas in the morning to celebrate my parents 50th. Please keep us in your prayers. I'll post as soon as I get to a computer.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Hot Halapenos!

I made dinner tonight and the menu consisted of chicken fingers, broccoli, peas, and jalapeno poppers. I warned the kids that the poppers may be a bit spicy and to be careful that they not get burned. Nick took and bite of his jalapeno popper and proclaimed with great confidence:

I know why the jalapeno poppers are hhhhhot, because they start with 'h'.

Time for spelling lessons.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart!

Trying to keep Christ the center of Christmas is always a battle in my home this time of year. I try numerous subliminal and not so subliminal tactics on my children so that they know that Advent is about waiting on Christ, on his Incarnation, his birth on Christmas Day. Here are a few things that are working...sort of...

1. The Advent Wreath: During a Generations of Faith family session at the parish, we built our own Advent wreath with Magnolia leaves and golden baubles to make it pretty. I added a gold bow, and wallah! The Clemens Advent Wreath. It's on the center of the table and the kids take turns blowing out the candles at the end of dinner. As I light the candles, we sing, Oh, Come Oh Come Emmanuel as our dinner prayer. It's a nice addition to our Advent traditions.

2. Oh Little Poster of Bethlehem: I have a poster of the town of Bethlehem taped to the window next to the dinner table. Each night, the kids and I count down to Christmas by reading a short scripture verse afterwhich a sticker symbolizing that scripture is placed somewhere on the poster. I tend to hear, "It's MY turn to put on the sticker!" They really LOVE that one.

3. Our Nativity Set: I purchased a very small, child size Nativity set this year which I placed in the family den. The younger children love to stare at the figurines..gently touching the angel and baby Jesus. It was inexpensive, so if it get destroyed, no harm done. But it's good to have a Nativity in the room they spend most of their time in...a good reminder of the time of year.

4. Reading Christmas Books: Gus always hands me the book, "Who was born on this special day"
It is a lovely picture book about Jesus' birth.
Reading religious books along with traditional books add a mystery and anticipation to Advent for kids.

The final thing that I have out is NOT directly related to Advent at all, but entertains my kids and bring them that ineffable joy. Last January, I purchased a cute miniature skating rink with miniature skaters on it. It was 90% off! Who could resist! Anyway, these skaters skate in mezmorizing circles with the help of unseen magnets under the rink. But the influence this small item has on my family is funny. Becca comes in from school and turns on the Christmas music that accompanies the skaters, eats her snack and decompresses by staring at the skaters for 10 minutes or more. Nick comes, turns up the volume and moves the figures around by lifting them and dropping them to see where they land.

I never know what I'm going to find in that rink on any given day.

The other day, Chris thought it would be funny to put my rounded refrigerator magnets in the rink and watch the skaters crash into them and push them around. Sick puppy that he is.

The other day, Gus and Jack were playing with the figurines by sticking one skater on top of the other...and another....until finally when I walked by; there was a dogpile of skaters floating on the rink.

Gus: Hey mom look! The skaters are all on top of each other skating...its SO awesome!

Anyway, these things seem to be having SOME effect on the Advent spirit in my house. But the rink brings that extra-special JOY that is required this time of year. Get yourself a rink (I bought it at Dillard's last year) and bring joy into your home this Advent. The joy is contagious!

Welcome Home

It can be a lonely process when you search for truth and the truth finds you.

Chris met Chad many months ago when he was asked to be his confirmation sponsor. Chad was raised a Presbyterian--religion was a part of his life growing up, but not as central to his life as it has become.

One of the reasons Chad started looking into the Catholic Church in the first place was because of his sister. His sister was going to marry a Catholic and wanted to convert to the faith for reasons of the impending marriage and because she had been attending Mass with her fiance for many years and felt she could no longer call herself a Protestant. Chad was worried about his sister entering the Catholic church. He was totally against it and decided to talk her out of it by exploring the faith himself to prove to his sister that it was the 'wrong' faith.

What began as a mission to 'save' his sister, ended tonight in his coming home to the truth of the Catholic faith by making his first profession of faith, getting confirmed in that faith, and partaking in first Holy Communion. In front of God and everybody in the church. Fr. John slathered him (and 7 others) with chrism oil in the name of the father, son, and holy ghost. Tonight he is a full blown Catholic and knows more about the Catholic faith and his relationship with God than most people I know. You see, Chad was looking for the truth...truth to save his sister from making the wrong choice...but the truth surprised him and swept him up. The more he dug, the more he realized that the Catholic church held all that was good and right. The teachings of Jesus in scripture. Tradition, that keeps us from making the same old mistakes. Reason, that helps us make sense of it all.

Chad is a smart guy. He's 28 and is in the Ph.D/M.D. program here at UNC. Many of his good friends are from the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship Group on campus....all of varying Protestant religions. These guys form a wonderful support group for Christians to gather, pray and hang-out. Most of these guys were supportive in his decision to become a Catholic, but only one actually came to STM this evening to witness his conversion. In his world, Chad stand alone as one who broke ranks and became the man God wants him to be and he will be given grace throughout his life. No doubt there will be more lonely times on the horizon. It's hard to be a Catholic today. But as a wise friend told me many years ago, "Those who honestly search for the truth, cannot help but find it in the church Christ established 2000 years ago."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Happy Birthday Chris

Happy Birthday you sexy beast. Oh, and for those of you who read the previous posts,...he returned the leather jacket this evening. Awwwwwh. Women are cry-ing all over Chapel Hill at the sadness of it all!

Immaculate Conception

An interesting insight by Peggy Noonan in her book, "John Paul the Great" regarding Jesus'mom:

"It is interesting that the countries whose Catholics love Mary most ardently, and who have by tradition been most public in that love, have tended to be those that have known intense political oppression and poverty: Poland, Ireland, Mexico, Italy, the Philippines. Why would this be? Maybe protracted trouble helps human beings admit they need as much help as they can get, and if a father, a son, and a mother are availabe, they'll take all three. Maybe in part it's that families under daily duress experience more deeply the crucial importance of women because they witness it each day, in the home, and in the form of decision making and direction. When you live close to the land, you tend to absorb a strong sense of gender, of the differentness of the sexes."

It is no accident that my husband was born on the feast day of the Immaculate Conception. It is as if she sent him straight from her hands to my own as a gift. Mother Mary, thank you for that gift.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A night in Italy

Tonight is our anniversary. 14 years = 4 states 7 cars 4 houses 3 pets and four crying out loud!

Chris came home and reminded me that we had to leave the house at 6:30 even though we have dinner reservations at a mysterious venue at 7:30.

Why? I asked. You'll see, he said.

The kids were hyper while they ate their dinner giggling about the fact that mom and dad were going on their anniversary date.

Gus: Mom, kiss dad!

Me: OK (Chris and I gave each other a 'showy' kind of kiss for the kids.)

The boys: ( laughing ) EEEWWWWWWWHHH! Nasty!

While the boys were seemingly disgusted at the fact that mom and dad had kissed, Jack hurriedly jumped up from his chair to get HIS kiss....then came Nick...and then Gus! They ALL wanted a part of that action. Afterwards they all laughed at themselves and went back to the table to finish their dinner.

Me: Chris, open your anniversary gift.

Kids: Yeah Dad, open it! It's so cool! We know what it is and it's awesome!

Gus: You'll be a sexy beast in it! (Nick taught him that phrase and he repeats it during the most inappropriate times...but it's pretty funny.)

Chris: OK

The gift I purchased for Chris was a leather jacket. I was totally at a loss as to what to purchase my groom after 14 years of marriage, so I decided to take a risk and buy him something that he would NEVER buy for himself. (I kept the receipt.) I knew that he didn't really like it when he saw the gift, but the kids assured him that he looked great in it. (Quite frankly, Gus was right. Chris looked like a sexy beast to me when he put it on.)

Chris: I don't know...I look like a metro-sexual in this.

Me: Ha! No you don't! But think about it, if you'd rather buy a tool with the money, go right ahead. (Chris has been working on building a bathroom on the 3rd floor and is in need of certain types of tools that I'm totally ignorant about.)

Chris: Now you open your present.

Me:OK....(Chris hands me a metal tin which I recognized was from my favorite store: Brighton.) SW---EET! I exclaimed! Chris had purchased a gift card for me to use for anything in the store. We left the house early to make that purchase.

I bought some earrings and a cell phone case that I had been wanting for awhile. I was totally happy and thrilled with my husbands thoughtful gift, but knew that we still had dinner to share, so we started walking toward a mysterious venue that only Chris knew about. We walked fast since it was so cold outside and Chris started talking: "You know how much you loved visiting Rome and how much you love anything about Italy and Rome?" We stopped in front of Maggiano's Italian Resaurant. "Yes, of course", I replied. "Well, I've brought you here because you love Italian food and" Chris opened the door of the restaurant where we both found ourselves in front of a display Christmas tree with numerous gifts placed underneath. Chris reached under the tree and dug through the gifts and pulled out two wrapped items and handed them to me...much to my astonishment "these are for YOU." I opened the first gift and cried as I read the title: Pope John Paul II in the Vatican. I love this gift because every picture has a place that I'd visited this past summer while on pilgrimage there. The second gift was a book on Tuscany...a region in Italy I plan to visit one day. Chris had secretly placed the gifts under that tree in Maggiano's the day before...as a surprise. What a wonderful surprise!

I can't wait for the next 14 years! Goodnight all ;)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I will be here

Tomorrow Chris and I will celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary. Below are the words from a song written by Steven Curtin Chapman performed at our wedding on December 7, 1991.

Tomorrow morning if you wake up and the sun does not appear
I will be here.
If in the dark we lose sight of love, hold my hand and have no fear
I will be here.

I will be here when you feel like being quiet, when you need to speak your mind; I will listen and I will be here, when the laughter turns to crying, through the winning, losing and trying, we'll be together...because I will be here.

Tomorrow morning when you wake up and the future is unclear
I will be here.
As sure as seasons are made for change, our lifetimes are made for years
I will be here.

I will be here and you can cry on my shoulder, when the mirror tells us we're older
I will hold you.
I will be here to watch you grow in beauty and tell you all the things you are to me
I will be here.

I will be true to the promise I have made, to you and to the one, who gave you to me.

I will be here.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Lost and Found

One does not ever realize "how much" they have until they go through an organizing spurt.

I've been meaning to go through the playroom toy boxes for months and months to purge and clean, but it wasn't until Chris bought me some clear storage boxes did I get the 'bug' to sort the kids toys. I knew that my kids had many toy favorites, but never realized the number of PIECES that accompany these favorites. Many toys are ignored because the boys can't find the one crucial piece that makes it interesting. Because of this well-known toy problem, there are many great toys in the toy room that have needed MOM to come through and find the missing pieces. We worked on that tonight. (You can imagine the enthusiasm of the kids----it was not pretty.)

I gave each child a clear plastic box and gave them direct orders on what to fill the box with.

Me: Jack, fill this box with all the leggo pieces you can find. Becca, fill this box with any Star Wars toys you can find. Nick fill this box with knights and anything associated with knights. Gus, put all the playmobil items in a box.....etc.etc. etc until the boxes were filled with the same kind of item. I announced that no one was to do anything but organize. (You probably heard the groaning all they way at your house.)

Puzzle pieces were found. Dominos and Army men were found. Itty bitty pieces to the playmobil pirate ship were located and it seemed that we found more Match-Box cars than we ever thought one family could own! We also found lost socks that were eaten by the couch, leggos by the thousands, game pieces, and stuffed beanie babies. When a crucial piece was found...you heard, " Yes! I've been looking for that!!! But what really struck ME was how well each of the children could identify toy pieces. I mean, I would have some discombobulated piece of plastic in my hand, and my 5 year old knew what toy it belonged to and promptly attached it. This happened over and over again!!!

You would have thought it was Christmas today in the playroom after all the toys were found and put in their respective storage units. I thought to myself, " Man, who needs Christmas...just look for any lost pieces and you have a whole new toy again!" AND despite all the groaning, the kids eventually got in the spirit of our "family activity" and ALMOST enjoyed themselves.

They certainly enjoyed having their completed toys and will enjoy them until.....
we have to organize again.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Santa Baby

Gus had NO desire to sit on Santa's lap today. I encouraged him tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas with no luck....

So my friend Jackie and I decided to try Santa's lap....I asked for a diamond ring.
I think I've been too naughty for that.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

My lesson for the day

Why is it that when you are most overloaded, you find out that there is not one stick of food in the house worth eating? That's how it was tonight and to be quite frank, I was NOT in the mood for cooking, nor did I have the energy. So I announced to the kids that we were "going out!" They all voted to eat at Chick-fil-a at University Mall mostly because the toy store is located next to the restaurant and it has their favorite toys: Playmobil!!!! (I confess that all the employees at Chick-fil-a know my name..we go there alot.)

Dinner goes like it normally does: Gus gets so excited about sharing a thought that he ends up standing the whole time to which I respond, "Gus, sit down. Gus, sit down. Gus, sit down...over and over again." Jack sits, but with only one "cheek" on the chair as if at any moment he will need to dart out to conquer some imaginary bad guy to which I respond, "Jack, sit with both cheeks on the chair. No, Jack, that is still one cheek; I said BOTH cheeks". (Can you imagine what people are thinking around us? Nick sits nicely, but tends to overeat...which in turn makes him need to use the restroom. (I don't EVEN want to know what happens in there when he's bloated. All I know is that he comes out happy.) Rebecca stayed home to do homework and eat her favorite: PBJ. She wanted nothing to do with the boys tonight.

Dinner was relatively pleasant, so we decided to stroll about the mall and pick up some black pants that Nick would be needing for his performance in the "holiday" parade this weekend. (He'll be drumming with the elementary school's drum core...should be interesting since I've never heard Nick seriously drum. That, no doubt, will be another entry in the blog.) Anyway, as we were sorting through boys clothes at Dillard's, I spied a good sale of summer clothes. There were some Ralph Laren Polo boys dress shirts at a great discount, only problem was that they were multi-colored and very "springy" and feminine looking. I thought they were nice and would be good for the summer, but when I asked Nick if he liked them, he looked at me seriously and said, " No. Too many colors make me nauseas. I can only handle one or two colors." "OK." I said trying not to burst out in laughter, "we'll look for solid colored shirts from now on."

"Thanks mom. I don't want to throw up." (Nick has always had a weak stomach, but I NEVER knew multi-colors made him sick) I learned that the things that overload me as a mom are quite different than what overloads my child Nick. Either way, we both avoided the thing that made us feel woozy tonight. For me it was the thought of cooking another meal, and for him......girl colors on a guy's shirt. Somehow, I can understand that.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Mom and Dad's Wedding Day: December 25, 1955

I entered a posting titled "Unchained Memories a few weeks ago where I was being nostalgic about my parent's 50 year marriage. Here are the pictures that stirred that posting. They are of my mom and dad's wedding day on December 25, 1955. Magic!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

When did that happen?

Last weekend, Rebecca and I braved the crowds and visited the mall to search for a dress, shoes and jewelry that she would find acceptable for my parent's 50th wedding celebration. Rebecca knew she wanted a RED dress. Not black, not pink, not purple....bright RED. OK, I mused, we'll look for a red dress.

Surprisingly, we found one! AND it was half price! It is long, simple, elegant and redder than RED! Next, we needed to find some shoes. THAT would be much harder task since Rebecca is plagued with the same affliction as me: Big Feet. But before we moved on to that hunt, we decided we needed food, so we stopped for a burger and fries. As I'm sitting next to Rebecca at the food court, I listen to her school experiences and dreams of becoming the world's best trombone player. She tells me about the Harry Potter movie and how much she enjoyed it. She laughs as she describes her heavy-set teacher and how she dresses. She gives me advice on what we need to do with youth ministry at the church and what she likes most about being on the basketball team. As I sit there and listen to her, it struck me..... she had grown up on me when I wasn't looking. People told me that kids grow up quickly, but I didn't really believe them. When did she get so smart? and tall? and funny? and confident? and beautiful? At the ripe age of 13, I trust her to get things done better than many adults I know. She's more FUN to be with than most adults and I find that I prefer her company more than anyone else's---with the exception of my husband. I love my daughter and all her funny quirks...


We moved on to the task before us. Rebecca found some silver shoes, size 11 that matched her RED dress nicely. We were both surprised with the ease at which she was able to walk in the 1 1/2 inch heels. "Let's go with these mom....can I go look at the tennis shoes?" I said, " Go for it... I'm going to try on your sliver shoes."

At the end of the night, we realized that our shopping trip was successful:

Red Dress: $40.00

Burger and Fries: $9.00

Silver Shoes: $29.00

Realizing that you and your daughter can SHARE shoes: priceless!

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Book of Wisdom

It's finally here! Peggy Noonan's book: John Paul The Great---Remembering A Spiritual Father is now on bookshelves. There are many books out there on the life of John Paul, but this is the only one you NEED. It's easy to read, devoid of posturing or church politics, Peggy Noonan (who is Catholic and a writer for the Wall Street Journal) takes the reader down memory lane telling well-known stories---and some not so well known--- of the world's most important person.

As I began reading my copy of the book, I was immediately carried back to my pilgrimage to the Vatican last summer. I was moved by Peggy's ability to capture in words all that I saw when I was there as well as the many feelings of those who came into contact with JPII.
To read more from Peggy Noonan herself, click here.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Happy Birthday Gus!

Five years ago today I gave birth to my fourth child, Samuel Augustine. I thank God everyday for the surprise gift I had in my little Gus. Happy Birthday Gussie!

It's true that every child one gives birth to brings out qualities in the parent that eventually mold them into better parents/people and Gus is no exception. I confess that I cried tears of exhaustion and fear when I first learned that I was a pregnant with my fourth child. I was unsure of how I would handle four children..away from any grandparents and free help. With Jack only 6 months old at the time, Nick being 4 and Rebecca aged 8, I wondered how and why God chose this time for another child.

Then Gus arrived. 10 1/2 pounds of baby. Rolls of fat. He seemed ready for college. I remember looking into those blue eyes for the first time and saying, "OK Ooooghlie. What does the future hold for you and me?" 'Tis true that Gus was a challenging baby. He was demanding, hard-headed, and cranky but was and is still a child who knows what he wants: good or bad. Most of all, he either loves you or dislikes you. He runs hot or cold. One thing is for sure: He LOVES his mommy fiercely and makes sure that I know it. He does NOT love the boy who tattles on him incessantly across the street and lets him know it (much to my embarrassment) Gus: (yelling to the boy) "Hey you.. kid! You just go on back to your side of the street. You are NOT welcome here." then there was the time when he said to the boy, "Hey, do you think your COOL??? Well you're NOT!" He then turns his back to the sobbing kid and walks away. Ug!(I don't know whether to laugh or cry!)

Today, Gus is five and I can't imagine what life would be without my Gus. He is big. He is loud. He is heavy (55lbs) and He is my special consolation prize. It is because of Gus that I trust God more, that I trust myself as a mom, that I trust my instinct and that I realize that yelling at your neighbor is NOT necessarily a good thing...but it is funny.

Happy Birthday Gus!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Baskets 'o Food!

Volunteers packing up Thanksgiving Baskets

Food Donations Galore!

Congratulations to our Junior High Youth for collecting over 1000 food donations that filled over 40 Thanksgiving Baskets for the needy poor in our community! Special recognigion goes to all 6th grade Faith Development classes for collecting the most donations. They have won a pizza and game night for all their hard work!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Eucharist MEANS "Thanksgiving"

Fr. John's favorite holiday is Thanksgiving and everyone in the parish knows it. We hold a beautiful Mass on Thanksgiving day complete with our 3 combined choirs, bells, horns, guitars, piano, and organ. The church is usually packed with parishioners and their visitors and to top it off, everyone takes home a loaf of fresh baked bread to share at their Thanksgiving tables. It is a lovely celebration, one which I always look forward to, except for this year. I decided not to go this year. I needed a break from HAVING to go somewhere. I needed a day to stay HOME, enjoy my surroundings, cook our Thanksgiving feast, and prepare for our dear friends.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were spent assembling food baskets with our youth group, delivering those baskets, participating in school parties, cooking, grocery store shopping and all the other everyday stuff that needs to be taken care of. I had made the definite decision that the Clemens family WAS NOT going to the Thanksgiving Mass......until Fr. John asked the dreaded question:

Fr. John: Georgie, are you going to the Thanksgiving Mass?

Me: (Hesitantly) Noooo. Um. I just need a day off to slowly get up, cook, you know, watch the Thanksgiving Day parade, a day where I don't HAVE to go anywhere.

Fr. John: (jokingly) What???? You will be in TOWN and you will not be attending the Thanksgiving Mass?? You can TAPE the parade. You can relax on FRIDAY! I can't believe that our YOUTH MINISTER is MISSING our Thanksgiving Mass! I mean missing a chance to have Jesus in your hand! Oh I can't BE-LIEVE it!!

Me: (desperate) Well, I can't take Friday off...are YOU going to watch the kids for me?

Fr. John: Your kids will be with you on Thanksgiving anyway! I think there is someone influencing you.....maybe...ummm....SATAN??? (church lady)

Me: OK, OK, OK! I'll be there! But I'm NOT dressing up.

Fr. John: Wear your jeans...come in your P.J.s. Heck, I don't care what you wear. I just want you there.

Me: (exasperated) OK

Yesterday, (the night before Thanksgiving)I stayed up until 1:00am baking pies with my friend Mary. I threw myself into bed and woke up the next morning groaning....why??oh why?? did I tell Fr. John I would be at Mass!! I want to stay in bed..not fight the kids when I tell them they are going to church on a Thursday, rush through another breakfast, sort through the laundry looking for the proper clothes. Why did I ever tell him I would BE there.

While still in bed, I said to Chris: Do you want to go?

Chris responded with an unenthusiastic, "not really, but we'll have to hurry the kids if we do."

We'll go, I said. Let's get moving.

I put on my jeans and sweater, stuffed sweet rolls into the kids, got them dressed and threw everyone into the car.

We arrived to a packed church. The choirs were singing a glorious entrace hymn(Oh God Beyond All Praising...my absolute favorite!) Everyone looked beautiful and happy to be present at our Lord's table on this busy day. During the presentation of the gifts I was moved by so many parishioners who came forward with thousands of donations of food that were blessed and sent to the food pantry. Fr. John's homily was one of thankfulness and reminders to stop, and slow down...to take time for others and to thank God for all His blessings. The best part of the Mass was the Eucharist. Jesus there for me despite the fact that I was unenthusiastic to be there today. His real presence. I was willing to MISS ALL this for a parade on TV?

While Fr. John was simply joking with me the other day, I believe God spoke through Him to let me know that I needed to see Jesus on Thanksgiving, to take time for Jesus..to slow down and make Him the priority.

I didn't need a break on Thanksgiving, I needed Jesus on Thanksgiving.

Thanks for the prompting Fr. John. What a great day today was! Thank YOU Jesus!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Mother's Thankful Heart

I’m thankful for these intimate glimpses of God:

When Gus wakes me by stroking my cheek gently saying, “Mom, you are beautiful.”
When Jack happily presents me with a Thanksgiving card bearing a print of his small hand.
When Nick plays me an unintelligible beat using his new drumsticks.
When Rebecca sings harmony line alongside my melody when we are driving in the car.
When my husband offers to pour me my favorite drink: Diet Coke.

When I realize God's profound love for me in these simple moments.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Turkey Talk!

Jack and Gus's schools held their Thanksgiving Celebrations today. They were both dressed up as Indians. Jack's Kindergarten class prepared a feast for parents, and staff, complete with a costume parade and drum music (Jack was the drummer). Gus's Pre-K class held a short concert where the kids sang songs that go kind of like this: "Hay yonna, Ho yonna, Hey yonn---NAH" and "A turkey ran away before Thanksgiving Day, they said they'll make a roast out of me if I should stay!" I could not be at both events, so poor Chris had to step in and make an appearance at Gus's school while I worked at helping to set up at Jack's feast. Unfortunately I had the camera and could only take pictures of Jack's event. You'll just have to imagine Gus's celebration. All in a days work!

Jack marching to the beat of his drum.

As soon as the boys got home, they compared their costumes (made of painted brown paper bags, feathers, beads etc), spoke about their individual celebrations, and then finally moved on to the more interesting things of boy life: A battle between the Pilgrims and Indians clothed in their new uniforms.

Jack: Gus, you are a Pilgrim, so you have to wear shoes. Indians don't wear shoes.
I'm Squanto so I'm not wearing shoes.

Gus: Who is Squanto?

Jack: He's the cool Indian that taught the Pilgrims how to make Thanksgiving food. He helped them hunt and cook their food 'cause there were no people on the island...only Indians. That was the start of the First Thanksgiving.

Gus: Oh. OK. I'm a Pilgrim with a gold cape and I'm part Zorro. OK? Hey yanna, Ho yanna, Hey Ya NAH!

Jack: Yeah. You shoot me and then I'll shoot you. I think you are the dark knight.

The boys head upstairs planning the details of their battle.

I'll give them about 5 minutes before I hear the blood-curdling scream indicating the end of the battle.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Francesco's Friendly World

St. Dominic meeting St. Francis

St. Thomas More School adopts a saint every year. This year's Saint is my personal favorite: St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis is admirable in my eyes mostly because of his willingness to repair the church without breaking it apart like Luther did.

One of Jack and Gus's favorite videos is Francesco's Friendly world. This 41 minute cartoon video tells the story of St. Francis and how he rebuilt the chapel of San Damiano. There are numerous "cutesy" songs that children ages 2-9 would enjoy. Keep in mind...this is not high quality video, but will capture your child's imagination and maybe even teach them a thing or two about this wonderful Catholic Saint. Another great Christmas gift option.....

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Rules for kids this week

As I've mentioned in an earlier post, Sr. Catherine at STM School always publishes two rules from Ron Clark's Essential 55 Workbook in the Wednesday note. If you have not yet purchased this book, make it a Christmas present to your family:

Rule 12: In School, your child my be asked to evaluate another student's work. When grading other students' papers, giving someone and incorrect grade, whether it is higher or lower than the student derserves, is unfair and may result in a penalty to your child's grade. Make your child aware that the only marks she should make on others' papers are an "X" and the number of answers that were incorrect.

Rule 13 for the week of November 21-December 2: When your child's class reads together, your child must follow along. He must be prepared when called upon and know exactly where to begin immediately reading aloud.

Give Me A Break!

We are having dinner at Spanky's Restaurant on Franklin Street.

Would you BELIEVE that John Stossell is 58??? I'll have what he's having! Whoa!

Chris and I had dinner with John Stossell this evening. (What a cool opportunity!) He was speaking on the UNC campus as a distinguished speaker. Since Chris is the faculty representative for the group who invited John, we were invited to the dinner. John Stossell insisted on paying for our dinners which was very generous of him, but considering the fact that the University paid $15,000 for his lecture, he was not short on cash. I, of course, was blubbering around him asking him silly questions about 20/20. Here was one of them:

Me: (with wide eyes) John, I just have to ask you a question about Barbara Walters! She sometimes seems "ticked" at you after your segment. Is she ticked???

John: (frankly) No. She really doesn't get upset.

Me: Can I take a picture with you?

John: Sure.

Me: (blubbering)Thank you! Thank You!

Chris and I at Memorial Hall, waiting to hear JS speak. Front row...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


I'm sorry for the dead time. My parents have been in town for the last week, and I've been spending a glorious amount of time with them. It is so good to have them around...not only to lend a helping hand, but to keep me company while I do the 'ol routine!

One of the perks of having my mom around, is that she is doing the Clemens laundry. Laundry is one of those things that I do without much complaint, but I sometimes get overwhelmed with the amount of clothes put before me on a weekly basis. Washing clothes for a family of six is tricky, especially when one child needs a specific outfit on a certain day. (Hopefully I can find it in the bottomless pit of the hamper.)

Before my parents came, I made a concerted effort to get as much laundry done as possible to keep my mother from being too overwhelmed herself. I was able to get a good amount done. (It is a victory for me when the clothes are NOT overflowing OUT of the hampers on to the floor.) The remainder of my family's dirty clothes fit nicely inside my two hampers...NO evidence that underneath the lids of these hampers that clothes were begging to explode onto the floor. I was so proud of the fact that you could actually see the floor of my laundry room!

The funny thing was, when my mom arrived and looked in the hampers she immediately said in her gentle way,

"Georgie honey, you don't need to let your laundry get so out of control. "

I was stunned.

I sputtered back, " Mom, this is IN control! "

She laughed.

After one week of doing laundry for me, she started to see how difficult it is to keep up with so much.

I heard her mutter to herself, "This laundry is NOT going to beat me."

Well, mom's been visiting for a week and a half today. She announced, "Well, Georgie, I've given up on the laundry. You are on your own!"

She at least made a good dent in it for me, but I'm where I was before mom came: Two hampers filled to the brim, covered with lids. Thanks for trying mom!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Thank God for that!

Well, there is always hope that the tide will turn and Hollywood will see the error of their ways. Go to the link below and click on "Hollywood finds Religion".

Click Here

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Never forget.

May we never forget the sacrifice of the men and women who have protected our country in the past and those who continue to do so today. May God Bless them all!

Click here

Say Cheese?

Jack came in this afternoon with his class picture in his hand.

He proclaimed, " I didn't smile in my picture because I wasn't in the MOOOOOD! "

"OK", I said. "You look like a cutie anyway."

Jack smiled then.

Monday, November 07, 2005


God's creation is so beautiful this time of year.

The weather was perfect today. The skies were clear and the colors of the leaves on the trees so vivid to the eye. I thank God for the season of Autumn....mostly for the visible reminder that we humans will one day have our own Autumn in life, where our bodies will whither, become frail and die similar to the leaves on the trees. Autumn reminds me to cherish the time I have with my children and my husband and to relish each and every breath of life. Autumn, with its warm colors, fragrant smells, and shorter days, gently encourages me to stay outside longer before Winter descends. It is a season where God plays with my senses and gives me a glimpse of his wondrous majesty...

Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated

Chris is on his way to South Africa via London to participate in the ribbon cutting of the SALT telescope. He sent me this e-mail today from London where he had a long layover.

Georgie my love,

As usual when travelling on Sunday, I set out from Gatwick to Victoria
Station with no plan but to walk aimlessly until I found a Catholic
Church. I said the same prayer as always, "Lord if you want me at
mass, show me the church." Last time he showed me the Santiago subway
station instead, but I knew how to get to the Plaza de Armas from
there, and I knew from our visit the Cathedral was there. This time I
wandered an hour, and found 3 churches, all Church of England. I
considered going in one of them, but there were two elderly ladies
waiting to greet me, and no one else there, and I didn't want to
explain that they were my second choice.

One of the Anglican churches was down a side street, and on my way back
from walking to it I saw an older couple parking their car. They got
out and began to go at a near run in a different direction than I was
walking. There were not many people out, and I enjoyed the riddle
"what makes an older couple in their late sixties run early on Sunday
morning?" I decided to follow. Then I heard the peal of bells, and I
could see them speed up even more; with my luggage I could barely keep
up. They twisted down streets like geriatric olympians. Just as I
thought, they were headed toward the bells, which turned out to be
coming from a very large Catholic-looking church. We reached the
square, but the sign in front of the church did not give a
denomination, which usually would mean it is Church of England. The
bells were pealing continuously and people were rushing across the
square in front of the church to get inside it.

So I thought, "whatever is in there must be pretty good, so I'll just
go see." I went in. There were a thousand people or more packed in
rows, far up in the front a choir of 30 or more singing in Latin, and
14 or more altar boys, acolytes, deacons, and priests in precession
with a large gold cross and incense. What followed was the most
beautiful solemn high mass you could imagine, all sung in Latin and
English. I wept. Half-way through I looked back for the first time to
the rear of the church. In addition to the thousand in rows, there
were large crowds standing in the back. This is a Sunday in ordinary
time, no special occasion. Just our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
body, blood, soul and divinity. No wonder they ran.

I would say the rumours that Europe has lost its faith are exaggerated.


Saturday, November 05, 2005

St. Nicholas

I bought Nicholas some new underwear today.

Since Nicholas is my one of middle children, he usually gets the least amount of attention compared to the other three. But despite his unfortunate birth order, Nicholas is probably my most easy going child. He has friends in every corner of the town;his brothers think of him as their hero, and he is happy to just go along and do his thing. He loves life and has not a care in the world. He doesn't SEEM to be suffering from a lack of attention from his mom but how do I really KNOW? He is an easy, low-maintenance child. He doesn't notice or complain that his closet has less clothes in it than the rest of the children, never complains that sometimes he has to wear Jack or Gus's size 6 underwear simply because he does not have enough in his size (10), and is happy to wear the same clothes over again the next day. (Now, I have to put my foot down somewhere. I tell him he MUST wear clean clothes everyday, period.) There ARE days that he makes it out of the house wearing the same shorts as the day before, but hey, I just don't pay close attention....UG!

I was at Marshalls the other day and remembered that Nick needed new underwear.I saw that there was a sale on boys underwear and purchased a 3 pack for the poor soul. I bought them alittle big since he has been growing so quickly these days. I proudly placed them on his bed for him to use after he had his bath.

Nick: (yelling from upstairs) Mom, these underwear don't make me feel too good.

Me: (downstairs) Why Nick? Come down and show me.

Nick: (plods down the steps, walks into the den with his shorts down by his knees revealing his new underwear) I think they are too big. You bought me a size 20.(Get this, the crotch is HANG-ING below his privates)

Me: Well, Nick, I bought them alittle bigger than normal, but they should be OK. Are they really a size 20??? Pull them up over your belly button.

Nick: (confused) Over my belly button? That would be weird. (He does it)

Me: OK, now that looks better. What do you think?

Nick: (He smiles that sweet Nick smile and laughs) Well, I guess it will do.

Nick then pulls up his shorts and heads for the bed. Not one complaint.

He is a saint.

Dessert Test

Mr friend Irene, knowing my love of chocolate, sent me this funny little test. Take it and see where you stand on the Dessert scale of psychology. My favorite dessert was..big surprise...Chocolate Icing on Chocolate Cake. What's your favorite?

If all of the desserts listed below were sitting in front of you, which would you choose? Pick your dessert, and then look to see what psychiatrists think about you! Sorry you can only pick one.

Angel Food Cake
Lemon Meringue Pie
Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Icing
Strawberry Short Cake
Chocolate Icing on Chocolate Cake
Ice Cream
Carrot Cake

OK - Now that you've made your choice, this is what psychiatric research
says about you:

ANGEL FOOD CAKE... Sweet, loving, cuddly. You love all warm and fuzzy
items. A little nutty at times. Sometimes you need an ice cream cone at
the end of the day.. Others perceive you as being childlike and immature at times.

BROWNIES... You are adventurous, love new ideas, and are a champion
of underdogs and a slayer of dragons. When tempers flare up, you whip out
your saber. You are always the oddball with a unique sense of humor and
direction. You tend to be very loyal.

LEMON MERINGUE.. Smooth, sexy, and articulate with your hands, you
are an excellent after-dinner speaker and a good teacher. But don't try to
walk and chew gum at the same time. A bit of a diva at times, but you have many
good friends.

VANILLA CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE ICING... Fun loving, sassy, humorous.
Not very grounded in life; very indecisive and lack motivation. Everyone
enjoys being around you. You are a practical joker. Others should be cautious in
making you mad. However, you are a friend for life.

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE... Romantic, warm, loving. You care about
other people and can be counted on in a pinch. ! You also tend to melt.
You can be overly emotional at times. And sometimes can be annoying.

CHOCOLATE ON CHOCOLATE... Sexy; always ready to give and receive.
Very adventurous, ambitious, and passionate. You can appear to have a cold
exterior but are warm on the inside. Not afraid to take chances. Will not
settle for anything average in life. Love to laugh.

ICE CREAM... You like sports, whether it is baseball, football,
basketball, or soccer. If you could, you would like to participate, but
you enjoy watching sports. You don't like to give up the remote control. You
tend to be self-centered and high maintenance.

CARROT CAKE... You are a very fun loving person, who likes to
laugh. You are fun to be with. People like to hang out with you. You are
a very warm hearted person and a little quirky at times. You have many loyal

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I could not agree more.

After pondering how fast things go, Gus (who's almost 5 years old) proclaimed,
"Mom, the speed of life is really fast."

I'm sure he wanted to say the speed of LIGHT is really fast, but I think the first statement may be more accurate.

My boys can't WAIT!

The "knight" obsessed Clemens Boys cannot wait for this movie to come out! The Chronicles of Narnia written by last century's most popular theologian, C.S. Lewis, promises lots of action, knights, an evil witch, 4 curious siblings (I like that!), all having an adventure when they walk through a wardrobe. I'll be there opening day with my own handsome heroes. Watch the trailer, it is boy heaven.

Be sure to check the website highlighted above for resources that can be used by faith development teachers/school teachers...a great movie for classroom discussions.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Unchained Memories

I've been helping my parents put together invitations for their 50th wedding anniversary. They were married on Christmas Day in 1955.

I have a batch of slides from their wedding day on my dining room table, and was waiting for the spare time to examine each slide for the one that struck me as being the one perfect to place on the anniversary invitation. Each precious slide is carefully numbered and dated by my father. Each slide with the same handwriting written with the same ink pen documenting the event and capturing a moment of time never to be experienced again. Most of the edges of each slide have turned an antique brown color, but the slide pictures themselves are still as vivid today as the day the picture was taken. How can that be? after 50 years of marriage? The color is so bright and beautiful...almost as beautiful as their 50 year marriage.

Keep in mind that I'd seen these slides many times before(as the youngest in a family of four kids) when my dad would regularly get out the slide projector and show pictures on the pull down screen in the den. The slides he would show were mostly from a time I never knew, but only could imagine about. Many a night my parents would point out people in these slides I never knew, places they had lived and places they had visited. Oh, there were pictures of Niagara Falls, Alaska, Maine, South America, numerous Catholic landmarks, churches, First Holy Communions of my sisters, deceased aunts and uncles, divorced friends, military moves, baby pics and on and on. But none of the 1000's of slides that my dad maintains to this day can ever compare to mom and dad's wedding slides.

Why? My mom was a princess in the most beautiful dress in the world (hand-made by her mom-in-law). The yards and yards of heavy satin flowed into a gorgeous train. The lace. The crown, you know the whole nine yards. It was beautiful. My dad, so handsome in his black and white tux. He looked a bit like Elvis with his perfectly combed hair and his crisp white cuffs. The bridesmaid dresses were of a mauve color and mom's attendants wore long gloves and held prayer books and rosaries. Things were simpler then, purer and maybe a bit magical to a young girl. It captured my young imagination years ago and still moves me as a woman today. But somehow, in viewing these slides today, I feel a sense of loss; that I've missed something along the way; something that MY generation does not have. What could it be?

Images are very influential on young minds. Subliminally, these images of my parents' past formed my worldview, my opinions, my expectations for my future, my dreams and my hopes. But most importantly those slides were evidence that LOVE was real..marriage was good and that love can LAST. Those slides, more than any other influence in my young life, told me that married life is a dance...a beautiful dance. These images helped to form in me a firm foundation from which to build my family, my marriage, and my faith. Not everything is or will be perfect in life, but that is all part of the dance.

I hope you dance in your marriage like my parents have and never give up on love.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Ever wonder what the view is like from the
inside of a water bottle? Be sure to follow your cursor around.

I want candy!

Here are Becca's friends enjoying chicken soup before embarking on their trick or treat adventures in the neighborhood and beyond. Becca is some sort of dead person. I don't know.
I'm just the mom.

Here is only a small part of what they came back with. But if you look closely, there is something very wrong with this picture....not ONE box of Dots Candy! All that candy and NO dots? Did the candy manufacturers decide that Dots were not IN this year??? I LOVE Dots on Halloween! It's the only time I can find them. Sadness.

Now THIS is a picture of my friend Mary's hand. She stuck her hand in front of my camera as I was taking the picture. Nice. I especially like the finger puppets on your finger nubs. Nice touch. Take my advice though...stick to pole dancing.

Here are some of the neighborhood goblins. Do you feel afraid?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Kiss and Tell

"Boys", Chris said with authority, "your mom and I are going on a date this afternoon and Becca will be watching you while we are gone. You need to be good for your sister because we want a good report from her, OK?"

Boys in unison: OK

As Chris and I walked to the foyer to put on our coats, we over heard this hilarious conversation going on between Jack and Gus:

Jack (sulking): I want to go on a date without Gus.

Gus (emphatically): Nooooooo! You can't go on a date. Only mom and dad can go on a date so they can kiss.

Jack: I still want to go on a date without Gus.

Gus: Nooooooo! You Caaaaaaan't. They need to KISS!

I love kid logic. It makes perfect sense.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Nick and Lacrosse

My Sweet Nick

Nick is a wonderful child. He's good-natured, friendly, and a big huggy bear. Even though he is already in the 4th grade and tall for his age, he still kisses/hugs me in front of his friends before he get on or off the bus. When he makes a new friend, (which he does WHEREVER he goes) he is sure to hug them and say, "Hey dude! You should come over to my house sometime!" Does NOT matter WHO they are or HOW popular they are at school...Nick is there for them. He does not seem to be aware of those unspoken elementary school rules of behavior,group divisions or relationships. Peer pressure does not exist in his mind. Nick simply does what is deep in his heart... what is right...completely naturally, completely unaware of what others think. It blows my mind!

For example, at lunchtime at his public school, Nick always crosses himself and says his prayer before he eats. He is clueless about the fact that the other kids DON'T pray before they eat, but he does it anyway. For awhile there, some of his classmates were joining him in this silent prayer before lunch. He was not aware of it, but they were praying with him. Nick's best friend is Ricky. Ricky's mom told me that Nick's lunch-time prayer habit had made such an impression on Ricky, that her son would not even chew a piece of GUM without crossing himself and saying a prayer before he ate it!

While I know that Nick's sweetness and simple love of God may not last forever, his lesson about doing the right thing, no matter what others think or say...will. Thank you, my sweet Nick.

Nick's Lacrosse

Nick is in the blue shorts.

Friday, October 28, 2005



I call this week “Hell” week.

It’s the week before Halloween where the kids get overloaded on candy, parties, costumes and spooky traditions.  With four kids in four different schools this year, my plate is full when it comes to baking Halloween cupcakes, volunteering for classroom parties, cheering on the kids in the classroom costume parades and preparing treat bags for distribution. With all of this going on, plus the day-to-day normal schedule of lunches being made, milk money being available, car-pool schedules, laundry, dinner, and my youth ministry commitments it’s understandable that I get mixed up from time to time about where I should be and what I should be doing.  Still, I do it with a smile on my face (most of the time) because I realize that my sweet kids won’t be small forever and that I’m going to miss doing all this stuff one day.  

The other day, I was plodding along, doing my regular Monday routine when I realized that I had 30 minutes before Gus needed to be picked up from his “Lunch Bunch” group at pre-school.  Instead of finding something to do to fill that time up, I decided to go and surprise Gus by going to his school to eat lunch with him.  

I parked the car and went inside the pre-school.  As I quietly sneaked into the classroom I saw Gus eating happily with his buddies totally unaware that I had come in.  Mrs. Brown, his teacher, saw me slide in and smiled at me knowing I wanted to surprise Gus.  As I approached Gus from behind, he turned, saw me and was totally thrilled!  I felt like such a great mom when I got my slimy Gus kiss and hug.

As I sat down next to Gus, he started talking:

Gus:  Mom!  Tanks for making me a ghost sandwich!

Me:  Did I make you a ghost sandwich Gus?

Gus:  (laughing) Yeah, you did.  That was fun-ny!

I was confused about his comment.  I sometimes cut his sandwich in a circle shape, but I’ve never cut his sandwich in the shape of a ghost.  I don’t have a ghost cookie cutter!

I looked up at Mrs. Brown with a confused face.  She smiled and uncomfortably said, “Yes, um, well, I told Gus that you made a really great sandwich for him today.  I told him it was a ghost sandwich for Halloween.”

Me:  Oh.  (I was still confused)

Then Gus solved the mystery for me:

Gus:  Yeah.  There is NOFFING inside the sandwich, Mom!  That was fuuuuuunn-ny!
What! I thought to myself.  It can’t be true!  Was there really NO peanut butter in Gus’s sandwich???

I looked in his lunchbox and saw the two empty pieces of wheat bread.  It was true.  I packed Gus’s lunch box with a ghost sandwich…in other words, two slices of bread with nothing in-between.  (There went my feelings of being a great mom.)  I wanted to die of embarrassment but instead I just laughed at myself and said:

Me:  Oh dear Gus, I think Mommy needs a vacation!

Mrs. Brown just nodded her head.

Even so, it didn’t really matter.  Gus was happy that I came to have lunch with him.  Soon afterwards, we packed up the ghost sandwich and went home. The afternoon went by quickly and Gus and I decided to wait on the front porch for Nick and Jack to come home.  I had totally forgotten about my humiliating experience at the pre-school.

Nick came home and as he walked up the front steps he said laughing,” Mom!  You forgot to put peanut butter in my sandwich today!”

I just moaned and said, “ I’m sorry Nick.”

Jack ran inside and said with his lisp, “ Mom!  You didn’t put any-ting in my sandwith!”

Me:  Yeah, Jack.  It was a ghost sandwich.

Jack: A ghost sandwith?  Oh, you are so cool!

Which Saint Are You?

OK. This is a bit weird, but you should try out this quiz for fun. Just click on the link below and see what saint you resemble. I was described as the saint below:

You are Julian of Norwich! It's all about God, to
you. You're convinced that the world has a
happy ending. Everyone else is convinced that
you're a closet hippie, but you love them

Which Saint Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

I've never been called a closet hippie before, but I kind of like it! Ha!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Grassroots Films Rock!

Jeff over at Grassroots Films just e-mailed me thanking me for placing a link on my blog to the "Follow Me" vocations trailer he helped produce for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)to encourage more vocations nationwide.

HERE to view this awesome trailer again.

Be sure to visit their website here to view current projects in production as well as completed projects. All these films are available to purchase (reasonable prices) and would be superb for any youth group discussion. Great job, Jeff!

Do you have your costume yet?

Oh my goodness! This is quite the halloween costume website to end them all!
Click Here To View

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

New Catholic Young Adolescent Bible

St. Mary's Press will be offering a new bible specifically designed for the young adolescent, or those youth between the ages of 10-14. The bible is called Break Through-The bible for Young Catholics. It will not be available for purchase until March, but it's worth looking at now as a gift option for a special 5th grader graduating to middle school or for use in JYM faith formation classes, bible studies or personal use. Click Here to learn more about it.

In my opinion, the cover is embarrassingly babyish with its 'cartoony' Moses on the front and pictures inside, but IF the jr. high reader can get past the graphics...there is a treasure of great stuff inside.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Knight to remember

Not a day goes by in the Clemens household without the boys playing with, drawing, or discussing knights. Gus was outside on the driveway drawing the latest chapter of an imaginary battle between the "good" knights and the "bad" knights. Here is the artist in motion.

A more detailed picture of the battle. Note the carefully placed swords and shields. (The shields have crosses on them, of course.)
Gus just now realized that he forgot to draw the "spear" guy, so off he goes to add more color to the driveway!

I live for these moments!

I came in to work today and was pleasantly surprised with a gift of chocolate from my dear friend and colleague, Jim! It's a big Cadbury milk chocolate bar that has the potential to last for a week if I discipline myself. Jim was reading the blog and never realized how much I enjoyed chocolate! Thank you Jim for making my day AND making my time at the gym well-worth it.

Don't you love it how God gives you those special little surprises through the kindness of other people?

Monday, October 24, 2005

The spirit is willing.....

I did my Monday routine today of getting all four kids off to school, exercising, stopping off for my energy-boosting unsweetened iced tea and then grocery shopping at Sam's. Back when we only had one or two kids, Sams was a losing proposition. We would always buy something in bulk and later feel bad when the one time leftovers would rot. NOT SO anymore! Now with our brood, Sam's is THE place to go to buy those large assortments of yogurt, bread, apples, pears, carrots, milk (only $2.49 for 2%!), eggs (24pk), pretzels, and the ever important Halloween Candy.

I bought 3 large bulk bags of Halloween candy. One bag was filled with my personal favorite mini-sized candy: Almond Joy. The mistake I made was that I put that large bag of candy RIGHT in front of me in the kiddy seat of the Sams basket. As I sauntered through the isles, I kept staring at that bag of candy wondering if I should open it up and take one (only one) Almond Joy. And so I did..after all I had just exercised, didn't I? I took one.

I ate my mini candy bar and felt satisfied, but after a few minutes, the opened bag of candy was calling me again. I thought to move the bag away from the kiddie seat...but there was not enough room in the basket to move it. Well, I thought to myself...it's just meant to be. I ate another.

As I checked out, my guilt overwhelmed me so I decided to share the guilt. I said to the rather large-sized, Latino checkout lady, " I opened my candy bag. Would you like a piece of chocolate?" She said in her latin accent, " Oh, jes! I wood lof some of dat candy!" (I knew she would say yes.) Ha! Now I had a partner in crime. We BOTH were guilty of eating chocolate at 10:30 in the morning. I felt better and my urge to eat more candy was gone. ( I have issues, I know.)

I had purchased a large amount of groceries from Sam's so I had a bit of trouble fitting everything in the Navigator, so some things had to be put in the passengers seat. As I started my drive home, I started to think about that opened bag of candy. Where did I put it? As I looked over in the passenger seat...there it was! My opened bag of candy! I ate another glorious piece. (At this rate, there would not be any candy left for Halloween!)

I got home and started to empty out the car. I gathered my strength, grabbed that opened bag of candy and placed it OUTSIDE on the shelves in the garage. It would at least be out of sight and hopefully out of mind.....

until tonight!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Spooktacular Decorating

Gus putting spider webs on the bushes.

"Mom, here's the ghost! Whooooooooooo!"

Jack and the tombstone.

It was a gorgeous Fall day today! The smells of the season were all around: pumpkin, caramel, chocolate, drying up leaves, pine straw and candles! It was the perfect day to decorate the house all "spooky-like" for the 70 or so little goblins that would be begging for treats on Halloween night.

Gus, Jack and Rebecca were totally EAGER to help me decorate and for the first time in 13 years of having children, they were actually HELPFUL! This year, I did not have to caution them about stepping on lights, or worry that one would stick their finger in a light socket, or fall off the steps, or get in the way, or run into the street, or change a diaper or chew up the electrical cord, or eat plastic or roll down the driveway, or even explain 17 billion times that Halloween is NOT today. Whew!

Kind of made me sad.

Follow Me.

Brendan, seminarian (aka: priest in training), sent me this vocations clip created in Brooklyn N.Y. using actual footage of priests who minister in the front lines, working, serving, sacrificing, and loving in the name of Jesus Christ. It takes a minute or two to download, but is well worth the wait.CLICK HERE to view this awesome trailer.

With all the bad news coming out of the media about Church scandals, it good to remember that the vast majority of priests out there are doing the work of God, staying faithful to their vows, and leading many souls to Christ through the sacraments, prayer and their life witness. My family is grateful to all priests and nuns who have said "yes" to God and who have enriched our lives by heeding Christ's (Note: Christ with a capital "C") call. Lord knows that deciding to follow Christ is this manner is not easy, so be sure to hug a priest or nun this week and tell them how much they mean to YOU! Sr. Catherine, Brendan, Mike, Michael, Tony, Dave, Charles, Fr. John, Fr. Alex, Fr. Greg, Fr. Tim, Fr. Mike, Msgr. O'Callaghan (T.X.), Msgr. Bily(T.X.), Fr. Scott, and Fr. Bob Scott (U.T. Austin)--we love you!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Die job

It was time for my quarterly visit to the beauty shop where I plunk down $100 to cover those grey hairs and become the "blond" that I think I am inside. Hey, $100 is a bargain when I think of how I much better I feel after the 2hr long process that INCLUDES taking a short nap, reading junk magazines (PEOPLE is my fav.), having an adult conversation (uninterrupted)AND watching other women do the same thing to themselves. Does anyone truly realize how funny we look with all that aluminum foil on our head? It's like some 70's space movie.

My regular beautician quit last month so I went to another gal she recommended. (Always scary to change.) Anyway, I plopped myself into the chair, ready for my "space helmet" when my new beautician said,

"That color is not flattering with your skin tone." I was surprised by her comment so I said, "Oh! Well, Hum, What do you recommend?"

"Darker tones..get away from those blond streaks..they don't do you justice."

Since it is Autumn and I was kind of looking for a change, I agreed to her suggestion that I go DARKER not BLONDER.

Long story short, not only was I darker, she made me positively BRUNETTE with a few subtle highlights mixed in and I felt like another women! I liked what I saw in the mirror and made me excited to show everyone at home. So I paid my $100 and headed for home wondering what Rebecca and the boys would think of my new hairdo.

As I walked into the house, I called to the boys:

Me: Boys! Come see mom!

I heard the boys thundering down the stairs, they stopped and gave me kisses and told me things about their day. They totally didn't notice. Boys.

Me: Becca! I have something to show you..come down!

Becca: What.

I got in her face making sure she had a good view of the hair in all its glory.

Becca: Mom! What. Why are you acting so strange?

So finally I said:

Me: My hair is a different color, what do you think?

Becca: Well, I like it, but with your make-up, you kind of look trailer park trashy!

Trailer Park Trashy! What was she thinking!

Afterwards, I headed down to Nick's school where they were putting on a talent show for the victims of Katrina. Nick and his friend, Michael were doing a comedy routine and I planned to be there to watch along with all the kids. While there, one of my friends came up to me and said, "Oh, Georgie! You went brown with your hair!" I replied, "Yes, well, you know, I thought it might look more natural to do it this color."

As I waited for her response...totally waiting for her to "oooooh and ahhhhh" she just nodded and said NOTHING!!!!

Well, I thought to myself, the hair must be pretty bad if it goes unnoticed, trailer park trash, or silence. I consoled myself with the thought that the color will eventually fade over 6 weeks and I would get my normal color back.

Later, my husband(who rarely comments on my hair unless promted) came in, looked at me and said:

"Wow! Look at your hair! You look so sexy and young! It's like I have another wife 10 years younger!" I hugged my sweet husband, gave him and kiss, smiled and went off to clean the house.

I am SO leaving my hair this color!!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Keeping the "C" in Christ

Can you believe THIS? Stop the madness!

Manners Matters

Sr. Catherine at STM reminds us about the importance of teaching kids manners by using the "The Essential 55"by Ron Clark as a guide. You can purchase this fantastic little book by clicking Here and read an article about how it is used in the classroom (or home) by going here.

Here are rules 8 and 9:

Rule 8: Children should never smack their lips, roll their eyes, or show dis-repect with gestures. (Ahem,this goes for us too.)

Rule 9: It is appropriate that your child always say "thank you" when the teacher gives him/her something. There is no excuse for not showing appreciation.

Catholic Mother's Network

I was asked by Kathy Judson, Catholic Mother’s Network Organizer, to come and speak to the mom’s group about how to raise well-rounded, God-loving, Catholic children. She specifically wanted concrete examples of simple things mom’s could do to uphold a Catholic lifestyle without making themselves crazy trying to live up to an unrealistic ideal.

It is a great topic and one I’m very interested in, but practically speaking, I haven’t RAISED Catholic children yet. I’m still very much a “work in progress” like many of you, and realize there are NO guarantees once the kids move into adulthood, but was glad to share any ideas that work for my family. (I LOVE to talk about this stuff.) Similarly, I take the raising of my children in the Catholic faith very seriously. If there is one thing I am sure of it’s that raising Catholic children today is not for the faint-hearted. It’s downright COUNTER-CULTURAL baby! It requires prayer, hard work, discipline, prayer, knowledge of the faith, prayer, endurance, honestly, prayer, faith, and at times…alcohol.

So, I will share with you some of the ideas that I presented last night for the “girls” at STM. I don’t plan to give you the whole talk “kit and kabootle” in one posting, but through a series of postings that are easy to read, short and simple to incorporate into your homes.

Here are the topics: How to Raise Catholic Children

1. Creating a Catholic Home Environment
2. Child Friendly Religious Items
3. What messages are you communicating?
4. Be the example; words are cheap
5. Don’t go overboard
6. Favorite Resouces

Keep in mind that God does not require perfection, only faithfulness in following Him, so don't knock yourselves out trying to be the "perfect" mom to your kids. Just be faithful to his teachings and thankful for all He gives us...He takes care of the rest.