Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Where there is doubt, faith...despair, hope, darkness...light

Nick, Jack and Gus on their first day of school.

Rebecca on her first day of high school. SNIFF!!!!! I feel like I'm throwing her to the dogs!

I think it's harder to let your first-born go to high school than to kindergarten. I mean, when you live in a more liberal minded town like mine, everything is accepted and everything is on equal footing. There is really no real "truth" to live by , one mostly has a moral relativism that functions as the 'truth' of the day (unless you are a conservative Christian--then you don't matter at all) That being said....

Rebecca started high school this year as a ninth grader. A few days before the first day of school, I had to make my way to the counselors office to help her change one of her classes. As we walked through the Science wing of the school, I noted how dark, depressing and narrow the hallways were. Not only that, every wall was covered in some sort of mural painted by youth of the past. Some were very impressive paintings while others only mediocre. One large mural displayed a colorful tree inset with faces and animals. The words Gaia were painted above it. ( I assumed it was the pagan goddess gaia?) Walking on I viewed another mural above another teachers' doorway. Painted there was the image of death with the words: Doom to all who enter here. The word "Here" was painted in a Halloween type font with blood dripping down. How happy! In the counselors office, the secretary had decorated her area with posters depicting herself as a goddess...or secretary goddess, Christmas lights hung around, etc. Stuff that helped her seem "cool' to the kids, I would guess. I assumed she was fairly young, but as she walked up and spoke to me with her half-chewed sandwich in her mouth, I realized that she must have been 50 years old. Pink triangles dotted the hallways indicating that this school was a 'safe zone' for those who are gay. Other signs invited young people to join groups of all sorts of affiliations or persuasions. Did I mention that there is no dress code for the place and the girls wear VERY provocative clothing and boys wear offensive t-shirts of every type..oh wait correction...the t-shirts are not allowed to degrade women. Gee, thanks. Did I mention that the rock radio station that was blaring down the hallway was coming from a teacher's classroom and is well liked by the constantly bashing something, with D.J's hurling expletives at each other and laughing at what they view as 'traditional'. Nothing is held back, it seems that self- gratification/self-expression in all its forms is matter what the consequences may be. Why do we as a society welcome it ALL???? Do we think we are actually doing our teens a favor by allowing all of this? Negativity, negativity, everywhere.

This high school has been listed as one of the top 10 high schools in the country in the past, and is currently in the top 100. The people in my town are wealthy, educated, mostly white, and busy, busy, busy-I would even say too busy for their kids. My point is, there are SO many mixed messages thrown at these kids everywhere--some good, some bad. Boy it can be a confusing place if you arrive here without much conviction or direction from your parents about what is right or wrong.

This is where youth workers need to take our jobs VERY seriously. There is only ONE message that we need to convey as a church and that is the positive message of Jesus and WHO He died for. It's a positive message. The only thing on OUR wall is the crucified Christ, our message it is one of hope, charity, love!!! We need to present the youth with the counter-cultural message that you CAN be a happy and fulfilled person as a believer in Jesus. Young people are hungering for something to fill that void that we all have in our heart....filling it with everything alluring thing that the world gives only leaves them feeling empty and incomplete. Youth need to know that they are LOVED by someone, anyone, and they'll go anywhere to find that love. If you are a youth worker, please at the very least, make sure your young people KNOW that Jesus loves them, that He gave his life for them. Give them a place to be themselves, a place away from all the noise and confusion, a place where they can be quiet and reflect on the beauty of our Catholic Faith, give them the tools to fight temptation and find purification. But most of all make sure that they know that NOTHING can separate them from the love of God. Nothing. Not even well-intentioned public high schools.....

Monday, August 28, 2006

Why we don't own a dog:

After running around in 90+ degree weather at school today, Jack and Gus arrived home hot, sweaty and red faced. Nick went over to his brothers to give them a hug, only to announce:

Mooommmm! Jack smells like a dog!

(Finally he notices!)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Happy Birthday Dad

As a child, you come to know your parents as people in your life who tell you what to do and when to do it. You never really realize WHY they do what they do, it's just life and unless you want trouble as a child, you do as you are told. It is not until you have grown into adulthood that you come full circle and realize the immense job they had in raising you and how much you are loved by them. I am loved by my parents in different ways. My mom loves me a soft, gentle manner while my dad loves me in a much different way. I liken the love my dad holds for me and my siblings to a German Shepard, quiet,loyal, protective, and fierce (when he needed to be). There was no mistaking my father's love. It was rarely the touchy feely type of love my mother gave out so naturally. It was the type of love that was silent and sure, heroic and steadfast, yet in his eyes you could always see the tenderness he so rarely verbalized. In those same eyes you knew when you had messed up and disappointed. Dad loves deeply. I figured that out as I grew into adulthood. He was the strong one, the one to look upon for a steady hand to help me up, the one who would race out in the middle of the night to pick me up if my car broke down, the one who never missed a performance or event, the one who taught by example, the one who silently sacrificed and died to himself so that his children had all they needed, the one who prayed fervently after communion and during adoration, the one who would hide his tears when one of us made him proud, the one who would stand out in the front yard with his post hole digger making sure the "boyfriends" knew who was in charge. All in all, my dad stands out as an excellent father who knows how to love. If you are one of the privileged who is loved by know it, and you KNOW he will do anything for you.

If you know my dad and you are reading this post, please wish him a happy birthday by commenting below. He would really appreciate it.

Happy Birthday Dad, and thanks for all you do!

Quote of the day

Any day is a good day to be born; any day is a good day to die.-Blessed Pope John XXIII

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Birthday Present Surprise

My OB informed me the other day that she has made plans to transfer to another hospital permanently. Only problem is that her last day at the hospital I am delivering at is September due date. It also happens to be by daughter's birthday. So my doctor made me an offer I could not refuse. She told me that her last day in labor and delivery was to be September 27th and asked if I wanted to be induced that day with her there instead of waiting for "mother nature." I told her that mother nature was over-rated when you have four kids at home and for that reason, September 27th sounded FINE with me! So dear readers, barring any emergency or early delivery, come hell or high water, the 5th Clemens baby will arrive sometime on September 27th!

Now that the date is settled, I only had one problem: How to tell Rebecca that the baby would not be born on her birthday. Believe it or not, she was really hoping that the baby would come into this world and have the same birthday as her. I didn't want to disappoint her, but knew I had to break the news to her gently:

Me: Rebecca, guess what? The doctor said we are going to induce this baby on September 27. What do you think of that?

Becca: What? The baby won't be born on my birthday?

Me: No, but what I can do is bring the baby HOME on your birthday instead. It will be your birthday present. What do you think of that?

Becca: (Silent for a few seconds) I hope that won't be my only present.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Pregnancy Brain...all in one day!

1. You gather up all the kids for back to school shopping, grab the school supply lists, drive to the store and absentmindedly throw the supply lists away in the Staples trashcan.

Me: Becca, go to the car and see if I left the supply lists there.

Becca: Mom they are not there.

Me: Oh, dear, did I throw them away? (I dug through the trash can at the store) Oh, here they are.

Becca: MOM!!!

2. You start dinner by putting a pot of water on the stove to boil. You turn on the stove but later realize you turned on the back burner that holds the teapot instead of the front burner which holds your pot of water.

Gus: Mom what is that sound?

Me: Oh! The teapot is whistling. What happened?

Chris: You turned the wrong burner on.

Me: Ug.

3. After collating forms for an upcoming youth retreat you are planning, you wonder WHERE you placed the stack of registration forms. They must be on your desk somewhere. After all, they ARE lime green and are hard to miss.

Me: Becca (again) , have you seen my retreat forms?

Becca: They could be in the recycling box in your office.

Me: NO. I just copied them and need to distribute them to the youth. I would not have put them in the recycling box.

Becca: (searching through the box anyway) Uh, mom...are these the forms?

Me: Huh? Yeah? What were they doing in there???

Becca: (Laughing heatily) Mom , you need a vacation!

Buh, bye!

For the first time since I can really remember, I am home alone. No boys, No girl, No husband for one night. Weird.

My husband decided that I needed a break from the kids (did it show that bad?) so he decided last minute to pack up his old Rover with the boys and go camping near Asheville. When he made this generous offer to me earlier in the week, a small part of me thought I should protest. You know, good moms don't let their young children go camping with just DAD. They need their mommy, you know. Who will cook and read and tell them stories and make sure that they don't get eaten by mosquitoes? Who will put on their sunscreeen, walk them to the potty, point out dangerous rocks, keep them from deep water and on and on. I mean these boys are 10, 6 and 5...there needs to be at least two parents to watch and manage. Right? Right.

Well then someone explain to me why in the world I accepted his offer with glee and anticipation? Let me be honest here people, I DID NOT EVEN SHED A TEAR WHEN THEY LEFT THIS AFTERNOON! Chris packed up the car with all the necessary camping items, yelled to the boys to take their places in the car, and rode off into the sunset. As I helped buckle the younger boys in the backseat of the car I heard Jack say, "Mom, you can come if you want to." Gus continued, "Yea, mom. We want you to come wif us." I smiled and looked at their sweet sincere faces and said, " I wish I could, but mommy and the baby need to sleep in a bed tonight. I'm sure you and daddy will have a great time together." As I slammed the door closed, Gus looked at me through the windshield, his eyes welling up with tears, started to the fact that I was staying behind. I admit that it pulled at my heartstrings, but still, it did not make me want to go. It just proves that I am tired, 8 months pregnant and need a break. It's been a long summer.

I still feel a little guilty that I'm home alone while the men of the house are gone, but deep down I know that I need some time alone, to recharge, regroup, and pray, before our fifth child is born. It will ultimately make me a better mom and wife. Chris knows this. I am just grateful that my husband made the offer to give me some time to myself (even if it is only overnight) and that he is the type of man that recognizes that a tired, pregnant wife could use a break every now and then. In a few short hours they will come home to me dirty, greasy, smelly, but happy. None more happy than their mom....

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Vacation Bible Camp

The Clemens four have just completed a week of vacation bible camp at the local Methodist church. It's amazing how each child participates in these events differently. Rebecca served as a teen crew member and mostly enjoyed her service to the camp. Nick LOVED it since he was given the title: Crew member in Training. That made him feel as if he were in charge of everyone. My little holy Jack participated in all the songs and hand motions, while Gus scowled at the choreography, music and the many 5 year old girls trying to get his attention. His teacher said that he finally participated in the music on the last day. (Well, I guess there is something to be said about NOT going along with the crowd.)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Bishop Burbidge: 5th Bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh

Again I'm falling down in posting these days mostly due to an inability to connect two coherant thoughts at one time. I think they call it preganacy brain. There have been some notable things that have happened in the last few weeks that I would have loved to write about, but again, my brain has not been functioning as quickly and I've been to hot to write anything. I DID however, participate in last week's installation of our wonderful new Bishop of Raleigh: Michael Burbidge. He is 49 and hails from Philadelphia. I was invited to participate as one of 122 choir members (5 of us were from St. Thomas More) where we sang some really beautiful music accompanied by brass, piano, orchestra etc. As you see in this picture, the choir was seated above the many priests on the stage. It was a great view of the pagentry and ritual that is traditional in our Catholic faith and I am humbled to have been a part of such a historic event. (The last time the Diocese of Raleigh installed a Bishop was 31 years ago.) Everything was beautiful, but nothing moved me more than seeing the hundreds of priests from across our Diocese and from Philadelphia process into an event like this. Given my vantage point, I was able to catch a glimpse of each of their faces, most old, some young. Some were singing heartily, others wide-eyed and impressed with the glory of the event. ALL part of the same apolstolic succession....beginning with Jesus and his disciples and ending with what I saw at the installation.

I know quite a few of the priests on the stage, and know how hard their jobs are. But despite their difficult vocation, they continue to follow Jesus in the best way they know how. Seeing them all gathered together makes one appreciate all that they do and how many of them it takes to share the sacraments with us. What would we do without them?

Below is a picure of the singers from STM and a dear priest friend of mine who helped orchestrate the event. Don't we all look handsome in our black and white?

A sweet tooth.

Boys can be so gross.

Today was no exception. Now I could spare you, dear readers, the day to day, gross boy stuff that circulates in the house of four crying out loud, but then I would be a dishonest writer wouldn't I? Writers must tell the truth, no matter how gross or how repulsive. My only comfort is that maybe, just maybe, you could have a gross boy too?

Gus: Dad, do buggars have sugar in them?

Dad: Why? Do you like the way they taste?

Gus: Yes.

Dad: No they don't have sugar in them.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Nesting has properly set in. All I want to do is organize things and replace all in my house that is old, tatty and faded. Only problem is, when you have lived in a house for 8 years without replacing anything, most everything looks like it needs replacement. Oh, you know what I mean. Things like the blanket over the couch is not hiding as many fabric flaws on the couch anymore. The dimmer switch on the family room light is not hiding the subtle stains on the carpet. The pre-stressed furniture purchased long ago is WAYYYY passed the pre-stressed natural state and is bordering on needing to go to the dump. The brown paint in the foyer is not necessarily brown's brown due to sticky hands, feet, dirt etc. from my four crying out loud. And my family room curtains that used to be white...well, have turned a lovely eggshell. sigh. Shamefully I admit that I would rather up and move to a shiny new house than renovate or re-do what I have, but that is not possible since house prices around this town are totally out of control. So instead, I decided to make a few changes around here to spruce things up.

First issue at hand is the family room furniture. The frames of the couch, chair and ottoman are in great shape, but the fabric on these items are faded and have holes poked in them from years of babies using toys with sharp edges (you know, Playmobile swords, and the occasional electric screwdriver that daddy left out). Kids will play with anything. Anyway, after looking long and hard for a reasonably priced set of furniture to replace the old ones, I realized that purchasing new would be expensive and silly since baby #5 is coming along, and who knows what he/she will do to new furniture. (after all, Dad might leave out the electric screwdriver again, and we'll be right back where we started.) So I decided to look into re-upholstery and was pleasantly surprised at how reasonable and practical it was. I found a shop nearby that sells all their fabrics at $7.99/yard and it was filled with some of the most beautiful colors and patterns I'd ever seen. I had a great time mixing and matching fabrics, gaining opinions from neighbors and friends, and feeling empowered that I could actually put a color combination together that I could live with. The best part was that it was 3 times cheaper than the next option I had. My goal was durability first, beauty second, but I think I have both with what I selected.

I collected my color swatches and went home to show everyone. We all agreed on the wine color for the couch, a yellow floral (with wine accents) for the ottoman and chair with coordinating pillows for the couch, and some large green floor throw pillows for the kids to lay on. I got the blessing from the family and continued my home improvement project. I called the upholstery store (a home-grown, reputable place in the county) and they came yesterday to pick up my sad furniture. Yes! I am currently writing this post on the floor of my mostly empty family room. Very roomy, very.

Now that the furniture is gone, it's time to look at replacing the carpet with something more durable and darker than the light colored beige that the builder put in years ago. I visited Lowe's this evening with the kids and Chris and we all agreed on a think pile carpeting which everyone liked since it was softer than most of the other options. Three of the kids tested the softness with their hands, Nick tested it by rubbing his head on the sample. "My head will be laying on the carpet mom, so I need it to be soft." (Strange child.) Anyway, not 30 minutes after we agreed on the carpet, I made an appointment for the Lowe's team to come out to my house and measure. They will be here in two days.

I started painting the foyer of the house myself last week (an olive green to replace the icky brown), but lost interest and inspiration when I started feeling wobbly on the ladder. I may just have to take my time with that little project and instead start washing the curtains in the family room.

The clock is ticking with about 7 weeks left before baby #5 arrives and we are preparing to make the house not only a place of love for our dear new child, but a pleasant environment where new memories will be made and cherished. At the very least, a place where the baby can rub his head on the carpet and enjoy its softness.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A theme?

Every year, I interview jr. high youth for the leadership board of the Junior High Youth Program at our parish; also known as the Junior High Youth Council. Every year we try to come up with a developmentally suitable theme for the group and a t-shirt design that encompasses the overall feel of the upcoming faith development year. I usually let the kids think of the theme and design since they never fail to impress me with their creativity and thoughtfulness with such things. Tonight was no exception.

I asked two of the council members the typical question that I always ask at the beginning of the faith development year: "OK guys, what are jr. high kids into these days?" They respond with T.V. shows, the latest electronic games, candy, food, hang-outs etc. We get the juices flowing with such questions. Youth Group t-shirt design can be a tricky business. As a youth minister, I would love to have the youth wear something blatantly Catholic or Christian on a t-shirt, but that is not necessarily what the kids desire. I want them to WANT to wear it to school, not just youth group events, but that may be asking for too much depending on what they expect. It normally has to be a somewhat subtle design in order for them to wear it outside of youth group. That is why it is imperative that the youth are involved in the planning of the shirt. They know what they will wear and they don't want to listen to what the "old adult" thinks is cool.

In no time though, one of the boys mentioned the "Life is good." t-shirts with the stick figure people on the front. You know the design; you've seen these t-shirts in sports stores in all colors accompanied by mugs, p.j. pants,boxers etc. They are very popular around these parts but are expensive when you compare them to regular 'ol t-shirts that are similar. My young Catholic 7th grader continued with his idea: What if we place the statement, "Life is Good." on the front of the t-shirt along with a stick figure holding a bible and a Rosary. On the back we can print, "Heaven is better." and design another stick figure jumping on a cloud with a halo on his head? All this will resemble the popular t-shirts seen in stores, but we can change it up a bit and make it our own.

We all agreed that the theme and design was perfect for the Council, but still needed a good scripture that would be the focus of the year for the larger youth group...and that matched the design. I think I found the best scripture a few minutes ago. Let me know what you think:

"There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." Matthew 19:17

This scripture will be added to the t-shirt underneath the design, but I won't add a thing until the youth give me the green light go ahead. They know what is best! Youth ministry is so much fun!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Book Meme.

Chad over at On the silent planet has tagged me to answer a few questions about books. I'm not a big reader mostly because time is hard to find when you have four kids and one on the way, but if I think hard, I do have a few answers to the questions.

1. One book that changed your life:

I don't have a book that sticks out in my mind as changing my life, but I can honestly say that there have been many people who have.

2. One book that you've read more than once:

Do people do that? I think I read Little Women twice when I was an adolescent.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island:

Boatmaking for Dummies

4. One book that made you laugh:

Captain Underpants and the perilous plot of Professor Poopypants

5. One book that made you cry:

The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks. Sappy, but great for an emotional release.

6. One book that you wish had been written:

The Practical Guide for a Successful Catholic Marriage. We Catholics just don't have enough day-to-day guidance to help us succeed in marriage. We mostly have to go it alone and make unnecessary mistakes along the way.

7. One book that you wish had never been written:

Our Bodies, Ourselves
--a classic on modern feminism and about the right to an abortion. Poison, people; just poison on our society.

8. One book you're currently reading:

The Privilege of Being a Woman-Alice von Hildebrand,
The author shows that feminism's attempts to gain equality with men by imitation of men is unnatural, foolish, destructive and self-defeating. She elaborates the privilege women have in being naturally more capable of human concerns, self-gift, sensitivity dignity, loveliness, heroic sacrifice and a great ability to awaken what is best in men through their very weakness and tenderness.

9. One book you've been meaning to read:

The Death of Innocents by Sr. Helen Prejean- An eyewitness account of wrongful executions.

Now, tagging:

Amy Caroline